Integrity

  I.      Introduction

The last time I taught, we studied who the Holy Spirit is and His perfect timing at appearing at Pentecost 50 days after the Passover Lamb was slain.  And we studied how, at the moment of our trust in Jesus, that He is the Son of God who laid down His life as a payment for our sins, that we become new creatures, temples of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

And Chris and Theresa and I have always said that we welcome your questions, we should all be like the noble Bereans and check the Word of God to see if what we are teaching is true.  As teachers, we should be prepared to explain our teaching, even if we have to say, “Let me study that and get back to you.”

Well, immediately after that lesson, Jilda came up and asked me one of those questions.  And I was stumped, so I resolved to study the question so I more clearly understood the Word of God.  That understanding also led itself on today’s lesson, so I’m going to back up to Jilda’s question and share my journey with you.  So, bearing in mind that the Holy Spirit comes to live within us at the moment of our trust and belief, let’s look ahead briefly to Acts chapter 8.

I don’t mind looking ahead to Acts chapter 8 because in May I’ll be teaching from this same chapter.  I might just simply teach this same lesson again.  If you’re getting older, like me, you won’t remember that I already taught this.

II.      The Holy Spirit in Samaria

Acts 8:14-17 –

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.  When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

So, Jilda’s question was, “I thought you said the Holy Spirit indwells us at the moment of our belief?  So why wasn’t the Holy Spirit indwelling already in these people when they believed?”

That’s a good question, and I was stumped.  In my quest to understand the answer, I was directed toward a biblical research article entitled, “The Transition Problem in Acts” by Roy L. Aldrich of the Dallas Theological Seminary.  The key to understanding Jilda’s question is first understanding Dispensational Theology, that while God never changes, our relationship with God has changed several times.  Some of these dispensations, or distinct periods, are very easy to understand.  We talked about how in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon men briefly and for a specific purpose, but in the New Testament, Christ died for us and we are considered pure and holy and now the Holy Spirit dwells within us, He doesn’t just come upon us and leave when the mission is fulfilled.  These are two distinct Dispensations out of 7 Total Dispensations, and we are living in the 6th Dispensation, the Dispensation of Grace, or the Church Age.  The Millennial Kingdom after the return of Christ is the 7th and final dispensation.

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The Book of Acts is unique in that it is a transitional book between the 5th Dispensation, the Dispensation of Law that the Israelites had lived in for 1500 years, and the 6th Dispensation of the Church Age we live in today.  Certain things are recorded in Acts that only happened once as part of this transition, like the Ascension of Christ into Heaven.  Make sense?

So this question about why these people had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but had not yet received the Holy Spirit can be answered by recognizing that Peter and John were in Samaria, and up to this point, the people of Jerusalem and the people of Samaria hated each other.  While they believed the same God, Samaria had their own temple.  For the Church Age, God desires a Church in unity, and it would do for the people of Samaria to have their own traditions separate from the new converted Jews of Israel.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit for the Samarians began with unity with the new Christians in Jerusalem.

I know of no other example of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling being delayed in the Church Age except for the Samarians in Acts chapter 8.

It was a good question, and it actually helped me a lot with today’s lesson on Acts chapters 4 & 5, and let’s read today’s scripture.

III.      Tithe, or Die

Now, remember in this transitions to the beginning of the Church Age, Acts describes the birth of the church and identifies many desirable attributes of the church.  Let’s start at the end of Acts 4:32 and continue to Acts 5:5 –

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.  With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?  And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?  What made you think of doing such a thing?  You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.  Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

One possible lesson from this verse is that we should tithe, or die.  Or another way to look at this is a transitional verse, unique to the first century church at that time, and see how we may apply it to our lives today.

