Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A thief in the night - 1st Thessalonians 5:1-6

"Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1st Thessalonians 5:1-6)
There is a day fastly approaching where this world and this creation will be dissolved and a new one takes it place. King David prophesied of this time when he said, "Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed." (Psalm 102:25-26) And John the Apostle likewise saw the end of all things in the revelation given to him. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.'" (Revelation 21:1-3) However, Jesus also made it clear that no man know the time of His return and of the end of the age. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." (Matthew 24:36) And, prior to His ascension, He said to His disciples, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority." (Acts 1:7

Jesus is returning again at a time and hour we do not know and with Him is also coming the end of the age; the destruction of this present creation and the ushering in of a new creation "in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13) Knowing these things are to happen, and the manor in which they are to come to pass, Paul's advice to us is to remain ready. Paul uses the metaphors of light and darkness, awake and asleep. There are those who live in spiritual darkness; unable, or unwilling, to see the light of the gospel. In their lives they are asleep to the truth of what is around then; the truth pertaining to their lives, the truth pertaining to what God has purchased for them, and the truth pertaining to the ultimate end of all things. The world plunges deeper and deeper into darkness and they willingly and joyfully follow along towards destruction. "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:26-27) Jesus came to wake us up from our slumber and to deliver us from darkness unto the light so that that day might not overtake us "as a thief in the night" but rather that we might be found worthy to inherit the new creation that God is about to bring forth.

However, some still prefer the darkness. Jesus said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." (John 3:19-21) It is true that there can be no coming into the light without our deeds becoming exposed However, without exposure there can be no release or forgiveness for our deeds done in darkness. God is calling us to be people of light; to brave the darkness, to let our sins to be seen for what they are, especially by us, and to allow the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God to wash over our lives and our sins and to cleanse us and make us truly children of light. In the end, darkness will be banished and only light will remain. Let us now learn how to walk in that light today that we might not be shamed when it does appear; that for us it will not come as that thief in the night,

David Robison

Friday, August 29, 2014

Not like the rest - 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1st Thessalonians 4:13-18)
For many people today, the idea of a resurrection to live is common place, even if they don't believe in such a resurrected life. However, in the Greek/Roman world that Paul lived in, such was not the case. Very little of their religion and mythology dealt with the idea of an after life and, if it did, it was usually in the form of a reincarnation, either to a better life for the good or a worse life for the evil. Yet for many, death was still the final exit; the door to a non-existence. For many, death became fearful; fearful for the nothingness that awaited them or fear for the possible reversal of fortunes that awaited them in reincarnation. This fear held men and women in slavery; either to appease the gods for long life or for a better existence in another life. Their future, or non-future, depended on the gods and they were held in slavery to them to do their bidding.

However, Jesus came to free us from such fear and slavery, "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15) and to announce to us the resurrection from the dead, "but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2nd Timothy 1:10) For the people of Paul's day, this was ground breaking truth and a welcome relief from their fear of death.

One day, death will be abolished. "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death." (1 Corinthians 15:25-26) In the end, life will be eternal and death will be no more. "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4) However, presently, death is still a reality and often the greatest pain of death is the pain of our loss. It is for the loss of those we love that we grieve. However, Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that, even though we grieve over the loss of our loved ones, we need not grieve like others, for in our grieving we have hope. We are not like the unbelieving world, being unaware of the resurrection, but we believe that life is eternal and that one day we shall be reunited with those we have lost. I have had two friends who both lost spouses very early in life and for both of them their greatest comfort was knowing that one day they would be reunited with them in the resurrection; one day they would see them again and in that day death would no longer be able to separate them. Yes we grieve, but we grieve in hope. What tremendous comfort we can find in this truth.

David Robison

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Live quiet lives - 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12

"make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." (1st Thessalonians 4:11-12)
Mathetes describes the early believers in this manor:
"For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity... and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life... They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.... They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives... they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred." (Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter 5)
In such a way, Christianity is a truly remarkable religion. It is not so much a religion of form as it is one of life. It can be practiced by anyone and anywhere. It is accessible to the lowliest and to the greatest among us. It is a universal religion of inclusion that does not require external conformance to belong. It is a religion, not of practices, but of reverence and worship for the God-Man Jesus Christ.

