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About this series
The Awesome Power of Encouragement
Do you know someone who needs a spiritual "shot in the arm?" Do you long to receive encouragement from others and be the kind of person who brings out others' highest potential? First Thessalonians is the Apostle Paul's game plan for encouraging believers. This book teaches practical ways to bring hope and love into the lives of those you care about most, and also presents the New Testament's clearest teaching about the future of the Church - the rapture.More from this series
What we’re going to find is that in verses 12 to 15 there are certain attitudes that build great churches, and then in verses 16 through the rest of the chapter, there are certain attitudes that build great Christians.
And so let’s begin. Let’s read together and become great encouragers, by learning some attitudes that God wants us to have.
“Now we ask you brothers,” the apostle Paul writes, “to respect those who work hard among you who are over you,” literally, preside over you, or are managers over you, “in the Lord and who admonish you.” It means, “correct you.” “Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work and live in peace with each other.”
As you look at these couple verses, you notice that first there is a word to leaders. And before you click off and say, “Well, I’m not an elder, I’m not on staff,” I want you to know, if there’s anybody at all who looks to you to be the influencer in their life: Anybody at work, any kids at home, any friends, anyone in a small group, anyone in any kind of ministry that really looks to you, then you’re a leader. So this is for you.
And the Bible says there are attitudes that leaders need to have. Did you see the key words here? They’re assumed here.
But did you notice, they work hard, they lead well, and they admonish wisely? The word for, “work hard,” literally means, “to toil to the point of exhaustion.” And I believe, as leaders in God’s Church, we need to give it our best shot. I didn’t grow up in a church that believed in the Bible. But you know my first inclination about church, in general, was? People give it their leftover stuff. They give it their worn out clothes, their leftover time, and any little, extra money or energy they might happen to have.
And one thing I knew early on is, one, I didn’t want to be associated with that church, for a lot of reasons, because the people didn’t live what they said. But beyond that, there was just a climate, it’s like, “This is good enough for God.”
Hey, leaders, I want you to know that God wants us to work hard and how do you do that? By leading well. It means to provide oversight. It’s used in the New Testament both for elders in formal positions and for informal positions. That means leaders are well prepared, well planned, prayed up, come on time, and are ready to roll.
It means that whatever sphere of influence in the body of Christ, you take it seriously. You say, “Oh, God, this is a stewardship. Someone is looking to find out what You are like through me.” And it also means that you don’t just do the task, you care for the people.
You see, when you lead well, not only does the task get done in a way that honors God, but the people doing the task are fed and encouraged.
Third thing here is: Leaders are to admonish wisely. It means, literally, to reprove or to correct, to put in someone’s mind. It was a military term that when, you know, you see all these guys that are walking in rank and one guy is kind of out of step? It’s that guy. It’s saying, “Hey, bud, get back in line.”
When another believer’s attitudes or behavior is out of line with the will of God and you know it will hurt them, or it will hurt relationships, or it will hurt the cause of Christ, it says, “Leaders, admonish them. Correct them.”
Now, overbearingly? No. Lording it over them? Never. Wisely, lovingly, caring enough to confront. Those are the attitudes that make for great churches when leaders work hard, lead well, and admonish wisely. But notice, that’s not all. There’s a word about leaders. In fact, the real flow of this passage has to do with how us, as a congregation, respond to leaders, whether it’s formal or informal. Let’s read that passage again with new eyes.
This time, let’s read it asking the question, “How should we respond to leaders? Verse 12, “Now we ask you, brothers,” you might circle the words, “to respect those who work hard among you who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in highest regard,” you might circle that, “in love because of their work.” And then, “Live in peace with each other,” and you might circle the words, “live in peace.”
See, the problem then, remember the people who decided that the Lord was coming back, like, maybe that night and so they quit their day job and said the Church is such a loving group of people that they became moochers and loafers?
Well, the leaders had to correct that and they did the wise thing. They said, “Hey, get a job. Jesus is coming back but the way to prepare for that is you have a good testimony, and you work better than anybody else at your job, so you have something to share with all the rest of people rather than mooching off everyone else.”
