Memphis Belle

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1st Thessalonians 2:1-20


“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:  but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.  For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:  but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.  For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:  nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.  But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:  so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.  For ye remember, brethren, our labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.  Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.  As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.  For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectively worketh also in you that believe.  For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus:  for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:  who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:  forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway:  for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.  But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.  Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.  For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.”


Understanding True Ministry


Rescued From Wrath


“1st Thessalonians, Paul ending each chapter in light of the 2nd coming of Christ, ends chapter 1 by saying “for they themselves,” those who had heard the Word of God through the Thessalonians “shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  (verses 9-10)  ‘Who rescued us, delivered, rescued us from the wrath to come,’ and it’s interesting, because the word lays emphasis upon the seriousness of the situation.  And the Scripture is clear about God’s wrath, and the finality of it, and the eternity of it, and the purpose of it---for Satan and his fallen angels.  God didn’t design it for humans, and it’s not his will that any should perish.  [Comment:  and the way some interpret the resurrection prophecies, it may not be necessary that all but a tiny handful perish, if that many.  This is a subject where there are differing interpretations and beliefs on how to interpret the Scripture on this subject.  To read some of them, see]  But the Scripture is completely clear about the truth and the lines are drawn, and they’re black and white, darkness and light, they’re so easy a child could understand, that’s what the Lord wants.  And Paul clearly says here, but this church is waiting expectantly, knowing from Paul’s teaching that Jesus had rescued them from the wrath of his coming.  And people who try to take the blessed hope away from the Church, believe me, when you look at statistics on mainline America, denominational America and you see that we’re in a post-Christian era, and they want to be “inclusive,” and “seeker-friendly” all of these things, you can see why they rob away from the Church, how clearly that Christ delineated the lines between life and death, light and darkness, and eternity in heaven [the kingdom of heaven] and eternity in hell.  And yet Paul is completely clear that Christ has come to rescue us from this.  And again, just talking with the youth pastors these last few days, you know, people say ‘Well, that’s a hate-message, talking about sin and punishment.’  No, it’s the greatest love-message there has ever been, God sent his Son into the world to die on the cross to rescue us.  None of us need to see the wrath of God, that was designed and set forth to punish Satan and his angels, something that happens in spiritual realms, God has no desire that humans should go to hell, so much so that he gave his only Son, and made his own Son endure that wrath, so that it need not be endured.  And anyone who wants to steal that away doesn’t understand two very simple things, the finality and severity of God’s wrath, and the completeness of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  They don’t understand what happened on the cross.  They don’t understand the cup that he took to himself.  They don’t understand what happened when the fire of his Father’s own wrath fell on his own Son so that he could be the propitiation for our sins.  They don’t understand what it meant when Jesus said “It is finished” because when he said that, and we put our faith in him, now he’s the one who has rescued us from the wrath to come.  And we live in these days, yes, we may see pain, we may see difficulty, we may see suffering in this world, but we will not see eternal suffering from the hand of God meted out upon fallen angels and Christ rejecting individuals, because we have been rescued from the wrath to come.  And we have a great destination and an incredible thing to look forward to, and I can’t wait.  So, these are baby Christians, Paul was in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths and was driven out.  And he deeply implanted these truths about the second coming of Christ in these new-believers, and how important it is.  We can be theological, we can take positions, but if we don’t give to the Church the blessed hope, we are short one facet of what should be happening in our lives as believers, when that is robbed away from us.  It’s a purifying hope.  It is a hope, and how hopeless this world is. 


