1st Thessalonians 5:1-28
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
Be Aware. Prophetically, Of The Times and Seasons We Live In
"1st Thessalonians chapter 5, we took the last two weeks and looked at the Blessed Hope of the Church, the Rapture of the Church, the catching away of the Church. Paul ending chapter 4 by saying "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." And building right on that he says to this young church, "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (verses 1-2) So he begins by saying 'There's no need for me to write to you in regards to times and seasons.' Why? Because he had been there, and he had spoken to them about those things, he said, 'You yourselves know perfectly, you know completely.' He had talked to them about the return of the Lord. You remember that Jesus had said to the disciples that times and seasons the Father's kept within his own power, that's not for you to think about, but you wait in Jerusalem until you are endued with power, that there are times and seasons the Father has kept in his own power, to restore things to Israel, times and seasons in regards to the 2nd coming of Christ. And it's an interesting phrase, times, what are the times? Well, times are nondescript lengthy periods of time, without a definition to them, just that there are times. That could be a week, it could be a thousand years. There are times, but there are times and seasons, the seasons are what mark the beginning and the ending of those times. It's indescript periods of times, and obviously it's been 2,000 years since Christ said many of these things. But he said there would be certain signs, like signs of spring, where you know that summer is near, there are certain signs that have told us that we've passed through times and we've entered into a new season, the rebirth of the nation of Israel [in 1948], the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we're the first generation that could eliminate ourselves. We have entered into an era that the Bible has described clearly, and we are now in a season, a season of change. You can see it on the news, when you watch what's happening in the Middle East, and the Far East, in Africa [and China becoming a superpower, and Russia re-arming itself to regain superpower status, and Europe with obvious concern, seeking to unite and become a "United States of Europe" superpower], politics in this nation [especially within the second term of the current administration (year 2014)], morally and ethically where we've entered into the seasons that are marking the end of a period of times that have gone by [i.e. the WWII-Korea era of moral and financial stability]. And he says 'You yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.' [Almost as if Paul were writing this for our generation, and not the Thessalonians, amazing how God inspired Paul to prophecy all of this so accurately for our times.] Now, the Day of the Lord is not a day. The Day of the Lord is at least a thousand years. The Day of the Lord begins no doubt when God will interrupt human history supernaturally, and I believe he will do that by removing his Church from the earth, which will begin an entire sequence of events. That will be [the beginning of] the Day of the Lord. It's been the 'day of man.' When the Day of the Lord comes, Jesus Christ steps into human history supernaturally, interrupts the flow of insanity, for thousands of years man unable to govern himself, and he starts to supernaturally intervene, which starts off a whole series of events, when the Church is removed. And we'll talk more about that in 2nd Thessalonians then, 'the man of sin being revealed,' 'the Holy Spirit being removed in its restraining work.' And it's hard to imagine what he's been restraining, because it seems awful restrained out there, I think some very strange things have been restrained for a very long time. And then the entering of the antichrist on the scene, the confirming of the covenant with the nation of Israel, so the world's shaken sometime soon, clamoring for a peace treaty in the Middle East, and it says that the antichrist will confirm the covenant for a period of seven years, and then at the center of that [three and a half years into that period of time] of course, the antichrist desecrating the temple, or some type of holy place to worship in Jerusalem that has been rebuilt. And of course 1260 days then till the return of Christ to earth, and then the judging of the nations, and the setting up of the Kingdom [of God on earth], the Day of the Lord, when he takes control of things. It comes as a thief in the night. It is inaugurated in a sudden and unexpected way. And even the Church is to be aware, the Church is to be watching, to be sober, to be vigilant, because it's coming like a thief in the night. And again, you remember the parable of the ten virgins, even the five virgins that were wise, that had oil in their lamps, to be prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, it says he had to awaken them when he came. So, 'You have no need that I write unto you in regards to times and seasons, yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night.'
'They Shall Be Caught By Surprise, But You Shouldn't Be'
Now, as we move down through these verses, I want you to take note of something here. In verse 3, you'll notice this, that there's a great distinction drawn between "they" or "them" and "us" and "you." In verse 3 you'll see it, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." Verse 4, this is comforting, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." Verse 5, "Ye", "we" Paul including himself, verse 6, "us", then he goes to others, verse 7, "they," they." And as we move down through here you're going to see he draws a distinction between the Church and the unbelieving world. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." 'For when they shall say Peace and safety.' Sounds like a one world order to me, peace and safety. Certainly that's the cry, and you know, it isn't wrong, we long for that. I pray for the President because I think, you know, here's one of the most powerful political leaders in the world, and even if he's a believer, it behooves him to work towards world order. [This was during the administration of George Bush [Jr.], even knowing that that will some day lend itself to tyranny. But it's our responsibility. Peace and safety are noble goals, and things that will exist during the Kingdom age. But things that people cry for, without the Prince of Peace, of course, there will never be peace. So when "they say, Peace and safety," according to their terms, then, it says, "sudden destruction." Now it's interesting, that word "sudden" is only used one other time in the New Testament. Luke uses it in chapter 21 when he says this, 'Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, so that that day come upon you suddenly, unaware.' he translates it there, 'As a snare it shall come upon all that dwell upon the earth,' talking about the 2nd coming of Christ. There he says, 'You look out, you be careful, that that day doesn't take you unaware, because that's how it's going to overtake the world, suddenly.' The idea is all of a sudden it comes, 'as a woman in travail with child.' Now, I've been through that process four times with my wife, our quiver is full, we're done. But all of those come, you know, all of a sudden she's saying, 'Honey,' there's some warning signs, Braxton-Hicks contractions, all of that stuff, 'Ahh,' 'Is it real?' 'I don't know.' Well wait a second, third, fourth, we'll know more about it. Then when she says 'My water just broke,' you're on your way. You're not turning back, you're not talking about psychological pregnancy at that point in time, no holding it back, you're moving. And that's how it will come, it will come suddenly. When they're saying 'Peace and safety, as a woman in travail, in childbirth, going into labour.' And Jesus says, when he talks about wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, 'these things must needs be, but they are [only] the beginnings,' same phrase, 'they are the beginning of birth-pains, of travail.' And here Paul says when it comes it will be like a woman in travail, "and they shall not escape."
