Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 4

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 4

Study Guide, February 4, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

Next Sunday is the annual Super Bowl. It’s a great time for football lovers all over the country. But there’s another annual event that’s called the Great Race of Mercy that takes place in March. And it’s a great time for Dog Sled lovers and Mushers. You know what we’re talking about, right: It’s called the Iditarod. This race commemorates the brave Mushers and their dogs, who fought through blizzard conditions to bring life-saving diphtheria serum from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, in 1925. How would you like to go on a dog sled race that runs anywhere from 975 miles to 1,000 miles depending on which route is used that year? Those are tough trail hardened people, and amazing dogs, as well.

We might not be using sled dogs, but like with the persecuted Thessalonian believers, we all are to be tough trail hardened people when it comes to taking the life-saving serum of the Gospel to people in our society who are dying, not of diphtheria, but from the depravity of their sins. Remember, Jesus said that we are His ‘Witnesses’! We are like ‘Gospel Mushers’!

Let’s return to our ‘sojourning’, or we could say our ‘sledding’ through Thessalonians. And we pick up in our study in 1 Thessalonians 2…where we see the Apostle doing some character training teaching for these new believers and for us ‘seasoned’ believers. We just have to be careful about what kind of seasoning we have in ourselves and then shake onto others. What do we mean? Well, let’s explore.

1 Thess 2:7-12- “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” NASU

It’s always so impressive to see the balance of ‘tough and tender’ at work in the lives of both the Prophets and the Apostles. Paul was a trail hardened warrior for the Lord, like when he challenged the Greek philosophers in Athens with the truths that there was and is only One Creator and One Savior…and when he rebuked the Roman authorities in Philippi for mistreating and imprisoning him, since he was a Roman citizen. He even made the authorities themselves come to the jail to escort them out. But when it came to his fellow believers, that called for a change in how he treated his fellow believers, and how he talked to his fellow believers…that called for ‘tender’…at least, that was his goal, except for those ‘tough love’ times like with some of the carnal Corinthian believers. And we’ve talked about that.

But to these new believers he said: “…we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children…We were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.” Now, where have we seen any similar talk like that before, and with whom? Notice how the Lord describes Himself in Isa 40:10-11- “Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, He brings His reward with Him as He comes. He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” NLT

Throughout the Scriptures our God continually emphasizes two aspects of His own character…a powerful Warrior and a tender Shepherd. Ex 15:3- “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.” NASU John 10:11- “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” NASU Our God is both ‘Warrior’ and ‘Shepherd’. That’s what the Prophets and the Apostles were as well. And that’s what we are to be and are to seek to be more and more! That’s what Paul was demonstrating to these new believers in this new church plant in Thessalonica. And he wasn’t just demonstrating it, he was discipling them in it with the goal that these new Disciples of Jesus Christ would see that in order to be like Christ in character and conduct, they, too, needed to be both tough and tender.

Now then, when to be tough, and to whom to be tough…and when to be tender, and to whom to be tender…how you and I answer that and act on that is the measure of our character, and our wisdom, and our obedience to God’s Word. That reveals both how much we have become like Christ and how obedient we have been to Christ. Do you remember God’s requirements of His children? Mic 6:8- “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” NASU It’s fascinating how God continually reminds us that who we are in our character is even more important than what we do in our conduct, because it’s the obedience to God in our character that determines our usefulness to God in our conduct. Without that ‘trinity’ of ‘doing justice, practicing kindness, and walking humbly’, we are failing in what God is requiring of us. And none of these three are suggestions from God…no, they are commandments. To be an unjust Christian, not standing for the things of God nor defending the truths of God, is to be a disobedient Christian. To be an unkind Christian, in how you talk to others and treat others, especially fellow believers, is to be a disobedient Christian. To be a Christian that is full of self-pride and self-promotion is to be a disobedient Christian.

Over and over, in Paul’s letters to the churches, in Peter’s letters to the churches, they first exhorted the believers in the priority of developing the character of Christ, in order to then be a useful servant for Christ. They directed them in who they were to be before declaring to them what they were to do. So, again, just remember, the measure of your character in how much you speak and act like Christ will be the measure of your usefulness to Christ and your fruitfulness for Christ. That’s why Paul said to these Thessalonian believers, “…just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

God said a similar thing in Ps 32:8-9- “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check…” NASU A wild horse or mule? That’s fascinating, because the human personality could be likened to, or compared to, a wild or natural horse or mule. Our personality comes to us naturally. It’s a combination of our natural feelings and our natural aptitudes and our natural attitudes. But our personality can be impetuous, or impulsive, like a horse, or stubborn and self-willed, like a mule. Does the Lord know us, or what? But our character, particularly Christ-like character that is be formed in a Christian, is more than just natural. And our character is to be under continual development by the supernatural influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit within us.