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So what’s happened here?  Let’s look at the early church, described so beautifully in our Acts 4 verses.  The believers were one in heart and mind, and they shared everything.  This is a biblical approach to the church – we are not to lay up treasure on earth, but instead store up treasures in heaven.  We are to love God with all our heart mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  It’s our recognition that the gifts and blessings, whatever they are, are given to us by God for His purposes, and as Christians our purpose is to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I dare say that this first church was unique.  The Holy Spirit has enabled speaking in tongues and the understanding of those tongues, the Holy Spirit had blown through this church with a rushing wind and fire and power.  At one prayer meeting, the Holy Spirit shook the meeting room.  Peter was so filled with the Holy Spirit that thousands who had heard of Jesus gathered outside the church and hoped Peter’s shadow would fall on them so they would be healed.  It says in Acts 5:16,

Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.

Every person Peter touched was healed.  Every.  Person.  I dare say none of us have ever belonged to a church like that.

And Ananias and his wife Sophia… er,  Sofaria… Sopapilla… what was her name?  Oh yes, Sapphira.  Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be part of a church like this.  And everybody else was selling their possessions and their land and their houses and Bananas and Sopapilla wanted to be among them.

Were they required to sell everything?   No.  Peter says right here in the scripture, “after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”  Ananias wasn’t required to sell anything at all.

It reminds me of a story I heard when I was a kid, about a man that was confronted by a robber with a gun.  The robber pointed the gun at the man and said, “Your money or your life.”  And the man replied, “Why, my life, of course.  I’ll need my money for my old age.”

One of the reasons this first church was so generous with each other was that they lived with an expectation that Jesus would return, not just someday, but within their lifetimes, based on scripture like Matthew 14:28,

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

That’s not what Jesus meant, and Mark 9:1 quotes Jesus in a way that clarifies what Jesus meant –

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

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Jesus was referring to the Day of Pentecost when Jesus’ kingdom came with power.

And so the first church lived expectantly that Jesus would return quickly.  And if we knew that Jesus would return tomorrow, what use are any material possessions?  The first church was already ready for Jesus’ Second Coming, and placed their faith that all their needs would be met.

All except Ananias and Sapphira.  They were still laying up treasure on earth, just in case.  But they also wanted to be part of the fellowship of this incredible church, so they donated some of it, and kept the rest for themselves.  And there is nothing wrong with that, except they wanted to appear as though they had given up everything.

And Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, could see right through their lies and into their hypocrisy.  They were lying so they would look good.  They wanted to be counted with everybody else as completely generous with everything, but they also wanted to keep some for themselves.

So why did they have to die?  Remember how powerful the Holy Spirt was in this church.  Ananias and Sapphira were there for the miracles, they had experienced God’s power and seen and felt God’s holy presence residing in Peter and the church.  People should be reverent when in the presence of God, but Ananias and Sapphira casually lied to the Holy Spirit to make themselves look good.

IV.      Your Money or Your Life

Look, God doesn’t need your stuff.  Whatever you’re holding back, God will still accomplish His plan even if you don’t have a garage sale and donate all the money.  I dare say God can create more stuff if He needs to.

But what He desires is for us to have a heart for Him.  And that means trusting in Jesus for our needs and being honest with the Lord of Creation that can see into our hearts.  God doesn’t want us to give Him lip service and say we love Him.  He will look into our hearts and see for Himself if we love Him.

This is harder than it sounds.  We all want to look good in front of others, so we say and do things to please people instead of the Lord.  But our outward appearance is of no interest to our Lord.

The prophet Samuel was looking for somebody to replace Saul as the King of Israel and he came to Jesse’s family.  Samuel looked at Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab.  Eliab was apparently tall and strong and handsome, for when Samuel looked at him, Samuel said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”  1 Samuel 16:7,

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Samuel then went through all the sons of Jesse before he found David, the youngest, the one who slew Goliath, the one after God’s own heart.

The Lord looks at the heart.  People look at our fruit.  Our challenge as Christians who are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit is for us to be the same on the inside and the outside.  We want to be Christians on the inside because a heart for the Lord pleases our Creator, and we want to be Christians on the outside, not to please men, but to be able to do the Lord’s will effectively.

  V.      Math Quiz

Let’s have a math quiz. Everybody get out a sheet of paper and a number two pencil.

