< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Happens to Christians When They Die?

1st Thessalonians 4 Part 2

1st Thessalonians 4:9-12 9Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Paul gives us a good way to live so that we will be respected by others. Lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands. Don’t expect people to give you everything.

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

These believers knew Jesus had died and been resurrected. They knew He would come back and that He would come back unexpectedly. They wanted to know if the people who had died after they became Christians would miss out on Christ’s return.

Like most 1st century Christians they really thought Christ would come back before they died. But believers were dying.

What Paul tells them is a great comfort to them. And it’s a great comfort to anyone who has a friend or family member die. He says Christians are not without hope like the pagans. The believer has eternal life with God as soon as he believes. Death is kind of taking possession of it.

A commentator wrote “why fear an experience that simply brings us closer to our Lord and Savior?” Paul says that death is gain because death brings him into the presence of Jesus.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

In verse 15 Paul again says that what he’s saying is by the Lord’s own word. We do not have to substitute human speculation. We have divine revelation!

It’s never been said that Christ is asleep somewhere. He sits at the right hand of God. He prays for us by name. And He’s preparing a home for us.

We won’t be asleep or in limbo either.

Genesis 49:33 When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

Matthew 22:31-32 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'[a]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

This is a clear recognition that those who died in faith are right now living in God’s presence.

John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

John 8:51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

John 11:25-26 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Their bodies are asleep in the ground until Christ comes back, but their spirits are immediately with Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:50-55 50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

Paul makes it clear that the soul of the believer went to be with the Lord. The spirit leaves the body at death. The body goes to sleep and no longer functions. W.E. Vine wrote that the reason the metaphor sleep is used is because sleep is temporary: as is the “death” of the body. When you sleep you don’t cease to exist, nor when you “die.” The body will “wake up” when it is resurrected. Part of the Apostles Creed is “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

When Christ resurrects our bodies the decay, disease and weakness will be stripped away and we will have Christ-like bodies. (1 John 3:2)

Death is the consequence of sin and Jesus took all our sins and experienced the full penalty as our substitute. (Romans 6:23)

When Paul says “since we believe” and “we also believe” he means: since we believe Jesus rose from the dead we also believe that we will too. The same God that raised Jesus will raise us.

1 Corinthians 6:14 14By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

2 Corinthians 4:14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

1st Thessalonians 4

This is the second part of Paul’s first letter and it deals with problems the Thessalonians had and the way to maturity of life in Christ.

Paul is telling them that their new Christian faith and life are sound inspite of what their enemies charge and now they should go on to maturity of life in Christ with full confidence they were on the right track.

He sort of divides this chapter into 3 parts: verses 1 – 8 deal with personal sexual morality (so if you need scripture to tell your kids why it’s wrong to live together before marriage, look here!) Verses 9 -12 deal with love and work in the community. And verses 13 -18 with the destiny of the Christian dead.

1st Thessalonians 4:1-8 1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

My application Bible says, “Sexual standards were very low in the Roman Empire…and in many societies today they aren’t much higher!”

These recent converts had no previous sense of moral restraint, so this would be a new thought. The Jews had, of course, many rules about how to live, but we’ll see a little later that even their rules were lax compared to Jesus’ on this subject.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

There are a lot of people today who see nothing wrong with living together before or without marriage, but the Bible is clear on God’s standards. Again from my application Bible: “sexual sin is any sex outside of marriage and it always hurts someone. It hurts God because it shows we prefer following our own desires instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit and it hurts others because it violates the commitment necessary to a relationship. It can bring disease to a person. And it deeply affects our personalities which respond in anguish when we harm ourselves physically and spiritually.”

Skip Heizig talked on this subject once on his radio program. He said in the past thirty years the number of people who live together before marriage has gone up 400%
From the people who get married after living together the chances of divorce are 50% more likely than those who hadn’t. And surveys have shown that these marriages aren’t as happy.

Every law and rule God has given us: from what the Israelites shouldn’t eat in the dessert to the 10 commandments have been on target. They are all for our best!

In verses 1 and 2 Paul tells them that Jesus is the authority for His instructions. In other letters Paul alludes to scripture as the authority, or accepted church practice or even in 1 Corinthians 7:25 for example: his own trustworthy opinion. But for this section he specifically says The Lord Jesus.

In Matthew 5:27 – 28 Jesus said even lust was an adulterous act. The Jews allowed divorce for trivial reasons, but Jesus held that permanence in marriage was God’s intention. (Mark 10:2-9)

Paul is telling us in these verses that God has a will for humans in sexual matters and what Christians do with their bodies is important. His will is sanctification: becoming Holy. The separation from unclean things and practices. Growing to be like God.

