1 Thessalonians

Faith, Hope, and Love

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. .. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4-10
"…remembering without ceasing your work of faith, your labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 
 “ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God…. we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit...” Romans 5:1-5
“ let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…" Hebrews 10:22-24  
”“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.   1 Corinthians 13:13
     If the Apostle Paul thought these three theological virtues were worth discussing together, it's probably worth looking at how God intertwines the three of them in our lives today.
   A Greek mathematician who wrote during Paul's time gave this explanation for Paul's chosen word for faith: “"A demonstration of the certainly of a thing by sure arguments and indubitable reasons." In other words, faith is what we get when God has so convinced us He is right that we reorder our lives to follow him.  Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
     Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. Faith is a response to truth that we absorb and embrace. I  hear language about faith as if it is a process in which we bring our emotions together and really focus ourselves so we feel strongly that we believe something.  If we feel strongly enough we will be people of faith. Faith and feelings will intersect, but faith – the foundation of truth that we absorbed and embraced - should inform and steady our feelings, not be driven by our feelings.
    The Bible does not present faith as a feeling.  Faith is obedience in response to God’s persuasion. “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” - Elton Trueblood
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    The Holman Bible Dictionary defines it this way: “the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.”
  • (Romans 15:4)
 - “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
  • (Colossians 1:5) - 
”For the hope that is laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard in the word of the truth of the gospel.”
  • (Galatians 5:5)
 - For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

    So hopes builds on the firm foundation of faith. Hebrews 6:18-19 says,  “The hope set before us…as the anchor of the soul.”  It is meant to keep us stable through the storms of life. As Billy Graham said, "I've read the last page of the Bible.  It's all going to turn out all right."

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  • Romans 5:5
 “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” 
  • Ephesians 5:2
”…and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us.” 
  • Galatians 5:14
 - "For all the law is fulfilled in one command: "You should love your neighbor as yourself."

     While agapao has multiple meanings, in the plainest sense, it involves choosing, embracing, and doing the will of God.  In other words, it is “doing what the Lord prefers.” Sir Charles Villiers Stanford once noted, "To love as Christ loves is to let our love be a practical thing and not a sentimental thing." The grounding of this kind of love is not the emotion; the grounding of agapao love is commitment and action.
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    If you have trust and obedience in response to God's persuasion, you have faith; if you have true faith, you will have a confident expectation based on your foundation of truth (hope). If you have true faith and hope, you cannot resist doing what God prefers (love). 

Comfort One Another With These Words

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore comfort one another with these words."                                              1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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     There are three main observations in this section of Scripture:

Death brings grief.
Because Christ rose, Death does not have the final word. Comfort one another with the hope of the final Resurrection.

   The fact that death brings grief is really not earth-shattering.  People have always grieved death. But I appreciate how the Bible does not look away from real life.  There is no avoidance here.  Life is sometimes very hard, and it does us no good to look away.  There is something about entering into even the most painful emotions  and events that is important in a road to recovery.

    At the time Paul was writing this, the Jews had a variety of opinions about the afterlife, including a concept pretty close to our idea of Heaven, reincarnation, or annihilation.  No matter what they believed, there was a very methodical process to be sure the dead were honored: rituals for a day, three days, a week, a month, three months, a year, and yearly.  It’s not a process intended to consume them with grief, but to help them acknowledge a grievous loss and move on without forgetting the ones they loved.
    But the Greek/Roman culture didn’t just acknowledge grief; they indulged grief. When friends and family died, they hired people to play a dirge on a pipe or trumpet, or  to howl and lament in a dismal manner. They shrieked and tore their clothes and hair; they put dust on their heads, or sat down in ashes. This was a ritual of despair. 
    “Gladiator” contains a scene where Maximus is reunited with his wife and son after he dies.  It’s moving, but it’s just not accurate historically.  The Greeks and Romans  grieved mightily because they thought death was absolutely the end.  In fact the Stoics thought you were absorbed into the universe. Catullus wrote, "When once our brief day has set, we must sleep one everlasting night." 
      Some among the new converts in Thessalonica apparently doubted whether there would be any resurrection.  Those who accepted it were afraid that that the dead were cut off from the hope of eternal happiness with Christ, so their grief was more like the Gentiles in despair, "as those who had no hope."
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     Paul looks back to Christ's resurrection to lay a foundation for why they had a reason to view death differently:

   “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 

     Since Jesus died and rose again, showing his power over death itself, we know that the power of life and death is under God’s control.  Having established that foundation,  Paul writes what is apparently the first written message to the Church about the return of Christ. 

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

     This is a brilliant image, but a little background is necessary to fully appreciate the message.
     In 42 BC, Roman law deified Julius Caesar.  Poets celebrated the divinity associated with Augustus, and across the empire coins, monuments, temples and artwork promoted the cult of Augustus. The language of emperor worships contained a lot of words or phrases with which we are familiar today:

  • "Son of God"
  • "Faith" in the "Lord"
  • "A Gospel" about a "Savior" who brought "salvation"

     The Romans would gather together in something they called ekklesia, an assembly, where they would sometimes wait for the parousia, or triumphant return, of Ceasar ( or a Roman general or emperor) after an important military victory.  The citizens would go out to meet him and then escort him back into the city.  
Trumpets blew; crowds shouted; celebrants waved burning incense as a way of offering thanks for victory. 
      If commentators and historians are correct, Paul uses this image, so familiar to his audience, to describe a spiritual event--the most important spiritual event in this age.  