What is the definition of a fractional number?  A fraction consists of a numerator and a denominator.  The denominator, the bottom part, tells us how many parts the whole is divided, and the top part, the numerator, tells us how many parts we have.  A fraction is part of a whole.

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And integer is a whole number.  It is complete.  It’s not a fraction like ¾ and it’s not a decimal like 3.14.  It is complete.

The word “integrity” comes from the Latin “integer.”  “In-“ meaning “not,” and “tangere” (like “tangent”) meaning “to touch”.  Literally, it means “untouched,” but figuratively it means “Untainted, upright.”

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God wants us to be an integer, full of integrity.  Whole, upright, untouched, untainted.  The same all the way through.  The same on the inside as we are on the outside.  He wants us to be people of integrity.  To say what we believe, and to believe what we say.

We can’t do this on our own.  It’s a supernatural conversion from our old self to our new lives in Christ.  Christ living in us, through us, and the world sees Christ in our words and actions.  A complete, whole person of integrity that believes and demonstrates His love of the Lord through words and actions.  It’s not the words and actions themselves that God desires, but they are outward expressions of the heart we have toward him.

Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is saying you believe or feel one thing, but then do something else.  You are two different people; you do not practice what you preach.  Integrity is being one person.  You are the same person on the outside as you are on the inside.  When we are a hypocrite, we are not being honest with God.  We’re not even being honest with ourselves.

Last week when Theresa spoke about the change in Peter’s character, I started thinking about Peter’s conversion into a man of integrity.   When Jesus was teaching, Peter was like, “heck yeah, I’m one of Jesus’ guys.  Me and Him, we’re close.”  And then after the arrest of Jesus, Peter was like, “Man, I don’t know the man.”  Peter denied Jesus three times.  Peter was so afraid of being seen as a Jesus-freak that he cursed in front of a servant girl to prove he didn’t know Jesus.

But after the death of Jesus on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection, Peter changed.  He proclaimed Christ boldly, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he became the rock upon which Jesus built His church.  When Rome burned in 64 AD and Nero fiddled, Nero blamed the Christians and arrested the most visible, most vocal, most dedicated Christian he could find – Peter. Peter was crucified by the Romans, proclaiming the glory of Christ all the way to his death.  Peter was crucified upside down, claiming he was unworthy to die in the same manner as our Savior.  Peter died as a man of integrity, the same inside as he was on the outside.

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We can sometimes give up the long term benefits of integrity for the short term benefits of appearances, but it rarely ends up well.  Ananias and Sapphira tried to maintain appearances by lying to the Holy Spirit, and it didn’t end up well for them.  It’s interesting to note that Ananias and Sapphira were believers and their salvation is secure, though their bodies are a little worse for wear after failing their integrity test.  But when we focus on what God wants instead of our own desires, our integrity brings us a closer relationship with God our Heavenly Father.

 

VI.      Conclusion

We struggle with integrity, we forget that the struggle is not ours, but we surrender to the Holy Spirit working within us.  Our sinful selves war with our new eternal selves, and we are called to die to ourselves and let Christ live within.  Only then can we be whole, and integer.  We cannot do this on our own.

King David, after his affair with Bathsheba, was confronted by the prophet Nathan, and David was grieved when he realized what he had done.  What he had done before men was selfish and prideful, but it wasn’t against man that David sinned.  All sins are against the Lord who sees our innermost beings.  David cried out to the Lord in Psalm 51:1-7 –

Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.
Against You—You alone—I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.

So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Only through accepting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the punishment for our trespasses can we be cleaned, whiter than snow, a child of God with the integrity our Lord desires within us.

To God be the glory.

