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Mar 29 2020 - 1 Thess. 3-4 - Anything Above God is Idolatry

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1 Thess. 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.

In the middle of this letter – He launches into prayer. Requests that he has to God – first – that God would clear the way that they can connect again. Even the great Apostle Paul needs relational connection - even the greatest introverts need some level of connection.

I know there are some who require a lot of connection – and some require just a few close friends.

If you were on our Zoom meetings – as faces would pop up – “It is so nice to SEE you!” – Seeing ones you can’t see.

I got my 86-year-old dad on Zoom with my siblings.

If you do not have or feel a need to connect with people -t here is probably a problem.

The problem, Paul goes on – is a lack of love.

12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

May your love increase

\ 13 May 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.

1 Thess. 4: 9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, dear friends, to do so more and more,

They love one another. Paul says, Only God can teach us how to love. Something that only God can develop within us. We can example it to one another – but it has to be a work of God to truly love others. Genuine love flows out of a heart that knows it is loved by God.

Out of gratefulness for God’s love for us – we choose to show love for others through acts of generosity, kindness, service – by affirming and accepting others – and these choices transform our hearts in our attitudes and affections for others. It is from that kind of heart that love overflows. It only comes from that transformed heart – and understanding God’s love for us.

1 Thess 3: 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May 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.

Don’t just invite your friends – the poor, the destitute – beyond the ones you are close with to everyone else. There is this heart attitude of love for people that God wants to develop within us.

For some of us – it feels like we only have enough love for those we HAVE to love! But we need to understand – it is God who teaches us to love. It has to come from God inside of us.

With the Shelter-in-place going on – it was great to hear examples of neighbors helping neighbors and talking to one another.

Heb. 10:24

Hebrews 10:24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

. 13 May 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.

We can’t separate love form holiness. Paul and Jesus make it clear – that is how it is.

People did all these sacrifices to cleanse themselves from their sins – but Jesus says he prefers love to sacrifices – holiness that comes from a heart of love for others.

What he does here -

1 Thess 4: As for other matters, brothers and sisters, 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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Paul moves away from LOVE and into HOLINESS – He bookends thse thinsg – you can’t separate them out – these specific examples of need in the church – without what I start and end with – it is meaningless. Start with love and end with love.

1 Thess 4: As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living.

These folks are doing it – as you folks are doing it in this crisis – pleasing God by loving.

Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Do this more and more! We think, OH NO! It can be discouraging if you are the type of person who thinks he can never do enough. He is not saying you are not doing enough and need to do more – but you are doing it! Always move forward! Always be growing! Keep going! Not, oh boy, you are not rating good enough yet.

Like Paul says in Philippians – I forget what lies behind – the past is gone – and I am reaching forward – stretching to what moves ahead – just keep pressing forward. There is junk that is wrong – God loves you and forgives you – now move forward! Too often, we think we ARE what we do – but Paul says – keep moving forward.

Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

1 Thess 4: 3 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;

In their world, sexual immorality was normal, expected behavior – and this ties to idolatry. In our world, there are plenty of sinful behaviors that are acceptable. Paul addresses specific ones for the Thessalonians – what would we address for ourselves? Sexual immorality is one we think about. Greed. Greed seems almost good in our world – we glorify it in our world.

Gluttony – another one! Many we could list off. I could bring up here – pride and superiority – we see it so much, in so many places. We tend to be a people who think we never measure up – with photoshop – I watch the news – and you have these news people in their homes – and they look like NORMAL PEOPLE! They are not perfect looking.

We live in a world where supermodels say they feel unattractive. There is low self-esteem – and the same people have overly confident opinions – their rightness! Their positions! We are overly convinced of our own rightness and others’ wrongness! And that is pride and superiority – and it has significant impact on racial, social, political, and economic relationship and we don’t even see it.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Idolatry is the root of all sin. It is all about idolatry – I asked you to watch the Bible project video on the tree of life – but there was an important point –

If you eat from this tree you will become like God – Idolatry!

In our world, there are all kinds of trees of knowledge of good and evil – where we want to replace God with another god.

I started an in-depth study on the Book of Revelation in this time – Some do puzzles – some do house projects, like my wife is trying to get me to do.

I am not studying the end times – it is a theological letter – a Christology letter – Apocalypse – we think of it in one sense – but it is the unveiling or revealing of Jesus Christ – it is a theology book. But it is, next to that – a worship book! Throughout the book – I think of it as Guardians of the Galaxy – There are musicals like the Sound of Music – but if you read it – good/evil – but every now and then it bursts into song! Whether the saints or angels – bursting into song! Worshiping God – dealing with the issue of worshiping God and NOT idols.

We want to talk about the Beast and 666 – but all of that represents idolatry – and that is the difference between worshiping God and worshiping idols – and that is what Thessalonians has to deal with.

And finally – it is about maintaining a witness in opposition.

“Revelation is both a call to worship” – Michael Gorman – Reading Revelation Responsibly – “and a call to forsake all false God. Through worship, one declares allegiance and loyalty – and public worship is a statement that the church will bow to no other gods.”

This is crucial in these times. We are always living in a world that is trying to draw us into its gods. Whether money, sex, rock-n-roll, celebrity, gods – trying to get us to worship them

1 Thess. 4: 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.


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