Exhort, encourage, charge (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. – ESV
And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. – NLT
Not all things in life have equal value. Friends who’ve watched a good film might encourage other to do so themselves. It’s not life altering, just a suggestion of something that might be nice. While a parent or a mentor might exhort or even plead with a young person to avoid certain places or people for their life’s sake or might even charge them to promise that they won’t do something or will do something of great importance…
The more important something is, the more urgent the appeals tend to become and the urgency of the appeals reveal something of the perceived importance of the matter to the person speaking.
So what is worth someone’s exhortation, pleading, encouraging, urging even their charging others?
Paul uses three phrases all in one sentence, translated as we ‘exhorted’, ‘encouraged’ and even ‘charged’, to stress how important this thing is that he wants to emphasise for them to make a priority in their lives….so what is it?
Paul is urgently insistent that the Thessalonian believers, that we ourselves would live our lives in such a way that God would consider those lives worthy of God’s having called us and saved us.
He feels like a dad as he says this. As a dad it’s a terrible thing when I see my kids taking something for granted, not valuing what they have been given, seeing them ignoring something incredible they’ve been blessed with, seeing no gratitude in their response.
The Christian life is a response. It’s a response to the wonder and mystery of the goodness and kindness and mercy of God’s saving love for us. The more we see the magnitude of what God’s done for us in sending Jesus to die in our place for our sin, the more we will respond with a life fuelled by gratitude expressed towards God who has loved us so incredibly. And that life will be a God-pleasing life! A life that is worthy, is an appropriate response, considering what God has done for us.
The Christian life is a response of whole life worship (Romans 12:1-2), not just 1-2hrs on a Sunday, but 24/7 worship of God in all and through all you do and say. That’s the type of life that Jesus’ gift to you and to me is worthy of.
So, how’s your life response, is it a worthy one?
What might you want to change?
What might God want you to change?
We love Jesus back by living our lives as a wholehearted response to His wholehearted giving of Himself for us. We do so not out of a sense of debt and trying to pay Jesus back but rather out of gratitude for who He is and what He has done for us – we respond by loving Jesus back with our whole lives.
And this is worth exhorting, encouraging & charging others with!
To follow or not to follow…
Our congregation has the vision to help people become followers of Jesus. This is not just a nice sentiment, but carries the weight of true conviction for those who turned their life around from out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. It implies a change in lifestyle, however gradual.
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matt 16:24)
We have probably all read this verse many times – and scan over it as easily as we sing the songs proclaiming we will lay down everything for Jesus’ sake… Is it really that easy? Do we truly understand what it means?
I was startled this morning to read an Afrikaans translation where three options for the Greek word “aparnesastho” was given: “jouself verloen/afsweer/ontken”. These are strong terms! It can be translated with words like “renounce”, “disavow”, “contradict”. Denying yourself means to NOT do as you please, to NOT make your own wants/needs/dreams/desires the most important thing in life.
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that the modern Christian mantra has become more and more focused on our own desires and working to make them reality, because that is what God wants for us… I don’t necessarily agree… And maybe I’m missing the point, but allow me to continue this train of thought, however unpopular.
Am I willing to lay down everything, even my own life, to follow Jesus? We live in a country where we still have a great amount of religious freedom. We are not generally confronted with the choice between being killed for following Jesus, or staying alive by renouncing Him. Losing our lives in the context of this passage, to us, has a more subtle meaning.
We live in a world inundated by media that urges us to believe we need very many things to be happy and fulfilled. A nice house, nice care, nice clothes, the best in technology, phones, computers, entertainment media… Maybe you are strong enough to say, alright, I can give that up, and live with only what I need to survive…
But what if it comes to having a husband/wife, a family, a wonderful fulfilling career, the best education for myself or my children… What if the cross we take up means a life devoid of those things that we feel makes us happy? What if taking up my cross means allowing God to take me in a whole different direction than where I was wanting to go?
I am not saying we should all dive into an ascetic lifestyle! But what if all of that is taken away from you? Will you still follow Jesus with your whole heart? Will you still trust that the Father is working it all out for your benefit?
So, really, I’m inviting you to think it through with me, today. I’ve had to think it through for myself many times. And its hard to imagine what life would be like without all the stuff and people we love, without the hope of realising our dreams and desires, but maybe it is a good way to establish where your heart really is.
Our life on this earth is not a game played to gain as much as we can from it. It is an opportunity to live a life that acknowledges God’s sovereign rule, a life that pleases HIM, that gives His Word, His instruction, His direction first place.
It helps us correct our perspective when we set our minds on eternity. I would offer up everything here, however painful I’m sure it must be, to know that my eternal reward is to sit at the feet of my Lord, and behold His beautiful face forever:
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. (verse 27)
by Lise Oosthuizen
Laying down the law
It is probably inevitable that the idea of propriety is so strongly ingrained in the psyche of the Afrikaner. We traditionally grow up in an environment where rules and obedience are made very important.
