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You Are Our Glory and Joy

by David Johnson

IMG_0666  It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God and make personal application and share the truths of Scripture with others.  The title for the lesson is, “You Are Our Glory and Joy” and the text is 1 Thessalonians chapter two verses 13 through 20 in the New Testament. Let’s listen to the Word of God.

And we also thank God continually, because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us you accepted it not as the Word of men, but as it actually is the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe, for you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea which are in Christ Jesus. You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displeased God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.  In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit.  The wrath of God has come upon them at last. But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time in person, not in thought, our intense longing we made every effort to see you for we wanted to come to you certainly I, Paul did again and again, but Satan stopped us.  For what is our hope, our joy or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. This is the Word of God.

There are some today that claim that the Christian life is easy, that faith can bring potentially all Christians health and wealth, that prosperity is God’s will for all Christians, physically and financially. That they only have to claim these, that is prosperity, health and wealth, must claim them and name them by faith. Yet in our study text of 1 Thessalonians chapter two verses 13 through 20 quite the opposite is usually the truth, whether in the first century church or the 21st century church. The Christian life is certainly not easy. We often suffer and endure persecution of many kinds. The Christian life is full of difficult growing pains. But with the Holy Spirit of God as our helper, as our counselor, comforter, we can be more than conquerors.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verse 13 it says, in part: You accepted it not as the Word of men, but as it actually is the Word of God, the Word as revealed, for example, in 1 Thessalonians chapter one and verse five that says, in part: The gospel with power and with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. Notice that Paul’s message, inspired of the Holy Spirit, here is equated at the time of this writing with the Old Testament Scriptures, because all of it, originally was, of course, the Word of God, Scripture. So why did these pagan Gentiles accept Paul’s message as the Word of God? Possibly as revealed in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 12 it says, in part, the things that mark an apostle, signs, wonders and miracles, although none are explicitly revealed as connected to Paul’s preaching in Thessalonica, nevertheless they accepted the message as the Word of God.   acceptance of the gospel is deeper, including today, to honest hearts. The gospel is self evidencing by the moving conviction of the Holy Spirit of God for those who received it as the Word of God and are born again from above there is transforming power. The gospel even today after 20 centuries continues to transform lives on every continent in every culture, in every language group. And unlike Islam today, Christianity is received voluntarily, not forced. It is not only a choice, as in many Muslim countries today, but it is of the one true God. Today those that are seeking honest hearts that receive the Word of God will not be the same and, therefore, we must share the Word of God, the gospel and encourage non believers to read and to investigate it, to study the Word of God, the Bible for themselves.
In verse 13 it also reveals that the Word of God which is at work in you who believe. The Word of God is not just for justification, that is conversion, but works also in our hearts and minds and wills in sanctification, in the process of our daily lives as we are sanctified, set apart, made holy, transformed by the Holy Spirit working within us and through us and even reveals our yet future glorification. So how does the Word of God work in us as believers now today in our sanctification? Well, for example, in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness according to 2 Timothy chapter three and verse 16. And then, according to Psalm 119 and verse 15: I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways, that is, being guided by the Word of God in our every day life, principles for living, living victoriously in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. And then in Psalm 119 and verse 24 where it says: Your statutes are my delight. They are my counselors.  And therefore the Word of God can counsel us and guide us in what is morally, ethically right from God’s perspective.  And then in Psalm 19 and verse seven it says: The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. And, therefore, the Word of God can give us revival, can actually cause us to delight in rededication and renewal when that is needed in our lives, in our spiritual lives. And then in Hebrews chapter four and verse 12 it says, in part: The Word of God judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. That is, it judges us when we do sin, when we fall short, when we miss the mark, when we trespass against God’s laws and principles and precepts and commandments.

In Colossians chapter three and verse 16 it says, in part: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. And, therefore, the Word of God as an ongoing process can enrich us in wisdom, applied knowledge in our every day life and much, much more.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verse 14 it says: You, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea.  Well, how? How did they become imitators?  In verse 14 it continues: You suffered from your own countrymen. The same things those churches suffered from the Jews, the Thessalonian Christians suffered from persecution from their own predominantly Gentile, pagan Thessalonian citizens, similarly to the churches in Judea suffered from the Jewish unbelievers in Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and from the Judaizers.

An application for Christians today is that often we suffer at least verbal persecution from our own families and friends who are unbelievers, persecution which is especially discouraging when it comes from our own people. Today especially, for example, in Muslim nations when citizens become Christians they often are shunned even rejected and considered dead for their conversion and baptism into Christ Jesus. Sometimes this is the case when a Jew becomes a Christian or a nominal cultural Christian becomes a genuine, born again, baptized believer, really living for the Lord as Lord and master of our lives. And this certainly is not easy in a generally, spiritually dead and dark world, even in the shallow, superficial Christendom which is predominant in many lands.

