First Thessalonians 002 – Secure Through Trials1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 • Dr. Andy Woods • October 23, 2022 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 002
Secure Through Trials
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
October 23, 2022
Dr. Andy Woods
A word of prayer before we get started. Father, we’re grateful for today. Grateful for your word. The Ministry of the Spirit. The freedom that we have in this country to worship you in spirit and truth. I do lift up, Father, November 8th, which will be a big decision day for our country. I pray that the evil that is happening in our nation would be slowed down considerably, November 8th. I just ask that You do a work amongst your people. Help us to be good stewards of this country that You’ve given us. We do lift up today our study in Genesis and our study in Thessalonians. And we do pray for the enablement of the Spirit by which we can understand. The deep things of God to prepare our hearts, Lord, for receiving your truth. We’re going to take a moment of silence to do personal confession to You, if need be, not to restore our position. But if fellowship has been broken because of sin in our lives, we’d like to get that issue dealt with. Before we take a look into Your Word this morning. We’re thankful, Father, for the promise of First John 1:9. For by if we confess our sins, You’re faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Not for position, but for fellowship purposes. So, we do ask, Father, that You be at work today. Through the teaching of Your word, I pray that You would bring thoughts into my mind that You would have me to share with Your people. I have my script Lord, but I want my script today, as always, to be Your script. So, we invite the Illuminating Ministry of the Spirit. And we ask these things in Jesus’ name. God’s people said, Amen.
Well. Good morning, everybody. If you could take your Bibles and open them to First Thessalonians 1:1. Having completed our Middle East Meltdown series. It shows you that sometimes we do finish series here at Sugar Land Bible Church. I thought what we’d do to keep the focus of Sunday school on prophecy is to teach through the two Thessalonians books. We kind of started this series at an awkward time just before I left for a trip to really the area that we’re going to talk about here. Thessalonica area. Then I was out last week and so no more absences for me for the rest of the year. Which would also include most of January. So I want to thank Jim, of course, for filling in, just doing some great series on dispensationalism, which I think has been completed. And he’s doing a kind of an ongoing series on grace versus the law. But we need to hear about that, don’t we? So I would encourage you to go back to the Sugar Land Bible Church archives and dial into those series, because those are really foundational concepts that you need to understand to grow as a Christian.
And also First Thessalonians and Second Thessalonians is foundational for Christians. How do I know that? Because as we have tried to unfold so far, the Thessalonians letters were written. Very early in Paul’s ministry to baby Christians. So, some of the things he talks about, people say, oh, that is just so advanced. And when you put this in its historical context, this is like kindergarten level teaching in terms of when Paul in his ministry had the opportunity to teach these truths. So in our first lesson together, I think about a month or so ago, we kind of laid down the introduction to the book. We saw that the author is Paul. The Thessalonian Christians are the recipients of the book. The place of writing is Corinth. The date would be about A.D. 51. The audience is believers. The occasion really of first Thessalonians is they were new Christians. When Paul was with them in Thessalonica, he had taught them about the Rapture. The catching away of the church. But then they got sort of nervous, you know, because what started to happen is people in their congregation started to die. And they wanted to know, well, what’s going to happen to these deceased loved ones in Christ when the rapture happens? And that in association with a lot of other questions that they had. In association with the visit from Timothy to Thessalonica.
Back to Paul in Corinth, which allowed Paul to learn about the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians prompted this letter. The outline I’ll show you in just a minute. There’s a two-part outline. The book is unique because every single chapter ends with a reference to the return of Jesus. The purpose of the book is continued spiritual growth despite persecution from the unbelieving Jews. So, the crowd that drove Paul out of Thessalonica down into Corinth was the unbelieving Jews. And the unbelieving Jews really weren’t happy simply to get rid of Paul. They started to persecute the new flock there in Thessalonica. So, you’ve got some baby Christians who are confused on the rapture. You’ve got some baby Christians who are going through suffering. And thus you see the need for First Thessalonians. The message of the book is continued growth in faith, hope and love. We’ll see those words today. In view of the Lord’s any moment return. The first three chapters of the book, Paul is basically dialing back to experiences that he had with them about six months to a year earlier. Because what the unbelieving Jews did to wean the Thessalonians away from the influence of Paul is they started to talk behind Paul’s back. I’m glad stuff like that never happens today. And they started to smear his reputation to discredit him. And they felt that if they could do this, they could stop Christianity in Thessalonica.