Well, when the leaders had to do that, probably part of that didn’t go over real well. And so, notice the first thing is we’re to respect them. Literally, the word isn’t “respect,” it’s, “you’re to know them or acknowledge them.” It can mean “respect or appreciation,” but in this context it probably has the idea, “Hey, you need to acknowledge that they’re the leaders. God appointed them.”
Second, we’re to esteem them. Only used here in the New Testament. It means to highly, highly esteem. It’s a triple compound type verb that has the idea of saying, “You need to recognize the people that God has put in charge of His Church as the right people at the right time at the right place for His glory and you need to esteem them as such.”
We need to highly esteem that person that gives you your child when you go pick him up. That person who set up three or four hours earlier. The musicians. The…Why? So we could worship. So that you, like I, could shut my eyes when we sang that last song and I thought, “God, when I think of the weekend that I’ve had, You’re great. But I could never express that the way they expressed it for me. And just to get to sing along with them.” See, I think we need to esteem those, encourage those people that lead us.
And then, finally, it’s to be at peace with them. Literally, the phrase means, “no schisms, no divisions.” This one is a two-way street. The congregation is to submit to God’s leadership and obey God’s Word. And the leaders, notice, are to lead sensitively. You know, leaders never are to run roughshod over people, telling people, “You ought to do this and you ought to do this and this is the deal.”
Live in peace, the idea is there’s unity. And my observation about both Scripture and churches, where there is the sense of God’s presence and power, is there’s unity. And it is something worth guarding.
Can you imagine what happens in the life of a church when leaders say, “I’m not giving what’s left over to God. I’m giving my best to God. I’m going to come prayed up, I’m going to come working hard, I’m going to plan ahead, I’m going to lead well, and I’m going to admonish and care enough to confront people when need be.”
And when a church says, “I’m going to respect that kind of leadership, at every level, and I’m going to esteem that kind of leadership, and I’m going to do whatever it takes, on my part, to live at peace,” and the leadership at every level says, “I’m going to do my part to be at peace,” you know what happens? You got power rolling around. You got the presence of God. It’s disunity that so kills the work of God in so many places.
Well, he doesn’t end there. He’s given a word to us, to leaders, and a word to leaders about us. Now notice, he shifts, in verses 14 and 15, and this is a word for everybody. This is for you and me, and notice the phrase, “And we urge you, brothers.”
Now notice, he’s going to give us four quick verbs to address to how to encourage four different groups of people. It says, “Then we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, and be patient with everyone.”
And then he’s going to give us a way to be patient with everyone. Verse 15, “Make sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong or evil for evil but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” You might circle the little word “try” because in our translation it comes out kind of milquetoast. You know, try.
You know, people say, “I’ll try to be there.” That means they’re either going to be late or they’re not coming. Right? “Well, I’ll try to make it.” You know? I always tell them, “Look, are you coming or not?” You know? “If you can’t, that’s okay. But don’t try to come because if you try to come, you’ll come like I try to come. That means, ‘I want you to know, I’d sort of like to be there but I probably won’t.’”
This word is translated elsewhere in the New Testament, “to persecute.” It means to vigorously pursue. He’s saying, “There’s four things to do. You need to warn a certain group, you encourage a certain group, you support a different group, you be patient with everyone.” And then he says, “In this key area of, it’s hardest to be patient when people do you wrong, don’t do wrong back but instead,” literally, it’s, “follow the good.”
It’s vigorously pursue, you try as in go after being friendly, and kind, and loving, in a way that just makes people scratch their head. “After the way we treated you negatively like that, you’re being kind, and friendly, and you’re pursuing us?” And you know what they do? Pretty soon they start thinking, “Now that’s weird.” And then they say, “Is there anyone in history that’s ever been like this? Let me think. Jesus! That’s the one! Yeah!”
When people did Him wrong, He loved them. See, we’re almost never more like Christ than when we give good, in return for evil.