True Ministry Can’t Be Phony, Has To Be The Real Deal


So Paul, looking at this church, understanding that they’re blood-bought, pours out his heart in chapter 2 in regards to ministry.  And it helps us to understand.  He becomes very passionate here, and we hear things from Paul we don’t normally hear.  But it’s with the backdrop of the fact that they’ve been saved from the wrath to come, they’re blood-bought, looking forward to the Lord’s return expectantly.  “For yourselves brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:  but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God, with much contention.” (verses 1-2)  “Contention”, it’s an athletic word, with an agonizing, there was a contest to it, to come and share the Good News of Jesus Christ, Paul said, ‘You know how we were.’  Now evidently, someone’s accusing Paul, saying he’s not sincere, that he’s preaching some kind of a phony message, he’s just trying to impress people, there’s some kind of accusation going on.  It doesn’t seem to be coming from within this church, it’s a young church, it seems his opponents were doing this.  Now remember, he was driven out of town, the Jews were jealous.  He’s going to mention that.  So it seems to be coming from those that were without, and they’re accusing Paul of being phony, he’s only in this for himself.  And one of the first things he says, he says, ‘Look, you know what kind of an entrance we had.  You saw when we came there from Philippi, we were shamefully entreated, we still have the scars on our backs, with blood still seeping from our wounds.  We were bathed by the Philippian jailor, we left, we came here.  We were still sore, we were still bent over, we still had bleeding wounds on our backs.  But we didn’t turn away, we weren’t afraid, we were willing to put our lives on the line, to come and to tell you the truth about Jesus Christ.’  Paul says, ‘That doesn’t look like somebody whose in it only for the money.’  You know, I look at some of these guys on television, the way they beg for money all the time, and I think, you know, they travel from town to town raking money out of God’s people, and I think if there was a fresh beating waiting for them in every town their whole curriculum would slow down.  None of that slowed down Paul.  Now of course Paul, you know at Lystra, had probably been there, had been caught up to the third heaven, and saw things that were unspeakable, and he wasn’t afraid of getting beat one more time.  It says when he woke up he went right back into the city and said ‘Wait a minute, you guys didn’t finish, I’m still here.’  So Paul, you know he says “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  He’s not afraid.  He comes to Thessalonica, beat up, persecuted for the cause of Christ, but he comes and he plainly declares the truth to them, without fear.  One more beating would have meant nothing to him in a sense.  He said ‘It was with great contest we came to speak the gospel of God to you,’   “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:  but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak;”  it was not one of hypocrisy, there was no moral impurity attached to it in any way, it was not hypocritical, it was not impure in any sense, there was no ethical or moral question to the way that we did it, it wasn’t morally impure at all, and he says there was no guile to it.  “nor in guile.” (verse 3)  Ah, interesting word, it speaks (guile) of putting bait on a hook.  Paul said ‘We didn’t come baiting you, we didn’t come saying stuff that we thought people wanted to hear, we’re not out trying to build popularity and get in ‘Who’s who’ of the Christian beat in the world, and get to the top of the list of those that get clunked everywhere they go.’  Paul said, ‘We came, there was no hypocrisy, there was no moral or ethical impurity the way we came.  We weren’t coming baiting you, putting something on a hook, we came with the Gospel of Christ.  We came and we presented the truth.’ 


True Ministry Has Been Entrusted With The Gospel


“But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” (verse 4)  He acknowledges, ‘We were allowed, God has allowed us to do this, because he has entrusted to us the Gospel.’  He told the Galatians that when he had come to them, the gospel that he preached was not a gospel he had learned of man.  He had directly received it of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He told the Corinthians that they were the servants of Christ, and the stewards of the mysteries of God.  That the first thing required of a steward is that he be found faithful.  And Paul had this great sense, and he says it here, ‘We’re allowed of God to do this.  He has entrusted to us the Gospel.’  This is not a human thing, it’s not about being popular or pleasing men, or setting some kind of bait.  He said there’s a great reality to this, and the Gospel that he knew he received of Jesus Christ himself.  [And what is the Gospel?  See,]  And he says, ‘We’re stewards over the mysteries of God.’  And the first thing that is required in someone whose going to be a steward is that they be found faithful.  Now look, as we go into this, those of you who feel called to the ministry, in any capacity, Sunday-school, evangelism, anywhere in ministry, great things to take heed of here.  There is a cost.  You’re probably not gonna be beat, yet, could come.  Paul says, ‘We came anyway, you know what kind of entering in we had among you, we weren’t doing this for kudos, our lives were on the line.  You know when we came,’


