Jesus Is Coming Again!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
August 14, 2022
We believe in the real and personal return of Jesus Christ
-read belief statement
Why does this matter?
-they thought their loved ones had missed out on Christ’s return!
-we must all consider our appointment with death
-some people avoid talking about death (fear, distracted)
-death to some is popular, a way to escape
(possibly in pain, lacking proper information)
-The Bible says Jesus is coming again
-We must trust the whole Bible, or none of the Bible!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope
-Christ followers have real hope!
-We follow someone who solved our greatest problem: death!
-1 John 5:11-13 …you may KNOW that you have eternal life
-Yes Christians grieve over death, but with HOPE!
Jesus died and rose again, and so will we!
-John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life…”
What believers experience when they die:
Jesus is coming back!
-This can happen at any time!
-Paul and the Thessalonians anticipated Christ’s return
-Acts 1:7 Jesus tells us not to worry about when
Paul tells us how (vs 16-17)
-The Lord will personally come down
-This will be noisy!
-A shout- a cry, command, announcement
-Archangel’s voice- Mark 8:38
-Trumpet of God- no one will miss this event!!
-The dead will rise first to join Jesus
-No description of how, nature of bodies,
-We who are alive will (also) be “caught up”
-Same word in Acts 8:39; 2 Cor 12:2-4
-Happens along with resurrected dead
-We meet Jesus in the clouds- Mark 13:26; Acts 1:11
-This is where we get the belief in the Rapture
-1 Thes 4:15-17 does not offer a clear timeline
-differing beliefs on the timing of the rapture come from
Multiple verses in the Bible
-Our church believes in the second coming of Christ and the
Rapture of His church, we agree to disagree on exactly
when this occurs in relation to the final judgment of the world
-see our Belief Statement about Last Things
We will always be with the Lord
-Our reunion with Jesus physically is forever!
Jesus is coming again!
Therefore encourage one another with these words
-Every believer should be encouraged by this promise!
-Every unbeliever CAN be encouraged: trust Jesus now!
-1 John 5:11-13
St Joe Community Church
Belief Statement about Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
August 7, 2022
God’s letter to our church
-The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this letter
-2 Peter 1:21b “men spoke from God as they were carried
along by the Holy Spirit”
-2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is inspired (breathed) by God…”
-Read Belief Statement on “The Scriptures”
-Three questions when reading the Bible:
-What did it mean to the people who first received it?
-What are the timeless principles
-How must we apply those timeless principles in our current
Reputation inside the church 1 Thes 4:9-10a
-Paul complimented them on their family love
-Phileo- brotherly/family love
-This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the NT: Rom 12:10; Heb 13:1; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:7
“Taught by God to love one another”
-God-taught, evidence of the Holy Spirit
-Hebrews 8:10-11 We have God’s laws written on our hearts
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20 We are the temple of the Holy Spirit
-love: agape, unconditional love
-1 Cor 13; Matt 22:37-39; John 13:34-35
“the entire region”
-Our love must extend to other believers in other churches!
-Our church networks with regional, state, and national
churches to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!
-Our church must love other churches in our city!
-We may agree to disagree on methods and specific beliefs
-We must always respect other churches, work with them
when we can
Reputation outside the church vs 10b-12
“do this even more”
-building our reputation never ends!
-one poor decision can erase a lifetime of good decisions
“seek to lead a quiet life”
-don’t give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church!
-1 Peter 2:12- conduct yourselves honorably…
-The gospel is always offensive, Christians must never be!
-Paul may be telling them to stay under the political radar
-Context matters: they had no rights, we live in a Republic
-we are personally responsible to elect our leaders
-Jeremiah 29:7 Pray for the well-being of our city!
“mind your own business”
-Stop trying to fix people around us!
-Stop expecting unbelievers to behave like believers
-We are powerless to live a godly life without Jesus
-Paul is not saying we aren’t accountable to other believers
-Paul OFTEN told the church to correct sinful believers
“work with your own hands”
-Jewish mindset: manual labor is honorable and expected
-Greek mindset: manual labor is slavish, demeaning
-Paul’s pattern: full time support, part-time, voluntary
-2 Thes 3:10-13 don’t work = don’t get free food!
-Genesis 1:28 Humans are required to take care of creation!
“so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone”
-Why would people want to follow Jesus if His followers have poor reputations for getting along with outsiders and freeloading on people???
Do you naturally love other believers?
-Only Jesus can change our hearts to love correctly! Trust Him!
Do you have a good reputation outside of our church?
-A double life offends God and hinders our church’s mission!
St Joe Community Church’s Belief about the Bible
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
This letter to Thessalonians was written by Paul, but it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. And our particular subject matter today is Reputation Matters. It matters what the body of Christ is like inside the church, and it matters what people think of the body of Christ outside the church. And in these short few verses, we're going to unpack both of those things. We're going to talk about our love for one another in the body of Christ and our reputation, the way we act and live outside of the body of Christ. This is God's letter to our church. This isn't just a letter that was written to the Thessalonian. It's a letter that God gave to us. God inspired Paul and we've have some Bible studies that we've gone over that, and I'd be more than happy to sit down with you or others and our leaders in our church that can help you understand more carefully, this idea that - this understanding that this isn't just some history book; it's God's book for you and for me.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul, just as in 2 Peter 1, it says that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3, all scripture is inspired by God. It's God breathed is what is says in that passage of scripture. We as a church, believe that the word of God is without any mixture of error, the perfect record of what God wants, not just for the time period that He gave it to, but for all time periods, until Jesus comes again and even into eternity, His words will never pass away. In fact, we know that the word of God from the Old Testament, as it proclaimed and as the New Testament, as it revealed, it all points to one person and who is that? Jesus. It all points to one person, the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, Jesus Christ.
He was the word in the flesh. He is the final word for our faith and practice. And so is the word of God. As we study it together, we figure out what was it that Paul was saying, particularly to the people. So when we, when you're studying the Bible, you always say, what did the original hearers think about what was said? What was it like for them? Paul wrote in one letter, he said, "You know have somebody bring my coat to me." He obviously left this coat somewhere. Some of you do that here. And so he sent a letter and he says, "Hey, I need my coat. I'm kind of cold." Now, that wasn't obviously something... that was a particular thing. It was a personal request in the midst of a letter that God wrote to us, but that's, you know, take people, their coats. I don't know.
But in other words, that was some particular thing, but in the middle of that letter, and throughout that letter, there are timeless principles. So you have what it was it like back in how did they receive it. What are those timeless principles that were true for that church and for our church? That's the bridge from them to us. What does it mean to us today? What are the truths that will always be true that we must always think about? And then a Bible study, a sermon, anything that we do, it's not just about educating us about something, but about helping us to learn how to be different, how to apply it to our lives. How do I apply that to my life right now? What am I going to do about it? How am I going to live this out in my day-to-day life until I go home to Jesus or Jesus comes, whichever comes first?
It's God's letter to the church because it was timeless principles that will always need to be applying to our lives. Paul, in this letter is narrowing down. We talked last time about being pure in our lives, living a pure life. And now he's centering on the concept of family relationships in the church, spiritual family, the body of Christ. And so, I'm going to unpack it verse at a time, but I want to read the first couple of verses starting in verse nine, Paul says about brotherly love, "You don't need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you're doing this toward all the brothers and sisters in the entire region of Macedonia." The reputation inside the church is important. We need to center on what the inside of this church is like. Our reputation inside here matters. And what does that reputation centered upon? It's centered upon our love for one another. Brotherly love! Brotherly love! Sisterly love you could say as well. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It's family love. We need to care about one another.
And Paul says, you don't need to tell, I don't need to tell you how to do this, you're doing it. And I would say in testimonies even this week, when someone's saying how they have been loved on by our church family in practical ways, I hear this a lot. So-and-so came by to see us or such--and-such, or this was given to us, or we had this situation and we were just encouraged, or we were stopped and we got a text message from somebody, or something happened. I see people loving each other on Facebook, where they like or love or happy anniversary or happy birthday, and that can be a very superficial thing. But then that just investment in caring about what somebody else is going through, that's love.
And I will say I'm very grateful to serve and to be the pastor of a church that knows how to do this as well. Just as Paul said about them, I would say to you, I don't have to tell you about this, you're doing it. Oh, keep on doing it. It's good stuff. This type of love within the local church is mentioned often in the New Testament; Romans 12, Hebrews 13, 1 Peter 1, 2 Peter 1. This is a common word for loving one another as family.
Now I didn't mean that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't like each other. Sometimes we don't like what each other do. We have differences of an opinion, which means you're wrong and I'm right. That's what opinion means, right? I mean, don't tell me you guys don't always - that you always like each other. Sometimes we don't. Some of you don't always like me. Maybe someone still doesn't like me. Oh, my feelings are hurt. It bothers me a little bit. Okay, don't I get you. Anybody that doesn't care what people think about them, there's something wrong with them. That's not cool. Everybody cares what people think about in some way, shape or form it. But love supersedes the like moment. Love says I'm going to lean into this person and see where they're at and help them and maybe go the extra mile and humble myself and say, how was I part of us getting sideways ways. We do the hard, heavy lifting, because we love one another we're family.
Someone say, we're all we got. Come on. Let's go after this. Some of you have even said, you love your spiritual family, and you find love from your spiritual family, more than your own physical family. In fact, some churches shy away from calling the church, a family because of the brokenness of so many families of the people that they're reaching for Jesus. They just don't. They don't get what that model and say, "Well, if you're a family, I'm in a family and I don't want that I'm coming here for not that. That's not what we mean and I hope you know that. This is like, oh, when I was pastoring my first church and I'm like, what? Late twenties, mid-twenties, and I got men in my church that are in their seventies. They've forgotten more scripture than I've learned. They've been after this a long time. They've got grandkids my age, and I'm supposed to be their leader? Defer to them as fathers in the ministry.
Please think of your tiny, your young pastor as a son in the ministry. Family love enables you to get through that chronological struggle in the family of God, so that a young leader can still be leading in a respectful familial way. That's the way it ought to be. You know, Bray, he acts a lot older than he looks. He's a young guy, but he's a mature young man, and he's going to lead people twice his age. And he already does in some situations. He does it in this room when he is leading us for worship. And he's due this respect that he's due because of what he does. But in no way is he going to say, "Well, I'm the leader, here's how it is." No, he's a brother in Christ. And he's a son in the ministry to some who could be his earthly father like me. And so, we have a spiritual family love for one another.
We need to have brotherly love. And Paul says, and you were taught by God to love one another. This taught by God - God-taught. It's one word - it's kind of a combination of words in Greek, which means there's an evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person when they're loving somebody supernaturally. Supernatural love causes us to go the extra mile for people when we don't feel like it. This taught by God moment, this is like - God... when the Holy Spirit comes into you and I, when we become a Christian, God writes the law of God on our hearts. This is no longer an external rule for us to follow. It's an internal drive that makes us want to. He changes our want-to. This is not a reformation. It's a transformation. This is not getting an upgraded software on our computer. It's an incredibly new hardware. It changes our heart makes it soft, makes us want to do the right thing. And when someone doesn't have that evidence in their lives, I wonder if they have a religion instead of a relationship. We need to make sure that as we're doing this, we're not trusting in ourselves. We're trusting in the one within us that's helping us to do this very thing.
I said a couple of weeks ago in 1 Corinthians 6, that we're the temple of the Holy Spirit, that's why we don't defile the temple we're living in. We're defiling God, himself, as the [hope11:43], the person that we're hosting within us when we do things that are unholy with our lives and our bodies. But then he says, you're taught by God to love one another. He switches words; love one another is actually the word love in this passage, in this particular verse is the word agape, which means unconditional, no strings attached kind of love; love that's not expecting something in return. [Unclear12:08] of love is that give and take. I love you, you love me, we kind of have this mutual partnership of love, but agape love is loving without any kind of expectation of a return on the love that you invest in that person.
You know, it's sort of like when you give a gift to somebody for their birthday, and then when your birthday comes around, they don't give you a gift. Well, that's not how the rules are played. If I give you chocolate, you give me chocolate. Karen, I bring you a donut, you bring me a donut on Friday morning, right? That's how that works. We have family love. Agape love says, Karen brings me a donut all the time and I never bring her one and she's still happy. She actually still would be because she's that kind of person. She's more spiritual than I am. But seriously, that's what agape love is. It says I'm giving you full love and care, and I'm not expecting anything in return. Who did that for us? It's a simple answer every time I ask you this morning. What's the Bible all about? And who gave us agape love? Jesus - every single time. It's Jesus! Who lives within us; the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ lives in us to show us how to love one another unconditionally, the way Christ loves us. That unconditional love was exemplified in 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 22, John 13. And Paul says, you're not only loving one another in your local church, but you love is expanding to people throughout the region of Macedonia. What's the practical principle here? We need to love Christians besides just the ones that go to St. Joe.
We had a handful of people from out of town today that were visiting family. We got love on them, they got love on us. That's just how it goes. When people come here and are visiting, we love on them as they go back to somewhere else - when we are on vacation, we go to a church and that church is a church that's in love with Christ and love with people. It's a natural byproduct that they're going to love the people that come alongside and aren't going to be there all the time. Here's another byproduct of loving people; loving other churches around us and other Christians to go to other churches. I mean, I'm kind of personal to ours, but I'm telling you, there's some other good churches around here and you need to be up on everybody. And we don't need to be up on things that aren't right about things. But I'm just saying, you know, we are going to agree to disagree on things, specific things that we might do, and that's what makes each local church unique. But it doesn't mean, and it doesn't mean we are allowed to bypass loving one another. We got to love one another.
You know how many churches loved on us over the 20 years of our existence? 20 years ago, coming up in October 20 years ago, November actually, we had our first membership class in the basement of Cavalry Baptist church on St. Joe Center Road. We had organizational meetings in other churches because we didn't have a church building. We had churches that let us borrow baptismal tanks. We learned how to take a baptismal tank through a 36 inch door and bring it into the Carmike Movie Theater down by the screen so that we could baptize people, and then we put big old plastic out, big tarps out so that when people sloshed, when the pastor sloshed them we'd be able to clean it up better. And we had churches that let us borrow that. We built one, then we gave that away to somebody else and we got a building, but we've had dozens of churches. When we've had church meetings we needed a building, when we had weddings and funerals. And by the way, let's have a moment of silence for the place we can no longer visit, Carmike Movie Theater.
We have a couple over here that renewed their valves right there in Carmike Movie Theater. How many here got baptized at Carmike? Anybody here? Couple people did, maybe a few. I mean, it was a special place for us. If you've been there recently for a movie, it ain't so special now, but probably why it closed. But it kind of hit me like, wow, there's a lot of spiritual stories that took place there. But while we were there, we could only be there on Sunday morning, and other churches opened their doors to us. Blackhawk Ministries tapped us into a worship leader that we had for a few years. And we even used their choir room, their practice room for our band to practice on certain nights of the week. We had a key to the back door to Blackhawk Ministries down the street from us here. We had churches that gave us literature for our vacation Bible school or Bible study materials. They recycled the materials by giving it to us.
We had all kinds of people serving us and encouraging us. Why wouldn't we want to do the same for them and others? Thousands of churches voluntarily gave financially through the North American Mission Board so that I could be a full-time pastor right out the gate, the first three years of our existence 20 years ago. They loved on us. We got letters, cards, people praying for us, we benefited, and my prayer is that we will pass that love on to others for the rest of our existence until Jesus comes. And we'll do the same - loving on other churches, respecting other churches and working with them when we can and caring for the body of Christ, big church, even as we're taking care of business in this church. May our love bleed into all areas of Christian contact with other believers in the region and in the world.
And then, Paul kind of moves to a different type of reputation; that's the reputation inside the church. Now let's look at the reputation outside of the church, and he kind of in the middle of verse 10 - and by the way, the verses in chapters, Paul didn't do that in his letter. That'd be kind of weird, wouldn't it? But later on in history, people who were copying the Bible started putting these chapters and verses in here so that we could find each verse place in the Bible more carefully. And in the middle of verse 10, it sort of changes gears even though it's in the same verse, according to the way they organized it. But it's a different thought, because he starts looking outside. He said, "But we encourage you brothers and sisters to do this even more." And what does he mean by that? Verse 11, "To seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands as we commanded you." And verse 12 was the results, "So that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone."
