Month: October 2017

How to handle persistent sin (2 Thessalonians 3:6-18)

Posted on Updated on

prayer-churches

How should a community of believers (a church) treat someone in their community who is persistently disregarding the clear instructions on how to live a God honouring life?

These people Paul is referring to have been persistently disregarding the apostles teaching on what a right response to the gospel looks like in life.  This person or group of people had already been urged to change through his first letter (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and are disregarding the life modelled by the apostles (vs7-8) & the apostles teaching (vs10).

So how should we handle such a person, where there is disregard for the clear will of God in terms of some serious misbehaviour?  2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 gives us five practical guidelines on when, why and how discipline should be exercised:

(These 5 points are inspired by John Stott’s commentary on Thessalonians)

  1. The need for discipline arises when there is consistent deliberant disobedience to the plain teaching of Scripture.  The issue is not ignorance regarding God’s will, but a disregard for God’s will and a disregard of the appeals of the community of faith.
  1. The nature of the discipline which was required by the apostle was a measure of social exclusion because softer approaches had been disregarded already by the person(s).  Discipline should start soft and private, but becomes more more insistent and public in nature if people persist in their disobedience to God’s revealed will. Persistent unreported of disobedience should result in some degree of exclusion (‘not to be associated with’ see vs6 & 14), the congregation was to ‘take note of that person’ and together to not ‘mingle or associate with’ them (vs14).  The phrase used can have differing degrees of exclusion, ranging from total separation (as in 2 Corinthians 5:9-13) to more moderate avoidance of free and familiar fellowship (as at Thessalonica) according to John Stott.
  1. The responsibility for administering discipline to a persistent offender belongs to the congregation as a whole. Paul does not address his instructions merely to the elders of the Thessalonian church.  Leaders may need to take the initiative, but then a corporate response is needed by the whole church membership.
  1. The spirit in which discipline is to be administered must be friendly, not hostile. It is to be done ‘gently’ (see Galatians 6:1-2).  In 2 Thessalonians we find the apostle saying; ‘Do not regard him as an enemy’ (15a) rather the spirit here is to, ‘warn him as a brother’ (15b).
  1. The purpose of this discipline is positive and constructive. Although being excluded will result in shame (vs14b), the intention however is not destructive but meant to cause the person(s) to come to their senses, see the seriousness of their sin and repent.  John Stott says; “Paul’s intention is not that he be excluded from the community, but reinstated in it.”  We remember that Jesus’ instructions on this matter was that our desire should be that we could win our brother/sister back, be reconciled (Matthew 18:15-17)!
Advertisements

Prayers that criss-cross (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

Posted on

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

The Apostolic gift lifts local eyes from considering only the local church and personal issues to see the broader need, and in so doing the worldwide mission of Jesus remains in focus always.  The apostle Paul has addressed local questions that the believers had amongst themselves, but now he calls them to join him in Jesus’ mission to the whole world.

Paul asked these young believers to pray that the gospel ‘would run and be glorified’. He is asking them to pray that the gospel would advance and that it would be honoured (3:1).  The gospel advances through local churches, through preaching, through the lives of all believers living out their transformation and sharing Jesus.

What do you pray about?  Only local, personal things or are you prayers about the gospel speeding ahead, spreading out all across the world.  I urge you from Scripture to widen the scope of your prayers if that’s needed, to care about church planting, and the gospel’s advance reaching to all unreached people of the world.

He also asked them to pray that people would respond wholeheartedly to the gospel, that lives would be transformed (as had happened in Thessalonica) by the gospel (3:1).

2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

In Paul’s mind, gospel advance was linked to danger and oppression.  So he asked them to pray that we may be delivered from wicked & evil men (3:2) and yet even as he is praying he knows, the Lord is faithful, he knows, he is confident that God will establish them and guard you against the evil one.

So he closes praying that the Lord would ‘direct their hearts’ (3:5).  Only God can lead and direct us at a heart-level so that we end up loving God more and becoming more and more robust/steadfast like Jesus.

This little section starts with Paul asking them to pray, and ends with Paul praying for them! May our prayers for one another criss-cross like this, us praying for others and others praying for us – partnering in prayer knowing that prayer is the power God’s given us to open and shut doors.

 

False teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17)

Posted on Updated on

The Thessalonian church faced persecution from those outside of the faith, which the apostle has addressed in chapter 1.  Now in chapter 2 he turns his attention to another form of opposition that can be even more difficult to withstand: false teaching.

Some had been claiming that Jesus had already returned, and that the Thessalonians had somehow missed it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)!  Sadly this sort of stuff still happens today.  Just the other day the world was supposed to have ended – ooooops did you miss that!

Did you know that according to some, the so-called “Rapture” was supposed to have happened on Sep 23rd 2017.  Some doomsday so-called Christians who seem more focused more on crazy number patterns & astronomy than on the Bible itself put together a Youtube clip watched by 4.5million people in under 2months claiming such.  

And yet, no surprise really, but we are still all here.  Or did Jesus come back and we  somehow missed; ‘Jesus’ shout of command’, ‘the voice of the archangel’, the trumpet blast of God’ ‘and dead people rising up everywhere’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)…? 

