2010-02-18 (am) 1 Thess. 4:1-12 Lived-out Hope
The video shown during the offering shows the struggle that happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, who walked with God, danced with him, were led astray by Satan. But God promised them that he would come and destroy the evil one.
Years later, God came and destroyed the evil one. In the wilderness, Jesus didn’t fall for Satan’s temptations. In another Garden, he didn’t fall into the temptation to give up. On the cross he defeated Satan, he broke the curse, he set us free.
You are here this morning because God wants you to know who you are. God created you. He created you to be in a relationship with him. If you don’t know God, if you don’t have a friendship with him yet, he’s made it possible to happen.
Like the girl at the beginning of the video, Christ has come to you. He’s here this morning. He’s reaching out. He’s ready to walk with you. He’s everything you need. Your greatest joy, your greatest delight, your greatest satisfaction will be found in him and him alone.
But maybe you’re sitting there and you’re feeling, like, me? He wants me? I’m no one, I’m insignificant. I’m worth about as much as navel lint.
But because you are created in God’s image, you are worth a lot! God knows all about you. He created you. And he has made a way for you.
The people of Thessalonica, a port city in Greece believed in Jesus. They realised that what the Bible says is true. They realised that there was more to life that what they were experiencing. They realised that there was a higher power and that the gods they worshipped, their idols, their statues, their Olympians didn’t match up. No matter how many gold medals their heroes won, they still didn’t satisfy.
But with God in Christ it is different. They experienced the power of truth right away. They staked their lives on it. They faced all kinds of pressure. Peer pressure, economic pressure, shunning, bullying, you name it, it went their way. All because they believed in Jesus, and that radically changed their lives.
When you believe in Jesus, a change happens. You get transformed. There are lots of ways to describe what happens. It is like going from death to life, from being blind to being able to see. I’ll never forget the first day I got glasses. I just did not realise how bad my eyesight was. When I put them on, it was amazing. I could look at a tree far away and instead of seeing a green blob, I could see individual leaves!
When you believe in Jesus, you start to see things more clearly. You see who you are—someone who doesn’t live up to a very high standard at all. And you see who God is—the perfect standard. And you see the potential God has now placed within you.
Instead of living any way you want, basing your decisions on your own wisdom, you see the way things really are. You see that God has a plan for people, that if they followed the plan, they would get the most out of life, the most enjoyment and pleasure, happiness and satisfaction.
In Kelowna Flightcraft, an aircraft maintenance company I worked at, they had a manual for a Beechcraft airplane. This manual was stored in a typical three ring binder, but someone had written on the spine, the following words: Beechcraft Bible.
That binder contained precious information for keeping the Beechcraft airplane running and flying. Think about it, if the manual were no good, then the planes would crash. But the manual was so good that they called it not the Beechcraft book, but the Beechcraft Bible. To the person working on the airplane, there was no better manual around.
We live in a world full of manuals, full of ideas of how to maximise our time here on earth. Right now, there are tons of ideas for RRSP’s, for doing this, doing that, how to get through high school, what to do with your free time, everything. And, of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to what you can read in a book, or find online. Your friends will also have all kinds of ideas for you.
But God has a plan for people. A plan for their joy and delight, a plan for his glory. This book, the Bible, teaches us everything we need to know about having life and living it to the fullest.
Despite all the conflict and trouble faced by the Thessalonians, they didn’t waver because they realised the truth. In Christ their deepest desires are met.
That young woman in the video realised it too. But she let the stuff of this world, the temptations to distract her from Christ. First one little thing, a boyfriend, then the pursuit of money, then smoking and drugs, then self image, then cutting, then suicide.
All the best things the world offers, though enticing at first, though promising joy and fulfilment and happiness, the end result is death.
But Christ offers true life. Jesus lived in our shoes. He knows all about pressure, temptation, desires. But he was perfect. He resisted the temporary for the eternal.
And he offers that to us as well.
The Thessalonians saw it, believed it, and received it.
They were transformed by Christ, so that their desires became less worldly and more Godly. Their desires became less about instant gratification and more about eternal satisfaction. They willingly gave up present pleasure for future fun. And they discovered that in God’s way is freedom. In living God’s way is peace, joy, happiness and satisfaction.
That’s what the young woman realised when she turned to Christ. But did you notice something? It wasn’t easy for her to get back, was it? The temptations of this world hung on, they beat upon her, they tried to prevent her from going the right way.
Paul encourages the Thessalonians and he encourages us to keep walking in the light, keep your glasses on! Be holy!
Don’t let yourself be defile, but be holy. The word sanctified means made holy. You see, in a sense, we are made holy already by Jesus’ death and resurrection. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we ain’t perfect. We are still in the process of becoming more and more holy.
And there are ways to help this along. Paul, the author of this letter, mentions two: avoid sexual immorality, and not wronging your brother or taking advantage of him.
Sexual immorality has always been a struggle. Having studied history, I don’t think our society is any worse than any previous society. I think that as it was in the past, right now the whole idea of sexual immorality, or any morality for that matter has been reduced to a person’s personal preference. The thinking is, if I’m not hurting anyone, no big deal.
