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'Living in the light of His soon return ...' Part 5

A series of thoughts from Paul’s
First letter to the Thessalonians

Preached at Blyth Community Church ~ Summer/Autumn 2006 ~ by Brian Allenby

Read 1 Thessalonians Ch5

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

As we read these instructions, well, I get a sense of relief. Perhaps this almost perfect church did have a few problems. I suspect they were living carelessly, not respecting church leadership, perhaps some were abusing the public meetings and there was a general need for love and harmony among the saints. These warnings however are good for you and me - they show us in our church life, how to live in harmony and purity. Six points here from Paul:

  1. Be watchful vv 1 – 12.
  2. Be respectful to you leaders vv. 12 – 13.
  3. Be mindful of one another vv. 14 –15.
  4. Thankful vv. 16 –18.
  5. Be careful in worship vv.19 – 20.
  6. Be faithful in daily conduct vv. 22 – 28


And so to the first point: Be Watchful

Paul presents a series of contrasts between Christians and the lost:

  • Light & Dark
    Christ’s coming, as far as the world is concerned, will be sudden and unexpected, like a thief in the night. But not so for the believer. Why? Because we are looking for Him to come. Unbelievers are in the dark, their understanding is darkened, they love the the darkness, they are controlled by the powers of darkness and they are headed for eternal darkness. But Christians are associated with the light, for God is light and Christ is the light of the world. We are therefore children of the light, though at one time we were indeed of darkness too and the change that was wrought in us is described in 2 Corinthians 4;1-6 and also on Colossians and 1 Peter, but let us look at second Corinthians. Since Christians belong to the day, then we should live in the light and be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Knowledge & Ignorance
    Satan loves to keep people in the dark, Judas was in the dark (comment) and so was Ananias & Sapphira. The world is ignorant of God’s plans, why? Because the World has largely rejected Christ and the Bible. Let us just have a quick look at Isaiah chapter 8:20, this tells us exactly why intelligent world leaders are in the dark when it comes to understanding what is going on in the world. They go by appearances and some say where is the promise of His coming? But for the Christian who reads God’s Word, he or she keep there eyes open knowing that God is working in the world and is not ignorant of these facts.
  • Expectancy & Surprise
    The unsaved world lives in a false atmosphere of security, in fact just like the people before the flood or the citizens of Sodom & Gomorrah. Paul gives us two comparisons to Christ’s coming. Firstly, the thief, telling of the surprise and unprepared ness of those affected by it; secondly, the woman giving birth, which again tells us about the suddenness of it but also the suffering involved. When Christ takes the church out of the world, I believe the day of the Lord will begin, a period of severe tribulation and suffering for the world. Thus the Day of the Lord will come to the world as a thief in the night, but it will not be so for you and me, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
  • Soberness & Drunkenness
    Christians who are looking for Christ to come will stay awake and be alert. There is a lovely illustration of this in Nehemiah. Concerned about attacks from Sanballat and Tobias, Nehemiah instructs his people to build the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. As Christians we should be alert and awake, not drunken like the people of the world. Wake and Sleep here do not mean alive and dead, they mean alert and careless. As Christians we should be living clean, dedicated lives when the Lord Jesus Christ comes for us.

Second point: Be Respectful to your Leaders

The church family must have spiritual leadership and this leadership is vested in pastors, elders and deacons. The church may establish whatever organization it pleases, as long as they are organized along Biblical guidelines. The pastor however must lead the flock as God directs. Most certainly there is a need for prayer and the wise counsel of the people, but as such it is he who is accountable before God for the church and the way in which it goes. Elders and deacons carry a burden of responsibility for the church too often the practical things like the building and the general organization. But God require that all respect those whom He has placed in roles of leadership. The Biblical requirements are simple: to love, honour, respect and follow them in the work they do. When ever a church is not united, it is generally because the pastor of leadership will not take responsibility for the church or, the church will not let him lead them. Keep in mind church leadership is not a dictatorship. A church pastor is required to pay the price and set the example and help others IN LOVE. You can tell a dictator, because he will use the law, not love, he will drive and not lead, the motivation will be selfish ambition, even if he thinks that he is doing it for the good of the church.

Thirdly, Be Mindful of Others

It is simply not enough to have church leadership. There must also be a partnership, with each member doing is or her own share of the work. In 1 Peter 4:7-11, we are reminded that each Christian is a steward of a spiritual gift and that we must use that gift for the good of others and the glory of the Lord. Paul specifies certain kinds of Christians who need special help:

  • The unruly, the careless who will not be ruled, those who are out of line and must be warned.
  • The feebleminded, those who are fainted hearted must be encouraged.
  • The weak, Those not mature in the Lord, like new born babes, they must be supported until they can walk.

Our attitude to all people should be one of patience and love, but never, never, returning evil for evil.

Now to something we often forget: Be Thankful

How often we take things for granted, Pauls says, Rejoice, pray and give thanks. Sounds like just everyday words of instructions from a hundred pulpits, BUT, when we add the adverbs, you have a real and significant challenge: Rejoice evermore! Pray without ceasing! In everything give thanks!

The Christian who walks with the Lord and keeps in constant communion/fellowship with Him will see many reasons for rejoicing and thanksgiving. If your life is full of misery and boredom, then look no further than yourself.

Pray without ceasing or pray continually does NOT mean that we have to go around mumbling to ourselves all day. True prayer is simply the attitude of our hearts – the desire of our heart to be in grateful and happy fellowship with God.

You see, when our hearts desire is what God desires, then we are in ‘prayer fellowship’ with Him, because for this to happen, the Spirit is witnessing to our spirit and He is interceding for us and in us, and drawing us close to God.

Warning number five: Be Careful in Worship!

Prophesying in the early church was the immediate work of the Spirit of God. The prophet would give the message from God. BUT, Satan is a counterfeiter, so it was necessary to test the message. The danger was then as it is today that the believers would go overboard in emotional abuses or other extremes, thus quenching the Spirit by rejecting His revelation from God. Paul says ‘prove all things; hold fast to what is good'. We no longer have direct revelation through prophets, because we now have the complete revealed word of the living God, we have our Bibles. But nevertheless, we must still seek to follow this warning today: test everything and hold on to the good! Don’t be fooled by the counterfeits of the Devil. He only seeks to confuse spoil and destroy and by all means keep people from the power of the true gospel of our lord Jesus Christ.

Finally: Be Faithful in Daily Conduct!

Let there be no appearance of evil or avoid every kind of evil. This means EVERY form of evil! The general rule is that no believer should allow anything in his or her life that others could misunderstand, criticise or make something of. Money again! Foolish jokes that can misfire. God is faithful to build us up in holiness if we but yield to him. Do you remember our study of Romans chapter 6? There were three things that we should consider; having considered, we should reckon and then in loving and obedient submission yield to Him. The formula is simple, but it has to be performed to work. If you went to the Chemist with a prescription for treatment of your aching ear and he gave you something for your nose, then what would happen? Let me tell you – sometime ago I had an infection in my ear for which the doctor prescribed antibiotic ear drops. By sheer forgetfulness one night before I went to bed, I picked up what I thought to be my ear drops and duly applied them to my ear, 5 seconds later as I literally scraped myself from the ceiling I realise that I had put Albas Oil into my ear. The wrong treatment was painful and put me back two or three days! The formula for a closer walk with the Lord is simple and utterly painless:

  • Pray without ceasing
  • Live in peace and brotherly love with one another.
  • Take the Word of God daily and systematically

Like a course of antibiotics - it won't work properly otherwise. This course of treatment is guaranteed to sanctify our lives and keep us living in the light of His soon return.

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