Therefore, rather than being feelings-driven, like the natural man, we are to be faith-driven, like the spiritual man. And yet even there, not faith in our own beliefs or opinions, but faith that is in…well, how is a Christian’s faith to be driven anyway? How is our faith to be formed? Upon what is it to stand? Rom 10:17- “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” NASU Our faith is to be built upon the Gospel of Christ and the Teachings of Christ, the teachings of the Bible! Essentially, our faith is to be driven by facts…by God’s revealed truths to us! So really, we are to be fact-driven people who believe and obey in faith.

If you want to get a picture of this we could say, our personality is like the horse or mule, and our character is to be the Rider! And just like a cooperative horse is to be in submission to the directions of the Rider, so our personality is to be in submission to the direction of our character. And even our character is to be under the control of God the Holy Spirit. Plus, it is to also be in continual transformation to the image and character of Jesus Christ. So then…if our personality is not tempered or controlled by Christ’s character, what happens is that we simply default to our own feelings and our own opinions and our own attitudes about nearly everything. And, in this state, we will not be useful nor fruitful for what Christ is seeking to do in and through our lives, nor will we be walking in a manner worthy of our God who called us into His kingdom and glory.

Like with our Lord, who is both Warrior and Shepherd, the measure of a Christian man or Christian woman, is showing strength in defending and protecting against the enemies of our God and His kingdom, and showing kindness in how we talk to others and how we treat others, especially those who belong to His kingdom.

We continue our sojourn in 1 Thess 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.” NASU

These Thessalonian believers realized that what they had been given, the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of God did not originate from any human mind, but from the mind of God. Both Paul and Peter teamed up on this doctrine: 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Peter 1:20-21- “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” NASU

The authority and the inerrancy of the Bible has been the main focus of attack by the devil from the earliest days in Eden to the present days in America. The satanic belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth has so infected the minds of our Postmodern society that many people believe that all beliefs and all religions can be equally true. But not only is that completely illogical because teachings which totally contradict each other cannot at the same time also be true. Actually, we know that all of these contradictory claims are completely demonic because they deny that Jesus alone is ‘God’ and that His words alone are ‘Truth!’ In fact, our society has now reached a place where they have denied the Bible’s truths for so long, and have called what is evil ‘good’ and what is good ‘evil’ for so long, that the only thing that so many now claim is wrong is saying that what someone else is doing is wrong! Like, the only ‘wrong’ is to declare that what someone else believes or is doing is ‘wrong’. What? How deceived can people be? I think we are seeing that there is no limit to how deceived by the devil people can be or become. And people question whether history repeats itself? For in the days of the Judges, everyone did that which was right in their own eyes. In other words, if it seemed right to them, then it wasn’t wrong for them. Except, they ignore that timeless truth that calls to all people: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Prov 14:12 NASU

God’s words are ‘timeless truths’. They apply to all people in all places and in all times. Plus, they are ‘living truths’. Heb 4:12-13- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” NASU None of the claims that people make stops the continuous pulsating action of the living and powerful Word of God. Whenever God’s Word is proclaimed and wherever God’s Word is shared it begins its piercing conviction in the souls of people…piercing as deep as their spiritual joints and marrow and begins judging even the thoughts and intentions of their hearts.

You see, God’s Word does not argue with the foolish claims of man. It simply declares the truths of God to a world of foolish men and calls them to repent or perish! And if they repent then Jesus said: “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 NASU That’s the goal of the Gospel and the joy of God and God’s Angels and God’s people…when sinners repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! But Jesus also said: “I tell you…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 NASU God doesn’t want any to perish and neither do God’s people. But if anyone does not choose to repent, then they have already chosen to perish.

Plus, it’s like those who rejected Jesus as Lord and Messiah in the days of Jesus and the Apostles, they simply, as the Apostle put it: “…they fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.”

How strange, that people seem to live either completely unaware of their accountability to God, or they are in full denial of the account that they must give of their life to God. Remember, when Solomon got to the end of his grand experiment in the various ways in which to live life, he came to one final conclusion: Eccl 12:13-14- “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASU

Again, mankind is not the judge of the Bible…the Bible is the judge of mankind. And everyone will give an account of what they have done in response to the truths of God in His words to mankind through the revelations of Bible.