Respond

Gospel Response (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

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When the Gospel is preached there are normally a whole range of responses from even within a smallish group of people. Reading between the lines of this letter we can surmise already by this stage in the letter that in response to the Gospel being preached;

  • Some could be applauded for their wholehearted response to the Gospel (1:6-9 & 2:13)
  • Some could be applauded for their faith and love & their desire to please God (3:6&4:1)
  • Some needed to be urged to not continue in their sexual sin or living like unbelievers (4:3-5)
  • Some were applauded for their love for one another and for all the brothers in Macedonia (4:9-10)
  • And some were exhorted to keeping working so as not to have to depend on others finances (4:11-12)

All different responses from the same Gospel shared with them. And so pastorally different things were needing to be encouraged in different groups of individuals in this young church.

What would you be applauded for in terms of your Gospel response?
What might you need to be exhorted in?

When the Gospel is preached, a faith community of Christ followers that hadn’t previously existed forms (the church), and Jesus clearly expected that these new faith communities would be primarily characterised by a deep love that looks like family.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Churches are not about programmes or meetings, they are all about people who have been joined to one another because they have been joined to Jesus Christ. Paul could write about the Thessalonians that he didn’t need to teach them about ‘brotherly love’ because clearly God had been teaching them how to love one another (vs9). What an accolade for a church to receive!

God had promised hundreds of years before that one day He would make a new covenant (which He did through Jesus) and in that era God said;

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

And that’s what God did with the Thessalonians, after just a short time of preaching God taught them, God wrote on their hearts His way for loving one another, for loving even ‘all the brothers throughout Macedonia’(vs10)!

God the Holy Spirit will teach us, will lead us how to love like He loves so that we will reflect who God is to one another and to the world at large. There is no greater hallmark of holiness than sacrificial love for others, and especially love for those whom we can’t realistically expect anything from in return.

How is God teaching you to be more loving to those in the church?
How is God leading you to love those in the wider community?

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Exhort, encourage, charge (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)

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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!

Do you see the hand of your God? (Joshua 24)

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Do you see the hand of your God? In chapter 24, Joshua gathers the nation again and through him God speaks recounting the story of His people’s journey to the present and shot through the whole narrative God keeps pointing to Himself and what He did for His people.

Sixteen times God says; “I….” in only 12 verses of chapter 24! God is taking a highlighter as it were and pointing out a myriad of times and ways that it was God Himself who was acting lovingly, protectively, providing, caring, always faithful to His promises to His people. Joshua points out to God’s people;

  • How God called Abraham out of God’s own sovereign free will
  • How God gave Abraham a miracle promised son to his barren wife
  • How God gave that son a line of sons to fulfill God’s covenant promise to Abraham
  • How God provided land for those sons
  • How God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egypt
  • How God delivered His people by dealing with the super power Egypt
  • How God miraculously divided the Red Sea for His people’s deliverance
  • How God answered the panicked cry of His people when Egypt pursued them
  • How God showed who He really was through His powerful dealings with Egypt
  • How God brought His people through the Wilderness protecting & providing for them
  • How God gave victory to His people over the Amorites
  • How God destroyed their enemies before them, God was their protection
  • How God delivered them from the hand of Balaam
  • How God took His people into the Promised Land & gave them victory over all people
  • How God fought their battles for them in miraculous ways (using hornets one time)
  • How God gave His people a land they hadn’t laboured for, cities they didn’t build, farms full of produce they didn’t plant or cultivate…

Pause.
Do you see the hand of your God in your life?

God is good, all the time, God is good. You might not always see it, understand it, feel it, but it is true. God is at work in your life in a myriad of ways, always has been and always will be. God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful, He cannot be unfaithful, its just not possible, it’s not who He is.

Brother, sister; if you don’t recognise how your life is saturated with the activity of God, then you won’t thank God, and you won’t respond to His love for you with love for Him and worship of Him…

So pause.

Consider daily, thank God daily for small things worship Him and devote yourself again and again to loving Him & serving Him only in all of life.

God renews the covenant with His people in chapter 24, calls them to respond to His goodness towards them, urging them to love Him only and to forsake anything that would seek to rob them of their faith and love for God.

Joshua warns the people of the sinfulness of the human heart to wander away from God, to be unfaithful, and yet declares that for Him and His household they will serve God (Joshua 24:15).

And Israel served God all the days of Joshua (great leader!) and all the days of the other elders of Israel who served alongside Joshua and outlived him and who knew, who remembered all that God had done for His people. Remembering, recognising God’s hand in our lives is so vital to a life that honours God. So, pause, recognise, remember…