Friend, “Let no one deceive you in any way” (vs3), “we ask you brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed” (vs2).  Jesus is coming back, he will destroy the anti-Christ with just the breath of his mouth (vs8) – no contest!  There will be displays of power and false signs and wicked deception from Satan himself (vs9-10) but we are all called to ‘love the truth and so be saved’ (vs10)

And Jesus Christ Himself is the way and the truth, and so believing in Him, trusting in Him is the only way to life eternal.  So do it, trust Him, believe in Him, and call all you know to do the same.

And, if you have already believed in Jesus, stand firm (vs15) and hold to what you know from Scripture and may Jesus Himself comfort your hearts and cause you to do great good works in the world because of Him (vs16).

God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12)

Posted on Updated on

Paul has been boasting about these Thessalonian believers to other churches.  He has been encouraged by their growing faith and love, and also by their steadfastness and faith in the midst of the persecution and the affliction they have had to endure because of their faith.

“Faith under fire becomes faith refined by the fire.”

But what comfort is there for those who are being treated unjustly, persecuted because of their faith in Christ?

“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)

What comfort is there?  Scripture answers that God is just.  Implied here is that our Father God who is the righteous all-knowing judge of all sees everything that is done and that which is not done that ought to have been done.  God is just, because God will afflict those who have afflicted His children.

And so the knowledge that God is just gives relief/rest to one who has been unjustly treated or who has seen their loved ones unjustly treated.

We are often tempted to make premature assessments, in this life.  It can and does sometimes look like the unjust go unpunished, seemingly unaffected by their sin and seemingly free from consequences despite the despicable things they have inflicted on others.  Our systems of justice often let people down as the justice they deserve slips away into the cracks of our sin-broken societal systems of justice.

But for those who call God ‘Father’ there will be justice.  Our Father will act on our behalf and knowing this relieves us of any need to attempt to ‘repay evil with evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Rather, we can and should forgive people.  As we do, we are stopping that thing they did from continuing to rob or hurt us into the future.  Forgiving people sets the forgiver free, and leaves the forgiven before the God of all the earth – who is just.

Ask Father God right now.  Is there anyone I need to forgive?

Choose now to set yourself free, choose now to stop allowing that thing from continuing to impact your life.  Thank your Father that He is just.

When though?  You might say, well I haven’t seen God being just yet!

I believe there are times when we do see the justice of God in this lifetime come upon people, but this passage is very clear that the time everyone will know that God is just is on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with attending angels and flames of fire (vs7-8).

On that day God the righteous judge will ‘inflict vengeance/retribution’ (vs8) on those  who wronged his children (implied by the context) and specifically on those who rejected Jesus Christ.

Note how God is the active agent here, God the righteous just judge is the One inflicting retribution.  This clear teaching in Scripture confronts the unbiblical popular notion that the God of Scripture is some wishy washy dispenser of ‘love’ or that it is loving  to the victim to let the wicked go unpunished for the sin done to them!

And yet on this same day that Jesus comes back in all His glory, on this day when the unrighteous who rejected Christ will face the punishment for their sin (vs9) and will be shut out from the presence of God forever and ever, on that same day those of us who believed in Jesus will be glorying in Jesus, will be marvelling at Jesus in all His revealed splendour and majesty (vs10)!

May, you believe, may you ask Jesus Himself to forgive you of the wrong you’ve done before that Day.  May you and I reach out to EVERYONE we can while we still can with the good news that anyone can join that happy crowd (vs10) if they will only bow the knee now and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and ask Him to forgive them of their sin.

For if you do accept Jesus, God is just, and so will forgive you of your sin, you will not face any punishment for whatever you did, because God already punished that sin when Jesus died on the cross in your place for your sin, and so God will be just to save you and welcome you into a glorious eternity with Him.

Have you crossed the line of faith and put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all your sin?

Ask the Holy Spirit now to put people on your heart who don’t yet believe in Jesus, pray for them and DO ANYTHING the Holy Spirit leads you to do…

God’s will for our lives & His Church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28)

Posted on Updated on

As this first letter to the Thessalonians comes to a close the Apostle Paul gives some a variety short instructions on a range of issues of what the transformed life and community of those who are following Jesus ought to be like.

Imagine all of these instructions, and all the more specific or focussed encouragements for right living through this whole letter (faith, hope & love, sexual purity & living with a biblical eternal perspective) being lived out!  What an incredible church, a community of faith that would be.

When there is a long list of exhortations like this, one can get caught in ‘skimming mode’.  You can’t possibly focus on so many things all at once.  My encouragement is for you to read through the list and to ask the Holy Spirit to just take His heavenly highlighter as it were and highlight that which He wants to speak to you about today.  Then meditate on those things, stop and ask the Holy Spirit to convict of wrongdoing maybe and or to encourage you as to the change that’s required in you.

So read through this diverse list, pray that our church would be all these things, but ask the Holy Spirit to highlight what He wants to work on in you at the moment and then take time to dwell on that, to hear what specifically needs correcting or changing.  Then repent or make changes accordingly.