So what's he saying here? So the reputation inside the church is important. We need to show love for one another. But on the outside of the church, we need to be respected for the way we live our lives. Do this even more - building reputation never ends. One poor decision can cancel a lifetime of good decisions. People get fired overnight for stupidity, even though they may have done a long history of doing good things up until that moment. Old men and women lose their godly influence in churches when they get bitter and hardened in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors about my age get to that midlife and we go, is it really worth it? And we start slacking, and suddenly our decisions become kind of mundane and routine. And suddenly we're on the path of losing the reputation that we gained when we were zealous and energetic. There is never a moment when we're not building our reputation to outsiders for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The moment we can let down our guard about reputation is the moment we take our last breath on this earth. I'll rephrase my favorite movie phrase, "Reputation never takes a holiday" Mall Cop. Okay. Anyway, safety never takes a holiday. Okay, never mind. Maybe it's too old of a movie.
Do this even more. What's he telling them to do? Seek to lead a quiet life. And what's he saying here? Don't give outsiders a reason to reject Jesus or the church. Two things turn people away from the church. What is it? Usually their own problems, circumstances, physical illness, they'll say, "Well, who's God, he's going to do this to me or whatever" and then people in the church who do things bad to them or look like they don't get along. I mean, if we are bickering and fighting, who wants to be in this church? But if we're living a [duclicit21:40] life, who wants to be in this church? Well, they may practice it there, but they're not preaching... they preach it there, but they're not practicing it in their own homes.
Now, a wayward believer is no excuse for any believer to reject Jesus. When someone goes before God and he says, why did you reject me? They're going to say, "Well, Jimmy, over there was a screw up for the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, he was a really poor example and he really turned me off to you." That ain't going to cut it. We're all standing guilty before God, needing holy God to forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ, so there's no excuse for this. However, there's no excuse for us to give anyone a reason to not want to follow Jesus by our behavior and lifestyle outside the church.
There is one thing that ought to always be offensive to a person, and it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, by nature, we do not want to be told we're wrong, right? Do you like to be told you're wrong? How many of you love being told you're wrong? And the gospel tells us we're wrong. That we're sinners and we need forgiveness. We can't earn our way into heaven. We must trust in the work of Jesus Christ and what he did to pay for our sins. We have to trust that. And it goes against the grain of human nature; it goes against the grain of humanity, generally. It goes against the grain of America that says pull yourself up by your bootstraps because you didn't work hard enough. And I love the idea of the American dream around here, but I'm telling you what; when it comes to spirituality, the American dream is not what saves you. It's humbling yourself and admitting you need to be forgiven, you need to be changed; you need a change maker, Jesus in your life.
That is offensive. What you're doing is sinful and outside of God's boundaries, but God wants to forgive you; not justify what you're doing. So, we'll never get over that offensive truth. You and I, as a believer, had to face that offensive truth and receive it, accept it, and now live in it and understand it and appreciate it. God loved us too much to leave us where we found us, amen, but we should never be doing anything else in our lives that's so offensive. They may hear the gospel message through us and think that the gospel's not offending us or offending them; our personality is offending them. The way we're treating them is offending them. What we're doing is offending them and they mix the two up. And Paul says that ought never be. You need to lead a quiet life. "Conduct yourselves honorably," 1 Peter 2:12 says.
Now, Paul may have been saying stay under the radar politically, because right now remember we were persecuted. And if you listen to my other sermons, they had been persecuted so much so that Paul had to leave town quickly so that he didn't cause any more problems for them. And so, seek to lead a quiet life might have meant stay under the radar of the governmental affairs. Bless the city, but don't make a big deal about it.
Now, context matters. In our context, we are participants in this Republic and we have a responsibility, and I think we'll be answerable to God for how we used our freedom to choose who is elected and who's serving. And in fact, maybe we ought to serve and be a part of that. But the context in Paul's day had nothing to do with that. And by the way, we don't know for sure what Paul was saying about quiet life, so we don't even know if that's even what he meant, but that was something that is brought up occasionally when they look at this particular passage. We know way back in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were deported into a foreign city, and they thought, 'We're going to go back, we're going to go back." And Jeremiah says, "No, hang on. Build houses, plant gardens, pray for the wellbeing of the city within you." This is Jeremiah 29. Pray for the wellbeing of the city and do good and help that city prosper, the city you're in. So if you're planted here in Fort Wayne, make Fort Wayne better by the way, you live your life. Pray for Fort Wayne, invest yourself, do what you can do to make this place... bloom, where you're planted. I think we heard that from a speaker a couple weeks ago. Bloom where you're planted, make a difference where you are.
And then he says here, mind your own business. Stop trying to fix people around us. Now, men, I'm going to be honest, I'm a fixer. And your wives, if you're married, does not always need a fixer. Women, amen. Oh, I know I'm touching on toes here, but sometimes I have to ask my wife when she starts coming home with a problem from work or there's a problem from the school with the kids. And I'll say, "Okay," because used to be, I'd say, oh, I know how to fix that. I didn't, but I thought I did. And now I have to say, "I'm working on it. I'm getting better at it. I think." You can ask her later. Okay, is this something you want me to help you fix or I'm just here to walk alongside you with the problem? Most of the time, it's just walk alongside and listen. Occasionally she's like, yeah, I'd like some input, but ask permission.
And isn't that true with coworkers that aren't believers, you got all the answers, right? They're doing all kinds of crazy stuff and they're suffering the great, crazy consequences of it, and you have all the answers. You're like, well, you know, if you didn't do that, you wouldn't experience that. And you're like getting into their business. I never asked you. Now, there's a way to do that. You know, you can get alongside somebody, but you got to show them you love them and care about them before you start trying to fix them. I mean, and you're not there to fix them. You're there to be a conduit of God's blessing and love in their lives. You're not there to give them religion. You're there to connect them into a relationship. Mind your own business.
There's times when you just need to butt out. And quit trying to think that non-believers are going to act like believers. When you get ticked off by somebody at work, check yourself for a moment. Is this person following Jesus or not? No. All right, they don't have the intel inside like you have. They don't, so don't expect him to act like you're trying to act. And by the way, mind your own business. Paul is not saying in the church mind your own business; he's saying mind your own business as you're dealing with your affairs on the outside of the church. If that was the case, he's actually telling... he's getting in the church's business, telling them what to do in this passage. So we're not saying that we don't.... we're supposed to hold each other accountable.
Brothers and sisters, if you see your brother in sin, you're supposed to restore that person gently, but be careful because you might too also fall into that same temptation. We are supposed to hold each other accountable. We are supposed to get in each other's lives, and sometimes somebody's got to get in my face and say, "Greg you're being prideful, arrogant and foolish." Please do that if that's the case, because I don't want to suffer the consequences of being prideful, arrogant and foolish. That's what's signing up into the covenant relationship with the church is all about is I'm covenanting together to hold each other accountable to be like the body of Christ is supposed to be like to glorify Jesus Christ.
So, it's not talking - he's talking about more of an outside thing than he is the inside here. And then he says work with your own hands. He concludes with a conversation about working. Now, a Jewish mindset was that you would work with your hands; manual labor is an honorable and respectable thing. But in this Greek community and in the Greek mindset in general, working with their hands was demeaning or beneath them. Well, I imagine some of the people that were believers in Jesus Christ had lost their day jobs, their desk jobs, so to speak, and they're starting to have to work with their hands. There might have been a few that said, "Well, if Jesus is coming in any moment, what's the purpose in working?" Well, it's been 2000 years, He hasn't come yet.
I've never heard more clamor for the idea that Jesus is coming than I have in my lifetime than I have recently, maybe during the cold war era in the very, very, most tense moments of that in the early part of my life. But it's getting more and more that says, well, look - and we had our server last night at the Tin Caps, some of the guys went over there and she's from the Ukraine and she still got family over there, and we were talking about that. When I was at Whitewater rafting up in, - actually in Pennsylvania during our vacation three weeks ago. On the bus ride back to get to our cars, we were all crammed in together, and a Taiwanese student that was at Penn State, a PhD student was sitting next to me and she was talking about how China is.
I said, "Wow, you must be feeling a little tense right now." She says, "Yeah, we don't want China to get excited if Russia wins against Ukraine, they might get emboldened and come and invade us." It's a really scary moment in world events right now. And you probably have been reading in current times, there's some saber rattling, there's some missiles going over the top of Taiwan and some assertion of authority say, hey, you're one of us. And so, there's some crazy stuff going on. I says, was Jesus coming back, let's get this all cleaned up. It's Armageddon time. The chart on the wall says Jesus could come in any moment. The chart on the wall says He come any moment, but we do not know the times and dates.
Let's just say - I'm still putting away for my retirement in case he doesn't come back when I'm 75, okay. 80, 90, hopefully if I live that long. I still need a bank account. I still need to keep working. He might come back and that means nothing. Yay! But if he doesn't come back, I'm going to hurt if I quit my job. These guys might have thought no big deal. And Paul's like, "No, no, no, no. Keep working with your hands." In fact, in the second letter that he wrote to them, there were some people that were freeloading. And he says, 'If that person doesn't work, don't give them any food." Our reputation from outsiders should be that we're the hardest workers they've ever employed, amen, that we have the highest ethic of any employee that they have, amen. And that we are willing to go the extra mile, mind your own business, do the right thing, keep our head under the cover and just do the right thing. Stay under the radar. Don't try to be the Mr. Fix-it godly know-it-all with a big Bible that takes every five minute break to tell people about Jesus and not do their job.
Did pastors just say, don't tell them about Jesus? If you're being employed by somebody by the hour to do a particular thing, put a widget on a widget, for instance. And during the widget on a widget somebody says I want to know more about Jesus. If you can do that while you're widget on a widget, or you get your quota done, or you get your run finished and you have a break, go talk about Jesus. But if you say, "Oh, thank you, I'm going to be spiritual and get away from the widget on a widget and talk to you about Jesus," you're stealing from your employer. And what kind of a reputation is that? Your reputation is more than just talking to someone about Jesus. It's about your whole life. A person of integrity does the right thing and is an honorable worker in the workplace and a good witness for Jesus Christ when able and when their time permits to speak about Jesus.
But your authority to speak about Jesus will be granted to you when they see that Jesus is flowing into who you are and what you do. So this morning, I got a question. Do you believe that reputation matters? Because reputation matters. Bray is going to come up and sing one more song for us. He's going to help us sing one more song together. And I got a couple of questions before we end. Do you naturally love other believers? Do you have a reputation in our church for loving people? Only two reasons why that wouldn't be the case; one, you're a Christian in rebellion. Get right. There you go, we can go home now. Or I don't even know what that means. Find Jesus, He will show you how.
If you're looking for that relationship with Jesus Christ, I welcome you to put on your card today. I'd like to know more what it means to have this kind of love that you're talking about pastor, because I don't have it. But for you and I who are Christians, we know better. And if for our love isn't showing right now, it might be a recalibration moment for us to say it's time for us to say, God, I need more of what you want from me to be loving to people around me. And the next question I want to ask is do you have a good reputation among outsiders? Do the people outside our church know that you love Jesus and that you love them? I mean, I sometimes wonder if believers don't invite their friends who don't go to church to church because they don't look any different than their friends. That it would be foreign for them to hear from you something about God.
Now, I'm not saying, I believe that's true in this room. I'm just saying in general, our ability to help people find and follow Christ is based upon the reputation we have among people who don't know Him. And what's that like for you? I'm going to be honest. There are times when I'm working on the outside of this church and I do it a lot and you know that about me. I thrive on the edges of lostness, on the edges of crazy, on the edges of where people aren't yet following Christ. And it's really easy to start laughing at the jokes, even your pastor. It's easy sometimes to possibly once or twice change my language to fit where I'm at. And that ain't right either.
We chaplains can sometimes go into some dark humor moments with our fellow officers and first responders. And that really gets us through some of the worst crimes that you've ever seen in your life. But there's a line between dealing with it and disrespecting it. And I work on that, because I don't want my reputation to be that I'm just like them. I want my reputation to be that I'm representing Christ in their midst. I am the presence of Christ. Sometimes I never get to speak about Him, but I do want them to see Him, see Him through me. I pray that would be true for all of us and our reputation for Jesus.
Let's stand together. Let's just soberly, carefully, prayerfully and joyfully embrace what he would have for us. Reputation isn't built overnight. It can be lost overnight, but it isn't built overnight. And so for you this morning, you're like on an uphill climb and you're thinking, "I got so far to go, Greg, what are you talking about?" Well, the first step on any journey is the step you take today. So let's get on it. Let's take our step. Let's move forward. Let's talk to somebody. If we need some help, get a card and say I'd like some help. Talk to me, talk to your small group leader. Let's take that step and build our reputations by God's strength for His glory.
Church Health Check-up
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
July 3, 2022
Jesus is building His church
Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”
-Jesus is building his church
-Paul planted the church in Thessalonica under Christ’s
authority (Acts 26:12-18; Rom 1:1; Gal 1:1)
-the church is plan a; there is no plan b!
Acts 1:8 “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Jesus does not lie, we WILL be and ARE his witnesses
Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:2-23)
-Paul reminds the church that we follow Jesus, not men
-1 Pet 5:4 Pastors answer to the Chief Shepherd
-Hebrews 13:17 Pastors will answer to God for their work
A church must continually examine her spiritual health
-Celebrate changed lives- what Christ has already done
-Examine the spiritual health of believers
-Examine how well church is following Christ and His Word
-Pray for the church’s future until Christ returns
Church Health Check-up: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Check-up #1: How well do leaders care for the church?
-Paul cared deeply about their faith- a father’s heart
-He sent Timothy to check on them
-Paul wondered if they had survived persecution
-Real pastors and elders care deeply for the church
-they can control how they serve and what they teach
-they cannot control the final outcome! Just like parenting
-Every church leader must care deeply about the spiritual wellbeing of believers
-Every ministry (preaching, singing, property care, etc)
ultimately aims to build up believers!
-church leaders must never have personal agendas!
Check-up #2: What is the church’s current testimony?
-Timothy reported good news to Paul and his ministry team!
-They still appreciated their church planter
-They stood firm in their newfound faith despite persecution
-Their spiritual growth gave Paul joy and thankfulness
-Who is encouraged by our church’s testimony?
-how have we persevered through opposition and trials?
Check-up #3: A vision for more spiritual growth
-Paul prayed he would be allowed to be with them again
-Paul did return later!
-Believers must continually grow in their love for one another
-John 13:34-35; John 15:17
-Believers must become more blameless and holy
-We answer to God, not ourselves, feelings, the culture
-Believers look forward to Christ’s second coming!
-Every day is spent knowing it may be our last
-We continually confess and forsake sin, and re-surrender
constantly to our Lord and Savior who we will answer to for
What would our church health check-up reveal?
-Do our spiritual leaders really care about every believer?
-Are we growing despite cultural opposition?
-Do we overflow with love for one another?
-Are we becoming more blameless and holy as we await Christ’s return?
How must we grow our love for one another?
-keeping the main thing the main thing, forgiving one another
-serving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, ??
What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ?
-Trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
-Submit to God’s Word to change our attitudes and behaviors
-Live within the accountability of the local church community
-Connection Card, Discovering Church Membership Class
-Seek out our Prayer Team Today- in person or online
Well, we are back in 1 Thessalonian 3 now and continuing on. For some of you, you may have come the last two Sundays and said, who's that guy up there? I'm the pastor of St. Joe Community Church. I have been absent for two Sundays and my son got married the 18th, and we were out that weekend. And then we went straight to church camp with our kids on Monday, and then Friday, we turned everything around, including our laundry. My family did, and we loaded up in Saturday morning, my wife and I, and our kids went to Myrtle Beach to be with my mom and dad and my sisters and their families. So we've been out for this last week, enjoying the sunshine, some rain, but bad weather at the beach is still the beach, so we've had a great, great time.
And I'm just thankful for St. Joe and your support for our family to be able to get away and to do things that we do, and just enjoy family. I say work hard, play hard. And if you don't have time off to refresh and rejuvenate, then you need to find time if you can. Sometimes it's just finding that one day or two a week and try to protect time to just rejuvenate and grow and just rest. Just take lots of naps. I believe in naps. I just think it's great. Just awesome. Anyway, Jesus slept in a boat. I mean, I'm thinking, it was a storm, but He didn't care, He was asleep. Anyway, it was good. And thanks Jacobs Well, they're going to be with us this Sunday, next Sunday, the band, to help us worship while Brae is still on his mission trip in Brazil. And for those of you that are connected with him, I pray you'll continue to pray for him and hear his reports, and as our worship leader, prayerfully considers his future and what God has for him. And just appreciate young people saying, I've got time, I've got energy, I've got ambition, what does God want me to do with my life? Yay, that's the best question you could ask. And when you don't have a lot of responsibilities or newlyweds, like you got, go for it, go do something for God, go do something big.