I remember counseling with a professing Christian once who was trying to convince me that she needed to live with a man because I would have meant that she would have lost her pension from a previous marriage, from a previous husband.  And so I asked her. I said: What is more important? God or money, basically? Even though she beat around the bush about it, her answer by the way she was living was money. When it came right down to it, money was more important to her than her God. Well, certainly a Christian would not act that way.  Possibly if they were severely backslidden, but then would have to repent from that kind of attitude.

In verse 15 it says here, in part: Who killed the Lord Jesus and also drove us out.  The first century AD Jews were responsible for Christ’s crucifixion, even though the Jews cleverly had the Romans do the evil deed. So why were especially the first century Jews even contemporary Jews today concerning Jesus, why were they so venomous toward him and toward Christianity, the way? A few of the major reasons are at this time Christianity was considered a sect, an off shoot of Judaism by the Roman government and Jews resented this. And Jews feared charges against Christians would be expanded to all Jews eventually in the first century AD.  Another reason would be that the Jewish leaders thought that Jesus was a false prophet, a false Messiah. So they didn’t want his name and his teaching to spread. For example, that was what fueled the zeal of a Saul of Tarsus who hunted and dragged out Christians and severely persecuted them, even had them put to death as, for example, Stephen.  Then there were the leaders of Judaism that also feared losing Jews to Christianity and thereby weaken their own nation and their own political position as Sadducees and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin. Another reason would be that the Jews generally were extremely zealous and proud of their own perceived special status as God’s original and only chosen people and deeply resented even the idea that Gentiles could be saved or become full members of God’s chosen people.

Even today in the 21st century AD modern nation of Israel it is estimated that there are only about two to three percent that are professing Christians. And these are predominantly Arab citizens of Israel, not ethnic Jews. In fact, in Israel today even about 16 percent or 1.2 million Israeli citizens are Sunni Muslims, citizens of Israel. About 76 percent are Jewish.  But most are only nominal or cultural Jews, secular Jews. Now also in verse 16 it says, in part: The wrath of God has come upon them at last or fully or to the uttermost. Well, who? To the unbelieving Jews. Well, how did this come about at last?  Well, probably in the sense of God’s promised eternal wrath for all unbelievers, which is so certain that it is spoken of as if it had already come, as the apostle John wrote in his gospel in John chapter three and verse 18 where it says, in part: Whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verse 18 it says, in part: We wanted to come to you, but Satan stopped us. Satan means adversary, continuously striving to tear down all that is genuinely of Christ or of is Church.  Satan is powerful. Likewise today, of course, allowed by God, Satan can hinder us.  According to 2 Corinthians chapter four and verse four, Satan is the god of this age, that is, to unbelievers. But Satan can also attack believers. For example, in Ephesians chapter six and verse 12 it says: For our struggle, our—that is in the Church—for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms, of course, referring to demons controlled by the devil. And yet in spite of all of this we have this precious truth in 1 John chapter four and verse four where it says, in part, that the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world, referring, of course, to the Holy Spirit of God.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verses 19 through 20 it says, in part: What is our hope, joy or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. In times of trouble an testing we should strive as Christians today to take the long view of things, focus on our future, not just on our present or even the past.  Jesus Christ is returning in the air here to the earth in the air. Jesus Christ will reward the Church eventually at the judgment seat of Christ for our deeds done while in the body and for his sake. Here especially being used to bring others into God’s kingdom, converts. Imagine the glory and joy of those in heaven that have had a part to those who have been saved. Today not only do we wait for the Lord, but we must also witness for the Lord and make an effort to witness, to testify, to share our story of whom Jesus is and what Jesus means to us and the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For example, we have these words in the book of Daniel even in the Old Testament, in Daniel chapter 12 and verse three where it says:  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.  What a precious promise to those who are workers, witnesses for God.
Years ago I visited a man in a county jail and I offered him a Bible and he declined, said that he was not interested. But I had other Christian books and I had one that was entitled The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, which is a deep devotional regarding Jesus Christ. I later revisited the same county jail and this same man when I offered him a Bible this time he took it readily. Something had changed in his heart, in his mind and he wanted to read the Bible.  It took a Christian book about Jesus Christ, not the Bible, but another book to lead him to the Scriptures, for him to want to know more about this great person, this wonderful Savior by the name of Jesus the Christ.

So what is the point?  We must not give up. God works in many different people in many diverse and diverse ways, various ways. And when we get to heaven don’t you want the joy of exclaiming that you are our and my glory and joy as we lead someone to Jesus?

 

 

David Johnson is minster of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10