Christian Stamina: Our Destiny!

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

We finally got here. We are at the last sermon in the series on “Christian Stamina.” We have realized four things already. First, once we start to believe God, we are in Christ. Next, we learned that just as Jesus and Paul shared themselves, we share ourselves with those around us so they may know the gospel of God. The third thing we learned is we are to live holy, righteous, and blameless lives. Last week we discovered our goal is to be with the Lord forever. Each week was guiding us to the realization we find today.

For us to endure persecution in this life is not a waste of time or energy. God has a destiny for us. God wants us to be able to have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing what God desires for us can help us to live.

So many times I have seen this passage used as a defense of constantly looking at the sky for Jesus’ return. We need to be aware of the signs pointing to Jesus’ return. Yet if all we find from the last two chapters of this letter is sky-watching, we miss what is essential to life with Christ Jesus. We know Jesus is coming back. We know he will come when we least expect him to come back. The judgment of the people who reject God is going to take place. This is called the “day of the Lord.” We know this information because Jesus told us this information. What then is to be our concern?

A. We are children of the light (5:1-7)
+++1. The timing of when Jesus’ returns is in God’s hands (5:1-2
+++2. God’s wrath will come to those who are not in Christ (5:3)
+++3. We who are in Christ are not in darkness (5:4)
+++4. Beloved, We are children of the light (5:5-7)
+++===a. We are children of the day
++===+b. We stay awake and sober (maintain our focus & live in Christ)
+===++c. We are not children of the night
+===++d. We avoid getting drunk on controversies and being drunk on our own desires
+++5. Our concern is to live as children of the light! So much time in Christian circles has been spent speculating on who is the Antichrist, which nation invades Israel, and other such controversies. We Christians have been focused on the wrong stuff! When Jesus returns so much of what we expected may not turn out as we thought it would. There is a greater concern for us. This living as children of the light is that greater concern. For this means we are not sitting around talking about what is to come, but that we are living as Christ’s beloved! What then are we to do?

B. We are to encourage one another (5:8-11)
+++1. Let us be sober – remember, we are in Christ!
+++2. Let us be properly clothed
++===+a. Breastplate of faith and love – our hearts are protected by knowing we belong to God through the faith of Jesus
++===+b. Helmet – the hope of salvation – our minds are set on receiving what God has for us
++===+c. These are part of the attire of God! (Isaiah 59:16-20) – It is God who delivers those who turn to him, even giving us an abundant life
+++3. We can do this living with Jesus now! (This sounds encouraging to me!)
+++4. God wants us to have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ! God wants us to know peace through being in Christ. As we live, we may live with Jesus, even today. As we go to sleep, literally die, then may we live with Jesus. We don’t know how it will all work out when we die. We do know that unless we live with Jesus now, it won’t matter once we are asleep. We want to have the stamina to continue in faith until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Life is hard. No matter how soon we place our faith in God through Jesus Christ, we must all wait for Jesus’ return. There will be many temptations to fall away from faith in God. We can get distracted and miss the point of the time between now and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in this time before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ that we live as children of the light and children of the day.

All those who have faith in God through Jesus Christ are the beloved of God. Paul is encouraging us to live like we know we are the beloved. Maria will remind me on occasion that I call myself a Christian. I also remind her every once in a while that she is also one who calls herself a Christian. I think that is what Paul is telling the church of the Thessalonians. Since we belong to the day, then let us live the salvation God is giving us through Jesus Christ.

I think this benediction from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 can inspire us:

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”
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Christian Stamina: Our Goal

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

When we become believers, our life changes. Before our goal was to be satisfied with whatever we wanted. Now, our goal is to be ready to be with the Lord forever. Before we did what we wanted, whenever we wanted. Now, we do what God wants, whenever God wants us to do what He wants us to do.

Our goal is to be ready to be with the Lord forever. We start going towards that goal when we say, “Jesus is Lord.” Our getting baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is like an official start of living toward that goal. Along the way we realize God’s will is for our sanctification. Then as we are becoming holy, righteous, and blameless we are continuing in the direction of being with the Lord forever. A desire grows in us to be more and more loving to our Christian brothers and sisters.