If you wanted to summarize this, let’s look at the key phrases: Warn the idle, that’s our same word for admonish. And the “idle” here means unruly, disorderly, unbecoming behavior. See, it’s not the leader’s job, it’s not the leader’s job, to make sure people stay in line. It’s the Church’s job to see that the body, one for another…
It’s caring enough to confront. It’s not getting in the car with a close friend, or with a mate, after you’ve had an experience with another couple at their home, or out somewhere, or with a fellow single person, and shaking your head to your friend and saying, “Boy, man, are they really on the wrong path. They keep spending money like that, they’re going to be in a ditch. Boy, they keep treating their kids like that, boy, you know, and Bob, you know, we’ve seen that happen before. Yeah, that’s right. Those kids are going to turn out like jerks. In fact, they got a good start on it right now. You know, if that guy keeps treating his wife with that kind of insensitivity, they’re going to have problems.”
And you know what? Do you realize how many of those conversations happen in cars, and in restaurants, about the person that’s not there? You know what the Bible says? Warn them! Warn them! You warn them.
I’ll never forget the first time, we went over to dinner years and years ago in Texas, and this guy was, he had one of those jobs that you should be perfectionistic. I mean, your life is in his hands. But he carried that over into every area.
And we ate dinner and it was the most rigid, legalistic atmosphere, and I remember turning to my wife and said, “Wow, those, man, those kids are in trouble.” I mean, I couldn’t stand to be around that guy for four hours let alone twenty-four hours a day. And he had a good heart, he really loved God, he really thought he was doing well. But, I mean, it was just unbearable.
Well, when his daughter ran away from home and when his son got involved in some things… You know what though? I never went to him face to face. I had one of those conversations in the car with my wife saying, “Boy, man, I’ll tell you what, they keep that up, they’re in trouble.”
And I decided, after that, I don’t keep it to myself anymore. You may not like me but if I see something in your life, I’m going to tell you. And I’m going to tell you, Lord willing, in the right attitude, and the right way, at the right time, because I love you.
And, by the way, you see something in mine, don’t do me any favors and tell your friend. When my car hits the spiritual wall and there’s fallout and pain and damage, I would have liked someone to say, “Hey, by the way, curve up ahead.”
Second, we’re to encourage the timid. And this has the idea of comfort, the word “timid” means, literally, “the fainthearted,” or a person with a small soul. They’re the people that just don’t have the courage to make the next step.
You know, they’d like to get in the Bible study but if someone doesn’t call them and ask them to come, they won’t go. They’d like to get involved in ministry and they really have a lot but if someone doesn’t give them the little nudge, they won’t go. They’re the person that is just ready to become a Christian but they just need a little nudge.
You know who that person is to give them the nudge? It’s you! It’s you! We’re to warn the idle, or the disorderly, but we need to, we need to comfort, we need to spur on, we need to encourage the timid.
And some people, some of the timid people that I never dreamed, they have all these gifts stored up. But it takes someone like you to nudge them. Who comes to your mind? Who in your family? Who in your ministry? Who at your work? Who do you know that you realize has great potential but they need a nudge? How could you do it?
Third is we need to help the weak.
The word for “help” is a very interesting New Testament word. It means to hold on to someone, or to cleave to a person, so that they don’t fall down. Basically, the weak are people that are, that are unstable. Have you ever seen someone that has twisted their ankle, or the terrain is unlevel and they need help to get from the curb to the car. Or they need help to get from the bottom of the stairs to the top of the stairs. Have you ever seen them?
And what do you have to do? It’s real simple, isn’t it? You walk up and you either put your arm out, or if you’ll put your arm right underneath theirs, all they need is just a little stability but you have to touch them, don’t you? And you just hold on to their arm, and with you they make it from the curb to the car. Without you, they fall flat on their face.
There are people in this room, today, spiritually, that all they need is someone to look them in the eye when you walk out that door. Someone in the next Bible study, someone at the class that you go to, someone that God is bringing to your mind while I’m speaking, and you know what they need? They need you to hold them, to just give them a little support. They’re unstable.
But they’ve got a good heart, they’re trying. But they’ve tried and failed, and tried and failed, and tried and failed. Guess what they’re doing now. They’re not trying anymore. They need you, they need me to support them.
The final thing is we’re to be patient with all men - everybody. You ever heard the phrase, “That guy is really short-tempered”? This word is the opposite of that. You’d say, if you knew this word you’d say, “Man, that guy is really long-tempered.” I’ve not said that about many people.
