Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 80: Living Quietly
1 Thes. 4:11-12
July 1, 2012
SELLING OUR HOUSE
As Marilyn mention last week, we have decided to try to SELL our HOUSE. It worked before my pay cut, but now it is just too tight. We looked into it a year ago, but we could not sell it for what we owed, now we can.
* For us, not doing a SHORT SALE was important; I am not say it is always wrong, but it should be the last option.
The thought of being debt-free is immensely attractive, even if that means renting. And at the same time, as Marilyn said, we are learning to be happy with less and finding that it is actually easier to be happier when you have LESS CLUTTER.
I like being a little CONTROVERSIAL and riling things up a little, so this will be a fun sermon. I hope to mess with you all a little bit!
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Thes. 4:11-12 (Erin)
So let’s say decided to by our house at full price (because that would be great), once you moved in you would meet the NEIGHBORS.
On the north side is this GREAT FAMILY – they keep their house yard nice, don’t let their kids run around screaming all night, and gladly lend you a couple eggs. Not only that, they are friendly and funny. Nothing obnoxious about them. Really you would, the Spitler’s are great neighbors.
Let say on the other side were BAD NEIGHBORS (they actually are fine) – they never cut their LAWN, let their kids run through your front lawn. Their cars (working or not) are plastered with Christian BUMPER STICKERS. And when you meet them, the first thing they do is ask if you know “The Four SPIRITUAL LAWS.”
Q Who is being a BETTER CHRISTIAN?
Keep in mind that the Spitler’s have yet to SAY ANYTHING about being a Christian. Maybe you’d notice them going to church on Sunday or something would come out in conversation.
Let read that passage again:
NIV 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Q Why is it that we don’t hear many SERMONS on this PASSAGE?
* Shortly after I became pastor, I had all the ELDERS read a book, “UNCHRISTIAN,” to help us build on a common vision.
It described the way non-Christians view Christians; it was based off of a SURVEY done by Barna of young outsider, asking what terms they would use to describe Christians.
Q Guess what terms were not on the list?
“Live QUIETLY” and “Mind their own BUSINESS.” Strange, huh? Do you know what the top two were?
* ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL (91%) and JUDGMENTAL (87%) – aren’t those like the OPPOSITE of minding your own business?
Here is the DILEMMA that we live in, the PARADOX of what God expects of us:
* Most of us believe sin’s DESTRUCTIVE, CARE about our neighbor, and don’t want to see the WORLD go to HELL in a hand basket.
Q What can we do about it while LIVING QUIETLY?
* Some of us live by “LIVE and LET LIVE,” and have trouble seeing how dramatically the Gospel should affect the world.
Q Which one DESCRIBES YOU better?
If you’ve SETTLED EASILY into either of these, you’re not living Biblically. If you STRUGGLE CONSTANTLY with knowing when to SPEAK and SHUT up, then you probably are closer to the mark.
THREE RESPECTABLE IDEAS
Let’s break down these three things Paul commands:
1. Work with your hand
I am this taking in REVERSE ORDER so that it doesn’t get lost in the other two. I have already spoken on this recently, but it bears repeating:
* We live in a society DRIVEN BY money and that RESPECTS MONEY, which isn’t entirely bad – money ISN’T FILTHY when used right.
But it also means that if we are FINANCIAL FAILURES, do not pay our DEBTS, or live on PUBLIC ASSISTANCE, we will lose the RESPECT of outsiders.
* I had to make arrangements to pay my DENTIST bill.
2. Mind your own business
This is where things get really TRICKY. Do you remember what the #1 PERCEPTION of Christians was? Anti-homosexual.
We have a FAILURE to COMMUNICATE of Biblical proportions: God CAME in flesh and was BORN in a stable, DIED on a cross so that the church can be known for not letting gays marry?!?
Let me be very CLEAR about my STANCE (so I can make everyone mad): I believe that God’s HIGHEST and BEST intention for sex involves the MELDING of one MAN and one woman into ONE FLESH within marriage.
* That means PREMARITAL, EXTRA-MARITAL, HOMOSEXUAL, and POLYGAMOUS sex all falls short and defrauds us of his best.
I believe all of these ROBS us of God’s best. Accordingly, saying “I DON’T CARE what you do, so long as it is two (or more) consensual adults” means, “I don’t care about YOU.”
* Ironically, the previous passage is about SEXUAL IMMORALITY.
But I am also convinced this NOT the CORE of CHRISTIAN MORALITY, and the church has done a POOR JOB of COMMUNICATING that.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Q How do we HOLD onto these BELIEFS, CARE about others, how sin AFFECTS them and SOCIETY, while MINDING our own BUSINESS?
* And we are not just talking about HOMOSEXUALITY – MONEY, AMBITION, DIVORCE, HONESTY, ABORTION, CRIME, etc.
