Sunday, April 30, 2006

Warn, Comfort, or Uphold?

1 Thessalonians 5:14--Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

There seems to be inside all of us a desire to accuse, blame, then try to fix another. Rarely do I hear any of us speak about how wrong we are…only how wrong everyone else is. Then, we find a verse like 1 Thess 5:14, and quote just the first part—“…warn the unruly”. So, we set on a mission to warn (fix) people who are not living in ways that we do not agree with. However, we really need to understand what is going on here as it leads us towards abstaining from every appearance of evil.

Warn the unruly-- disorderly, idle persons, not working at all, busying themselves with other men’s matters. Often used to describe a lazy, rebellious soldier. Also used to describe people who did not show up for work, and one who is contentious, quarrelsome, headstrong, and causes strife & division.
These type of people need strong, often sharp (yet loving), reproof for their sloth. Exhort them to work with their own hands, and to get busy working in God’s Kingdom. NOTE: it says warn, not ‘fix’. Warning is our job. ‘Fixing’ is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility.

Comfort the fainthearted—those who have experienced great loss of any sort. Staggering under the weight of taking up their cross daily, and at the reproaches and persecutions of the world; are almost overcome with the temptations of Satan; and are down and discouraged with the corruptions of their own hearts and minds.
To these, speak a comfortable word; encourage them with the doctrines of grace, and the promises of the Gospel. The overall idea is to speak God’s Word to them in order to calm, console, and encourage.

Uphold the weak-- weak in faith and knowledge. These are to the point of not being able to do it on their on; as it seems with Jesus. They desperately need someone to support them, walk with them, and carry their burden for a while, as directed in Romans 15:1;
It seems that this is where we fail the most. Comforting the fainthearted takes time, upholding the weak takes time and energy. May the Lord help us to be more attentive to the needs of the fainthearted and the weak.

Be patient with all-- towards the unruly, the feebleminded, and the weak. And don’t get these things mixed up. For instance, don’t strongly rebuke the weak or fainthearted. And don’t carry the burden of the lazy, etc. Also, if anyone wrongs you, do not repay evil with evil. But set your mind and heart to pursue only what is good [beneficial] both for yourself and others.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

My personal amplified version of 1 Thess 5:22

Overall, the first letter to the believers in Thessalonica was upbeat and encouraging. Paul is grateful and relieved to hear that the people are growing in their Faith. After some foundational teaching in the first three chapters, Paul moves to exhortation in chapter 4. [the word ‘exhort’ should bring up a visual of someone putting their loving arm around another and drawing them to their side in an effort to instruct, strengthen, and encourage. ]

By the way, I have often heard this verse quoted to support ‘not being a stumbling block’. While this should be a concern of every believer, here are some specifics about that; and, I don’t think that is the emphasis here. It seems to me that all of chapter 4 and 5 is one complete thought process in how to “walk and to please God” (4:1). If 1 Thess 5:22 is going to be amplified at all, it seems that you have to include both chapters. But for now, here is 5:22 as I understand it...

I told you specifically to abstain from sexual immorality. However, evil can and does appear in many forms. In fact, evil may even appear as something good. There are countless people who think they are doing a good service for God, but in their heart, there is evil. I, Paul, am one glaring example of this. But beware, there will be far more subtle evil that will creep into the church and into your lives. Therefore, you must test all things…then, abstain from every appearance of evil, no matter what form it takes, and hold fast to what is good.

It may help to periodically review the teaching in chapters 4 & 5. (It may also help to look at the Bereans as good example, and then here for sort of a summary of what I am trying to say.)

Finally, if you will do these things that I have brought to your attention, then my prayers will be answered…the God of Peace Himself will sanctify [set you apart] you completely; and your whole spirit, soul, and body will be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Abstain from the appearance of evil

First Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

A few weeks ago, we were warned that our children should not go to their High School Prom. There was some validity to his concern, but when we disagreed, he quoted “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” reminding us of several sinful activities that often take place on prom night. (I will leave the prom argument to others for now…)

I have wondered about that verse for years, never really feeling like it is being used today as it was originally intended. (I have often used it wrongly myself) So, finally, I am really checking this verse out.

After a couple of weeks of reading through First Thessalonians (esp Chapter 5), looking at the overall context, and doing a word study, I feel pretty sure that we have missed it here. I started trying to type out what I think that I have learned…but then I found these two articles on the internet. While they may not be 100% correct (I really don’t know) I believe that they are definitely headed in the right direction. Together, these two articles seem to be the best interpretation of this verse and offers great advice on how it should be Biblically applied to our lives.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Did Jesus ever condemn anyone with His Words?

My thinking is Yes, but He only condemned the condemned.

I have often heard people quote a verse or two from the Bible in order to reprove, warn, or discipline someone; but, they come across very condemning. In fact, it usually digresses to one proving to another how right they are. Most of the time, the “Bible Verse Quoter” simply says something like, “Hey, truth hurts”. I have probably done this myself from time to time…but I wonder, “Why?” How did it get this way? Some thoughts:

A ‘Quoted Bible Verse’ is often by itself and out of context.
For instance, I know of several oft quoted verses used for warning or trying to ‘reprove’ someone who is OBVIOUSLY so wrong, because I have used them myself at times. One of them is 1st Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” which we usually say in tones which suggest our superior spiritual standing to the person who is so wrong.
We quote this one when we want to dissuade another from doing something that we think they should not do; although, it is usually not clear whether it is sinful or not. We just don’t think it is best and don’t really have any other Bible Verse to back up our claim. Sometimes, we may be right; other times, I am not so sure. I could go on about when, why, and how we use that verse, but the main thing is…Does anyone really know or understand the context of that verse and why it was written in the first place? I have not researched this for myself yet, but I bet you would need to read all of 1st Thessalonians (at least chapter 5) to get a clearer picture. And of course, we usually pick and choose where in our lives (and the lives of others) to apply that verse. If we really applied that verse to our life in the same manner we want others to apply it, we would have to live a very isolated life.

A ‘Quoted Bible Verse’ was spoken by Jesus, but was originally spoken to the condemned, not to believers.
It seems that we sometimes beat believers with verses intended to condemn the condemned; when we should be looking for Words of Jesus that edify believers. In the future, whenever I read one of the four gospels, I will be looking at this. For now, here are some verses that I have heard directed at believers. But it seems to me that they were originally directed at those who had rejected Jesus and will always reject Him. I must go back to find out exactly who He was talking to and why He said what He said…especially in Matthew 23…He was going off on somebody…

Matthew 23:15 “…For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
Matthew 23:13 “…For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”
Matthew 23:27 “…For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Matthew 23:33 "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.”

On the other hand, look at how he treated believers.

John 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
John 8:11 “…Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."”
John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The Solution? Not exactly sure, but I think this is a good start…
* Let’s all read and study our Bibles a little more on our own, asking the Holy Spirit to give us Understanding…instead of depending on others to feed us.
* Let’s change our attitude and mission to one of edifying believers [building up]; and, exercise extreme caution and humility when correcting or reproving believers.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Foundation for Spiritual Growth

Reading Spiritually About Spiritual Things [Henri Nouwen]

Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insight and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead us to degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual things but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people.As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God's voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words.

Words of Jesus

Or Read The Words of Jesus in one month.