However, much has changed through the intervening centuries. Some believers have tried to live separated from the world, even announcing their identities with a common dress or language, but this was not how it was intended. Christians were to be a part of everyday life; living quiet lives of holiness, temperance, and piety; people living well-ordered lives in peace, joy, and righteousness which are the hallmark of His kingdom.

One thing I have noticed is the rise of "ministry schools" and classes and seminars to teach you how to minister in the Holy Spirit. While these are good, and many have been helped by such schools, I wonder if we are really teaching people how to live in life? They may know well how to prophesy or to pray for someone, but have we taught them how to live a "quiet life" and to "work with their hands" that they might "meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful."? (Titus 3:14) I have seen some come out of such schools excited for ministry which they expect others to fund for them. In our excitement for the supernatural, have we missed the truly remarkable power of the Gospel that enables everyday people to live extraordinary lives in every day life?

David Robison

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Love one another - 1st Thessalonians 4:9-11

"Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more." (1st Thessalonians 4:9-11)
Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Love for one another is both our commission and our goal. Nothing can be more central to our participation in the physical presence of Christ on this earth that to love and be loved by others. As we come to love God, and to be loved by Him, our natural response aught to be to love others. As a church, the believers in Thessolanica exemplified both this command and this truth. They sincerely loved one another and their love for each other, and for all the brethren, was renowned through out region.

However, as the church has evolved over the past two thousand years, especially here in America, we have let service replace love and organization replace relationships. The "church" has often become a self-sustaining organization that, to some degree, no longer need its congregants to continue, except for their financial support. The congregants are needed only to fill the slot of the audience for the Sunday performance and to be the recipients of the services provided by the "church." So much happens outsides the purview of the individual members; the planning of the Sunday "service", the organizing of teams, the development of programs; many such activities which are center around the few or the professional and are are meant to serve the masses but not necessarily to relate to them. While many such noble works are considered and motivated out of love, they often operate without love for "one another," meaning there may be a genuine sense of love in the one giving but not a love for one another that flows from relationships.

Some churches even seem to have created an environment which appears to keep the spectator in a perpetual state of need; instilling in them a need for a weekly service to lessen, but never cure, some perceived need inside of them; the need for a sacrament for forgiveness, the need to be assured of salvation, the need for someone to teach them to know God; always receiving but never coming to perfection. What if people came to understand the sacrifice of Christ that was given once and for all? What if people came to understand that they are forever saved and are already being made new? What if people came to understand that they are complete in Christ and no longer need a teacher to come to know God? Might we them become a church that is no longer based on need but rather one that is now free to love and serve one another out of the love of God that overflows in our lives? I believe that such a church would revolutionize the world they live in.

We judge churches by many varying standards including, orthodoxy, lively worship, and the availability of services to meet pressing needs, but the one standard that Jesus is looking for is love! How would we fare if we judged ourselves and our relationships from this vantage point? Would we find that we have fulfilled Jesus' command to present ourselves as his disciples by loving one another even as He has loved us? Or would we be like the church at Laodicea who had a reputation of being rich and wealthy and in need of nothing but was really "wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked"? (Revelation 3:17) Let us dispense with the world's view of success and adopt Jesus standard of measure; that we might strive to be a church that loves.

David Robison

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sanctification not immorality - 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8

"Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you." (1st Thessalonians 4:1-8)
Paul begins chapter four with the word "finally" even though he has a full two chapters yet to go! I don't know when it started, but, in my experience, this has become a practice many preachers have adopted: saying "finally" while there is a lot more to come! Thank's Paul! OK, glad to get that off my chest.

Seriously, however, 1st Thessalonians is not a letter with many commands or instructions but rather a very personal letter to a church Paul had had to leave too soon. When the Judizers heard that Paul was there, they came and caused a ruckus.  "The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea," (Acts 17:10) Due to his hasty departure, there were still a few things he wanted to remind them about. Of primary concern in this letter was their call to purity, holiness, and sanctification. Paul was especially concerned that they would learn to live free from sexual immorality and learn to rule over their flesh with its impure passions and desires. The Greek and Roman world in Paul's day was quite licentious and could rival any modern society in their impurity and sensuality. People lived in a society where almost anything went and they were inundated with the message of sex day and night as they walked about in the course of their lives. The early Christians needed to train themselves for purity and holiness; learning to control their lust and deny their flesh, that they might live a life pleasing to God. This call to sanctification was inseparable from their call to salvation; you could not have one without accepting the responsibility of the other. Paul goes on to say that he who rejects this call to sanctification is not rejecting men, but God! It was not Paul calling them to purity, but the Holy Spirit!