True Ministry Has To Be Without Hypocrisy


And anyone who wants to be in ministry, ‘it wasn’t in hypocrisy, it wasn’t with guile, there wasn’t anything ethically or morally wrong with it.’  That’s so important, because look how many people are turned away when they see some ministry happening somewhere on television or somewhere, and all of a sudden there’s a fall, or all of a sudden something is being revealed that something ethically or morally is being done wrong here too, and is being used as bait to get money out of people.  I remember when they exposed some of the televangelists, where the whole show they were talking about the mailing list, and how they have demographic studies, and they discover that in a certain state or a certain area of the country, people respond best to give money when they see a little child in a wheelchair.  So in that place that’s how they advertise it, put a little kid in a wheelchair.  In another place it was cancer, so in that place they say ‘God’s done these miracles healing people of cancer,’ making money in that area.  And when that comes out, gets exposed, it does damage to the cause of Christ.  Because people out there are saying, ‘See, I told you, it’s phony, it’s not real.’  But it is real, and God does save, and God does heal.  And there’s a great mystery, a wonderful, beautiful mystery to the Gospel of Christ.  And it’s rescued us from the wrath to come.  And those are the ultimate stakes.  And God looks down and sees charlatans and phonies taking away his people, that’s why in the Old Testament he was so angered about idolatry.  As far as he was concerned it was kidnapping.  And kidnapping in the Old Testament was a capital crime.  How would I feel if I see somebody, we see this all over the news today, kids are being stolen. That’s the way God looks at this, when someone comes in and turns away those who are blood-bought, or who are being drawn to the truth in simplicity, without hypocrisy.  Paul says, we didn’t come that way, we didn’t come to please men.  But Paul says the day is coming when I’m going to stand before the Living God and give an account of the ministry that I had.  It’s God “which trieth our hearts.  For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness;” (verse5)  ‘we weren’t seeker-friendly,’ you know what it’s like when somebody comes up to you and they’re flattering you, you know what that’s like.  And you’re standing there listening, thinking ‘Give me a break, can’t wait till you’re done.’  ‘I think I’m gonna have a heart attack,’ and you fall down, ‘just get me outa this situation.’  And you know, flattery is just another form of lying, a deceit.  You’re buttering somebody up for a reason, you’re working them for something, it’s manipulative, and deceitful.  Paul said we didn’t do that.  ‘We didn’t come with flattering words, or with a cloak of covetousness, we weren’t there to get rich, to beg, God is our witness.’ what a great confidence that is. 


True Ministry Isn’t Glory Seeking


“nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” (verse 6)  And boy, there is something in us, in all of us that likes to have glory of men.  Something in me.  There’s enough of that, I know it, love to be recognized.  ‘Hey, is that a new suit you got on there?  Oh no, just something I pulled out of the closet,’  ‘Hey, did you build that deck out back there?’  ‘Yeah, yeah, you know, just threw it together.’  ‘That’s really nice.’…maybe for a surgeon, ‘I can hardly see the incision, you split that guy all the way up and sewed him back up, you do beautiful work.’  Or you’re a pastor, ‘That was a great Bible study,’  ‘Oh really, just pray for me, wasn’t me.’  You know, there’s something inside of us, though, likes to, I’m speaking from experience.  There’s something inside of us.  Paul says, ‘We didn’t seek glory of men.’  He didn’t need to be patted on the back.  [When someone’s patting you on the back, it might be time to watch your back, they might just be marking the spot for the knife J]  ‘Would have been nice not to have been beaten on the back with rods, but we didn’t need to be patted on the back either.’  


