August 27, 2013

Ways To Please God VI: Guard Against Evil Like A One Man Army

Give Thanks for Everything

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

This passage is written in the context of family worship. Ministry must come from this worship of God or we fail as Christians in what we are called to do. Many churches lack this true worship and instead rely on religious entertainment for the people. Worship is for and about God, not the people. The worship is not to cater to what people think is good worship, it should cater to what God says is acceptable. I fear we totally miss the mark here.  Churches most often do what they do to draw in new seekers rather than draw nearer to God. Paul mentions many things in this immediate context (1 Thessalonians 5:17-28) that make up proper worship of God and thanking Him for who and what He is might be one of the most important. There are nearly entire books dedicated to worship of God or retelling or embellishing of the things God has done and will do, they are called Psalms. Psalms literally adds to the meaning and feel of the history books of the Israelites (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles).

As we grow in our understanding of God, so too should our praise. If our knowledge of God is growing we should be that much more amazed and astounded by Him and wish to thank Him all the more for those very reasons. You’d have to be brain-dead not to see the correlation. The more someone understands the wonder of God, the more someone should realize just how much of a wonder it is that He would consider us at all.

God is sovereign over all Creation and beyond. God is indeed in control. When things seem totally out of our control it is reassuring to know that it is going according to His plan. He may not always answer our prayers that way that we want but what we can be assured of and thankful for is that He is always with us, even in our suffering. Often our prayers about our suffering are answered in the form of God’s companionship in our suffering. He goes along in the suffering with us. His answer is to suffer alongside us in our trials. We must realize that God is also omnipresent and it logically follows that the suffering that He allows, He is also present for. If He is merciful and loving He is not there with us to gloat, He is there with us to comfort us and help us endure (2 Corinthians 1).

Don’t Quench the Spirit

1 Thessalonians 5:19 ~ Do not quench the Spirit. 

We must understand that when God is truly taking over our lives it is His Spirit that is doing the work in us. If there is no growth in us there is no Spirit at work. This means we are squeezing Him out through our sin our selfishness. In reality we are quenching the Spirit. The word quench here is σβέννυτε and means “do extinguish” or “do suppress.” It is preceded by a negative participle μὴ / me or not. It therefore literally means to not put out, like putting out a fire. In this case the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Spirit that came on the followers of Christ at Pentecost. Just like some of the severely conservative members of the Thessalonian church were frowning upon some of the more exaggerated gifts, so too I believe non-emotive, stick-in-the-mud church members frown upon the more exuberant of the faith. These more passive members in an attempt to clamp down of what they believe is too much manifestation of the Spirit end up extinguishing the enthusiasm of other members. This is a no-no and Paul says so right here.

Abstain From Evils

1 Thessalonians 5:22 ~ Abstain from every form of evil.

I suppose this command goes without saying but it is worth stating anyway. Anything that is evil is not of God. Anything that latches on to your life that is not holy will potentially prevent you from being fully in the presence of a holy God that will not look upon evil. It doesn’t mean He can’t, it merely means He will not as it requires that He judge it. So logic dictates that if someone wishes to not be judged by God, it behooves them to abstain from all evil. Otherwise God will need to judge the sin or evil. Judgment is never pretty and there is a price to pay. Although Christ died on the Cross to absorb that cost…chastisement for a believer is usually in order and usually comes.

The thing that I really wish to point out in this verse is the use of the plural παντὸς εἴδους “every form, kind or type” of evil as opposed to the previous verse’s (v.21) use of the singular καλὸν which properly understood means things that are worthy, beautiful or good. We are being exhorted to avoid all evil that we can see or come in contact with physically. In other words, if we can see it and recognize it for what it is...we're to avoid it like the plague. It is also in the juxtaposing of these two verses that we see the singular source of all that is good, worthy, beautiful, righteous…holy. That singular source is God. Finding the good should be easy, it resides in One place and can be found through His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ as they are the same.

On the other hand we see multiple sources for evil as we are surrounded with it in society just like Paul was in Thessalonica. Evil of course can come from the demonic and the powers and principalities of this world but we are much more likely to encounter it in the most common of places…in other people. We will even encounter it in those close to us including other Christians that have given evil an opening in their lives. Hence the need to abstain from all evil. We must stay vigilant in our duty to avoid evil and help the body of Christ to do the same. This literally means standing sentinel (or should I say kneeling sentinel)  to protect not only ourselves but also those around us.

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