But the truth is, with sexual immorality in particular, you are hurting others, and you’re hurting yourself. How are two consenting people hurting others? If you do not end up married or together for life, then that relationship will be with you in every other relationship you’ll ever be in. It will end up affecting you, and your partner. It will end up affecting your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s future relationships. There is no such thing as being consequence free.
Furthermore, we are not animals. God created us with the ability to control our bodies. Though as to our sinful nature we are inclined toward evil, in our new natures in Christ, we are inclined toward good. Just as Christ resisted temptation to sin, we are able to resist.
Peter says, resist the devil and he will flee from you. We are being transformed by Christ from the inside out. It is a lifelong process. So, the apostle Paul encourages us to continue. He asks and urges us to seize the power Christ has made available to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
So, you’re at school, you’re friends are doing things you know is contrary to God’s plan for your life. What do you do? First off, pray. Second, resist. Third, walk away. Remember what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus suffered beating, whipping, mocking, and eternal condemnation, separation from his Father so that we can be free. We are free. We are free to walk away, free to experience life to the fullest.
Don’t be fooled by the so-called great things of this life, drinking, partying, sex, drugs, or whatever. Those all come with a promise of fun and enjoyment, but realise that they just don’t deliver in the way they say they will. But in the right context, drinking when you’re of age, in moderation can bring enjoyment. Sex is designed to be best experienced in a marriage, the deep-soul connection is meant for us to share with only one other person. Drugs? Well, they just never deliver at all, instead they rob you of this life, completely, don’t even go there.
Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re thinking, “Oh great, I do some of these things.” Or, “I’ve done some of these things.” Was that not true of the Thessalonians? They were lost in their ignorance concerning God, but he brought them out of that into true life. God transformed them so that they turned away. God is at work in us, in you, transforming you. All you have to do is realise it.
In the video, that moment of realisation came when the woman stopped fighting on her own and Christ stepped in. He took the pain, he took the shame, he brought her through.
He will do the same for you. Turn to him! Trust him! Allow him to transform you!
If you’re concerned about the stuff you’ve done, turn to Christ and allow him to make all things new, in you! In Christ you are a new creation! The old is gone, the new is here! Sure, we still live with consequences. But God transforms even them. Consider King David. He lusted after a married woman, slept with her, murdered her husband when he found out she was pregnant, took her as his wife in order to hide his sin. But God knew. David suffered the consequences of his sin, his son from this woman died. But God in his mercy allowed David’s wife, Bathsheba to conceive again, she gave birth to a son, they named him Solomon. He became David’s successor to his throne. He became the second wisest man in all the earth.
God promises the very same to us. No matter the sin, no matter the indiscretion, God transforms, God changes, God brings good out of evil. Another example comes from Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery intending to do him evil, but God turned it into good, so that Joseph would become the saviour of his brothers and his father.
In the same way, Paul tells us to treat our brothers and sisters in the faith with respect. We are not to take advantage of one another. We are to show to one another the same loving kindness God shows to us. Consider how many times we do wrong against God. And yet, look, there are not lightning scorch marks on me. And I don’t see any on you! God is so full of grace. Let us be full of grace toward others.
Let us be quick to forgive instead of being quick to condemn. Let us be exceedingly patient, waiting to see how God will work to transform us. Knowing that true change comes from God, and that even though we still resist God, God transforms us anyway.
Let us have minds and hearts of openness toward one another, seeing the good, seeing God’s work in each other, seeing the value that is Christ in us. And where we are doing well in this, let us do so even more! Let us do so more and more.
Paul’s final instructions in verses 11 and 12 sum it up nicely: lead a quiet life. Mind your own business. Work with your hands. In other words, don’t be silly, be reasonable, God has called you to great things, and doing ridiculous things with your time and money, by getting drunk and sleeping around isn’t part of it. God has called to you greater things than that. Work hard, God gives reward in this life and in the everlasting life for hard work. Mind your own business, don’t go snooping around like King David did. Flee from temptation.
You can still have fun, you can still go to parties, but you can be a witness to Christ in how you behave. If you’re not sure you can stand up to the temptation to drink if you’re under age, then don’t go. If you can, then go, have fun, but don’t drink, obey the law of the land. If you are of age, then be careful to drink in moderation.
Have you ever been to an auction? The foolish auction goers get caught up in the moment and they allow themselves to over bid, they will pay more than the item is worth, and sometimes more than they can afford. Wise auction goers set limits on themselves. This far I’ll bid and no higher. And they stick to it. If the bidding goes too high, they walk away.
Do the same thing at parties. This many drinks is all I’ll have. And then stick to the plan. Remember, you have the transforming power of Christ, the Holy Spirit within you. Grab onto him. He is your strength.
Turn to those who are more experienced in life, parents, older Christians and ask them how they are able to live good lives. Learn from them, that’s why they’re there. Your daily life, lived in the transforming power of Christ will speak volumes to others. You’ll gain their respect. You’ll witness Christ to them. So do so all the more! Amen.