Tools Of The Trade – 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24

In 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24, Paul gives the believers there – and you now – some tools of the trade. He gives them 3 do’s and 2 don’ts. But, why do we go to all this trouble? In vv.23-24 we see why:

Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.

(NET)

To wrap up this letter Paul says, simply, pray for us, greet one another with love, read this letter to everyone, grace be with you (vv.25-28). Let’s think for a moment about what we have been commanded to do in this passage.

About 18 months ago I fell off my bike and broke a bone in my hand and had to wear a cast for quite a few weeks. During that time, for some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to get some new wardrobes(I think we had a guest coming so we needed a bit of extra furniture). Where did we get them from? Ikea of course. However, then I needed to build two wardrobes with one hand, basically, and this was how I felt:

Screenshot 2021-02-25 at 7.40.48 AM

So there’s me, broken hand, wondering how this is going to work, and in come my two little helpers.

3052604-poster-p-1-how-ikea-designs-its-infamous-instruction-manuals

Now, it could be said that they built those wardrobes, because they held some of the tools some of the time. They were shown what to do, but really, I did the work and they did their best. They did what I told them to do but I did the real work and they did their best.

Paul has given us some tools of the trade (vv.16-22): do this, this, and this, don’t do this or that…then he says:

God Himself will make you holy…

God Himself will keep your whole self blameless at the coming of Jesus…

God Himself, who is asking you to do this, is trustworthy, 

God Himself will do this…

So, here is what you need to do, but the burden is not on you, because if it was, you’d fail. Just like my two little helpers – Roman and Jesse – try as they did, they couldn’t have built those two wardrobes without my direct input, my instruction, my guidance, my help, and my rescue when they overreached and tried to do more than they were capable of. I was so happy to help them having seen that they were wanting to get involved. 

As for my boys, my broken hand, and my wardrobes, so it is with you, and me, and us in our spiritual lives with these tools here. We will never achieve this all by ourselves. The real burden and real responsibility here is not on you. Jeremiah spoke for the Lord and said that there was, in the future for him, a new way of relating to the Lord, a new way of being in right relationship with God, and it would no longer be a tremendous burden to the people:

It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them…

(31.32, NET)

In this new covenant, this new way of relating to God, He does the work. I read this week that

In all that he told the Christian to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 through 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Paul never intended that they do those things in their own power. 

It’s like Paul is saying look,

 “I have been urging you to do certain things, but it is only in God’s strength that you will be able to do them.” 

The same God who calls you to live like this promises to help you along the way (Philippians 1.6). He wants to see you want to be involved.

As my boys wanted desperately wanted to help me build those wardrobes, your Heavenly Father wants to see that you desperately want to live the life He has for you. With your commitment to live this life and His empowering to do so, there is nothing that can stand in your way.

Show Him that you want to be involved, that you want to live this life, that you are doing all you can to love Him by keeping His commands, and then trust that He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this (1 Thessalonians 5.24).

Be Merciful – Luke 6.32-36

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

(NET)

People are hard work, aren’t they? If you’ve ever spent any time working with people, trying to lead people, manage people, or guide people, you’ll certainly know that people are hard work. 

Jesus’ point in vv.32-34 is that there is a kind of ‘love’ for people that is not different in any way and is, frankly, quite worldly. Loving those who love us, doing good to those who love us, and lending to those who are good to repay us is a very worldly kind of loving. Jesus says, “Actually, no, that’s not how we ought to love one another. Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back.” He then says that this will be rewarded and will show that you are sons of the Most High, because this is how He loves everyone. For good measure, and to summarise, Jesus says that simply, we should be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 

Is Jesus lying here? Is this lunacy? 

I don’t think He is lying. As we said a few days back, all of humanity was in the mind and on the heart of the Lord when He died for their salvation (1 John 2.2, note “whole world”) and that certainly includes the sinners, enemies, ungrateful and evil people of this passage. 

Is this lunacy then, does this not correspond to reality? Again, I don’t think so. Jesus is teaching a timeless truth here: God’s love for His creation is otherwordly, something far beyond our human comprehension, merciful, and abundant (Deuteronomy 7.9, Psalm 86.15, 145.8-9, Lamentations 3.22-23, Micah 7.18-19, John 3.16, Ephesians 2.4-5). So, for Jesus to say that we are to love in a self-giving way and that we are to be merciful, just as your Father is merciful corresponds to reality in an historical and long-taught way. 

Today then, think about how and who you are loving: are you loving them because it’s easy or because you should?

Some Truths Of Tithing

With there being so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, many people are reviewing where their hard earned money goes. In the last few weeks, quite a few people have asked about financial giving in an uncertain world. This is a great time, then, to address some of the truths of tithing.

A couple of years ago someone asked me this and it still feels very relevant:

“Does my financial giving all have to go to my local church?”

What follows is (almost) exactly what I replied, minus any personal details.


Nowhere in God’s Word do we see that if you can’t afford to give (to the church or anyone else) then it’s simply ok to stop, its something that is expected of us all (Luke 11.42). Born again believers in Jesus want to, and should, give back to Him and His bride the church some of what He has blessed us with (Proverbs 3.9, 2 Chronicles 31.4, Nehemiah 10.36, Malachi 3.8, Galatians 6.6). Straight away then, yes, we should contribute financially to the local church body we are a part of.

How do we do it then? I think about the widow who gave two small coins because that was all she had, not what she could spare that week or month:

Then [Jesus] sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them,

“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”

Mark 12.41-44

Giving out of what we have to live on is a blessed thing, giving out of our surplus is not really giving and is not a statement of how we trust in God to provide for our needs (2 Samuel 24.24).