So largely in chapters one through three Paul is looking back to that personal experience and he’s saying, Don’t you remember what it was really like when I was with you? And he’s largely vindicating his credibility. And then once his credibility is vindicated, he moves into chapters four and five, where he starts addressing their theological concerns. You can’t address theological concerns unless you trust the credibility of the theologian. So, this is why Paul has to structure the letter in which he does. You know, when you when you see this, you start to understand why. Paul, when he wrote to Timothy later in his ministry, would say things like this in First Timothy five. He would say, do not entertain an accusation against an elder. Unless you have 2 to 3 witnesses. We all know what the rumor mill is like. With our tongues- With our tongues we could start a forest fire the book of James says in the Body of Christ. And if that weren’t bad enough, we now have these electronic keyboards where I could take whatever’s in my carnal head and spread it all over the world. And so, what you see a lot of times is people that don’t even know why they’re doing it a lot of times, but they’re attacking spiritual leaders. Satan, of course, is using that because he doesn’t want these spiritual leaders to have effective ministries.
So that’s why Paul says, look, you’re going to hear a lot of rumors about a lot of people, including your own elders, but don’t take them seriously unless you have 2 to 3 witnesses accusing the elder of what the elder supposedly has done. And we certainly need to follow that practice today. Amen. Not that elders are somehow or pastors are somehow above correction. That’s why Paul says you can entertain it if the criteria are met. But don’t entertain it unless you’ve gone through the witness process and you have 2 to 3 eyewitnesses. So, in the first part of the book, it’s largely personal chapters one through three. And I think what he is doing here in chapter one is he is vindicating the actual conversion of the Thessalonians. Because as I’m sort of trying to read behind the lines and see what the situation was. Because the better you can understand the situation, the better you can understand the things that Paul will surface, is the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica, essentially, we’re telling Paul’s converts that your conversion to Christianity is not real. It’s- you just got talked into something through a motivational speech. I think I’ve share with you before that that’s what a member of my extended family told me when I was 18. I was saved at age 16. Very excited about the things of God. And by the time I got to age 18, I actually had an extended family member say, well, it’s just that’s just a phase.
That’ll pass. And I’m thankful to say I just turned 56 last month and I’m still in the phase and I hope I, by God’s grace, stay in the phase until my dying day. And, you know, Satan will whisper that in your ear that, oh, the Jesus thing is just temporary. It’s just a season, it’s just a fad. It’ll wear off. That’s the kind of thing I believe that Paul. His enemies were telling his converts in Thessalonica. So chapter one, largely what he’s doing is he’s saying, No, your conversion is very real. Look at your experiences. So, we’re going to pick it up here, not pick it up, but start it up in chapter 1 verse 1, where he gives a greeting. Verse 1, he says, “Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy, to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, grace and peace to you.” So, you have Paul together with Sylvanus. Another name for Silvanus is Silas. And the other person with him was Timothy. And this is one of the reasons we believe Paul, when he was pushed out of Thessalonica, went to Corinth. And it’s in Corinth he wrote this letter. In Acts 18:1. It says, “After these things, he left Athens and went to Corinth.” And then in Acts 18:5, it says, “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.”
So, you’ll notice that the three missionaries, Paul, Silas and Timothy were together in Corinth, Acts 18:1-5. And so we believe this is a logical place for Paul to have written First Thessalonians. He describes the missionaries together exactly like we have in the Book of Acts. That’s why when you take this course as a course in seminary or Bible college, it typically is taught as Acts, Paul. Book of Acts showing the Missionary Journeys, The conversion, Paul’s trip to Rome, and then Paul’s 13 letters. So, the Book of Acts really is the historical document that helps you place these different letters in their historical context. So, the place of writing is Corinth. We just in our trip, visited Corinth. As we did Athens. And he moves on. By the way, there is where Corinth is. I’m not sure if you can see it well, but there’s an Isthmian Landbridge there. Where they would essentially rather than go around. Which is a dangerous journey going around. In fact, our ship went around and there wasn’t much sleeping that night because it was like an earthquake. Did you guys, Scribner’s, did you feel that earthquake with us on the trip? And that’s historically the problem is ships went around and they typically lost their lives in the process. So as I’m waking up at three in the morning with the ship sinking, I’m thinking, boy, I’m going to I’m just like Paul the Apostle.
