March 7, 2004 AM
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
Behavior In The Church (pt 3)
The Results of Proper Behavior
The father says, "You better get ready. The bus will be here in a minute to pick you up and take you to Sunday School." The Boy asked, "Did you go to Sunday School when you were a boy?" The father replied, "Yes I did." The boy said as he was getting dressed, "It probably won’t do me any good either!"
A little boy constantly fell out of bed. No matter what his parents did, the boy couldn’t sleep without rolling out of bed. An uncle came to visit and in the middle of the night the usual thump and cry was heard. In the morning the uncle teased the boy and asked him why he fell out so often. The little fellow thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t know, unless its because I stay too close to the place where I get in.”
That is the problem with many Christians, they stay too close to where they got in – they want things to stay the way they were when they first accepted the Lord – they never want to grow beyond that – but we are called to continue to grow in our Christian walk.
Over the past few weeks we have looked at behavior in the church – our behavior towards each other and our behavior towards God. So, let’s read 1 Thess. 5:14-22 again. This morning we are going to look at the results of proper behavior. Paul has given us some high standards to follow, these standards are matched by the prayer that he finishes the passage with. READ 1 Thess. 5:23-24.
It is only through God Himself that we are able to live the way that Paul says we should be living. It is only through the God of Peace that we can obtain true peace! Peace, as its used in Scripture is more than what we think of when we say peace. Its more than the absence of conflict and more than personal inward tranquility. Its use in the New Testament continues the concept of “shalom” which was used in the Old Testament. Not only does “shalom” speak of absence of conflict and personal inward tranquility, it also speaks to our health, our well-being, wholeness and even salvation. These all combined into the word “shalom” and were not taken individualistically, but communally. These are the marks of the kingdom of God; peace, health, well-being, wholeness and salvation.
When you think about peace, especially this kind of peace, the shalom kind of peace, we have to realize that it is a peace which is a gift from God for His people, through His Messiah, Jesus Christ. So this prayer that Paul lifts up for the total cleansing, for the wholeness and spiritual health of the people of God in Thessalonica, is rightfully offered up to the God of Peace.
Earlier Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, that God “establish your hearts unblamable in holiness” (1 Thess. 3:13; RSV). And he talked about this sanctification as being “God’s will” (4:3). It is their duty, and Paul urges it upon them; but at the same time it can be accomplished only by the work of God in their lives, and therefore now he prays again that God will complete the process of sanctification in their lives.
Sanctify – this is a word that we use in the Wesleyan church and we talked about it a few months ago when we were going through the discipline on what we believe, but still many people don’t understand it and so maybe we need to go back to the Old Testament and see how it was used. The leading idea is the setting apart for God’s exclusive use, separating it from ordinary human use in order to devote it to sacred purposes. This could be anything, a day of the week, like the Sabbath; a structure, like the tabernacle or the altar; or even a person, remember, Aaron and his sons were set apart for the priesthood.
This being separated comes in two forms – first there is separated from, which means that the sanctified item is no longer available for ordinary human purposes, not to mention evil purposes. And then there is the separated to aspect – meaning fully available to God for His exclusive service. Certain things could be sanctified by placing them on the altar as an offering to God, and just by them being placed on the altar they became God’s and were considered holy. Holy, also meant belonging to God, and belonging in such a way that it would be a sacrilege for anyone to remove it from the altar and use it.
When it comes to people being set apart for God, like the priests or even all of Israel, sanctification involved their whole inner being. They are called to turn their external relationship to God, into an inward resemblance of Him, as in Leviticus 19:2, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” There’s a big difference between material objects like the ark of the covenant or the tabernacle being holy and people being holy. For people, holiness becomes a matter of character and conduct.
The idea of what is placed on the altar being turned over to God for His exclusive use is applied to people in the New Testament also. In Romans 12:1 we are told that Christians who offer themselves to God are called: “holy and pleasing to God.” This applies to all of God’s children and is the reason that we often see New Testament Christians called ‘saints’. This means “holy one,” and comes from the same Greek root word as the word for “sanctify.” We are saints, if we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – we are no longer sinners!!! We are saints and should live our lives like a saint, a holy one, someone who has been set apart for God’s service.
We are called holy; but because of our fallen human nature, we cannot do it on our own. James Denney puts it this way:
“Who has not tried to overcome a fault, to work off a vicious temper, to break for good with an evil habit, or in some other direction to sanctify himself, and withal , or at the same time, try to keep out of God’s sight till the work is done? It is of no use. Only the God of Christian peace, the God of the gospel, can sanctify us; or to look at the same thing from our own side, we cannot be sanctified until we are at peace with God.”
So what Paul is praying is that God would carry the process of sanctification through to its goal – and that goal is that God would “sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless” (5:23). He is talking about everything here! A completeness!! That every part of our being is included. We’ve heard this same type of completeness before, Jesus said to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In other words, Jesus is calling for our “wholehearted devotion to God.” That is what Paul is calling us to do here – wholehearted devotion to God.
This prayer that Paul offers here is fantastic!! “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. But it seems that for many, this sanctification, has lost its vividness, its lost its realness. Maybe we need to hear it again, fresh and challenging, for it is real and it is true and its based on the recurring biblical theme: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy”. When we really hear it, then we will need the reassurance of the promise, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Look at that verse again, its another one that is good for memorization – 1 Thess. 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” The one who calls – the form of the verb “calls” here implies an ongoing, persistent command and invitation, just like the way God called and repeatedly re-called Israel to this standard. God’s purpose for those He has called is for them “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rm. 8:29). God wants us to be like our older brother, Jesus – He wants all of us to be like Jesus. And the process of being made like Jesus is called, in the Bible, “sanctification.” And it is God’s will for all of His children.
Remember, the one who calls us is what? He is faithful and he will do it! What will He do? Make us like Jesus, He will sanctify us! But only if we allow Him to do it. We must place our lives on the altar and offer them to God, fully. That means never taking back what we place there – we are to become set apart for God’s service to be used by Him completely. Now, this does not mean that each and every person is to become a missionary, or a pastor, or a Bible scholar, but what it does mean is that you give your life to God to be used in whatever way He chooses to use it. You are set apart from the things of this world and set apart for the things of God.
Accepting Jesus is great – that’s the starting point, but you need to move in towards God more or else you might find yourself too close to where you got in and fall out again. So why not take the next step, give your life over to God, giving Him complete control.
Feb 9, 2003 AM
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City Mt.