'Watch And Be Sober'
Now this is beautiful, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." (verse 4) He contrasts us with them. "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." (verse 5) Now notice, he includes himself, "we." "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." (verse 6) Then the constant challenge by Jesus to be sober, to be vigilant, to be watching. I mean, I don't know how you can do that as a post-tribulationist [if you believe you're going to some place of safety, pre-trib, to await the resurrection you believe is gonna occur at the "last trump", it's no problem J]. This can only be consistent with the idea of the imminent return of Christ, that he can only come at any moment. So be sober, be vigilant, here Paul is reinforcing that, "watch and be sober", you know, scanning the horizon. And who has a better opportunity than us to watch? I mean, a hundred years ago nobody had Fox News, CNN, we can sit in our living room and see what shape the world is in. I don't know about you guys, I remember during the Persian Gulf crisis, I mean I was glued to the that. And of course, the danger of that is, you can forget, these are real human beings. The Saudis, the Iraqis, the Kuwaitis, the Muslim people, these are real human beings, that are moms and dads and grandfathers and grandchildren that cry and have pain and have tears, and have broken hearts. [Right now, what about the poor Syrians, they've been in a civil war where Basher Assad has been responsible for killing over 130,000 people or more so far, men, women and children alike, without remorse.] You know, you almost, we can almost take for granted the faces and trouble we see every day and forget the reality of those things. No generation has had a greater opportunity than us, to watch, and to be ready. Let us not sleep, be dull, be desensitized as others. The difference between us and the unbelieving world, he's saying, should be like night and day. We have a different hope, we have a different destiny, and we look at this troubled world right now, and we shouldn't be overcome with depression and fear, but yeah, we should be sober he said, he says that. But we have a hope, we have something we're looking forward to. The unsaved world is inept at deciphering where they are and what's going on. You know what that's like, if you look down your street wherever you live, and here are all these homes, how many of these people know where we are on God's calendar? How many of these people are aware of what could change in a day, of where we are in the history of man? "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night." (verses 7-8) Now look, sleep here is not the same word as 'I would not have you be ignorant brethren, concerning those who sleep, and sorrow not as others,' it's speaking of a dullness, speaking of those who go out and get in drunken stupors, and they're completely detached from the world around them, because they're inebriated. You know, we're not partying, we've not bought into that whole thing out there. We're supposed to be delivered from that, set aside from that. It says our old friends should wonder why we don't run to the same excess of riot. I like the way that says it. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (verses 7-8) And he's going to go through faith, hope and love here. That's not the hope of salvation, 'I hope I'm saved.' If you have the breastplate of faith, you ain't hoping you're saved, you know you're saved. So it isn't 'Oh man, look what's going on in the world, I hope I'm save, I hope I'm saved,' no, the breastplate of faith and love, love through the Spirit, the evidence of genuine faith, and the hope, is the Blessed Hope of the Church that he's been talking about. The context is the coming of Christ, that we have faith, we're able to love one another in difficult times, and we have hope, the hope of salvation is redemption. And it's interesting, in Luke Jesus says this, 'When these things begin to take place, lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh,' and you study that word "redemption" in the New Testament, it's talking about the redemption of the body (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-56). Then he says, two verses down, 'When they come to pass,' that's at the end of them all, 'then the Kingdom has drawn nigh.' 'When they begin to take place,' that's for believers, 'lift up your head, your redemption draweth nigh,' 'When they come to pass, completion,' those are tribulation saints, 'know that the Kingdom has drawn nigh.' Here it says, faith, hope, love, reason---"For God hath not appointed us to wrathÉ" it couldn't be plainer than that. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath," again, the first half of the tribulation, 'they [unbelievers] said to the mountains, to the rocks, 'Fall on us, hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:15-16).' God has not appointed us to wrath. He said it in chapter 1, verse 10, it couldn't be plainer. So be ready, be watching, be sober, because we're not appointed to wrath, but to salvation. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." (verses 9-10) "whether we", including himself in this. Now he's probably going back to the idea 'whether we're alive or whether we've passed on,' whether we wake or sleep, "we should live together with him." "Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." (verse 11) to encourage one another with these ideas.
