21 May 2007

Be a mirror of Christ--1st Thessalonians 5:16-22

There are a lot of churches that if you walked in on any given Sunday, you’d find a bunch of well dressed, Bible carrying…grumpy-gusses. Now that’s not a word you’ll find in any concordance. There isn't one particular verse that says, “Thou shalt not be a grumpy-gus.” It may not say that in so many words, but the Bible does tell us that in a number of ways, and in a number of places. And one of those places is in our text for today. We are at the end of 1st Thessalonians.

Last week, in verses 12-15, we learned that if we are a body, we need to act like a body. To uphold the weak, comfort the faint-hearted. Above all, to be patient, and be at peace with each other. That’s what our relationship with each other should look like. But what should our relationship with GOD look like? If you read the book of 1st Peter, it’s almost like he read this last chapter of 1st Thessalonians, and expanded it to 5 chapters. And in chapter 1, Peter gives us the answer to the question, “What is a life which glorifies GOD?” You find it in 1st Peter 1:6-9--In this you greatly rejoice, though…you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes…may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…

A life which glorifies comes from a heart which glorifies GOD. And in 1st Thessalonians 5:16-22, we see how to go about getting prepared to live that life.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now when we look at these verses, it may look like a “how-to” list of things we NEED to do in order to put off GOD’s wrath. But it’s not so much a list of things we DO in order to appease GOD. This list illustrates the life of a person that is not so much puffed up in what they DO for GOD, but the life of a person who is humble in the presence of GOD and in that humility, their faith is found to bring praise, honor and glory to GOD. So, how do we keep ourselves humble?

First, we remember to ALWAYS REJOICE.
Verse 16.
"Rejoice always..."

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re going to be HAPPY always. But to REJOICE always. I’ve found that there are many kinds of people in the church. One group is what I call “shoe-lookers”. What’s a “shoe-looker”? It’s one of those people that whenever you see them, They’re…always…looking…at…their…shoes…

You could also call them “deep-breathers”.

You ask them, “Are you sick?”

“*SIGH*...Nooo.”

Is your family OK?”

*SIGH*...Yeahhh.

Kids?”

“*SIGH*...They’re fine.”

Then what’s wrong?

"*SIGH*....."

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will be times when we will go through trials, and loss, and doubt. Romans 12:15 says to …weep with those who weep… Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… There will be times when we’ll be sad. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if someone were to suffer a loss, and they weren’t at least a little sad about it, I’d say there’s probably something wrong with them.

At the other end, we have the “happy-happies”. They're kinda like Tigger. You know Tigger. “HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY!!!” Always bouncing around on his tail. Just like some people you see.

You ask them, “How ya been?”

I’m just great, couldn’t be better!! Hey sorry to hear about…” whoever.

There’s something wrong with those people too. Nobody can be THAT happy ALL the time. That verse from Ecclesiastes says there is a TIME to laugh and there is a TIME to dance. Not all the time. You don’t walk into a funeral and start cracking jokes and cutting up with the family. In fact, Proverbs 25:20 says, Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. We’ve all seen TV shows—kids have a science experiment where they make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar. That’s what happens when we see someone hurting, and we don’t share in their grief. We try to alleviate that grief with jokes. It doesn’t work.

What Paul is saying in this verse is, don’t get all caught up in the cares of this world. No matter what you are going through, rejoice in the LORD. Why? Because GOD will use those trials to mold us and conform us to the likeness of Christ. Let me give you an example from the Bible, from Acts 5:27-28, the apostles are brought before the council, and commanded to not preach the gospel. The high priest asked them, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?" They could have said, “Yeah, sorry. We won't do it again.” But in verses 29-32, But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree….God has exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things…"
After which, they were kindly and courteously…beaten. Verse 40, …they…called for the apostles and beat them, and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And in verses 41-42, …they departed from the presence of the council," saying ‘Well, drats. I guess we can't do that anymore. Darn it.” Oops. Sorry. That’s not what it says. It says, …they…called for the apostles and beat them, and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.
Verse 17.
...Pray without ceasing...

Now, that doesn’t mean that that’s all you ever do. It means to keep on praying for whatever it is that GOD lays upon your heart, and don’t stop until He tells you to stop. I've heard people say, “I just don’t know how to pray.” You don’t have to “KNOW” how to pray. You're just talking with GOD. You're telling Him that what is on your heart is what He has laid on your heart.

