22 Feb. 2004 AM
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
Behavior In The Church (pt 1)
Why is it that sometimes to make sure that a specific behavior is given we have to do something that will motivate the person or persons to act a certain way? Think about this:
A certain announcement appeared in the bulletin of a church in Sarasota, Florida: “The Magic of Lassie, a film for the whole family, will be shown Sunday at 5 PM in the church hall. Free puppies will be given to all children not accompanied by parents.”
And how about this one: As a mother said goodbye to her son who was returning to school after spring vacation, she reminded him to write often. Another woman standing nearby heard the plea and gave this advice: “The surest way to get your son to write home is to send him a letter saying, ‘Here’s 50 dollars. Spend it any way you like.’” “And that will make my son write home?” “Yes indeed. You forget to enclose the money.”
Both of these illustrations would get the desired behavior, but what about behavior in the church? What kind of behavior is appropriate in the church? Well, Paul gives us some help in this area. Let’s read 1 Thess. 5:14-24.
First, he gives us behavior we should have towards the church family. Look at what he says, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle,” literally this says, “warn those who are out of line”, the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly. The word idle is a military term and referred to the soldier who broke rank and did not stand where in his place. Too many believers are not where they should be. They belong in the ranks of the Lord and the church: fellowshipping with the Lord and other believers; serving the Lord and ministering to believers; helping to reach the lost; ministering to the poor and needy. But instead, they are out in the world doing their own thing, fulfilling their own desires and lusts.
Those that are idle, those that are not where they should be must be warned. They are treading on thin ice. They are damaging their own souls and hurting others through their idle testimony. The Lord will not tolerate such idle behavior. He will judge all idle behavior.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16; NIV) I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.(1 Cor. 4:14; NIV)
Next Paul says that we should, “encourage the timid”. Maybe they needed to do this because of persecution, or maybe because of the anxiety about the Second Coming, or maybe there were feelings of inadequacy; they needed someone to encourage them, to bolster them, to reassure them and make them feel that they counted. The same is true for us today. We may not face the same kind of persecution that the Thessalonians faced, but we still need to be encouraged. All of us are timid in some way, we may be reserved, or easily discouraged and disappointed, some even fear difficult situations – we all need to be encouraged – this is an area that many churches have fallen down in – we fail to realize that we need encouragement from time to time. Jesus encouraged those around Him on many occasions, remember when He was walking on the water and His disciples saw Him, they thought He was a ghost, but Jesus said, . . . “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matt. 14:27; NIV) We don’t need to think we are seeing a ghost in order for us to need encouragement, we need it and we should give it freely – so encourage the timid.
We also need to . . . help the weak, . . . As brothers and sisters in the family of God we are to help the weak, now we are not talking about those that don’t have any strength, even though it is nice to help someone who needs our strength too, but what we are talking about here are the weak, those that are easily led astray, morally or spiritually – those who give in to temptation, those who are so easily burdened, discouraged, and defeated. These people need help and the word used for help here really means to cling and hold to. The weak need us clinging to them and holding them up.
James Denney urges taking this seriously: “Men and women slip away and are lost to the Church and to Christ, because they were weak and no one supported them. Your word or your influence, spoken or used at the right time, might have saved them. What is the use of strength if not to lay hold of the weak?”
The entire church is called to accept responsibility of the whole congregation, even if sometimes we would rather not bear the weight of such responsibility. And many will say, “Where do we draw the line?” And some of you here this morning might be thinking to last weeks message where Paul tells us to “lead a quiet life, and mind our own business.” But it would seem that Paul would say that “Looking out for friends, neighbors, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, in fact anyone in need, is our business.” We need to find the right balance of minding our own business and yet being able to help the weak.
The fourth behavior that Paul gives us might be the hardest, be patient with everyone. Having patients is tough, but it will be especially necessary with the kinds of people that we just described – the timid, the idle, and the weak. Patience is the mark of love. John Stott says, “We have no excuse for becoming impatient with them on the ground that they are difficult, demanding, disappointing, argumentative or rude. On the contrary, we are to be patient with all of them. The word used here for patience is often translated ‘long-suffering,’ is an attribute of God, a fruit of the Spirit, and a characteristic of love.”
Just think about patience when it comes to God . . . He has been patient for thousands of years and He was patient with each and every one of us – waiting for us to come to Him asking for forgiveness. He was patient with us when we were rude, demanding, disappointing and difficult – He continued to love us and show His love to us.
This act of patience helps in the next area that Paul gives us, he says, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” Revenge is ruled out. Why? Because in the first place, it is forbidden by the Lord -- But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt. 5:39; NIV) and what about this one from Romans Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody (Rom. 12:17; NIV). Not only because it is forbidden by God, but also because it is a violation of the law of love, it is detrimental to the life of the congregation or church, even if it only takes the form of secretly holding a grudge. Grudges are wrong, they are not used with love – how can they be? And yet people will bring up things from the past to make sure they are not forgotten – they are repaying evil for what they considered evil!
Making sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong requires vigilance, as the words “make sure” imply; you see, the desire to get even is almost instinctive to fallen human nature – sometimes it seems so deserved. We say, “I have to get them back for what they said, or what they did”, or “I won’t forget this as long as I live, so day you’ll get what you deserve.” But look at what Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19; NIV)
Why is this so important? If we mistreat an unbeliever, we lose all chance of reaching them for Christ. If we mistreat another believer, we lose all chance of reaching them and growing them in Christ. When we mistreat a person, our testimony with that person is ruined. We lose our opportunity to minister to that person. We must restrain our natural feelings, and we must always try to be kind. But try is too weak a word; the Greek means to “seek eagerly”; the word is often translated “pursue,” as of a hunter after game. They track and look for it until the game is found – what we should be seeking is the opportunity to serve one another. And the form of the verb signifies that this is a continuous action, and also the command is further strengthened by always. So we are to always continually try to be kind to each other. And here’s the real kicker – this is to be our consistent attitude, not only within the Christian community or within the church with our brothers and sisters, but also toward outsiders or everyone else.
So our behavior towards the church family should be that we:
1) Warn the idle
2) Encourage the timid
3) Help and support the weak
4) Be patient towards all
5) See that no one repays evil for evil to anyone
Again, the love of Jesus should be our goal – that we have the same love for others that He has for us, and when we do, all these will take place without our thinking about them.
Next week we will continue with this passage and look at our behavior towards God.
Jan. 26, 2003 AM
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City Mt.