Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 3

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 3

Study Guide, January 28, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

In still thinking about some goals for 2024…research states that well over half of all people who set goals fail to reach them. So I got to thinking about some realistic goals, some goals I could likely reach…realistically reach…like – loose some more hair! Now that’s doable…I think I’m right on track with that one. Or, how about…gain a little more weight…yeah, that’s possible…and probable. I think I could handle that one. Although, I do plan to fight back on that one a bit. Or, then maybe, do try to get more organized, but not too organized. You see, that way it gives me a little wiggle room there…just keeping it real, right?

But while these are realistic goals, there are certainly much better and more profitable goals to make and to strive for…and we’ll point some out as we continue our sojourning through Thessalonians. So let’s sojourn through chapter two.

1 Thess 2:1-6- “You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery. For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.” NLT

If you are looking for some goals for 2024, like ‘Discipleship Goals’, look no further. For one, just like with Paul and Silas, as for a priority goal for your life here it is: Declare the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in spite of opposition. We are to be declaring to the world that this is not the world’s world…this is God’s world. And Jesus Christ is Lord, and the only Savior to whom everyone is to repent of their sins and receive Christ into their life as their personal Lord and Savior. Again, every person has something that God wants, and only they can give it to Him…their heart! And God has something that every person needs, and only God can give it to them…His eternal life! It truly is the Gospel of the great exchange. We give our heart, our soul, to God in repentance, and He gives His forgiveness and eternal life to us, as we receive Him by faith.

And yet, still, with this most wonderful message from God, with this most amazing gift any person could ever receive, with this most awesome benevolent loving God who deserves our worship and love and service…still, like with Paul and Silas and these new Thessalonian believers, you can still count on ‘opposition’ from others in your world around you. It’s the most illogical, unreasonable, and foolish thing any human being can do, to reject or neglect giving their life to the very Creator of their life and receiving the only Savior of their life! And yet, most people around the world, and around your town, still will stubbornly hold onto the control of their own condemned soul rather than to give their soul to the only One that can heal their soul and resurrect their dead spirit.

The latest reports on the state of religion in America shows that the fastest growing segment of society is not any one of a whole list of denominations, but a segment now referred to as ‘The Nones’. And not ‘Nuns’, like in a convent, but ‘Nones’, as in ‘No one particular religious affiliation at all!’ This segment of ‘Nones’ has now reached over one out of four Americans. And the alarming issue is not just that they have no religious affiliation, but that most of the ‘Nones’ have no commitment to the Sovereignty of God over their life, nor to saving faith in Jesus as the only Savior of mankind, nor do any resolve to live under the authority of the Word of God, the Bible.

Plus, in addition to the opposition that God-fearing Christians now face in our society from the ‘Nones’, God’s people also ironically face opposition from the ‘Somes’. Remember, Satan has no problem with ‘Religions’…where people believe in ‘some’ things about God and even practice ‘some’ religious things in their lives. In fact, Satan is the source of all religions that deny the Sovereignty of God and the only Saviorhood of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible in every area of life. Satan is all over promoting religious things…what he opposes is someone having ‘a personal saved and serving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ!’ What Satan opposes is the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, and that no one can come to the Father, but through Jesus Christ. But when they do, they then become born again in their spirit and are made children of the only Creator and Redeemer of mankind. That’s what the devil opposes.

And so, those who have ‘some’ religious beliefs and who practice ‘some’ religious activities will always oppose those who ‘fully’ worship Jesus Christ alone, and serve Jesus Christ alone, and seek to follow the teachings of the Bible alone as the absolute truth for all beliefs and morals for all people to obey. However, what those who oppose God and God’s people fail to realize is the account they must give before their Creator and Maker for rejecting Him as their Lord and Savior, and for persecuting His children, along with the sentence they will then serve in judgment.

But, again, a great goal for us from the Apostles and the Thessalonians is this: Commit to sharing the Gospel and expect opposition. Remember this: our world today is much like the world of our Thessalonian brethren. The worship of ‘Self’ came before any worship of a ‘Savior’. Therefore, opposition from a self-centered society is to be expected. But God will save ‘whosoever will come to Him’ nevertheless!

But know this; in order to have the mental fortitude to practice this goal, we will have to commit to another goal that we find in our passage. In fact, it pretty much just jumps right out at us. It’s this, from the Apostle’s own words: “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” And right along with that is this: “As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.”

That was actually a ‘theme attitude’ for the Apostle Paul throughout his ministry…and it is to be ours as well! But before we examine this attitude, we need to include how adamant Paul was about proclaiming the truths of God’s Word…especially about the truth of how anyone becomes saved through the Gospel of Grace. Notice: Gal 1:8-10- “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

There it is again. That’s how adamant Paul was! So, a question for us is: How adamant are you about proclaiming the truths of God’s Word, regardless of what others think or say about you…especially about how anyone becomes saved through the Gospel of the New Birth by Grace alone? We are to be very adamant about the Gospel of Grace.

