6 March, 2005
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
The "To Be"s of a Christian
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
The motor home has allowed us to put all the conveniences of home on wheels. A camper no longer needs to contend with sleeping in a sleeping bag, cooking over a fire, or hauling water from a stream. Now he can park a fully equipped home on a cement slab in the midst of a few pine trees and hook up to a water line, a sewer line, and electricity. Some motor homes have a satellite dish attached on top. No more bother with dirt, no more smoke from the fire, no more drudgery of walking to the stream. Now it is possible to go camping and never
have to go outside.
We buy a motor home with the hope of seeking new places, of getting out into the world. Yet we deck it out with the same furnishings as in our living room. Thus nothing really changes. We may drive to a new place, set ourselves in new surroundings, but the newness goes unnoticed, for we've only carried along our old setting.
Isn't that the truth! We want to get away from it all as long as we can take it all with us, and why is that, because we don't want to be uncomfortable. For many people, becoming a Christian is the same way. They want the new life that comes from knowing Jesus, but they try to take the old life with them. The adventure of new life in Christ begins when the comfortable patterns of the old life are left behind. We tend to forget that there are the "to be's" of being a Christian. SLIDE (1) What we are "to be", (2) What we are not "to be", and (3) What we are "to be" seeking.
SLIDE Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. 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. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; NIV)
SLIDE I. We Are "To Be"
When we look at the first three verses we have what has been called by some "the standing orders of the church." We are to be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.
SLIDE Be joyful always. This is one verse that many have problems with. How can I be joyful always? We tend to think that this verse is telling us to be happy all the time and its not. Feeling happy is the natural response to experiences that bring us rewards. I can not feel happy when I have just hit my thumb with a hammer but I can be joyful that I did not hit the rest of my fingers. There can always be a basic joy in our lives if we will just look for it.
One woman said, "I know it's going to be a good day when all the wheels on my shopping cart turn the same way." -- Sometimes we have to look for those reasons to be joyful, but they are always there. The basis of that joy is Jesus Himself. The principal resource for living a joy-filled life is the clear sense of the nearness of Christ, even in the midst of adverse circumstances. We should all have the same problem that a certain little boy had. He was reprimanded for laughing out loud during school. "Teacher, I didn't mean to. I was smiling, and the smile busted." When we stop and think about all the great things God does in our lives, even in times of adversity and focus our living on Jesus we will be joyful always and that leads into the next "to be".
SLIDE We are "to be" praying continually. Being in prayer not only at appointed times, but always -- at least in the sense that one never consciously stops prying. Continually needs to be understood in a reasonable way. "Though it is quite impossible for us to be always uttering words of prayer, it is possible and necessary that we should always be living in the spirit of prayer." J. B. Lightfoot puts it this way, "It is not the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists." Our actions, the way we talk and deal with others, the way we present our selves, all are prayers to God -- even when our lips are not moving in prayer to Him our heart should be!
We all know that the brain never ceases to function throughout our life, well, Henri Nouwen says that our goal should be to convert our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer. This does not mean that we learn to direct our minds constantly to God. It means, rather, "to think and live in the presence of God." This means to live with a growing awareness that God is always present. It is to grow in our openness to God -- to bring consciously all of our words and deeds into His presence.
Think about this analogy of love. When one is truly in love with another, there is an unceasing awareness of the other. This does not mean that one is consciously engaged in thinking of the other, but the "presence" of the other is constant. All decisions are made with the beloved in mind.
This is the way we are to be with God -- in His constant presence and all things done with Him in mind -- that's praying continually!
SLIDE We are also to be giving thanks in all circumstances. Such gratitude even in difficult circumstances arises from our recognition of the greatness of God in our lives. He is in control, and He is mindful of His own -- us. We see His hand in everything which impacts our lives; or, if we can not see, we trust. We are confident that our loving Heavenly Father gives only good gifts to His children.
We are to be doing these things because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. The expression “God's will” may be taken in two ways here: 1 -- these are what God requires; 2 -- these are what God intends and what His grace makes possible -- a devotional life marked by joy, prayerfulness, and gratitude, because we are in Jesus.
John Wesley, when looking at this threefold description of the Christian life and after describing prayer as the "fruit" of rejoicing, and thanksgiving as the "fruit" of both rejoicing and prayer, declared, "This is Christian perfection. Further than this we cannot go; and we need not stop short of it." We are to be joyful, in prayer, and giving thanks always and in every situation.
Not only are we given the things we are "to be" we are also told what we are not "to be".
SLIDE II. We Are Not "To Be"
SLIDE We are not to be putting out the Spirit's fire! Listen to how a couple other versions translate this verse -- the New English Bible says "Do not stifle inspiration"; the Living Bible -- "Do not smother the Holy Spirit"; the Contemporary English Bible -- "Don't turn away God's Spirit" Do you get the idea -- We need the Holy Spirit! He was sent as a gift from God to comfort and help us until Jesus' return. How many of us, after receiving a gift that we have needed and one that will help us in every situation -- have decided to take it back, or have put it on a shelf without using it? That would be crazy -- and yet there are many that take the gift that God has given us and put it away without ever using it. They stifle, smother, put out its flame, in other words they turn away God's Spirit. Do not be doing that! Take the Spirit and rekindle those flames.
To deny or resist the gifts or the working of the Holy Spirit in the King James Version is said to quenching the Spirit. Maybe the most commonly used bucket of water to quench the Spirit is the ancient phrase that is stilled used today -- and that phrase is "But we've never done it that way before" or “We’ve tried that before but it didn’t work”. We need to put some holes in that bucket that has been used to quench the Spirit and we need to be users of that Spirit for the building of God's kingdom.
SLIDE We are not to be treating prophecies with contempt. But we are to test them using the Scriptures and anything contrary to gospel principles is to be rejected. Something else that needs to be looked at when testing is "What view of Jesus Christ is being presented?" We need to test with special care anything which professes to be new.
And after testing, the Scripture says that we are to hold on to the good. The word that is used here is a strong one and means to latch on to it and hold fast! Don't let go. And SLIDE we are also told to avoid every kind of evil. Don't just follow the crowd -- test what is being presented, at times this may mean you have to test what is presented from the pulpit too. Not only are we to test things we are also told that we are to seek certain things.
SLIDE III. We Are "To Be" Seeking
SLIDE We are to be seeking sanctification -- the setting apart of ourselves for God, and for His exclusive use. This sanctification, being separated, has two aspects -- the first is that we are separated from -- and no longer available for evil purposes. And we are separated to -- God and available for His exclusive service. It involves the whole inner being. We are to turn our external relationship to God into an inward resemblance of Him -- "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Lev. 19:2).
We are called to be "holy" but ultimately, we cannot do it by ourselves, SLIDE we have to seek God's help for this. James Denney puts it in a practical, plain, and personal 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 to keep out of God's sight till the work was 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."
In our Wesleyan tradition, we have heard the language of sanctification so often that it has tended to lose its vividness. We need to hear it again, fresh and challenging, for it is based upon a recurrent biblical theme: Be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy."
Listen to this translation of verses 23 and 24-- SLIDE Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; NLT)
We need to call upon God and become at peace with Him, stop running and hiding from Him, we need to become holy as He is holy.
09 Aug. 1998
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City MT