#3 (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)
TEXTS: 1 Thess. 5:14-15; Rom. 12:17-19
INTRO: When God created man the very first institution He made was the family. Nothing man has ever come up with has improved on this design and nothing new in the future will ever be an improvement on the family unit. Because nothing can be better than the family concept God used the same basic idea when creating His church ... it is to be a family. Nothing can bring more pleasure or more pain than being in a family. If a family is based on God's design it is one of the most pleasurable experiences in life. Nearly everything we become in life is shaped by our family experience, and this has parallels in the church family.
Just as a natural family needs its members to be mindful of building their relationships and keeping them healthy, so too those who are members of the family of God need to be mindful of building and developing their relationships with one another.
PROP. SENT. A major responsibility of the church while it is watching for the coming of Jesus Christ is to be mindful of relationships, to seek the growth and development of one another in the family of God.
I. MINDFUL OF FAMILY DYNAMICS 1 Thess. 5:14
A. Correction 1 Thess. 5:14a
1. One of the beneficial things about being in a family is that you are challenged to live right, the real you is most transparent in your family!
a. In the best of families this process happens all the time.
b. Especially as we are growing up!
c. You can hide flaws in a public setting but they will show up in the home!
2. "Training" takes place in the home more than anywhere else!
3. Some people think that a loving church never experiences conflicts!
a. This is so wrong!
b. The healthiest churches are the ones where a "real" family atmosphere exists, where our relationships are much more than just surface!
c. Healthy churches are full of conflicts; they are healthy because those people within those churches learn to work through their conflicts, where they are committed to each other in love!
d. We are to really see each other as "BROTHERS & SISTERS" in Christ!
4. Painful correction sometimes is necessary to keep us growing and awake spiritually, this is one of the roles of being the church or family of God; that we correct one another when we are wrong!
ILLUS: A young child accidentally swallowed some sleeping pills, the family quickly rushed him to the doctor and after pumping the child's stomach the parents and the other brothers and sisters were instructed to keep him awake for the next several hours ... if necessary to even slap him to keep him awake, the pain would act as a stimulus to ward off the effect of any of the medications that might have passed into his blood. If they loved him they wouldn't allow him to just drift off to sleep! – Source Unknown
5. Sometimes it becomes necessary for us to wake a saint up that is drifting off to sleep! BUT OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE DONE IN LOVE!
6. As we are watching for the return of Jesus we should be ever mindful to correct our brothers and sisters who might be falling asleep spiritually!
a. It is interesting to note that the term used in this verse, “IDLE” in Greek literally means, “one who breaks ranks as in the military.”
b. As such it does not mean to correct those who have differences of opinions from our own, or do things differently; it means those who quite literally break ranks with everybody else; they get out of line in a serious way!
c. Paul's use of this military word gives the idea of how destructive it would be for the whole army if soldiers broke rank. Thus the issues would have to be serious enough to cause harm to the church or themselves!
B. Comfort 1 Thess. 5:14b
1. Of course, not all our ministry to one another should be correction.
a. It would produce a spirit of pride in us if all we did was look around for who we could correct!
b. There are enough "spiritual critics" around on a full time basis already; we don't need the "GIFT OF CRITICISM" in the church! (Besides, it doesn’t exist!)
2. Fortunately, Paul continues the list, and the next item mentioned is "ENCOURAGE THE TIMID!"
a. The Greek word translated here "TIMID" literally means, "The faint-hearted."
b. It meant those who lacked courage, either from a natural reality such as their personality, they are just the type of person who is afraid more … or
c. It might also mean those who had become faint-hearted or worn down from frequent trials!
3. We could use more men like Barnabus in the Bible, his name "BARNABUS" literally means, "SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT" ... something for which he was well known in the Book of Acts!
4. This is also true in a family ... when a member of the family has had a rough time everyone rallies around them to encourage them!
a. Even brothers and sisters who might not always get along too well have been known to be there for each other in the midst of a struggle!
b. One of the important roles we need to live out in the family of God when we see saints who are our brother or sister in Christ when they are afraid or worn down is to encourage them!
c. We need to distinguish between the saint that is rebellious and the one that is discouraged.
ILLUS: In 1849 when Nathaniel Hawthorne was fired from his government job in the customs house he went home in despair. His wife listened to his woes, went and lit a fire in their fireplace, put a pen and paper on the table, then wrapped her arms around her husband and said, "NOW YOU WILL BE ABLE TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL." Hawthorne did just that with her encouragement and the result was, "THE SCARLET LETTER;" one of the masterpieces of literature today! – Source Unknown
ILLUS: The great painter Benjamin West decided to become a painter from a very unusual event of encouragement: When he was a young boy he decided one day while his mom was not home to paint a picture of his sister, he got out the bottles of ink and paper and began, soon he had made a terrible mess! Instead of scolding him when his mother got home and saw the mess, she picked up the portrait and declared, "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF YOUR SISTER!" Then his mom kissed him, ignoring the mess. Later in life he recalled, “With that kiss I became a painter.” – Source Unknown
5. Let's remember to give one another large measures of encouragement when we are worn down, or to those who have more fears than others.