Besides, even if you still don’t “know how” to pray, listen to Romans 8:26—Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Don’t know what to pray for? Matthew 6:8—“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Why do we pray? Well, it’s not about changing GOD’s mind. Psalm 115 says that He is in heaven and He does as He pleases. It’s not about changing GOD’s mind, it’s about changing our hearts. When we pray, and GOD does something wonderful in our lives, it’s not because we did a good job of convincing Him. It’s because we humbled ourselves and because we gave up trying to fix things ourselves. That’s why He said in 2nd Chronicles 7:14, ...if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Not because we went through some motion. Prayer isn't about outward motions; it’s about an inward change. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

BE THANKFUL.
Verse 18.
...in every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

You know, this is probably the toughest one. In EVERY THING give thanks. It’s easy to give thanks in the good times. “I’m just so thankful that I got that job,” etc. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I'm so glad I got fired?” I went to this little, little church one night. It was a Saturday night, I was driving around, and they were having a singing. People would get up and give a testimony. This one fellow stood up and talked about how he was thankful the GOD let him get blood poisoning in his hands. Because if he hadn’t gotten blood poisoning, and had to have laid out of work, he wouldn’t have stayed home with his mom for her last eight weeks of life.

People may ask, “How am I supposed to be thankful that my brother or sister died?” I'll tell you why. Because your uncle Paul had to be at the funeral to hear the gospel preached and get saved. “Why does my aunt have to go through chemo?” So she can show people what it really means to trust in GOD for strength and hope. “Why do so many bad things have to happen to good people?” Because GOD is conforming them to the image of Christ. Because when things go good, it’s real easy to just sit back and roll with it. Philippians 4:6-7--Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. There's a song we sing at church sometimes. It goes like this:

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks unto the Holy One,
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say "I am strong",

Let the poor say "I am rich",
Because of what the Lord, has done for us

Rrejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.

DO NOT QUENCH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Verse 19
.
Do not quench the Spirit.

Can you really “quench” the Holy Spirit? Oh yeah. How do you “quench” your thirst? By drinking cold water. How do you “quench” the Holy Spirit? By having a heart that is cold toward GOD. There’s another way to put out a fire. Fires need oxygen, they need air. Have you ever seen those candles that come in a jar? Well, if you light one, let it burn for a while, and then put the lid on it, what happens? POOF. It goes out. The same thing happens when we “hide” who we are in Christ. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” So many times we are tempted to be more like the world, and we basically put a lid over our light, and quench the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us.

Ephesians 4:30 says ...grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. In Acts 7:51, Stephen tells those who opposed the preaching of the gospel, he says, Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit… In other words, they were trying to stand in opposition to what GOD was doing. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t want try to stand up to GOD.

DO NOT DESPISE PROPHECIES.
Verse 20.
Do not despise prophecies.

What’s another way to cool a heart that’s on fire? What’s another way to throw water on the flame that is the Holy Spirit ? By treating the word of GOD lightly. By despising prophecies. That word “prophecies” doesn’t necessarily mean someone predicting the future. But when someone hears the Word of GOD, doesn’t necessarily think it applies to them, and ignores its meaning. To “despise” means “to make of no account”, or to ignore, to treat as worthless. Have you ever been in church and seen people start checking their watch? “Man, I wish he’d wrap this up already. The restaurant’s gonna be packed. We’re gonna have to wait for a table—what? What'd he say? Romans 40 something?”

I was talking with Pastor Phil once, about how long the old time preachers used to go. I’ve read some of their sermons, and it must have taken them better than an hour to get through it. Oh, how I’d love to go back to that. How would you like to be at this service, in Acts 20:7-11—…Eutychus...was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!"…After talking until daylight, he left. The moral of this story is, don’t fall asleep in church. Seriously, take heed to the word of GOD. On the other hand, don’t always believe everything you hear.


EAT THE WATERMELON, SPIT OUT THE SEEDS.
Verses 21-22.
Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

It tells us the same thing in 1st John 4:1-3-- Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. You see, someone can say that they “believe in Jesus Christ.” Mormons say they believe in Jesus Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses say they believe in Jesus Christ. Even Muslims say they believe in Jesus Christ. But none of these believe in the true Jesus Christ.

By the same token, you can listen to people stand up and preach, with the Bible open, and tell you what they want you to hear. But you really have to listen, you have to get past the words they use, and study the Bible yourself to see if what they are saying is true. Acts 17:10-13—Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. They said, “OK, we heard what you said. Now we need to look in GOD’s word to see if what you are saying is true.” If you hear anyone preach, and they tell you that you shouldn’t doubt anything they say, I wouldn’t trust the too much. If I say something here, and you don’t think I’m right, then by all means check for yourself. I'll be more than willing to listen.

Hold fast to what is good, abstain from evil. I don’t think that needs a lot of explanation. Paul ends this letter by asking for prayer, and love, and that this letter be read in all the churches. Looking back, this letter really serves as a model for how a church should be. How we should work. How we should love. How to behave. It teaches us to be patient, to be at peace, to uphold, and support, and comfort, rejoice, and pray. To love one another and to glorify GOD. These are all the marks of a true body of believers. And it’s how we are to be.

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