Some people, they save up a bunch of money and then they take a year off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Bonita has a cousin that did that, and he just raised enough money for himself and went on the Appalachian Trail and did it, the whole thing, found his wife along the way. I mean, he found a girl that he married along the way, sorry, let's say that the correct way. And she was doing the same thing. And so, we quit and we invest to do all kinds of crazy stuff. And I think it's really important for us to invest and think about what does God want me to do and spend time thinking about that, especially you who are younger. And but for us who are whatever age we are, we need to keep thinking about that as well. But I'm thankful for our church. And I believe that as we think about that tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July, the birth of our nation or the celebration of our independence. Yeah, and we praise God for that. But you know what, the best thing we can do is to be the church that God wants for our nation. That's the best we can be.
We may have voted and everything went south and wrong in whatever we voted in the last 15, 20 years, it doesn't matter. God's in charge and He's building His church. He builds nations. He tears down nations, but He is always, and will it be about until Jesus comes again, building His church. The church is what has stood the test of time. Local churches come and go. Sometimes local churches last a long time. And sometimes churches last a short time, but God, Jesus Christ said, I will build my church, so today is a church health checkup. We're going to talk about in chapter three, how Paul is excited about wondering how they were, he hears the report of how they are, and then he praised for them in their future.
And we're going to use that as kind of a way of thinking about our church, because we, as a church, have much to offer the community of people around us. We have our faith, we have our convictions, we have our beliefs, we have our energy and time and talents. Just recently, and I am celebrating the 4th of July in a fresh way because we now have an opportunity to enact laws that protect the unborn. We as a pro-life church, and we praise God for that, and we celebrate that. We celebrate the fact that we have an opportunity to do something that I wasn't even sure would even be possible in my lifetime to turn the clock back on a culture of death, to maybe pursue a culture of life. However, even as we have made a legal maneuver that I think was strategic and thoughtful, and people were a part of that, and some people voted their conscience in order for that to happen, and I think God worked in all of that in all of those different ways, we have much to pray about as well.
So while we celebrate, we have a lot to pray about. Even one of our local churches was graffiti by pro-choice people. And I'm like, what? And I actually was kind of holding my breath to hear while we were out for two weeks, if somebody might graffiti us because we talk openly about supporting a Hope Center and we talk openly about supporting adoption and supporting pro-life things in our community, and so I wondered, would that happen to us? And I'm grateful it hasn't, I hope and pray it doesn't. I'm not living in fear, don't get me wrong. But there was a church that somebody online from the Gospel Coalition article that they actually had a mob of people come and absolutely smash out every window on the first floor of their building. It's like a block of buildings, and wrote all kinds of horrible [epitas05:52] and graffiti all over their building because they knew that they stood for life. And these people were standing for not life. And it was just a sad moment to realize that people not only do not like when you are pro-life, but some are becoming more hostile.
I'm praying for safety as people continue to pursue life. And I'm also praying that we will be able to in a loving way, help people find and follow Christ and know what the Bible says about that, because our culture's not going to change until the heart changes in the culture. And that means that we need to be about the business of sharing the love and the life of Jesus Christ with our friends, our family, our neighbors, people all around us with our community. We need to be missionaries in our own hometown to share the good news of Jesus. Laws aren't going to change lives. Laws are important, but they don't change hearts. Jesus changes hearts. And so, let's just keep praying for that. So celebrate, but pray.
I'm going to say something much more carefully prayed over and thought out and edited in a way that I would like to say it in this week's newsletter in the eNewsletter, and I hope you'll look at that and prayerfully consider some thoughts that I have when I say that.
1 Thessalonians 3, I just want, as we head into this chapter to remind ourselves that Jesus is building his church. We're not building it, it's not about our budgets and baptisms; it's about what Jesus is doing to change lives. We have a budget, we love to baptize. We're supposed to, the Bible says to. We receive resources so that we can spend those resources to invest in lives, to help people find and follow Christ and to grow in Christ and to go in Christ, but Jesus is the one building His church. It's not my church. How's your church doing, Greg? It's not my church. It's Christ church. How's your church doing, they might ask you. If your neighbor says, how's your church doing? What is your church? Because you're part of this church, but it's really Christ church. It's His church.
He said at Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church," emphatically, and He continues to do that. Acts 1:8, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." The church is going to invade every culture everywhere, the whole world. That wasn't one of those, "Well, you might be my witness." No, you will be my witnesses. You are going to tell about my resurrection and the salvation of me through faith in me because there's no one gets to the father, except through me. Jesus was very emphatic about that. He says, "And you're going to be my witnesses of this fact. You're going to be witnesses that I'm alive, that I came back from death after dying for the sins of the world, and you're going to be telling the whole world about me.
Ephesians 1:23, that He is the head of the church. He is the head of the church. In fact, we know that in 1 Peter 5:4 that pastors, although we are called shepherds, pastors named shepherd in the Greek, that we're just the under shepherds underneath the chief shepherd. Jesus is in charge of this church, not me. Yeah, the elders and myself; at the end of the day, we are responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and where we go up or down, right or left, east or west. We have to finally account to God and to kind of discern. And we, as a congregation must discern together. We are congregationally led, so there's an accountability to the whole body of Christ, but we're underneath the authority and headship of Jesus Christ. He's the one that's building His church, and He's the one that's in charge of His church.
It says, by the way, in Hebrews 13:17, that we are going to answer. Pastors are going to answer for their work. It says, obey your leaders because they're the ones that are going to give an account. It's not like, obey your leaders because they're in charge. No! Just help them do better as leaders because someday they're going to answer to God for their actions. There's accountability to your pastors and elders that is above and beyond the accountability that you'll have to the Lord Jesus Christ for what happens in this church.
It is just like in our political cycles; if you're in charge of a city, a State or a nation, at the end of the day - "Well, yeah, but I can't help what inflation does." Some presidents, they benefit from the great decisions that were made by their predecessor, and then the ones get to not benefit from their predecessor, but who gets blamed? The guy at the top. Well, that's kind of generally true, but you know what? That is true in the church. At the end of the day, I'm the one that has to answer to God for how I served you all and how through my actions, God worked in a way or didn't work. It's up to Him to do the work, but at the end of the day, I have to answer to God for the work as I was responsible as your pastor. It's not what I think it is, it's what does the Bible say we ought to do. What does Jesus think we ought to do? I've made a lot of unpopular - I've made decisions I don't even like to make because it's not what I think, it's not my feelings, it's not my personal preferences; it's what does God think? What does he already said we ought to do? And we have to answer to him for that.
A church must continually examine her spiritual health. We need to celebrate our changed lives, what Christ has already done. We need to examine the spiritual health of believers on an ongoing basis, that's why we believe in small groups, connection groups. Why we believe that even being on a worship team; that's a small group in itself. And we make sure that people are spiritually growing. Examine how well our church is following Christ in His word. And we need to keep praying for our church's future until Christ returns. We're not in a holding pattern. We're not in a holding pattern.
How many here, your flower bed is in a holding pattern? What does it look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's not looking so good. You got to keep tending to it. But what does your car look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's full of junk. You got to clean it out, guys. Come on. What does your garage look like? We don't talk about garages. I don't want to talk about my garage. Anything you don't tend to gets worse. That's a scientific principle, isn't it? Things go from order to chaos, not miraculously from chaos to order. The only crazy thing that happens from chaos to order is when Jesus enters our life and takes our chaos and turns it into order. Amen. That's when life happens. And once He's in our lives, we have to keep tending the spirit, tending ourselves and doing the examination of, are we living up to what God has called us to live up to? Are we investing in His word? Are we growing?
As we look at these three different sections in 1 Thessalonian 3, I want us to think about our own church health checkup. Checkup number one is, how well are leaders caring for the church? 1 Thessalonian 3:1, "Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience afflictions. And as you know, it happened. For this reason when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him (that was Timothy) to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing."
This is a more personal moment in Paul's letter to Thessalonians where he is saying, "I really care about your faith. I really want to know how you're doing and I couldn't be with you," as we learned in previous messages, a persecution broke out. Paul had to kind of go in hiding after three weeks of serving and seeing people come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, including some very prominent women, probably prominent business women in that community. But people got upset with this new movement and started to make false accusations against them.
And they even took them to the authorities and said, "These people have got bad religion, this is bad stuff for our city. It's not helping us at all and you need to get rid of them." And these guys are housing those bad people, and they're wanting to beat him up and they're wanting to imprison them. And literally, the guy that was hosting Paul, he actually paid off - he paid a fine to the authorities so they wouldn't come against them. And Paul disappeared from their midst and went on to the next town to share the gospel, knowing that his presence was not helpful in the building up of that church, it was more of a detriment than a benefit. And so, he had to abandon them right after he had planted the church. And he was really concerned, how are you doing? Are you okay?
"And I sent Timothy," he says, he sent young Timothy; his protégé in the faith was growing up to be a pastor. And he said, "I sent him to go see how you guys are getting along." And so he was caring about them. He wondered if they had even survived the persecution. He was wondering if our labor was in vain. There's pastors that have been called to plant churches, they planted them and then they move on to the next church and they go back and they find that there's a church there, and sometimes they find there's no church there. In Ecuador, it was so clear when we were... and by the way, some of you knew that my daughter and I were praying about going to Ecuador. And that actually disappeared that we're not going to go to Ecuador this week on a mission trip with another church in Evansville. We had talked about doing that and was trying to get Janae to the country. I've taken all my kids there and this opportunity presented itself, we thought, but there's political unrest, there's civil unrest, and so it's not safe for us to go to Ecuador right now so that's on hold.
But I remember being there and we would share the faith and we would start these little churches. We, the teams of people, and I was just part of a little tiny cog and a big wheel of cogs of activity, that we would go in there and we would go up to this mountaintop area and say, is this church even here still? Are they still meeting? Are they still gathering for worship? Are they still following Jesus Christ? And sometimes we'd see them flourishing and sometimes we'd see them struggling. It was kind of a back and forth thing. In one church, they kept abandoning so much that Dave Wilson, the missionary finally said, "Look, you guys are going to have to decide whether you're going to follow Christ or follow culture, your choice. I can't keep coming up here if you're going to just only do things when I'm here and do nothing when I leave." And he said, "There are people that are hungering for us to be in their cities. And if you don't hunger for us to be here to grow the church, I'm going to have to find..." It was a heartbreaking tearful moment when he realized these people really don't want a church; they just want him to show up once in a while.
And it was heartbreaking to see the investment that was made, that there was no spiritual activity to show for it after the fact. Paul didn't know if they were going to survive. In 2003 when we launched St. Joe Community Church, we had no idea what God was going to do. This is like parenting. When you have kids, you raise them up, you help them to find God, you help them to grow in their faith, but at the end of the day, we all have freedom to choose whether we're going to follow God or not follow God. As Grant was getting married to Sarah, I said to my son, "You know, I look..." He says, "Man, thank you, dad." And we were having those moments. I teared up a little bit - a lot, and it's like emotional and it was fun. And it's like, "Oh, it's my second born son getting married. Oh my goodness, what's this all about?"
But I said to him on more than one occasion, and I believe I kind of said it that weekend, or maybe over break this past vacation time, I'll know that I've done my job, if God gives you kids, follow God, because you've passed on the faith that I've given you to them. And maybe even more so, great-grandchildren, if I'm alive then, I probably won't be. But if I am, that they're growing in their faith. But I have no control over that; I have no control over that. And so, you do what you're supposed to do; Paul did what he was supposed to do, plant the church and hope that God did the work. And He did. This church was flourishing. It was happening and He was excited about it. But a good leader cares well for their church.
If you're a leader in our church and all you care about is your little sphere of influence and your budget line item, then you shouldn't be a leader. It's not about having a title. It's about carrying a towel in order to serve people in Jesus name. If I were to stop being a pastor of this church, like that position, the title pastor, would I be diminished as a person or as my identity in Christ, not in my position? That's a hard one for us, pastors, by the way. When you're not a pastor anymore, does that mean you're... What's your status? It's important for us to know that it's not about what we're doing and what our title is or what ministry position is, is that what we're doing as a leader is growing the greater cause, and that is helping people find and follow and grow in Jesus Christ. And if you're in charge of cutting the grass, if you're in charge of singing on a worship team, or you're in charge of something that nobody even knows is going on in the church, but is necessary in order to keep the church functioning well; you're doing it to the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ. That's what a leader does. They care about the people they're serving, not the position they're performing in.
How well do leaders care for the church? That's a church health checkup for all of us, not just for the pastor; although I think about it often, but for all of us who are in leadership in the church. Checkup number two, what's the church's current testimony? Let's read in chapter three verse six, "But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us as we also long to see you. Therefore brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experienced before our God, because of you; as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith."
What's the current testimony of a local church? Well, Timothy came back and said, "Great things are happening, Paul. This church is flourishing. Good things are happening. They still love Jesus. They're still following God. They love one another." In fact, earlier in the chapters as I talked about it in other sermons, they were an example for other churches of how to be a church. Isn't that the kind of church we ought be that people want to emulate us? They want to say, "I want to be that kind of church. I want to be part of that kind of church family. I want that kind of church to be in my town, in my city, in my community, across town." If we were to start another church, we want one to be sort of like St. Joe, not like St Joe, but sort of like in the way in which we do things that we're spiritually healthy. And that's what Timothy is saying. There's some good things going on. They still appreciated their church planter.
It's enjoyable to go and see people from previous churches I've pastored, and we still have fond memories of our time together. I enjoy that. I still have friendships from people from my very first church. And I'm grateful for that. But I'm more grateful when I see these same people who I'm friends with growing in their faith, not just, "Oh, that was a good time. And did that. Been there. Got a t-shirt. Moving on with life." Is they're actually growing in their faith. They're still involved in church. They're still becoming what Jesus wants them to become in their own local church, beyond my presence as their church planter. These people stood firm in their newfound faith in spite of the persecution.
I imagine, we can only imagine that these prominent people who had come to faith may have lost their jobs. They lost their prominence. They didn't have their social status that they had because they were followers of Christ. And that was not popular. It's still kind of okay to be a follower of Christ in America. It's okay to be a follower of Christ in America. There's a time when it was really popular to be a follower Christ in America. There are places in the world where it is totally unpopular to be a follower of Christ. And you may even be in some work environments where it's unpopular to be the preacher boy or the preacher girl. I don't know. I know that to be true in some personal instances where I hear people talk. And so these people in spite of the cultural opposition to their faith were standing firm.
Is that true of us? Are we standing firm? Not like in some like militant, oh, there we are. No. It's oh, we love Jesus too much to abandon Him. We love the word of God too much to abandon what it says on how we ought to live our lives, and how we ought to practice our faith, and how we ought to be the kind of people we ought to be. And the citizens that we are, and the families that we are, raising our children the way we do, believing in marriage, the way we believe in marriage, believing in all the things that God has put forth in His word, the way God has put forth in his word; boldly standing even when it's unpopular culturally to do so.
What's our current testimony? Collectively, do we represent what God wants to be doing in local churches all over the world? We have our own unique footprint and fingerprints of how we do church and life. But in generally, are we following the New Testament pattern of a local New Testament church? What's the church's current testimony? Who is encouraged by our church's testimony? How have we persevered through our own oppositions and trials as a church family? If we stopped existing tomorrow, how many people outside of our fellowships and friendships would care? Would Fort Wayne notice if we disappeared tomorrow, other than the building's vacant? How little or much are we making a difference in our community for Jesus' sake will determine the answer to that question?
If you disappeared tomorrow from your workplace, from your neighborhood; would Christ's presence be diminished or would it be a non-issue? Nobody knew that you were a follower of Christ. It matters what our testimony is for the Lord. Jesus Christ. It matters that we're making a difference in our time and place until Jesus comes again. And then finally, in this checkup, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth.
What does it say in verse 11, "Now may our God and father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you." That was a personal request. He wanted to get back to see them again, and he did get to see them again, by the way later. In verse 12, this is the prayer that I believe we ought to pray over our church all the time. "And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, amen.
Real quickly, as I closed this morning, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth. We must continually grow in our love for one another. We don't come from the same political landscape from each other. We don't come from the same. We may have had diametrically different ideas within this body of how to handle this current pandemic. We may have all kinds of ideas. Some of you might be conspiracy theorists. Some of you don't believe in any conspiracies at all. I don't think anybody has a bunker, but if you do, you're not supposed to tell anybody. All I'm saying is, we don't sit here and try to figure out how different we are from one another. We're trying to figure out how we're moving together in the name of Jesus Christ together. And love, you know, we have a vision, it says, around our beliefs, we have unity. Our convictions, those core statements, we have core belief statements in our doctrine, doctrinal statement. You can learn that in the new members class that we teach, and it's just basic Christian beliefs. It's based on the word of God. It's our own way of saying what God says. And again, it's pretty common to so many churches and we have unity around that. And if somebody doesn't believe that, well, there might be nuances they may have to maybe attend a different church, but those are our unity unifying statements.