Paul Now Gives Some Wonderful Exhortations
'Take Note Of Those Who Labour Among You, And Those Who Warn You'
Now, there's a series of great exhortations here, as he moves on to finish up the chapter, some of them so wonderful and practical. "We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be ye at peace among yourselves." (verses 12-13) So the first thing he says, 'We beg you to know them, to know them, those spiritual leaders that God has put in your life,' and he says two things about them, 'those who are labouring, take note of those who labour among you, that are over you in the Lord, and those who admonish you.' Take note of those who labour among you, and those who warn you. That's what the word "admonish" means, "to warn." Remember Paul said to the elders there at Miletus, on the beach from Ephesus, 'For a period of two to three years I ceased not to warn you day and night, that after my departure grievous wolves would come in from outside, not sparing the flock, and men would arise out of your own midst, drawing disciples after themselves, and not after the Lord Jesus.' So, take note of those who labour among you, that are over you in the Lord, and who warn you. And, you know, there is a great group of folks here, in the school and the church, in the Lord, that labour, that believe me, are not here for the money, they could be making more money somewhere else, they're here for the right reasons. And they labour, and they stay late, and they come early, and hats off to them. I think that what great rewards that they will receive. And take note of those who warn you. We don't like to be warned too much, do we? I'm thankful that my pastor's been warning us for years. [That would be Pastor Chuck Smith, who just passed away. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm] Sometimes when I listen to him warn us, I think, 'You know, that's one of the warnings I was determined never to forget, so I'm glad he's reminding me of it.' We need to be warned constantly of some things. "and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves." (verse 13) And the devil would love to divide. So, first thing, there's an exhortation, and this is a young church, Paul says, "I beseech you, brethren," interesting, he uses that word over sixty times in his writings, "brethren," but almost half of them, 27 times in these two little Thessalonian epistles, Paul uses the word "brethren," concentrated in these two little epistles more than anywhere. And I think that's because the church was so young. Remember he was there in Thessalonica for only three Sabbaths, and he then was driven out. So he's writing to them, "brethren, brethren, brethren, brethren," reinforcing this community in the midst of a hostile environment, and their commitment to one another. And he says part of that is remembering those who are labouring among you, what a cost there was in that day, and those who warn you. 'and esteem them highly in love and make sure there's no divisions among yourselves.' Just great stuff.
'Warn The Unruly, Comfort The Faint-Hearted, Support The Weak In Faith'
Verse 14 gives us a picture of just the body life, in the Body of Christ. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." (verse 14) And notice it doesn't say 'We exhort you, pastors,' "we exhort you, brethren," Good verse, because all of you are exhorted here, with a particular responsibility.
'Warn The Unruly, Disorderly'
First of all, he says 'warn those that are unruly.' "Unruly" is "hard to rule over." But it can be translated "disorderly." 'Warn those that are disorderly,' don't throw them out, warn them. In Classical Greek it's used of a soldier that will refuse to walk in rank and file with the rest of his Company, who wanted to be doing his own thing. That's disorderly. Warn those that are disorderly. You know, he just said to them in the verse before this, "be at peace among yourselves" speaking of unity. Now he's saying, 'Warn those who are disorderly.' And if you see someone in the Body of Christ, trouble-maker, someone who sins and falls, we see that, we want to challenge them, we want to restore them. But somebody who causes division, and if Satan can't get someone in sexual sin or with stealing money, and particularly in church leadership, the way he comes is this, James says 'The tongue is set on fire of hell.' And one of the, to me, constant signs of a disorderly person is this, the slander, the backbiting. It's all of our responsibility, this is our family. My kids at home, will yell at each other. 'Stop saying that!' "Stop it! Shut up!' I just say that, my kids don't ever say that, but I say that so you'll feel better about your kids [yeah, right, Pastor Joe J]. In a family, it's all our responsibility, warn them. You don't tell them to pack there suitcase and get out. Warn those that are disorderly, that are unruly.
'Comfort The Faint-Hearted'
I like this, "comfort the feebleminded," So, that's probably why it says 'love your elders in the Lord.' That's me, comfort the feebleminded. Come up and say 'Pastor Joe, we really love you,' pat me on the back and comfort the feebleminded. [Actually, God mainly calls the weak of the world, and feebleminded. This Scripture just came to mind, 1st Corinthians 1:26-29, and for a reason. That means many in the congregation will in some way or another fit this passage in 1st Thessalonians 5:14. Don't feel bad, it was God's choice to call this group of people, and as verses 27-29 show, with a great purpose in mind.] Ah, the feebleminded. Your translation might say "faint-hearted" for "feebleminded." It's made up of two words that mean "a small soul." And some translations might say "timid." You know, the idea is those, and particularly new-believers, that are just weak internally, spiritually, that get challenged and just step down very quickly, that are struggling to believe in God's love, they're struggling to believe that God has a calling on their lives, they're just "small-souled." And God's doing a work there in growing them, and there's an exhortation to comfort them. You know people that are just easily defeated. Again, I've got four kids, and they're all different, and I watch them at different levels throw in the towel. Some of them just give up more easily than others, that just get defeated, they're quitters. And what do you do with somebody like that---faint hearted? 'I don't know, I can't do this, I tried, nothing ever works out, God's not going to use me, he doesn't love me, why should IÉ' 'Get outa here, we're tired of hearing that, negative, negative, negativeÉ' No, it doesn't say that. It says 'comfort them.' Comfort again is from two words in the Greek, and it means, comfort, "para" like the Paracletos, the Holy Spirit, "come alongside", 'Muthos' "with the mouth." Paramuthos. This verse means "to come alongside with your mouth, and speak kindly to that small-soul, to build it up, to encourage it.' And that's not for me, it's not exhorting pastors, it's exhorting all of us to do that. Instead of just saying, 'Oh, here he comes again, the quitter.' No, no, this is your brother, this is your sister in Christ. You, by the Spirit, have a responsibility to minister to one another, the Body should build itself up in love. And sometimes that means to quietly come alongside and just encourage them. 'And you know, I really appreciate you, I come to church, I always see you worshipping, it always encourages me.' Or 'I just heard somebody last week talking about how much they appreciate you.' You have to do that with your kids, you constantly have to reaffirm them, you constantly have to aim them. It says a father raising children ultimately is like someone getting ready to release an arrow, and you know, with mine, I don't like anybody messing with my aim, because, you know, I've been holding that string back for a long time with some of my kids, getting ready to release them. But there's a process of constantly reaffirming those things that are good, certainly warning them when they're disorderly, but constantly reaffirming and aiming, and that's the responsibility of all of us, to build one another up. So, "comfort the feebleminded." When you read that, you're not looking for somebody drooling, but somebody whose timid, whose faint-hearted, whose small-souled, who just needs a kind word, someone to come alongside and speak to them. It's part of Body life.
