Not with Lustful Passion

THURSDAY

1 Thessalonians 4 4

1Th. 4:4 that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, 5 not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

 

We wrote yesterday that the most important thing in making moral decisions is to know what God has said. The second most important is to exercise self-control. The first has an external source — what has God said? The second is internal — What does it mean to have self control?

 

Not everyone agrees with me, but I believe that in life, after being true to God, we must be true to self. That’s more important than anything else. That doesn’t mean, “if it feels good, do it.” the mantra of my generation, but rather, what is best for me as a one of God’s creation. Paul writes about moral decisions in these terms in 1 Corinthians:

 

1Cor. 10:23   “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

 

This world says that we can do anything. Can we stop and ask, “What is actually good for me?”

 

I have worked with many people who have practiced the world’s view of sexuality, i.e., “I can do anything I want to do.” I truly love people who have been caught up in sexual sin, still see them as people for whom Jesus died, but I cannot say that their life choices have been good for them. Their choices have made them miserable, sometimes have even shortened their lives.

 

Making good moral decisions includes respecting ourselves and not hurting ourselves through bad choices.

 

-Greg Demmitt

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Right from Wrong

WEDNESDAY

In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said.

1Th. 4:1   Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication;

 

The church at Thessaloniki was made up of mostly non-Jews, so Paul knew that it was important to teach them about sexual purity, because that was not something that was expected in their society. As Demosthenes wrote:

 

“We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.”

This attitude was not acceptable to God’s people. In Acts 15, when the leaders of the Jerusalem church welcomed the Gentile Christians into the body, they thought it important to remind them to abstain from fornication (Acts 15:29).

 

We live in such a world today. How do we make moral decisions? As we continue in this chapter we will see three more important points, but Paul begins with what we have been taught. In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said. Paul writes that they have been taught to abstain from fornication, meaning every type of sexual sin.

 

-Greg Demmitt

Paul’s Prayer: Strong Holy Hearts

TUESDAY

1 Thessalonians 3-13a

I Thessalonians 3

1Th. 3:1   Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

 

1Th. 3:6   But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7 For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

 

1Th. 3:11   Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

I highlighted Paul’s prayer at the end of this chapter. In several of Paul’s letters, he offers a prayer in the middle. In these prayers, he often prays about the things which he is about to write. In this prayer, after praying that God will make it possible for him to return to Thessaloniki, he prays three things for the Thessalonians:

 

  1. May they increase and abound in love for one another,
  2. May God strengthen their hearts in holiness.
  3. May they be blameless before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

 

Paul gives practical teaching on these three things in chapter 4 and we will be looking at his teachings on holiness in the remainder of these devotions this week.

-Greg Demmitt

 

Not As a Human Word

MONDAY

1 Thessalonians 2-13

Please read 1Thessalonians 2. My perspective in writing these devotions is that you are reading the scriptures. Nothing I write can be as important to you as what God can say to you as you read his word.

 

1Th. 2:1   You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

 

1Th. 2:9   You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 

1Th. 2:13   We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

 

1Th. 2:17   As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 Yes, you are our glory and joy!

 

I highlighted verse 13. We can ask ourselves, “how do I receive the word of God?” Do we see it from a human perspective, or is God speaking to us.

 

Let me add one thing right now. It’s likely that most of the people in Thessaloniki heard the word rather than read it. Only about 10 percent of the people could read. That means this letter was written to be read out loud. It also suggests that we might understand it better if we study it as a speech rather than a work of literature. For example, if we focus on the written word, we might spend a lot of time digging into the meaning of each word. If we take a rhetorical approach, meaning understanding it as a speech, we focus more on the impact of the words. Those who study rhetoric think that this letter sounds like a half-time speech given to a football team that is winning but needs to be encouraged to play hard in the second half. Paul doesn’t write as if the Thessaloniki Christians are messing up, but rather as if they need to be encouraged to keep doing the things that they have already been doing well.

 

Again we ask, “Do you hear this word as the word of the Lord?” What does it look like when someone hears the word of the Lord?

