Friends, our journey continues and our ship is about to sail into port for a very brief stop. One day, our ship will sail right into the presence of God, and what a glorious day that will be! We have studied through the book of 1 Thessalonians, taking a peek over Paul’s shoulder as he guides and teaches the new believers in Thessalonica. Though very young in the faith, Paul built upon the message of 1 Thessalonians 1:10 to teach them about God’s plan for them.
We wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.
We have looked deep into the doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture and, as Paul closes out 1 Thessalonians, he gives clear instruction that we should worship while we await that glorious day! Our focus will be verses 16-28, but please read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 to gain the full context.
When you stop to consider “heaven,” “God,” and “eternity,” what comes to mind, and what emotions do you feel? Heaven is a place of absolute joy, it lasts forever, and God is the reason for it! Stop to meditate upon these short, but powerful verses:
Based on those verses, what is God’s heart and desire for you?
Heaven is a place filled with joy, and as believers, we should be focused there, and yearning to be there. Fulness of joy overflows when our hearts and minds are on heaven, but we lose joy when our focus turns to the things of this world. Happiness (based on circumstances of this world) is not joy. Joy is what fills our hearts when we live as people of worship; and true worship is the response of our hearts as we experience the truth about God. But we must worship according to John 4:23. Who is God seeking?
I see at least 3 keys to worship as we await our Savior’s return: thankfulness, carefulness and faithfulness.
We are to be THANKFUL to God (verses 16-18)
Those 3 verses cannot be separated! Like a three-legged stool, if one breaks off, the stool collapses. So it is with our lives! As we wait for the Lord, we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. That keeps us worshipful! However, do you stumble over the words “always,” “without ceasing,” and “in everything?” How can we do that?
We do those things only if and when we remove our eyes from our worldly existence and put it on our heavenly one! Rejoicing comes when we taste a little bit of heaven and a little bit of God’s truth. Check out these verses and ask the Lord to give you bigger bites of heaven and His truth!
Our thankfulness should come gushing out as we consider all He has prepared for us!
Praying without ceasing implies that we take no intermission, but should perpetually come to Him as waves on a seashore. We are to be engaged in “one, lifelong, uninterrupted conversation with God,” as two lovers communicating their love for one another. Sometimes they use words, sometimes they don’t, but the message gets through just the same!
When we delight in the Lord, communicating with Him is easy, and He draws us deeper into relationship with Him. Our God is a jealous God…He wants all of us! So much so, that He rewards us when we come! Read these verses and think about how God has displayed these things in your life:
Entering His presence in prayer is a natural consequence of rejoicing! One leads to the other. But the third leg of the stool is just as important! We are to give thanks in all things! Satan would prefer us to be unthankful because an unthankful heart is a dying heart! See what Romans 1:21 has to say about that. Oh, how important it is to give thanks!
We are to be CAREFUL about Worship (verses 19-22)
If God’s Word does not guide us, we have no instruction about worship! We cannot ignore the Bible and worship truthfully and spiritually. Read again John 4:23.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 warns us not to quench the Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to draw our hearts (individually and corporately) together in worship. 2 Timothy 1:6 exhorts us to stir up the gift of God. The Holy Spirit is like a fire, and when burning coals are stirred, the fire grows! We must be careful, though, that worship is done according to God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 14:40 says all things are to be done decently and in order, while 1 Corinthians 14:33 explains that God is not the author of confusion but of peace. If worship turns weird (rolling on the floor, making animal noises, drawing attention to self, for example), you can bet it is not from God.
Verses 20-21 also offer cautions. “Prophecies” in verse 20 refer not to predicting the future, but to speaking forth the truth of God’s Word. We are to proclaim the Word of God, but understand that, though God once spoke through prophets, Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us those days ended when He sent His Son Jesus to earth and spoke through Him! Be weary of modern-day “prophets.” Test everything and hold fast to what is good!
We are to be FAITHFUL in Conduct (verses 23-28)
Let’s keep this simple! God designed us in His image, but look carefully at Genesis 1:26 which tells us that. Do you notice anything interesting about the pronouns used? Who is “us” and “our?” You see, God is three-in-one (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and interestingly, He created us to be three-in-one (body, soul, spirit). Verse 23 says God Himself sanctifies us completely, in body, soul and spirit! How does He do that?
In our soul (mind, will and emotions), we are shown a need to be born again. In our spirit, we become one with Him and are saved forever. In body, we grow in Christian maturity. All are sanctifying works that set us apart for His glory. In light of our spirit, soul and body, consider these passages regarding God’s sanctifying work in our lives:
Dear friends, is your life a display of worship as you await the return of our Lord Jesus? Though we live in a sin-sick world, we are being held by His mighty hand, enabling us to prepare ourselves as the pure spotless bride He will come to redeem! Indeed, worship is our heart’s response as we experience God’s truth!
24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.~Jude 1:24
Our ship has reached port for a brief stay as we close 1 Thessalonians, so hop off, stretch your legs and enjoy a cool drink. We are about to embark on a journey through 2 Thessalonians, where Paul teaches about God’s final judgment and glory, the great apostasy, the rise of the Antichrist, and his final words to the new, but maturing, believers at Thessalonica. That’s coming, so stay tuned!