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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Scripture Sunday, Week 14- Final Week in 1 Thessalonians

This is the fourteenth and final part of an ongoing series going through 1 Thessalonians. The first part can be found here. The entire series can be found through the Scripture tab.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28

This is the last installment in 1 Thessalonians and what a beautiful way to begin the ending:

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." Rejoice! Even when it seems bleak, we in Christ always have hope, always have a reason to rejoice. Let us pray continually because when we pray we touch Christ and are changed. Let us give thanks in all circumstances. When it's hard, pray for God to show you what to give thanks for.. there is always something. Let us do all these things and know that when we do we (joy!) are doing God's will for us! Haven't you ever felt like God's will wasn't clear for you? I know I have. In those times we should remember this verse and rejoice, pray and give thanks!

"Do not quench the Spirit." I read this and I pray for wisdom to understand this verse. I think I do, but I want Him to correct me in case I don't... Remember that God is one and the character of Jesus. Isaiah says:

"This is My Servant; I strengthen Him,
this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him.
I have put My Spirit on Him;
He will bring justice to the nations.

He will not cry out or shout

or make His voice heard in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed,
and He will not put out a smoldering wick;
He will faithfully bring justice.
He will not grow weak or be discouraged
until He has established justice on earth.
The islands will wait for His instruction." -Isaiah 42:1-4 {emphasis mine}

The Spirit of the Lord is gentle. Now also powerful, indeed He is true power, but gentle nonetheless. He does not force Himself upon people. So when we do not listen to Him, He only tries so much before He honors our choices. I think quenching the Spirit means that if we do not listen to Him then He will fall silent and gently wait. I am not saying He will abandon us, but that He is not going to force His way but instead wants our will and His will to be one.

I also was reminded of the idea that the Spirit is a flow. There are a few Bible verses I know that support his but right now I can't think of where they are, but we let Him flow through us to others. Our job is not so much to do the work of God as to keep ourselves from blocking the work of God. That is when we allow Self to reign, the Spirit can't flow through us to reach others. That quenches His flow and blocks God's ability to live in us.

"Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil." Okay, in the modern day a lot of churches don't address prophecy except when it concerns the Old Testament prophets and Revelations. However, the New Testament really makes clear that prophecy is a very important part of the Church. I would argue that it exisit in every truly alive church on earth today... but a lot of them just don't use that vocabulary. This is definitely going on my mental list of things to address in my "defining terms" series, but prophecy as the Bible addresses it is not the same as we often understand it but is simply the Spirit of God speaking through a human. If you think about it that is true both of Old and New Testament examples of prophecy. And now that we as the Church are given the Holy Spirit of course prophecy hasn't ended. But instead of generally being a call to a large group, the way it was in the Old Testament, predicting future events the most common way the New Testament seems to use prophecy is from one Christian to another, often as the way the Spirit chooses to build up Christians. So understanding this is the most common (though limited to) impression of New Testament prophecy what this verse refers to is that when someone has a message from God for you or says they feel God is telling them something about you, don't have contempt for that. Don't snear or not consider it. Instead, test it. Make sure it doesn't contradict the Bible. Pray about it. Maybe do a Gideon's fleece type thing. But don't just dismiss it. God can and often will communicate to you through others, perhaps even others who aren't your favorite so He can test your humilty. Don't risk ignoring God by ignoring your brother or sister. Take it seriously, but also understand God is NOT saying that people will always be speaking truth when they claim to hear from Him. He's saying if once you test it it rings true, hold on to it. That's what I did when I got the prophecy about Ryan and look what an adventure that's turned into! But if it doesn't ring true, then reject it.

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through." I do pray this for you and myself. I need to still myself and let God do the work and have faith and hope and reverence that He will sanctify me.

"May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." I admit to feeling a reverential fear of the Lord reading this. I don't feel blameless, even though I understand the power of the blood of Jesus. I know I am a sinner. That's why I have to hold on to the previous verse and trust that God himself will sanctify me. I have no other hope. "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." :) What reassurance!

"Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters." Let's remember to pray for those who minister and be loving towards others. Some people have gotten legalistic (apparently) about the holy kiss thing, but I think it's just meant to be a fond greeting. In Europe and many countries today they greet with kisses. They do it here in India sometimes. I think in America a hug is probably the same thing. And as for reading this letter to all the brothers and sisters... well that's kind of what we've been doing together for 14 weeks, yes?

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." With the Thessalonians and also with you.

God bless!

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