Staying Fit . . . As Christians

// March 25th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

Pastor and Bible Teacher, Ray Stedman…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Staying Fit…As Christians…wrote – “The mark of true Christian faith is that it changes everything you do and say.”

The sermon from where that quote by Pastor Rad Stedman was taken, he remarked at the low standard of living that many people who claim to be born again Christians have.  He went on to emphasize that yes, our leaders have failed us, but that it is not only leaders who have failed.  In the words of the comic strip, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

We are now into the last few verses of 1 Thessalonians.  Paul’s favorite name for believers was brethren or brothers.  He used it at least 60 times in his letters; and in the two letters to Thessalonica, 27 times.

Paul saw the local church as a family.  Each member was born again by the Spirit of God and possessed God’s nature.  And for this reason, all those who are born-again members of the body of Christ were part of God’s family.

It is tragic when true believers neglect or ignore the local church.  No family is perfect and no local church is perfect; but without a family to protect him/her and provide for him/her, a child doesn’t have much of a chance.  The child of God needs the church family if he/she is to grow, develop gifts and serve God.

So, what are essentials for a happy, thriving church family?  How can we make our local churches to do a better job of reflecting God’s character and His glory?  This is what Paul addresses in this passage…he begins by addressing:

  1. Family Leadership – v. 12-13

Without leadership a family falls apart.  The father is the head of the home and the mother stands with him in love and cooperation.  The children are to obey their parents.  This is the order that God has set for the family and if we mess with this order we are looking for trouble.

God has ordained leadership for the local church.  It is true that we are “all one in Christ Jesus”, but, it is also true that the Head of the church has given gifts to people, and then given these people to the churches to accomplish His will.  And further, just as the flock needs a shepherd, so the family needs a leader.

Part of what Paul is dealing with here is the answer to the question – what responsibility do the brethren have toward their spiritual leaders?

1) First, Respect them – v. 12 – they are God’s gifts to the church.  They have been given spiritual authority from the Lord and for that reason need to be accepted and respected in the Lord.  They are not dictators, but leaders and examples.  As they follow the Lord, those in the church, must follow them.  Second,

2) Esteem them – v. 13 – that is also the essence of the phrase “know them that labor among you” (v. 12).  There is nothing wrong with honoring faithful servants of God, so long as God gets the glory.

Spiritual leadership is a great responsibility and a difficult task.  It is not easy to serve as a pastor, elder, deacon/deaconess, or as a spiritual leader in the church.  The battles and burdens are many, and there are times when the encouragements are few.  It is dangerous when a church family takes their leaders for granted and fails to pray for them, work with them and encourage them.  #3…

3) Love them – v. 12 – As a family, the leaders are “among you” and “over you in the Lord”.  Were it not for Christian love in the family of God, this could cause a strained relationship.

For a pastor/elder to be “among” and “over” at the same time requires that the grace and power of the Holy Spirit be exercised.  If the pastor or elder gets out of balance, the ministry is weakened and possibly destroyed.  There must be a balance between being a “buddy” and being an “authoritative dictator” – and love is the key; both the love of the leader for the people and the love of the people for their leader.  This is also the mandate that the missionaries are continually reminded of, from Village Missions Leadership – Preach the Word, Love the People!

#4) Obey them – v. 12 – the flipside of “admonish you” is that any instruction that is given by a leader is only effective as the people obey.

Heb. 13:17 reads, Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”  When a servant of God who is led by the Spirit of God, calls us to obey the Word of God, we ought to obey.  

This does not mean that every man serving in a spiritual leadership position is always right in everything.  Abraham, Moses, David & Peter made mistakes in their words and deeds.  A wise pastor knows he is made of clay and admits when he is wrong.  Over the years I have benefited from spending time with other pastors and godly men to help gain the right perspective.  

But, in spite of their limitations, God’s spiritual leaders should be respected and obeyed – unless it is obvious that they are out of God’s will.  As the spiritual leaders of the church meet together to plan, pray and seek God’s will, the rest of the body should be able to follow with confidence.

The result is that there is peace and harmony in the local church – the local family of God.  Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Whenever you find division and dissension in a local church, it is usually because of selfishness and sin on the part of the leaders, or the members, or both…it is only as we submit to one another in the Lord that we can enjoy His blessing, and peace in the family.”

So, in this relationship between leaders and the brethren, Paul first looked at the Family Leadership – you were introduced to our Leadership for 2019 – pray for the!  Next…

  1. Family Partnership – v. 14-16

There is a need for “body life” in the church.  This refers the ministry of each Christian to the others, just as the various members of the human body minister to one another to maintain proper health and life.