'Support The Weak'
Now support the weak. This is not financial, support means to lay-hold of the weak. Take hold of them, don't let them go, don't let them slip, don't let them fall, get ahold of them, encourage them. And usually in this context, it would be weak in faith, someone whose weak in the faith. You know, someone whose just got saved, they're a prey in all kinds of ways, because their whole world has just been turned upside down, and they're learning a whole new set of standards, they're learning the Scripture. [Comment: Church hospitality and hospitality between brethren applies here big-time, especially toward the weak in faith, new-believers. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/The%20Sabbath%20and%20Hospitality.htm.] I mean, I remember, you know you see people in the media, high-profile personalities like Bob Dylan, get saved. And the Church, instead of wanting to come alongside and take hold of somebody and ground them, and see that they get their feet on the ground, all they want to do is say 'Oh, Bob Dylan goes to our church. You know, Bob Dylan, you need to go on this TV show,' and you get a guy like that whose been a cynic his whole life anyway, and all of a sudden he's critical of the Church, because all the Church wanted to do is prostitute him, and use him. Nobody wanted to get ahold of him, and sit with him, and disciple him and take the time with him and be genuine. So, take hold of, lay hold of those that are weak in the faith. And look, it's hard to do, because quite often, people that are weak in the faith are legalistic. And you know if they're legalistic they're gonna see something you need to change. [he laughs] You know, Paul in Romans, he says that the legalistic brother, the younger brother [in Christ], they shouldn't be judging the older brother, but the older brother shouldn't despise the weaker brother whose younger, because we can tend to just look down at those guys. No, lay hold on them, don't let them go, encourage them, lay hold on them. "support the weak," and ultimately he says, "be patient toward all men." That's longsuffering. Just in the word itself it's telling us what's involved in these kinds of things. If you're going to be around unruly, feebleminded, legalistic people, you need to be longsuffering. And that's what he says, just to do this, be longsuffering. Be longsuffering with somebody whose disorderly, be longsuffering with somebody whose little-souled, whose faint-hearted and weak. Be longsuffering with someone whose struggling with legalism, growing in grace and the knowledge of Lord Jesus Christ.
Render No One Evil For Evil
"See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." (verse 15) Now why does he have to write that? I don't understand [he's being facetious]. I don't know about you guys, but my inclination is to render evil for evil. What happens to you when you're in traffic and somebody blows the horn and makes an obscene gesture? Do you say, 'oh, bless that guy, Lord.'? [laughter] That's why Paul says in Galatians, he says 'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.' He starts with the flesh. He doesn't start by saying 'The Spirit lusteth against the flesh,' no, he says 'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,' because when you're in a jam that's the first thing that acts up, not the Spirit, but the flesh. Then you have to go 'Oh I can't do that, I'm a Christian, I'm a pastor, ok Lord, bless that guy Lord, get him off the road, but bless him.' Or in any circumstance. What about somebody who backbites or slanders? You know, we so quickly want to defend ourselves and lash back. Christ wasn't like that. He turned the other cheek. Peter tells us that he bore up under those things, he trusted the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul. He didn't revile back when he was reviled. He didn't strike back. And when we suffer for something we've done wrong, we do it patiently. But Peter says when you suffer quietly for something you haven't done, then you do that for God's sake, and God looks favourably on it, because he sees his Son in you. Because he's the one who suffered quietly for that which he had never done. So don't render evil for evil. That's good bumper-sticker stuff too, you know, that's good plaque material. I would never put that bumper-sticker on my car, because you're under the law when you're driving. You know, there's something in us. That's why Clint Eastwood sells movies, because in every one of us there's a little voice that says "Make my day!", you know, just like Charles Bronson, just there's something in all of us that we know, you know, those are the kind of movies [Lethal Weapon, one of my favorites, oops, J], that's why I don't go [to that kind of movie] that I like, where all the weirdo's are dead at the end, and the good guy is blowing the smoke off his gun. So that doesn't edify me and anybody, so I just need to stay away. But that's, I like that, there's something in me that likes that. So I understand why the Scripture is saying this to me. "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men." (verse 15)
Don't Be An Eeyore
"Rejoice evermore." (verse 16) Sandy MacIntosh talks about Eeyore Christians, you may know one. You guys that have children that watch Winnie the Pooh know who Eeyore is. 'I hope we get raptured,' [said in a slow, very low tone] 'I hope this goes right,' 'I shouldn't drive to church tonight, I might hit the ice and get killed. The Lord will never use me, I don't have any gifts. You want to come to church with me?' No thanks. We shouldn't be miserable. If we believe what we say, we've got an awful lot to be happy about. "Rejoice evermore." And that doesn't mean to be phonyÉIt's interesting in the Psalms when David said 'Oh why art thou cast down of my soul?' There's another verse in that Psalm where Jesus said, 'David, filled with the Holy Spirit saith,' so you can be depressed and still be filled with the Holy Spirit. [Elijah when Jezebel said she was going to kill him, went into a state of clinical depression. Yahweh never criticized him for it, but helped him work his way out of it.] It doesn't say we don't go through hard times, it doesn't say we don't shed tears. But joy is to be part of our lives, because of our inheritance, incorruptible, undefilable, that fadeth not away, "Rejoice evermore." Just good advice.