So I was wondering: do we really experience, or even acknowledge, true freedom in our walk with God? Of course, in his discourse in Galatians, Paul is referring to the Old Testament Law, but it seems that in today’s Christian life, any expectation can become a law, whether openly or subtly enforced.
The power of expectation and propriety can dishearten a Christ-follower who wants to please God: how to talk, how to behave, what to do and what not to do, etc. Sometimes so many structures are put in place in the church community that it may hinder people from the joyful experience of freedom in serving and following God, in response to His overwhelming love.
Of course order is important, and without structure very little is accomplished. But what is the motivation behind these rules or the structure – to enable, or to control? In the church family, maybe we should stop laying down the law, and start letting go of the law.
The law has its place, it is not void of meaning. It confirms to us that we are sinful, that we cannot save ourselves, and that we desperately need a Saviour (Gal 3:10-11). “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).
Each believer is at their own place of spiritual growth, becoming more and more like Jesus. We are all on the same road, following God, and should love and encourage one another, not restrict and control each other. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
I am learning about this freedom. “Kancane kancane” (little by little) I am starting to understand my own freedom in Christ bought with His precious blood, and it becomes easier to practice grace and love towards others.
Gal 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.
by Lise Oosthuizen
Anger, sense and a restoration project…
Do you ever envy other people? I do.
Now I know that envy isn’t what my Father wants from me but not all envy is that bad.
I sometimes wish I could be the guy in the line at Home Affairs/Bank/Traffic licensing office…who isn’t getting riled at the inefficiency or the seeming absence of any commitment to serve others – I envy that guy who’s just calmly sitting there even seemingly enjoying the time away from tasks!
I sometimes wish I could be the guy of the squash who is playing top squash but just seems to be having fun and isn’t affected by dodgy referring calls – I envy that guy sometimes.
Scripture is so life-giving and practical. Just yesterday I read again that;
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 ESV
Now although I am who God’s made me and that includes all my physical, mental & personality attributes, Scripture also teaches me that who God made as Gareth – was tainted, marred by the Fall. I am created in His image but that image needs restoring/re-moulding which is what happens daily as I listen to God through Scripture and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
So when I say I am envious of someone else’s calmness in certain settings I am not expressing dissatisfaction with who God made me but rather dissatisfaction at the particular effect of sin in my life. I see something of the image of God in that other person (regardless of whether they are a believer or unbelievers) and it draws me into the Holy Spirit inspired restoration God wants to do in me!
Hence, when I read this verse it doesn’t condemn me but calls me into what I know the Father wants to be in me by in terms of restoration. As I read and listened to the Holy Spirit these were my personal reflections from this passage:
Anger that is ‘in-the-moment’ is bad sense because:
1) Anger clouds my vision
2)Anger predisposes me to making rash assumptions regarding motives, meaning…
3)Anger makes me the focal centre rather than making God and others the focal centre
4) Anger is a slippery slope towards me sinning even when I have been sinned against
So how can I apply this to my life?
Step 1: Identify the emotion (anger) early, report it to yourself
Step 2: Pause, count to three (seriously do it Gareth)
Step 3: Consider – What is making me feel this way? Have I misunderstood? Is God’s perspective and the other person’s perspective being valued by me? Is this worthy of godly anger?
Step 4: Is this something I can overlook? After all to do so would be to my benefit. Or is it necessary confront but doing so slowly and in love, full of grace and truth?
For me, being quick to anger has been one of the old sin patterns God has been remounting me in making me more like the most incredible man who ever lived – Jesus.
As a son of God, I want to be like my Father who time and time again is described as follows;
“…you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” (Jonah 4:2)
Father, today I want to be more like you, I want to identify, pause, consider & overlook where that is truly possible or confront in love full of grace and truth where necessary. Amen.
Lazarus – a picture of the saved yet stuck believer (John 11:44)
This for me is a picture of the total salvation that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. It would have been ridiculous for Lazarus, having been given new life to keep his grave clothes on! Yes he has been given new life but he needs those things taken off to really allow him to enjoy his new life.
Lazarus is a picture here for me of someone who is saved yet stuck. Stuck with the things that weigh us down, the things that hinder us and the sin that entangles us (Hebrews 12:1-2), restricting our freedom in Christ. Jesus’ concern is for Lazarus to be totally free (Luke 4:18-19) and so he said to…
- In what ways am I saved but stuck?
- Do I have grave clothes still restricting my freedom that was given to me in Christ?
- Who in my life right now has Jesus said to me; “Unbind them and let them go”?
- How do we unbind people (get them unstuck)?
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