Pleasing God is not a matter of personal choice. Pleasing God is imperative for Christians.

When you become a Christian you accepted an obligation to become more like Christ and to show Christ to the world. While we can’t earn grace, we can grow in it. No matter how well we are doing, we can always do better. And we won’t stop growing spiritually until the day we stand before the Lord. Becoming Holy is a life long process and this process is called sanctification.

Ephesians 5:1-6 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

The whole Christian life is God centered. We do not belong to ourselves, we belong to God. He purchased us with the blood of His Son!

We live in a time when we are bombarded with the ethics and values of a Godless society: TV, music, ads, movies, books…But it’s no excuse. The Bible and the Holy Spirit tell us what’s right and we make daily choices how we act and live. There are consequences to our actions and we can’t choose the consequences.

We’re going to see this subject in some of Paul’s other letters, especially Corinthians, but his view as a whole, which is Christ’s view; includes the importance of marriage itself, fidelity and respect for one’s partner within marriage, self-control and chastity outside of marriage and the permanence of marriage.

Click here for God's View on Marriage

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

1st Thessalonians Chapter 3

1st Thessalonians 3 1So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

6But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

In verse 3 they are reminded to expect suffering. Paul says in Acts 14:22 that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And Jesus predicted intense suffering for His disciples in the time before the end.

Matthew 5: 11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 10: 16-23 16I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

But He promised salvation to those who endured.

Matthew 10:22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Paul regarded his own suffering as a mark of his authority as an apostle of Christ.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Your troubles may be a sign of effective Christian living: whether Satan is attacking you because you worry him or God is using your problems to build character and perseverance. Or to make you more compassionate. We don’t turn to God for a life free of suffering. While there is nothing wrong with asking Him to take away some suffering, we have to continue to love and praise Him if He chooses not to. And to persevere if that’s His plan and to know His grace is sufficient.

So – Timothy went to see if they were falling away during the hard times and he was immensely relieved to find they were standing firm in their faith and in their love for each other and for Paul.

But Paul tells them in his prayer for their holiness that their love must extend to all men for them to be like Christ. If we are full of God’s love it will overflow onto others. And that doesn’t mean just being polite. We are to pray for others and actively and positively show our love to them. Let me challenge you to look for opportunities daily to show that love!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

1st Thessalonians 2 Part 2

1st Thessalonians 2: 13-16 13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 14For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Just as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were persecuted by other Jews, so the Gentile Christians in Thessalonica were persecuted by their fellow Gentiles along with hostile Jews. Persecution is especially rough when it comes from your own; though we are told to expect it.

The Jews didn’t want any trouble from the government. Their religion was legal and recognized by the Roman government, but Christianity was seen by outsiders as a sect of Judaism and the Jews didn’t want to suffer for anything the Christian might say or do.

Also the Jewish leaders thought Christ was not the Messiah and didn’t want His teachings spread. Lastly they didn’t want to lose any Jews which might weaken their political position.

1st Thessalonians 2:17-20 17But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Evidently people were telling the Thessalonians that Paul wasn’t interested in them any longer and that’s why he hadn’t come back. But he tells them they were constantly on his mind. There is spiritual warfare going on.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Satan is real. We need to be aware of that. But we also have to remember who the victor will be! We’ve read the end of the book!

Paul tells us in verse 20 what’s important. Not money or fame, but new believers. When God judges what we’ve done with what we’ve been given it’s all going to be about spreading the gospel, bringing new believers to God and not hampering a young believer’s faith, but helping that faith grow.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

1st Thessalonians 2 Part 1

In chapter 2 we get the idea that the hostile Jews were spreading lies about Paul and his companions; about their motives, conduct and the truth of their gospel. So Paul presents evidence that he and his associates are true servants of God.

1st Thessalonians 2:1-12 1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

5Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

In this section Paul explains how he understood Christian ministry in general to be and also how he and his colleagues preformed in light of this understanding. It’s a good portrait of what a Christian ministry should be.

1. It should be (and Paul’s was) a courageous God-ordained ministry. Paul’s beating and imprisonment in Philippi, which is talked about in Acts 16, and the great opposition he encountered at Thessalonica would surely have intimidated and silenced a self-appointed, self-serving person. But, not a messenger of God. If God wants you to do something, He will give you the strength and courage to do it.

Look again at verse 2: “we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God.”

And the results are in verse 1: “God was active in our ministry among you.”

2. It was a sound and faithful ministry. He said their appeal didn’t spring from error (probably meaning erroneous interpretation of the scriptures.) Paul taught that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled prophetic hopes concerning the coming of the Messiah.