  • Churches were the true ekklesiai where the faithful citizens of heaven worshipped the true Lord and King
  • The church awaits the parousia, the triumphant return of Jesus, the king who has won the greatest spiritual victory there is. Through his death and resurrection, he has paid the penalty for our sins and thus conquered both physical and spiritual death.  
  • Just as loyal citizens went out of the city to escort Caesar home after a visit to the colonies, believers will go out to meet Jesus at his parousia and return with him in triumph.
  • The fanfare that accompanied the return of Ceasar is earthly; the fanfare that accompanies the return of Jesus will be heavenly. 

     Then, it appears Paul uses another great physical analogy – going to meet the returning, triumphant King in the clouds of the air – to address the fear the new Christians had that the dead would miss out on this great day. Paul wrote:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, KJV)

   The word for “cloud” here in reference to the multitude of followers of Christ is the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4.  Paul makes the analogy that when the triumphant King returns, we will join the “cloud of witnesses” – all who have given their lives to God – to usher in the true Emperor and Lord. 
     One day, we will be taken fully into the presence of Christ along with everyone else who committed their lives to him, living or dead.  
     “Comfort one another with these words.”
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 If you are interested in a blog that primarily addresses how we as Christians find hope in the midst of grief and loss, visit (http://learningtojump.blogspot.com)

Potters and Vessels: Jars of Clay

The potter/clay image is used through the Bible to describe our relationship with God.  Jeremiah talks about God as the potter and the nation of Israel as the clay; in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how we as Christians hold the treasure of Christ’s presence “in jars of clay” so that we can’t  boast about how awesome we are.


There were plenty of potters reading the biblical texts when they were first written; they knew how pottery worked.  It could be pliable and workable in the hands of the potter, or it could be hardened and unworkable.  If the clay was hardened and dried (but not yet fired in a kiln), revitalizing it was possible, but the process required time and patience.  The clay had to soak up water to make it malleable enough for the potter to make - or in this case, remake - something beautiful.

We, the “jars of clay” that can become spiritually parched and unworkable, require the same solution, but with a different kind of water.
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In the Bible, we see a “water” image used for:

  • ·      the Word of God (Deuteronomy 32:2; Ephesians 5:25-26)
  • ·      the power of God (Isaiah 59:19)
  • ·      the cleansing presence of Christ (Hebrews 10:22-23)
  • ·      life that flows from the throne of God (Revelations 22:1-2)
  • ·      the faithful presence of God’s people (Proverbs 18:4; Psalm 133:3)
  • ·      the reality and presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33)
 God is the Potter; all of us are clay. God keeps us moldable through his presence, his Word, his Holy Spirit, and his people.
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    According to Acts 17, when Paul was in Thessalonica his presence instigated riots.  He went to the synagogue and preached the gospel of Christ, and a lot of people were converted.  Those who were unconvinced caused such a tremendous riot that the Roman authorities made Paul’s friends pay a security deposit to guarantee there would be no more riots. 
     So when Paul wrote to the Thessolanicans about how to live well in their town, it’s interesting that he did not say, “Go and preach like I did in the Jewish temple.  If they riot, it’s a sign that you are doing God’s work!  The more the hate you, the more blessed you are.”  He often says a version of "imitate me as I imitate Christ," but not in this case. No, Paul has an entirely different bit of advice:

“Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and be dependent on no one.” Thessalonians 4:9-12

        Thessalonica was a tough place for Christians to live.  It was full of hardened people and souls.  What should have been beautiful and moldable had become parched.  People were a  shell of what they could have been, easily shattered, in desperate need of the spiritual water that would bring new life.

     In this arid place, Paul gave the church the plan for how God’s people in Thessalonica could bring water to their friends and neighbors so that they could become workable clay again in the hands of God.

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“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 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. Work with your hands so that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and be dependent on no one.”
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Step One:  Love one another.
     Tertullian (ca AD 192) wrote that the Gentiles had noted this: "Behold how these Christians love one another."  The "badge" of Christianity is not an icthus bumper sticker or a cross necklace: it’s love.  True community love was one of the outstanding  evangelistic features of the early Christian church.
Step Two: Lead A Quiet Life
       Philo of Alexandria was a contemporary of Paul.  He contrasted the “quiet” person in Greek culture with someone who was evil:
“Besides, the worthless man whose life is one long restlessness haunts market-places, theatres, law-courts, council-halls, assemblies, and every group and gathering of men; his tongue he lets loose for unmeasured, endless, indiscriminate talk, bringing chaos and confusion into everything, mixing true with false, fit with unfit, public with private, holy with profane, sensible with absurd, because he has not been trained to that silence which in season is most excellent.
     No wonder Paul says, “Hey – don’t be like that. Be different.”  We, of all people, ought to display an inner peace that only comes from Christ.
     There is a lot of fear and restlessness about the economy… the elections…the Middle East…gas prices…doomsday scenarios…terrorism…the housing market…the cherry crop… If Paul were writing to us, he would say, “You should be the calm ones.  If anybody is taking a deep breath and offering stability, it should be you – you have Christ.”