We have three concerns as we look forward to being with the Lord forever. There will be persecution as we are looking forward to life with the Lord. Knowing we face harassment from others, we keep looking toward our goal. The second concern is we may our faith may lack something. So, we find encouragement from other Christians to continue in our faith and love. The third concern is about those who die before Jesus returns. Knowing our goal helps us overcome this concern.

A. We have hope for ourselves and other Christians, even those asleep (4:13-15)
+++1. We have hope!
+++2. God will bring with him those who have died! (Asleep)
+++3. Neither the asleep or awake Christians will be at an advantage
+++4. We have hope! We mourn the passing of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They place their faith in Jesus Christ. We have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul describes the situation, those Christians who have died before the return of Jesus are asleep. Since both those asleep and those alive are looking forward to the presence of the Lord, neither precedes the other. It is our looking toward the coming of the presence of the Lord that gives us hope. It is our faith in Jesus Christ that makes us family with the rest of the Christians. It is our love for each other that helps us be ready for the coming of the Lord. What a joy when the Lord gets here!

B. We will be with the Lord forever (4:16-18)
+++1. At the archangel’s call & the sound of God’s trumpet, the Lord will descend
+++2. The dead in Christ rise 1st
+++3. Those of us alive will meet the dead in Christ in the air
+++4. We will be with the Lord, who is descending!
+++5. We continue to encourage one another!
+++6. It is a joy to read about Jesus descending from heaven. We are seeking to live holy lives. Why are we seeking to live holy lives? For when Jesus gets here we will be able to be in his presence. It is God’s will that we be sanctified (4:3). It is the Holy Spirit residing within us which helps us to be holy, so we can be ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Our faith is the first step in living a life worthy of God. Our love is a multitude of steps we make to live a life worthy of God. Our hope in Jesus’ coming to earth is what makes living a life worthy of God worthwhile.

It is encouraging to know that the Lord Jesus is coming to earth. Our goal is to live in his presence when he gets here. Even those who have died before Jesus return will live in his presence when he gets here. Just this consolation can inspire us to continue believing Jesus, to continue to live Jesus’ way.

It is not our goal to get people to church. It is our goal to love people enough that they and us start living holy lives. It is our goal to be ready, to be holy, when Jesus descends. It is our goal that we confirm the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is our goal that we live lives filled with the Holy Spirit so we can see our hope.

To live with the Lord forever is our goal. It will take our faith, our love, and our hope to get us there. God has provided our faith by giving us Jesus. God has provided our love by providing us brothers and sisters in Christ. God has provided our hope by letting us know that persecution and death won’t keep us from being with the Lord forever.

Christian Stamina: A Life Worthy of God

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

I am not sure which is better, going on a trip or returning home from a trip. When preparing for a trip, there is much work to be done. The reservations have to be secured. The clothes have to be packed. The vehicle needs to be ready for the whole journey. There is the expectation of great memories to be made.

When returning from a trip, there is much work to be done. The bill has to be paid. The clothes have to be washed. The vehicle needs to be ready for the return to normal life. Then there is the reminiscing about all the great times while on the trip.

It turns out that the trip was a time of different work! We just can’t get away from work! Maybe we can’t get away from work because life is full of work! The work of our life is not about just the day-to-day chores. The work of our life is not about the work of a trip. The work of our life is to have a life worthy of God.

Our vacations are about refreshing us for normal life. Yet, our normal life is more than about planning for the next vacation! Our lives have to mean more than rest and work. Our lives can be an example of a life worthy of God. That is what Paul was demonstrating to the Thessalonians!