But in those areas where we don't have those unifying statements, those things that we don't openly talk about; they're the absent of conversation about in our convictions, we have agreement to disagree agreeably with one another. We don't all come at it from the same angle. Some people they strategically voted for what happened at the Supreme Court. Some people said, you know what, God's going to do what God's going to do and voted their conscience in a different way than some other people. But at the end of the day, what brings us together is our love for Christ and His word that we are all trying to be Christ-like. And we all going to answer for whatever we did at the ballot box. Not trying to make everybody toe in line exactly what you ought to do what I think you ought to do. I've said many times before; I have opinions nobody's asked me about - may not ever want to.
If you want to know my thoughts, I'll take you to lunch sometime, maybe, but up here, it's God's opinion about His word and how we move together in the spirit and the love of Christ. And we walk together in the spirit of Christ and that spirit of Christ involves loving, increasing in our love. John 13 says that we must love one another. That's how people know we're his disciples, that we love each other. We love each other even sometimes when we don't like each other, because we've got to love each other. And love is practical. It's not like a feeling. We're talking about laying down our lives for one another, caring for one another, truly stepping up to the plate. When you're going through crisis, we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow and go. Through whatever circumstance, we want to be a true body of Christ for one another. We do that best through small groups, by the way, it's hard to do just to know what's going on generally on a Sunday morning, but when your connection group knows what's going on, that's when we can really minister and serve and show God's love in a practical way.
Do we overflow in love for one another? And then finally, we need to be blameless and holy knowing that we are going to finally answer to Jesus who could come at any moment and make us accountable for our lives. We're looking forward to the second return of Jesus Christ. We're looking forward to Him finally finishing and putting a period on the end of the sentence of history in a world. Some people say, "Boy, I'm ready for Jesus to come today." Well, I am too, but you know what? I know a lot of people that aren't and they'll be separated from God forever if Jesus came right now.
Here's another scary thought. Are you ready to face God and be accountable for wherever you're standing right now in him spiritually? If he were to show up right now, have you prayed up? Have you been able to confess up and to recant and to move away from the things you know that He's asked you not to do - He's told you not to do in His word? Are you right with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you harboring bitterness and unforgiveness? How can you go to the throne of God and say, "Oh, I still hate so and so"? That's not going to fly in front of God. Are you ready to meet Jesus? I'm ready for the return of Christ, are you?
Are you blameless and holy in God? Blameless doesn't mean perfect. Blameless like we said earlier, Paul said he was blameless. It meant that he was continually confessing his sins, repenting and turning away from and re-surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. Is that where you are right now? You're ready to meet Jesus. Do you have a vision for more spiritual growth in your life? Or do you feel like you've arrived, you got enough of Jesus, now I'm going to get into little more of this, a little more of that, get a little bit of Jesus, move on? Is coming to church just a stop along the way of many things to do or does what we do here affect the rest of what you do during the week?
So, what would our church health checkup reveal? What would it look like? Jesus, you're a consultant. You're the Lord. You're not a consultant. Jesus come down here. What do you think? What do you think our church looks like? What do I look like in front of you, Jesus? Do I really care as the leader of this church the way I ought care for this church? Are we still growing in our faith in spite of the spiritual and cultural opposition that's around us? Are we really growing in spite of the tendency for people not to grow in their faith? Jesus, do we overflow in our love for one another? Or do we find getting along with people in our church a chore, some sort of a legalistic habit that we got to come up with because it's the right thing to do? Do we really love one another? Are we leading blameless lives? Are we hypocrites in real recovery? Christians or sinner, we're just saved as there's bumper stickers. You know, we're not perfect. We're just forgiven.
Well, is that an excuse to do whatever you want because you got free grace? No.
What would our church health checkup reveal? How must we grow in our love for one another in our church? What step do you need to take to be part of the love growth in our church family? What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ? I hope that you'll take this connection card and you'll let us know how to pray for you, how to encourage you that you'll go online and look at the contact information area on our website and get in touch with us so that we know how to help you move forward. It might be this altar. This could become the place where you publicly say something to God in prayer. It might be that you go back in the back and talk to a prayer team that will be waiting to receive you and to pray with you about whatever's going on.
Let's just honor God with whatever decision we make, that might be the example that He wants for us to be here in little old Fort Wayne, Indiana. Father, God help us to step forward in our faith and to honor you with our lives. For someone this morning, it might be for the first time they put their faith in you. And that would be their first step to tell the world that they're a Christian and have the courageous bold step of getting baptized. I pray that they will identify themselves this morning if that be their need. And for all of us who know you, I pray that you'll show us how to take our next right steps. Maybe someone's contemplating their faith and they're still not there; I pray that they would just hang on and keep coming and learning and growing and being around us. Not because we're special by ourselves, but because we follow one who is so special and worthy of our worship and adoration. I pray that our lives will be an example and a testimony that will cause them to want to know you. I pray these things in Christ's name, amen.
Thank God For Godly People!
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
June 12, 2022
Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
-Paul, with others, wrote this letter to the Thessalonians
-Thessalonica- 100k people, affluent, peaceful, idol worshippers
-They did not enjoy religious freedom, as we discover today
-Acts 17:1-4 Paul shared the Gospel, several people believed
-Acts 17:5-10 Paul left after three weeks due to a riot against
Him, which he refers to in today’s focus passage
-This church was growing spiritually, highly encouraged Paul!
Who are your spiritual encouragers?
-Christian leaders, friends, family members
Who is thankful for your spiritual walk with Christ?
Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians!
-1 Thes 1:2
-1 Thes 2:13 That is why we constantly thank God…
-refers back to 1:7-10
-and now he continues his complimentary words to them
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
1. Godly People Trust the Bible Vs 13
-they “received the word” as “the Word of God”
-God’s Word was changing them! “works effectively”
What is the Word of God/the Bible?
-John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God.
-Jesus is the living Word, our perfect human example!
-2 Peter 1:21 …no prophecy ever came by the will of man;
instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by
the Holy Spirit.
-God caused people to write exactly what He wanted us to
read, know and obey
-2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed (inspired by God)
-Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and effective and
sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as
the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able
to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
-The Bible powerfully changes the core of our being!
-Godly people want to know and obey the Bible
-they compare all other claims of truth against the Bible
-they reject all other claims that contradict the Bible
2. Godly People Set the Example Vs 14
-They “became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus”
-they set an example as a whole community, not individuals
-You and I aren’t examples for churches by ourselves
-United obedience to God’s Word shows the world that Jesus
is building His church!
-The miracle of the local church is that, in spite of our humanity,
she still exists all over the world!
3. Godly People Endure Opposition Vs 15-18
-The Thessalonian Christians were persecuted by their own neighbors and
-John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may
have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be
courageous! I have conquered the world.”
-Jesus suffered, we will suffer! Jesus forgave, we must forgive!
-Real Christians endure opposition and persecution
-Opposition is Satan’s effort to keep people from finding God!
-Vs 16b “wrath has overtaken them at last” God will be their
ultimate judge for stopping people from finding Jesus
-vs 18 this opposition kept Paul from being with them
4. Godly People Desire Eternal Rewards Vs 19-20
-Paul described the Thessalonians as his “crown of boasting”
-Who is following Jesus because of you? New believers will
forever testify that you and I were “witnesses” for Jesus!
Thank God for Godly People!
-who do you thank God for?
-who is thanking God for you?
The apostle Paul wrote this letter, we know now as they may or may not have understood that God's spirit was giving them a special unction and understanding to write what was inspired by God for us to have for all eternity, until Jesus comes. It is our guiding light, our guiding textbook for how to be a local church. There are many, but this is one of the letters that God preserved over time for us. But he wrote this letter specifically when he wrote it, he wrote it to Thessalonians; those who were living in the City of Thessalonica. Thessalonica had about a hundred thousand people, they were affluent, they were peaceful, but they were idle worshipers. They were pantheistic. They were multi-religious.
And in fact, we're going to see here in this passage, it's highlighted the fact that they really didn't enjoy, at least the Christians didn't enjoy religious freedom, like we would understand today. So, maybe many things that we know to be true about - maybe two to three times bigger than this city, but very similar in this metropolitan feel, at least in our way of being that kind of a city. And politically free, there wasn't some - even though Rome was very much in charge of that region and that land and that time, they were the Roman empire; they had relative freedom to govern themselves just like we in Fort Wayne would have that freedom. We will see and we do know that, and they were intolerant of anyone who said, this is the one true way. And of course, that's kind of similar to us today that someone would say, this is absolutely right, this is true, the Bible is true, which means all other faiths are false. You can't logically or mentally say, this is true, and this is true.
And so, the anyone who would say, when you say I am the way, the truth in the life, no one comes to the father except through me, Jesus Christ. There are some in our city and some in our region, some in our country that would say you have no right to believe that, and you have no right to impose that understanding upon our society. And so, we have vestiges of that, but this particular city, there were mobs of people that would riot and actually threaten to physically harm people who said such things. And they did.
We know that the backdrop of this, if you want to do a little history or study or comparison in Acts 17, this is the description of when Paul first went to Thessalonica and shared the gospel, and when several people believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then we see in Acts 17:5-10 where he left due to the riot against him. And it's, of course, we're referring to that in today's focus passage. But in spite of the opposition, in spite of the persecution, in spite of many people probably losing their positions of prominence and popularity, the gospel flourished and the church was birthed, and not only was born in that city, but it was thriving. It was so thriving that Paul wrote this letter as an encouragement to say, you guys are getting it right and I am so thankful for you. And that's why I have chosen this because I say, I am thankful for my church family, and I'm thankful for what God has and is doing in and through us.
Now, we're always one decision away from chaos. Don't get me wrong, but at the same time, we need to acknowledge and celebrate. And as I had one friend of mine, he's actually in Ecuador right now with one of our local pastors, Bobby Pells in Evansville as a pastor. And Steve Johnson is a pastor at Waynedale Baptist Church, and they're now on a teaching tour through Ecuador from the west coast all the way into the mountains. And I think they're heading over to Coca in the jungle for their final stint of two days of preaching to indigenous and rural preachers. And as they talk about - Bobby will say to me, "I don't celebrate well. I'm always looking to the next; I'm always looking to the next." It's almost like athletes do that. They're all excited about the trophy they received, but they're already thinking about next season how they're at the bottom of the pack one more time. Or they're at target to be knocked off because they're at the top of the pack right now.
And so, sometimes even in Christian circles, we just don't celebrate well the successes that God has given us because for some reason, we think that's prideful to say, I'm so thankful for all the things that have happened well. And if you're becoming prideful, that's a bad thing and you shouldn't do that, but it shouldn't preclude us in fear of being prideful. We need to at least acknowledge, I'm grateful that things are going well. I'm grateful that things have happened in a good way. I acknowledge that everything didn't happen the way we wanted it to, but a few things turned out okay, and God is good. And so, that's why I felt like it was important for us to read through this letter and extrapolate from us some things we can learn and grow from and be encouraged by today.
Now, I have a question asked as we move forward because my title was, "Thank God for Godly People." Who are your spiritual encouragers? You might want to write down a note of someone in your life that's a spiritual encourager. Maybe they're hopefully alive so that you can actually thank them and say something to them. And maybe they've gone home to be with the Lord and you need to thank God for them, and just pause and say, thank you God for that person in my life. I have a picture of someone on my desk that has gone home to be with the Lord that in his own small way was an encouragement to me. Not only was he an encouragement to me personally, but one thing he was encouraging to me about was he finished well.
He continued to fight the good fight, he continued to run the race with endurance, and he made it to the end without any kind of scandal or specific thing that was revealed later about him. Even after his death, there is nothing that has been said or could be said that has been found out that would absolutely cancel his ministry life as a pastor. Not only in our city, but in Portland, Indiana and in Muncie, Indiana and multiple other areas where he served the Lord, mentored young men in the Lord and finished well, the race. There are people like that in my life. I think of Brother Miles Seaborne; his wife just went home to be with the Lord this week. Did you know that? Talking my wife there, but Jeanie and her husband, Miles, were very encouraging to us when I was in seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. And I will be forever grateful for brother miles and what he did in my life.
Brother Horton was a good person in my life. And I remember Mickey, Mickey was just, and I say was just, he was a Sunday School teacher, blue collar worker that just opened up the word of God in my ninth, 10th grade class, Sunday School, each Sunday morning, faithfully teaching us the word of God. And there are things that he shared with me that I even use for illustrations today when I'm teaching the word of God. Just faithfully teaching the word of God to me, and I probably fell asleep occasionally. I probably didn't pay attention all the time. I probably wasn't the best student for him, but God is my witness, I can look back and know that in spite of what I wasn't, he continued to be a faithful witness of the word of God to me. He was a spiritual encourager. Who is that in your life that you can point to? Write that name down, find a moment sometime today or this week to thank God for them and to reach out if they're still alive, and thank them personally?
Who is thankful for your spiritual walk in Christ? Did somebody, if I were to say this to enough people, to a crowd of people that knew you, would they write your name down as a spiritual encourager? Is there someone in your life that you have influenced towards Jesus Christ that they would say I'm grateful for that person and that they would name you as that person? And I say that to say that Paul is talking to this church because he's saying you guys were those kinds of people. I'm thankful for you. You are something that I celebrate an eternity with and for, and that's the kind of people that I want to be. That's the kind of people that I want us to be, and that when people think of people from St Joe Community Church, they think of refreshment - cups of cold water in Jesus name, speaking the truth in love, not just speaking the truth and not just living in love, but speaking the truth in love, the combination, encouraging people in their spiritual walk.
Paul thanked God for Thessalonian Christians. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2, it says, "We always thank God for all of you making mention of you constantly in our prayers." And in the very beginning of our passage this morning, he said, this is why we constantly thank God because when you receive the word of God that you heard from us, you welcome it, not as human a message, but as it truly is the word of God, we thank God for you." And now he continues his complimentary words to them. And so, let me read for us 1 Thessalonian 2:13-20, "This is why Paul is saying, we, his team, constantly thank God, because when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as a human message, but as it truly is the word of God, which also works effectively in you, who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God's churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. They displeased God and are hostile to everyone by keeping us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. As a result, they are constantly filling up their sins to the limit, and wrath has overtaken them at last. But as for us brothers and sisters, after we were forced to leave you for a short time, in person, not in heart, we greatly desired and made every effort to return to see you face to face, so we wanted to come to you. Even I, Paul, time and again, but Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus that is coming? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
Thank God for godly people. Thank God for godly people. They're the kind of people that we want in our lives. They're the kind of people that you want as a pastor to lead. They're the kind of people that as a people of God you want leading you. They're the kind of people you just need around you. You need around a few godly people so that you can endure a bunch of ungodly people, a bunch of ungodliness that works around you. Whenever I was at Ball State, I was in the marching band, and that was quite a Motley crew. And you just kind of knew which bus to not get on if you really wanted to stay away from what you shouldn't be doing.
And I remember my junior and senior year thinking to myself, well, first of all, I was thinking to myself, my girlfriend's in the band, I'm going to go in the band. Of course I am, because free trips to all places and be with my girlfriend. But having said that, I also thought to myself, is there a Christian group of people? Are there some godly students who are in the band that I can actually hang out with so I don't have to continue to endure a bunch of ungodly people and be pretty much a loner when you go on trips? And we went to places like Niagara Falls; we went to see the Buffalo Bills play and we played. At halftime we went down to the Cincinnati Bingos. We went to different road trips as a band, and that was part of the fun is you get free trips to go places and you get to play awesome music with a bunch of people that are really talented, much more talented than I was. But in spite of that, it was just good to be around people who were godly.
And it just invariably worked that each year I would find our group of people, and it was a varying degrees, but for the most part, we all remembered the trip. And we all wanted to enjoy the trip without doing things that were not only a little illegal, but we're definitely self-abasing and things that just would not have put us in a spot where we would've been honoring to God. Now, I'm not going to tell you that I was perfect; don't get me wrong. And I'm not here to tell you that I had it all figured out. I'm just saying that I needed those people around me so that I wouldn't keep doing the things that I in the flesh wanted to do. So, don't sit here and look at this halo guy. Let's look at a guy that was desperate to be around people so that he wouldn't do the bad things, okay. Let's just get that straight.