You know, you say, “That guy really blows his stack fast.” We’d say, “This guy’s got a long fuse.” This word means we’re patient. We make allowances for others. This word means you don’t give up on people quickly. It means that after you tell them once, you tell them again. After they blow it for the second time, you tell them a third. After they blow it a third you say, “What is it about this you’re not getting and how can I help you be successful?” Not, “Get with the program or your out, bud.”
It’s, “Patient with all men.” And when is it the most difficult to be patient? It’s when people do you in, isn’t it? Well, how does he say? “Make sure that no one, make sure that you,” not the leadership. You! Me! Church of God! “Make sure no one pays back evil for evil.
You want to jot down Romans chapter 12 verse 17 and following. It will develop that very clearly exactly what to do. It says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, leave room for the wrath of God, ‘Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.’ If your enemy is hungry,” what should you do? Feed him. “If he is thirsty, give him a drink; in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
Near ancient Eastern picture of what happens when a person has a change of heart or mind. “Never be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.” Good is powerful. Good is powerful in relationships and when you give good, when people have given you evil, you can only do it by grace. But it has an indelible impact on the lives of others.
And so what we have here are some attitudes that build phenomenal churches. You have a group of leaders who work hard, lead well, and admonish wisely. And you have a group of congregational people who say, in our heart of hearts, “We’re going to respect them, esteem them, and be at peace with them.”
And then you have a whole church that says, “You know, people that are stepping outside the boundaries that are unhealthy for them, we’re going to warn them. We care enough to confront in this place.”
Those people that are a little timid and need a little boost, we’ll give them a boost. Those people that are weak and need support, we’ll support them. And those people that drive us crazy, we’ll be patient. We will hang in there. In our own strength? No way. In the power of God? You bet.
Those kind of attitudes build the kind of church that you’d have to bar the doors so that we get a seat this week. Because when you, and when I, can love people that way and one another, it’s contagious.
What’s it require? It requires the hardest thing for me in the world. I have to get my focus off of me, my needs, and coming here saying, “Now, can’t anyone see my needs? Why didn’t anybody say ‘hi’ to me? No one stopped me on the way out. Does anyone not notice that my wife hasn’t been here for a few weeks or my husband? Has anyone noticed that I haven’t? Does anybody care?”
And you know what? I live with that, what happens? I die. But there’s someone here, regardless of how deep your needs are, their needs are about that much deeper and you will find the great principle of our Lord is this: “Blessed are those who give, more than those who receive.”
You find someone hurting a little bit more than you and you come here with that outward focus and all of a sudden, all those needs that are legitimate that you have, God, in a supernatural way, will meet.
Well, let’s talk about how that works. So, let’s look now at the attitudes the apostle Paul ends with that Christians need to have. How do you build great Christians? He’s told us how to build a great church but what kind of attitudes do you need to have to be a great Christian, to be a real encourager?
He’s going to give a word here about our private worship, in verses 16 to 18. Then he’s going to give us a word about our public worship. And then he’s going to talk about our spiritual growth. So let’s look at private worship first.
Verse 16 through 18, “Be joyful always, pray continually,” or, “without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;” why? “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Boy, that’s short, isn’t it? But did you notice three quick commands? Be joyful. When? When things are going well?
Happiness has to do with happenings, circumstances. Joy has to do with the unchanging relationship you have with God.
In fact, the root word where we get our word “joy,” some of the related words are words like, “grace;” words like, one translation for one word in the New Testament for, “forgiveness.” Words like, “gifts.” See, joy is a choice.
You say, “Well, how can I be joyful all the time?” Let me give you two practical ways. One, focus on God, instead of circumstances. If you focus on circumstances you will ride a rolling coaster of ups and downs. You know? When things are going good, when things are going bad. If you focus on God – He loves you; Your eternity is secure; He is good; He is sovereign; He is faithful; you matter to Him; He is not down on you; He wants to draw you close to Himself; He has a plan for your life. Choose willfully to be joyful. How? Focus on God, instead of your circumstances.
