Have you ever said something, and as soon as you said it, you wished you could take it back? Like when I’m tired or stressed and I’m in a bad mood and let’s say Jackie and I are late for some important meeting, and I say, Jackie, why are you always late? Why are we always having to rush? Did you have to put that last load in the washer or cook quiche and bacon and eggs when cereal and milk would have been fine because we were in a time crunch? And I blame Jackie when I am equally to blame for being late. I wasn’t complaining when I was eating the bacon, but I am blaming now that we’re late. Husbands, you know what I mean. We are descendants of Adam and so we have the blame gene in us. God, I didn’t want to bite the fruit. The woman, she made me do it! And God, actually, I was fine when I was single, didn’t you create this woman? This woman, YOU put here, basically Adam blames God and fails to take responsibility for his sin.
Going back to the example, even if I say sorry to Jackie, those words did some damage. My bad mood affected Jackie and my kids are walking on egg shells. I can’t take my words back. Words have a way of lingering in the air. Words can do some serious damage. Don’t believe the children’s rhyme–sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. That’s a lie. Sticks and stones can break your bones, that’s true. But WORDS can break your soul and your spirit. A bone can heal in a few months, but wounds from hurtful words can last for decades.
Matthew shared with me this past week and I thought it was so true so I wanted to share with you. In Genesis, when Isaac was tricked and he ended up blessing Jacob instead of Esau, did you ever wonder why Isaac couldn’t take back the blessings that he gave to Jacob and give it instead to Esau. He could have said, I take back the blessings. Or I made a mistake. Or just kidding! Or it didn’t count because I had my fingers crossed. He couldn’t take back the blessing. The words were spoken. The spiritual blessing went forth and it was impossible to take it back. You said it and that’s final. It’s out there. This account teaches us an important lesson. The words we speak, to bless or to curse are this powerful and permanent. We need to be careful with what comes out of our mouth.
Back to my thesis for this letter–proper faith and proper hope leads to proper love. We are going to focus on the final part, how do we properly love one another? But before we do, a quick recap. Two Sundays ago, we looked at this church at Thessalonica and this church was rock solid in their faith. The gospel was preached at Thessalonica and it was more than a message that they heard on a Sunday. The gospel message came into their hearts in power and the Holy Spirit transformed them from within. Christianity was more than a religious lifestyle. They had encountered the risen Jesus and they were emboldened to follow Him whatever the cost. Some paid the highest price and they were martyred for their faith due to Roman persecution.
I wonder how many of us would show up next Sunday to church if the U.S. government suddenly decided tomorrow to ban Christianity and anyone who ignored the ban would be thrown into prison and possibly executed. Think about that. Would news like this scare you off from attending church? Maybe that’s hard to imagine. So start by examining the things that discourage you. You slept wrong and your neck is stiff. Your 401K portfolio dropped a few points in value. You made a mistake at work. You got a bad grade. Your boss yelled at you. You lost your kindle. This past week, a car just drove right in front of me when I had the right of way and I hit in head on. I was fine and the other party was fine, but it’s a hassle to go through insurance and get a repair. Would these things stumble you? How easily you get stumbled is a good indicator of how strong your faith is.
Sometimes, I feel like we have faith that resembles a dandelion. You know what a dandelion is, it’s those weeds that look like cotton balls. A little puff of air and then all the little white things fly away. Do you have a dandelion faith, do you get easily stumbled by little puffs of air, little obstacles, small bumps, tiny setbacks?
Guys, we got to get serious. If you are easily discouraged, do you think you would be able to stand up for Christ and risk your life? For the Thessalonians, they not only stood their ground, but they boldly proclaimed the gospel and the gospel advanced until it was heard throughout the entire region of Achaia.
Satan couldn’t shake the faith of these Thessalonians the same way he shook the faith of the Corinthians or the Galatians or the Colossians so what does he do? Satan goes after their hope. We looked at this last week. Some of the brothers must have started prophesying that Jesus was coming back soon. There is nothing wrong with this. This is a true statement. Jesus IS coming back soon. But some of the members there took it a step further. They said, not only is Jesus returning soon, but I received a vision or I had a dream and God told me that Jesus is going to return on such and such day.
So what do you do when you have people who say they have received a prophecy from the Lord and part of what they are saying is good and biblical and other parts seem to contradict Scripture?
Paul ends this letter with a bunch of practical tips and one of them addresses this exact scenario. 1 Thess 5:19-22 [READ]
Don’t stifle the Spirit and don’t despise prophecies. Prophecies still occur today and we shouldn’t stifle the Spirit by saying that God doesn’t speak anymore through prophecies and dreams and visions. He does. It doesn’t happen to me, but I know people where God does speak to them in these ways. But Paul doesn’t say embrace every prophecy either because there are many false prophets out there. What are we to do? v21 – we are to test all things. If what we hear is good, like Jesus is coming back soon, we should hold on to it. Yes, Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come back quickly. But at the same time, we need to test it. How do we test prophecies? Scripture.
Scripture says, Jesus is coming back soon so this is consistent with Scripture so we can hold on to this. But if like the Thessalonians, someone says, Jesus is coming on this precise date, again, we go back to Scripture. We can look at Scripture and it says, no one can predict the date because Jesus will come like a thief in the night, totally unexpected and it will catch many off guard. So pinning Christ’s return on a specific date is clearly contradictory to Scripture so where did this “prophecy” come from? From an evil source, not God, so stay away from this and every other kind of evil.
Here’s another way of testing prophecies. This argument is not as air tight, but by studying the example of this church at Thessalonica, I think we can glean some additional wisdom to discern whether or not something is from the Lord or it isn’t. If something is from God, things just work out and people are blessed. If things are not from God, things don’t work out and people are hurt. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but we can test things by looking at the outcome when we choose a specific course of action based on someone’s prophetic guidance.
What happened when people followed this prophecy of Jesus’ imminent return? He’s coming back on such and such date. What happened as a result of this prophecy? Some quit their jobs. They became idle and in their idleness, some fell into sexual sin and others fell into the sin of idle talk. This idle speech was so harmful that it even threatened to rip this church apart and so the result of the prophecy didn’t build up the body of Christ, but it hurt the body of Christ. The outcome was negative so we have to question the prophecy. Test all things.