But here's the kind of people that we thank God for. Godly people in verse 13, it shows trust the Bible. Paul says they receive the word of God - receive the word that they gave them as the word of God, not as a human message. God's word was changing them. It was working effectively, he says in his letter to them. It works effectively in you. You're changing. You're becoming something different because of God's word in your life. Now, what was the word of God for them? It was the Old Testament for the most part, but there was no inspired... this letter was coming to them, but this letter had not yet come to them so they didn't have the inspired word of God. They didn't have, I mean, the inspired New Testament. They didn't have the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we have in our Bible. They had the Old Testament; the Old Testament was changing their lives.
How many pastors and leaders ignore the Old Testament in thinking that we aren't Old Testament people, were New Testament people? And yet the church was birthed on the Old Testament, cutting their teeth on the word of God that had already existed and always will exist just as much as the New Testament, but the New Testament was not yet in their hands. As they were studying this word, it changed them. It made them into the person that God wanted them to become. Now, what is the word of God? Well, let's just look at John 1:1 says in the beginning was the word and the word was with Jesus and the word was God. So, the epitome or the actually fullness of the word of God is Jesus Christ, himself. He's the living word. He's the word that he demonstrated the word of God as He walked among us as a human being. He always existed - He always will. He was God. He is God.
1 Peter 1:21 continues to give us some ideas of what the word of God is, "No prophecy ever came by the will of man. Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." God has caused people to write exactly what He wanted us to read, know and obey. And when you read Paul's letters, it certainly has his personality, his vernacular, his skill at writing. But behind what he's doing is the Holy Spirit that is helping him to perfectly say in his own way of saying it what God wants us to know for all eternity. That would be true for Paul, that would be true for James, and that is true for Peter, and that is true for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and all those who are part of writing the inspired scriptures or bringing it even at first in an oral tradition in the old Testament.
In 2 Timothy 2:16, it says all scripture is God breathed, which means inspired by God. In Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any double edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The Bible powerfully changes the core of our being. It's why it's a frightening book to people that don't want to obey God. It's why this book has tried to be banned by so many people and why we have to smuggle it into communist countries, countries that are intolerant of anything other than their own religion of communism and socialism. A country that is fully fueled by humanism; cannot stand the authority of the word of God because it jars them out of their complacency, into a conviction that makes them uncomfortable and in a way in which they would not want to live.
God's word is powerful, that's why we give a Bible to our graduates. That's why we give Bibles to people when they are baptized in our baptismal. That's why we give Bibles to people just because we give Bibles away. We just give them away, left and right. They're on the piano back there. If you want one, take one if you don't have one. If you need an extra one, take one. We'll continue to buy more because the word of God is a powerful and effective tool. It is God's tool for changing our lives for guiding us. Godly people want to know and want to obey the Bible. They compare all other claims of truth against the Bible, and they reject all claims that contradict the Bible. Godly people submit their personal feelings and opinions to the Bible.
So many times today, and I've heard it in speeches, I've heard it in commentaries, what you feel is right. Well, my opinion is what matters, even if it's against what God's opinion is. Well, we've evolved in our understanding of what the Bible says. Nothing will be further from the truth. God's word was, is, and will be. My word will never pass away, Jesus said. We don't change the Bible to fit our feelings and thoughts; we change our feelings and thoughts to fit the Bible. And these Christians, even in the midst of intense persecution, what do you mean you don't believe in all these other gods? What do you mean we're all lost in judgment of a holy God that says that what we're doing is wrong? What do you mean? Can't you just get along everybody else in our city? Can't you just stop preaching Jesus to people around you? That's just wrong for you to impose your belief on somebody. The same way that it might be wrong to impose somebody's beliefs that they can drive down a road to a river where it bridge is out, and they put a warning sign that says, "do not go, road closed, bridge out, danger." Oh, but I don't want to impose my feelings and beliefs on somebody driving their car. I ought to let them just - they need to experience for themselves whether or not the bridge is out.
If you believe something to be true and you staked your eternity on it, you don't have to be dogmatic and rude and cruel and mean, but for the sake of God, could we at least tell people that they're in trouble if they are, if we really believe that in love? But that was intolerant to people in Thessalonica. And these Christians were being persecuted for believing that. But in spite of the intense opposition to their faith, they were thriving. And Paul accredited to the fact that the word of God was actively changing their lives. It wasn't just a personal opinion that flew into town and talked to them. It's not a win some pastor or a preacher coming up here and talking that changes your life. It's the word of God that changes your life. Not only do godly people trust the Bible, godly people set the example. Verse 14; "They became imitators of God's churches in Christ Jesus." They became imitators of God's churches.
Now notice here, it doesn't say you individually became imitators of Jesus Christ by yourselves. It says that they were imitators as a community of the Lord, Jesus Christ. They were an example of what it meant to live a Christian life as a community of people, not just as individual people. Now, individuals I'm sure were powerful in themselves, but it was a community effort, not an individual effort that they said, "Oh, look what you're doing here, look what you're doing here!" It was the collective of their godliness that came together that was a powerful witness that God was at work in their lives.
You and I aren't examples for churches by ourselves. There is a movement it seems for people to have their own little theological libraries and their own little theological ways of doing things. And they're sort of like this own little enclave. Now, I am all for, and I am not against all forms of congregating together. There's large church, there's small church, there's house church, there's all kinds of ways to share the gospel and for people to thrive as a community of faith together, but the key is, a community is more than just yourself. It's a group of people coming together in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We believe in membership and covenant relationships with one another that this isn't just something we just sort of show up and we're kind of together. No, we're in this together. We walk together in the spirit of Christ.
United obedience to God's word shows the world that Jesus is building His church. And I want to say this, the miracle of the local churches, that in spite of our humanity, she still exists all around the world. In spite of our stupidity, in spite of the fact that we are all hypocrites in recovery – "Hi, I'm Greg, I'm a hypocrite." "Hi Greg." "Yeah, thank you." I think Beth gets it. This is group therapy for me. I need others to know that I am not right. Boy, I said that out loud. My daughter's like, "Yes, he admitted it." I am not perfect. Yes, of course I'm not. You know I'm not; for me to say otherwise, you would laugh. I'm becoming what God wants me to become, and it's through the local church. It's through our collective obedience to the word of God together that we become something to behold for the world to see, to be examples for other believers around the world.
We set the example when we're a godly person that people thank God for. And we thank God for godly people who endure opposition. I've been referring to this throughout the message, but the Thessalonian Christians were persecuted by their own neighbors, their own citizens, their own regional people; their own countrymen. This translation says, people in your own country, your own countrymen; your own country people. It wasn't some outside force that was coming in. It was people that already knew them that they already knew. They may have lost their jobs because they were Christians. They may have been ostracized by family members that were either refusing to agree with them and didn't want anything to do with them or afraid to agree with them because they didn't want to suffer the same intense persecution that was being thrust upon them. They endured the opposition.
Jesus warned of this in John 16:33. He said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace." You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous. I have conquered the world. I mean, when Jesus came, the perfect example - we aren't, He was, He is; the perfect son of God, who was the perfect word of God was crucified. They couldn't stand perfection when they saw it. They didn't want anything to do with it. So, don't kid yourself to think that when you begin to stand up for what is right that you will not be suffering. You will suffer the same consequences.
It is illegal for a Christian who is a counselor licensed by the State of California to obey the word of God in helping someone get out of their sinful lifestyle. They right now cannot be certified by the State of California. This is happening throughout the States and other places. If someone wants to move out of an ungodly relationship or out of an ungodly tendency, they will lose their license in the State of California. And this is continuing to happen because they don't want the Bible to be the final authority; they want humanity to be the final authority. And the question will be, as this continues to ripple through America, if it doesn't change, if it continues to run unabated; will godly people continue to endure? Will godly people endure? And it will, I think, in many ways, reveal those who are not relationally connected to Jesus Christ, but simply culturally connected to a community of Christ, but not really relationally connected to Jesus as their true Lord and savior, because real Christians endure opposition and persecution.
Now, opposition is Satan's effort to keep people from finding God. It says here, "That by keeping them from speaking to the Gentiles," in other words, there was a persecution that rose out, "so that they may be saved." In other words, Satan is trying his best to hide the truth from people who don't know it, and trying to shroud anything that the Christian community is doing and helping everybody point out all the ways in which we aren't, which we can easily do. There are many ways we aren't because we're not perfect.
One of my officer friends said it will never be perfect because you're all run by humans, and by God's grace, hopefully, under the authority of Jesus who is the Lord of our church and the chief shepherd of our church, but until we are in heaven, the church will not be perfect. And so many people are being hidden or are trying to hide the truth of God through the humanity of the church, instead of the spirit of the church. And Paul says very simply, almost like he just says, "Oh, and by the way, wrath is overtaken them at last." They're going to suffer a great awakening to their error of their ways. And at some point, God will be their ultimate judge for stopping people from finding Jesus. I referred to the idea that the county highway department decides, they say, "I need for you to go and I need for you to put the bridges closed danger signed." And that guy decides, "You know, I don't like my boss. I don't care for the county. I think they're wrong in their attitude about that bridge, and I'm just not going to put the sign up because I don't care. I don't want people to know the bridge is out."
Now, that person would be prosecuted and put in jail for a long time if somebody lost their life because he refused to put the sign up. And I think our society would rightly say he faces or she faces a higher penalty for what they did because they had the authority to do something, and they abused the authority in such a way that it took the lives of people. And I believe this is what Paul is saying, that there are people that are openly opposing the true. They're not just saying live and let live. They're not being tolerant. Its one thing to say I don't believe that, I'm an atheist, but I certainly... you know, you're welcome to believe it if you want to. I'm not going to do anything to stop you because hey, maybe it's true. And you have the right in the freedom of our country to believe what you want to believe so go for it. And here's a Bible, I don't want it anymore because I've rejected it, but you can have my Bible.
I had an atheist give me a Bible one time. She said, "My mom had this and I know you're a religious person and I thought that you might want this." And I wanted to so give it back to her, but I took it and thanks. I still have it, and I still pray for her to come to know Jesus. But these people are openly opposing the gospel so much so that they're trying their best to keep people from finding Jesus. And Paul says, there's a day when the limit of their sin will be so complete that the ultimate judge - they're in trouble. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, but he's just stating a fact.
In the midst of all that godly people, endure opposition. And finally this morning, godly people desire eternal rewards. Now, Paul explained here as a caveat here, he explains that it couldn't be with you, that I was hindered from coming because of this persecution. Some think that maybe Paul knew it was better for them to thrive in their faith as a Christian community without him being there, than for his notoriety or is Christian celebrity or whatever you might say that he was so popular for Christ that it would've been more of a hindrance than a help to the Christian Church for him to show up. But indeed he wanted to come; he sent Timothy instead with this letter.
But then he says, yeah, even though he wanted to come, don't forget who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus that is coming. Is it not you? And indeed you are our glory and joy. He described Thessalonians as his crown of boasting. And there's a whole Bible study that talks about the crowns. I mean, there's six or seven or five at least. And we talk about that - there's some ways of kind of collecting all of those Bible verses together. And if that is truly the case, I think in Revelation, it says that they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus in worshiping Him in eternity. Then anything that we receive as a reward is thrown right back at Jesus to say, the only way I was able to do this in the first place was because of what you did through me and gave me the power to do it. Our worship of Jesus is everything that we accomplish. I said that we don't celebrate success very well, but any success that we do celebrate goes right back to the feet of Jesus to say there's no way we could have been successful if it hadn't been for you in the first place. And we put it right back at him. It was all because of Jesus that we were able to do what we did.
And Paul says, "You are shining examples of what I'm going to celebrate for eternity. I'm going to celebrate you. And I wonder if Paul was thinking, we're going to celebrate together, that I can't be with you here temporarily in this earth, but forever we're going to be together at the throne of Jesus worshiping together. And wow, I'm going to say, God, you let me be part of an opportunity and a movement in a city that I just visited for three weeks, and look what happened. People came to know Jesus, and you used me to do that. Wow, God, I'm celebrating forever that these people were rescued from hell to heaven, from death to life, from just living a regular common existence on earth to an existence of purpose and meaning while they lived out their life on this earth, and I'm celebrating."
Who are you going to celebrate when you get to heaven because God used you to help them find and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior? Who is following Jesus because of you? These new believers will testify forever that you and I were witnesses for Jesus Christ. It's only two things that last forever; God's word and people. What are you investing in? How are you leveraging everything you have on this earth in order to leverage and invest in the word of God, which changes your life and people who last forever, either away from God forever or with God forever? What are you doing about it? Godly people desire eternal rewards.
Oh, I'd love to see young people get degrees, get certifications, get a welding certification, get a degree. My best friend growing up, he's got a mechanics. He's a machinist, and then now his daughter is going to go to a college on a full ride. And I can't wait to talk to him in person to say, "Wow, who would've thought a guy that couldn't stand a book." He liked standing on books to get to something else, but not read them, has got a daughter who's a Brainiac that wants to study biology and be a teacher. And he's going to go, "Yeah, I never guessed." And yet he's as smart as anybody else, he's just smart in a different way. But all these accomplishments - but you know what? All those accomplishments are great, but nothing compared the accomplishments of what you do to follow God and to help people find and follow God through whatever gifts, talents, and abilities you've done, and those talents and gifts, and those rewards that you've had that this earth gives us.
I pray that we will live for eternity, not for the finite; that we will think about how we're being an influence and an encouragement to people around us. Not so much thinking about all the people that need to bless me. Thank God for godly people. Who are you thanking God for? Will you let them know that you're grateful for them and who's thanking God for you? You said, well, I don't know who that would be right now. Well, God has given you a moment of time to change. He's given you a moment because the end of your life doesn't have to be where you're headed right now if only you will start making the change that God wants you to make to live for what matters.
Use that connection card and help us know how to pray for you. Maybe it's time to tell the world you're a Christian through baptism. Maybe it's time to take the class and learn what it means to belong to a church family. And we're not here to talk you into anything. We're just here to open up God's word and open up our lives to help you move forward spiritually one step at a time. Let's stand. Let's sing one more time. Let's strike while the iron's hot. Right now is the moment when you know what you must do. Will you make that decision? Will you move forward? Will you take a step of faith? Will you trust us even just a little bit to help you move forward to become the godly person that God wants you to become for His namesake? God help us to each take the step you want us to take to honor you to bless others and to have an eternal destiny that is hopeful, good, pure, perfect, and glorifying to you, in Jesus name I pray, amen.
A Trustworthy Leader Part 2
1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
June 5, 2022
An Enduring Letter to a Local Church
We must examine who we follow and how we lead!
-local spiritual leadership
-podcasts, online teachings
-other Christian friends
-Ray Stedman: [We must also remember that] every believer is in the ministry. We all have pastoral responsibilities. If you are a parent, you have a little flock at home to whom you should minister. This passage will help you minister effectively. Some of you have friends with whom you meet at breakfast or lunch, some of you have a Bible class in your home. This passage teaches how to be effective in any ministry, how to touch and change people.
A Trustworthy Leader part 2
1. Nurturing vs 7
-trustworthy leaders are “life-giving”
-nurturing: strengthening, feeding, supporting, increasing safety
2. Personal vs 8
-Paul and his team were completely transparent with the church
-they shared the gospel AND their living examples of obedience
-leadership reputation is built through personal relationships
-trustworthy leaders build relationships with their followers
-any leader can stray apart from real Christian fellowship
-pastors need the sanctifying work of the body of Christ as
much as any other Christian!
-My personal accountability team includes: my wife and children, our church elders, ministry team leaders, other Christian brothers in the church, certain church pastors locally and around the USA.
3. Sacrificial vs 9
-Paul’s team had to work secular jobs to support themselves
-trustworthy leaders are hard workers, selfless,
-they do whatever it takes to serve the people God entrusts
-Co-vocational ministry workers is a growing trend today
-I thank God for how He supports me and my family through
this church family.
-The Lord also used supplemental income from other ministry
work, including employment at Indiana Tech for 10 yrs
-trustworthy leaders are not lazy or freeloaders!
4. Proven integrity vs 10
-Paul appealed to what they knew about Him, what God knew
-devout/singlemindedness- holy and set apart for God’s purpose
-righteous- leaders behave well and resist lifestyles that may
distract followers from trusting and following the Lord
-blameless- not sinless, but an open and uncovered life that
continually confesses and forsakes sin
-trustworthy leaders have a track record of living openly and
honestly for God and leading with high integrity
5. Parental vs 11-12
-encouraging and comforting
-challenging/imploring people to grow spiritually and follow the
Lord more carefully
-trustworthy leaders want God’s best for their followers
-the goal = living a life worthy of God!
-leaders lead people towards God, not their own agendas!
Are we following trustworthy leaders?
-How well do we know the people we trust to lead us?
-High trust = well known people!
Are WE trustworthy leaders?