Second, focus on the unseen instead of the seen. When was the last time you did that? Do you ever think about that? Think about some things that you can’t see. Think about a special person in your life that you know really loves you. Can you see it? Well, you can see some actions but you don’t see love. You don’t see relationships, do you?
Think of the most special times. I just did a funeral about ten, twelve days ago and people came up and shared about Jim’s life. And it was interesting. I sat there and I thought, let’s see, no one talked about what he drove, no one talked about the 401k program that he had, no one talked about what kind of dresser he was, whether he was a good athlete or not, no one talked about how many people reported to him, or how he wore his hair, or what his physique was like.
You know what they talked about? His love, his compassion, they talked about his relationships. They talked about all the things you can’t see. You see, when we focus on the things that you can’t see, see, those are eternal things. All the things you can see are here today, maybe gone tomorrow.
Second, he says, beyond being joyful always, pray continuously. And you say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. We’re all supposed to quit our jobs, find a little “kneeler” somewhere, and just pray twenty-four hours a day? Chip, I’ve got to eat. I can’t pray twenty-four hours a day. I got a job to do! I’ve got to drive the car!”
The word for, “continuously,” or, “without ceasing,” is used in other literature for a hacking cough. Here’s how God wants us to pray. [Coughs] Now, I’ve got to do something else. [Coughs] Now I’ve got to do something else. [Coughs] When someone has a hacking cough, when do they cough? They cough every time they’re not either speaking, or breathing, or doing something essential. But the moment there’s a little window, what happens? [Coughs] You cough.
You see, the life that God wants for you has nothing to do with coming once a week here, and hearing the Word, and even being involved in service. It has way more to do than once or twice a day reading your Bible and praying. The life God has for you is He wants to have a moment by moment relationship with you, twenty-four hours a day when you’re awake. In fact, the Psalmist even said that God gives to him even in his sleep.
And so He wants you to be talking with Him when the focus of the job doesn’t demand you, when this conversation doesn’t demand you. So, you’re driving your car and your thoughts gravitate toward God and you talk with Him. And you’re taking a walk from your car out to the office building, you got a meeting, and you say, “Lord, boy, I don’t know about this one. And I’m really concerned about it.” And you talk about it.
And you’ve picked up the kids and they’re in your car and they’re jabbering away and you’re having a conversation with God. Now, some of you, don’t do too much of this on the road. It’s dangerous. My wife says my prayer life is making a lot of progress but my driving has a lot to be desired. And she’ll say, “Didn’t you see that?” And I’m thinking, “No, I was having a good conversation but it probably wasn’t the right time right now.”
I read a book by a monk out of the fifteenth or sixteenth century called Brother Lawrence. The little, tiny paperback, I don’t even know if it’s available anymore. It’s called Practicing the Presence of God. That book had a profound impact. It’s about a monk, in that time period, who, he learned, when he would peel potatoes in the kitchen – that was his job – he did it as an act of worship.
And then as he would walk out and do the gardening that he was supposed to do, he did it as an act of worship. And all day long, he would communicate with the Lord.
And I began to realize that spiritual maturity isn’t how many verses you have memorized, it’s not how many activities you’re involved in. That part of spiritual maturity is measured best by, how long has it been since you’ve been conscious of your relationship with God?
I remember talking with God in the morning, and then checking in at night and, I don’t know what He did, but I know what I did. And as I began to grow in Christ it was like, “Boy, I haven’t thought about the Lord in three or four hours.”
And as I began to grow in Christ it was like, “Boy, I haven’t talked to the Lord in fifteen or twenty minutes.” And then pretty soon, God begins to cultivate a heart and a life where you’re just talking with Him all the time. That’s what he’s saying. This is private worship.
You choose to be joyful, you choose to pray, and then notice, finally, it gets even more difficult, “Give thanks,” when? “in all circumstances.” We know that when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, according to Ephesians 5:18 to 21, when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you’ll give thanks for all things but this says, “In all things,” as well.
Why do you do that? Because it’s the will of God. Now, I don’t think at all this means the trite things that I’ve seen go on. I’ve seen people in some groups where, you know, “Let’s give thanks for everything,” and they’re always saying, “Praise the Lord,” like they don’t mean it, and that really bothers me.