Step Three: Mind your own business
      This carries the idea of focusing your time and energy on being the best “you” you can be.  There are strengths and gifts and opportunities unique to each of us. Instead of wondering why our neighbor is not a better person, worry about yourself.  You can’t control your neighbor’s attitude or character or morals or lawn; you can control yours.
  • I can’t make my neighbor parent well…but I can parent my kids well – and model the love God the Father has for his children.
  • I can’t make my neighbor and his wife quit fighting…but I can treat my wife well – and model the love Christ has for the church.
  • I can’t make my neighbor be generous with his money…but I can be generous with mine – and model the generosity of God.
  • I can’t make my neighbor embrace the same family values that I have – but I can raise my family with the family values of the Bible, and show how God’s design for marriage and parenting is a foundational blessing to the world.
Step Four: Work with your hands
      In Paul’s time, The Gentiles regarded manual labor  as degrading. The Jews upheld the dignity of all forms of labor: every Jewish boy was  taught a trade, and even the rabbis learned a trade. Christianity agreed with Judaism:  work is a holy occupation.
(This is not a verse about those who can’t work, by the way.  There are things like sickness, a bad job market, and injury that can make it hard or impossible to work.)
Step Five: Walk properly  
     This is "having good form.”  If you have ever seen Michael Jordan shoot, that’s good form.  If you are a basketball fan, you can’t help but notice. Even if you don’t like Jordan, you grudgingly admit, “The dude can shoot.”  It's that kind of form in ordinary life. This language is very specifically about how Christians should relate to non-Christians

·      Be honest
·      Keep commitments
·      Be kind and courteous
·      Show respect
·      Go out of the way to do good
     The non-Christian Thessalonicans might not like the fact that followers of Christ had made that decision, but it was going to have to be in spite of their lives, not because of their lives. Your life and your testimony are connected.
Step Six: Be dependent on no one
     In 2 Thessalonians, Paul makes it clear: if you can work, you should work. But this command carries a much broader idea of contributing to the community.
     It’s basically saying, “Contribute as best you can to the flourishing of the community around you.  Don’t rely on others to pick up the slack when you are able to.”  I think it’s within the spirit of this verse to say you can do this by trying to make sure the community benefit because you are there.  Contribute, don’t just take.
    The church has had its greatest opportunities historically when in the midst of hardship, they were ready when people turned to them for help. This isn’t simply a command about “rugged self-reliance,” a concept which is embedded in the American dream.  It’s about purposeful preparation with the goal of helping others.
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     David once wrote of God, “My soul thirsts for you, my whole body longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”  (Psalm 63:1)
     I was at the check-out line at Meijers last night, and on the cover of all  the magazines I saw story after story, and picture after picture, of dried out, shattered shards of clay.   We live in a dry and thirsty land. 
     There are some Paul’s in the world who will go on TV and radio and newspapers and “cause riots” as God equips them to bring the water of life to this land in that particular way.  For most of us,  our calling is not so spectacular, but is equally as powerful. 
     We are called to bring the Water of Life to our community, to join with the Word, the Spirit, and the presence of Christ to immerse parched, broken friends and neighbors so that God can revive what once seemed hopeless and mold something beautiful.

What Happens in Thessalonica Stays in Thessalonica

(Part One of a Three Part Series on Sex, Purity, and Justice) 

     One of the most popular ads right now promises us a world in which we can do some incredibly stupid and maybe even fun things in Vegas, and not have them effect us at all. Unfortunately, it's just not true. Expense tabs, debt, compromises of morality, memories, and hotel towels seem to find their way back home, even in the movies.

    As much as we may want this to be true, wanting something to be true doesn't actually make it so.  I'm sure sky diving instructors don't comfort nervous jumpers by saying, "Don't worry?  This event is totally separate from the rest of your life! What happens in the air stays in the air."  For that matter, ask employers if what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook.

    What we do even in Vegas matters.  The Hangover was a raunchy movie, but even it had the decency to point out that what happened in Vegas had a ripple effect. Skydivers have to land; the words we post in social media are words we say in the real world, and they stay with us.

     We can’t segment our lives. Our experiences are all connected.  TV is episodic; life is not.  What happens in Vegas become one small story in the bigger story of my life, and that narrative does not stop.  Ever.  What happens in Vegas will stay with me the rest of my life.

    We can’t separate the physical part of us from the spiritual part of us, either.  I've talked to many people who have been determined to believe that “What happens on the outside of my body stays on the outside.”  Once again, this is not the way the world works.  What we do on the outside effects the inside.
    
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 2,000 years ago, Paul was writing to the church in Thessalonica.  In the first several chapters he noted:
  • they were full of faith (they had turned from idols to the living God);
  • they loved each other and seemed to understand community well; 
  • they were enduring persecution well; 
  • their reputation had spread far and wide. 
   In spite of all these good things, there was a problem to address. Apparently, there were a number of people who were convinced that “What happens in Thessalonica stays in Thessalonica.”  
"As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living.  Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  This is the will (desire, purpose) of God: your sanctification  (purity): You should avoid sexual immorality." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3)

     For Paul's readers, the word he chose for "living"would have invoked an image of walking about in an ordinary day. Paul starts this section by saying they are pleasing God (two thumbs up!) but there is more they need to know.  In this case, they needed to focus very specifically on an area that causing them to stumble:  sexual purity.

     The word translated as “sexual immorality” provides an umbrella under which a lot of sexual activity fits: promiscuity, adultery, prostitution, pornography… The list goes on.  Basically, their sex lives needed the purity of sanctification.