I just hope I don’t die out here. So to avoid that trip around, what they would do is they would take their boats and put them on wheels and drag them across that land bridge. We actually visited the canal where that land bridge is and. Early 1900s I think they said they started to use dynamite to get rid of the land. And now ships can go right through there if they’re skinny enough. Our ship wasn’t skinny enough, so we had to go around. But that helps you explain a lot about Corinth. You had sailors in town for less than 24 hours away from their families. So what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? There was actually a word that was developed in Koine Greek to describe the immorality of that city and the word or is patterned after Corinth. The word is Corinthiasomai. That’s the Greek word or one of the Greek words for immorality coming from that port city of Corinth. And so when you read First Corinthians, you can understand why that church was as messed up as it was. Rather than the church turning the world upside down, which is the Divine Blueprint. The morality of Corinth was turning the Corinthian church upside down. So that’s where Paul went on Missionary Journey two. And this is where he wrote this letter.
He is- And you can see a description of when he planted that church about six months to a year earlier in the Book of Acts 17:1-9. So, he is writing from Corinth and he says here, “To the Church of the Thessalonians.” Where is the Church of the Thessalonians? It’s just north. That circle at the top. So, he’s writing from the bottom circle to the circle there up top. And he does something very interesting. He unfolds doctrine that most people have never heard in their local church. Basic systematic theology. And he unfolds this at the beginning of the book. Because when you look at verse 1, he starts talking about the Trinity. He says, “To the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father. And the Lord Jesus Christ.” And he’s actually going to make another reference to the Trinity. Down in verse 3. The mystery of the Trinity. How many gods do we worship? One. It’s called monotheism. Deuteronomy 6:4, I think it is “Hear O Israel: The Lord, your God is one [LORD].” And yet, as you continue to move through the Bible, you start to see that that singular God has decided to express Himself in three personages. The plurality within the Godhead. This is why, in the Book of Genesis chapter one, God says, “Let Us make man in our image.” Who’s the Us? I think the Us is a conversation within the triunity of God.
So we have God, the Father, God, the Son, God, the Holy Spirit. I could take you to all the verses if we had time and show you that each of those entities have the title of deity attached to them. And yet they’re separate personages. The Son is unique in His son-ness. The Father is unique in His father-ness. The Holy Spirit is unique in His spirit-ness. And yet all three share in the essence of deity. One God who has chosen to express Himself in three separate personages. And you say, Well, Pastor, I don’t really understand this. And my response is, come join the club. I don’t know if I fully understand it myself either. It’s one of the great mysteries of the Bible, and you’ll probably spend your whole life as a Christian just contemplating this magnificent design of the eternally existent God who has eternally existed in three separate personages, each unique in His personage, but sharing in the same essence as deity. So, he says in verse 1, “Paul and Sylvanus and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” He starts off with this word grace. The Greek word for grace is charis. And he starts off with grace because it’s grace that gives us standing before God. What is grace? Grace is unmerited favor.
It is favor coming to us that we don’t deserve. It’s favor coming to us that we didn’t earn. And if we didn’t have that in our lives, I would have no relationship with God at all. I do not have a relationship with God today because of something innate or meritorious within myself. I have a relationship with God because he has decided to bestow upon me unmerited favor. At the point of faith, alone in Christ alone. And because I have experienced grace and you have experienced grace and the Thessalonians Christians had experienced grace, You’ll notice the last word there, They have peace. We have peace. The Greek word for peace is eiréné. Where we get the word irenic. If someone is called irenic, it’s the opposite of calling them polemical. Polemical coming from polemos in Greek; means war. Irenic comes from the Greek word eiréné. Sometimes you’ll see somebody named you know, in the English speaking world, a woman, named Irene. It’s a beautiful name, Irene. This is where it comes from. This Greek word, eiréné. And so eiréné is the opposite of polemical or polemos. Irenical is sort of a temperament that’s peaceable. So, the truth of the matter is, because of grace, we have peace. Now, when it talks about peace, there’s two kinds of peace to understand. The first is positional. You see positional peace expressed in the book of Romans 5:1.
