Title: BEHAVING PROPERLY TOWARDS OUTSIDERS
Text: 1 Thess. 4:9-12
How should a Christian behave towards non-Christians? Are we to treat outsiders as though they had some kind of contagious plague and thus keep a safe distance? Should we try to avoid offending them by adopting their lifestyle?
As believers in an unsaved world, we are engaged in an intense conflict - the war of extremes. Look at these extremes.
Faithful evangelism vs. personal edification. Either we are zealous for the lost and are evangelistic to the exclusion of personal development, or we are so committed to our spiritual growth that we exercise little or no concern for those who are without Christ.
Enthusiastic faith vs. healthy trust in God. On the one hand, we can act with such self-confidence and determination that we run ahead without God’s help and make a mess of things. On the other hand, we can be so afraid of risk that we excuse ourselves from involvement and become dull and visionless.
Vertical vs. horizontal. The vertical side is being preoccupied with prophecy, identifying signs of the end times, and focusing on Christ’s imminent return. This can develop to the degree that we live recklessly and irresponsibly, expecting Him to return to bail us out of the mess we have created for ourselves. The horizontal side involves ignoring the truth so completely that we despair of Christ’s return and thus go about life as if He will never return.
Relationships with Christians vs. non-Christians. We can become so exclusive in our fellowship with Christians that our whole world revolves around other Christians. This leads to our losing touch with the lost. Or we can slip into the other extreme, where we choose to avoid contact so thoroughly with Christians and Bible teaching that we end up as “secret service saints” who behave little differently than the non-Christian world.
All these extremes are wrong. God wants us to live balanced lives. Jesus prayed that we would be insulated from Satan, not isolated from the world. The balance is to live a distinctive life and one that is attractive to the world that is without Christ.
To live this balanced life, Paul called the Thessalonican Christians...and he calls us. Read Text!
1. Paul begins this balance by stating when it comes to fellow Christians...love one another. 4:9 Is there opportunity every day to express this love? When should we express it the most? Did Paul say they had done all they needed to do in this area? When are we out of balance in this area?
2. What is to be the model of Christian love? John 13:1; 15:12-13
3. When Christians display this kind of love toward one another, what does it do for the unsaved? Why? When they see it, do you think it is something they want?
4. What is unconditional love? Do you think this kind of love opens a door for sharing the good news about Jesus? Explain.
5. In verses 11-12, Paul explains the balance we are to live towards non-Christians. Put these verses into your own words.
6. What do you think Paul means when he tells us to live a quiet life before non-Christians?
7. Have you ever known someone who was so caught up on the second coming of Christ and all it’s prophesies that they were offensive? What made them offensive? What is the balance we should live in this area?
8. Next Paul says to tend to our own business. With this in mind, how can a Christian be obnoxious to unbelievers? Do we gain any spiritual ground with unbelievers when we are obnoxious? Do you fear this happening that you go to the extreme of never talking to them about Christ at all? How can we achieve balance in this area?
9. Why do you think Paul had to tell the Thessalonicans to work with their own hands? 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 3:10-12 Are Christians ever to be a burden to those around them? How would you approach a person who was a burden on others?
10. Does a job done poorly or hardly at all, damage the effectiveness of spreading the Gospel? How then should a Christian work on their job? Col. 3:22-25
Let’s apply what we’ve learned.
1. Non-Christians are watching and wondering, so conduct yourself with wisdom. Don’t let your actions contradict your witness. Be an example of what you believe, even before you share it verbally.
2. Non-Christians are listening and learning, so speak your words with grace. Col. 4:5-6 No rebukes, put-downs, insults, or suggestions of superiority are needed or wanted when you convey your faith to unbelievers.
3. Non-Christians are individuals and important, so respond to them with dignity and sensitivity. As servants of the One who gave His life for every human being, we need to treat each person as an individual who is greatly loved by God.