Faithful Inside and Out

Icon of Second Coming (also used for All Saint...
Image via Wikipedia

I. Introduction
We’re wrapping up the letters of from Paul to the church of Thessalonica today. Paul’s 1st letter consisted mostly of encouragement as the church faced prosecution and urged Christians to live by high moral standards in an immoral society. Anybody think this might be applicable today? Paul also talked about Christ’s Second Coming, urged the faithful Christians to warn believers who refused to work, and gave guidance on how to live as Christians.
Paul must have received news that in spite of his first letter, the Thessalonian Christians still struggled with three major problems, so he wrote the 2nd letter to Thessalonica. In Chapter 1, Paul encouraged the believers that God is fair even if the world is not. God will punish those who punish the faithful, so we should leave judgment to Him. In Chapter 2, Paul provides additional information about the Second Coming of Christ and encouraging them to persevere despite the hardships and to seek correct doctrine and obey the Word.
Now, in Chapter 3, Paul asks his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for him, and then addresses the growing problem of believers who not only won’t work, but also interfere with the work of others.

II. Faithful Outside the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Responsible Christians pray and obey to spread the Gospel. When Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live morally in the immoral society they lived in, he’s recognizing one of the greatest truths of the bible: we cannot do God’s will in this world under our own power. The powerful Christian life always involves two forces; the power of God and the obedience of the believer. There is no doubt Paul was one of the most effective missionaries in the history of the world. Paul was knowledgeable about scripture, Paul was obedient, and here we also see Paul relying on the power of prayer. In verse 1 he asks for prayer that God’s will may be done through him. Paul constantly asked for prayers when he wrote his letters – Romans 15:30-31, Ephesians 6:18-19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Philemon 22; the list goes on and on. It pleases God when we pray for His will to be done, and the prayers of a righteous man are powerful. Prayer has many facets to it –

a. Continual Prayer.

In verse 1, Paul says “Pray for us.” The tense indicates a continual prayer, not just a one time event. Paul recognized the need for constant prayer; in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Paul says he prays for the Thessalonians constantly, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells them to pray without ceasing. The world is as lost today as it was in the time of the Thessalonians and is in need of a savior they don’t even know. Pray they hear the word; pray we tell them the word. Pray and obey.

b. Offensive Prayer

These continuous prayers should be both offense and defense in our earthly battle. The words Paul chose for “spread rapidly” implies an imagery from the Old Testament where God’s Words runs swiftly, as though a runner in a race. Psalm 147:15 says, “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.” And “honor” – or “glory,” in some translations, indicates a winner. The runner receives glory through winning, and God’s Word receives glory when somebody comes to Christ. Evangelistic prayer encourages us to go on the offense and spread God’s message so He may receive glory.

Offensive prayer has a purpose. Our world, you may have noticed, is sick. Our world is dying. The Word of God is life-saving medicine. Paul prays that the medicine is spread rapidly because lives are at stake. Jesus had the same urgency in John 9:4: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

c. Defensive Prayer

Prayer is also defensive; we must never forget we are soldiers of Christ engaged in spiritual warfare. The breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit are all parts of the armor of God to protect us. We are at battle with spiritual darkness and the plans carried out by evil men. Evil men that have not only corrupted themselves but intent on corrupting others. Evangelists are on the front line on this battle, and need both offensive prayer to spread the gospel effectively, but also defensive, protective prayer against the evil that would stop them.

III. Faithful Inside the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Discipline inside a church is necessary. And just like we’d like God’s justice to reign down on somebody else while only God’s mercy reigns on us, we only want church discipline to be imposed on other people. Some people and even some churches use discipline to kick people out of a church. But church discipline as used by Paul is a loving act. Church discipline is demanded by scripture to bring our wayward brothers and sisters back to the church, back to the fold, to heal wounds, to restore them in love.

Listen to what Jesus says in Mathew 18:15-17

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

The relationships we have with one another are those of brother and sister, and they reflect our understanding of the love God has shown for us. If we can’t show love to our brother or sister, do we truly understand love at all?

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells us that our relationships with each other are so important that until we are reconciled with our brother, our offerings to the Lord are of little value. Our service to the Lord, our tithes, our worship, worthless. Jesus says to put your offering down and go reconcile with one another. Then come back and give your offering.

How do we do that? The first step is simple communication with each other. Just talk. If that doesn’t work, enlist a friend or two to help. If that doesn’t work, take it to somebody in the church leadership. Do that as many times as necessary, it’s not a one-time thing.