We too live in a society that has many wrong perspectives on sex and sexuality. The Greek word for "sexual immorality" comes from the root word "porne" from which we get our word for "porn". We too have grown up being taught the world's idea of sex, and it is vastly different from God's view. We too need to train our souls to rule over our flesh and to discipline it for holiness. We too need to learn to live according to a new pattern of life, a pattern that is godlike and that is pleasing to God.

Finally, Paul gives us the contrary view to illicit sex when he says to not defraud each other in this matter. Everyone is someone's brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother. The problem with the world's view of sex is that it reduces the other person to a mere object meant to serve us is our pleasures. We no longer see them as someone's mother, sister, or wife. If we would open our eyes and see them as people and treat them as we would treat our sisters, mothers, and wives the we would thing differently of lusting after them. We would instinctively honor them for the value they possess as creations of God and fellow human beings made in His image. They would become people, not objects.

David Robison

Thursday, August 21, 2014

His holy ones - 1st Thessalonians 3:11-13

"Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." (1st Thessalonians 3:11-13)
Of first note in this sentence is the term "saint". This is the same Greek word often translated as "holy" as in the Holy Spirit. We could just as easily say that we are His "holy ones" and He is His "Saintly Spirit". It is also important to note that when Paul refers to the "saints of God" he is referring to all believers, not just special people who have been so designated by the church ecclesia. Paul consistently, when using the term saints, refers to the entire body of believers as does Jude and the writer of Hebrews in their usage of the same term. Peter uses this same word in "holy priesthood" (1st Peter 2:5) and "holy nation" (1st Peter 2:9) in describing the catholic collection of believers. We are all saints before God; saints through of our redemption and sanctification by Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Paul prays that God would "cause you to increase and abound." He does not pray that God would increase them, but rather that He would cause them to increase. Character and the fruit of the Spirit are not something that God grants through prayer as a completed gift in to our lives, rather, they are developed, or grown, in us throughout our lives as we learn to walk with and trust in Jesus. Character and fruit come when we learn to express our faith through actions of love. For example, God says we should love our wives. We believe this and look for ways to express God's love to our wives and, as such, over time, we become more loving. God says that the tongue holds the power of life and death. We believe this so we learn to practice the wisdom of God in all our speech and conduct and, as such, over time, we develop a manor of speech that brings life, not death, to people. Similarly, God uses situations and circumstances as opportunities for us to grow in our faith and trust in God. When my wife and I were first married we had little money, yet we saw regularly how God miraculously provided for our needs, even our rent each month. This season of our life taught us how to trust God with our finances, a lesson that has yield great dividends over the nearly thirty years of our marriage. Let us always remember: some things God gives and some things He causes.

Finally, the reason Paul prayed that God would cause them to increase and abound was that they would progress towards holiness and that they might be able to stand blameless before Him at His return. The key to their development in holiness was their increase in love; love for God, love for one another, and love for all people. Love is not a feeling, it is not an emotion, love is a decision that leads to an action. Consider one of the most familiar verses in all the scriptures. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) God loved us, not just with a feeling, but with a choice (to redeem us) that lead to an action (sending His Son to die in our place). Singular, When Paul describes love, he describes it as: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) These are all actions. Paul prayed, not that they would increase in loving feelings towards one another, but that they would act more loving towards one another. It is the increase in our actions, representing faith working through love, that is the key to growing in holiness.

David Robison

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Now we live - 1st Thessalonians 3:6-10

"But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?" (1st Thessalonians 3:6-10)
As any parent will attest, there are times when, even in the business and trials of the day, your mind is still distracted by the concerns you carry for your children. This was Paul. He continued to face opposition in every city he preached, but there was still that lingering care and concern for the Thessalonians. It was only when Timothy returned and reported that they had remained strong in their faith, the love for one another, and their love for Paul and those who had brought them the Gospel, that Paul's mind was put at ease and he was able to once again face the challenges of the day with a renewed joy in his heart.