A. Paul worked among the Thessalonians
+++1. The ancient world was heavily into patron and client
+++2. What the patron wanted, the client gave, for the patron was paying the client
+++3. Paul kept the patron/client from being part of the Thessalonian church
+++4. Paul worked – most likely as a tent maker (Acts 18)
+++5. He did not want to burden the newly established church with the patron/client setup
+++6. How were Paul, Silas, and Timothy with the Thessalonians?
+++===a. Pure/holy – “in the things of God”
+===++b. Upright/righteous – “with regard to men”
+++===c. Blameless – “in respect of ourselves”1
+++7. Paul didn’t do all the work of the church. But he did show the church how to be the church. By working independent of the church’s finances, Paul was able to help the young church to grow. It was not only in finances that they grew. The Thessalonians were able to live a life worthy of God. They did not only do this with the conduct of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

B. God was and is working among the Thessalonians
+++1. God calls us into his kingdom
+++2. The word of God is given so we may be in God’s kingdom and glory
+++3. So, Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians
+++4. The Thessalonians accepted the word of God
+++5. It is the good news of Jesus Christ which is the word of God. For it is this word which is working among the believers in Thessalonica. With the word of God working, with God working, the Thessalonians are able to learn to live a life worthy of God. God is working to help them be holy. God is working so the believers can be righteous. God is working so the household of God can be blameless. Even in this letter we realize God doesn’t do all of the work. He starts the process, moves it along, and completes the good work he has begun in us. Who works alongside God?

C. We and the Thessalonians work alongside God!
+++1. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were like a father to his children
+++2. They did three things for the Thessalonians
++===+a. Urging
++===+b. Encouraging
++===+c. Pleading
+++3. God was persistent with the Thessalonians, is persistent with us
+++4. When the Thessalonians received the word of God, their work had just begun! They couldn’t give up. We can’t give up after we have received the word of God. We got to keep on going until we are leading a life worthy of God. That is God works in those who believe. Then the believers work as God is working in them.

Since we are not leaving this world without working, let’s understand the work God has for us. We get to be holy as God is holy. We get to be righteous with those around us. We get to learn to live blameless lives.

We are not alone in this work. When the word of God comes to us, we receive it. The word of God then works in us so that we may be holy, righteous, and blameless. As God is calling us into his own kingdom, we learn to live holy, righteous, and blameless lives. The commitment God has for us, because of the word of God, is the commitment God knows we can have.

What is keeping us from leading a life worthy of God? The word of God will work on what is keeping us from being holy. The word of God will work on what is making us be unrighteous. The word of God will work on what is stopping us from being blameless.

Will you receive the word of God today? Then you can do the work you have been called to do – be holy, righteous, and blameless – so you can answer the call into God’s own kingdom and glory.

Christian Stamina: Sharing who we are

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

As a youth pastor, I remember watching that one couple in the church. Every week that we had guests, they would take the guests out to lunch. After I noticed the practice of this one couple, I realized the people who were repeat guests and becoming part of the church were the guests who went out to eat with that one couple. It was a ministry for that couple to show the guests that they cared for them.

At Charge Conference last week, Tom Ballard, our District Superintendent, said a couple different times: “The people can smell us out.” Tom was referring to were churches who do everything they can to get people in the church by doing a “bait and switch.” We know the practice. We go to a store because they are offering a great deal on furniture we want. The price is fairly competitive with other furniture stores. Then as you are checking out, you see on the receipt the fee for the furniture protection system, non-refundable re-stocking fee, the delivery fee, and the fee for the extra guy on the delivery truck. Fairly soon you realize the great deal on the furniture is not that great of a deal!

I have heard about clergy adding numbers to church rolls. The idea was they would show growth in the church. But there was no actual growth! The preacher would meet someone, somewhere and then add them to the church membership roll.

We don’t want to be a church that just adds numbers to our membership roll. We don’t want people to smell us out because we just want them in church. I think we want to be more like the couple that shared themselves over a meal. For we want to keep our own faith going and the faith of the congregation going. We want to be known as faithful stewards.

A. How can we tell if we are faithful stewards? (2:1-6)
+++1. Paul, Silas, & Timothy had been abused while preaching in Philippi
+++2. Yet, they shared the same gospel with the Thessalonians!
+++3. What they are not doing
+++===a. Being deceitful
++===+b. Having impure motives (which lady did the traveling preacher get?)
++===+c. Trickery
++===+d. Pleasing mortals
++===+e. Using words of flattery
++===+f. Greedy
++===+g. Seeking human praise
+++4. When we avoid these trappings, then we will be seen as faithful stewards, just like Paul. I could imagine a preacher today saying what they are not doing. Yet, this letter is not only about the preacher or missionary. Paul had already written that the Thessalonians were imitating himself and Jesus. Noticing how Paul presents himself, we actually see Jesus in the same way! Since we are in Christ, then just like Paul, we can be free from deceit, impure motives, trickery, pleasing mortals, flattery, greed, and human praise. Even when we are being accused of these traits, we keep on preaching the gospel. God then can be pleased by our work with the Gospel. Paul was representing Jesus to the world. We also represent Jesus to the world. In a sense as we are sharing who we are, we are sharing Jesus. How does this work out for us?

