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04.09-12 A Christian Community

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8 Feb. 2004 AM

Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church

Billings, MT

Duties in the Christian Community

1 Thess. 4:9-12

                Some of the greatest wisdom comes from Dr. Suess, like this little bit:

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad? / Who came to a sign at the fork of the road / He looked one way and the other way too /
The Zoad had to make up his mind what to do - Well, the Zoad scratched his head,  / And his chin, and his pants. - And he said to himself, "I’ll be taking a chance. / If I go to Place One, that place may be hot / So how will I know if I like it or not.  / On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool / If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool / In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.  / So Place One may be best and not Place Two.   / Play safe," cried the Zoad,  / "I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce.  / I’ll simply start off to both places at once.  / And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance / Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

                The Zoad is a lot like some Christians – they can’t really decide which way to go – God’s way or the way of the world.  Its called commitment!  Which are you committed to?  Brenda Goodine shares a story about her friend who decided to talk to her bright four-year-old son, Benji, about receiving Christ. “Benji,” she asked quietly, “would you like to have Jesus in your heart?” Benji thought for a few minutes and then rolling his blue eyes answered, “No. I don’t think I want the responsibility.” Benji realized what many Christians still have not figured out: salvation is a free gift but it comes with some strings attached. Service is not an option for a follower of Jesus – it is a natural outgrowth of our relationship with Christ. Everything we do should be done with Jesus in mind.  In other words our walk should be such that it pleases God. 

                Quite often I find myself like the pastor in this illustration: There was a farmer who had three sons: Ron, Don and Little John. All had their names on the church roll but none ever attended church or had time for God. Then one day Don was bitten by a rattlesnake. The doctor was called and he did all he could to help Don, but the outlook for his recovery was very dim indeed. So the pastor was called and appraised of the situation. The pastor arrived, and began to pray as follows: "O wise and righteous Father, we thank Thee that in Thine wisdom thou didst send this rattlesnake to bite Don. He hasn’t been inside the church in years and has shown little interest in You. We trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson to him and will lead to his genuine repentance. And now, O Father, wilt thou send another rattlesnake to bite Ron, and another to bite Little John, and another really big one to bite the old man. For years we have done everything we know to get them to get serious with Thee. Thank you God for rattlesnakes.”

                Our walk through life is an important issue and every believer should be determined to please God.  The passage that we are going to look at this morning gives us four very practical ways that we can please Him, four duties that we must do.  Let’s read 1 Thess. 4:9-12.

                We are not really sure what problem is being addressed here for the Thessalonians.  The first part of seems perfectly general, and then in verse 10 there is a subtle shift to something more definite, but still hard to define.  Paul starts out by telling them to continue to show mutual love, and he ever says, to “do so more and more”, and then he calls for living quiet and self-sufficient lives. 

                There are two things which outsiders noticed about this early church: (1)  their self-control with respect to sexual conduct and to their use of wine; and (2) their love for one another.  An early critic, apparently observing in the same congregation rich and poor, sometimes even slaves and their masters, meant to ridicule Christians when he said, “Their Master makes them think they are all brothers.”  With that in mind, the first of the four duties that we as Christians should do is  1)     Grow in love, more and more

                When we talk about love, especially in the New Testament, we often are talking about that special love, that pure love that comes from God, Agape love – but Paul is using another of the words for love here, he uses Philadelphia, which is a very special kind of love.  In the world outside of the church, Philadelphia was a term for affection between and among biological brothers and sisters.  Only among Christians was it used to express the reality of being members of the family of God.

                This is the kind of love that binds each other together as a family, as a clan; it binds each in an unbreakable union; it holds each other ever so deeply in the heart; it nourishes and nurtures each other; it shows concern and looks after the welfare of each other; according to Leon Morris, it’s the kind of love that joins hands with each other in a common purpose under one father.  --  support and defend my brother and sisters – the same should be true with the Christian family – as we are under one Father.

                Paul continues on and says, “we do not need to write to you”.  Of course he does write about it.  There may have been two reasons why – first, to remind them that it was God who taught them to love each other.  God is the source of their mutual love.  We need each other in order to make it through life.  Living for Christ is not easy in a corrupt world that offers the bright lights of pleasure but ends up in suffering death.  We all face temptation after temptation and trial after trial.  We need the love of each other in order to stand against these temptations and trials.  The greatest threat to the church is that of internal strife and divisiveness.  Nothing destroys the ministry of a church any quicker than criticism, grumbling, murmuring, gossiping, selfishness, and ambitiousness to have one’s own way or to secure some position.  The point is that God actually teaches us to love each other as brothers.  This means that God works within our hearts and stirs us to love each other. 