"Pray Without Ceasing"
"Pray without ceasing." (verse 17) This should be a habit. It doesn't mean when you're driving down the street, that you close your eyes, fold your hands in traffic. I know they're doing it out there, I see them, so somebody's doing it. Pray without ceasing, that prayer should be a normal part of your life. You know we have this funny idea, like devotions, well there can't be devotions without devotion. And devotion is not something that happens every morning for fifteen minutes. 'Well I had my devotions.' Imagine if I did that to my wife? 'Alright honey, it's 5:30, get up and talk to me for half an hour, we'll have devotions.' 'Oh, 6 o'clock, sorry. See ya tomorrow morning.' 'But I wanted to ask youÉ' 'No, no, we had devotions in the morning, that's when we talk. When we're going to commune that's when it will be.' "Pray without ceasing." I do that all day, 'Lord, what do you want me to do in this situation? What happens here. Lord, I'm late again, get me there.' 'Lord, this person's asking me a question like they think I know something, what should I tell them?' The door is open, you know. There's a childlikeness about this that's wonderful. Again, you have little kids, Hanna and Josh when they were little, had no compunction, no reservation at all about talking to me incessantly, anytime, in the car, driving somewhere, 'Dad, Dad, Dad, Daad, Dad,' and they didn't mind saying "Dad" a thousand times. Now I had developed some kind of subconscious noise-gate, the Dad-gate, you know. And they didn't even mind, because after like fifteen minutes, they'd kind of turn it into a song, DAaad, DaAAAd, Dad, Daaad, Daddd, Daaaad,' until finally the inner gate breaks down, 'Whaaat!?' "Pray without ceasing." It should be the expression of the new-birth, the most natural thing in the world for us, and the great evidence of the new-birth should be our dialogue with God, talking, listening, talking, listening. "Pray without ceasing." It has the idea in the Greek of recurring, more than anything, it doesn't say that 24-hours a day, but the idea is 'Let there be constantly recurring prayer.' It isn't wrong to ask God for something for a day, for a week, for a year, if it's on your heart, to keep it before him, plead with him about it, talk to him about it. Again, I remember one of the first Billy Graham tours in Russia when they finally opened the door. In an interview, this man was interviewed, he said, "We knew he was coming, we prayed for him for 18 years, for him to come to our town." I pray for fifteen minutes and I wonder why God hasn't answered. "We prayed for 18 years, we knew he was coming, because we prayed for 18 years." 'Pray without ceasing, constantly recurring,' great encouragement. [To read about a man who prayed without ceasing, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/mueller.htm.]
In Every Circumstance Thank God, 'Thank You For Getting Us Through This.'
"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (verse 18) In every thing give thanks. Ah, this verse doesn't say "for everything give thanks." That's a difficult thing to do sometimes. It does say "in everything give thanks." I'll watch a family in church whose loosing a loved one from a disease, or going through a horrendous circumstance. And they don't thank God for the circumstance, but I've watched them thank God in the circumstance, 'Lord, thank you that we have a hope, thank you Lord that we know you're there. Thank you Lord for getting us through this.' Not, 'Thank you for the pain,' the Scripture is not unreasonable. When I wasÉon the West coast, I worked for awhile framing and joycing, I still have my wormdrive skill saw, with my skyhook on it, nobody knows back here what a skyhook is. Because you're up there walking joycing, these guys make this custom hook, you just put it on there, along with my 38-oz checkhead rigging ax, because you wanted to drive every single nail, you just drive it, you weren't a carpenter, you were a wood-butcher, but you got a lot of work done real fast. And you'd get into this rhythm, and once in awhile when you'd break rhythm your thumb would be there. And the rigging ax had no mercy. And you'd just come down with that 38-oz rigging ax with its check head, and it just would, the end of your thumb would pop like a grape, you know. Now you don't go, 'Thank you, Lord, look how flat, with the waffle design on there, this is justÉ' you know. You just go 'Woooh, grrrr!!!!' take your bags and go home. But 'Thank you that in heaven it's all stonework, there's no carpenters there, thank you Lord that the day is coming, that some day the Rapture is gonna happen, thank you Lord.' It says thank the Lord in all things, in every thing give thanks. It's God's will for you in Christ Jesus. There are many things in life we don't understand, watching my son, bleeding to death [he didn't die, though, which is good], you know, just, but there were little things along the way that night and the next day that were more than coincidence that God did just to let us know that he was involved, and I could say "Thank you Lord that you're involved. Thanks for that. I don't know what you're doing, and you're not answering a why question here, but I really do appreciate you stooping down to say "I'm here, I'm here. Everything's under control."' So, in everything give thanks, it's the will of God concerning Christ Jesus.
"Quench Not The Spirit"---What Does That Mean?