Man, you need to get in there and hurt with people, and cry with people, and go through it. But at some point in time, you’ve got to step back. At some point in time, as my friend who is in a wheelchair now because of an accident that took me about a year to learn to say, “thank you” for, he said, “Chip, you don’t know what God’s doing. You assume that the greatest thing in my whole life could be being able to wrestle in college and ride bikes and do the stuff we did.” He said, “You’re angry at God. I’m not angry at God.” He said, “He’s done things in my life that, sure, would I like to walk again? You bet. But I wouldn’t trade this.”
I said, “What?” He said, “No, I wouldn’t trade this.” He said, “You don’t, you don’t have any idea what God’s done.”
See, God wants us to willfully thank Him for all things and in all things but here’s the only way you can do it. You go back to the basics: God is good. That means that not because you’re good, not on the basis of your performance. That means that there is a benevolent God, with a gracious heart, that wants to bless you, encourage you, that you live under friendly skies, and He longs to be your friend.
He is good. Every day, every moment, twenty-four hours a day. And He is sovereign. That means that anything that comes into your life is either decreed by God, or allowed by God. That means there’s no accidents, no slip-ups, no luck. He is good and wants your best, He is sovereign, so He either allows or decrees.
And, finally, you need to remember He is faithful. Whatever He has purposed to do, whatever promise He made, one hundred percent of the time, with you, always, He will come through.
And so, when you face the issues of life that don’t make any sense, you don’t glibly say, “Praise the Lord,” but you step back and you say, “Oh, God, this is a fallen world and life doesn’t make sense, but I know You are good and here is the evidence. I know that You’re sovereign and I know that You are faithful. And as an act of worship and obedience, I choose to thank You, to bring out the highest and the best, even if others caused this by evil motives.”
Those kind of people, by the way, are the kind that, when I’m hurting or when you’re hurting, you go to talk to. What I’ve described is Christians who have a private worship life of joy, prayer, and thanksgiving because it’s God’s will.
And the person that changes when you operate like that in your private worship, it is not from your circumstances. These are the Corrie Ten Booms of life. They’re the regular people sitting in front of you and behind you, that live this way, and when you’re hurting, we go to them because there is stability and character that has grown up, because public impact is just a symptom. Public impact always flows out of private worship.
Wanting to have a great impact for God begins with choosing to rejoice, praying without ceasing, and learning to give thanks. And when you can do that by faith, you will learn who God really is and He will make you what He wants you to be.
Well, He moves on now to public worship. And apparently, during this time, they were having some problems, and in some churches in the New Testament, the people got carried away with some issues and in this church, apparently, they were, kind of, poo-pooing some of the work of God.
And so we pick it up in verses 19 to 22. It says, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire,” or literally, “don’t quench the Spirit.” The grammar means, “Stop,” it was already happening, “stop quenching the Spirit.”
“Do not treat prophecies with contempt,” or, “don’t despise them,” is the idea. The word means, “to act as if it were nothing.” But notice, verse 21, “Test everything, examine. When you come to public worship,” he says, “the Spirit of God is going to be operating.”
He may be operating through a song. He may be operating through the spoken word. He may operate in the hallway over a cup of coffee. He may operate in a class. He may operate through a variety of spiritual gifts. Come, and don’t quench the Spirit. Well, you say, “How could I quench the Spirit?” We quench the Spirit anytime I know God is speaking to me, and it’s His will, and I say, “No.”
Don’t ever pour cold water on what God is firing up. And so what’s he telling us here? He says we need to be open to the Spirit and then he says, “Treat prophesies,” what? Be receptive to the word. A prophet’s job is to forth tell the Word and then, in the New Testament times here, they would foretell the Word as well.
It’s prophecy. Jesus is coming back. The Rapture. That was all foretelling. But their primary job was to forth tell, to teach. Now, not to make you all too uncomfortable, but God actually does want to speak to you, often. Some of the promptings I’ve gotten from the Spirit of God in my own life have come during the worship time.
There are some of you, I don’t know how to tell you this, you’ve never heard the first two songs of worship here because you’re not here. And you need to prepare yourself for public worship. That means you get ready and maybe even have some time to get your heart ready.