Which says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace (eiréné) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why do I need peace with God? Because before I was saved, I was God’s enemy. And so were you. That’s expressed in Romans 5:10. Where it says, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Before a person is a believer in Jesus Christ they are on a collision course with the God that made them. Why is that? Because they have a nature inherited from original sin. That by nature is at war with its creator. This is why Paul makes statements like he does in Romans seven. Within the flesh. Dwell is no good thing. This is why he says the things he says in the book of Romans 8:7-8, he says, “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God: for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is even unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In other words, before I am saved, I have a nature that naturally rebels against God. I have a nature that naturally sins. This is why we don’t have to sit down our children and our grandchildren. And our parents didn’t have to sit us down and say, okay, we’re going to give you a lesson today on how to be selfish.
You ready? Here’s how you do it. I notice you’re- you’re too. You’re too kind to your playmates. As a child, I noticed you’re sharing your toys too much with them. So Mom and Dad are going to take you over here into the corner, and we’re going to teach you how to be selfish. How to be stingy. Oh, and if you ever want to throw a temper tantrum, here’s how you do it. Ready? Let’s do a little tutorial. You know, selfishness, temper tantrums, impatience, all of these things is what we’re like by nature. This is why the greatest need people today are talking about felt needs. We need to get people in church and meet their felt needs. Well, here’s a need that we have that we can’t feel, the greatest need we have. It’s right there in the verse I read in Romans. It’s reconciliation. The state of hostility between ourselves and God has to be called off. And the only way that can happen is if Jesus steps into the line of fire and absorbs the wrath of our sin debt upon Himself. So all this talk today about, oh, you know, we’re all God’s children and that kind of thing. Just to let you guys up in the sound booth know I’m down to a couple of bars, so we’re good. All right.
And when I say bars, I’m talking about electronically. Didn’t want to exemplify the sin nature here. So this is why we desperately need the conflict between us and God to be resolved. And you can in your life have every single felt need met. You can live in a beautiful house. You could be married to a beautiful wife or husband. You could have the best job in the world. You could have money in the bank. You could have a retirement system out of the solar system. You could have it all going for you. But if this need hasn’t been met, you’re in a very sorrowful position. And so this need has to be met. Through grace. That’s the only way it can be met. Unmerited favor. We can’t earn our way out of this. And only when this is met do we have eiréné, a positional peace with God. Now, once you have the positional peace of God, the Holy Spirit wants to produce something else in you experientially. He wants your life to be characterized by internal peace. And if you want a description as to what internal peace is like, it’s in Mark 4:35-41 on the Sea of Galilee. Having just been there and taught on the Sea of Galilee. They take you across on this boat. I think it’s about six miles, something like that. And then they conveniently dump you off at this restaurant.
Where you can get St. Peter’s fish and all these kinds of things. Then I asked the tour guide. I go, How much, because I didn’t organize the tour, How much does it cost to cross the Sea of Galilee on this boat? And he quoted a sum of money that was so high that I said to myself, Well, now I know why Jesus decided to walk instead of get on this ship. But the Sea of Galilee is interesting, and they explain this to you when you’re out there in terms of its topography. Wind can come, just like the Bible says. And because it’s kind of encircled with mountains, it can launch a storm just like that. So the things spoken of in the Bible and by the way, they’ve actually found a Galilean fishermen’s boat. They have a whole museum exhibit set up there. It’s a tremendous story, how it was discovered, how they had to preserve it. It’s generally believed that this was during the same perhaps time period, give or take, that Jesus ministered in. So when you’re reading the Bible about the Sea of Galilee, guess what? There’s really such a place. When you’re reading in your Bible about storms coming up real fast on the Sea of Galilee, guess what? Such a scenario is completely credible. Credible when you’re reading about boats on the Sea of Galilee. Guess what? They found one, and it’s been preserved.
But here’s one of the things that happened on the Sea of Galilee when I had a chance to teach. As you know, I was not walking on the water. I was on a boat. But, I chose to teach this passage. It says, “On that day, when evening came, He said to them, ‘Let’s go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.” And this is like life-threatening circumstances. Verse 38, Mark 4, “Jesus Himself was asleep in the stern, on the cushion; and they woke Him up and said, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And he got up and he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ And then they became…” the paragraph- in Greek, we call these a pericope paragraph. “They became…” And this is how the pericope ends. “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'” I mean, what’s scarier? The storm or the guy who wakes up and speaks a word and the storm is gone? I mean, what manner of man are we dealing with here? And they were more afraid of Him at that point when they saw His power than they were the storm.
