Monday, September 29, 2008

In Search Of Truth, 1st Thessalonians 5:14-28


Paul finished this letter with a densely packed series of instructions designed to help us live in community with each other, simultaneously honoring God with the way we handle our relationships.

The NASB translation in verse 14 says that we are to "admonish the unruly." The Greek word here for "unruly" means to be disorderly or lazy. Although we should be tactful and sensitive in our approach, we should be willing to do the hard thing and warn a fellow Christian about the effects of a disorderly or lazy lifestyle if we see this pattern in them.

We’re also meant to encourage the insecure or those who have a negative view of themselves (NASB "fainthearted"). We’re called to help the weak (which here refers primarily to physical, not spiritual weakness) and be patient with everyone.

The Greek word here for "patient" literally means "to suffer long." God knows that holding back our anger from those who frustrate us will involve some suffering. Have you ever been so annoyed or frustrated with someone that you felt sure your head would explode if you didn’t say or do something to them? God wants us to learn to live with those folks and not lash out at them, verbally or otherwise, when they bother us.

Of course, sin is a different issue. We have to be ready, with cool heads, to talk to our Christian friends or relatives when we see them sinning. But we need to learn to hold our anger in check and respond to sin only when we can do so with even tempers and genuine respect and care for those we talk to.

In verses 16-18, Paul lists 3 things to do constantly. Rejoice, pray and give thanks. The Greek word here for "rejoice," refers to an attitude of celebration in direct response to all the good things God has given or done for us. To pray without ceasing implies a mentality where we include God in even the small, mundane details of our lives. When was the last time you asked God to help you find your keys? Thanked him for the cool video game he enabled someone to create? Told him you were nervous to call a cute girl? God wants a constant dialogue, to be intimately involved in the little details of our lives. God wants us to recognize that everything we enjoy, in any part of our lives, is ultimately a gift from him (James 1:17), and to thank him for those people and experiences.

Verses 19-20 emphasize the importance of being open to what the Bible says and having an openness to those who communicate the truth. But being "open" doesn’t mean "automatically buying into." As verse 21 says, we should examine/test everything to determine, as best we can, what is true/good and what is false/evil.

God’s desire is for every part of who we are to be "sanctified"(set apart for God’s purposes) and without blame until we see Jesus face to face. With this statement, the bar is set impossibly high, but Paul reassures us that God is faithful. In other words, God always does what he says he’s going to do. And if God has called you to believe in him, he has made you "without blame" in his eyes and will keep you that way until you see him face to face. (Romans 8:28-30, Philippians 1:6, )

Verses 25-27 shift to a more personal tone where we can find principles to follow, but not necessarily commands to obey. For example, it is no longer necessary to pray for Paul and his companions (v.25), but we can be reminded to pray for our Christian friends and leaders. We don’t need to kiss each other when we meet (v.26) but we can be friendly, positive and encouraging in other ways.

Next Week- 2nd Thessalonians Chapter 1!

Coffee House Question

What’s a "churchy" word or phrase you can think of that rarely or never comes up in your "normal" conversations?


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