"Quench not the Spirit." (verse 19) How do we quench the Spirit? Well it doesn't mean, it's not an excuse for weirdo's, that's not what this verse is about, because there are some spirits that need quenching, without a shadow of a doubt. You know, you got somebody acting crazy, supposedly on Jesus' behalf [like overzealously 'inspired' Pentecostals], and when you try to address them about it, they say 'Don't quench the Spirit, brother.' I remember when we were at Arthur's one night, and this guy decided that the Lord told him to dance during the worship, and I was leading worship then, and I saw him take-off, he was doing what he was doing, didn't really have much rhythm, and he started dancing, and Frank and Tom (after that his name became Dancing Dan), but they took off after him. Now he saw them coming, so he started dancing faster, and I just started to hold the cord there and watch, and they got faster and faster, Dancing Dan was going faster, they chased him around, and they finally got him out in the hallway. 'Why did you do that?' 'Well the Lord told me to do that.' 'Well maybe he did, but he told you to do it somewhere else next week, not here.' You know, there's all kinds of things that go on, and then when you try to admonish them they say 'Don't quench the Spirit.' No, that's not what it's talking about. You look in Ephesians chapter 4 when it talks about grieving the Spirit, it says there you grieve the Spirit with bitterness, with lying, with a lack of love. "Quench not the Spirit", don't put the fire of the Holy Spirit out. You know, you want to quench the Spirit in this body of believers? I'll tell you how to do it, if you're a quencher. Don't take warnings, don't love one another, don't be at peace with one another, don't warn the unruly, don't comfort the faint-hearted, don't support the weak, don't be patient with all men [all people], render evil for evil, that'll quench the Spirit. Stop rejoicing, stop praying, it's easy to quench the Spirit. And the word means "to put out the fire." It there's anything we need it's the fire of the Holy Spirit, in our lives individually, if there's anything I need, and in the church, it's the fire of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Holy Spirit. What does that look like? What does that mean? Well it isn't 'Powaaa!' [the way the Pentecostals say it] It isn't that. That's just spitting annunciation. Again, one of the Church fathers, and I'm just struck with it, and it's resonating in my heart, one of the early Church fathers talking about the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the service, said "The power of the Holy Spirit was present to melt the heart of the most hardened sinner with the love of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit was present to melt the heart of the most hardened sinner with the love of Jesus Christ." Don't quench the Spirit, don't quench the Spirit in your own life, don't quench the Spirit in the lives of others. You know, if we stay in line with these simple exhortations the Spirit will burn in our hearts and our lives and in our congregation.
"Despise Not Prophesyings"---Does This Still Apply In Our Day And Age?
"Despise not prophesyings." (verse 20)---plural. Tough verse. "Despise not prophesyings." It says in Revelation chapter 19 that 'the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Even in the Old Testament, the prophets who prophecied in regards to Israel, it was always in relation to Israel, and then to the coming Kingdom, the coming Messiah, it's not independent of that. In the New Testament, we do have prophets like Agibus, who foretold the future in regards to Paul being bound and going from Jerusalem to Rome. But by and large it's the exception, it's not the rule. It means more when it's used in Classical Greek of just speaking of just speaking forth, 'Don't despise someone whose just saying, 'I think the Lord is putting on my heart this.'' Well if you're going to warn someone or you're going to exhort someone or you're going to comfort someone, the ministry of the Spirit and the testimony of Jesus is certainly going to be there. If somebody comes up to you and says 'I think you need to think about this, I think you should pray about this,' well the first test is this. 'The Lord just told me you're supposed to buy five pounds of red lollipops,' ah, where's that in here [in the Bible]? The next verse says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." 'Well, no he didn't tell you that, I'm sorry.' You know, I'll go, and if I'm going to fly somewhere, and someone will come up and say, 'I had a dream, I had a vision, and I saw a plane exploding in the air, and I don't think you should go,' and I'm thinking 'This is all the encouragement I need,' but of course in the back of my mind I remember Paul says that the gift of prophecy is to edify the Church. And I can just quickly think to myself, 'I'm not really edified right now,' not that I say that, but 'ok, thank you, appreciate the warning, pray for me,' then you look at all the people you're getting on the plane with, 'This looks like a group God could do without.' But there is a time when somebody comes and says something, there is a time when you know, the movement of the New Testament Church, certainly before the Scripture was written, and the prophet played a prominent role here, apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, pastor, Ephesians chapter 4. And that, ah, look at the early days of Calvary Chapel, when Chuck [Smith] moved to Costa Mesa, and there were 24 elderly believers in a small church, nobody there. And somebody told him, when you go there, they told the congregation before he came, "The man who comes is going to want to rearrange the platform this way, he's going to become the shepherd of many flocks, this ministry is going to touch the world." Well of course that was all charismania, that's the kind of stuff we all grew up here with, 'Oh yeah, another revival, another prophecy, ok great.' But the fact of the matter is, those things all happened [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm]. So there is a place of being sensitive to the Spirit. Ah, "Despise not prophesyings." I think there is a place for us with spiritual gifts to encourage one anther, to speak to one another. Certainly it isn't in regards to foretelling the future, and certainly it will never transgress the written Word of God. Somebody tells us to move to Jonestown and drink cool-aid, you can just say "Hit the road! Give me chapter and verse, or see ya!' But despise not, you know, don't quench the Spirit, despise not prophesying, and I understand why anybody would. We've had enough nutty people around here, who say they're prophets. And usually I tell them we're a