Hi everyone, it’s Mick here; with my wife Tricia we have the great privilege of leading STC Sheffield. Last September we began our reflections on how the early church grew by considering the story of Acts and then continuing with the New Testament letters sent to these exciting new Christian communities all those years ago. What is it we today can learn from these ordinary first century disciples in how they lived and followed Jesus?
Our Podcasts are simply a ‘thought for the day’; they are not a sermon, a Bible study or a deep theological treatise! They are simple, yet profound reflections whose aim is to keep us close to Jesus every day providing ‘fresh bread from heaven’ as we read the Bible, hear a comment from our team, pray and worship. They keep us all on track as a church family to live out our calling as disciples every day and in 2020, call people to Join Us for the Better Life.
Over these past days Liam, Alan and Helen have led us in some great reflections on Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and how this teaching is so relevant for us today. As we begin our week, the Bible passage today is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and our focus verse today is v11: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I love the letters to the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians was written in AD51, probably less than twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus. This is the first letter Paul wrote to one of the churches he began and it’s obvious in these writings how Paul loved this church. The first calling of a leader is to love their church! He and his friends Silas and Timothy started this small house church, gathering mainly non Jewish people on one of their visits to the vibrant Greek port of Thessaloniki. As he continues on his travels, he leaves behind a healthy Christian community and writes to them from Corinth to encourage them in the Christian walk. He basically says ‘keep praying, keep the faith, you’re doing great … keep being different!
The Christian life is supposed to be different from the world around us, that’s the whole point! I remember, just after I came to faith, a long standing member of the small church we went to saying to me ‘I am a Christian, but I am no different to my non Christian friends and colleagues’. Even then, as a new believer, I can recall thinking ‘Well, that can’t be right – of course we’re different, we have Jesus in our lives!’ In fact, I not only thought it, but said it – you can’t believe that of me can you … a robust, healthy discussion then took place that evening in our small midweek home group!
Paul gives practical guidance on how to live differently. He clearly says ‘Let us not be like others’ (v.6) and then goes on to famously describe this different life using four metaphors.
Firstly, we are ‘light not darkness’; the world around is living in darkness (v.4). We are not to turn away and fear the darkness but face it and shine in it! ‘You are all children of the light’ (v.5a). Jesus shines his light into our life when we receive him – we become children of the light. Our lives are characterised by the light of Jesus shining through us in integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity etc.
Secondly, he says we are ‘day not night.’’; ‘You are… children of the day. You do not belong to the night’ (v.5). He is referring back here to ‘the day of the Lord’ (v.2). We are children of the day of the Lord, with all that this means in terms of anticipation of that great day when Jesus returns – this is our future hope!
Thirdly, he says we are ‘awake not asleep’; ‘Let us not be like others, who are asleep… for those who sleep, sleep at night’ (vv.6–7). There is a challenge here for us not to fall asleep spiritually. When we neglect over a period of time the Bible, prayer, worship, community we will begin to spiritually fall asleep. Keep spiritually awake, says Paul!
Finally, Paul says be ‘sober not drunk’; he says ‘Let us be self-controlled’ (v8) and the word literally means ‘don’t get drunk on to much wine’. Again, he speaks of both a physical and a spiritual reality. Question: have you ever been drunk? I remember as a young man getting drunk with my mates – you go past the ‘feeling merry’ stage into a total loss of self-control when you really have no idea what you are doing. It’s a dangerous place to be! Paul says we are to be self-controlled in every area of our lives as we put on faith, love and hope (v.8).
Four simple pictures of how to live the Christian life. Each of us has to work it our in our own way and in our own context but the challenge is clear that we are children of the light living Godly lives of integrity; people of the day believing Jesus will return which is our future hope; spiritually awake to the challenges around us and living sober, self controlled lives which are an example to others. A high calling indeed in these lockdown, crisis days – but what an amazing calling to have! How can we do this? I’m sure the Thessalonians asked this same question! Paul’s words to them are the same words to us today.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
You see, all things are possible with Jesus!
Lord Jesus, may your Holy Spirit encourage us all this day to live lives worthy of our calling as your disciples. Amen
BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.