Paul gives simple, short admonitions about how to live what it means to be a Christian. They are the practical teachings we all need to be reminded of.
(1 Thes. 5:12-18)
A. One of the most powerful statements ever given by Jesus is “upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” That statement gives to us a picture of the kingdom Jesus established. That kingdom included the church and no one was going to be a part of the kingdom without also being a part of the church that Jesus established. There never has been a solo Christian. It defies everything that Jesus brought forth when we detach ourselves from the church, the body of Christ.
B. Listen to Peter’s description in 1 Pet. 2:4-5. We are a living house, a living body, a living church. You are important to this church family. When Paul is teaching about the church and how we need to do our part to edify the church he is not talking about the building. Our text is about practical Christianity. That does not mean that everyone has the same function or even the same status of leadership; it does mean that you have a role to play in the betterment of this church and it needs to be taken seriously. What are some practical “how-to” aspects of Christianity? It starts with good leadership, good ministry, and a strong devotion.
I. Good Leadership
A. 1 Thes. 5:12-13. Understand who Paul is speaking to. He is not addressing the leadership directly, but the congregation. Paul teaching to the church family is to show respect. The word translated “respect” in the Greek indicates “to recognize them for what they are.” You see leadership is more than just a title within the church. We have men who serve as leaders that we call elders. There are those who serve as leaders that we call deacons. There are those who serve as leaders that we call committee chairs. My role within this congregation contains leadership as part of its function.
B. Paul says that the church needs to see these leaders for who they are and then in doing so we respect them and lift up that role that serve as helping the church. I am thankful for our elders. I don’t agree with them all the time, but I respect them because I have gotten to know them and believe that they love this church and desire only what is best for us as body. Since I also believe they have spiritual wisdom, I will listen to their leadership desires and follow them, not because I like every decision, but because I respect these men. They have earned that in my life. I believe we owe that to them as a congregation.
C. These people are defined by Paul as those who “work hard among you, are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.” This idea of being “over you” is literally “one who stands before you.” It carries with it the responsibility to admonish us within this local family. Part of my role as the preacher is to admonish, or “put in mind” the right and wrong way to live. It is about leaders who warn with gentleness a fellow Christian whose life is leading them away from God instead of deeper in God.
D. Peace in the body starts with me. I can learn to set aside gossip, and desire to hear what has been witnessed by several. I can learn to keep my mouth shut when I am upset or hurt until I can in spiritual wisdom deal with the situation and move beyond my emotional response. I can learn to “live with it” when it not sin. So Paul says to us that we need to be at peace among ourselves. Good leaders are peacemakers.
II. Good Ministry
A. 1 Thes. 5:14-15. Not only does the leadership need to be spiritual and working hard, but so do we as the members of the body. It is not about the 80/20 rule people talk about where 80% of work is done by 20% of the people. Not in the church. In the church 100% of the work is done by 100% of the people. That might mean that I need to change my viewpoint about the church. It is not about coming to a place to get my needs met, but about being a family where everyone meets each other’s needs continually.
B. When the church began in Acts 2, we read that the first Christians devoted, gave themselves over to, four things: the Apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Those four aspects of the church are just as important today as they were on the day of Pentecost.
C. They got to know one another and made that their desire. As Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, he tells the congregation that part of their ministry is learning to deal with each other. Sometimes you have to warn fellow Christians and sometimes you need to encourage them to do what is right when they want to respond in a way that is evil.
D. Understand that word “you” in verse 14 is not talking to the leadership alone, but is talking about each of us and our role within the local body. How does this happen? It happens when I decided to get involved instead of sit in the pew. It happens when I desire to grow personally, be challenged by God’s word, and repent where I have failed. It happens when I learn to be patient with EVERYONE, not just the Christians like best. It happens when the idea of retribution is replaced with idea of restoration.
III. Strong Devotion
A. Let me close with 1 Thes. 5:16-18. Can you think of a more practical way to live your life? Happiness is more than a feeling, it is a way of life. It a decision that is based upon knowing I am loved by God, forgiven of my sins, and heading towards heaven. I am joyous when my Christian family is at peace. I am joyous when my personal life is right with God. I am joyous when I am with the church.
B. Prayer is a center point of a Christian and church that is striving for unity and spiritual growth. Everything is tempered with prayer. Prayer becomes the first option done, not the last option discussed. Prayer becomes the strength within my life because it connects me to God in a powerful way and helps me to connect to you.
C. Like joy, thanksgiving is a chosen attitude. When Paul writes to be thankful in all circumstances he is making a statement about the Christian mindset and life. I cannot control the world around me. I cannot stop someone from gossiping about me. I am not that powerful, but I am powerful enough that no matter what the circumstances are, I can thank God for giving me the strength to stand up under it or provide a way out for me from it. God does not leave me helpless, but gives me his Spirit. But that we will save for next week.
A. This lesson is about church, not about salvation. So today I want to close by reaching out to this church family. This is how you live practically. Short, pithy statements that are meant to be guideposts along the journey of your life. Look at us who lead, and if we have earned respect, then show it to us. Look at your life and see if you are living God’s will. When you fail repent, when you are challenged, think about it and see if there is truth. Learn to rejoice, be constant in prayer, and live a life of thanksgiving.
B. Why? Because we are all homeward bound. We are family who walks together – happy or sad. We differ in many ways, but we know what it means to live in peace. If we can encourage your walk with the Lord, then come as we stand and sing.