Upsidedown Living: Grace (1Thess 5:12-28)

Everyone talks about exercising. However, it is often short lived because of the work it takes. If all the hard work turns you off from exercising maybe you should try these:

–          Beating around the bush

–          Jumping to conclusions

–          Climbing the walls

–          Swallowing your pride

–          Passing the buck

–          Dragging your heels

–          Pushing your luck

–          Making mountains out of molehills

–          Bending over backwards

–          Jumping on the bandwagon

–          Running around in circles

–          Putting your foot in your mouth

In all seriousness, exercise is very important to the human body. Statistics say that 67% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese.[1] If we are to be healthy, fit and productive then we must be active in physical fitness. And a quick survey of any fitness expert will remind us that a comprehensive fitness program must address the various levels of training: cardiovascular, flexibility, strength, endurance, body composition and general skill training.[2]

Likewise, what is true about the physical life is also true spiritually. Our spiritual being needs attention, exercise and discipline. To be “awake and alert” (5:4-11) we must engage in spiritual exercise.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Paul gives us 17 different spiritual exercises that will sanctify our whole spirit, soul and body in order to be kept blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are not merely good ideas but commands and continuous actions [note verb tense] to implement in the Christian life.

Paul fires off commands as if today someone was firing off shots to kill a wild bear; they are numerous and overwhelming. Yet, at the end of this letter, as in the beginning, Paul writes for the Thessalonians to be filled with grace.

Grace is the foundation for all of life. You cannot get through one single day, even one single breath, without the reality that it is granted to you on behalf of almighty God. The Christian life is not merely a bunch of commands to do or not do, it is a life flowing from the unmerited favor of God. We face God in need of mercy not justice. As the Scripture says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:8) And see also 2 Peter 3:9-18 where Peter references Paul’s writings but specifically affirms our need for growing in grace. Everyone needs grace.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Paul shows our need for grace in 3 areas:

We need grace relationally (5:12-15).

Paul urges believers to respect those who labor, lead and admonish you in the Lord.  Note that these are the functions of godly elders in the church which Paul was calling them to esteem. Further, he commanded peace between the leaders and the congregation. It is not known whether there was a specific circumstance Paul had in mind here. In other letters, Paul is not afraid to name the issue. This being said, grace needs to be extended between both leadership and a congregation.

No pastor is perfect. No congregation is perfect. Therefore, it is a helpful reminder to churches to extend grace and live at peace when at all possible.[3] This does not mean we should excuse sin and avoid conflict, but it simply means God wants His children to get along.

This command goes beyond leaders but involves congregation members with each other. Paul urges them to confront disorder and care for discouraged. Every relationship should point to the grace, kindness and forgiveness that has been extended to them through Jesus Christ along with sharing the unity He shares within the Trinity.

 v.15 “always try”(NIV)  “always pursue”(NKJV) = pursue vigorously [as persecution]

–          A love that confronts: “warn the idle”

–          A love that cares: “encourage the timid”

–          A love that comforts: “help the weak, be patient”

–          A love that reconciles: “doesn’t pay back wrong”

–          A love that is challenging…

Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

 

We need grace personally (5:16-24).

Paul continues and calls the believer to embrace grace personally. This starts with finding joy and thankfulness in all circumstances. Note, Paul does not say to find joy and thankfulness for circumstances – no one is happy when they lose a job, a loved one or face any other difficulty. The point is that when we understand God is in control we can be thankful in circumstances. God will give us grace to face and endure everything:

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

“[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:28-29a – ff.).

 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Further, this grace that we need personally happens by God’s Spirit. Paul says don’t extinguish the Spirit’s fire. Don’t treat prophecies with contempt. In other words, Paul says that we must pay attention to that still small voice that speaks to us through hearing of the Word of God. Preaching is one of God’s means to instill faith and strength for our daily lives.

–          What are you doing to hold on the God’s message to you through His word? If nothing, then you’re putting out the Spirit’s fire.

We need grace completely (5:25-28).

Lastly, Paul closes his letter reminding the believers that God’s ultimate goal for their lives is sanctification – spiritual growth. That we would grow to think, act, trust and live like Jesus. And the foundation for all of it is admitting our desperate need for His faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness. Grace is required.

 TAKING IT HOME

ð     What are the benefits of embracing God’s grace?

ð     What is the danger of embracing God’s grace?

ð     Where or to whom are you struggling to share God’s grace? As you read the Scripture passages of this message and pray, how does God want you to respond?

ð     Receiving God’s grace does not leave us as passive recipients but calls us to be active conduits for it. Therefore, when we face difficulty we must understand God is working His grace in and through our lives for a greater purpose that we may not promptly see. Share a story with someone this week about how you see God’s grace personally working through your life.

ð     Pray for our church to be a place of grace: careful to condemn yet warm to welcome and display God’s deep meaning of grace which is ultimately revealed at the cross for everyone.


[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_fitness

[3] This article shares some common conflicts between pastor and congregation: http://www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.1331269/k.33C5/Conflicts_Involving_the_Pastor.htm

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