The evidence and hallmark of a true and genuine conversion in the Lord is faith and love; faith in God and love for one another. It is from these two virtues that the rest of the Kingdom of God flows. Paul says that, "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) In fact, faith working through love is one of the simplest and most practical definitions of "righteousness." We further see this when Paul later writes to the Thessalonians about "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and to the Ephesians of "the breastplate of righteousness." (Ephesians 6:14) Righteousness is nothing more than faith expressing itself through love! Paul saw the evidence of their salvation because he saw the evidence of their righteousness, that being their faith and love.

Having established righteousness in our hearts and adopted a lifestyle of living our faith through our love, what more remains of the Christian walk? Paul here speaks of "standing firm" yet other places he speaks of running the race (1st Corinthians 9:24) and fighting the good fight (1st Timothy 6:12). The truth is that often, standing still, takes contest and it takes fight. Contest with the world and fight against our flesh; a battle to remain rather than to flee; an inward decision to continue in faith and love rather than revert to our former ways of unrighteousness. Life, true life, is realized when we fight to remain. The world claims to have life yet they walk in darkness and are dead even as they live. Life is only found in God and only experienced when we remain in Him. To live life, we must seek to remain.

In seeking to remain, we must never grow stagnate in our faith. We must always be yielding our live unto God; to allow His word to go deeper into our lives to continually break up the residual fallow ground in our hearts and minds and to continually teach us how we ought to live in love. Paul understood that, while life can come in an instant, faith deepens over time. Maturity in faith takes time, endurance, and openness to the Holy Spirit. It may seem strange, but the height of immaturity is thinking we have arrived; true maturity understands that we are all works in progress and that work won't be done until He returns to complete his work in our lives. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

David Robison

Monday, August 18, 2014

Enduring Affliction - 1st Thessalonians 3:1-5

"Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain." (1st Thessalonians 3:1-5)
Affliction was never far from the early Christian church. While from time to time they did experience seasons of peace, such peace was merely a prelude to more persecution. Many early Christians would find their faith crowned in martyrdom. Of particular concern to Paul was the young faith of the Thessalonians in the face of such persecution and murder. How would they fare? Would they stand? Would they remain victorious? Would Paul's labors, and that of his team, bear fruit or would all their labors be for not? To find out, they sent back Timothy.

Not all who receive Christ do so in a manor that bears fruit. Jesus told us the parable of the Sower and the Seed and how some seed bore no fruit while some bore thirty, sixty, and even a hundredfold. Speaking of persecution and affliction, Jesus said, "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away." (Matthew 13:20-21) The Greek word here for "falls away" is the same from which we get our word "to scandalize" or to offend. Falling away begins with an offense and leads to apostasy. Many people are like those who sought after Jesus because He feed them with the five loves and the two fish, but when things got tough, they realized this is not what they had signed up for. "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?'... As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." (John 6:60, 66) There are many people who want the good things of the Kingdom, but they're not ready for the rest that comes along with that, including trials, suffering, and possibly even persecution. They love the Kingdom when it benefits them, but they have no heart for any difficulties their faith may bring along the way. The root of the Kingdom of God goes only as deep as it might yield within them shallow joy.

To endure in the Kingdom, we must let its truth sink deep into our lives. We must abandon our entire life, body and soul, to the living God in faith and trust in His Word. After many of His disciples had left, Jesus asked the others if they were leaving too. Peter responded for the rest of them saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) Their whole life was committed to Christ. They had no plan "B". If this thing that Jesus was preaching was not real, they had no where else to go; no other hope, no other life, no other reason. The Gospel had found root in them and they were "all in." It is this kind of life that bears fruit, and fruit that remains. It is this kind of life that endures difficulty and trials victoriously. It is this kind of life that overcomes all that is in the world. It is this kind of life that can truly be called "eternal" even while lived here upon the Earth.

David Robison

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wars, Battles, and Skirmishes - 1st Thessalonians 2:17-20

"But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while — in person, not in spirit — were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you — I, Paul, more than once — and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." (1st Thessalonians 2:17-20)
Sometimes we think of Paul as that "Great Apostle" who preached to the multitudes, worked mighty miracles, and as was feared by devils. "And the evil spirit answered and said to them, 'I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?'" (Acts 19:15) So we may find it surprising that this mighty warrior of light would be hindered by the devil in anything he purposed, yet here Paul confesses that, more than once, Satan hindered them from returning to Thessalonica and to the brethren they loved so much. However, we must remember that in any great war there are many battles and in each battle there may be many skirmishes. We may loose a skirmish, yet still remain to win the battle.

