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Encourage One Another

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                This morning we continue our study of 1 Thessalonians.  If you have your Bible, open them with me to 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.

                Many of you here today remember the Sunday before Christmas.  You invited Ginny and I to the front of the church and gave us a wonderful gift, first Ginny, Eddie and I want to thank from the bottom of our hearts for your kind and sacrificial present.

                While we were up front, Opal I believe, pointed out Ginny’s shirt.  It read something like, “How Good do I have to be?”  Do you remember, she read it and we all laughed.  However, in truth it is a question we would all like to have answered.  When we asked the questions, what should I do, how should I react, what is the right behavior, most of the time we really want to know, “How Good do I have to be,” or better yet, “How Good is Good enough?”

                This question is more than just a cute slogan on the front of the Christmas Shirt providing us with a few laughs, it is a question we ask, if not out loud, than deep in our hearts.

                But don’t be put off because you ask this question, it is a question common to all humanity.  It was this same question Paul was trying to answer in our Bible reading this morning.  Lets read straight through it, then we will come back and discuss it.

            Finally, brothers, 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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body a in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

11 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, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

                First, whenever you find the word, Finally in the Bible, you need to remember it does not mean the same thing as Finally does for us.  Finally for us means a writer is coming to the end.  In the bible, however, it means the writers is coming to the important part of his writing.

                Wendy’s commercial from the 1980’s where Clara Peller, examines an oversized bun only to discover it contained a minuscule hamburger.  Clara exclaimed, “Where’s the Beef.”

                When you come to the word finally, you have come to the beef of the letter.  Everything else Paul wrote led up to this admonition.   Listen carefully to what Paul says.

                Finally, brothers, 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.

                So how do we live a life that pleases God?  How Good do we have to be?  How Good is Good enough?

                Paul gives us the answer in what follows.

                Look at verse 3.

                It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:

                Then Paul list for us the marks of Sanctification.

1.       that you should avoid sexual immorality

Sexual immorality will always lead to pain and sorrow.  There are always consequences sometimes they take years to manifest themselves; but there is always consequences to sexual immorality.

                Lets go a little deeper into this text.  Look at verse 6.

                6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. Lord will punish men for all such sins, as 6 we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

                There is punishment to violating God’s law when it comes to sexual behavior.

Verse 6 does not refer to business practices, but speaks of sexual matters. “I got a piece of her,” the world says regarding sexual union. That’s exactly right. Whenever sexual intimacy takes place outside of marriage, a piece of one’s soul is taken away, simply to fulfill a lustful desire. You see, physical intimacy is not simply two bodies expressing passion. It’s the essence, the souls of two people being made one. Consequently, if it’s done outside of marriage, people are defrauded, deceived, and cheated out of what would have otherwise been theirs to enjoy. The repercussions go on and on.

When Absalom launched a coup against his father, David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel sided with the rebellious Absalom. Why? Why? David must have wondered. How can it be that Ahithophel—the brains behind all the political machinations in my kingdom—would rebel against me? Why would he side with my rebellious son?

If you carefully read the genealogies, you’ll find a possible answer. Ahithophel was the grandfather of a woman named Bathsheba (2 Samuel 23:34). Because David had defiled his granddaughter, animosity must have simmered inside Ahithophel year after year. Finally, when he saw his opportunity, he sided with Absalom.

“Be sure your sin will find you out,” Moses writes (Numbers 32:23). It’s not that God will find you out. When we accept Jesus as Savior, His blood completely washes us. God doesn’t track us down; our sin does. In this case, if you defraud someone sexually, you’ll reap a crop of destruction. The consequences might be immediate, or they might come a couple decades down the road. No one gets away with sin. Ask David.

“Aha!” you say. “I knew I was justified in being angry with that guy who defiled my wife,” or, “I knew I was right to resent that girl who cheated on my brother. I’m never going to forgive him or her. Ahithophel didn’t.”

Look what happened to Ahithophel.

He hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23).

No matter the extent of someone’s sin, I must never be the one who commits the greater sin of bitterness. Ahithophel didn’t forgive David, and what happened? War ensued. Ahithophel could have advised Absalom differently. His bitterness resulted in a worse tragedy than David’s sin with Bathsheba. The war that followed brought about the deaths of twenty thousand (2 Samuel 18:7). Lest I sit here piously and think I have reason to be angry with my boss, spouse, or kids, I must realize the sin of unforgiveness will cause me to get hung up like Ahithophel. It will damage others in the process.

If, on the other hand, you are one who has defrauded someone, if you are one who has sinned, who has blown it—join the club. This church is packed with sinners because every one of us has had a point of failure in our lives. What are we to do? We’re to say, “I failed, Father, but I confess my sin and turn from it. Use the scars of the repercussions I know are sure to follow to draw others to Your grace and forgiveness.”

It was the wounds Jesus bore for our sin that convinced Thomas of the reality of His Resurrection (John 20:27, 28). So, too, the scars of our sin can witness to the reality of His grace in our lives.

                How good do we have to be, first we have to live a life of purity.

                Second, we need to live a life of love.

                Look at verses 9-10

                9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

                Notice Paul was complimenting the church by observing that they had no need that required him to write about exercising love for fellow Christians.  Paul even points out that they had been taught by God to love each other.  Then he goes so far as pointing out their love was known through out their region of Macedonia. 

                What a testimony to the love of this small church.

                Paul said brotherly love, or philiadelphia was being practices by them to the point he did not need to write to them about it. 

                In fact their love was so powerful it had to come straight from God himself.

                Their love was so pervasive it was spoken of through out the entire region.

                What a testimony for any church.

                Not needing teaching on love because everyone was practicing it at every opportunity.

                But then Paul said, you are doing great but there is more to do.

                Listen to him again; Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

                What Paul was saying is you have done good work in the past, keep up the good work.  You have shown love in a thousand different ways, but there is still more to do.

                Love never ends.

                If you have been the recipient of love, then look for ways to past love on to someone else. 

                The church Jeremy and Shellie attended in Texas had a lights out Sunday.  They would close the church down one Sunday a year and go out and work in the community, just another way to show love.

                How good is good enough?

                First, Live a life of purity.

                Second, Live of Life of Love.

                Third, Live a life of work.

                Look at verse 11-12.

                11 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, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.[1]

                Paul said to make it your ambition to lead a quit life.  There are too many people who are chatter boxes.  So people don’t know how to be quiet.  They just talk, talk, talk all the time.

                Winston Churchill told the story of a man who was always chattering.

“Sir Winston,” he chirped, “I haven’t told you about my grandchildren yet.”

“And for that,” Churchill answered, “I am deeply grateful.”

We can be conversationalists, but we shouldn’t be chatty.

                It has been my experience that people who are talking all the time, often are talking about other people.  They are, for lack of a better term gossips.  Always chattering.

        What is Paul’s solution? Get a job. If you’re one who’s prone to chatter, get to work. Find something practical to do.

“I don’t need to work. I’m financially secure,” you might be saying. Great! Volunteer to pull weeds at your church. It’s real quiet where the weeds are growing, and you’ll be minding your own business!

                So there you have it.  How good do you have to be?

                First, live a life of purity.

                Second, live a life of love.

                Third, live a life of work.

                What a different world we would live in if everyone decided to follow this simple three step plan.

                How many divorces could be avoided, how many broken homes healed, how many marriages restored if both husband and wife lived a life of purity.

                We could stop all terrorism, we could end hunger, and homelessness, if everyone began to live a life of love.

                We would not be in the terrible financial fix we are in today if everyone would surrender greed and begin to live a life of work.

                Don’t you long for such a world?  Don’t you dream of a place where purity, love, and work go hand in hand?  Where does it begin?  It begins with us.  Amen.

                               

               

               

               

 

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