But this is what Jesus is about. He takes a storm and brings tranquility to it. And by the way, where does Jesus currently live? Galatians 2:20. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; And the life I now live in the flesh, I have been, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” The same Jesus that calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee is the same Jesus that lives inside of you. And if you’re open to His ministry. He will create tranquility in your life. This is why He is called, in the Book of Isaiah 9:6-7, The Prince of Peace, eiréné. He doesn’t just bring peace in terms of our hostility towards God positionally through reconciliation. He doesn’t just call that conflict off, but He will give you tranquility in any storm of life here in. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Right? So, this is why when I hit a problem and suddenly I’m into anxiety and fear. I have to just say to myself at that second, Well, Lord, just forgive me that, I’m obviously- my mind is filled with anxiety.
I obviously haven’t tapped into the resources You’ve given me, and so I’m just going to let You be Lord over this situation. In fact, when we were going across the Sea of Galilee, we had someone on our trip. And this happens where they don’t know where their passport is. Or they don’t know where their wallet is. I mean, the passport is kind of a big deal. In terms of getting in the country, getting out of the country. So, you lose your passport or you’re not sure where you put it. I mean, that’s panic. Panic time. Panic Palace. Hit the panic button. And as we were teaching on the Sea of Galilee from Mark four, afterwards this individual came up and said, you know, that really ministered to me. You know, deeply. Because I don’t have to panic about things. The Lord is going to help me in any kind of situation I am in. Jesus, in John 14:27, said, “Peace, I leave with you; [My] peace I give to you; not as the world gives [do] I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, or let it be fearful.” Paul the Apostle talked about experiential peace in the book of Philippians 4:6-7. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,”
Why does it surpass all comprehension? Because it doesn’t make any sense from the human perspective. Because we’re all supposed to panic when we hit problems. That’s why the disciples could not understand in the midst of this storm why the teacher was asleep on a cushion. I mean, talk about irrational. And yet the teacher or the Messiah or God incarnate who was asleep on the cushion lives inside of you. And he will grant you the peace of God that surpasses all understanding when we turn the situation, whatever it is, over to him. “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” You’ll notice the order here: Peace and grace. Or grace and peace, rather. Verse 1, “Grace to you and peace.” The order, of course, is very, very significant because unless you have the first, you can’t have the second. Unless you are the recipient of divine grace, you cannot have positional peace. And you don’t yet have the resources of the Holy Spirit inside of you that will give you experiential peace in the midst of a storm. So, grace comes first and then peace. Grace, unmerited favor. And then God wants to give them peace. They have it positionally. They need it experientially. And boy, do they need it. Because baby Christians are being attacked by unbelievers. The same unbelievers that drove Paul out of Corinth are now turning on these baby Christians.
And if anybody needs the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, it would be these folks here. So, this is your position, he’s saying. Adversities of life can’t change your position. I mean, you may leave church today and you may go through next week, and it just might be the best week of your life. From the human perspective. And yet your position in Christ is unaltered. Conversely, you may go into next week and it may be the most challenging week you’ve ever had, and yet your position in Christ is unaltered. Is our positional realities that you have. The moment you’ve placed your trust in Christ. He moves on and he gets into verse 2 where he talks about faith, hope, and love in Christ. Notice verse 2, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.” Notice the word thanks. He’s thankful for them. He is thankful for their conversion. He’s thankful for their growth. And it’s kind of interesting to me that he’s not looking at his own life trying to figure out what to be thankful for. Although there were many things. He’s thankful for what God has done in these Thessalonians. And quite frankly, with Thanksgiving coming up. We ought to be the most thankful people in the world, shouldn’t we? I mean, you can get into other tangential blessings, money, resources, living in the United States of America, but just thank God that we’re saved.