Sometimes when people try to persuade others about something, they sugar coat the message, even if it’s ever so slightly. But Paul never changed his message to make it more acceptable. His aim was to please God, his judge, not people. I’m sure some ministers are often tempted to shy away from controversial topics in their sermons, but you can’t.

3. It was a selfless and self-giving ministry. Verse 5 said their words were never a cloak of greed. You not only share the gospel; you share yourself! What a minister is is as important in transforming lives as what a minister says. He should be Holy, righteous and blameless.

4. It was a self-supporting ministry. Paul worked long hours as a tentmaker. Paul knew that as an apostle of Christ, he had a right to live off the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:3-14 3This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas[a]? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
But when he was with the Thessalonians he wanted to be financially independent of them. While ministers today aren’t expected to work for free, they have to be careful about greed and also how they are supported, so they won’t be tempted to flatter.

5. Paul taught them through example, patient exhortation and encouragement. He says in verse 1 that they were Holy, righteous and blameless when he was among them and that he encourage them, as a Father would, to live lives worthy of God.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

1st Thessalonians 1

1st Thessalonians 1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

Silvanus, or Silas in some translations, was a Roman citizen like Paul. A Jew by birth and an important leader in the Jerusalem church. He functioned at times either as a scribe or a trusted secretary or both and may have played some part in the actual writing of this book.

In the greeting, Paul linked God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ on purpose. He’s saying that the church is divine in origin: not humanly created like the Jews were saying and that Jesus is in truth the Messiah predicted in the Holy Scriptures. This would be reassuring to the Thessalonians who only had Paul with them a couple months and now were surrounded by the Jewish and the Pagan religions.

In verse 2 he thanks God for them:

1st Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

In verse 3 he gives characteristics of Christians in any age:

1st Thessalonians 1:3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

Their work was produced by faith; labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope. “Faith, hope and love.” Paul talks about this again in 1 Corinthians 13.

1st Thessalonians 1:4-5 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

God’s Word is living. It has power. It goes out and changes those who read it. We should see a change in our lives since we were saved.

Colossians 3:1 – 10 1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
8But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
9Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--

But this can’t be done without the work of the Holy Spirit. Also, notice how these people were converted: not only by hearing the gospel, but seeing how Paul, Silas and Timothy lived. They were imitators of Christ who is the image of God.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

We are to be like Him too.

Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

As Christians we know we need to “walk the talk.”

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

Then the Thessalonians were fully convinced of the truth and power of the message and they began to copy the missionaries and the Lord. Paul wasn’t asking people to be like him, but like Christ. And they were to be an example to others:

1st Thessalonians 1: 7-8 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

1st Thessalonians 1: 9-10 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

They turned to God, served God and were now waiting for His Son to come back. We also should turn from sin to God because Christ is coming back to judge the earth and we don’t know when; we need to be serving and ready.

So in Chapter 1 Paul has reassured them that they were chosen by God and this was evidenced in the way they had responded and in their works since then.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Introduction to 1st Thessalonians

1st Thessalonians is Paul’s earliest letter. It was written from Corinth about 50 – 51 AD to the church Paul had founded in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. (Which was probably only a year or two prior.)

Acts 17: 1-10 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. 4Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. 5But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd] 6But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." 8When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.

10As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

Thessalonica was a seaport and trade center on a busy international highway called the Via Egnatia, which extended from Rome all the way to the orient. It was the capital and largest city in the Roman province of Macedonia.

There were many religions, including a large Jewish population there at this time. Some Jews accepted Paul’s message when he was there, but more gentiles. These gentiles were drawn to the Jewish worship of one God and its high religious and ethical teaching, but not everything about the religion: like circumcision, the food laws and the Sabbath observance. So these people were good candidates from Christianity.

Where it said in Acts 17:3 that Paul preached in a synagogue from the scriptures; explaining that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead: that was his usual style.

A synagogue was where Jews gathered for teaching and prayer and could be formed anywhere there were 10 Jewish males. At synagogue services the shama, which was Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!, was recited. After that certain prayers would be spoken. Then a reading from the law, which was the first 5 books of the Bible. Next would be a reading from the prophet intending to illustrate the law, and then the sermon.

The synagogue leader would decide who was to lead the service and give the sermon. Usually a different person was chosen each week. It was customary to invite visiting rabbis to speak, so Paul would come in and start with the Old Testament and how it pointed to the promise of a Messiah and then he would show how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled this expectation.

Sometimes Jews wouldn’t allow him to speak. Sometimes they listened only until he got to Jesus. But, some were converted and also non-Jews would often come hear Paul preach.