non-prophet organization, here's our 501c3, you can check with Washington, they'll tell you we're non-profit. Because that's what puts us sometimes on the despising side, because if we did a poll, most of the people walking around the Church today saying they're prophets are a little screwy. That doesn't mean that God can't use someone in this room in a great way in regards to exhortation, or comfort, or speaking a word in season. It's happened to me, I remember a couple, and it was very distinct, and because I failed, it stayed with me for years. They're walking out of church, I remember we were in the old building, and I was teaching on the life of Samson, and as they left early and walked across the aisle, I caught them out of the corner of my eye, and the Lord distinctly said to me, 'You tell them today that I love them, and that everything is under control, you don't need to worry.' And I said, what most of us say, 'That ain't you, Lord, I say that they're gonna think I'm nuts.' And I didn't say anything, and it ends up two days later they called, she was pregnant, and they told her the baby had spinabifada, and they were destroyed. And I had to go and apologize. Because I realized, God's timing, if I had said that two days before they found out, if I had stepped in before that and yielded and just said "The Lord loves youÉ" And there isn't anything Biblically that's wrong with that. "The Lord loves you, and wants you to know he's got everything under control." The Bible says that in a million places. But the timing of it would have been 'Wow, Lord! You knew before we found out,' and they would have been so much more encouraged. And by the time the baby was born, the baby is in our school now, normal. Whatever it was pulled back into the spine. There's a time when somebody, the Lord may put it on somebody's heart to come up to you and just speak a word in season. It should never contradict Scripture, but don't despise it. Don't be stupid either, that's why the next verse saysÉ
"Prove All Things, Hold Fast That Which Is Good"
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (verse 21) When we get to the second letter of Thessalonians he's going to tell them, 'Don't be troubled by a letter or word where it's supposedly coming from us, saying you've missed the day of the Lord.' Evidently that may be telling us that some of the prophecies going on in regards to the coming of Christ [were wrong and erroneous], that's one of the things they were confused about that Paul's addressing. And in 2nd Thessalonians he says 'Don't listen to those guys who are saying they've heard from us or that they have a letter from us that says a particular thing.' So Paul does say, 'Prove all things, test them.' We're not to be naive. "Hold fast that which is good." That's a good encouragement. There aren't any of us that have to be intimidated, we can test anything by the Word of God, that's how we should test it. And if you know the Word of God you don't have to be intimidated by men. Acts 17:11, Paul before, he said the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians, because they tested everything to see if what he said was true, they looked in the Scripture and searched the Scripture to see if what Paul was saying was true. So, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
"Abstain From All Appearances Of Evil"
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." (verse 22) Interesting exhortation. Over in chapter 4, verse 3 it says "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should" here it is "abstain from fornication." Well that's not confusing, we know what that means. Abstain, stay away from, don't have anything to do with sexual sin. Well he uses the same word here, and it says "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Your translation might say "all forms of evil." But the idea is, we're of a more noble character. What do you do that dishonours the Lord? You know, sometimes we're troubled in our school, we see a teenage girl come in, she's dressed so seductively. And I have to think 'Lord, here's a blood-bought human being, that you're to be sanctified in, and is this honouring the One who bought you, deliberately wearing the clothes the world tells you to wear, so that you can stir the sexual appetites of a young man in your class or in your school?' And then of course the crazy thing is, we call the parents and talk to them, and the mom's dressed like the daughter, and you think 'Well this is going to be a loosing battle.' [And if the mom and dad are new-believers, you leave it alone, they'll grow in Christ over time. But if they've been around for awhile, then you have to address it.] "Abstain from all appearance of evil." I'm not saying, look, even an old barn looks good with a fresh coat of paint, there's no reason for anybody to look bad these days, you can get glass eyes, and hair, and teeth, you can get made up, there's no reason to look bad, that's not what I'm talking about. But you can cross a line into giving the tenor, the appearance, the flavour of evil, it crosses into something in a place we have no right to be. Ah, if you're a married woman, you're a married woman, you don't have buddies that are guys. It will destroy the confidence of your husband. [My ex had a buddy that was a guy (and even though he was gay) it did exactly that.] And it will give other people the wrong idea. If you're a married man, you don't hang around with and have female buddies, I mean, you and your wife socialize, I'm sure. Of course we have friends, secretaries, but they're like brothers and sisters in Christ. There's friendships, but that doesn't mean being outside somewhere, hanging around without your spouse. Avoid every appearance of evil, all forms of evil. I'm not saying single people don't date, that's not an appearance of evil. 'I only like coke on tap, so I have to go to the bar to drink coke.' Oh, cut me a break, will ya? 'I see pastor Joe walk out of the same bar every day at the same time.' 'Don't worry, I'm drinking coke. Nobody has to worry, so that should shut all your worry machines right off.' No it won't. It'll make everybody worry and gossip. 'Ah, yeah we live together, but we don't sleep together. We sleep in the same bed, but we don't touch each other.' Cut me a break. You know, the excuses we hear are unbelievable. 'Yeah, I have this huge liquor cabinet, but it's for medicinal purposes. I medicate myself every day.' [It would be funny if it weren't so true in a lot of people's lives.] Pornography, just use wisdom. You know, we have an enemy, why give him ammunition to shoot us when we're not paying attention? "Abstain from all appearance of evil." And it takes many forms, many appearances. Abstain from it, stay away from it.