It reminds me of when civil war broke out in the nation of Israel and Israel brought war to the tribe of Benjamin. Israel asked the Lord if they should go up in battle and the Lord answered "Judah shall go up first." (Judges 20:18) yet Israel was defeated before Benjamin. A second time they inquired of the Lord and He said, "Go up against him." (Judges 20:23) yet again they were defeated. Finally a third time they inquired of the Lord and He said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand." (Judges 20:28) and a great victory was won over their brothers.

We have been promised that, at the end of days, we will stand victorious with Jesus at His returning. However, this does not mean that in our daily lives we will not have ups and downs; small victories and minor setbacks. However, it does mean that if we endure to the end, victory is certain. Like all great armies we must have a longer view of life than just today. Battles will come and go, but we must keep our focus on the war; to win in the end is better than any minor victory in the present and will wipe away all memories of our defeats along the way. "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

Similarly, we must learn to prefer the nature of eternal glory to that of the fleeting glory offered by temporal life. Some people live for glory and honor, yet with the receiving of such, their reward is over. Some men live to be praise by men, but that praise is short lived and seldom outlives those men who once praised them. Temporal rewards are just that, temporal. Jesus put it this way, "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full... Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." (Matthew 6:5, 16)

Paul lived for glory and for a crown, but they were not temporal rewards but eternal. They were rewards that he would one day receive from God, not from men. Paul preached the Gospel, not for what he could receive from it, but for what God would receive. He preached for the increase of the Kingdom rather than the increase of himself, knowing that in the end, it would be from God and His Kingdom that he would receive his reward. And what would be his reward? To stand beside Jesus and behold with Him those in whom he had a part in bringing the Gospel. His reward and joy would be to see the eternal fruit of his works. This is the same joy that John looked forward to. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full." (John 3:29) To stand beside his savior and to hear His voice and to behold His love for His bride, for whom Paul had labored, would be joy, glory, and reward enough for him.

David Robison

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hostile to all men - 1st Thessalonians 2:13-16

"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost." (1st Thessalonians 2:13-16)
There can be a big difference between hearing what someone says and hearing a message; between believing in the words of a message and believing the in the character of the message. What the Thessalonians understood was that the words Paul spoke to them were not just another philosophical or religious idea, but the very words of God. Their faith was not in the words themselves but in their author and in their power and energy to change them and to work in them to make them new. It was more than becoming a convert to an idea, it was becoming believers in a force and a power of renewal. They believed not just the words but the power that was behind the words, and they accepted the words gratefully as being sent from a loving heavenly Father.

I have know people who say they believe the Bible, but it is a belief that is disconnected from its power and its reality. They acknowledge its truth but never associate with it in a way that allows it to change their life. Their hope is in a salvation of mental conformity rather than faith in something that is living and active and able to save them even now if they would but yield to its power and energy. They "believe" but they are not changed. Our faith needs to go beyond mere belief in the words. We must also believe in who spoke them and their waiting power to change and save us. To believe in God and His Word is to believe in change.

Paul reminds, and commends, them of their suffering and persecution for the name of Christ. In their day there were those who were "not pleasing to God" and who were "hostile to all men." The Greek word meas to literally be "opposite", and in this sense to be "contrary, hostile, and antagonistic." Their violent service was not pleasing to God and was in opposition to all men because they sought to over though that which offered love, peace, freedom, and life, the very things all men hope for and wish for. In their days it was militant Jews and Romans who sought to rid the world of this new religion or peace.

Today there are others who violently oppress those who believe in love, peace, reconciliation, and life. They have become militant in their hatred and oppose all who disagree with them and who fail to submit to their reign and ideology (if it can be called that for there is little "ideal" in their ideology). They cleanse the areas they rule of all Jews and Christians and persecute and torture those who remain; even beheading and sawing in two children who believe. They have become consumed by their evil and are some of the purest disciples of their master, the devil. There are those in this world who hate life and who have become the enemies of all men; of all men who love life and desire peace and happiness. To such we must not yield, nor must we leave our way of peace and love, but we must continue in our hope and faith in the message, its author, and its power.

David Robison