Human nature being what it is, you’re thinking of somebody that you’d like to drag up before the church leadership. But what if somebody drags you to the church leadership? What sort of attitude should you have?

Removing somebody from the church body is serious. Remember the goal is to restore sinners and bring them back into repentence. We should give them every opportunity to respond. The most important thing to remember is that we never have the right to treat them in an non-Christ-like manner just because they are acting in a non-Christ-like manner. Regardless of how the other person acts, we are to love them.

Here in the case of the Thessalonian church, Paul was dealing with a specific issues. In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul explained to the church how to act while under persecution. Chapter 2, Paul warned against false teachings. And now, Paul is addressing idle people. See, most of the Thessalonians were Greek and part of the Greek culture was a disdain for work. Work was beneath them, and so they owned slaves to do all their work. Did you know the Roman calendar at this time observed 156 holidays a year? Festival of feasting, Festival in honor of Mercury, Festival of Mars, Festival of Flowers, Festival of Childbirth, Festival of the Dead, Festival of Success. They even had a festival, Agonalia, honoring Janus, the god of gates and doorways.

The Greek Thessalonians used the return of Christ as an excuse not to do work. These idle Greeks became burdens to the church; rather than contributing to the benefit of all, the Greeks lived off the works of other church members, working hard to make a living and contribute to the church.

Paul begins his discussion on church discipline first by studying scripture, in verse 6 he says we must live according to the teaching we received. What does the Lord say about work?

Turns out God has a lot to say about work. Starting in Genesis 2:15, Adam’s job before the fall was to cultivate and keep the garden. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon says, “whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” There are a dozen proverbs (Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:11, 12:14, 12:24, 12:27; 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 19:24; 20:4; 21:25-26; 22:13, 22:29) that deal with work. Here’s Proverbs 6:6-11 –

You lazy fool, look at an ant.
Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.

Nobody has to tell it what to do.
All summer it stores up food;
at harvest it stockpiles provisions.

So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
How long before you get out of bed?

A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?

Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
poverty your permanent houseguest!

Ok, so scripture is consistent about work. After making sure your exhortation is consistent with scripture, the next thing Paul commands is that you yourself aren’t guilty of the same thing. Jesus once said that before you judged another for the speck in his eye, you had to make sure you didn’t have a plank in your own eye. Paul had a vocation; he was a tentmaker and earned his living as he traveled. He reminds the Thessalonians of his example in verses 7-10. In order to be an effective witness for Christ, you must examine your own life first to ensure you are a worthy imitator of Christ. Paul didn’t have to work so hard; I’m sure he was fatigued after teaching all day, writing letters to churches, and then making tents at night. As an apostle, Paul was entitled to accept help from the church, but instead Paul went the extra mile to make sure he was an example worth imitating and relieving the church of the burden of supporting him.

First, examine the scriptures, then examine ourselves. The next step is to examine the situation. Why are the Thessalonians not working? Is it because they are unable, or because they are unwilling? Some people are unable to work. Perhaps they are disabled. Perhaps they haven’t found an opportunity or there are no job openings available. Our country is in a recession, and it appears it’s getting worse, not better. We should be diligent in applying ourselves to work as soon as possible.

Don’t take this to mean that the job must be a well-paying job, or that it pays at all. Some of the most demanding work is housework or taking care of children or ministry work. The point is that, as far as you are able, to contribute to work instead taking, to be busy at the things that pleases God instead of using idle time to simply please ourselves or meddle in the lives of others.

Look at verse 12 again. What commonsense advice does Paul give? As Christians, how can we apply this in our approach to society in general? What type of character is created by honest work?