-Are we following Jesus Christ personally?
-Are we leading people towards Christ and His Word?
Today is Sunday, June 5th, 2022, and welcome to St. Joe Community Church. Today's message is entitled a Trustworthy Leader Part 2, and was delivered by Pastor Greg Byman. For more information, visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org, click on the sermons tab and find today's broadcast. So now, let's open the Bible, get a notepad and pen and prepare to hear from God's word. Here's Pastor Greg Byman.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, unpacks what it means to be a trustworthy leader. And I shared the first six verses with us a few weeks ago, and we're going to dig into 7-12 today. This comes in the middle of what we might call an enduring letter to the local church. It's an enduring letter. It was an important letter for the Thessalonicans, for Thessalonians in Thessalonica in this town that, if all of you had to say that 10 times really fast I'd be, we would let us spit in the air, so don't do it. But it was a church that we know no longer exists. Every church that was written to in the Bible no longer exists as a local congregation. But the local church continues to exist because Jesus is building His church. And it seemed in prayerful consideration and great concert of opinion and spiritual opinion, and it has been, I think, verified over time that this letter was not just to one church, but to all churches. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
And that's another whole message in itself. And how did we get our Bible? But it's in our Bible because it's a cut above in so many unique and miraculous ways above anything else that was written around that time period. And so, it's not just a letter for that church, but it's an enduring letter for our church. It's a personal letter from God that He gave to us for eternity to come, until Jesus comes again. These are healthy, biblical, good, godly instructions for every local church, ours included. And I've considered using 1 Thessalonians as a way to say God has in so many ways blessed St. Joe Community Church through a difficult time period in history.
If you're a student of the Bible, you would discover that the thons letter is actually one of the most positive letters that Paul ever wrote. One of the most negative letters that Paul ever wrote and negative as in he was really upset with them, because they were not doing some good things, was the letter he wrote to the Galatian church, to the Galatians in Galatia. And so, the letter that you never want to get is the letter, the Galatians book in the Bible, and then the letter that you really want to get that's really encouraging and wow, you guys are hitting it out of the park would be the Thessalonians letter. And I wanted to use that one to say that the pandemic had an effect on the local church all over the world. But I only know our part of the world and I'm going to say even in our particular region, and even as I narrow it down to even within walking distance of this church, churches died. They didn't make it.
Some, it was time. Some they thought they were fine, but they were what you might call in the spiritual sense, underlying spiritual health issues that were detrimental to their ongoing sustainability. Just like the virus, attacked people who more likely were affected had other underlying health problems that would cause them to go into worst case scenario. Whereas some of us that got COVID 19, we kind of like, well it was miserable, but it wasn't life threatening at that moment in our lives. And I don't understand the science of all that, but in the same way that we saw that in a biological sense in the medical sense, that was true in the spiritual sense that churches didn't fare well when they had to close and couldn't open back up.
And when the normal streams of the way you did church, they couldn't adapt as quickly. And we struggled to adapt, but somehow some way, even with the division of opinion, and even with the division of a tremendous political upheaval that took place. And while there was not a unanimity of opinion, there was a unity of the Holy Spirit that I would say was only a miracle of God that we were able to sustain and actually grow and be stronger financially, and to actually emerge as a church that's moving forward. And I say, praise God for that. I say thank God for what He did and how He has worked. And I don't understand it, and there's nothing I could have done to manufacture, Bill Wallace would say occasionally. More than once he said to me, "Pastor, just make a decision. You will be absolutely wrong when you make it, but go ahead and make it." And it's just so encouraging, but it was true.
You just don't know what you don't know when you're in the dark. We'd never gone through this in our lifetime before. Dorothy had, a hundred and six year old, she'd been through some pandemics, and she didn't even die from the pandemic. She died from old age. God bless her, she's in heaven. You know, Spanish flu, you know, all that. She saw it all. Crazy, but we didn't know what to do about it, but God was good and God is good, all the time. All the time God is good. And I'm thankful for what He did. And I humbly say that. I don't take for granted that we have tomorrow. We're one crazy situation into chaos in any church situation, even in a good circumstance. So, there's nothing like we're just like gloating, we're in no way holding it over and saying, look at us; we're saying, look at God, because only God could have done what He did.
I wanted to preach through a letter that God gave to a church that was highly encouraging, because I just wanted to highly encourage us. And I wanted to be highly encouraged. You know, I don't like reading tough stuff all the time, so that's why we're in Thessalonians for the next season here. As long as I'm preaching, I'll be going through this throughout the summer.
This second section really is a section that continues on the first one, two weeks ago. You can look at it online. You can look at the notes online about trustworthy leadership, because we must examine who we follow and how we lead. We've got to examine that. Who are you following? Who is dumping into your life? How well do you know the people that you're listening to on the podcasts? I tend to, for the most part, I believe and trust - Bot Radio Network, that was a big shout out. Tammy works there and she was here in the early service, Tucker's mom. And I've just always found good resource, you know, I'm like, if they kick him off of Bot Radio, he probably should have been kicked off. And if they're on Bot Radio, they're probably decent. Not that you believe everything everybody says about everything. No, of course not. But generally speaking, probably pretty trustworthy. But even so, we've got to examine who we follow.
It's much easier at the local level, and that's why we believe in the local church as the primary place where we go and grow together. And that's why we believe in membership in a church. And by the way, on the 17th of July, it's in the bulletin we've put a class on there, Hope It Makes. We've got a few people that can go. But on the 17th of July, right after church, we have a free meal, and then we'll dig into what it means, why we believe membership's important, what it means to belong to a local church from the biblical versus, and having a relationship with God. I says, "Well, I don't know about joining a church. I just need to get closer to God." We talk about that too.
So, that's all inclusive and it's an afternoon class. We take breaks, but we just do it all at once, so you don't come back four or five times throughout several weeks, we just do it in one afternoon. And so, I welcome you to sign up for that if you've never taken that class and explored belonging to our local church or maybe any local church. Because you'll know in that class that we take accountability seriously with our leaders. Some crazy stuff that have been happening locally, and I mean locally, like regionally; I'm not going to mention it because I didn't want to mention it, but some really bad things happen on the news. I actually got to meet with coffee with a guy that had to report it on Wayne and it's just awful. And one of the deacons - one of the elders said to me, how would we handle that? I said, "Well, first of all, we'll never handle that. That that should never happen that way."
But there's accountability. There's a structure of, yes, we are independent, we're autonomous, we don't have a Pope that controls us here at St. Joe Community Church, although St. Joe sounds like Catholic. Anyway, Jesus is in charge of our church. We also have leadership and we've made a pact, the elders and I that like, if I start saying something that's ungodly, they have the right to come tackle me. Somebody might shoot me before they tackle me. I don't know. I mean, there's just some good accountability in this room, and that should always be the case. You should never just carp blank trust Pastor Greg or any other pastor that's up here.
There's standards by which we entrust people with leadership. And it's not because we've always known them forever. Obviously, some people they've known forever, but they didn't know all of them. And so it's important that we entrust one another to thinking carefully. And I'm going to show you some ideas about that. So, you need to examine who you follow. And then you also examine how you lead because all of us are leaders. And I want to quote what I quoted two weeks ago from Ray Steadman, a pastor who's gone home to be with the Lord. As he was preaching through 1 Thessalonians 2, in his commentary he said, "We must also remember that every believer is in the ministry; not just pastors, not just elders, not just ministry, team leaders. We're all leaders." We all have pastoral responsibilities. If you're a parent, you have a little flock at home to whom you should minister. This passage will help you minister effectively.
Some of you have friends with whom you meet at breakfast or lunch. Some of you have a Bible class in your home. This passage teaches how to be effective in any ministry, how to touch and how to change people. So everybody's a leader; you always lead somebody, somebody's following you. Somebody is your shadow and you need to be very careful how you're leading them. And so these principles, while you very much have every right to hold me accountable to them and to any leader in our church, you must also hold yourselves accountable to be a better person, to be a better influencer, to be a better leader.
So, let's look at what they are, and verse seven, let me just read for us the passage and then we'll break it down as we move forward from chapter two, verse seven. "Although we could have been a burden," this is Paul talking again, we the team that came there and started the 1 Thessalonians church, "although we could have been a burden as Christ apostles, instead we were gentle among you as a nurse nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you, not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives because you have become dear to us. For you remember our labor and hardship brothers and sisters, working night and day so that we would not burden any of you. We preached God's gospel to you. You are witnesses and so is God of how devoutly, righteously and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. As you know, like a father with its own children, we encouraged, comforted and implored each one of you to live worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."
A trustworthy leader, a trustworthy leader, first of all, in verse seven is nurturing, nurturing like a mother nursing, her children - life giving; that's what a leader is, strengthening, feeding, supporting, increasing the safety of the people that they're leading. Now, in other letters, as I said, Paul in his nurturing capacity was kind of harsh. He disciplined the church. He said, I am so amazed that you have so quickly abandoned what I taught you. And that's not a very nice thing to say, but it needs to be said when it needs to be said. And sometimes the hardest thing a parent ever does is discipline their child. And yet that's the best thing they can do when a child needs discipline.
It's nurturing though, in this passage, he's like, we came here nurturing, you helping to build you up. Verse eight, it's personal. A leader is not just do as I say, but you don't need to know who I am. A leader is personal, that's why I say local leadership is so much more important than national leadership or regional leadership. There are a lot of good pastors out there that preach circles around me; that's why they're popular in the soundbites out there. But I'll tell you what; how well do you know? Are they personal? I've been in the homes of people or I've talked to people at the coffee shops and they say, "Well, I listen to so and so," and they'll bring up a famous pastor and I'll say, "You know, I listen to that guy too. I like him." And they said, "Well, that's my pastor." I said, "Oh, have you talked to him about your funeral? I don't think David Jeremiah is coming back to do your funeral. The last time you were in the hospital, did an elder from his church come by to say hi to you?" "No, that didn't happen." Okay, so he's your pastor. I would think you'd want somebody a little closer to home that could minister and care for you and be with you and walk with you through the trials of life."
Paul says I was personal. They were completely transparent to the church. They shared the gospel and their lives. They didn't just come with a word, they came with their lives. They were trustworthy leaders who were building relationships with the followers. And by the way, I want you to know something; any trustworthy leader can stray into immorality, whether a little bit or a lot. And the difference is, when that leader is in a relationship, accountability to the body of Christ that he or she's leading in and working in; we're working together. Like, I need the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through the fellowship of the body of Christ, as much as any other man in this church does. And the moment somebody stops asking, how's it going really? And not everybody has the permission to do that, because they don't know me that well, but there ought to be a man that have enough knowledge of who I am to say, how you doing really pastor? How's your thought life? What's going on? Are you going home to your wife regularly and just hanging out with family and not just doing ministry like crazy?
Now, a lot of people are saying, I want you to do more. I want you to do more. I want you to do more. Some are saying you need to do less. You need to do less. You need to do less to get home and take care of the home fire. And if there aren't people in a pastor's life doing that, that pastor's on a dangerous path. In fact, there's a book I read recently called Dangerous Calling and that whole idea that you've put pastoral leadership in some kind of a pedestal. And sometimes we do that as soon as they get out of seminary, and they have no accountability and they're expected to be this super hired holy guy that has it all together.
Trust me, I certainly didn't have it all together and I still don't have it all together, and I need real friendship. And so, my friendships would be people like, well, first of all, my wife; you wouldn't have to kill me, she would. And you'd all acquit her of that. My children, our church elders, ministry, team leaders, other Christian brothers in the church that you aren't leaders necessarily, but you can come to me and say, "Hey, I see some smoke. Is there any fire?" And then there's pastors that I talk to regularly. And during some of the crazy stuff that's been going on the national scene, I've been making buddy checks with pastors, "Hey, how you doing? Hey, how you doing?"
One guy that I know that kind of well, the leader of his ministry stepped down because of infidelity and that whole ministry, national ministry evaporated within 30 days. They will cease to exist June 30th. And I just reached out to him and said, "Hey, how can we...?" Little Indiana, I'm sure there's a whole bunch of other beautiful places in the world, but how can we minister to you? Is there a way we can just hold you tight and encourage you? He wrote me back and we'll see what happens, because there's just chaos going on. And there's people that just need to know, hey, how's it going really? And I don't know how many of my buddies, most of them have great accountability, but we all have each other. And there's some of my seminary buddies that I'll always be friends with until Jesus comes or we go home. And we just call each other and say, how's it really going?
And we get honest and real, but I need, and it doesn't replace the local accountability that you all give to me and to my life. A trustworthy leader is personal. A trustworthy leader is also sacrificial. Verse nine, what did he say there; "You remember our labor and hardship brothers and sisters working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we'll preach the gospel to you." That wording and the way it's worded in the original language, we tend to sense that... Paul, we think he was a tent maker by trade. He had a skillset that was employable outside of the congregation. And he in that situation, not every situation, but in this particular one, he determined and the team determined that they would be self-supporting and that he wouldn't ask the church for anything. And there's a brand new church. He says, "And you recall that we worked really hard. We worked during the day, we worked at night, we were busy doing the things that we needed to do to take care of ourselves even as we preached the gospel to you. Even as we planted this church, we were busy working with our hands."
Trustworthy leaders aren't lazy. Trustworthy leaders are not freeloaders. They're working hard. So many people are co-vocational, we call them. Ezekiel Easton might even be in the house right now, getting his stuff up here to get ready for worship when they meet at noon. He works a full day, 9-5, nine to a million. He has a pretty good job right now, but it's a full day's job, every day of the week, and then he pastors his church. Fernando Martinez, pastors Lion of Judah. They meet here at three o'clock Sunday mornings; they use our sanctuary - full-time job. His wife has a full-time job supporting their family, and he's a full-time pastor. There's no such thing as a part-time pastor; working the midnight, oil burning candle at both ends working and laboring for the gospel.
I've had the privilege because of the resources and the way God's blessed. I've not had to have a secular job to support our family while we minister the gospel. But because you support me or didn't support me wouldn't change the fact that I'm a pastor and I'm called to preach the gospel. And I told the church when we first started, if we need me to get a job, I'll get one. If I don't have to, I won't, but I'll follow the leadership of the church here, not me on that basis. And I did have a job for a little while at Indiana Tech and had some supplemental income, but it was more really to be on that campus in the minister and serve as a chaplain there than it was to get the income. But by God's grace, you have blessed our family that I've been able to take care of our family without doing that. And yet the same thing applies; pastors aren't lazy. Good trustworthy leadership works hard. Just as you're expected to work hard in your jobs to do a good job and get a paycheck; we work for the Lord and the Lord requires no less than our very best.
A trustworthy leader is sacrificial. A trustworthy leader also has proven integrity. And I say proven integrity because it's integrity over time. It's a track record of doing the right thing. And in verse 10, Paul's appealing to what they knew about them. You know us and God knows that we are, and he use three words; devout, righteous and blameless. Devout, single-minded. The translations would also say holy and set apart for God's purpose. They had a single-minded purpose to lead well in the name of Jesus Christ. They weren't distracted by the other things. A good soldier, the Bible says also; it's like a good soldier that isn't distracted by the things that keep them from pursuing what they ought to pursue for the kingdom that they're defending.
Devout, righteous - leaders behave well and resist lifestyles that may distract followers from trusting and following the Lord. You know this trustworthy pyramid; the more responsibility you're giving, the less rights you have as an individual. The more you have the right and the privilege and the responsibility to speak; the less you're allowed to say about what you feel. Boy, there's a lot of things I wanted to say during the pandemic online in response to some of you.
That's a joke. I have opinions. Take me to coffee, I'll tell you a few of them. I have to, some of you. I'll buy your coffee because you ought to get paid to hear what I think sometimes. But as a leader, I'm not allowed to say certain things. I'm not allowed to shoot my mouth off. A trustworthy leader doesn't shoot their mouth off. A trustworthy leader doesn't just do what they want to do with - well, I'm allowed to doesn't mean you should. There's certain lifestyle habits. I'm not a prude or a legalist about certain things. They just don't benefit me and my influence as a leader to do some of those things, so I don't. It doesn't make me better than anybody else. It's just that a righteous leader is just trying to help people be less distracted by humanity and more distracted by God.
And then the word blameless does not mean sinless. If that's the case, I need to step down right now because I'm not sinless. We're all sinners saved by grace; all of us. Nobody that stands here and speaks the word of God is sinless, but they ought to be blameless. And what does blameless mean? An open and uncovered life that continually confesses in forsake sin. Just somebody that's continually moving forward in their walk and people know it. You ask me what I get wrong. You all know what I get wrong. You know me; I've been personal with you sometimes.
