November 18, 2012

Preparation to Meet the Lord.

(1 Thessalonians 5:14-24)

Part of the Saxon Pericope Gospel list series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

The grace of the lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen. Our text is 1 Thess. 5:14-24, reading as follows:

Dear fellow redeemed sinners, redeemed by the precious blood of God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who for that reason came to this earth and shall come again to take us unto Himself. One extreme among people denies that there is any second coming. They say that all things continue as they always have been and there is no change (1 Pet. 3:4). They are blindly ignorant of many scientific “proofs,” such as at least one massive meteor collision, the magnetic field reversals, mighty volcanoes exploding, and enormous climate changes over the past millennia. The other extreme consists of those idiots constantly predicting the End of the world. The most recent excitement is the Aztec calendar and dire consequences for our planet on 12/21/12 (?). Many people are living in fear. But, yes, there is a final day is coming. Yet, the fact is, that not even the angels of heaven know when that time is (Matt. 25:36). It will not come when all are on alert, as for Y2K, even anxiously gazing up into the heavens, but when they are unsuspecting and completely off guard (Matt. 24:44). It comes in the “routine” days as with Noah (Matt. 24:37ff). Therefore we consider on the basis of this morning’s text –
Preparation to Meet the Lord.
I. First, our text gives warnings against sin, and
II. It urges us to personal righteous conduct.
Our text begins with warnings against sin. This is the “negative” part to pure religion, as some complain. Most of the Ten Commandments declare “Thou shalt not …” Even the Fourth, which mentions blessing upon obedience to mother and father, implies the opposite, great punishment for failure to follow God’s instructions. Many constraints are sprinkled throughout the Scriptures because of the natural inclination of man’s hearts to evil. What should people expect them to say, “Go easy on them?” That may be politically correct in our day, but it is not beneficial. The doctor who is blunt about a disease may stir the patient to action, but the one who merely prescribes some pain pills and assures that all is fine is not helping his patient. Genuine concern means occasionally warning people. Often other members in the congregation are in a better position than the pastor to know what is going on and to respond to private situations. We are dealing here not with accidental but regular sinning. Thus the brethren admonish one another in love and concern for one another.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly. These are some examples. The unruly or disorderly must be dealt with firmly. We must warn them about such ungodly conduct. He adds: See that none render evil for evil unto any man. We are not to respond to the evil which people may do to us by rendering evil in return. That is the way of the world: an eye for an eye (Matt. 5:38ff). People wish to retaliate. There is a desire to “get even.” Yes, even little children frequently protest to their parents, “But he started it!” And so we blame others. Since they did something to us, we may respond in like manner.
There is a proper way. We are not to quench the Spirit. Thankfully God does not so deal with us as we deal with one another. He comes to us in loving-kindness with forgiveness. He wishes to bring us back into His good graces. That should be an example in our own behavior toward others. Peter writes that we ought to repay evil with good (1 Pet. 3:9), even as Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:44). We need a gentle approach to the weak. We should seek to draw them to repentance. Thus Jesus instructs in Matt. 18 that our goal is to gain the brother (v. 15b), and James, as we heard a few Sundays ago, concludes that in so doing we save a soul from death (5:20). That is our Christ-like desire. We are to be patient!. It is unrealistic to expect instant improvement. It usually takes a while for anyone to cool down, think something over, and realize what is right. Paul tells the Galatians that we should correct with meekness lest we also be tempted (6:1). Paul once challenged the Corinthians whether they wanted him to come with a rod or with love and meekness (1 Cor. 4:21). That is how we should treat others. And we should promptly assure the contrite person of forgiveness, not a “perhaps” forgiveness, but a definite forgiveness that those sins are put away also in heaven. We are to be patient to all, not only so with our fellow believers but with all the people with whom we come into contact. Yes, these are appropriate warnings.
Then our text urges to personal righteous conduct. Ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. This is the “positive” side of pure religion. We practice goodness to all, both to our fellow believers and to strangers and to those who may mistreat us. “Love thy neighbor” applies not only to our brethren but to all. We are to “follow good.” To follow good requires much effort from us fallen people. We believers still have mixed emotions. Sometimes we are very slow to acknowledge what is true.
He lists with some examples which are in no way exhaustive. Comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. Thus we are to deal with those whom we meet. Comfort the feeble minded in their distress. Support the weak who need our help. That is to be our attitude to our fellow man. Similarly we address God. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. We are to rejoice in troubled times as well as in good times, for we know God’s constant love for us, what He has done for us in our daily lives and the heavenly home which He holds out to us. Pray without ceasing. We pray not only on formal occasions but without ceasing, although, of course, we usually do so silently rather than out loud. We are to pray not only in time of trouble or need, but always. A goodly portion of those prayers should be thanksgivings to God for all which He has done for us and still does and the promises which He holds out to us for the future. He regular aids us. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. We are to use His Word, the prophesying or preaching of the Bible. We should desire to hear the “Lord’s letters” to us, for that is exactly what the epistles are! “Epistle” means letter. God has not only sent these letters to congregations back then but has preserved them for us. He cautions, however, that we must “prove,” test, examine things. Sadly much falsehood is peddled to the innocent as truth. In short, “abstain from all appearance of evil,” verse 22 states. Too often the erring may look at us and exclaim with some reason, “Look at yourself!” May God so help us in our dealings, that they not even appear to be questionable to fair observers.
Paul prays that our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. How can anyone ever be totally “sanctified,” perfectly “blameless,” walk perfectly? The same verse reveals the answer: The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless. God sanctifies. We are preserved by Him. This is the work of the Lord. Believers never depend upon their own efforts. We cannot do this by ourselves, so we turn to Christ, the perfect Son of God. He makes this possible. He cleanses us and then gives us strength to walk in a new way. Jesus lived the perfect life and then gave His life in sacrifice to pay for all our sins. Thus He achieved peace with the Godhead for us. He applies His righteousness to us through faith in Him. Our text concludes: Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it. God sanctifies us. God preserves us. God stays at our side. He does this “until His coming” – whether this be at the world’s end or our personal day of reckoning, when He calls each of us to give account. Paul assures the Philippians: Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (1:6). Moreover, this is also Paul’s own confidence: The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). Only thus is one truly prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and an acceptable reception by Him. Recall the urging of the last part of today’s Epistle reading (Col. 1:9-14): Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins (v. 11-14). Thus again this morning we gather to praise God. We join in thanking God. We unite in praying God for our continued preservation. Then we shall indeed appear before Him blameless and holy. To God be the well-deserved glory. Amen.
HYMNS: 18, 416, 395, 313*, 406
November 18, 2012