2016-09-18 - 1 Thessalonians Study
Letters to a Young Church ~ The Practice of Holiness
Paul's specific examples apparently relate to problems the Thessalonians were struggling with. The underlying principle, though, is the need for holy living, that is living in a way that honors God and reflects we are set apart from the fallen values of the society around us. The sad thing is that today there doesn't seem to be much, if any, emphasis on the need for holy living. There is little focusing on a lifestyle constant with the reality of our salvation. God demands holiness.
“… But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:15–16)
As we've talked about in the past, we often need to be careful not to participate in society’s values. The practice of sexual immorality shouldn't be a problem. But how often do we get involved in conversations or behavior making light of or laughing at these kinds of practices, and thereby giving our token approval of “open” lifestyles? What we do or don't say can seem to be statements of approval of the “new” morality, the old immorality.
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:3–4)
Conversely, while there are negatives not to be found in our lives, we all have positives. And even our these need to continue to mature. There is no question there was much love among the Thessalonians, but even that needed to continue to increase.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
We need to grow in our love of one another, as well as reach out in love towards our neighbor. While we are not to become involved in the sins of the society around us, and are to continue to grow in the areas of our strength, we are also to contribute to positive within our community. In this way we become a credit to the Lord and are a witness for Him, not by our words, but by our lives. Remember what Paul had said about the Thessalonians:
“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
We have often heard the unbeliever say “If that is a Christian, then I don't want to be one.” Let's make sure this is a copout - and not a valid assessment of our behavior.
If the Christian becomes a drain, be it in the body or society, what kind of a statement is he making? This doesn't mean, in a society which provides for those having real needs, a Christian can't accept help. After all, we all have paid taxes at one time or another. Therefore when we are in need of assistance, we are only receiving back what we have given. It would be good, though, if the local church was in a better position to help meet one another’s needs so believers did not to have to depend on society. The concern that Paul expresses, though, is that the believer is not to be a detriment to the community.
So Christians are to be a credit to the society. The call is for us is to salt and light, a positive influence. As believers, we need to be concerned citizens. We need to leave our communities better then we found them, wherever possible. This includes voting, involvement in neighborhood watch programs, etc. Are we telling our neighbors we care about them?
On the other hand, when we see a believer who is taking unnecessarily, we need to remind him of Paul’s words:
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28 ESV).
It is love and care for one another within the body, that provides a base of support and encouragement, allowing us in turn to benefit our community.
One of the major roles of the church, then, is to be a positive testimony for the Lord, through the reality of love and care within the body and in turn support and responsibility flowing out to the community. It is by doing this, that we can be at peace with God, and hopefully with men.
Therefore one practical step we need to take is to pray that one benefit of being Spirit-filled is a sensitivity to those around us. We must be willing to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as He directs us to those that God wants us to reach out to in love and concern. We must pray that we would be willing to be used however the Lord desires to. Let us pray specifically, this week, to be able to look around us and see men as God sees them.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.