Once the examination of scripture and examination of ourselves is complete, we may find that it’s time to confront another in the church out of love and to heal the body of Christ. Verse 13 is key to our heart at this point; Paul says we are never to tire of doing what is right. Doing what is right may be uncomfortable, but it can also be a time of significant personal growth. Here are some reasons for Christian confrontation –

i. Personal differences. This is probably the most common. We are so quick to judge others, yet are so blind to ourselves. The Thessalonians may have grumbled among themselves, “If they don’t have to work, why should I?” Sin is often unintentional, but sin nonetheless hampers God’s plan for us and for His church. When there is sin in the life of a believer, the health of the church is affected. Paul’s word for these believers were “disorderly” believers, people that marched out of step with others, disobeying Christ’s commands or the instructions of church elders. Instead of being busy, they were busybodies, and 1 Timothy 5:13 says that busybodies are more than just idle gossipers, they may be opposing God’s will by talking nonsense about others and doing Satan’s will. How tragic to find that we think we are good Christians but find instead that our idle talk is encouraging Satan instead of the church.

ii. Doctrinal error. We may find another Christian teaching the wrong doctrine. If they are doing it out of ignorance or lack of knowledge about scripture, we are to teach them the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 says we are to do this so that God will grant them repentance and lead them to the truth. If they continue, Titus 1:10-14 says we are to rebuke them sharply. If the error continues, Romans 16:17 says avoid them, and 2 Timothy 2 says eventually we are to separate from them because their teaching will spread like gangrene.

iii. Another reason for righteous confrontation is if a believer has been overtaken by sin. This happens to believers, far more often than we think. Even the Apostle Peter denied the Lord, David yielded to lust, Moses to pride, and so on. Galatians 6:1-3 says that for these believers, we the church are to restore them gently. Remember Jesus and the adulterous woman? Jesus wasn’t harsh with her, He was gentle, admonishing to her to go and sin no more. The word “restore” literally means “to set a broken bone”. It takes gentleness and kindness and patience, not sudden judgment and condemnation.

iv. Then we get to the repeating troublemaker. Titus 3:10 tells us to warn them twice and then have nothing to do with them. These people are divisive, they often have good scriptural knowledge but because of their pride, they love to take side and encourage argument. They have a strong opinion because they love to get their way – they may argue about how the Lord’s Supper ought to be served or how the worship songs should be sung or even what kind of service to the Lord is more important. Pride is at the root of division, and Satan uses such heretics to divide a church.

v. And then, there is the church member living in open immorality. 1 Corinthians 5 deals with a case of incest within the church. The church was proud of their tolerance, how despite this open, flagrant sin, the church passed no judgment on him. There are many churches like this today that openly accept members and elders in open sin. Paul tells us that instead of being prideful of our tolerance, we should be in mourning. A believer in open sin should be expelled from the church. Paul warns us not to treat these people as enemies, because they are not. They are our brothers and sisters. Just like Lot fell out of fellowship with Abraham and the Lord because he moved to Sodom, Genesis 14:14 says, “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Our goal is to rescue our brother, not condemn him.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 says we should have such a purpose in our separation. When it comes to the idle, the busybodies, the heretics, the unrepentant sinners, after trying to restore them, rebuke them, disassociating with them, the purpose of our actions is to bring them back into the Lords will. Examine scripture first; make sure you are correct in your theology. Examine yourself, make sure you do not have a plank in your own eye and that you are a good example. Confront them individually, with another believer, with a church elder in order to restore them. And then, if all else fails, leave them alone and mourn that they are not in fellowship with the Lord.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Paul wraps up 2 Thessalonians 3 with note that as Christians, the Lord of Peace himself will give us peace at all times and in every way. This peace is for all Christians; notice Paul says, “The Lord be with all of you,” and this includes those he just finished rebuking. This peace is for us. Let us examine ourselves and our church family and work for what is right for the benefit of all, to make a strong, healthy body of believers for our Lord and Savior.

In the two letters to the Thessalonians, Paul taught them how to live in fellowship as believers. The lesson Paul taught is just as true today. We don’t know when Jesus will return, but we do know that His return is eminent. Until then, we have tasks to do as His body. Work eagerly and joyfully at the tasks God has given us on this earth, all the while keeping an eye toward heaven. In this Chapter, Paul tells us about two of those tasks; we are to pray, and we are to earn a living. In all circumstances, we can take comfort in the peace given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

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