Family members must learn to minister to each other.  The older are to teach the younger and encourage them in times of difficulty (Titus 2:3-5).  In Eph. 4:12, the spiritual leaders are supposed to equip the members to do the work of the ministry.

Paul names some special family members who need extra help:

1) The Disorderly – v. 14 – the word used means “the careless, out of line”.  The word applied to a soldier who would not keep rank but insisted on marching his own way.

While the loving atmosphere of the family encourages individual development, there are some things we all muct do in the same way.  If we do not have rules and standards in the family, we have chaos.

In contrast, rules and traditions in a family must never stifle creativity; and yet, creativity must never be a license to sin or promote expression that is contrary to God’s Word.  Parents love to see their children blossom in their unique personality, talent and ambitions.  But, it brings sorrow to see a child rebel against the standards, to abandon all tradition, and think that his/her lifestyle shows freedom and maturity.  This kind of attitude in the church family causes arguments and splits.

2) The Fainthearted – v. 14 – the literal understanding of the word used is “little-souled” – in reference to those who quit very easily.

You know the type – they can always see the dark side of things and give up when the going gets tough.  These people need constant encouraging – KJV uses the word “comfort”.  Instead of scolding from a distance, we must get close to them and speak tenderly.  We must try to help the “little-souled” see that the trials of life help us grow stronger in the faith.  Then,

3) The Weak – v. 14 – the NLT says, “take tender care of those who are weak”.  Paul was not speaking of physically weak Christians – he was dealing with the spiritual ministry of the church.  He was referring to those who were “weak in the faith” – those who have not grown strong and mature in the Lord.

Just like in Paul’s day, we have strong and weak Christians in our church families today.  How are we to handle these ones?  With patient, reassuring love.  And just like in a family you shouldn’t compare one child with another, so in the family of God.  We need to “take hold” of these weaker believers and help them to stand and walk in the Lord.

To equip us help these various ones, Paul gives some counsel:

i/ Be patient – v. 14 – it takes patience to grow a family.  Two pastors were talking after a service when a young boy came charging past them.  The one pastor said, “Have you noticed how often those troublesome ones grow up to be the pastors, missionaries and church leaders?”  Be patient – God is not finished yet!

ii/ Watch your motivesv. 15 – there are times when we minister to others that they reject us and even oppose us.  But, we should serve in love, and be ready to forgive.  Rom. 12:17-21 says, Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.  Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

If our motive is to be praised, you will be disappointed, but if your motive is to “serve for Jesus’ sake”, you will never be disappointed.

iii/ Be joyful – v. 16 – have you noticed that joy takes the burden out of service?  Neh. 8:10 reads, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”.  God loves cheerful servants.

God desires for His children to reflect His abundant joy – we do this by contributing to the joy of the rest of the body.

Paul has mentioned 4 spiritual characteristics – love, joy, peace and patience – all 4 are part of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 522-23).  We can’t manufacture these spiritual qualities – they show up as we yield to the Spirit and allow Him to control or direct our lives.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary wrote that when we try to help other people we:

  • must not be high in our expectations
  • nor harsh in our resentments
  • nor hard in our impositions,
  • but endeavor to make the best we can of everything, and,
  • think the best we can of everybody. That fairly well sums it up.

In the Family Partnership in the church – are you and I holding up our end of the responsibility to share the burdens?  Do we see ourselves as merely spectators or are we active participants, in this part of the body of Christ?  Finally,

III. Family Worship – v. 17-22

Worship is one of the most important activities of the local church family.  Ministry flows out of worship so that we are not merely busy without the power and heart of the Lord.  We should be pressing toward results that are “of the Lord”.

It is my deep desire – something that I pray about – that every time we get together, we would worship our God.  Entertaining is easy and fun, but it is not worship!  And by the way, singing is not synonymous with worship – it is one way that we express our worship…as a matter of fact, it is a great way to worship.  Paul lists 4 things that make up the worship ministry of the church:

1) Prayer – v. 17 – ”Never stop praying” (NLT).  Prayer was important in the early church.  It was high and holy experience when the church was united in prayer.  I love our Wednesday night Prayer Meetings – it is the hope that everyone who attends will feel they can contribute to the prayer that is being offered to God and that nobody monopolizes the opportunity.  If we are being led by the Spirit – and most times, I leave incredibly blessed to have been part of it…if we are being led by the Spirit, we will experience unity and freedom in our praying…and tremendous blessing as God answers our prayer.