There are two parts to that: How we relate to INDIVIDUALS and how we relate to SOCIETY as a whole:
a. To individuals
Listen carefully to what Paul says:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
What does this tell us? That you treat INSIDER and OUTSIDERS differently!
* “MIND your own BUSINESS” doesn’t apply to other CHRISTIANS!
But as for those who DON’T CLAIM JESUS as Lord, it is not our business if they live like a Christian, and frankly we don’t expect them to. It is in God’s hands.
* But there is one very important exception to this: When they make it your business by giving you PERMISSION.
People joke about me WITNESSING to STARBUCK’S customers, but I know how ineffective that would be, without PERMISSION.
Q HOW do we get permission? By LIVING QUIETLY (next topic)!
b. To society
It gets even more complicated dealing with society. In some ways it was easier in Paul’s day – there was NO real possibility of AFFECTING CHANGE on society. Here was his POLITICAL ADVICE:
1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
PRAY and LIVE QUIETLY – that is great political advice.
* But in our day and age, we are able to INFLUENCE POLITICS THROUGH VOTING – that is what we celebrate on the 4th.
It is not only our RIGHT, it is our RESPONSIBILITY as Christians to give to the government what is due (Rom. 13:5-7).
To get specific and to really rile things up, in November you will be asked to vote on INITIATIVE 1192, which will define marriage as between one and one woman.
Q But how do Christians MIND our own BUSINESS while RESPONDING to this issue?
Many Christians believe this is a HILL that the church must live and die on. I do not. This church’s purpose is the BUILDING of the BODY of CHRIST, not any POLITICAL GOAL.
* Between now and then I expect to be PRESSURED to promote the 1192 from this PULPIT.
I speak as a PASTOR to Christian: Be GOOD CITIZENS and VOTE, work to AFFECT POSITIVE change in America, according to your CONSCIENCE.
* But do so in a way that “LIVES QUIETLY” and “MINDS your own BUSINESS.”
3. Live quietly
Living quietly is the best way to BYPASS the PRECONCEPTION about Christians and get them to know us as people.
* NOW and in PAUL’S DAY we are VILIFIED and MOCKED (EG: MELODIE and “GLee” Christian stereotype).
How do we do that? Paul explained in back in COLOSSIANS: Last time I preached, we talked about the HOUSEHOLD CODES:
Colossians 3:18-21 Wives, submit [same word used to describe Jesus’ relationship with God] to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives [as Christ loves us] and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
These are basically INSTRUCTIONS for “how to LIVE QUIETLY.” This list is very similar to what the pagan ethicists taught.
* OUTSIDERS would have RESPECTED Christians living this way.
Many Christians put TOO MUCH EFFORT in how they can look DIFFERENT from the world in what they don’t do: Don’t swear, watch bad movies, drink, get mad, etc.
Q Which is MORE EFFECTIVE: Highlighting DIFFERENCES or building off of COMMON GROUND?
Christian and non-Christians WANT many of the SAME THINGS:
Christians and non-Christians want healthy RELATIONSHIPS.
Christians and non-Christians want to PROVIDE for their family.
Christians and non-Christians want to have SAFE COMMUNITIES and FAIR GOVERNMENTS.
Christians and non-Christians want have HEALTHY BODIES and live to a ripe old age.
Christians and non-Christians want to be RESPECTED and well-liked.
And these are all GOOD THINGS to want. We have similar desires because the desires came FROM GOD. Part of living quietly is building on the COMMON GROUND.
Q Am I saying we should be JUST LIKE them? GOD FORBID!
* There are CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE – the master of the house becomes the servant, husbands love.
That is why I use the term “RADICALLY NORMAL” in my book – on the surface, we LOOK like NORMAL, quiet, good neighbors, co-workers, and friends.
But SCRATCH below the surface and they see different MOTIVATIONS, GOALS, and ATTITUDES:
We enjoy POSSESSIONS and the things of this life, yet they do not POSSES us. (EG: Selling our HOUSE)
FOOD and DRINK bring real JOY, yet we don’t use them to fill a void.
We work our JOBS and are AMBITIOUS, yet they are not our IDENTITY. (EG: BOOK CONFERENCE)
Our family and friends are CENTRAL PARTS of our life, yet they stand in DISTANT SECOND to our loyalty to God.
We live this LIFE FULLY, but in ANTICIPATION of the next (which we will address next week).
Living quietly does not mean that you are JUST LIKE the outsiders, but that the FIRST IMPRESSION they get is how NORMAL you are, not how weird you are.
* Building from COMMON GROUND you’re able to share the GOSPEL.
In WHATEVER you do: How you handle POLITICAL causes, how you LIVE your day to day life, how you handle your MONEY, don’t forget the GOAL Paul gives. It is not to blend it:
* That you may WIN the RESPECT of outsiders.
Q And WHY is that so important?
In hopes that we can BRING the OUTSIDERS in. The power of the GOSPEL is the only thing that can bring lasting change. Put your energy into it.
Q & A