I mean, I mean, thank God that I’m not on my way to hell. I’m not an enemy of God. I’ve been reconciled to God. I have the resources of the Holy Spirit via Jesus himself, living directly inside of me. And you want to talk about something to celebrate on Thanksgiving. That would be it. And so many times, you know, we’re not thankful for those things. We’re thankful for other things, which is not a bad thing, but we’re not thankful for the big thing. The central thing. Which is we have been the recipients of grace and we have peace with God. He says, I’m thankful always for this. I’m not thankful when I feel like being thankful. I’m always thankful for this. So thankfulness is not a euphoria. It’s not emotion. An emotion. It’s not a liver quiver. It’s an attitude of the mind. Where Paul is just thankful for these Thessalonians and the work of God that God has done in and through them. He says, I’m thankful for all of them. And did Paul get along with every single person in the Thessalonians church? I mean, I doubt it. There was church problems in Thessalonica that we’re going to read about in this letter. Much later in his ministry, he’s going to write the book of Philippians and he’s going to plead with two people in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, who are fighting with each other.
I call them odious and sin-touchy. Fighting with each other. So obviously, Paul, you know, he had friction with some people. But he doesn’t say here, you know, I’m thankful for the people that I like. He says, I’m thankful for all of you and I am always thankful. And that’s why I am in prayer for you, making mention of you in our prayers. Notice that prayers is plural. You didn’t just pray for them once and then it was done. I mean, he was in a state of consistent prayer for the Thessalonians. Do you believe that prayer works? I believe it works. Our staff meets for prayer every Friday. In the last month, of course, I haven’t been there, but they’ve been in prayer. They’ve been in prayer for the church. They’ve been in prayer for you. They’ve been in prayer for the needs that come in. Our elder board, The first hour of every elder board meeting is basically an hour spent in prayer praying for the needs of the flock. Why would we waste our time with that? Let’s get down to business. Because prayer works. I mean, we believe it works. James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” First John 5:14 says, “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
Dr. John Walvoord, in his commentary on the Book of Thessalonians, says concerning this verse. He that’s Paul breathed out from his very heart in verse 2. We give thanks to God always for you making mention in our prayers. Again, something of faithfulness of the Prayer Ministry of the Apostle Paul is indicated when he said, We give thanks to God always. Walvoord says in the days and the months which had passed since he left this little band of Thessalonians, Paul had been in faithful prayer. What a rebuke it is to many of us. Who serve the Lord that often our hearts are not burdened with the needs of God’s people. Nor are we thankful for the Lord’s grace in their lives, especially when they are out of sight and out of mind. Paul gives his testimony: We give thanks to God always for all of you. Verse 3, He moves on and he says, “Constantly, bearing in mind your work of faith and hope-” excuse me. “And labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” Reading here from the NASB, your English translation may read a little differently, but the NASB says, constantly bearing in mind. Verse 3, Some of the English translations say remembrance. But you can’t remember something unless it’s in the mind. The battle is for the mind. The 911 hijackers did not have to get control of the entire airplane.
They simply had to control the place of influence. Where the pilots sit, the cockpit, as it is called. And if the 911 hijackers controlled that, they controlled the direction of the whole vehicle. This is how God has designed the mind. This is why the battle is in the mind. If you give God influence over the mind, your whole life is different. The Book of Proverbs chapter, I want to say chapter 23 verse 7 says, As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. I mean, show me what’s happening in the arena of a person’s mind and I will basically be able to show them the direction of their entire life. This is why Satan is targeting the mind. This is why one of the armor- pieces of armor in spiritual warfare is a helmet of salvation, which protects the mind from the fiery darts of the wicked one. Satan is targeting your mind constantly. And. If you’ll only relinquish to him 25% of your mind. He’ll take that. 10% of your mind. He’ll take that 5%. Anything you give him, he’ll take. And this is why there’s so much in the Bible about the renewal of the mind. This is why teachings like this when you can be detached. From the world. For an hour. Are so critical. Because what God is doing as we’re teaching through His word, is He is restoring, He is cleansing the mind, which the world has sought to squeeze into its own mold.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” How do I- how am I not conform to this world? He goes on and he says, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Okay, pastor, well, tell me what I’m supposed to let into my mind. Should I listen to this podcast or that one? Should I read this catalog of marketable things or not? What kind of movie should I go to? G-rated movies are okay. PG movies are okay. Watch out for PG-13. Everybody’s kind of looking for some kind of legalistic standard concerning what to put in the mind. The Bible gives no legalistic standard. What it will give you are principles. You’ll find those principles in the book of Philippians 4:8. Which says, “Finally, brethren. Whatever is true,” That’s number one. “Whatever is honorable.” Number two. “Whatever is right.” Number three. “Whatever is pure.” Number four. “Whatever is lovely.” Number five. “Whatever is of good repute.” Number six. “Whatever is of excellence.” That’s the Greek word, areté. There’s a camp that we promote here for the youth called Camp Arete. That’s where it comes from. “And if anything is worthy of praise.”
