"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

CROSSING The ‘T’s TTUF STUDY 1st THESSALONIANS Ch. Four

~ by James Fire

For another great teaching in 1st Thessalonians (and 2nd later on), check out pastor Pat Lazovich from Calvary Chapel Sierra Vista!

1st THESSALONIANS Chapter Four
INTRODUCTION
: Until we see the LORD face to Face, we will always, this side of eternity, be incomplete regarding the fullness with which GOD intends to see us in Christ. There will always be room for improvement. To grow in Christ is to grow in holiness and in love – and this is not at all a burden, but a blessing. We always think of love as a blessing, but holiness?

Too often we get notions that holiness is restrictive, a lifestyle of deprivation. Certainly true holiness does restrict us from sin and deprives us of wickedness, transgression, and rebellion – but these, rather than holiness are truly the burden. Ask the drug addict strung out on dope and laying in the street whether or not he considers drugs to be a joy ride or not. Ask religious people whose lives are filled with “do’s” and “don’ts” in order to strive to achieve right standing with GOD, apart from the grace of GOD – and fail miserably: these are certainly burdens as well as the ‘free thinker’ who is too sophisticated for ‘organized religion’ and instead delves into New Age spirituality (what we used to call the occult) and suddenly finds themselves under the binding influence of demons!

It’s as we partake of Christ and all of His blessed attributes, that we grow in the blessedness that is Christ Himself. In that place, there is peace, contentment, rest, security, love, and joy as found nowhere else in this fallen world! This is the place where GOD is our refuge, our high tower, and our strength – where the evil of this world can’t affect us; where hatred can’t influence us, where fear has no hold on us; where afflictions can’t discourage us.
Being Christ-like means that nothing of this world compels us: only the Spirit of GOD and those things that compel Him (JOHN 8:29).

Then when you gather the saints together communally, such blessedness is not merely additive, but exponential! That’s why face to face fellowship among the saints is more vital than your fingers and toes remaining attached to your body which allows life to flow through them!

This is why we need one another. The idea of a ‘lone ranger’ Christian is disallowed by Scripture (albeit there are specific and legitimate exceptions of course; i.e., those in solitary confinement, the infirm and shut-ins, etc.). Collectively, we are not only a temple of the Holy Spirit, but also an impregnable fortress!

As Paul continues his exhortation to the saints, he touches on these key issues of personal holiness and how we influence society around us as “salt” and “light”. He also encourages the Thessalonian saints in their love for one another as well as their labors of agape love in the Kingdom of GOD.
So before we address the issue of the rapture of the church (in the next article), let’s examine vs. 1-12.

PART FOUR: The Hortatory (Exhortations) Section
Chapter 4.
(1) Exhortations concerning personal and social purity: vs. 1-8.
(2) Exhortations in respect to brotherly love and industry: vs. 9-12.

1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-5
1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God
;

Paul addresses the brethren here with urging – practically pleading and exhorting – he greatly desires for these saints and implores earnestly that they (“super”) abound “more and more” in their walk before GOD.
It's the tree that no longer grows that the gardener must attend to. And ultimately, if it doesn’t bear fruit, it gets cut down (LUKE 13:6-9; MATT 3:10). Life is all about growth; how much more so, where eternal life is the subject! The very Spirit of Christ dwells in the hearts of the LORD’s disciples, He Who is the Author of Life!

These admonitions were rehearsed in writing by Paul in order to remind the saints there at Thessalonica to live their lives as true disciples, thus, pleasing GOD and fulfill His will in us. We can sometimes wonder about what GOD’s will for us is, as if it was some mysteriously unfathomable mystery – and truth to tell, we don’t usually know the particulars at any given moment, but the Word of GOD is clear about the fundamental objectives the LORD has in mind for His church: Sanctification is GOD’s will for us – to grow “more and more” to become like Christ.

In a teaching by pastor Pat Lazovich of Sierra Vista, AZ (see the link for all his teachings in 1 THESS and 2 THESS at the beginning of each of these TTUF articles) , he states that if we follow the LORD’s will in the general (such as sanctification), in time He reveals the particular. Amen!

The initial sanctification is as a result of justification, where we are then baptized (spiritually) into the church – the body of Christ – and separated (“set apart”) from the world, and consecrated to GOD as His child, His preacher, His priest, His prophet, His warrior, His ambassador: we are His. And we grow in these various aspects as we mature in Christ. Which benefits our marriage, our family, our fellowship, our work place, our relationship with our community.

Now, the non-obvious question is, Why?
Why is it important that we as Christians exhibit Christ-like character?

There are many good answers to that question! Here are just three:

1) It honors GOD to see His people living in holiness because GOD is holy, and if we want fellowship with Him, we have to approach Him in a manner that honors Him; thus, holiness and sanctification in and by Jesus Christ are important! He loves us that much, that He is pleased to see us living a victorious life of holiness out of the motivation of love for Him!

