1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. In so doing, Paul gives us a vision of fatherhood that is appropriate to consider as we celebrate Family Camp. Note that Paul helps us understand the goal of fatherhood: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What is to be the goal of fathers? To live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly among those who believe. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel we are to set a standard that all others can witness and follow.
First, we are to live devoutly. We are to models of love for God, love for His law, love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God – for His law, for His people. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.
Second, we are to live justly. We are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness, listening carefully to complaints and judging justly based on the principles found in God’s word. We are not to be blinded by our own prejudices; we are not to delight in our own opinions. We are to be steadfastly loyal to the principles of God’s Word. We are to live justly.
Third, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or that we be hip or that we be fashionable or that we be politically correct or that we be conservative or that we be liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – clinging tenaciously to the Word of God. We are to live blamelessly.
This, then, is the goal of fatherhood: to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among those who believe. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.
Reminded of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and before His people, let us confess our failure to do so to the Lord. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Who is it that brings us from death to life? Last week we emphasized that our problem as human beings is not primarily our manners but our heart. There is many a man who has done “righteous acts” for all the wrong reasons.
Our problem as human beings is that we worship and serve gods other than the Living God of Scripture. These gods are idols of our own creation rather than the Living God who has created us. By nature it is to these false gods that we offer our service. Sometimes our service is crude; sometimes it is cultured; but when it is offered to one of these idols rather than to the Living God, it is despicable in the eyes of our Creator. Whether our service be given to the self-made-god of Mormonism or the world force of Hinduism or the mother nature of paganism or the narcissistic self of humanism, all such service is displeasing to the Creator.
So God is in the business not first and foremost of changing our behavior – many people who worship false gods change their behavior – but of altering our fundamental loyalty; He is in the business of changing hearts. He moves us from the worship of false gods to the worship of the Living God. As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… (1 Thes 1:9b). Christianity, as a familiar saying goes, is not first about putting a new set of clothes on the man but a new man in the set of clothes. When the man inside the clothes changes, he begins to change the clothes he wears.
So how do we change? Can we change ourselves? No – this is the true tragedy of our situation. We often sense something is wrong; we stumble through life like a man in a dark room; we bang into furniture and wound ourselves and others. And though the light comes into the world, we love the darkness rather than the light. Unless – unless – God in His mercy send forth His Spirit and give us new life, eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand what is true. Remember Paul’s words – such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. It is the Spirit who gives us new life.
So this morning, as we enter into the presence of the Living God, let us beware lest we come here serving other gods, gods of our own creation rather than the Creator of all; and let us, if we are here to worship the Living God, give thanks to the Spirit of God who has placed such a desire in our hearts. It is He who enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ and renews our wills and makes us ready and willing to obey God – including by confessing our sins. So let us confess our sin to the Lord; and let us kneel as we do so.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Paul summons us to be a thankful people, a people who readily acknowledge and praise God for His kindnesses to us. We are to give thanks, Paul declares, “in everything.” We are to give thanks when enduring trials and when experiencing blessings – in everything we are to give thanks.
So today as we enter into our new facility, a facility that we can properly call our own, it is a time for much thankfulness and gratitude. Since the planting of our congregation in March of 2006, we have rented various places in and around Coeur d’Alene. Many of us remember with smiles or with knots in our stomachs the various places God has led us over the years: the Silver Lake Motel, the Songbird Theatre, the Iva Lee Dance Hall, the Lake City Senior Center, the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Each of these facilities served us well and enabled us to gather weekly to worship the Lord together and praise Him for His kindness to us.
And here we are now in a facility that we can call our own. If we are to give thanks “in everything” then surely we are to give thanks when God sends manifest blessings upon us as He has done today. God is good and has been good to Trinity Church.
Paul’s command is directed not only to us corporately but also to each of us individually. In everything we are to give thanks, all the more so in times of deliverance and mercy. So this morning we join our voices in giving thanks for God’s mercy to the Dixons this week in their car accident. But we are to give thanks not only in deliverance but in everything. One of the lessons which our Heavenly Father wants to teach us is to give thanks not because what we are experiencing is necessarily pleasant but because we know that our Father has promised to use this thing, pleasant or unpleasant, for our good and for His glory. And so in everything we are to give thanks.
But often we don’t give thanks in everything. Sometimes we grumble and complain rather than give thanks; often we take our blessings for granted rather than thanking God for them. So reminded of this call, this call to give thanks in everything, let us confess our ingratitude to the Lord and ask him to forgive us and teach us to give thanks. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV)
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
If you’ve lived long you no doubt have come to learn that effective communication is difficult. Not only is it challenging to explain things to others, we frequently find that the one to whom we’re speaking just isn’t willing to listen. This is especially true in times of conflict. We speak to the best of our ability and it seems that our words just bounce off our hearer.
It is this dullness of hearing among his audience that Paul will rebuke in our text today. They were in danger of not understanding him – not because the subject matter was overly challenging but because they were unwilling to listen to what he was saying.
When we come to the text we will highlight the problem with this attitude when faced with the biblical text. As human beings made by our Creator, we are to listen to the Word of God and pay heed to the voice of wisdom.
But as Paul indicates in 1 Thessalonians, there are times when we should close our ears. “Test all things,” he writes. “Hold fast what is good.” We are called upon to listen carefully, understand honestly, and then test what is said, clinging only to that which is good. This implies, of course, that we are to reject that which is evil. So how do we distinguish? We assess what we hear in light of the Word of God. God has revealed that which is good in His Word and as we feast upon His Word we will be enabled to recognize falsehood when it rears its head, no matter how alluring it may appear.
Solomon describes this benefit of gaining wisdom in Proverbs 2. “When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, To deliver you … From the man who speaks perverse things… [and] From the seductress who flatters with her words,” (Prov 2:10-12, 16). Gaining wisdom protects us from folly, from giving heed to that which we ought not. It protects us from the man who speaks perverse things and from the seductress who flatters with her words. It teaches us when it is appropriate to close our ears and refuse to listen.
I was reminded of these things while attending a debate this week between Doug Wilson and Andrew Sullivan over the resolution Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples good for Society? Mr. Sullivan professed to believe in Jesus and serve him while simultaneously living as a homosexual in union with another man. He was very winsome, very passionate, very articulate. But if we know the Word of God; if we know what God has to say about the abomination of homosexuality; if wisdom has entered our soul, then it delivers us from the man who speaks perverse things, it enables us to recognize the folly of the position.
Our calling as God’s people, therefore, is twofold. It is both to listen and not to listen. Our calling is to listen to God, give heed to what He says, believe it and embrace it for the good of ourselves and our children after us. Simultaneously our calling is not to listen – not to listen to the subtle or not so subtle temptations of those who would turn us from Christ and teach us to listen to some other god.
This reminds us that as human beings we frequently fail to listen to the right voices and instead listen to the wrong, And this is certainly becoming increasingly true of America. We are shutting our ears to the voice of God and listening to the voices of others. Reminded of this, let us kneel and confess that we have become dull of hearing.