In other words, it’s got to meet this, what do we say? Seven Part, eight Part test. True. Honorable. Right. Pure. Lovely. Of good repute. Excellent and worthy of praise. If it meets those criteria, then let it into the mind. Paul says, dwell on these things. So as the saying goes, you cannot stop the Birds from flying over your head. But you can certainly prevent them from building a nest in your hair. I mean, we’re living in a fallen world. We still have a fallen flesh. We all have all kinds of thoughts about all kinds of things, some of them edifying, some of them unedifying. You can’t change that until glorification. But here’s what you can control. You can control what you dwell on. What you meditate on that, you can control. And if you get that under control, just like getting control of where the pilots sit in an airline. That changes the whole direction of your life. This is why in the Book of Joshua 1:8. It says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your [mouth]. But you shall meditate on it-” How frequently? He says, “day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for, then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.” Now I want to make my way prosperous as God defines prosperity. I want to have success as God defines success.
How do I get that? I mean, maybe I’m supposed to get up early and go to bed late and work my fingers to the bone in between? Well, that’s having a good work ethic is a good start. But God told Joshua here that if you want to have a prosperous and you want to have success, meditate on the law. The book of the law. Day and night. That’s why there’s so much warfare in your life. When it comes time to, right, we’re going to give ourselves to the Bible. Why is it that it’s so difficult, for me included, To get up and come to church for Sunday school. Why is that a war? I mean, why is it that when my eyes open on Sunday morning I’m tired. Coffee machine doesn’t work. I got my wife mad at me again. Oh, the car’s on empty. Engine lights on. What? Why is it that Sunday morning? I’m facing those issues, but I don’t face them when I’m trying to load the family into the car to go watch Star Wars at the movies? Because- Because Satan understands how different your life is going to be when you come under the influence of the meditation of God’s Word. You know, Sarah and I, my daughter, we read a chapter of the Bible a night. We are currently in the Book of Isaiah. Having just completed last night, Isaiah Chapter 50. And now what a- what a difference it makes.
Just to have read through that chapter, no in-depth sermon or teaching, just reading through it. She reads a verse. I read a verse. Go through the chapter. Progressing through the Bible. How different it is going to bed with those thoughts in your mind than cable television and people screaming at each other. Because I love cable television. I love studying the culture wars. I watch all these shows where people are yelling at each other and screaming, and then I wonder, gosh, I wonder why I don’t sleep well at night. I mean, it’s the battle for the mind. It’s shutting off all that stuff and giving yourself to the Bible. And it’s hard on Sarah and it’s hard on me because a lot of times it’s close to bedtime and we just don’t want to do it. We’re tired. We’ve got other things on our mind. We’re distracted, and yet we fight through it. We give ourselves to a chapter of the Bible, and it just changes our whole mood. Our whole perspective on life. I mean, I hope that you’re doing this kind of thing in your house, with your family, with your spouse. I hope you haven’t been deceived into thinking that this little thimble full of study that we do a couple of hours on Sunday morning and then Wednesday night is somehow sufficient. So dealing with someone that says, you know, I have a headache and I’m fatigued.
And then you say, Well, when did you- when was the last time you had a meal? I had a meal last Sunday. I mean, it’s Friday and you haven’t eaten since Sunday? Well, no wonder you’re fatigued. No wonder you’re irritable. You’ve got to feed yourself. And so a lot of Christians think, well, I went to church on Sunday, did my thing, not understanding that they’re supposed to be in the word of God day and night to be successful and prosperous. You wouldn’t expect a person that hasn’t fed themselves since Sunday to be sustained by the time they reach Friday. You wouldn’t expect that in the natural world. And yet that’s how we treat God’s Word. And we wonder why Gosh, maybe our lives are not producing what Jesus wants. It has to do with the mental disciplines. Paul says, bearing in mind. Well, bearing in mind what? He mentions three things. Faith. Hope. And love. Verse 3, “constantly bearing in mind your work of faith your labor of love and the steadfastness of hope.” Faith. Greek word is pistis. Noun form, pisteuó. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Everything with God starts with faith. Genesis 15:6 of Abraham. It says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him for righteousness.” When did everything begin with Abraham? When he believed in the Lord. This is what God wants first and foremost.
