Text: 1 Thess 5:12-24
How would you feel if you got home and you realized that you were burglarized? The door was broken in. Things were knocked over. There were broken pieces everywhere. Your TV is gone and your laptop and your jewelry, anything and everything of value was taken. How would you feel? You’d feel violated. Angry. Frustrated – why didn’t I install an alarm system? Or buy a dog with sharp teeth? Why me?
After the initial shock, I’m sure that in the days to follow, you’d be on high alert. You probably did go out and buy an alarm system or a pit bull. You might start keeping a baseball bat next to your bed. Every noise in the night, you’d probably be a little jumpy for the next few weeks at least. You’d be on edge for a while.
Thankfully, our home has never been burglarized. A few weeks ago, I thought my kindle was stolen. I was at the Starbucks on Fair Oaks on the way from my house to church and I set down my kindle at a table because the line was long and most of the tables were occupied. And at the Starbucks the table was kind of tucked away behind one of those displays and so when I was standing in line, I did not have a clear view of the table.
So after a few minutes, I got my Blonde roast coffee and went to sit down and the kindle was gone. I immediately got up and I scanned the room, I ran out to the parking lot. I tried to make eye contact with as many people as I could to see if they looked guilty. I checked to see if there was anyone running down the street or someone peeling out of the driveway. I was mad. I had planned to read 10 chapters of the Bible that morning. And now I wasn’t motivated. How could I be so dumb! I was cursing Satan because I thought, Satan doesn’t want me to read my Bible and he is winning the spiritual battle because I don’t feel like reading anymore.
I was having a self-pity party at Starbucks for about 10 minutes and then it dawned on me. Maybe I should check with the Starbucks workers behind the register to see if someone out of the goodness of their heart had turned in the kindle. So I went up and sure enough, it was there! I guess, somehow, it was so crowded that someone must have turned it in while I was still in line and I hadn’t noticed. I was rejoicing in my heart, thank you Lord and I mocked Satan for his failure to defeat me. And then happily, I turned the kindle on and I read God’s Word.
Let’s suppose my house was broken into and it was an inside job. And the thief was someone here. One of the brothers. Like Andre up in the balcony acting all innocent. Let’s say, suddenly, he started wearing my clothes. And people began to notice, hey, Andre is wearing baggy pants these days because I’m slightly larger than Andre. And I noticed that my favorite sweatshirt is missing and Andre is wearing a large baggy sweatshirt that looks just like mine. And because we are facebook friends, let’s say, Andre, forgot that we were friends and he started posting pictures of things he stole. Like my Bible and the photo clearly has my name engraved on the cover and there it is–a high def close-up of my missing Bible with the name, Raymond Choi on the cover. And other brothers here got in on it and Andre posted to a few of his friends on his public timeline, let’s go “shopping” at 1001 M St tonight at 2am. 🙂
Do you think I’d be going to sleep that night? No, I’d be ready. I don’t know what I would do if Andre and Mario actually showed up at 2am. I think I would just cry and have a prayer meeting with them.
If I knew Andre and Mario were thieves and I knew exactly the time and day they were going to rob me, you better believe I’d be ready. But if I knew they were coming but I didn’t know exactly when they were coming, I might be alert for a day or maybe even a week, but as more time passed, I’m sure I’d be less and less alert.
This is exactly the situation at Thessalonica. These young Christians were serious about the coming of Christ, they were on high alert, some of them even took radical steps that we will learn about in a moment to prepare themselves for Christ’s return, but over time, some lost their focus and became idle and fell into Satan’s trap.
Open your Bibles to 1 Thess 5. Today is a continuation of last week’s sermon. Quick recap. We looked at 1 Thess 5:8 [READ]. Let’s re-read that verse.
It’s an interesting pairing of metaphors. You have faith, love, hope on the one hand from 1 Cor 13. And you have the “armor of faith and love on our chests” and the “helmet of the hope of salvation” on the other hand from Eph 6. Why does Paul mix these 2 metaphors—first, 1 Cor 13 which talks about the coming perfection when only love will remain in the new heaven and new earth when Jesus, the Perfect One, returns, and second, spiritual battle language from Eph 6? It’s because every church that has ever existed from the first century through to the 21st century has been and continues to be a spiritual battleground.
Satan will often go after churches in one of these 3 areas. Usually, he attacks our faith. Satan attacked the faith of the Corinthians and the Galatians and the Colossians by sending false teachers to these churches to corrupt the true gospel and to take the focus away from the Head, who is Christ. Many of the New Testament epistles are letters written to address attacks against the faith of various congregations.
In this case, Satan was not successful at all in shaking the faith of these Thessalonians. We covered last week from Acts 17 and saw how severe the persecution was in Thessalonica, to the point that Paul was run out of town and the mob followed him to the next town over, Berea, and continued to persecute him there. It’s remarkable that Paul founded this church over a several week or a several month period, and after a very short amount of time, Paul was forced to flee for his life, leaving this church to endure the fires of persecution without him.
It’s like leaving an infant in the middle of the jungle where there are all kinds of predators and no shelter and no parents to take care of him. What chance does the infant have of survival? Virtually none. These Thessalonians were like spiritual infants in terms of how long they were Christian and so when the persecutors showed up at their door, like they did for a believer named Jason in Acts 17, you expect most of these young Christians to hear this news and to be paralyzed with fear, to retreat, to go into hiding, to fall away from the faith. But amazingly, they didn’t lose faith, they didn’t shrink back, instead the Spirit emboldened them to preach all the more vigorously and courageously. 1 Thess 1:5 [READ].
The gospel came, not merely in words like information that you receive in lecture, but the gospel came in power. The Holy Spirit came in power to cause the gospel to be planted deep into their hearts. In the face of intense persecution, the Spirit that had so transformed them inwardly that they became bold proclaimers of the gospel outwardly.
If you recall my thesis for this entire letter, here it is again: Proper faith and proper hope leads to proper love.
If your faith is off, then it’s like getting into a car that has run out of gas. The engine might be fine, but you ain’t moving. If your faith is in your career, then you don’t have the right fuel to embark on a spiritual journey. If your faith is in marriage or family, then your spiritual life won’t go anywhere. If your faith is in church or in ministry, you may accomplish things, but you’ve missed the point. Our faith has to be IN Jesus, in the gospel. Only Jesus. He’s fuel to make the car go. If your faith is not based on the gospel coming in power through the Holy Spirit into your heart, then there’s no point talking about hope or love, because like the car with no fuel, your spiritual life is not going anywhere.
Faith is essential. These Thessalonians were rock solid in their faith. Satan had no opening to attack their faith. So what does Satan do? Does he give up? No, he looks for another opening. Satan goes after their hope, and eventually, as we’ll cover next week, he disrupts their love for one another.
Let’s work our way backward through this letter, starting from chapter 5. 1 Thess 5:12-13 [READ].
Personally, these are my favorite verses in the entire letter. How should you apply this verse? Easy. I take checks payable to Ray Choi. Gift cards are acceptable, too. Dinner is good. I’ll even take coffee or tea. Just kidding. One of the most difficult job responsibilities of those in leadership is admonishing other members of the church. I wish you and I could live saintly, sinless lives and never cease being gracious toward others and loving one another so that there would never be an occasion to admonish. But admonishing comes with the territory of leadership because God is going to hold me as a pastor and the rest of the leaders of this church accountable for the souls of our members.