  • Honour/respect leaders who’s job it is to at times admonish you (vs12)
  • Live peacefully with one another in the church (vs13)
  • Warn/admonish/correct gently those who are idle (vs14)
  • Encourage those who are fainthearted (vs14)
  • Support/help those who are weak or those without strength (vs14)
  • Be patient with all! (vs14)
  • Don’t take revenge on anyone (vs15)
  • Always seek to do good to one another and to all people (vs15)
  • Always rejoice (vs16)
  • Always pray and do so without stopping (vs17)
  • Always give thanks to God at all times as this is God’s will for you. (vs18)
  • Don’t quench, don’t extinguish the work of the Holy Spirit amongst you (vs19)
  • Don’t despise prophecy treating it as though it has no value (vs20)
  • But test/examine/discern prophecies to know what to approve/act on (vs21)
  • Hold fast only to that which is good in prophecies (vs21)
  • Abstain/keep oneself from every form of evil (vs22)

May God who is the One who will sanctify us (make us more and more like Jesus), may God who is the One who will keep working in you to make you blameless on the Day of Jesus, may God who is the One who called you to Himself, may God produce the change that’s needed in you and in me. (vs23-24)  Amen.

That Day: Great & Terrible (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)

Posted on Updated on

‘The day of the Lord’ – (vs2) is the great and the terrible day spoken of all through the Old Testament when Yahweh will come to save His faithful ones and will come to punish the those who rejected His kind offer of forgiveness through His Son.

It is a day with two distinct perspectives depending on one’s faith trajectory.  For some, it’s a great day, a day to be longed for and anticipated, and yet for those who rejected God’s Son as their Lord & Saviour, its a terrible day.

This day will come suddenly, will come when people aren’t expecting it (vs3).  To some the suddenness is negative & not welcomed – ‘like a thief’.  Yet for others the suddenness is positive & welcomed like a pregnant woman suddenly going into labor. (vs3)

These contrasting ‘suddenly’s’ refer to the contrasting experience on ‘the day of the Lord’ depending on ones state of faith.

But this coming day in all our futures isn’t to be feared for those who are God’s children, ‘children of the light’ (vs4-5), for we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into Jesus’ kingdom (Colossians 1:13) which is the kingdom of light as Jesus is Himself, the light of the world (John 8:12).

Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to be at peace with our future, and helps us to stay alert, awake, sober ready for Jesus’ return. (Vs6)

Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to choose to keep putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of our salvation to protect us until that day (vs8).

We who have believed in Jesus Christ, we are not destined for wrath but for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died in our place for our sin so that we might live forever with Him (vs9).

So let’s encourage one another and build one another up!

And let’s reach out to all we know with the good news that those who put their trust in Jesus, those who ask Him to forgive them of their sins, will be forgiven and then this THAT DAY will be the first of an eternity of GREAT DAYS.

Re-Uniting Day… (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)

Posted on Updated on

There is a day when the temporary separation brought about by all death in this life will be overturned by the greatest day of re-unification ever!

I find airports very interesting spaces. Going to an airport one can observe a whole range of contrasting emotions on display.

On the side of departures there are last hugs, last kisses and last looks – endings, separations, increasing distance, tears & questions of when we will see one another next.

Yet, on the side of arrivals its the opposite. There are first hugs, kisses & words of joy and love. Decreasing distance, intimacy and re-unification, the resumption of relationships…

Death is like the departure section of the airport. The second coming of Jesus, however, is like the arrivals section! There is a day when the wait will be over, the distance between us and Jesus will evaporate forever, and a day when the separation we have endured from loved ones who died as believers will be over forever and ever.

These Thessalonians had questions about loved ones who had died, here in these verses Scripture describes the amazing day to come when King Jesus will return as King. The underlying Greek word (‘parousia) used here and translated as ‘the coming of the’ Lord is a word that has special meaning. It’s not just like a friend ‘coming’ round to your house but the picture the Thessalonians would have had when that word was used would have been that of a victorious king leading his armies and his captives in a victory parade through the streets, to be received with cheers and celebration from his home city/kingdom.

We get hints of this incredible scene when this passage describes the picture of Jesus’ return with three sounds;

  1. Jesus declaring loudly with a shout/command ,
    The voice of an archangel (chief angel) saying something about Jesus no doubt
  2. And God sounding a heavenly trumpet!
  3. In this moment there will be the greatest day of re-unification ever! It seems from vs15-16 that those who had already died, believing in Jesus will be raised and then they will join Jesus in His ‘parousia’, in His victory procession as ‘God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep’ (vs14).

I can imagine Jesus in all His glory out front, and the host of believers behind Him singing glorying in Him and yet at the same time looking out for, finding in the crowd and waving with joy and excitement at those who are still alive who believed in Jesus. What a day of re-unification, joy unspeakable! This is comforting for us who just feel the loss of separation in the present time, this sadness will be overcome with everlasting joy.

Lastly, the result of what I’m calling Re-uniting Day will be an intimate proximity to Jesus that will never be undone again; “and so we will always be with the Lord” (vs17).

These truths should encourage us, and should be used by us to encourage one another (vs18).

Who can you encourage with these words today?
Have you done it yet?