2) In Christ’s Kingdom, Christ will reign supreme because He is the greatest in the Kingdom and proved it by being the greatest servant:
PHILIPPIANS 2:6
6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
.
And we are to have this same frame of mind:
PHILIPPIANS 2:5
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
What does that look like? Here are just a few examples in Scripture:

MARK 9:35
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

MARK 10:44
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

JOHN 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

HEBREWS 12:14
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord
:
Those who allow GOD’s Spirit to work in their lives (ROM 6:13), and transform their minds (ROM 12:2), He Who wills that they do according to His purpose (PHIL 2:13) will be suitable to govern, as they have the mind of Christ – Who is truly the only One worthy to rule over mankind!

3) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, meekness. The world is starving to death for this, especially for the genuine love, joy, and peace that is found in Christ – and so when they see this in us, even under stress and trials, they are going to want what we have. They’re going to ask us, “What’s your secret?”
And we’ll have the blessed opportunity to share with them!
Paul addresses the specific issue of sexual immorality, that we should abstain from such evil conduct and possess our vessel (our bodies and minds, and all of the faculties these are equipped with) in honor of GOD, Who sacrificed His Son for our sakes that we may live. So, since JESUS died for us, let us live for Him!

We think that we who live in the 21st century are sophisticated, progressive, and have shucked off the archaic belief systems of ages past; for example, such things as monogamy between a man and woman as husband and wife. But the Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. That which has happened before will happen again (ECCL 1:9).

The sexual revolution of the 60’s didn’t open the pandora’s box for humanity, it just re-opened it anew in our American culture!
Paul is admonishing the saints there, who lived among the amoral or even grossly immoral population of Thessalonica, the culture that these saints once belonged to themselves; their day was far more perverse in many respects than what we are seeing today:
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God
.
Let’s not be shocked when we see people with a sin nature conduct themselves in a naturally sinful way. We were there once. Certainly we should find sin repulsive, and what sin should be at the top of the list?
Our own.

We saints have the option to obey GOD in holiness, whereas “the Gentiles who do not know GOD” have only one option – that is, to sin – because they have only one nature, a sin nature. We saints likewise have a sin nature, but also GOD’s own divine nature (2 PET 1:4). So for us, we have option A and option B (GAL 5:16).

Our beloved and best and most faithful Friend, the LORD Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, willingly so that we wouldn’t suffer eternal damnation. Let us therefore, out of a heart of thankfulness, lay down our lives for Him, and be faithful friends who will choose to walk in the Spirit of His holiness so as to not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

We desire to be used of the LORD, do we not? And as it’s by His power we live, we are enabled to live as He lived (1 JOHN 2:6). Just as a glove is lifeless, inanimate and empty, so were we once without Christ; but now that we have His indwelling Spirit, He enables us to live life as He did – just as the glove is able to do anything that the hand can do, once that hand is placed inside the glove.

What if that glove was made of cement? It would be useless because it wouldn’t yield to the hand within it! Or what if you fished that glove out of the sewer, and it was stinky and slimy – you wouldn’t want to put your hand in that thing; you want a clean glove!

So too, we desire to be useful for the LORD, clean and yielded: a vessel unto honor, ready to be of service to Him:
2 TIMOTHY 2:21-22
21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart
.
JESUS didn’t hang on the cross so that we could live a half-committed, ho-hum, casual Christian life, did He?

As I was out on a prayer walk just the other day – I love walking out and observing GOD’s creation in the Arizona deserts – and I can never walk and not pray (I think I have a bit better understanding of the Scripture that says, “Enoch walked with GOD”; GEN 5:22), when it occurred to me, that the Romans crucified Christ in utter ignorance that they were actually killing GOD in the flesh; the Jews in their religious piety (falsely) believed that they were doing GOD a service – and what cruelty could be compared to these things?

The unjust Jewish trials, the mocking and humiliation, the beatings; and the Roman cat o’ nine tails, the beatings, the mocking and humiliation, the crown of thorns and finally those nails that impaled our Savior?

As I prayed, it occurred to me what is far more cruel to Christ: my sins and transgressions. Fully knowing Who He is; His tender heart open, exposed, vulnerable to me, and I flagrantly commit a trespass against Him, taking His grace as a common thing, thinking: It will be there for me after I sin, and I can just get cleaned up afterwards.

I found myself, walking roadside about a mile from my dwelling place, in tears. And I asked the LORD not for grace to overcome sin and live in holiness: He’s granted that already by the indwelling HOLY Spirit; rather, for an increase in hunger for holiness, so that I will crave the empowering grace that GOD already provided, to stand valiantly in the face of temptation and disallow it to thwart my spiritual man and instead, to take hold of the old man, kicking and screaming and pleading, dragging him to the Cross and let him die the death – daily!

1 THESSALONIANS 4:6-8
6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit
.

We cannot hope to win the world, if they look upon our dealings with fellow believers and observe the kind of shoddy treatment we treat them with. How can we possibly claim to love GOD if we treat one of His children disgracefully?

Remember what Christ said to Saul on the Damascus Road? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?