 

-Greg Demmitt

Let Me Introduce You to the Thessalonians

SUNDAY

1 Thessalonians 1-2,3

Acts 17:11  These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

This was one of my earliest memory verses. Back in that day, we called our youth group the Bereans because we searched the scriptures daily. That’s certainly a good idea, but the verse gives the Thessaloniki (this is the modern name of the still-existing city) church a bad rap. The preceding verses in Acts show that some exciting things happened during the three weeks Paul and company ministered in this ancient city.

 

Acts 17:1   After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” 4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8 The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9 and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.

 

So, while the Jews in Thessaloniki did not receive the good news about Jesus, the non-Jews did. Something very exciting happened there in a very short time, so exciting that Paul wrote this in what was his very first letter:

 

1Th. 1:1   Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,  to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  Grace to you and peace. 2   We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

 

This week we will look at this letter to a very young church in which the word of God exploded in a life-changing way.

 

-Greg Demmitt

Reflect His Goodness

psalm 107-22

It’s been a week of thankfulness – recognizing God as the Giver of All Good Gifts, getting to know Him more and more through the gift of His Word, gratefully accepting the gift of His Son, Jesus, and being thankful even in the midst of a difficult time.

Now for the great yearly challenge – how do we continue the thankful thinking all year?

Perhaps the following quote from J.F. Kennedy will provide some help.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Show your gratitude, not just by saying, “Thank You” to God and to others, but by living a thankful lifestyle.  If we are deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given we will naturally want to share those blessings with others.  Opening our home to others, tithing to our church, caring for those experiencing difficult trials, and sharing with those who have less material blessings are all ways we can express our gratitude for what has been given.  We can reflect His goodness.  He has given to us.  We will give to others.

And, most importantly, when we are truly grateful for what God has done, for who He is and for His plan of salvation, for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness given, for the Kingdom hope – we will want to share it with others.  Inviting a friend to church, sharing a devotion with the family, praying with someone struggling, telling what God has done for you, giving a Bible, donating to missions (*), posting Scripture on your social media, home, office and locker walls, and the list goes on.

Read over Romans 10.  The world is full of people who do not know the gifts they could be receiving right now – who have not heard the message.  It is our job to, “Sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22).  What thank offerings will you present?  How will you tell of His works?  We are not responsible for other’s reaction to the saving message.  Just as Moses and Isaiah met up with resistance and obstinate people – so will we when we exercise our beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

Look over your thankful list (go ahead and write it down if you haven’t already this week).  Prayerfully consider how you can show your appreciation for each gift.  How can you pass along the joy you’ve received?  How will you reflect His goodness?

-Marcia Railton

 

(*) Be watching for the soon-to-be released Lord’s Harvest International Gift Catalog for some great ideas on how to help provide for needs on our missionary fronts (Bibles, church buildings or rent, a pastor’s transportation, an orphan’s or widow’s care, seed & fertilizer, etc….) 

Life Can Be Hard

Psalm 107

I Thessalonians 5-18

There are some things that show up on lots of thankful lists: sunshine, rainbows, favorite foods, fun with family, and puppy dogs.  There is undoubtably a LOT of good, beautiful, enjoyable and delicious things in life to give thanks for!  Thank you, God!

But, what do we do with the darker side of life: the illness, the unpleasant, the hospital visits, the trials, the storms, the hurting, the loneliness.  What about those times when it can be hard to see clearly – like when the windshield is covered with giant raindrops -and it is more difficult to make out God’s goodness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).  Notice the verse doesn’t say we must give thanks FOR the illness or storm or difficulty.  But, IN that situation – in EVERY situation – God’s will is that we give thanks.

Yesterday we read Psalm 105 and were reminded of Joseph’s trials (sold into slavery by his brothers, and then thrown into prison for years for a crime he didn’t commit).  Perfect conditions for becoming a hardened, cynical, ungrateful man.  Instead, we see Joseph emerging as a wise, forgiving ruler.  The difficult times helped to strengthen him and mold him into the man who would do what God had prepared for him.

English poet, Felicia Hemans, wrote, “Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amid joy.”  And, James put it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).  When we look at our tough seasons as periods of growth and times of training for trusting in Him, we have yet another thing to add to our thankful list.

As you read Psalm 107 look for the trials and difficulties (some self-made – as is the case today – and some the product of “circumstance”) as well as what was learned through them.  And, count how many times you read the refrain, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”

Life can be hard.  Thankfully, God is with us there.

-Marcia Railton