Faithlife Sermons

204: Telling a Better Story: Together; 1 Thess 2:17-3:13

Telling a Better Story  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The story of the Kingdom is the story of God’s people; living, loving, serving, and growing together.

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Intro

Crossing the road in Israel.
We have to stick together!
Generations
The church in America is an odd and different season for a couple of reasons:
First-time in American history where Christianity is growing and church attendance is declining.
1.4
Surprising Pew Research Center
only 28% are unbelievers
That’s a bit of the feeling you get in the text today. . It’s important for the church to be together!
Nearly half say they practice their faith in other ways. They don’t feel the need to be part of a church
The story of the Kingdom is the story of God’s people; living, loving, serving, growing and building the Kingdom together.
Is this a contradiction?
It’s not that most of the folks we meet are un-churched, but rather, de-churched.
Text
1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13 NIV
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
The closer our lives are aligned with the Kingdom, the more we will treasure God’s people.
Paul sometimes gets a bad wrap for being gruff but that’s simply not true. Here you see just how tender Paul can be and how much he loves God’s people!
The greatest Christians that I have ever known weren’t the people with the most degrees or who had the largest ministries, or even the most Scripture memorized. The greatest Christians that I have ever met, have been the people who love and treasure God’s people the most.
Haddon Robinson
And simple folks who consistently love—the elderly person who continues to...
Love is the necessary engine that drives the church. Think about it in concentric circles.
It starts with God’s love
This is love...
It builds and drives the church
A new commandment I give you... ().
This love always moves outward.
As I have love you, love each other. By this all men will know that you are my disciples ().
Do you love? Or do we simply go to church because we think it’s right? Do we tolerate God’s people?
If we struggle to love those around us the best possible thing we can do is to pray for them—not for them to change into something more appealing to you, but that God would be glorified in their lives and that he might guide each step they make.
I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.
Bonhoeffer wrote: I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.
We’ll know we are growing as disciples when we grow in love for God’s people.
It may seem odd to preach about the importance of going to church to folks at church, but this is about a priority. Remember, the church is NEVER about a program, it is about people. Love God - love others
Satan doesn’t want this for you. He doesn’t want you to love or to be the recipient of this love. Frankly, Satan want’s you out of church! He wants you away from God’s people.
Why?
From a big perspective
God has gifted you in certain ways that are to be utilized in the church
Encouragement that should be given will be lacking. Imagine a person hurting…you may be the way God has planned...
We are called to partner with God in helping believers grow
From a personal perspective
If Satan convinces us that its really
Personal
No communion
No encouragement from other believers
No realignment
No sitting under the teaching of God’s Word
We miss the blessing of participating in corporate worship
We miss the blessing in participating in the growth of others
No call to repentance
From a pragmatic perspective
No discipleship efforts
No corporate worship
We live in an odd time. People come to Christ everyday and yet involvement in the local church is waning.
No fellowship with other believers
If a church of 200 decide to be involved twice a month:
No engagement of gifts
Half of the people who should be involved are missing which means half of the ministry that could happen cannot.
Half of the folks who help support the work of the ministry are missing and the church’s finances are wrecked.
Satan desires for us to be apart.
Someone may argue that this kinda sounds legalistic. Not at all!
Salvation isn’t tied to church attendance and of course there are exceptions! Of course there are times when we won’t be with the church.This is about a priority that should be in the life of the believer.
No church discipline
Consider this:
There is no NT example of believers apart from a local church. And, there is no positive example of casual association in the NT!
No sitting under someone else teaching God’s word
To say, I’m a Christian but not committed to a local church, is like saying I’m a BoyScout but I’m not with a troop. Our connection to the church eternal is found in the church local.
One cannot expect to be part of the universal church without being part of a local church. You can’t be part of BSA without being a part of a local troop.
Satan doesn’t want us with God’s people. He is like a lion that prowls around looking for Christians to destroy.
The story of the Kingdom is the story of God’s people; living, loving, serving, growing and building the Kingdom together.
When we realign our story to God’s, our hope, joy, and crown are found in others.
1 Thessalonians 2:19–20 NIV
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
What in the world is Paul talking about here?
1 Thess 3:19-20
Isn’t our hope and joy found in Christ alone?
2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
bema seat
Paul is talking about that day when you and I stand before Jesus. Not salvific
Paul is saying; at the Bema seat, he’ll be able to look at God’s people, that Paul has invested in, and say, “Look! There’s the fruit of my labors!”
There isn’t a better feeling in this world that to watch someone you love and care about come to Christ and grow in Christ.
That’s probably why it is so painful when you watch them slowly separate from church and starve their faith.
When we realign our story to God’s, we’ll say thanks for what God is doing in others.
1 Thessalonians 3:9 NIV
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 thess 3:9-
Seeing God do his work in the context of the local church reminds us ultimately that He is the one doing the work.
Our joy as Christians builds as we see God take our efforts and build Christians.
When our lives align with God’s purposes, we’ll treasure his people
1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Follo
Satan doesn’t want us to be with God’s people.
When we align our story to God’s, our hope, joy, and crown are found in others.
We’ll be thankful for what he’s doing in others.
In all of this Paul is constantly looking forward to the day when he and other believers will see Jesus face-to-face.
CLOSING ILLUSTRATION
I’ll close with a verse from Hebrews
Hebrews 10:23–25 NIV
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25 NIV
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Pray
First-time in American history where Christianity is growing and church attendance is declining.
1.4
Surprising Pew Research Center
only 28% are unbelievers
Nearly half say they practice their faith in other ways. They don’t feel the need to be part of a church
The next largest portion is folks who never found a congregation they liked.
It’s not that most of the folks we meet are un-churched, but rather, de-churched.
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