     At the time Paul wrote this, the Gentiles in Thessolonica lived in a culture saturated with distorted views of marriage, sex, and family. Historians recorded upper class Roman ladies identifying years not by chronological numbers, but by the names of their ever-changing husbands. One Greek writer noted: ”We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and of having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”

     Paul was writing to a church with people who had this lifestyle embedded in them. They had to learn a new way of viewing sex.
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    “ The most crucial theological truth about sexuality is that God loves sex and evil hates it.  God made us sexual, and He glories in his plan for our union and joy.  Evil hates what God loves, and it has found that more harm can be done through sex then perhaps any other means.  Often the chief battleground for the human soul is the terrain of sexuality.”                                    - Dan Allender

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  Here in an important biblical truth:  sex is holy and sacred, and act of self-sacrifice, intimacy, commitment and trust.

    That's why Christians make such a big deal about it. Sex is not just another thing we do, like shopping.  Sex effects our souls. And because it's such a big deal, God has provided pretty clear instructions about how we are supposed to live in this area.

   First, he sets a boundary: sex is to be experienced only within marriage.  This may seem restrictive, but because of God's purposes for sex, that boundary is necessary.  Rivers need banks; cars need roads; stock markets need regulation; my blood needs veins and arteries.  In every area of life, we see how boundaries maximize the ability of things to flourish. Sex is no exception.
 
     Second, God intends sex to fulfill at least four key purposes: procreation, unity, personal formation, and pleasure.  While some of these can clearly be experienced out of marriage, understating how all four work together to fulfill God's purpose is important.

    Procreation: Sex brings babies.  This is not a secret. That fact that we can avoid the consequence of children does not negate that this is a key reason we have sex.  Children are a blessing, a gift from God. Not only do we ensure the continuation of humanity, but we have an opportunity to experience a glimpse of the kind of love God has toward us. God is our Father in a spiritual sense; how important is it, then, that earthly fathers embody that type of fatherhood God gives us - loving, committed, just, pure, holy?
     Unity: Sex is meant to seal bonds of trust, love and commitment.  That's one reason God sets marriage as a boundary line: during sex, we communicate with our bodies that we have made a covenant; we can now give each other everything, baring body in soul in mutual trust and self-sacrifice. It's no secret that sex within marriage might not fully fulfill this design.  Sex outside of marriage simply cannot.
     Personal formation: Sex refines us. Two very different people, with different levels of desire, different schedules, different libidos, different love languages, different personalities. different....everything.... must make this funny, embarrassing, awkward, intimate and beautiful act become good and meaningful for both people.  That's not necessarily easy. It will require patience and selflessness.  Within the safety of covenant, we have the freedom to explore sex without worrying that our marriage partner will leave because we don't do everything just right. Over time, we become better people as we learn to understand, appreciate, and whole-heartedly embrace our spouse completely.
     Pleasure:  Some may argue this is a very nice side effect, and it may well be simply a nice perk.  But if pleasure is one of the characteristics of life in eternity with God, I'm not sure why He wouldn't purposefully give us glimpses now.    

 “And ‘control your own vessel’ in a way that is holy and honorable, not overpowered by lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians  4:4-5)

    "Control your own vessel" is not really bumper sticker material.  It's a phrase that seems archaic, but seeing how writers use it other places in the Bible can be helpful. Based on its placement elsewhere, "vessel" can be read two possible ways:
  • "Control yourself sexually in a way that is holy and honorable." (See a comparable example in 2 Corinthians 4:7)
  • "Relate to your spouse sexually in a way that is holy and honorable. (See a comparable example in 1 Peter 3:7)
   It's a brilliant word choice.  No one in the Thessalonican church could honestly read the letter, then look around the room and say, “The rest of you should really listen up!!!”  Married or single, there is a holy and honorable way to handle your sex drive.
    Then Paul makes an important distinction: those who know God are supposed to know the purpose of sex; those who do not know God don't have the same advantage.  Those who know God are supposed to know why sex matters; those who do not know God have fun but ultimately aimless sex, unhooked from deeper notions of design and purpose. "Just do it!" would have been a relevant slogan 2,000 years ago.
     Here's an analogy: If someone gave you a car and taught you to drive safely, but didn’t tell you why you should drive, would that be enough?  Sure, driving is fun; the GPS is really cool; the leather seats are nice; learning safe driving tips is helpful.  
    But at some point wouldn't you say, “What’s the point?  This is great as far as road trips go, but where am I going exactly?  My GPS shows me where I AM, but not where I’m going or where I should be - or why I'm even on this road heading to that place. I might be having a lot of fun going somewhere bad. Wait - is this Michigan Stadium?  Ahhhhh!”
  In Thessalonica they had nice, shiny cars, and they knew how to drive, but they didn’t know the purpose. They didn't know where they were going, or why.  
     Following our desires for sex is not necessarily wrong any more than having a car and driving somewhere is bad.  The vehicle and the road are not the problem; problems arise when we follow our God-given sexual desires in a way that the roads we take break God’s will and take us to the wrong destinations.  
     We can engage in sex just for fun, or just to ease loneliness, or just because we feel like it, or because we truly love someone.  We drive the car for a lot of reasons, and the journey is nice, but we separate the act from the purpose at our peril.  God has a purpose for everything we do.  What we do with our skin effects our soul. When we have sex (or do anything, really) something is happening to our character, priorities, view of pleasure, view of people, and relationship with God.
    What we do forms us into a people of increasing or decreasing holiness and honor.
    Paul phrases the verse in a negative sense: "They don't know God so they don't understand the purpose of sex."  There is an assumed message here that is far more positive: “You understand the purpose because you DO know God.”
   But how many Christians who claim to know God actually know the purpose of sex?

