Welcome back! We are studying our way through 1&2 Thessalonians, learning God’s instruction for us as we live in days leading up to His return. If we had a theme verse for this study, it would be 1 Thessalonians 1:10:
We wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.
That’s our purpose here, friends…to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord Jesus! Our last session, Knowing the Will of God, may have seemed hard-hitting. (I’m certainly glad you came back!) Today’s lesson may have its rocky places as well. But oh my…wait for what’s coming! Paul is teaching the Thessalonians (and us!) about the return of our Savior, and it is about to get really good! So, buckle up, stick with us through one more difficult passage, then be prepared for Paul to unleash pure Biblical excitement on us!
Paul is a master at teaching believers how to live. I love studying his epistles to the saints in various places, because they teach us how to live a life pleasing to the Lord. That’s what I want…how about you? Let’s get started today by reading our passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. (Of course, I encourage you to back up and read 1-8 to get the full context!)
Today, we live in a messed up world, but the Bible is still clear in its instruction to us. For example, read John 9:4-5 and Matthew 5:14-16 and consider God’s instruction to us. Is your light shining? In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, Paul teaches us how our light should shine:
- With a Passion to Love (verse 9)
- With a Zeal for What is Good (verse10)
- With a Passion to be Godly (verse 11)
- With a Mind to Win the Lost (verse 12)
With a Passion to Love (verse 9)
Are you absolutely in love with Jesus Christ? Are you fully abandoned to Him? When we are, the fruit of our lives will prove it. Paul writes: Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you… What is brotherly love? It is philadelphia (in Greek), meaning a strong and deep friendship, to have love for the brethren. It is driven by agape love, which is unconditional and God’s divine love toward us. God demonstrated love and we are to exhibit that same kind of love.
The source of that love is mentioned in these passages. Take note of what they say:
We are able to love only when we serve as a conduit through which the love of Christ flows! Stop to evaluate. Can you drum up even a single ounce of love out of what is in you? No. Inwardly, we are selfish and self-focused. But, love is like a river flowing out of its source, Jesus Christ, into us. If we allow our “spouts” to be open, it will flow to others. The key is to keep the pipeline open! We must receive His love, and we must open up the spillway for it to flow through us to others. We can’t hoard it for our own selfish selves!
Verse 9 also tells us we have been taught by God to love. Paul is agreeing with what Jesus’s disciple, John, wrote in 1 John 3:16 and John 13:15. What’s the message? How well are you doing? Does it seem impossible to do what the Bible just taught us to do? If so, consider this. At salvation, the Holy Spirit comes into us to empower us to do what God’s Word teaches. We have a new nature. We are no longer what we used to be! A fish swims and a bird flies because that is their nature. Our new nature is to be like Jesus! By the Holy Spirit’ power, we love as Jesus loves us. Then, others recognize Jesus in us!
- John 13:34-35 – God has given us a new command to love one another. This is how all will know we are His disciples!
- John 15:12-13 – He commands us to love one another. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends!
With a Zeal for What is Good (verse 10)
Here, Paul says: “Now that you’ve got the hang of this, do it more and more!” In other words, never stop growing in your love for others. You want to be fruitful in this area? Take the 2 Peter 1:4-8 test! According to those verses, what are the things that make you useful and productive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
With a Passion to be Godly (verse 11)
Do you aspire to live a quiet life? Oh boy, how hard is that in this day and age, with so many things thrown at us from every direction? I can hardly find a moment of quiet, much less a life of quite! I fail here…what about you? Want to know what “aspire” and “quiet” mean? Check it out in the original (Greek) language, and ponder the two definitions together.
Verse 11 also exhorts us to mind our own business and work with our own hands. Paul was reminding the Thessalonians not to be like the culture in which they lived! It was a selfish culture, a sinful culture, and an idle culture. (Sound familiar?) When selfishness collides with idleness, the result is sin! However, when we mind our own business and take care of our own affairs, we have little time or ambition for idleness and selfishness. We don’t look to someone else for a handout. Paul will later warn the Thessalonians that if one does not work, neither shall he eat! (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
With a Mind to Win the Lost (verse 12)
We must be an example! We must show others the pathway on which to walk. To walk properly requires wisdom. For example:
- Can Christians drink a beer? Yes. (They may also drink battery acid!)
- Can Christians gamble with God’s money? Yes. (They may also spend their grocery money on lotto tickets!)
- Can Christians go to shady movies? Yes. (They may also stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon in a wind storm and hope they don’t fall in!)
- (Add your example here!)
But the questions are:
- Why? What reason is good enough to make it okay to walk on the edge of sin?
- Are we causing another to stumble? Immediate family? Friends? Others?
- Do these things (and others) cause you to come under their influence? ie – use them when you shouldn’t, and/or to the point you become “intoxicated” by them or dependent upon them?
- Are you able to give an honest accounting before God of the things that go into your eyes, ears and mouth, and what goes out of your hand?
Again, this lesson may have stepped on toes and been a bit rough. However, if that is the case, please heed the Spirit of God. If it is His conviction, respond to it. If it is simply projected guilt, ignore it and live in the grace that God extends to us all.
Paul’s intent in this fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians is to be the good and Godly father who sits down with his kids and teaches them how to live. Afterward, its ice cream time! Friends, big scoops of ice cream are coming! Paul is about to teach us about the rapture, but we must first know how to prepare for our Bridegroom’s coming! The bride (body of Christ) must make herself ready, but we each have an invitation to meet the Bridegroom personally! I don’t want my Bridegroom coming to find me living like the world, do you?
You have studied well, and we are about to turn the corner into Paul’s teaching about that gloriously coming day…the rapture! So stay tuned! We’ll break on Sunday for some light devotional study and perhaps some worship, but we will be right back here on Monday morning to dive into Paul’s teaching on the coming of our Lord! Stay tuned!