And some of you don't like to know how wrong I am sometimes because you don't want to think that a pastor would do that. But the reality is that if a pastor does that and doesn't continually try to get better at not doing that; well, that's not a blameless life. A blameless life says, you know what; we trust this guy because he's pretty much walking the same direction he's been walking. And when he doesn't walk that direction, he turns right around and gets going again for God. Proven integrity! Trustworthy leaders have a track record of living openly and honestly for God and leading with high integrity. And then Paul wraps up his conversation about spiritual trustworthiness by talking about being like a father - parental. A trustworthy leader is parental. Verse 11 and 12, I'll read it again. "As you know like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted and employed each one of you to live worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
Encouraging and comforting, challenging, imploring people to grow spiritually and follow the Lord more carefully. In other words, to be worthy of the Lord; a trustworthy leader wants God's best for their followers. The goal is that all of you will live a life worthy of God. In other words, a trustworthy leader leads people towards God's goals, not their own. Now, I've had some bright ideas a few times; most of them come from the body of Christ and I'll champion bright ideas. But for the most part, the good stuff that God tells us all to do is something He tells all of us to do, not just what I get it from high, I tell you and you guys do it. No, that's not how that works. And that's a good thing.
It's sort of like the parental side of this is for instance, a dad has a vocation. He does this. He's always done this. He got it from his dad. His dad taught him how to do that, so Junior's going to do it too. I mean, that's what our family does. Movies have been written about this, books have been written about this, movies have been made where the son is rebelling against the father's plan for his life, or the father who was a pretty good athlete, and he's living vicariously through his son's extraordinary athletic abilities. And he's squashing his son's potential to be who he's supposed to be because the dad has this expectation and dream imposed upon his son or daughter. And it squelches their creativity, it squelches the dream that God has put in their hearts and rebellion begins to well up, and then you have a wonderful story that everybody goes watches at the movies.
It's a terrible story if you live in it, and some of you may have had some stuff imposed on you. Well, because I did this, this is what you'll do. I went to college so you go to college. We never assumed any of our kids would go to college. We encouraged them. We said, "Hey, we see that you have what it takes to do that, and maybe that'd be a great way," but it was never an assumption that when we first started having kids that they'd all go to college, just because my wife and I did. We gave them an opportunity, but we wanted them to have an opportunity to do whatever the Lord wanted them to do and however they were designed to live out their lives, to give a life worthy of Greg. No, live a life worthy of the Lord.
And that's what a trustworthy leader does. They lead people, friends - followers, if they're really in spiritual leadership, officially, to live a life worthy of God, not a life worthy of supporting what they think is right and wrong about how to do life. How many ever had a word from the Lord from somebody? I got something that I think God wants you to do. Boy, I get that occasionally. And there's some people in town that don't know me that well. And they always have a word for me like, "Oh, I'll pray about that. I'll pray about that. I want to hear from the Lord." And I'd prefer to not say, "Bob, this is what I think you ought to do, but here's some options. Here's some thoughts. And let Bob hear from God what he ought to do, and Judy will tell him what to do.
Pick on the couples on the front row that have been married the longest and the most successful, by the way, parental. So, I have a question as we close this morning, are we following trustworthy leaders? Are you following trustworthy leaders who are speaking into your life? Are they grounded on the Bible and in a relationship with God or are the people that you're listening to, to live your life far from God? And if they say they represent God, how well do you know them that they actually do in their personal lives? I think a lot of the problems that we're facing on the national scene could be cleared up if a few more people got more careful about their accountability to people who would help them be a better leader.
I shake my head sometimes when I see political leaders make really bad decisions. And I think to myself, does anybody have the courage to tell them that's a bad decision? Or if they just gather around a bunch of people that just say yes all the time? And it's just painful to watch how people just don't put good advisors in their lives. But you know, on the local level, it's hard to get away with that because we know people. We see them, we see them in the grocery store and we say, "Hey, that wasn't a great idea there. You know, because we have a local connection, even more so in the body of Christ, how much better can we be if we just stay close to one another, help one another, follow the Lord? And I pray that anybody who is leading spiritually can say, even as Paul did in another letter, follow me as I am following Jesus. That's not arrogance. That's just saying I'm just a conduit, and I hope I'm a clear window for you to see Jesus through me. That won't be the case every day, that won't be the case every hour, but on a consistent basis, trustworthy leaders, that will be the case over time.
I wonder if we could just stand right now, and I don't know where you're at spiritually. Some of you, you're not following God at all, and maybe I don't know that for sure, but I just wonder in a crowd what God might be saying to you. Have you put your faith in Christ, the one true leader, the one true God, the one who leads us to the father, who died for your sins, that if you'll put your trust in Him, He'll give you the power to live a life you could never live without Him, or live a life that's worthy of God? Will you put your hope in Him and trust in Him today? Use a connection card or get online electronically and tell us, hey, I'm ready to put my faith in Christ.
Or maybe this morning you're a follower of God and it's time for you to up your game and move forward in a fresh way; to be more accountable, to be more in the body of Christ in a fresh way, just reach out. Our prayer team would love to pray for you and encourage you in whatever way that God is speaking to your heart about what you need to do next to grow in your life and your faith. And I just pray that you will pray for me. And even as I continually pray for you all that, I will not just start well, but finish well. Some of you have stories that you said, well, I didn't start very well. I don't care how you started; I care more how you finish because your past is not a determination of the future; the Holy Spirit is. Amen. He is our future. And so, as much as I pick on Bob and Judy down here, they need to finish well. We need to pray for them to continue to be an example of Christ until they go home to the Lord years from now. I pray that, because no one is out of the woods until we're in heaven. So pray for one another, encourage one another, build up your trustworthiness even as you follow people who are trustworthy so that we all live lives to the glory of God worthy of God.
Thank you for joining us today. For more information about the St Joe Ministry, visit www.stjoecommunitychurch.org or call area code (260) 471-4704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are looking for a church home, St. Joe means for worship and fellowship each Sunday morning at 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM. St. Joe is committed to your wellbeing and safety. For the latest policies regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, please visit the COVID section of the St. Joe website. Thanks again for joining us and we'll see you next week.
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Today’s message is entitled Encouraging Word and was delivered on Sunday, May 15, 2022 by Greg Byman.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
May 15, 2022
Letters change lives
Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
-Paul, with others, wrote this letter to the Thessalonians
-Thessalonica- 100k people, affluent, peaceful, politically free,
full of idol worship, not unlike many USA cities today
-Acts 17:1-4 Paul shared the Gospel, several people believed
-Acts 17:5-10 Paul left after three weeks due to a riot against
Him, which he refers to in 1 Thes 2:17
-Paul sent Timothy to encourage them 1 Thes 3:2
-This church was growing spiritually!
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Hello! verse 1
-Common form, similar to Paul’s other church letters
-a bit brief, maybe because he knew them so well
-Father, Lord = phrase denotes them as co-equal
-Grace to you and peace-
Prayer of Thanks verse 2-3
-Paul prayed for them regularly
-Paul thanked God for their testimony
-work produced by faith- faith prompts work
-we don’t work to earn God’s favor or keep our salvation
-we don’t work so God isn’t disappointed (we’d never win)
-labor motivated by love-
-illust: duty vs. delight- we serve because we love!
-endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
-who is thanking God for us?
-I thank God for St Joe Community Church!
Supernatural Response vs 4-6
-Paul reminds them (side note) they are “loved by God”
-The Holy Spirit convicted and saved them
-the Word was the Old Testament- Jesus is in every book!
-Spurgeon: “Paul came there without prestige, without friends, when he was in the lowest condition, for had just been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi and had fled from that city.”
-Their commitment to Jesus Christ was an act of God!
-Our church wants every person to follow Jesus Christ
-but we must always depend on the Holy Spirit to convict
-we must be careful not to use evangelist methods that try to
Talk or manipulate people into making spiritual decisions
-I thank God for many of you in our church who have been
supernaturally changed by God!
Inspiring Faith vs 7-10
-they became an example to believers in other places
-Their lives speak for themselves
-they turned from idols- rejected popular culture
-to serve the living and true God
-They looked forward to the return of Jesus
-the one who raised from the dead
-the one who rescues us from the coming wrath
-Who is inspired by your faith in Jesus Christ?
-what are you most known for in your family, among friends?
The world should not see its reflection when it peers into the church. Instead, it should see a kind of life available nowhere else. It should see the grace of Jesus, lavished on humble sinners, embodied in self-giving love. Our unbelieving friends and neighbors are clamoring after things that will never satisfy them. They know neither why they are here nor where they are going. What awaits them beyond the grave is terrifying, not beautiful.
What letter would someone write you?
-Would it be an encouraging word?
-What is God telling you to do right now?
In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
Numbers, The fire by night
Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice
In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
Judges, law giver
In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer
First and second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign
Ezra, true and faithful scribe
Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He's Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song
In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Isaiah, He's Prince of Peace
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire
In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirits power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He's the Lord our Savior
In Jonah, He's the great missionary
In Micah, the promise of peace
In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He's pleading for revival
In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage
In Zechariah, our fountain
In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah
In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven
In Romans, He's the grace of God
In Corinthians, the power of love
In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin
Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servants heart
In Colossians, He's the Godhead Trinity
Thessalonians, our coming King
In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He's our mediator and our faithful Pastor
In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant
In James, the one who heals the sick.
In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd
In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride
In the Revelation, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords
He is, He is, HE IS!
The prince of peace
The Son of man
The Lamb of God
The great I AM
He's the alpha and omega
Our God and our Savior
He is Jesus Christ the Lord
And when time is no more
He is, HE IS!
1 Thessalonians is where we're going to be. And whenever I'm here, unless the Lord leads a little differently, we're going to be preaching through this letter that Paul wrote to Thessalonians in a city called Thessalonica. And this morning's message is called Encouraging Word. And that's pretty much what you could say about this entire letter is that it is an encouraging word to this church.
Now, Paul wrote letters to a lot of churches and they weren't always so positive. This one is incredibly positive. And I actually selected this... I felt led and I just made a choice and didn't sense it should be any differently. But I chose to walk through this letter and preach through it because I want to remind you at St. Joe Community Church, that God has done some amazing things. And He has brought us through some very difficult waters as a nation, as a world and the political scheme. And in spite of all the ways in which our country and our world seems to be dividing and devouring, we have hung on. And I believe it is the power of the Holy Spirit that's at work in this church family. This isn't anything; this isn't some masterminded wonderful leadership plan that I had.
I was praying often that we would just get through the storm of all the different things that were dividing our country that still continues to divide people, that we would find a way through the thick and the weeds, and find a way to still be glorifying and honoring to Jesus Christ, loving one another, and being a witness to our world of the power and the grace and the wonder of Jesus Christ. And this letter was a letter that was sent to the Thessalonians and a particular time period, probably in about 40 AD. It was one of the earliest letters that Paul wrote. Not long after, of course, Christ crucified, rose again, ascended into heaven, the church is birthed. And then the missionary journeys of Paul began after his radical conversion. He was actually against the church. He was a very devout Jew who felt like the church was an aberration. It was heretical. It was ungodly. And he was persecuting and even saw and oversaw the execution of Christians, and the imprisonment of Christians.
God got ahold of his life and Jesus appeared to him directly and said, what are you doing Paul? I'm paraphrasing. And it changed Paul, became physically blind. And at the same moment that he became spiritually awake and could see that it was Jesus, who was the one true God, the savior of the world, the risen Christ; he became physically able to see again, and he became a powerful force to be reckoned with on the scene, not only in the Jewish culture, but around the entire region of the Roman world. Churches were planted all over that Roman world. And they all had the fingerprints of Paul, the church planter.
The church of Thessalonians was no different. It was a church that was planted. And now he's sending a letter back to this church, talking to them and encouraging them about their lives and about what he's seeing is happening in their lives. You see, letters changed lives. How many of you have gotten an old fashioned handwritten letter on paper within the last six months - anybody here at all? Just a few of us. How many have gotten an email in the last six minutes? Yeah. How many, you received a letter from somebody that cared about you and you care about, and it was just like, you've kind of kept it for keepsake. It's like safe keeping. It's an important letter.
I have a shoebox full of letters from my girlfriend who is now my wife. Yeah, still have those. And I have the acceptance letter - how many have gotten an acceptance letter into job or college or something like, yeah. And that's kind of special. Sometimes you frame it and you go, "Look what, somebody actually cares about me. Look at this - besides my mom." How many have gotten a mom letter, you know, letter from your mom? In college, I used to get scraps of paper. It would be on the backside of her shopping list. She'd be done shopping and then on the other side, she'd be in the card. She'd scribble a note and throw it in the mail to me. And sometimes it had some other paper in it called money. That was nice. But thank you, mom. She watches us all the time. So, thank you mom, for all those letters.
And I have some letters from my grandmother, and they're just special. My grandmother is with the Lord now. And they're things that, I even have gotten a letter or two from my son who has found the old art of letter writing. And some of you have gotten letters from him. I don't know who all, but he is a letter writer. And so, I thought that's - and you actually can read his handwriting. I think his mother taught him how to write properly, not his father. Letters changed lives. You know, sometimes they just... how many have gotten an anonymous letter and it wasn't so fun. Oh, not very many leaders in the room. I don't know.
I've gotten a few of those. There are worth as much as a cheque that's not signed, right? I mean, you can't cash a cheque that's not signed. And I usually don't in on the advice that's given to me by an anonymous letter, because oftentimes it's a letter that doesn't have the courage to tell you who they really are. And I usually just throw those away. Sometimes I read them, I'm just curious, how bad is it? Pretty bad, okay. And I usually don't pay attention to it after that. So, if you want to write me a letter and you care about what you think, and you want me to care about what you think, put your name on it. Give me that much respect. I will talk to you about it. I don't mind somebody disagreeing with me; I just like to know who it is so we can talk about it. And maybe we still won't agree with each other after we talk, but at least we can be agreeable even as we disagree. Anyway, that's just a little note there.
You know, they don't even publish anonymous letters in the newspaper because you got to own what you believe if you believe it, if it's good or bad. Letters change lives, and these are important in our lives, and this letter is no different. And this letter, unlike maybe many other letters that Paul may have written in his lifetime to churches, this letter is not just a letter to Thessalonians, but this is a letter to St. Joe Community Church. And what we're going to do throughout this series is we're going to say, what did that letter mean and how did they receive it when they were in the first century in 40 AD? And what were those things that were important to them? What are those things that are always important to every church in any generation, in every single culture, and then what should we do about it? We all, I mean, like do the right thing.
That's an enduring statement; don't steal, don't commit adultery honor, your father and mother, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul strength and mind. These are enduring things, that whether you're in the first century, second, third, fourth, 19th, 20th, 21st century, or future centuries that you and I won't be alive for, these will be truths that are true that we ought to live out in our lives, no matter what. And that's what we're going to try to find in this letter. What are those truths that will always be true, that were true for them, but were also true for us?
Now, this letter that was written was written to a church that was in a town of about a hundred thousand people. Now on that day, it would be like - that's a major city. That would be like Indianapolis in the mindset of the people of that day. The cities just didn't get very big, and this was an amazingly large church. It was a pretty affluent church. It was full of pagan worship, lots of idol, worship, all kinds of pantheism, multi-gods all over the place. It wasn't just like, oh, we are a city of churches here we call ourselves. Well, it was the city of all kinds of different religions. That's the reputation. Pretty free, politically. They were under the Roman rule, but they had a lot of freedom, and so there was very little military oversight. It was just a very free society and a lot of exchange of ideas and thoughts and commerce. It was probably a very easy city to live in.
Paul shows up, and in Acts 17, if you want to read the story, he's running for his life because in Philippi, he was beaten and he had to run out OF town in the darken night. He comes to Thessalonica, and for three weeks he goes to the synagogue; there was a Jewish enclave there, and he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, he didn't have the New Testament, because he was actually inspired later to even write this letter to them. He had the Old Testament, and Jesus is all over the pages of the Old Testament. That's how they know about Jesus is because of the prophecies and everything that was said about Jesus in the Old Testament. And there's actually a song that if you looked online at my notes, I actually, in the second page of my notes, I actually printed out the lyrics to a song called "He Is" by Aaron Jeffrey, back in the nineties. And I won't read it for you now, but they point out in their song every single book of the Bible and how Jesus can be reflected or the foreshadowing or the prophecy of Jesus is in every book of every Old Testament book that we have.