 “And that in this matter no one should exploit or violate a brother or sister.” Thessalonians 4:6) 
In Paul's time, Thessalonica was the hub of a lot of commerce.  The Thessalonians understood in economic terms what it meant to exploit or violate people:
  • Transgressing the bounds of justice (a merchant who knows what ought to be done and constantly pushes the boundaries of the law)
  • Cheating and defrauding in trade and business (merchants who used weighted scales – taking more than they should at the expense of others)
  • Increasing or lessening the value and prices of goods by the buyer and seller (they would cheapen something valuable in order to profit at the expense of the seller)
  • Not keeping to the bargain, contract, covenant (they didn't understand - or didn't care about - the importance of commitment)
  • Taking advantage of the weakness and ignorance of people (they could spot those easily manipulated and take what they wanted from them)
   To an audience that understood exploitation and fraud, Paul explains that sex outside of God’s design and purpose does the same thing.  The stakes are higher, though, because now they are trading in dignity, respect, honor, and people, not merely things. Like the merchants, they are: 
  • Transgressing the bounds of justice (they know what kind of respect ought to be shown,  yet they constantly push the boundaries)
  • Cheating and defrauding (they take more than they should at the expense of the other person)
  • Lessening the value of sex (they cheapen purity, sex, intimacy and trust)
  • Not keeping to the bargain, contract, covenant (they you don’t understand the importance of covenant)
  • Taking advantage of the weakness and ignorance of people (they spot those easily manipulated and take what they want from them)
     On the one hand, this is a depressing list that reveals a treatment of people that not only damages others but damages society as well.  On the other hand, treating people with honor and holiness brings about the opposite effect: a society in which both individuals and communities flourish as honor, dignity, and value are returned to one of the most intimate acts we can do.  How is this accomplished?
  • Enforcing the bounds of justice (we know what proper sexual boundaries are,  and we protect them.)
  • Helping others flourish (if the scales are going to tip on question of sex and purity, it will be in favor of purity.  The question is not "How far can I go?" but "How pure can I stay?")
  • Attaching the proper value to people and sex (increasing the value of sex and intimacy by treating it like the precious gift it is, and helping others guard their purity) 
  • Keeping and honoring covenants (understanding that every relationship trains people how to flourish or flounder in an eventual or existing covenant. This involves treating someone else’s future or present spouse like they want others to treat their future or present spouse.)
  • Protecting the weak and vulnerable (in a world where so many people are vulnerable in this area for a lot of different reasons, honorable people stand out because they protect those most in need of a hero). 
That the kind of world purity and self-control offer. 
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A Christian's Achilles Heel

In February of 2006 I  ruptured my Achilles’ Tendon at a men’s retreat.  In one sudden burst of pain I found that I had a great difficulty walking – and you really don’t want to do that if you have a choice. 
I remember vividly sitting in the doctor's office a day or two before the surgery, getting the low-down on what I would be facing both during the surgery and in the weeks of recovery  that followed: Six weeks in a cast followed by six weeks in a boot.
After going over a lot of details, Dr. Licht looked squarely at me and said,  “I’m good at what I do.  I can repair this tendon perfectly one time!  If you follow my instructions things will go well!  If you don’t follow my instructions to the letter, and you rupture this tendon again, I won’t be as successful, and you’ll likely walk with a limp for the rest of your life!  I want your leg elevated every waking moment unless you are in the bathroom or brushing you teeth.  Do you understand?"

 For  twelve weeks I did exactly what he said.  Today, my Achilles tendon is perfect and I have no limp and no limitations.  What made the difference?  I chose to trust someone who knew far more than I. 
__________________________________________________________________
Here’s a painful truth: we are headed down a road of destruction because we have trivialized the Word of God.  We bend and manipulate the Word, trying to make it to say whatever we choose; whatever suits our weak behaviors.  We don’t regard it as what it truly is: the unalterable Word of God. 

We view this book as an accumulation of interesting stories, and we assign those stories whatever value we deem appropriate.  We don’t view this as being a book of Words that were divinely inspired, coming from God, revealed by His Holy Spirit to man, and intended to be received and accepted as authoritative.  

Oh, sure, we still check out God’s thoughts on a range of topics - and we blend His thoughts with ours.  It’s not just that it’s wrong thinking, and as such an offence to God.  This kind of worldview tears apart the very safeguards that God established to protect us.  The church at Thessalonica received and accepted what Paul said AS THE WORD OF GOD,"...which also performs its work in you who believe." (Philippians 2:13)


Is it any wonder that the world around us is falling apart?  We have substituted our thoughts for His thoughts, and our ways for His ways! Even worse, some of us in the church of Jesus Christ are falling apart because we’re toying with the Word of God.
Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714), an English Bible commentator and Presbyterian minister, said this about the Bible: We should receive the word of God with affections suitable to its holiness, wisdom, truth, and goodness. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle; but God's word is holy, wise, just, and faithful. Let us receive and regard it accordingly.
When we receive and accept and believethe Word of God, it changes us.  We begin to be transformed into the image of the very One who saves us: Jesus Christ Himself.  Believing is the key to becoming like Christ!  And this happens when His awesome power empowers my humble consent.