Let Him Take Your Life And Set It Aside Completely To His Purposes And His Calling
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (verse 23) Let him set your life aside completely, sanctify you holy, the very God of peace take your life and set it aside. The very God of peace sanctify you holy, let it happen. Because when you were in the world, the god of this world sanctified you holy, he set you aside for his purposes. Before I was saved, and I was in the world, I served a different master, whether it was taking drugs or being drunk or living in immorality, it was a different master. And I was sanctified to his purposes then. I didn't do anything good, I didn't go to Sunday school, I didn't sing hymns, I didn't carry a Bible, I didn't do any of that. Well now we're in Christ, and it says Let the very God of peace now sanctify your lives completely, now that you have the right master, because drugs was a cruel master, sex was a cruel master, money is a cruel master.' Money is a great servant, but a cruel master. Now you have the right master, that is the pursuit of life, to find the right master. To find a master who is not cruel, but hung on the cross for you, and bled his life into the ground, so that you can live and you can be forgiven, and you can have purpose. And let him take your life, and set it aside completely, to his purposes and his calling. And there's dignity involved in that, and character, and integrity. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Now you know you've gotta be saved to be preserved blameless, because that's the only way I could be preserved blameless, is because I'm washed in the blood of Jesus. Spirit, soul and body. F.F. Bruce says "Paul's theology of the human being is definitely tricotomy," that Paul saw us in three parts, like the trinity, we were created in the image of and the likeness of. You are a spirit [i.e. you have a human spirit within you that gives you intellect and intelligence (cf 1st Corinthians 2:9-13)], you live in this space-suit [ie. your physical body], all of these space-suits look different, we pay a lot of attention to them. I love to sit up and watch TV sometimes and just look at all the space-suit advertisements that are on. 'Do this exercise program for your space-suit, do that for your space-suit, do this for your space-suit, put this patch on your space-suit, cut your space-suit this way, get it nipped and tucked here, it'll look great, take these vitamins, drink this carrot juice,' you know, we do an awful lot of things for the carcass, the Bible calls it. We come in and people look at each other's carcasses in the room. It's the container. You have a body, you have your consciousness which is your soul, that relates to this body through this world. And then you are a spirit, you possess a consciousness, and you dwell in this physical frame. [I think Pastor Joe has it slightly backwards. If you do a total Bible study on the words "soul" in both the Old and New Testament, in the original Hebrew and Greek, you'll see that the soul is basically the combination of the human spirit put within each person and that person's physical body. So, we have a human spirit, called the spirit-of-man or spirit-in-man by the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, we have a physical body, and the soul is the combination of both. This is explained in an article at: http://www.unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm.] When Adam sinned he died spiritually. His body was still alive, physically, and his consciousness was still there. But he was no longer in fellowship with God, he was dead spiritually, he sinned. When we come to Christ we're born-again, yes we're conscious before we're saved. People don't understand what it means to be born-again. That's because we're conscious, we think, we have a soul, we have a consciousness, and we live in a physical frame, but we're dead spiritually. And when we come to Christ and we're born-again, we are born spiritually, and the third part of us comes back to life. [What in fact happens, is that the Holy Spirit combines or intertwines, mixes with the spirit-in-man or spirit-of-man that resides in the person who is accepting and asking Jesus Christ into his or her life. Amounts to the same thing Pastor Joe is saying, just a little more Biblical technically.] Before we're born-again, we're what controls us is the body, but the body wants what the body longs for. [Comment again: This spirit-in-man is not shielded from Satan's wave-length, which is broadcast out into the world, giving mankind his carnal impulse to do evil. When the Holy Spirit enters into a person, and they become a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, a war ensues, with the carnal wave-length of Satan going to war inside of us against the influence of the Holy Spirit now within the new-believer. This spiritual warfare and struggle was described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7, and then Romans 8 describes the victory the Holy Spirit brings about within us.] We have a consciousness relating to this world, which is our soul, and our body drives us to be satisfied for its hunger for pleasure or for food or one thing or another. When we get born-again, all of a sudden that's inverted, and now we have this struggle of the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit lusting against the flesh [cf. Romans 7]. And we need to be sanctified, yes, our body needs to be sanctified, avoid all appearance of evil. [Comment: There are two kinds of sanctification described in the Bible. They are described in 1st Corinthians 1, at this link, http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/1st%20Corinthians.htm] We should be walking in the right places and living the right way. Our soul, our consciousness needs to be sanctified. He's saying that. And then spiritually, you need to be pulling down every imagination, bringing it in captivity to Christ (cf 2nd Corinthians 10:3-5), that spiritually we should be growing in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he says that the whole man, here, "the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (verse 23) Jude 24 tells us about that, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy," wow. "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." (verse 24) What a great verse.
"Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss." (verses 25-26) And make sure it's holy. Come to think of it, greet the brethren with a hand-shake, please. This was a different era, it was cultural [ever see Russian men, rough tough army generals, kissing each other on each cheek in those WWII documentaries, that kind of a cultural thing?]. You know, sometimes you go to Europe, they still got the kiss on both cheeks, I never liked that, just gives me the heeby-geevies, but it's interesting, because in Rome about this time there was such an outbreak of herpes simplex-1, and much of it on the lips, that one of the Caesars made it against the law to greet one another this way, because everybody was smooching and spreading herpes through the whole Roman Empire. That was the least thing they had to worry about, but then, it was "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss." (verse 26) Don't do that here, we're watching, because we know some of your motives aren't pure. I can tell by some of the holy-hugs I see going on sometimes. Greet one another with a nice little side-hug or a handshake. It's all we can do sometimes to get a boy-friend, sometimes I'm teaching the Bible and I see somebody sitting in church, with his girlfriend, they're moowa, kissing, and I'm thinking 'This is not a drive-in movie theater, this is church! Cool it!' [laughter] This is God's house, this is not the back seat of your car. "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." (verses 26-27) So we've fulfilled that this evening, we're obeying that. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." (verse 28) [transcript of a connective expository sermon given on 1st Thessalonians 5:1-28 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]
"Pray Without Ceasing." For a good example of this see,
Pastor Joe's former pastor, the late Chuck Smith. See,
The Bible Defines Two Kinds of Sanctification. See,