But note that we did not say ‘argumentative’, but ‘adamant’. Is there a difference? Yes! To be ‘adamant’ about good things is a very good thing. But to be ‘argumentative’ about nearly everything is a very bad thing. There is even a difference between ‘arguing’ and ‘being argumentative’. To ‘argue’ is an action…and can be done respectfully and constructively. Whereas to ‘be argumentative’ is an attitude…a really bad attitude, one of disrespect and destruction. To argue is to present reasons and to provide evidence and to bring light into a darkened area of thinking, all the while having a cooperative and constructive attitude. This is also called ‘contending’, as in contending for the faith, and it is both helpful to others and needed by others. But to be argumentative is flat out sinful. To be an argumentative person is both displeasing to people and displeasing to God. For being argumentative is a sinful attitude of being contentious, combative, destructively critical, quarrelsome, and even cantankerous. And that is neither helpful for anyone nor needed by anyone.

Now, as representatives of Christ, we of all people can and should respectfully and constructively ‘argue’ for truth and for the Gospel and take a positive stand for justice and righteousness in the face of what is false and unrighteous. But at the same time, we are to guard against being argumentative…being contentious and cantankerous. Rather, we can and should be ‘adamant’ for the Gospel… ‘adamant’ about truth and righteousness and justice. For to be ‘adamant’, by definition, is to be ‘committed’, to be ‘strong and courageous’, and to be…and get this description…to be as ‘a crystalized gem, like a diamond’.

How about that? All of God’s people are, as the Apostle Peter stated, are as ‘living stones’ for God. But each of God’s people are to seek to become not just ‘living stones’ in the hands of God through the conversion of our soul, but to also become as ‘crystalized gems’, like diamonds in the hands of God through becoming transformed more and more into the character of Christ. Again, God makes us ‘living stones’ in the temple of God, or in the Body of Christ, but we are to then seek to become ‘gemstones’ in our personal worship of God and our service for God and our usefulness to God.

Do you remember what the Apostle wrote about that in 2 Tim 2:20-21? “In a large house there are things made of gold and silver. But there are also things made of wood and clay. Some of these are used for special purposes, others for ordinary jobs. The Lord wants to use you for special purposes, so make yourself clean from all evil. Then you will be holy, and the Master can use you. You will be ready for any good work.” NLT Usefulness to our Master, to our Lord and Savior, is to be one of the highest goals of our life. And the more useful we are, the more we become as ‘crystalized gemstones’ for the glory of God and the blessings of others and the gain even for our own lives.

It’s a similar principle of the ‘Branch’ teaching of Jesus. Jesus Himself is the Vine, and we are His branches. He makes us His branches through the New Birth of our spirit. Praise God! But there’s more for a branch to do than to just exist as a branch. A branch has a great purpose, and that purpose is to bear fruit! John 15:1-5- “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” NASU

God saved us and made us each a branch united to Him. But God created you for even more. God converted you into being a branch, but God created you to bear fruit! That is your purpose as a branch for Christ. And as you commit to your purpose you will please God more and more and will be blessed more and more, as well as in the Kingdom be rewarded more and more. And others will be helped more and more by you as you seek to live out your God given goal of being useful and fruitful for your Lord and Savior.

Now then, like with Paul, if that is your goal concerning what God thinks of you, then you can and should also adopt the Apostle’s attitude about what others think of you, because when you live to please God, that may not be so pleasing to others. That’s what the Apostle was talking about when he said: “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” And “As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else. Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.”

Mark it down: Paul was more concerned about what he was in the eyes of God than about what he was before the faces of people. And if he was seeking to be faithful in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, and in seeking to be adamant about standing for justice and righteousness, and in seeking to be pleasing in his attitude before God, of being a humble and useful servant in the hands of God, then how others around him responded, well, that was all on them…not on him. Their response was their own responsibility, not his. And they were going to have to answer to God for it all.

The Apostle’s goal and focus is to be the primary goal and focus of our own motives and actions as well. If you are seeking to be as pleasing as you can and as useful as you can in the hands of God, then you do not need to fret at all about whatever you are in the faces and thoughts of others. If you find yourself blessed before the faces of others, be encouraged by that. But if you find yourself cursed before the faces of others, well, like Jesus said to His disciples, just shake their dust off your feet and go on your way, knowing that you will be compensated for your good attempts in everything. And as for the argumentative ones, the contentious ones, the critically destructive ones, the quarrelsome ones…know that they will be judged and recompensed for their evil deeds. God is your Defender as well as your Deliver!

So, again, each of us ‘living stones’ can also become as ‘gemstones’, as we practice denying ungodliness and worldly desires and seek to live faithfully, righteously, and godly in this present age. Each of us ‘branches’ can also bear much fruit for our Savior as we put ourselves in His hands each day and commit to worshipping and serving Him in any way we can and every way we can with the time and the treasures and the talents He has given us. And we’ll find out even more about doing this further as we sojourn further through Thessalonians together.