Philippians 2:13 also suggests that those who do not believe will not see the transformative power of Christ and His word in their lives! "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

What is “belief” in God really about?  It is when I humble my arrogant self to His glorious Lordship of my life; when I give my humble consent to Him bringing a new governmental structure in my life and my world. When I was a child, our church used to sing this hymn:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus,but to trust and obey.

The foundational premise for “trusting and obeying" lies in having a profound realization of the one in whom I have place my trust and obedience!  Is this God or not?  

It is no surprise that unbelievers ignore God.  They have not experienced the amazing miracle of forgiveness, and they do not possess the Holy Spirit living inside of them.

But when we say we love and follow God, ignore or twist or compromise His word, all while expecting that we’ll still reap His blessings because we’re in the Club, we're in trouble !


If I’ve truly come to trust Him over my years of following Him, then why on earth would I question his Words – His wisdom – His instruction?

- Ted Smith, at Church of the Living God, on Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Not Rocket Science

I grew up on a small farm, less than a hundred acres. My dad had small orchards of cherries, apples, and some peaches and plums.  Although we were never wealthy, I was very happy.  Well, for the most part!

My neighbor Pat and I (Ted Smith) played together a lot, especially riding bicycles in the neighborhood. We’d pretend that our bikes were cars, and we’d identify them according to what our dad’s drove.  My dad, being a small-scale farmer, drove a rather plain Oldsmobile. 
So --- my two-wheeler became an Oldsmobile.  I was o.k. with that…..at first!  Pat’s father was an Orthodontist, and he drove a Chrysler Imperial (the word “Imperial” even sounds impressive, doesn’t it?)  So there we went, riding around the neighborhood: Pat on his IMPERIAL, and me with a plain Oldsmobile.
There is a streak in us from the get-go that seeks to identify and quantify our existence, and more often than not to exaggerate our importance.  Sometimes, when we become educated and enter the employment realm, we seek to define ourselves by our careers and the importance that comes with that job title.  I guess you could call it “positioning.” 
There’s a new television ad that I’ve seen several times recently – it features a few laborers who work for an electric utility company. They’re in a bar bragging about what they do as workman.  In the conversation they imply their daily labor somehow involves the very beer that they’re all enjoying, so one of the other guys says, “Do you MAKE the beer?”  To which another guys says, “No, We make the POWER that makes the beer!” 

If we can’t get recognition one way, we’ll get it another.  We want so desperately to be “large and in charge!”   And then, operating out of that exaggerated importance, we set out to rule the world.  Well, at least our portion of the world.  And this arrogance has gotten us in trouble since the beginning of time.  Long before Frank Sinatra sang, “I’ll Do It My Way,” we’ve been doing in our way!  Sinatra just gave it a theme song.

Look at what scripture says about this:
• Judges 17:6 (NLT) In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. 
• Psalms 10:4 (NIV) In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 
• 1 Samuel 2:3 (NIV) “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.
Like I said, this has always been a serious problem for mankind, but today it’s causing us pain and heartache like never before.  And I don’t think people realize the source of the pain.  There is hardly anything we haven’t changed to suit our wants and wishes and whims.  
  • We’ve seen the legalization of abortion --- the taking of life of a human being before birth --- and now we’re dangerously close to decisions that will withhold life-sustaining services for the elderly on the grounds of viability or practicality.  I remember when life was precious.
  • Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is no longer considered a bad idea --- in fact, it’s nearly a given that couples will live together while they contemplate marriage, if they marry at all.  The Bible still calls this sin, because it is still outside God's design and plan for our holiness. 
  • Marriage itself was once an untouchable institution.  Just a decade ago, no one would have assumed that something other than “one man and one woman” would be said to constitute a marriage in America, but as you know, state after state is challenging that standard.  
Individuals are being encouraged to accept moral lifestyles of any kind as normal, and perhaps even God-given.  Unfortunately, what is touted as a right and good for them will only prove to make their already pained lives worse, as both biblical revelation and societal analysis makes clear.  

Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) says:  "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." The result of all sin is destruction -- unless we humble ourselves and repent and turn from our wicked ways!"         

__________________________________________________________________________


Rather than elaborating on all that we’re doing wrong, I want to take a look at a group that got it right!  I want to look at the written record, left us by Paul as he writes to this church in Thessalonica, a church that he helped to establish on an earlier trip. 
Paul writes a tremendously encouraging report about this young church, and I hope it becomes instructional for us today. 1st Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB) begins:
"And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it ..."

Two words are extremely crucial if we wish to learn and grow by this verse.
     
Received  (Greek: paralambano, par-al-am-ban´-o).  It means simply to receive something from another. In this case it’s not the whole story of benefitting from divine wisdom, but it’s the starting point. 
In some of the these early churches (Iconium, Lystra, Corinth and Jerusalem) the crowds did not even do this; they didn’t receive, nor examine nor inquire into the word of God that Paul and others delivered; rather, they drove them out of town or imprisoned them.  They failed even the first level of receiving!  So, the first noble thing we’re told about the folks in Thessalonica is that they “received” the word. 


 But let’s look at more of the verse:
 “…when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it….”