In Thessalonica we see he was run out of town. Later he sends Timothy back to see how they were doing. All Christians in the 1st century were persecuted and the Thessalonians were probably persecuted by the very Jewish people who got rid of Paul. These Jewish leaders didn’t refute the theology that Paul taught; so much as they were jealous of the popularity of his message. And like Jesus’ teachings, it would cause them to have to change if they followed it.

The leaders had to manufacture an accusation that would stand with the Roman government. The Romans weren’t interested in theology, but treason got their attention. Paul had talked about a King and His Kingdom.

Paul gets a good report back from Timothy and he writes this letter to express his thankfulness for the loyalty and spiritual growth of these people and to answer some questions they had. Also in this letter Paul instructs them in Christian morals and he gives them (and us) good practical advice for Christian living.

He wanted them to have an hour by hour consistency of life. He also talks about the second coming of Christ. Like many Christians in the first century they thought Christ would return immediately and He hadn’t yet and they were concerned about people who were dying in the meantime. What happened to them? Would they miss out?

I’ll start going through the book in my next post.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Stand Forgiven at the Cross

The sermon in church today was on forgiveness and called Freed to Forgive. Pastor Jon Krick based it on the passage:

Matthew 18:21 – 35 21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

This passage was written for believers and teaches us we are to forgive as God forgave us. He forgave us a debt that was so big we could never have paid it off ourselves. What we owe Him from this is our obedience. We prove ourselves to be believers by our obedience. And obeying Him means we are to forgive others. Because He told us to.

The part where we are to forgive as He forgives us is really important though. He chooses to forget our sins once we’ve repented and asked for forgiveness. This means we aren’t to bring up someone’s sin against us ever again. Even to ourselves.
Mostly this is for our own good. Failing to forgive someone causes us to become bitter. It eats away at us.

It’s not easy to forgive this way, but someone once said, “We are never more like God than when we forgive.”

I talked about this in a post almost two years ago here

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Purchased for a Price

Pastor Jon Krick at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory gave me a lot to think about with his sermon this morning. (And that’s my definition of a GOOD sermon!)

The whole thing was on one verse. 1 Corinthians 6:20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

He got us to really think about what the cost was to Jesus. Leaving heaven and all of His divine rights, being born to a human, working as a carpenter and then a painful humiliating death on a cross.

Jon suggested we need to write the verse Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" in our Bibles above 1 Corinthians 6:20. Because Jesus: perfect, sinless, Jesus took on ALL the sins of the world at that moment on the cross. He who had had a perfect relationship with God since before time began, was separated from His Father – for us!

It cost Him. Dearly!

Next Jon reminded us that since we, as Christians, are saved we have the Holy Spirit living in us and our bodies really are the temple of God.

Those are two reasons we shouldn’t take our sins (whether they are internal "heart and mind" sins) or external (the things we do) lightly. We really do sin against Him. Jon stressed that we remember what it cost Him.

Puts a whole new light on those little sins we commit without even thinking about them, doesn’t it?

I loved where he said that if we bought something that was really expensive (or “of great price”) we would really remember it. And so does God. We have value to God! Jesus was forsaken so that we never will be.

Our take away message from this is: first we remember (what He did for us) and then surrender. To surrender we need to stop doing what isn’t pleasing to God. We also need to renew our hearts and minds. Our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

See more Inspirational magnets here

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Trust in His Work T-shirts and Gifts

I created a new design for my online store that I love because it says it all. It's all about what He did for us! We can't earn it and He can't lie! Beautiful Christian gifts for those who love the Lord.

See all Trust in His Work t-shirts and gifts here


Monday, March 01, 2010

Christian Service

Yesterday’s sermon in church was about service. The pastor used Hebrews 6: 9-12 for his text. 9But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience)inherit the promises.

He said in verse 9 the things that accompany salvation are service. That service and salvation always go hand in hand. He asked us how good our relationship was between our salvation and our service, because what good is it to say we know God, but then deny Him with our deeds.

Christians must learn to identify needs and meet them. And we serve in His Name and for His Glory.

Then he asked, “What memory will God have of your ministry?”

I loved this part. He pointed out that God chooses to forget a believer’s sins. But He remembers every act we’ve done for His Glory. Even if we had mixed motives or didn’t do it as well as we hoped he kindly accepts our offerings.
With the unsaved, though, He will remember all their sins because they have chosen to live under the law. God chooses what He will remember and forget based on our salvation.

So, Christians should be filling up the memories with service. And everything we do all day long counts. We should do even the tiniest thing with integrity and in a way that Glorifies God.

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