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Life in the Church

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WOW!  Can you believe it, we are already at the end of 1 Thessalonians.  It seems like just last we I said, we were beginning a new series of Bible teachings in this book.  But today is the last in this series.  And it seem appropriate we would close out by looking at how we should live in the church.

How church folk should behavior has always been questioned.

Before I became a Christian, I was concerned.  I questioned if I would know how to act like a Christian.  Would I know what to say?  Did I understand how to conduct myself?  Could I appear to be a Christian?  In short, could I pull off this Christian thing?  Would the people around me see me as a Christian?

For a long time, I let others define how I should behave, what stuff I would do, what stuff I did not do.  In fact, for years after coming to Christ, my Christian walk was reflected by the last book I read or the last person I talked to.

Did you ever go through that?  Did you ever fear you were not Christian enough to act the way Christians should act.  Before you do something, you waited to see how people would respond.  Or after you taken action, you were fearful of the fall out?  Many of us, no doubt faced those fears.  And because our worries and uncertainties, we did little for the kingdom.

So this morning, I have good news for us, we don’t need to be left confused about how Christians should act.  The Apostle Paul lays it out for us in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.  Lets just read it.

12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

First thing Paul tells is Christians respect their leaders.

Verse 12: 12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

Paul tells Christians to respect the leaders in the church who are working hard on their behalf.  He also says love them with an overflowing love.

Respect and love is earned.  Christians and churches and not to just give it away.  The ones who deserve it are hard workers.  But what work should Christian leaders do, you ask.  Good question.

Look at 1 Peter 5:2.  2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Leaders in the church are not to be dictators, but examples.  They are to be shepherds.  Shepherds are servants.

In reality, all believers are “ministers.” The apostle Paul urged the true pastor-teacher to “equip the saints” so they can minister to one another (Eph. 4:11–12). The model, of course, is Jesus, who “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

                So a minister or leader in the church is a shepherd.

                A pastor-teacher who does not love people is like a shepherd who is allergic to sheep, or a woman who wants to have a family but can’t stand children.[1]

                But a true leader in the church is an example.

        If you hired someone to take care of your lawn and then went past his house and saw that his own yard was sloppy and unkempt, would you trust him with the care of your lawn? Or, if you went to the dentist to get teeth checked and sat down in the chair only to look up to see that the dentist had a mouthful of rotten teeth, would you trust him to work on your teeth?

How can a minister expect any positive response to his ministry if his life is not holy?

A minister or church leader also needs to be ready to correct error.

Look again at 1 Thess. 5:14.  14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle.

The idle here is a little misleading.  As Paul wrote this he used a Greek word that really means, to step out the ranks.  It means to be unruly, to disrupt, to create chaos.  

It is a shame, but there are some people who upset and interrupt and create disorder in the church.  It is the leaders responsibility to step in, and with a loving heart, take a firm stand.

I remember when some people in a church I was serving tried to shatter the fellowship of church.  As the leader, I had to go to them, and confront them, and tell them if they continued to fracture the church, they would no longer be welcome there.  Let me tell you that is hard work.  To look into the eyes of people you thought were your friends, and tell them if they followed through with their plans to try and split the church, they could not come back to the church.  That is draining, but it had to be done.

A minister not only needs to be a shepherd, an example, and ready to correct error, a minister should be willing to do the hard work of preaching and teaching.

Look at 1 Tim. 5:17  17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.[1]

And any of you who has prepared a message for Sunday morning know it is hard work.

Also a minister should work hard at going out to pray for the visit and pray for the sick.

Look at James 5:14-1514 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well

                A minister is should be will to do the hard work of prayer.  A pastor’s prayer life in public is just a reflection of his or her prayer life in private.

                Eight-ninths of the bulk of an iceberg is below the waterline and out of sight. Only one-ninth is visible above the surface. Our prayer life should be like an iceberg, with about one-ninth showing in public group prayer and eight-ninths out of sight in our personal prayer time.