Accepted  (Greek: dechomai, dekh´-om-ahee)  This word means to welcome; to receive favorably; to give ear to; to embrace; to make one's own; to approve.

The Thessalonian believers not only heard and intellectually understood the message, but also welcomed it into their hearts and made it a part of their lives. And I still haven't finished verse 13. 1st Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 13 (NASB)  --- again, from the start, with a little more this time:
"And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us
the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for
what it really is, the word of God..."
  

Not as the word of men, but as THE WORD OF GOD.

(Stay tuned for Part Two: "A Christian's Achilles Heel")

Immersing our Lives in Christ

   

     For the past eight years, Anne and I (Ted Smith) have gone to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina each October – we visit my cousin and enjoy the warmth and the beaches.  
   We love to drive on back roads, discovering new territory and seeing new sights.  So every year, in late August or early September, I get out the big Road Atlas and begin to study it, looking intently to find a new route. 
     But I don’t look state-by-state at first; rather I look at the big picture -- the entire western portion of the United States.  I need to see where I am and where I’m going before I get specific about each part of the journey.
     Looking at the big picture, with our destination highlighted, helps us to choose routes that get the job done.  Then, once we see that clearly, we look at the specifics, state-by-state.
    There is a journey that God has established for us who desire to follow Him. Every journey must start with an accurate assessment of where we are.
First, the starting point: 
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WE ARE LOST (SINFUL) 
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard."
Romans 3:10 "As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one."
1 John 1:8   "If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth." 
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WE HAVE NO MAP 
Isaiah 59:2 "But there is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore."
Jeremiah 2:22 "Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign LORD.
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GOD’S MAP ~ THE BIBLE 
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus."
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THE DETAILS 
1 John 1:9 "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong."
1 John 5:11-12 "And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son does not have life."
     Other world religions encourage man to seek and live a better existence, but only Christianity offers forgiveness of sin through the death of a perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ Himself. 
    It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us! ("Gospel" is a Greek word which literally means "the good message".) An excellent scriptural description of the gospel is:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4  Now let me remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is built on this wonderful message. And it is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me—that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.

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THE DESTINATION (Reconciliation with God and a new life!)

2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
Titus 3:4-5 "But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit."
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    Paul, in the book of Romans, makes an amazing claim: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3)
     What does it mean to be “baptized into Christ?”  Is it simply referring to something that occurs with water?  No!  Water could never accomplish what Paul is referring to here.  It is only a picture to help us.
     The word “baptize” here is a word that means “to overwhelm,”--- that’s why baptism is often accomplished through complete immersion in the water --- the word does not describe an insignificant action…but rather, it is pointing to an act that produces a permanent change (something that water, of course, cannot do).
     The significance behind the picture is that when Jesus Christ takes up residence in our hearts, He overwhelms our old self and substitutes His new self, producing a permanent change. 

Rom. 6:4-11 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 


Teachers Good and Bad (Part 2)

    In the previous post about false teachers, we noted that Pauls' defense of himself in 1 Thessalonians established a standard concerning how we should present the Gospel.  Clearly, what we say is important, but how we say it important as well.
    There are at least 4 ways people can communicate:  They can be true, false, corrosive, and kind.  Let me define the terms.

  • True - true.  That was easy enough.
  • False - not true.  Amazing insight, no?
  • Corrosive - Language that destroys. This is sarcasm, insults, communicating in a way that drips like acid,  destroying people, relationships, and any future possibilities of sharing the gospel.
  • Kind - Speaking the truth in love. Kind speech is honest, but the offense will never come from the manner or poorly chosen words, but only through the truth

Let's be a little more clear about four ways we communicate.

1)  We can say corrosive things that are false. This is also called slander. It’s not only mean, it’s not true.
When I was coaching, I would get vicious letters.  I finally started giving them to my AD, who read them and let me know if there were legitimate complaints.  As it turned out, these letters were both corrosive and false - not only were their criticism not true, but they dripped like acid on my self-confidence and our relationship.

2) We can say corrosive things that are true.  Simon Cowell used to do this on American Idol all the time. One of his quotes: “If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning.”  Now that was probably true, but...yikes.  Once when I was in high school, a good friend with no filter said to me on our way to the beach, “You have the skinniest legs I've ever seen.”  True? Perhaps. Corrosive?  Absolutely.  That was 30 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Let’s try some real world examples of corrosive things we can say that relate more directly to our faith.  First, some quotes from those who are not friendly to Christianity (I'm purposefully obscuring the speakers so as not to detract from the broader point.  The quotes are real).

"[John Gibson] is one of those people who think all religions but his are mistaken. You know, the way a lot of these religious nut bag terrorists think." – KO
"I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder."  - BM
_So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible….than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon." – RD

If you are like me, you cringe a bit when you read those, and it does not incline you at all to listen to what they have to say.  Those comments are corrosive; they are mean. They are trying to get attention, sell books and documentaries, and look good by making others look bad.

But this shoe can fit on the Christian foot too. Try these quotes (and I am purposefully obscuring the speakers so no one is distracted by the broader point):

"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."                          
--  JF 

"Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals -- the two things seem to go together."  
                                                             -- PR 

From a response to an invitation to the atheist's Reason Rally:  ““The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” Ps14:1 Here's lookin' at you…We accept your invitation & will picket your parade of fools.  Love,WBC.”