And Paul was reasoning with them in the synagogues about Jesus Christ, and it says that a group of people came to know Jesus, including several affluent, prominent people; and especially some prominent women who came to know Jesus as their Lord and savior. They were converted, and then a riot breaks out. They didn't quite like what he was doing. Paul's kind of whisked away from the home where he lived, but they get to this place and they pull out the homeowner and say, what are you doing bringing this [Charlot10:52] in here preaching a different gospel, [unclear10:55] story. It's going against all the things that are happening in our city, and it's certainly against the Jewish culture. What are you doing? And they were going to beat them, and finally this guy pays them off and says, don't do that. He pays a fine to the government and he releases them. But then Paul, in the darkness of night, once again is whisked away, away from the city so that his life is not taken or he is not imprisoned or beaten.
And yet in spite of that difficult circumstance and even the short time that Paul was there, the church was born. And now Paul is writing to a church that's actually thriving spiritually in spite of the persecution and the difficulties. And the fact that many of the people who were affluent and prominent in that city were now looked down upon. I mean, they went to the networking group for their business and they said, "Are you one of those Jesus freaks? Get out of here." And they've lost their prominence. And in spite of their loss of social status, and the fact that so many people in that city did not care about the Christian faith, this church was hanging on and it was growing, and their faith was inspiring, not just around themselves, but throughout the region.
Well, let's read the story. Let's read the first chapter as we immerse ourselves in this church that Paul is writing to. It says here, "Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of Thessalonians in God, the father and the Lord, Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace." So, let's just break this down. I'm going to read this little by little instead of last service I read the whole thing. Let me just read it in pieces. Verse one is basically the hello, the hello part of the letter. And in those days, the hello part of the letter, would be a part of the letter that was a lot more of flowery or it was much more wordy. And in fact, some of the hello parts of Paul's letters would also include his little LinkedIn bio. "Hey, I'm an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have the authority to come to you and talk to you about these things." But he didn't say that in this letter, he kind of just says, "Hi, it's Paul and my gang here, Silvanus and Timothy. And we're just wanting to write you a note and grace to peace to you." Just a real simple. It must mean that Paul was well known to them, was well received by them and had a lot of trust built between them.
And then he goes on to say in verse two and three, "We always thank God for all of you making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall in the presence of our God and father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." This is a prayer of thanks. He's saying I pray for you all the time. And here's some reasons why I'm so excited about you guys. You have a faith and that faith produces work. You actually live out your faith. There's product in this. It's not just a word only; your faith is action oriented.
And isn't that what a church ought to be. We ought not just be a holy huddle where we say some words and we have some ritual and I don't mind ritual. Ritual's a good thing. We have our own non-traditional looking ritual as a church. It's a pretty much the same rhythm. You come here and you kind of get it, but it shouldn't just be that. In other words, our lives should be changed. The way you work, the way you teach, the way you lead, the way you drive a vehicle, a truck or whatever you do for a living in the service industry, serving people at their tables; whatever you do ought to be marked by the fact that you trusted in Jesus and that he is controlling your life and your work, how you love people, how you encourage people, how you forgive people and don't hold grudges.
And how you care about people is a reflection of the fact that you have a faith in God. And this faith is not - you don't work in order to keep your faith. You don't work in order to somehow impress God with how good you are as a Christian. You're just prompted because it's the right thing to do. I want to live for God. I want to love people. I want to reach out and encourage people. I want to be there for people in their time of greatest need. And you're prompted because you have a faith in Jesus Christ. And he says also that you have a labor that's motivated by love. This is kind of the difference between duty or delight. Duty or delight. It's sort of like on Mother's Day, you say, "Well, I'm going to go see mom. It's Mother's Day, I'm supposed to. Hallmark has got this thing out for us that we got to buy their cards and I'm going to get her a card, because I'm supposed to."
Now how loving is that and how much would your mother just go, "Oh, warm fuzzies, because you did this for me." Or if a spouse - husbands, if you go, "Well, I've heard in a book somewhere that I'm supposed to bring flowers to my wife. It's my duty to send her flowers or to bring them to her and to hug her once in a while." Now, isn't that just lovely? Or do you have a love that motivates you to want to care about somebody because you love them, because you want to do the right thing because you care about them? You care about your relationship with them. Your labor and caring for people is motivated by love, not by duty or it's what you're supposed to do. And then he says here, "Your endurance that is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
You see, this church was going through some tough times. And you know, we, as a church, family might go through some tough times. It might be that Christianity becomes less and less popular in America. It's very unpopular in other parts of the world. We have a very unusual privilege of it being a fairly respectable and acceptable faith. But in many other parts of the world, it is very unacceptable, and it is very much looked down upon and people lose their social status and sometimes even lose their jobs when they convert to Jesus Christ. And in some places, they are marked with a death sentence and ostracized by their family when they put their faith in Jesus Christ. And this church was going through some tough times, and their faith in God was not some kind of like fair weathered friend Christianity. They were enduring. And why were they enduring? Because they had a hope in a future that was not based on their present circumstances.
They knew Jesus was coming again. They knew that someday God will make everything right that was wrong. That God was the one they could trust in when they couldn't trust in anything else around them. Their hope in the future, their hope and the reward that we have for living for eternal things instead of earthly things; that was motivating them to endure in their faith and to endure as a church family.
I have a question, who is God thanking, who is thanking God for you? Are there people that say, "Man, I am all the time saying thank you, God, that this person's in my life." Is there anybody like that praying about you that way? Is your life so inspiring and encouraging that they're saying I'm so thankful that this person is in my life? I thank God for my grandparents. I thank God for my mom and dad and their faith in Jesus Christ. And I thank God for their encouragement that they give me and the example they've given me throughout the years.
I wonder how many people thank God that St Joe Community Church is alive and well? How many people say I'm so glad that St Joe, that Church that meets there on Sunday mornings on North Anthony, I'm glad they're around? I'm glad that for 19 years they've made it. But in all those years that they were bouncing around to different rental places, and they were in the movie theater for a while and getting sticky feet from the stuff on the ground. And the one movie theater we looked at, it's not even a movie anymore. We were looking at it and we were kind of afraid when we were turning the lights on. If we were going to see mice. I mean, it was so nasty in there, I said, "Man, if you put your Bible on the ground, like you'd lose the bottom half of it because it was just be stuck." And ladies would put their purse down there, nobody would steal it because they weren't getting it back off. You know, it was just like, it was pretty ugh.
And then we got so bad to be looking for a place to meet that my kids would go around and say, "Hey, there's a vacant building, Dad, let's check that one out." I mean, it was just like, you know you're a church planner when your kids are starting to look at vacant buildings and say, "Man, we could just make that into a church." But do people even care that we survived these 19 years? I'll tell you what you go to meetings as pastors and you hear people say, so how's it going? And that's code word and pastor life to how many people were there, was your offering good and how many people got baptized recently? It's just, you know, nickels and noses.
How many butts in the seat and how many people got wet? I mean, that's just kind of - how'd it go? It's just a big deal. Am I allowed to say that on Sunday? Sorry. And then when things aren't so good, you're listening, you're leaning into everybody else's story and you're not talking about how many people didn't come to church, and you have this game you play.
I got a friend that I talk to once a week. And when he asked me that question or when I ask him that question, I'm asking Jimmy not how many people came to church on Sunday, but how many lives, was there any mark of the Holy Spirit at work in this church? He said, "Oh, you won't believe it. Somebody, man, they gave their life to Christ several years ago and they've been dry for so many years and they're sober. Or this person over here, they finally got their life around and they got their kids back. Or they've been able to do some things over here and their lives are better because of this. Or this family, they celebrated 45 years married." Yay. I mean, we talk about the spiritual victories in our lives, in our church; that's what's more important. It's not about how many people come; it's about how many people's lives are marked by a change because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
I'm excited when reconciliation happens; I'm excited when things are going on. And I want to tell you something, you may not know this or not, but the reputation of St Joe is that she is a church that has endured through the test of time. It gets talked about. I want you to know that church family. I want to tell you that if somebody were to talk about St. Joe, they would say, yeah, I know that church. You used to be over here and now you're over here. Or I know so-and-so in your church. You know how many times I go to a meeting and they'll say, "Oh, I know so-and-so in your church." And we are not the biggest church in town by far not the biggest, yet that it seems that God has enabled us to have an impact spiritually, that I couldn't manufacture if I tried to, as a leader.
God's at work inside of your lives and people know it and recognize it. And Paul is saying this, and I want to say this to you, thank God for what God's doing in your lives here at St. Joe Community Church. He goes on in verses four through six to say, "For we know brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full assurance. You know how we lived among you for your benefit and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord. When in spite of severe persecution, you welcome the message with joy from the Holy Spirit."
He reminds them, first of all, you're love by God, He chose you, and you're following Him, that the Holy Spirit was at work and that's what changed your lives. Not my persuasive words, but the power of God. "We shared the word of God with you, but it was the word that changed your life by the power of the Holy Spirit, not just me talking you into something," Paul said. And that's my prayer here at St. Joe, that you don't try to do something because somehow we've sung a song that you got emotionally attached and you became moved and emotionally, and you had a feeling and then Greg gets up here and bam, he really hits it on all cylinders this morning. And suddenly you're going to change your life because of what happened up here. I want to see your lives change because of what happens from the Holy Spirit inside of here of each of you.
I said earlier, we're a pro-life church, and I'm praying that we will protect the unborn throughout the nation or the least that we'll have the right to vote on it. But it's not about a legal decision; it's about the hearts and souls of people believing that. And I know there might be even people in this room that they may disagree with what I just said about that. And I'm not here to beat you into submission to say, you better believe this. I want you to understand what God is saying about it. And I want you to find inform conviction based on what the Holy Spirit's saying, not what I'm talking you into.
I would pray for a supernatural response. We're not here to manipulate people to have come to Christ. We're here to say come to Christ, may the Holy Spirit work in your life, and may you respond as God tells you to follow Him and what he's telling you to do. Brae went to this conference, and he's talking about the fact that he needed to figure out whether he's a sent person or if he's the one sending people. And so, he came to me and said, "Hey, I got this six week opportunity to go to Brazil." And you know, he's our leader for the worship team. And he's like, "Is that okay?" And I'm like, "So you're trying to follow God and you believe God is telling you to do this. And why would we not help you do that?" Like, it sounds kind of crazy that someone would leave for six weeks - must be of God. No, I mean, it's kind of cool. I mean, why wouldn't you as a young man who's not married that's trying to figure out what's going on in his life and for the rest of his life, why wouldn't we support him?
And for someone just to say - and it's not a vacation by any means, he's going to be working the whole time he's there. He's signing up for something hard. That's a supernatural response. And we get behind those kinds of things around here.
See, we want everyone to follow Jesus Christ, but we're not here to try to manipulate people into following Jesus Christ. You know, I thank God for the many people in this church that inspire me to be a stronger Christian in my life. And I question is, is there someone around you that's saying, you know there's something going on in you that only can be explained that God's in you and I'm thankful for your life? Is that the way you live your life? Are there people around you that would say that about you? There's a supernatural response that took place in your life. It's not just ritual. It's not just religion. It's a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
And then they have this inspiring faith. He closes it out, and I want to finish out here this in verse seven and following as a result - "As a result of you receiving the message, as a result of you becoming a Christian and becoming a follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Ikea." That was the region where Thessalonica was - "For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Ikea, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out. Therefore, we don't need to say anything for they themselves or report what kind of reception we had from you, how you turn to God for idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath."
They had inspiring faith. They became an example to believers, not just in their town, but in towns all around them and in the region. And everywhere that they heard about this church, they were inspiring to the people around them; that they had turned from idols, they had rejected the popular culture to serve the living and true God. They looked forward to the return of Jesus Christ; that Jesus who was raised from the dead and who died on the cross to rescue us from the coming wrath of God. My question this morning is who is inspired by your faith in Jesus Christ? What are you most known for in your family, among friends, among your coworkers? Is your faith well-known?
I just want you to know that there's a fan of St. Joe Community Church in the room today. There's a guy that I can testify who watched a church go through a pandemic, where every decision the leadership made was wrong from somebody's angle. A church that didn't have unanimity on what they believed, because we had people on every side of extreme when it came to responding to the pandemic.
And then you had a church that faced a political divide that this whole nation was dealing with. And you had, again, people on different sides of the coin, and sides of the coin I didn't even know existed politically. And yet in the midst of all of that, and in the midst of what I know... look, I'm not too old fashioned. I know social media, I get on there once in a while, and I've seen some things. I've seen some things I've prayed a little harder about. I try very hard not to comment on much of anything, unless it's something positive or spiritually motivated. But I've watched this church; you didn't all agree with each other the whole time. Let's be honest. There was a lot of disagreement in this room on how to respond. But what I did see was the power of the Holy Spirit that still brought us together and kept us together. And we have not only grown through the pandemic, but we were actually financially stronger than we've ever been as a church family, which is just an indicator, it's not the only thing.
And there are many other signs that show me that this was something that God was doing to keep us as a church family, in spite of the ways in which our nation and our world have been dividing people left and right. And I thank God for that. I'm the fan of St. Joe Community Church. I'm the guy that wants to say, God bless you, and that God has blessed you. I've watched multiple churches die through the pandemic. I've seen pastors and leaders resign and get out of the ministry completely because of the situations and the fiascos that were taking place. I've watched churches, not only did they lose people, but they financially dwindled to nothing. They still love Jesus, but they didn't have any resources to keep going and their buildings are now for sale.
I've watched a lot of troubled situations take place. And I want to tell you as I go to different places, and as I network with other churches, as I go to the city prayer wide gathering that we do at the Muriel Center each month, what I hear is - God's done a special work at St. Joe. And it's not attributed because of your pastor being some special guy or your elders have got it all together. I think they're one of the best group of guys you'd ever be with by the way. But I believe it's because God in His sovereignty did a work in you all and you listened to the Holy Spirit and you've continued to listen to Him more than to the calamity that's out there.
And while we might all disagree, I've watched you more disagree agreeably than I've seen in any other church. And for that, I thank God for. I pray that we will continue to be a church of inspiring faith, not just in our generation today, but in generations to come; that the 46805 zip code, that the North Anthony corridor area, that Northeast Fort Wayne quadrant, and maybe even the region of Allen County in Northeast Indiana might be inspired. Not because we're anything special, but because we serve and yield ourselves to an almighty holy God, who is changing our lives day by day. And we have a hope in what he has for us beyond our circumstances, and that may, it inspire people of all generations to put their hope in faith in Jesus Christ even as we have done.
That's the kind of church that Paul was writing to, and I wanted to bring up 1 Thessalonian in this letter to us, because I believe that we can say... now I let me first say, as a musician, Brae could tell you how many things might have gone wrong every single Sunday in music, but most of you wouldn't even notice it. And as a leader, I can tell you five things that need to be fixed in our church. Don't get me wrong. It's not like we've arrived. We're still arriving every single day, but I'll tell you what all in all, I've come to realize that we don't celebrate enough for what God is doing. And I wanted to pause for at least a season as we go through Thessalonians and celebrate what God has and is doing in the life of our church family. And you've been a part of that.
This letter is as encouraging I hope to them as it is to you; as God's love letter is written to you to say you are an inspiring church to other people around you. So, I have a question this morning, as we close, what letter would someone write to you about your faith? Is maybe this morning, a moment where you've had a gut check to say, I want to be more inspiring; I want to be more influential in my faith? Well, what's the step that you need to take to do that? What open commitment do you need to make to Jesus this morning so that you actually are leading your family, your coworkers, your friends, your neighbors towards Jesus Christ? There's really no middle road. You're either for or against.
Well, I'm not going to make a decision today; then you've made a decision not to trust Jesus in that particular area of your life. And so this morning, what is it? I don't know what it is. I'm not here to brow beat you. I'm not here to make you do anything, but I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in this room. What next step do you need to take spiritually, physically, mentally, openly, that you might be the person that God wants to use in the lives of the people around you, and that your life would actually get stronger and better because of it as well, and it would be to the glory of Jesus Christ?
I pray you take that connection card and you put on there what it is, give it to us when you leave or put it in the offering box. Or step by, and I know Jerry and Becky are here this morning, and they're going to be behind the glass wall. And maybe you need to step back and ask for prayer. I'll be down here singing away in our last two songs that we're going to sing. And maybe you can come down and maybe you'd like to have prayer with me. I don't know what you need to do, but I pray that you won't miss the opportunity to move forward in your faith this morning.
Father, God help us to be a church, a church that continues to be a church that people are thankful for; a place where supernatural response is taking place, not just some sort of a ritual; a family of God that is inspiring to others in their faith. And it takes one person at a time to make that happen this morning. And I pray that you'll show me what steps I need to take, even as you're showing everyone else. And may we simply be obedient to what you're telling us to do; it's in Jesus name that I pray, amen.
Full worship service
B: Bible book