C. Community 1 Thess. 5:14c
1. The next statement of Paul's is "HELP THE WEAK."
a. The word “WEAK” here clearly means those who are weak spiritually, not physically!
b. This might include new Christians, those who have been damaged by bad examples, those who were worn out from severe trials, or those whose faith has been shaken through some experience.
c. The word "HELP" means to "CLEAVE" or "SUPPORT."
2. Paul's statement here means to help hold up those who are weak spiritually!
a. Like helping a baby stay up when it is learning to walk.
b. Like helping to support someone on crutches.
ILLUS: In May, 1987 the National Geographic show featured the artic fox and the musk oxen. The fox likes to eat the oxen, but because of size and strength will only go after the young and weak. The way the oxen protect themselves illustrates the way the church should work. When an artic fox approaches, the adults will close a circle around the weak members, usually the young, by facing head in toward the young in a complete circle. This way their powerful rear hoofs face back toward the circling fox, no fox in their right mind would try to enter that circle! It would be dashed to pieces by those rear hoofs if it tried! The stronger oxen then support the weak this way, just as Paul wrote here! If even a single adult breaks rank however the circle might break up and the weak would be fair game for the fox! The strong must stand together in protection of the weak, all of them! – Source Unknown
3. Nothing is more beautiful than a church where the weak feel protected and helped from those who are strong in it!
a. This is what "COMMUNITY" means in the church!
b. This is what it means when the Bible says, “that if one member suffers, all the body suffers.”
c. We need to take under our wings those who are afraid or weak; they need our spiritual and emotional support!
II. MINDFUL OF FORGIVENESS DOMINATING 1 Thess. Rom. -19
A. Condonation 1 Thess. 5:15a Rom. -19
1. The word "condonation" means, "forgiving an offense."
2. What makes all 3 of the injunctions in verse 14 possible?
a. Large measures of forgiveness in the body of Christ!
b. Like any family, its members need to learn the fine art of forgiving as well as being forgiven!
3. Healthy churches are NOT free from discord, but they do know how to heal from discord!
a. They have learned how to handle faults and offenses, they forgive one another!
b. Loving families are filled with forgiving and forgiven people!
ILLUS: One man wrote this about his parents: “In the middle of one of my parents memorable disagreements my father jumped up from the table and grabbed 2 sheets of paper and said to my mother: 'let's make a list of everything we don't like about each other.'” Mom started to write. Dad glowered at her for a few moments and then wrote on his paper. She wrote again, he watched her, each time she wrote something so did he! Finally they stopped, dad then said, “Let's exchange lists now.” And so they did. As soon as mother saw my father’s she yelled, “Give me my list back now!” All down the page my father had written, "I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!" Forgiveness brought a real healing! Who can resist this kind of love! – Source Unknown
4. As long as the church or family of God is on this side of eternity it will need to learn to master the art of forgiving and being forgiven if it is to be the family of God it ought to be!
a. While a church might not be perfect, it should be moving toward the goal of loving more and more, of forgiving more and more.
b. In a forgiving church anyone can feel welcome and loved!
c. When we learn to forgive others we will experience the joy of being forgiven also!
5. To the church in Rome Paul gives similar advice about forgiveness: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.” Rom. 12:17-19
a. Notice Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you...”
b. There may be times when you can't settle a broken relationship, but be sure it is not because of your failure to do so.
c. Paul seems to indicate here that there might be people who just won't respond, you can only be responsible for your own actions, you can't force healing on others!
d. Your forgiving will increase the possibility of others doing so however, do your part!
B. Compassionate 1 Thess. 5:15b
1. The motivation for family:
a. Challenging the Rebellious
b. Encouraging the Fearful
c. Helping the Weak
d. IS LOVE! (Compassion!)
2. Without compassion the commands of Paul in verse 14 wouldn't be possible!
3. God's family is often well versed on love, we know a great deal about love, we talk about it, our theology is based on it; but what we need is to PRACTICE IT!
ILLUS: Like the man who was passing a used book store. He saw through the window a book titled "HOW TO HUG." Being a man interested in love he went in to purchase the book; to his chagrin he discovered that it was the 7th volume of a set of encyclopedias, covering alphabetically "HOW TO HUG." How many people come to a church hoping to find a love that is demonstrated but instead discover an encyclopedia on theology!? – Source Unknown
4. Love is the power that drives a family and keeps it healthy, without it we are weak and powerless!
ILLUS: Like a car battery, if it is kept in the cold it loses much of its useful power, only those which are kept warm or frequently charged can get the car started. This charge must come from a source outside itself; it can't hold it long on its own! – Source Unknown
5. The church needs to have a warm environment to demonstrate real power and we need to be "charged" with power from on high on a routine basis to be useful and to give power to the church!
CONCLUSION: As we watch for Christ's return we are reminded not to wait just idly, we are to be always mindful of the ways we are to love one another in God's family. The church is to love in a real way and not just in a surface way!