Did these make you cringe too?  Do we realize that no one is making more or better disciples of Christ with these kinds of statements?

In Ephesians 4:31, Paul wrote: “Let all slander and meanness…be put away from you.” Why? When we speak like that, the goal is not to really change people’s hearts.  The goal is to shame them; to beat them; to make them look like fools; to impress our “followers”; to score points rather than save souls; to profit personally through money or reputation at the expense of others. People who are corrosive will embarrass themselves and embarrass the name of Christ.

There are two more ways we can communicate. 

3) We can say kind things that are false.  This is known as flattery.  This is why so many untalented singers appear on American Idol.  Their friends flattered them when they should have been truthful.  There are kind things we can say as Christians that aren’t true. The doctrine of Universalism (the idea that everyone will end up in heaven) may be "kind" in the sense that we don't want people to be angry or feel bad, but it's not true.  Same with the claim that "All roads lead to God."

4) We can say kind things that are true.  This happens when your doctor gently tells you that your lifestyle needs to change.  One time a friend of mine, after being on the receiving end of one of my very sarcastic jokes, said, “Anthony, your jokes are too sarcastic.”  He said it kindly; it was true; it changed me.

Here is an example of a kind thing that is true, the Christian version. When talking with Nicodeumus, a teacher of the Jewish law, Jesus summarized the Gospel (John 3:16-17): “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

It is a presentation of the Gospel that is uncompromisingly true; it is hopeful; it is compelling; it is life-changing.  In the very next chapter of John, we read of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, another kind and true conversation in a completely different context that not only changed her life but the entire village.

As we follow the  ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts, we see (for example) Paul on Mars Hill with the Greek and Roman philosophers, and all his letters to the church. They are always uncompromisingly true, and never corrosive.

I so often hear comments - especially through social media -  about people or situations that are just not helpful, and the speakers may think it’s nothing, but everything we do has a ripple effect of consequences. People follow spokespeople and imitate them…. And the Kingdom of God is either corroded or built up.

Corrosive and false will get you attention and will get you a reaction, and it will trick you into thinking that is the same as effective.  You will say, “I’m not doing it for other people,” but you are so caught up in doing it for YOU that you trample on other people.  That’s not any better.  You say, “Clearly I’m not doing it for the praise of others, because I’m not making any friends.”…. But you’re not losing friends because you’ve taken a stand for truth.  You’re losing ministry opportunities because you are not likable. Christ died for all people, not just the ones you know and like!

Corrosive and true at least puts you in the service of truth.  But remember: “Be ready always to give answer for the hope that lies within you” is followed up IMMEDIATELY by, “Do this with gentleness and respect.”   Proverbs recommends that our speech be “apples of gold in pitchers of silver.”  Both the content and the presentation matter!

Kind but false comments at least have kindness, but kindness is not enough.  Love is patient and love is kind, but refusing to be truthful is not a kindness.  It is (in many cases) an act of cowardice or compromise.
Cowardice is not kindness.

Kindness and truthfulness is the biblical mandate for communication.

Truth + love = Gospel.

Teachers Good and Bad (Part 1)

     When I had my blood clot in my right calf, the first specialist I went to recommended immediate, life-threatening surgery.  The second specialist recommended blood thinners and no worries.  Hmmmm. Tough call.  (I took the blood thinners.)   Both doctors were highly qualified, but the second one was right. 

     That experience highlighted a key question in life: 
how do I know who to trust?

    From whom should I get my news? CNN? Fox? MSNBC? CBN? Washington Times or Washington Post?  Time or World Magazine? 
    What about theology and advice for kingdom living? Mark Driscoll? Rob Bell? Benny Hinn? Joyce Meyers? Andy Stanley? Beth Moore? Sojournours or Focus on the Family?  There are so many competing voices, and it is sometimes hard to know who to listen to.
     The church in Thessolonica had this problem.  At the beginning of Thessalonians, Paul spends some time defending himself and his message, as if the church was doubting both. He begins by telling them:
“Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. “  (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6)

     Sounds perfect! But the next chapter takes a slightly different tone.  After giving them two thumbs up for their faith,  Paul takes a little time to help them understand why they could trust him and his message (almost as if there have been some rumors, or questions, or other teachers going against him and his message).  As he does this, he tells them the difference between good and bad teachers so they would now who to follow and who to leave.

"You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.  We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests (or refines) our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority (not looking for weightiness, or glory).  Instead, we were gentle among you, like a mother who tenderly cares for her children.

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil (weariness) and hardship (sadness); we worked night and day (labored) in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed (holy – worthy of reverence;  just – approved by God; and blameless – God’s actions manifesting into space and time). For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."

     The passage in chapter two is painting a sharp contrast between the imitation of Christ (which we should follow) and the imitation of something else – (which we should not).

    DON’T FOLLOW                                                                    FOLLOW           
Error                                                                                                 Truth
Bad Motivation                                                                   Good Motivation
Pleasing people                                                                        Pleasing God
Flattery                                                                                           Honesty
Greed                                                                                             Generosity
Abusive Authority                                                                     Gentleness
Entitlement                                                                                Engagement


     In the next post, I will use the standards Paul sets down to help us analyze words and deeds so we can better discern where to place our trust. 
      I am also going to broaden this principle to include all our speech, because I believe Paul clearly does this in his other letters and in his life (think of his speech on Mars Hill in Acts 17).