The LORD takes the treatment of His children personally, as if it was being done to Him, because in a very real way, it is! We are the body of Christ!
How we speak to one another, how we treat one another, the sort of relationship we have with others – such dealings with His children are in reality dealings with the LORD Jesus Christ Himself!

May we be circumspect in our words (PSALM 141:3) and deeds (COL 3:12) with one another, understanding that as we love and cherish each other, respect, and serve one another, we are doing these to the LORD Jesus Christ Himself. In MATTHEW 25 there is the judgment of nations, said judgment based on their treatment of Israel, and here the LORD says to both the sheep and the goats (“goats” in verse 45):
MATTHEW 25:40
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me
(see also vs. 45).
While this passage deals strictly with Israel, I think one can apply the same principle for the church as well: How we treat one another really does affect our LORD. And we haven’t even touched on how the world treats the church, and what their fate will be!

What this world doesn’t realize is that as they persecute the church (as did Saul of Tarsus), they are persecuting Christ! It’s no wonder we are to pray for those who persecute us (MATT 5:44)! Without our petitions of intercessory prayer on their behalf, they are doomed on Judgment Day, having tortured, and put to death Christ’s body – us!

We have this month (August of 2021) witnessed the horrific tragedy of the United States government pulling out of Afghanistan, knowing full well what the ramifications would be: the Taliban takeover of the nation, preying upon native Christians and American citizens alike!
May we keep our Afghani brothers and sisters in prayer during this enormously stressful time, as well as our fellow Americans (especially those unsaved souls that need to receive the Gospel!) and ask the LORD for His all-powerful grace to so overwhelm His saints, that they will respond with perfect Christ-likeness, and may many of their persecutors fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and come to faith!

1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-12
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing
.

1 JOHN 4:7-13
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit
.

In verse one we read that Paul’s desire for these saints is that they “should abound more and more,” – here it’s the same idea, that they “increase more and more”. The Christian life isn’t a static one but is one born of the Life that is not our own: it is the very Life, the very Spirit, the very essence of the holy character of Christ, His Almighty love and grace.

One doesn’t need to force a seed to grow; they merely plant that seed – in good soil – and be sure to water it, and then simply let nature take its course.

This is not to say that the Christian life is without our cooperation, for we can certainly do things to staunch out growth – resorting to a lifestyle of the flesh, being neglectful of the spiritual – this will staunch growth just as planting a tree in an arid climate, as opposed to planting another tree in that same arid climate, but right next to a strong, flowing river.

If we are to be known as Christians in this world, let it not be by doctrine (necessarily), or by faithful church attendance, or by serving the fellowship and our community (as a matter of duty) but by our love for GOD, for our fellow saints, and also by our love for those who consider themselves our enemies and treat us as such.

Our conduct speaks volumes about who we are in Christ, more often than not, more so than our words. If we live a quiet and peaceable life, devoid of striving, obstinate, trouble-making activity. In as much as is possible, to obey the laws of the land; for Christ’s own sake, even those that we feel are unjust (for example, paying income tax, something not supported by our Constitution, but was implemented by unlawful means and methods of subterfuge; these same men instituted a central bank known here as the Federal Reserve – also unconstitutional). Regardless of these unlawful things, we obey the laws of the land UNLESS they are in direct violation of the Word of GOD.

When the first round of COVID 19 struck and everything shut down, as places began to reopen, one institution was deemed nonessential and the order from many governors and mayors was, “stay shut down!” – that being the church (I read where even mosques reopened, but never a word from the government, yet the church was not allowed!).

This is a direct violation of the Word of GOD, which issues the command for us as saints to congregate and not ignore the assembly of the saints (HEB 10:25); I don’t believe video teaching qualifies as “fellowship” – this must be done in person, as the saints have the opportunity to interact with one another, pray for one another, encourage one another.

If there ever comes a day here in America, as it’s already arrived in China, North Korea and recently in Afghanistan that the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ is forbidden by law, then we must violate that law in order to obey GOD rather than man (ACTS 4:18-21).

We of all people, who work not for a company or for a paycheck, but who work “as unto the LORD” giving Him glory and honor by our industry – nothing could provide greater motivation for the highest quality work and the greatest output in industry because we serve the LORD Christ, and no other as our primary motivation in working (COL 3:22-23; EPH 6:5-8); it is in fact a legitimate form of worship to the LORD.

1 THESSALONIANS 4:12
that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing
.

Proper walking requires strong bones and muscle, energy, coordination, and balance. This is also the way of life and especially the life of a believer:

We must have the strength of the LORD to accomplish this, and His Spirit; we find coordination through the doctrine of Scripture, as well as balance. It directs us as our spiritual compass as well as our spiritual balance (those devices with the bubble in the middle).
We are to be such a witness before this world that sees us as an oddity (something seriously deviant from the ‘norm’ of this world), a freak of nature in their own estimation – a bona fide and biblical Jesus Freak
It will be a testament to them, that we are in fact, “complete” and “lacking nothing”, that is to say, completely as GOD intended the human race to be to begin with!

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