Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Life Pleasing to God

Part 2 of A New Hope

Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12




For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts (vv. 2:3-4).


Don't Miss the Forest for the Trees

The return of Jesus is mentioned in every chapter of 1 Thessalonians (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11, 23). This is the reason why I’ve called this series on 1 Thessalonians “A New Hope.”

Many Christians have strong views on eschatology (i.e., the doctrine of future events). Our church's statement of faith says, “We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That statement allows for a variety of views on the return of Jesus (e.g., when it will happen in relation to other future events).

When it comes to the return of Jesus, we must not miss the forest for the trees. It’s about Jesus returning for his people; it’s not about arguing over who has the best timeline of future events. The great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The great doctrine of the second advent has in a sense fallen into disrepute because of…this tendency on the part of some to be more interested in the how and the when of the second coming rather than in the fact of the second coming.” [1]

Instead of dividing us, the hope of Jesus’ return should unite us. It’s our “one hope” (Eph. 4:4).


Believers Who Needed Hope

First Thessalonians is a letter written by the apostle Paul (1:1) around A.D. 49 or 50 to Christians living in Thessalonica. The church in Thessalonica began as a result of Paul’s preaching of the gospel (1:4) during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9).

When Paul wrote this letter, the Thessalonians were experiencing persecution. [2] Paul mentions that he also knows what it’s like to face persecution. Before arriving in Thessalonica, he had “suffered” and had been “shamefully treated” in Philippi (Acts 16:19-39). Then in Thessalonica, he encountered “conflict” (v. 2).

When we face adversity, we need hope. In 1:3, Paul says that the Thessalonians have “steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The NIV says, “endurance inspired by hope.” Our hope in Jesus is what us endurance during times of adversity.


Sometimes We Shouldn't Avoid Controversy

I read an article this week entitled “13 End Times Errors to Avoid.” Number two on the list was “not preaching the return of Jesus for fear of controversy.” [3] If a preacher gives in to that fear, he is more concerned with pleasing people than pleasing God.

Though the return of Jesus is a doctrine that often causes controversy, it is too important to avoid. 

The return of Jesus is our hope! How can we avoid it? It’s sort of like a high school not talking about graduation.


Please God

There aren’t many people who don’t really care about what other people think about them. (Why do you do the things you do?) Sometimes we can do please both God and people at the same time. Sometimes we can’t.

Paul writes that whenever he preaches the gospel, he “[speaks], not to please man, but to please God” (v. 4). Paul wasn’t saying that he tried to displease people. “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33; cf. 9:19-23).

But sometimes it was necessary for Paul to displease some people in order to please God. “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Are there areas of our lives in which we’re guilty of people pleasing? How would our lives be different if we thought more about pleasing God?

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[1] Source unknown.
[2] Some of the Thessalonian believers might have been thinking or even complaining, “Why did Paul leave us so quickly?” Paul addresses this question in chapters 2 and 3.
[3] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/13-end-times-errors-to-avoid