“Pray without ceasing” – does not mean we must be talking to God 24/7 – we are to have the receiver off the hook and be in touch with God so that our praying is part of an unbroken conversation with God.  God knows the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4), and He responds to those desires even when our voices are silent.  Secondly,

2) Praise – v. 18 – Do you want to know God’s will – this verse tells us – “give thanks in all circumstances…”

Thanksgiving is an important part of worship.  According to Eph. 5:19, we use “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” to express our love and gratitude to the Lord.  As we grow in our application of the Word of God, we must also grow in our expression of praise – the two go together.

If a local church is “growing in grace” the members will want to praise God as often as possible.  If the heart and head do not keep pace with each other, Christian worship becomes hypocritical or it becomes immature.  Third,

3) The Word of God – v. 19-21 – God’s Word is His revelation to us – His only revelation to us!  Therefore, worship that ignores the Bible is not spiritual.  Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Often there is emotion – and even commotion – but unless there is spiritual truth, the Holy Spirit is not at work.”

These 3 admonitions help us understand how the Holy Spirit works in Christian worship.  The early church did not have the completed Bible like we do – and so, the Holy Spirit would give the gift of prophecy and speak through certain members of the church.

I like Wiersbe’s description – he wrote, “When I preach, I preach the truth mediately by means of the Bible.  The early prophets preached the truth immediately as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  Their knowledge and understanding was given to them by the Spirit, and often they would communicate this in the tongue of the people they were speaking to, also possible by the Spirit.

The danger in this kind of ministry is that Satan (or, the flesh) could seek to counterfeit the true message from God and thereby lead the church astray.  If the church restrained the speakers, they could be guilty of quenching the ministry of the Spirit.  If they believed all that was spoken, they might be obeying false spirits and so they had to intentionally “prove all things” – test the teaching.

Today, we have a completed revelation of God’s Word and so we don’t need that kind of prophecy.  The Apostles and these prophets helped lay the foundation of the church and their gifting and ministry has passed.  The only prophetic ministry we have today is in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.  More could be said, but I will leave it at that.

When Paul used the word quench, he was picturing the Holy Spirit as fire.  Fire speaks of purity, power, light, warmth, and also, destruction.

When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and in our church, we have a warmth of love in our hearts, our minds are enlightened, and our will is energized.  He, quite literally, “melts us together” so that there is harmony and a spirit of cooperation.  And further, He will accomplish in us the necessary purification so that our sins are put away.

When the Tabernacle was first set up and then later also with the Temple, the priests were charged to keep the fire going on the altar – to never let it go out.  What a picture!  The fire of the Spirit must not go out on the altar of our hearts.  We need to maintain that continuous devotion to Christ that motivates and energizes our lives for Him.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God which is in you…” (2 Tim. 1:6).  The verb means, “stir the fire again into life.”  As individual believers, and as a local church, we need to avoid the extremes – legalism or fanaticism – the first will put the fire out and the second will burn up everything.

It is important that we remove walls of resistance to what the Spirit wants to teach us, when we gather to worship.  And then, the 4th thing Paul mentions about the worship ministry…

4) Godly living – v. 22 – “stay away from every kind of evil”.

The purpose of worship is that we might become more like Christ in character and conduct.  One of the best definitions of worship that I have ever read was given by William Temple – the late Archbishop of Canterbury:  “For to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open up the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

As we approach the time of year that we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, we need to remember that…Jesus set the example for what Paul is writing in our text for today.

Jesus left the glories of heaven for the squalor of earth.  No one made him do it.  If Jesus had been ashamed to associate with sinners, He would have stayed in heaven.  He never would have set foot on the earth.  He would never have died on a cross and been raised from the grave.  But he made the trip and therefore we are blessed.

  • We weren’t beautiful, but He came to so we could reflect Him.
  • We weren’t rich, but He came so that we could be most blessed.
  • We weren’t clean, but He came to cleanse us from sin.
  • We weren’t noble, but He came so we could know the King of kings.
  • We weren’t healthy and whole, but He came for us.
  • We weren’t trustworthy, but He came taught us to trust Him.
  • We weren’t good, but He came so we could be righteous and holy.
  • We were a pretty miserable lot, but He came to give us a hope and future.
  • And what did we do? We rewarded Him by hanging Him on a cross.
  • And when he died, He died for us.
  • And all our sins were laid on Him. That’s the amazing truth of the Gospel.

Let’s pray…

Series Navigation<< Unexpected…Like a Thief!Gospel Protocol >>

Comments are closed.