‘this is the way’ 1 Thessalonians 5, v16-24.
Marks of being a disciple.
As if Paul says ‘this is the way’ and he wants them to respond ‘this is the way’.
The first four, are about public worship. But these can only happen, if they are flowing out of us in the week – our discipleship…
This is not Paul saying ‘don’t worry be happy!’
This is like the Venite – come let us sing for joy to the Lord!
Or the Jubilate – Shout for joy to the Lord,
Paul is not not issuing an order to be happy but an invitation to worship.
And to joyful worship at that.
Church servies are not to be gloomy or boring – yes our worship – we have awe and humility before Almighty God, but every service should be a celebration.
We celebrate all that God had done and given through Christ.
This is the way.
Jesus taught his disciples about prayer – to pray continually and not give up. And he shared the story of the persistent widow who just kept going and going and going…
He taught not only about private prayer. But also prayer with others. ‘our Father’ in the wording, suggests praying with others. After Jesus ascension, they gather in prayer together constantly until Pentecost…
If praise is an indispensable part of public worship and our discipleship, so is intercession, prayer for others. I’m so glad we have our sections of intercession every Sunday – praying for church members, for the worldwide church, for our nation, for world mission, for the needy and suffering…
Continually – this can be a burden. To help us, what is prayer and what it isn’t.
An image. A couple of weeks ago, I was at a friends birthday party. He had an open fire.
I sat around that fire chatting for around 2 2 ½ hours. When I got home. My clothes were smoky to say the least. I’ve been airing them, and still if you have a good sniff, the smoke is there.
Prayer continually – it is there all the time. Through your day, you lift things to God, before a meeting at work, you pray; you drop the kids off at school, as you walk off, a prayer; as you bike past and see police officers, you pray for wisdom and so on; in a moment.
Just remember Nehemiah. He was a man of prayer, but a key moment, he is asked a difficult key question – what do you want – and he fires off a prayer. Arrow prayers is what I was taught them – or a breath prayer…
Prayer continually – not a whole day in prayer – but it can be; it is not lots of sections of prayer; but it could be. But the day to be saturated – but it may be only a brief moment.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
Thankfulness to categorise God’s people. We say to ourselves, joining with the ancient praise of all God’s people –
praise the lord o my soul
and what is the next line ‘and forget not all his benefits.’ I love the quote ‘the Christian life is to be an unceasing eucharist!’
As you know the word éucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. Thanksgiving belongs side by side with our rejoicing and our praying in our worship and in our discipleship. We have general thanksgiving – for God’s material blessings and provision for us in his creation; and for his priceless love in redeeming the world through Jesus Christ – which we celebrate at the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This is not thanking God for all circumstances but in every circumstances. This is taking the confidence, that people may intend things for evil, but God can bring good… as Romans 8 reminds us.
Someone once said, this is about an attitude of gratitude. There is a prayer book I use, and at the end of the day it says: Commit to God all that has happened during the day. Offer God your thanks and praise for the good things, confess the mistakes and sins you have made and receive his forgiveness. To pause and reflect on the day and give thanks…
Now we hear Paul says: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
We can read it ‘circumstances’ but it can be applied and looks more likely it means this: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus – to rejoice, to pray, to give thanks.
We may not feel like it. Our circumstances may not encourage it. But we are to do it – why – because this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus – this is the way.
So when we gather, whatever our feelings, whatever our circumstances, there should be rejoicing in him, praying to him, giving him thanks for his mercies…
Do not Quench
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire, do not treat prophecies with contempt; test everything, hold onto the good, avoid every kind of evil.
This stands out. Do not!
Do put out.
This is an important warning. Every church is a charismatic church – every church has the Spirit, every Christian has the Spirit. And therefore every Christian is a charismatic. However, Paul is saying, you can have the Spirit and yet put it out, extinguish.
This is an important warning.
First. Paul warns them – this young church – so it is possible to do.
Second, we do not want to be in such a place. The Spirit brings glory to Jesus, the Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and makes it known to us, the Spirit reminds us of the words of Jesus… The Spirit is all about Jesus – quenching the Spirit therefore…
Third, Luke in Acts 16, talks about Paul and others being told by the Holy Spirit not to go West and then he says ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ told them not to go north. Spirit of Jesus, Holy Spirit same.
Quenching the Spirit … we are interfering with what Jesus wants to do, and reveal, to his people…
Paul then discusses prophecy – discerning when God is speaking – test it, hold onto what is good, avoid every kind of evil. In 1 Cor 13, Paul talks about ‘prohesy in part’ and later ‘prophecy is to be tested’ it suggests that compared to the OT, in NT times, it was not clear when God was speaking, and when it was well intentioned or even wrongly intentioned motives.
Practically. The question for church or a community, are you putting out the Spirit. Are you wanting to hear what the Spirit has to say to you or to the church. Are you trying to stop what God may be doing; ignoring what he may be saying… Note the example of the Acts church before 1 Thessalonians was planted. Jerusalem Council – after debate and listening – the end is ‘what seemed good to us and to the Spirit’ – they sought his voice; and again, Acts 16, when Paul and the others travel, they are sensitive to what the Spirit is wanting to direct and say – they heard and obeyed his NO when it seemed logical to go the way they planned; and then they travel 400 km in silence – that is the distance – to Troas. And when they receive the vision revealing a totally new plan, they obey … Paul lived a life not wanting to quench the Spirit …
Jesus becoming – Holiness.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through
Paul prays for their sanctification. They are justified, they will be glorified. In this life to be sanctified.
Their lives have changed, how their work is produced by faith, their labour prompted by love, and their endurance as Christians inspired by hope in Jesus Christ. They have turned from idols to serve the living God, they eagerly wait for him, and they are imitating Jesus more and more.
Yet Paul knows there is so much more to come. Sanctification. Holiness.
Through and through – every part of your life. Every room of your life.
Every part to be living as Jesus would. The aim a Jesus shaped life.
How to do this practically?
- God himself. We lean on his power and strength. In another place Paul puts it ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness…’ We pray for the Lord to sanctify me through and through. We heard what Paul says : the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
- God of peace. We can go too far and think of how far we need to go and we are ‘not a very good Christian’. But the cross, says, you are accepted, secure, significant, loved. You have peace with God, and therefore can have peace within yourself as you seek to become more like Christ. You are in a place of peace with God and not disappointment.
- I have reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes recently. In a few of his stories, he discovers the unknown room, in the house, which people had missed. Where do we need sanctifying. Who can you ask – your spouse? They see more than we believe? Your life group – can they speak into your life? Do you give each other permission to do so? At times we do not know what we do not know and we need the help of others to see it.
They have come so far. Yet there is still sanctification, still holiness, still to become more like Jesus…
In the series ‘the Mandalorian’, Mando has a creed by which he will live and shape his life around.
This is the way. It shapes him.
Paul ends his letter. He says to the young church of 1 Thessalonians.
This is the way …
Jesus becoming – holiness…,
This is the way, this is the way…