                When you find a pastor-teacher who is working hard like this, your life should over flow with respect and love.

                But how else should the Christian act?

                First, Christians should give respect to faithful leaders.

                Second, Chrisitans should, be a delight to be around.

                Look at 1 Thess. 5:16 16 Be joyful always;

                Can I say, it is time Christians regains the joy in our lives. 

                Joy is not the same as commanding someone to feel happy at all times. Feeling happy is the natural response when we experience something uplifting and positive. Please don’t ask me to feel happy when I’ve just smashed my thumb with the hammer or even when I’ve when my beloved Cincinnati Reds loss. But neither smashing my thumb or the Reds losing have anything to do with Joy.

                Paul says here I can choose to be joyful.  It is a decision I make.  I may not be happy, but I can be joyful.  Paul even makes it command, “BE joyful always.”        

I read recently about a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha. People were given helium-filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since they were Presbyterians, they weren’t free to say “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.” All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over one-third of the balloons were unreleased. Let your balloon go.

                The same could be said about some of us United Methodist, it is time for us to let our balloon go.

                Some people outside the church don’t want to be a part of the church because they have met too many sour pus Christians.

                Not only should Christians be a delight to be around.

                Christians should be people of prayer.

                Look at verse 17 pray continually;

                Obviously, to pray without ceasing means something other than saying prayers, or the command is an impossibility. J. B. Lightfoot clarifies this point in his oft-quoted is not in the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists.”

                        How do I pray without ceasing? I wish I could tell you that I’ve achieved this in daily practice. I haven’t. But I’m growing, and I’ve been helped greatly by Henri Nouwen, he ties the concept of unceasing prayer to one of the things going on within us at all times, namely thinking. Consciously or unconsciously, all of us are engaged in unceasing thought from birth to death. The brain is always active.

                Nouwen encourages the goal of converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer. This does not mean that we learn to direct our minds constantly to God. It means, rather, “to think and live in the presence of God”.  This means each and every day we grow in our awareness that God is always present, always active, always at work for our benefit. It is to grow in our openness to God—to bring consciously all of our words and deeds into His presence.

Christians are grateful               

Verse 18 give thanks in all circumstances This is the third command, and it certainly grows out of the first two. Joy and unceasing prayer flow forth in a constant stream of gratitude. I’m not in agreement with the interpretation of this phrase that calls us to praise and thank God for literally everything that happens. I can’t imagine God being thankful for everything that happens. Things that happen because of the selfishness or sinfulness of ourselves or others need to be changed, not accepted. I prefer to thank God for being God and to focus on Him rather than on the things that happen.

The great drama of the Bible centers in the belief that God is at work for good in the lives of His people, no matter what. There was nothing good in Joseph’s brothers selling him to the Ishmaelite traders. There was nothing good about the injustices he experienced from Potiphar’s wife. But, in retrospect, Joseph could say of it all: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”. Paul said: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Our translation tends to make “all things” the subject rather than “God.” A better translation is that “in everything, God is at work for good.” We must never forget that God is at work in and through, and often in spite of the “things.”

While I may not be able to give thanks for all of the things that happen, I can give thanks in everything for the confidence that God is always present and is always at work for good. (take from the Communicators Commentary)

                        So there you have it, how should a Christian behave?  You don’t know to read all the books, or listen to your friends.

                Paul said it was simple.

                Love and respect your faithful leaders.

                Live a life of joy, prayer and thanksgiving.

                So how are you doing?

                On a scale from one to ten, where are you?

                Can you imagine what our world and our church would look like if all Christians loved and respect Faithful Christian leaders, if all Christians were a delight to be around, if all Christians practices prayer at all times, and all Christians recognized God was always at work so they could give thanks because God was going to do something outstanding.

                You cannot change the world, you cannot change all Christians, but you can change yourself.

                The question is, will you?  Amen.

               

               

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