BIBLE READING: I Thessalonians 4
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
There has been much ado about the marvel superheroes “the avengers”. That franchise is everywhere. There are movies, toys, comic books, and a whole lot of money to be made. It is a group of fictional superheroes that supposedly worked together to try to carry out justice in a cruel, evil, cynical world. My generation had “Bugs Bunny”. The generation before me had “Mighty Mouse”. I hate to even think of what my grandchildren’s generation will have.
Well, God is the original and only “Avenger”. As best I can tell, this is the only time in the word of God that this word is used. Paul encourages this church to make sure that they treat all men with honesty. It is amazing how quickly we can blur the lines of what is honest and dishonest. We can justify dishonest actions in some very flexible ways. Paul encourages them not to allow this to happen because God is “the avenger of all such”. This word literally does mean “to carry out justice”. The only other time that this route Hebrew word is used the Bible uses the word “revenger”. (Romans 13:4) it means that God will carry out justice, and it may inflict that justice. God will make things right.
We must be careful how we treat people and always watch our dealings with people. When we cross people, we cross God. You do not want to mess with this “Avenger”.
BIBLE READING: I Thessalonians 3
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
I know. We get tired of always being told how we are supposed to love one another. Yada, yada, yada. we know!
Jesus said that by loving each other is how people would know that we were His disciples. I don’t know about you, but it’s not that I don’t know it, it’s just that I find it hard to do sometimes. I think we are all good at loving those that are easy to love, but it is the other ones that make it difficult. Unfortunately, we find it hard to love each other at church, or even in our own families, let alone “all men”. In fact, I think sometimes it is easier to love a stranger than to love those that you are close to and know well.
The point of this whole passage is the phrase “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love”. Let’s quickly look at these:
1. THE LORD MAKE YOU TO INCREASE … IN LOVE
God is the one that’s going to have to do this for you. This does not come natural to us, so we need God’s supernatural power to place that love for others in our hearts. To increase in love needs to learn to love more. To genuinely have love in your heart towards others and each other. While the world wants to simply increase, God wants his children to increase in love. God must place that love in us and that love must be allowed to grow.
2. THE LORD MAKE YOU TO …. ABOUND IN LOVE
This means not to just have love “grow” in us, this means for that love to “show” in us. To abound in love means that it is visibly coming out of us towards others. People can see it. It is obvious. That not only are we full of love, but it is coming forth towards others. God must do that. God always does the work in us, then He does the work through us, and then He displays the work with us. What goes in must come out. The Lord will have to make our love grow, and the Lord will have to make our love show toward others.
BIBLE READING: I Thessalonians 2
1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts
“OUR ENTRANCE……WAS NOT IN VAIN”
No effort is ever in vain when the gospel of God is proclaimed. When giving the gospel is the purpose, it is always worth it. Things might not have always been easy for Paul as he traveled and proclaimed the gospel, but it was not in vain.
“WE WERE BOLD IN OUR GOD”
I will tell you this, it is not always easy to share the gospel. There are many things that come against you, but the worst is our own flesh and fear. We can feel awkward, we can feel intimidated, and we can feel embarrassed. Paul said the way he overcame that was not just by being bold, but by being “bold in our God”. Being bold might not come natural to you but being bold in our God can be possible in you. Paul said even though there was much contention from the people he was sharing the gospel with, Paul chose to be bold in his God.
“WE WERE ALLOWED OF GOD TO BE PUT IN TRUST WITH THE GOSPEL”
Wow. What a convicting statement. Did you realize that you and I have been trusted with the gospel also? We have been trusted with something precious that we are responsible to share with others. Even if that is not pleasing to men, this verse tells us it is pleasing to God. So, I do not want to spend my life in vain. I want it to matter and to accomplish something. Paul said the way to do that is be bold in our God and share the precious gospel of God that we have been trusted with. That is “pleasing” the Lord with your life.
BIBLE READING: I Thessalonians 1
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
“YE TURNED TO GOD FROM IDOLS”
This is the very thing that marks the difference between a casual Christian and a committed Christian. Obviously, there are more casual Christians than there are committed Christians. It is not that they do not love God, it is just that there are some other things in their lives that they tend to love just as much, or even more. So, what marks a committed Christian?
“YE TURNED TO GOD”
There must come a point in any person’s life, if they’re going to be saved, they must turn “to God”. We are born heading the opposite direction. Everything about our flesh is leaning away from God. There must be repentance. There must be a stopping the direction we’re going, and a decision to turn toward God.
“YE TURNED….FROM IDOLS”
Now we begin to narrow things down. There are many who have turned to God but have never really turned “from idols”. Idols can appear in our life so quickly and so pervasively. It is easy for many things to take precedent and priority in our lives. We should “seek first the kingdom of God”, but so often we seek other things first. That is what made this church in Thessalonica different. Just because there was a time in your life when you turned to God, there must be the daily and even hourly decision to turn from idols.
“YE TURNED……TO SERVE”
Paul commended this church because they turned “to God”, they turned “from idols”, but they went the next step and they committed “to serve the living and true God”. Here is the lesson. The more we turn from idols, the easier it will be to serve the Lord. It is difficult to consistently serve the Lord, when our life is full of idols. They take our time, they take our effort, and they take our energy. That is what idols do. The more we seek idols, the less we serve the Lord. Maybe it is time to “turn” around today. To “turn from”, and to “turn to”.
BIBLE READING: John 21
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
I enjoy fishing. I do not get to fish very much now. There was a time in my life in high school that I was obsessed with it. Living in Florida, we used to do a lot of bass fishing. If you’ve ever done much fishing, you have experienced those fishing days or fishing trips were you really didn’t catch anything. You had all the equipment, did all the preparation, had all the High Hopes, only to come up empty.
Peter was going through a confusing time in his life. He was conflicted. There was inner turmoil. In a time of weakness, he decided to go back to the old life. He was supposed to now be a fisher of men, but Ministry can be difficult and hard. He probably missed that salty air, the motion of the boat in the waves, and the excitement of seeing the fish pulled into the boat. Things were simpler then. All he had to worry about was catching fish. When you start trying to catch men, you have a whole lot of stress to deal with.
The Problem is when Peter went back, some others went with him. That’s always the way it goes. Usually when a person begins to backslide, they always drag others down with them. It is ironic, however, that when they did, “they caught nothing”.
I implore you today, whenever you start drifting away from God, you always end up catching nothing. You always come up empty. I know there’s things from the old life that start to weigh on your mind. Everything always looks better than it was. Satan will tell you a lot of things when you’re down, frustrated, and confused. He will have you believing how wonderful things used to be before you started serving the Lord. How little stress there was, how people were not difficult. If you believe that, I have some waterfront property in Florida I’d like to sell you. (That is sarcastic). There’s a lot that Satan will leave out about that old worldly life. How quickly we can forget how empty life was. We forget how meaningless life was. We forget how unfulfilled life was.
Don’t be fooled by that. Just put that old fishing pole down and go back out to serving the Lord. A little bit later, Peter found out how abundantly God can fill your nets. Do you want a “full” life? Well, serving God is the only way!
Bible Reading: John 20
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.
She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.
Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.
Was that important? Absolutely! Is it significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, we need to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the master and servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating.
The servant would not dare touch the table until the master was finished. Now if the master was finished eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth, clean his beard, and wad up the napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m finished.”
But if the master got up from the table, folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”
Let us be reminded daily during this post-Easter season, Jesus Christ is “Not Finished.” He is coming back for his faithful servants within his Church.