He wants our faith. He wants us to trust in Him. Second thing he mentions here is. Well, actually, a little bit later. Same verse, Hope. That’s the Greek word elpis. What does hope even mean? Well, I hope I get that raise. I hope the stock market comes back. I hope a different political party wins the midterms. That’s how we throw the word hope around. Like maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. But that is not what the word means biblically. Dennis Rokser in his excellent book, Shall Never Perish Forever, properly defines hope as, quote, The new birth has given every believer the confident assurance of God’s certain and future blessings. The word hope in the Bible does not involve anxious, wishing or uncertainty. Rather, it means a confident assurance of something yet future. Unlike the empty and false hopes of this world system, God has given believers a living hope. Of a guaranteed future. By the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Because Jesus rose bodily from the dead. The hope that we have is not a: Gee, I hope it’s going to work out. It’s I know it’s going to work out. It’s not a I hope so. It’s an I know so and this is what the Thessalonians Christians had. He also mentions love. The Greek word here for love is agape. The Greeks had four different words for love. Storge, which is family love. Love between family members.
Eros, romantic love. Phileó, brotherly love. But then there’s agape which is the deepest, most selfless form of love a person can have. A type of love that seeks the interests of the other person above and beyond themselves. This is what the Thessalonians had received from God, and this is what they were via the work of the Holy Spirit ministering to each other through. You’ll notice verse 3, it’s called The Labor of Love. In other words, it manifests itself in daily life. First John 3:17 says, “But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” I mean, if you’re walking in Agape what will start to flow out of your life is selfless deeds of charity. On behalf of others where you won’t even seek anything in return. You’ll notice also here, steadfastness. Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith. And labor of love and steadfastness of hope. Steadfastness in Greek is hupomoné. Which means the ability to bear up under unfair circumstances. Being mistreated, being spat upon, being discredited. And you don’t just take your toys and go home. But you’re able to bear up. Under those circumstances. Hupomoné. It’s one of the fruit of the spirit. That the Holy Spirit seeks to develop in our lives.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace. What’s the next one? Patience. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control against such things. There is no- there is no law. So, Paul’s point is, if you’re walking in faith, hope and love: pistis, agape, elpis- I think is the word for hope- and hupomoné. How could your conversion be illegitimate? I mean, if you’re experiencing these things. You’re not experiencing these things from yourself. You’re not experiencing these things from a motivational speaker. You’re not experiencing these things because you sat under someone that had the gift of gab. You’re experiencing these things because the Holy Spirit is doing something supernatural in your life. And if the Holy Spirit wasn’t doing something supernatural in your life, you wouldn’t experience any of these things. Concluding with verse 3, “In our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” Notice how he concludes the verse with another reference to the Triunity of God. First Peter starts his books by referencing the Trinity. Here, Paul is referencing just 2 to 3- Two of three members. But Peter, at the beginning of his book, First Peter, cites all three. He says in First Peter 1:2, “According to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May the grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” Hey, the father had a role in your salvation. He foreknew you.
Hey, the Holy Spirit had a role in your salvation. He’s doing the sanctifying work in your life right now. Hey, Jesus Christ had a role in your salvation because you’ve been sprinkled, metaphorically speaking, of course, but you have been sprinkled with His blood. It is just absolutely fascinating to me how all members of the Trinity have a part to play. In the salvation and growth of God’s people. And then verses 4 and 5, which we can’t get to. We’ll pick it up next time. You also did something that causes me to believe that your conversion is true. You responded to the gospel. Heard it, and you didn’t have to respond to it. But you did. And so we’ll keep moving through this chapter in our next class. But, give a hard study, if you could, to this first chapter because it will do incredible things for almost every area of your spiritual life. Let’s pray, Father, We’re grateful for Your truth, Your word, the preservation of Your word. Over the last 2000 years, the historical circumstances in which Your word transpired, and the illuminating Ministry of the Holy Spirit by which we can even understand Your Word 2000 years later, help us to tuck these things deep into our hearts this week as we walk with You by way of faith. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’s name, and God’s people said Happy Shorter Intermission.