True Ministry Doesn’t Lay Heavy Loads On People, But Seeks To Nurture Them


“when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.”  He didn’t come demanding anything.  And he’s going to tell us why now, and this is a remarkable portion of Scripture for Paul, because first he compares himself to a nursing mother.  ‘Now come on Paul, cut us a break, what do you mean a nursing mother?’  ‘This is the persecutor of the Church, hauled people off to prison, made people blaspheme the name of Jesus at the point of a sword, now he’s a nursing mother?  What in the world happened to you Paul?’  Then he’s going to talk pretty much from a parental point of view, then finally as a father.  And this is remarkable, he’s saying ‘When I look heavenward, we are stewards of the mysteries of God, when I look heavenward, God entrusted this ministry to us.  And because of that, we are executing it in a particular way, we are serving in a particular way, conscious of the fact that we need not please men, but God.’  But then when he turns human-ward in ministry, and it’s a great lesson for us, he talks from a very tender place, and it takes the Holy Ghost to do that, with the love that only he can provide within us.  “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:” (verse 7)  That doesn’t sound like a persecutor of the Church.  “we were gentle among you, even as a nurse” and he uses the specific Greek word for, and it’s an interesting combination, because it doesn’t make sense in one way, he says “even as a wet-nurse”, there would be sometimes in a wealthy home, they would hire a midwife, another woman to nurse the child sometimes.  But Paul says, and she was known for her sensitivity, her care.  But Paul uses that word, and says ‘this nurse cherishes her own children,’ so he combines both of the ideas, the love of a mother caring for her own child, and yet the continued process of nursing and suckling, and knowing that it is the very life of the mother that’s imparted to the kids.  I’ve watched my wife go through that.  I was glad that she was nursing, for a number of reasons.  Formula was expensive [tell me about it], of course, because it’s supposed to be healthy for the baby, of course.  Of course the other thing was, in the middle of the night, [laughter] I could say, ‘They want you honey.’    The funny thing was, Joshua, he was just big, from the time he was born, he was 36 inches, a month early, 7lbs, 14oz, and for the uninitiated that’s seven pounds, fourteen ounces.  And if he had waited another month, he’d have had my wife instead of her having him, I’ll tell you.  But he would just bellow, like Jabba, just sort of sit around like that, just no neck and it’s funny, because he was about a year and a half old, and in the middle of the night if he wanted to nurse, because he used to hear me in the middle of the day, so in the middle of the night we’d hear, out of the dark, ‘Yo, [laughter]’ in the middle of the night we’d hear, ‘Yo, Kath,’ because he’d hear me do that during the day.  ‘Yo, Kath, come over here.’  So when he woke up in the middle of the night, and wanted to nurse, he’d go, ‘Yo, Kath! from the other bedroom, and we’d just both start laughing, the whole bed would shake, it was so crazy, ‘Yo Kath!’.  But there’s a process here, look, ‘we were gentle among you, even as a nursing mother cherishes, warms, holds and comforts her children, “so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” (verse 8)  This is mother-stuff, anybody here whose raised little kids, this is mother-stuff, imparting your own life, ‘because you were dear to us.’  Love is patient, it’s kind, Paul wrote in another place.  It bears all things.  “For ye remember,  brethren, our labour and travail:  for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.”  This is mother-stuff.  Now it’s talking about the fact that he had no doubt made tents there, where he had provided for himself, so he would come not demanding.  But he’s talking about the pathos there, which is in a relationship between a mother and a child, and saying “that’s the way we felt.” 


True Ministry Is Like Raising kids, It’s Long-Term


Now if you’re going to be in ministry, talk to a mom and ask how long that process is.  And you know, they mess themselves, they’re demanding, they don’t care about anybody else.  Takes them awhile to learn to walk, to communicate, to embrace the truth that you’re trying to impart to them.  If fact sometimes it’s a sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year labour, sometimes it’s a 30-year labour.  The role of a parent, Paul said he took that attitude in ministry towards this Thessalonian church.  We know he had that attitude towards the Corinthians, they were trouble, and he loved them.  And ministry is long-term.  I love to see some of the kids that I dedicated as babies in my senior high Bible class.  That’s an 18-year labour.  But when you see the ones walking with the Lord, you think “It was worth it.”  They’re blood-bought, these are the ones that are saved from the wrath to come.  They have an eternal place.  You know, so many times in the ministry we say ‘That guy, he messed up, gotta get rid of him, I don’t want him around here, look at the way he’s acting, get him outa here!’  No, no, there’s that ‘Oh, they want you again, get up outa bed, Yo Kath!’  They want you to get up in the middle of the night, walking around, how many times we have them in a tub, you have them with a fever, and ‘oooh,’ you know, that whole process.  Traveling, you have to take gear with them.  It’s so wonderful, when they’re bigger.  When they’re little you have to take all this stuff, this gear, pages of stuff, and leashes [laughter].  This is really something to think about as we look at ministry.  Wonderful, Paul says he enjoyed not being of any charge.  But I see people who get into ministry and right away they’re worried about how much remuneration, ‘How much am I going to make, what am I going to get paid?’  Ask the two people in your Bible study how…I love the Christmas Eve service, not taking an offering, because it’s fun, because you know there are relatives sitting here.  In fact, one person who got saved, he told me, ‘The whole night I was thinking, ‘Here it comes, here it comes, he’s warming us up now, he’s going to get us now.  Here comes the offering bucket, he’s got us now, going to do it now.’  And he said, “You didn’t do it.  I was depressed.  I got saved.”  What parent is chargeable, you know, ‘You’re three years old, buck it up or you’re not eating here anymore.’  You know, what parent charges their kids to be kids?  It’s not a cost to the kids to raise kids, it’s a cost to the parents.  Paul said, ‘I don’t want to be chargeable to you.’  “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:” (verse 10)  Now this is certainly the role of mom and dad.  The idea of “holily” is pious, ‘you saw our lives were separate, they were holy, there wasn’t unfairness, there wasn’t indiscretion, we didn’t make decisions in favor of one person and ignoring another.’  [And I looked up the word “holily.”  It is an adverb form of the noun “holy.”]  And I’ll tell you something.  It is a parents responsibility to set an example for the children.  It is a parents responsibility to set an example for the children.  If you don’t want to set an example, don’t have kids.  Because you cover them not just with your wallet, but with your life, and with your mouth.  It says “Anybody who does not provide for his own house is worse than an infidel, and has denied the faith.”  That’s not just talking about money.  Oh, that’s a responsibility, and it should be met.  “Pro-horizo,” it means to see ahead.  And a father’s responsibility is not just providing food on the table, it’s providing covering.  It’s providing spiritual insight, it’s looking down the line and saying, ‘You know, if we let this in the house, this is what it’s going to produce.  And if we let them do this, it’s just a seed now, but I’d rather step on the egg than on the serpent,’ like Spurgeon used to say.  It is looking ahead, it is looking at the horizon, and providing that way also.  Again, because if all we do is leave our kids something that a lawyer can settle, we haven’t left anything, and that’s all going to burn.  Great parental exhortations here.  ‘You witnessed it, we lived holy, and justly, and unblameably.’  Now look, part of that I think as a parent is saying, ‘I blew it,’ I mean, there were times where I did things wrong and said to my kids, ‘Forgive me.  I just acted like a heathen.  Now pick up your head and go to bed.’  No, just kidding.  I mean, there are times when you have to say that, ‘It wasn’t right, I blew it,’ or ‘Got angry, shouldn’t have run that guy off the road like that.’  And that’s part of being unblameable, that’s part of being upright.  But Paul says, and anybody who wants to be in ministry has to look at this, because you have to set an example.  And you know you look down this list and you think ‘It’s only by the Holy Ghost, that the parental sacrifice can be made towards an individual or a body of believers or towards a home fellowship, or someone you’re discipling.’  There’s a cost.  Part of that is the way you live, the example you set. 


