Allow Me to Introduce You to Luke…

Luke 1_4

 

 “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”    Luke 1:3-4

If you have grown up in the church like myself, you were probably taught basic theology at a young age. I sang the songs, made the crafts, remembered my memory verses, and before I realized it, I had formed beliefs. Everything seemed so simple.

As we grow older, everything becomes complicated. We look at all the denominations around us, with many differing perspectives, and that child-like belief starts to become muddled by all of the confusion. This is the point where we ask ourselves, “What do I really believe?”

This is why I love Luke. His in-depth account of the Lord Jesus Christ from his birth through his resurrection not only gives us insight into the Son of God in an intimate way, it gives us backing to the beliefs that we hold dear.

Regardless of any creed, doctrine, or ideal, I know, without a doubt, that I can sit down and read Luke’s account of the story of Jesus and know that it is true. That validity is such a faith builder and invigorates me to dive deeper into the gospel.

This week, we are going back to our roots. Let’s start from the beginning together shall we? Because, sometimes, in order to jump forward, we have to get back to the basics.

 

-Leslie Jones

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What Is In You?

SATURDAY

1 Thessalonians 4_7

1Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

In looking at how to live a holy life, how to make moral decisions, we have looked at three things. Two are external to us — what have we been taught and how are we treating another person. The second was internal, i.e., what is best for me? The last is also internal, and perhaps the most amazing: what is the Spirit of God saying within me?

 

The most amazing teaching about our new life in Christ is that the Spirit of God is actually within us. Jesus is within us through the presence of the Spirit. As Paul writes, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It’s staggering to think that we bring Jesus into our immoral actions, but can it give us hope that he is present in us and will give us the strength to do his will?

 

How do we live a holy life? Are we willing to ask, what does Jesus, who lives within me through the Holy Spirit, say to me?

 

-Greg Demmitt

The Other Person

FRIDAY

1 thessalonians 4_6 wood

1Th. 4:6 that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

 

We noted that Paul’s first instruction on morality was external, the second internal, i.e., what were you taught, then what is good for you. This third guideline for moral behavior is again outside of us, i.e., how am I treating the other person?

 

When I first went into youth ministry, almost 40 years ago, a study asked young people why they first had sex. The number one reason for girls was love, for guys was curiosity. The only thing that has changed over the years is that now the girls also are acting out of curiosity. As Bob Seger sang in the classic rock hit, Night Moves, “I used her, she used me, neither one cared. We were getting our share.”

 

As Christians, can we use another person for our personal sexual gratification? What impact does our action have on the other person?

 

Sometimes I think this is a special issue for Christians. Maybe worldly people can see former sexual partners as just passing acquaintances with whom they had a good time, but can it be that simplistic for Christians? Don’t we as Christians think of sex as more than a good time? It is a gift that God has given us to share with our life partner. We might think our romance is going to lead to marriage, but what if it doesn’t?

 

What does it mean to respect others in regard to our moral decisions?

 

-Greg Demmitt

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

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