A few years ago my wife and I and went through some tough financial times. I was forced out of a job for, basically, serving and doing more at church. I was reminded, multiple times, that God will meet our needs if we continue to serve Him, to love Him, and to trust Him with our finances. Hedging bets and keeping cash is not a statement of faith. It was tough giving money to the church every week that we could have put towards downsizing our accommodation, feeding our newborn baby, buying a car that I now needed for work, but we did it. God provided for us in a miraculous way. Money became available from unexpected sources and the people around us saw what we were going through and the Lord also provided through His people. We rejoiced in His faithfulness and resolved never to grumble or complain about regular financial giving again. 

God deserves our firstfruits, as He gave us His (John 3.16, 1 Corinthians 15.20, 23). Because He did so we know that He is faithful to provide for our needs (Romans 8.32). So, as a principle, should you continue to give something back to God regardless of what is going on around you? I’d say yes. How much and where is between you and Him. This is a personal conviction about which He will never make you feel ashamed (1 Corinthians 16.2, 2 Corinthians 8.3).

Someone once explained it to me like this –

God now cares more about how and why we do things

than the minutiae of what we actually do.

This principle of why>what boils down through the ‘Shema’ prayer of Israel in Deuteronomy 6 to the fact that we are to love God with all that we are. We have no command to obey laws anymore in order to demonstrate our love for Him, as Jesus fulfilled this law (Matthew 5.17-20). We follow Jesus and His will, His ways, and His Word because we want to. We follow and obey God’s commands because we want to, and in doing so demonstrate our love for Him (1 John 5.3). So then, we shouldn’t give out of a feeling of compulsion, “Well, I’d better put X in the offering this week...”. We are to give our best to God and His family because we want to, not because we are under a law to do so.

A lot of churches (ours included) are 100% reliant on tithes and offerings to keep going financially. Generally, these have gone down this past year. This brings stresses, struggles, and tough decisions that are more often found in the boardroom of a business than the church. If this is a season wherein you feel you need to give less to the church because there are other benevolent demands on your finances, then so be it. Again though, I think of the poor woman in Mark 12: despite her circumstances she still gave to God. Perhaps if circumstances changed she would give more, who knows. But, when things were tough, she still gave to God. 

As a principle then, keep giving to God regardless what is going on around you, what is happening to you, and whether you feel things are working out for you. There is no guilt or shame wherever you give your tithe: to give is important. There will be no guilt or shame about where you give, how much you give, or when you give – giving is important as a principle. If we keep 100% of our income for ourselves and ourselves only, we are missing the mark given to us in Scripture (1 Timothy 6.17-19).


If you would like to talk to someone in more detail about financial giving, how to do it, why we do it, please contact us and we can connect you with the right person. 


The subject of giving was also covered in this message – 

Lent – Religion or Relationship?

In Philippians 3, Paul is starting to write on the kind of life that believers are called to live. Paul was from a culture and custom where working yourself towards God and towards righteousness – demonstrated by physical acts like circumcision (3.2) – was expected and was, frankly, prized. This, though, is what he had left behind. 

Paul lays out his credentials and says, basically, that if anyone was ever going to either be righteous by birth (vv.4-5a), or by hard work and dedication (vv.5b-6) then it was him. Can you honestly say you have more confidence in the flesh than Paul did? No, I didn’t think so.

All of this, though, Paul [came] to regard as liabilities because of Christ (v.7). Paul knows that rituals and religion can never replace relationship (v.8), and uses particularly strong language when he says that he counted all this as rubbish (excrement, dung) that [he] may gain Christ…(v.9).

All of this to say, Paul came to a point in his life where he knew that religion is just not as good as relationship, and that he truly wanted the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness…that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness…(v.9b).

Paul had realised this, have you?

Are you content with knowing of Jesus,

knowing who Jesus was reported to be,

knowing what Jesus is reported to have said and done, or do you want more than that?

Are you content with a religious understanding of Jesus,

or are you pursuing a relationship with Him? 

Paul writes that everything in vv.2-6 is just not as good as everything in vv.7-11. Very simply, it comes down to religion (I had…I have…I was…I do…) versus relationship (His sake…in Him…faith in Christ…on faith…His resurrection…His death…). 

Think on this…


This Lent season, we can approach the coming weeks

from a religious perspective or from a relational perspective.

The former, as Paul wrote, will lead us towards doing much to try and earn what has already been freely given in the context of a relationship. Giving up something temporarily cannot earn you what has already been given. 

The latter, approaching Lent as a time to strengthen relationships through choosing to focus on what is already yours, will do just that (James 4.8a). 


Wait

Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!

(Psalm 27.14, NKJV)

The exhortation and encouragement to be of good courage because the Lord will strengthen your heart is something that everyone needs to hear from time to time, isn’t it?

Now, maybe you’re not being threatened with death as David was as he penned this psalm, but as David’s mood changed here suddenly (vv.1-6 to v.7) when he felt that the Lord was slow to deliver the protection he wanted and needed, so this last twelve months our moods have been liable to change suddenly too when we feel we don’t have what we need or want. 

David asked God to teach him how he ought to be living and thinking through this crisis of confidence (vv.11-12) and is painfully honest that he would have lost heart unless [he] had believed that [he] would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living

How about you, do you believe you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living despite how the world looks right now?

Does waiting for the Lord to reveal how He will act and how He will strengthen your heart fill you with good courage?

Are you sure – beyond all doubt – that He is working everything that is happening in your life right now for His glory and for your ultimate good?

Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!

(Psalm 27.14, NKJV)

Waiting is not something we do well, is it?

We live in an instant age of instant gratification and instant information, but waiting is ok. If life in 2020 and 2021 is getting you down, practice waiting on the Lord with the kind of attitude that David is talking about here.

I love how this song talks about the attitude and belief that David has in Psalm 27, and the belief that we are called to have today. Enjoy.