B. Our character shows compassion (2:7-8)
+++1. Paul, Silas, and Timothy did not demand the Thessalonians provide for their every need – as apostles could do
+++2. However, they did care for the Thessalonians
+++3. This church has enjoyed care from many preachers
+++4. This church can also care for people – inside and outside the churches
+++5. Paul, Silas, and Timothy share the gospel and themselves
+++6. We can share the gospel and ourselves
+++7. Why? Because we care about people
+++8. When a neighbor has trouble, we help out. When a church member has trouble, we help out. This helping out is not just money. This helping is our time, our energy, and our faith. Our helping is not glibly saying, “Come to church.” Our helping is sharing Jesus right then and there. For when we are having compassion for people, we are sharing all we have, including Jesus.

Over the three years that the disciples were following Jesus, they discovered the character of Jesus. The disciples discovered Jesus had compassion on the crowds. The disciples had the same compassion upon them as the Holy Spirit filled them on Pentecost. The apostle Paul gained the same compassion as he followed Christ.

As we are following Jesus, we gain the compassion Jesus had for the crowds. We are able to share the gospel and ourselves because we care for people. When we realize that God cares for people, we are able to share who we are.

Last week we realized we are in Christ. This week we realize we have compassion, just like Jesus does. When people know we care for them, then they will also know Jesus.

My list of thanksgivings

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I thank God for you. By your persistence in attending weekly worship, we all get to be a light that does not get hid under a wicker basket! Keep being persistent in finding where and to whom God is leading you to serve! We still have breathe in our lungs, so we are here to praise God and to let Jesus Christ be known by all who know us!

In our persistence to know and serve God, let us remember all for which we are thankful! Here are some of my thanksgivings:

– God the Father – He created me and I am still discovering what this means!
– God the Son – He is recreating me into the image of God
– God the Spirit – He is energizing me to live and preach

– Maria, my wife – She is my best three quarters – I’m woefully incomplete without her (you’ll figure it out in a bit!)
– Benjamin, our son – His sense of humor is growing, and I hope we are the best example for his faith in Jesus
– Gracie, C.J., and Simba – our pets – what a joy it is to care for God’s creation!

– Pine Grove and Hartman’s Chapel – examples of God’s work in this world
– Morristown District – part of East Tennessee that is growing in God’s grace
– Holston Conference – United Methodists who are attempting to follow Jesus!

– God’s Greene County – a good place to work and recreate
– Mosheim and Orebank – where the people aren’t half bad, but still need all of God
– Greeneville – where the people aren’t half bad, but still need all of God

Continue to be in prayer for the children. Let us encourage the children to know God through Jesus Christ. The children learn to give thanks by our example. May they hear us thank God for all that God has given us!

In Christ’s Service,
John

Winning & Losing with Harvey Weinstein

These are good words to ponder and to help our society.

Brave & Free with Blossom Matthews

Harvey Weinstein’s fall from power serves as a sign-post of things to come. Ongoing revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond will shed light into the dark recesses of institutional abuse, empowering women to speak out in the face of sexual harassment and assault. This is most definitely a win for women and society as a whole. However, in order to protect all parties, the unintended effect may actually serve to limit women in the name of protecting them. More on that in a moment.

663px-Harvey_Weinstein_2010_Time_100_Shankbone Photo credit: David Shankbone

It’s a good day for women and men alike when victims of sexual assault begin to come forward to share their stories. The powers-that-be in Hollywood should be shaking in their boots – whether due to their own misuse of power or their willingness to conveniently look the other way. The most surprising aspect of recent news is not that…

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