But it means you come with a mindset that says, “God is going to speak to me today not just through the message.” He may turn your life around through a phrase in a song, or a prompting from the Spirit, or from the testimony. And He may actually had someone He wanted you to meet out in front at five or six ‘til that you would speak a word of encouragement into their life.
And so I would encourage you, not as a, “Ooh, shame on you.” That’s not it. I just don’t, I’m just trying to preach the passage. What’s it say? It says, “Be open to the Spirit, be receptive to the Word,” seems to me that you can’t do it if you’re not here when we start.
And then it says, “Be discerning and selective.” He says, “Test it.” When you hear anything from any pulpit, when you hear anything from any teacher or preacher, radio, TV, whatever. The first thing you need to do is be like Acts 17:11, that group, the Bereans: “They received the Word of God gladly, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether those things were so.”
Just because Chip Ingram says it, heaven forbid, you buy and think it’s true. I mean, I have off days. You need to find, you need to look at the Scriptures and I don’t care who you like. Every cult starts out with some guy that was on the right track and people start following the person instead of the Scriptures, and then he takes them in the ditch, and he’s in the ditch, and the whole group is in the ditch.
Don’t ever do that. You test it. The word means like taking a piece of ore or a metal. You test it with acid and you find out, “Mm, that’s fool’s gold.” And what do you do? You let that go and you hold on to the legit.
That’s what God wants you to do in every public worship setting. Be open to the movement of the Spirit of God; be receptive to the Word; examine it for yourself, and then that which is true, hold on to. That which isn’t, then avoid. That’s the idea. Hold off, let it go.
Finally, he’s going to talk about our spiritual growth. And our spiritual growth here he’s going to tell us that there are two big areas we need to remember. One, is we need to be dependent.
You never grow unless you’re dependent on God. But then he’s going to flip the coin and say, “You’re also responsible.” Verse 23 and 24 is a prayer. He says, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify,” that means just set apart, make you holy, “you through and through.”
So where does God want to make you holy? Through and through. Your mind, your thoughts, your motives. Every area: At work, at home, everything.
Well, notice he develops that. He says, “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless, pure, holy,” when? “until the coming,” or, “at the coming of our Lord Jesus.”
Well, who is going to accomplish this great and miraculous change? “The one who calls you is faithful.” He will do it. You can’t change your life. I can’t change my life. We just can’t do it. But you say to yourself, “Does that mean that you just don’t do anything?” No. In fact, look at verses 25 to 28.
We’re to be dependent, trusting Him to do the work, but we need to make ourselves available to how He gives us grace.
Notice how he concludes this. He says, “Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.” And then he says, “I charge you,” solemn is a strong word. “I solemnly charge you, before God, to have this read,” this epistle, the Word, “to all the believers.” Summary: “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
You know something? It’s interesting. He says, “Be dependent. Only God can bring about the change,” but then the apostle Paul himself, who seems to be a pretty mature Christian from what I can tell, he says, “Pray for us.” He needed the prayers of people and he knew people needed to pray.
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Now, this went out of fashion between the third and fourth century. Christians used to greet one another with a holy kiss and everything kind of goes south over time, and so they had some, a lot of men beginning to visit the Church saying, “Man, this is a pretty neat group,” you know, and they were hitting on all the ladies. Seriously. For real. You know?
And so they’re coming and kissing all these women, so the Church fathers, by about the third century said, “That kissing stuff, we’re not… axe. We’re not doing that anymore.”
But what’s the idea behind it? It’s warm, intimate, caring relationships. Isn’t that biblical fellowship?
And then the third one, what’s he say? “I charge you, have this read, the Word.” You see, you can’t change you. Only God can change you. But He doesn’t do it in a vacuum. “Have this read.” When the Word is read and taught, grace flows. When you pray and talk to God honestly, individually or with others, grace flows.
When you’re in fellowship in a small group, or out in the parking lot and you really share hearts and care for one another, grace flows. It’s not either/or. We’re dependent totally on Him but we need to avail ourselves of how grace comes. That’s how to be an awesome encourager.