And the second reason why Paul may have written is because there is always the need to grow in love more and more.  The Thessalonian believers were known for their love, not only within the church but throughout the whole district or state of Macedonia.  But there is always room to grow and abound in love more and more.  There is never too much brotherly love within the church or even the world.  So, we must grow more and more in love.

                I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35; NRSV)

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12; NKJV)

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.  11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:10-11; NIV)

                The second of our duties is to live a quiet lifeMake it your ambition to lead a quiet life.  This almost sounds like a contradiction.  Ambition means to be ambitious; to strive eagerly; to seek with all the energy a person has.  So, we are to use all our energy to lead a quiet life?  We must seek to be quiet and lead a quiet life?  Stop and think about what was happening at the time.  The Thessalonians were facing the problem of persecution.  Neighbors and the public at large were ridiculing, mocking, and abusing the believers because of their faith and commitment to Christ.  Most of them were standing fast, but there were some who were unaware of who they were to show their loyalty to Christ.  When a believer is rejected or persecuted, Christ says that he is to “quietly” shake the dust of the place off his feet, turn and walk away.  (Matt. 10:14; Mk. 6:4)  But some of the Thessalonians were going too far and creating a noisy scene and embarrassing people. 

                The church itself was facing the problem of some criticism and divisiveness against Paul.  Some were accusing Paul of everything from immoral conduct to deceitful and self-seeking preaching.  The point is that we are to live a quiet and peaceable life before each other.  We are not to be critical and divisive toward each other.  When it comes to being quiet think about this:

                A believer who is hurting needs to be heard, and the only way they can be heard is for us to be quiet and listen to them. – The world is hurting everyone in the world has some hurt.  So we must be quiet and listen for the hurt so that we can do what Jesus said: minister to them.  Eccl. 4:6 says, “Better a handful with quietness Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. (Eccl. 4:6; NKJV)

                Our third duty is to Mind your own business.  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business.  Can you believe that the Bible tells us to mind own business?  Why?  Because too many are busybodies and meddle in the affairs of others.  Just what is it that causes a person to meddle in the business of others?  Sometimes a person meddles because they are critical by nature.  Through the years the person has criticized and murmured and talked about others so much that to meddle is just a way of life for them.  Sometimes a person meddles because they fail to see their own shortcomings and failures.  The busybody is always looking for that speck of dust in the lives of others when they have a plank in their own.  Sometimes its because a person does not have enough to do.  They have not committed themselves to God – at least not enough to keep busy. 

                What a busybody needs is to commit their lives to Christ.  They need to commit to undertake the mission that Christ has given us.  You may not think that a meddling can be so serious but look at what Peter says, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” (1 Peter 4:15;NIV)   A meddler is right on up there with the likes of a murderers or thieves.

                The fourth and final duty is Work with your own hands.  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.  The message of the gospel and of Christ’s return to earth is a shocking message.  It declares that a man can live forever – that Jesus is coming back to earth to make a new heaven and new earth and that they will be perfect – that all who believe in Christ will be citizens of this new heaven and new earth, worshipping and serving God forever and ever.

                The gospel is shocking to the world, but it offers hope to the person who believes.  And the Thessalonians believers were excited over the return of Christ and the promise to be with Him forever – so excited had they become that they began to sacrifice all they could to meet the needs of people.  But some went too far.  Some quit their jobs in order to have time to minister and, in an act of sacrificial commitment, gave away everything they had.  The result was catastrophic.  They were having to depend on other believers to survive.  So Paul was telling them, “work with your own hands.”

                There are two reasons for labor – first, we must labor in order to win the respect of outsiders, or better put, to win the respect of unbelievers.  The word “respect” means to work in a commendable and honest way.  Few in the world respect those who do not work.  Of all people, Christians must set a dynamic example of work.  Think about it, why was man put on the earth?

                To work and subdue and gain dominion over it.  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28; NIV)

                We are to work to provide the necessities of life for all men.  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.(Gen. 2:15; NIV)

                We are to work in order to have enough to give to the needy.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Eph. 4:28; NIV)

                The second reason for labor is so that we have the necessities of life.  We are to depend on our own mind and energy and more importantly we are to depend on God. 

                So the duties that Paul gave us in this passage was to

                1)             Grow in love, more and more

                2)             Live a quiet life

                3)             Mind your own business

                4)             Work with your own hands

Of course the greatest of these is the first – to grow in love, more and more.  If we do this all the others will fall into place.  So this week pray for a spirit of love, and that that love would increase beyond all measure – that our love for one another would grow to resemble the love that Jesus has for us.

19 Jan. 2003 AM

Miles City Wesleyan Church

Miles City Mt.

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