True Ministry Also Involves Taking On The Role Of A Father


Verse 11, he says, “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,” taking the role now of a father.  He says, ‘You know, first of all we exhorted.’  That means to encourage, and exhort, sometimes it means “to bring to your side,” and sometimes that’s a dad’s responsibility, to encourage, but not just to encourage but to bring to your side.  He takes the paintbrush, ok, he wants to paint, ‘OK, let’s do this together,’ I mean, that’s part of fathering, to encourage in that sense, “to bring to one’s side.”  Paul was willing to do that.  The next word to “comfort”, it has action tied to it, it’s not just comforting, and that’s important, because every kid’s different.  Some kids you can only exhort them to a point, then you got to sit them down and say ‘Ah, that’s ok.’   They’re all different, they’re all fragile in different ways.  But this is comforting in the sense of stimulating to activity, it isn’t just communicating truth, but it’s ‘Come on, you can do it, come on try again.  Come on, you can do this, yea, you’re doing great.  I know the ball hit you in the head, but it was close to your glove, you’re doing great.’  “and charge” now this is all as a father, “charge” is “to urge” with personal testimony.  And again, important, ‘You know the Lord’s been faithful to me, he’ll be faithful to you.  He’ll give you comfort, read this Psalm, I’ve always loved this Psalm, God’s always spoken to my heart through this Psalm, let it be one of your favorite Psalms too,’ and urging them by your own testimony.  Certainly parental responsibility.  But Paul’s saying, he didn’t just come in and preach and then loose track of them, second visit to Thessalonica, writing to them, as he got to be around them, he spent time with them, to nourish them with the heart of a mother that was willing to put in the hours, and watch the slowness of change and growth.  Sometimes it seems they’ll never get potty-trained, they’ll never do it…and they’re putting jellybeans above the toilet, ‘OK, if you do it today…’ there’s a whole process you go through raising, raising them up.  They have to be able to fail, they have to make mistakes, and then as a father.  And you know, the crazy thing is, sometimes you know you have a teenager on your hands when they think they know better than you, they don’t want to listen,  ‘ok, they’re in puberty I guess, Lord, help me here to go through this.’  Exhorting, bringing alongside, comforting in the sense of ‘you can do it, move forward,’ testifying God is faithful. 


True Ministry Doesn’t Play Favorites


And look, it says, “every one of you”, no favorites [still on verse 11].  And man is that tough sometimes in a home.  Abraham, favored Isaac.  Had a son, Ishmael out of his own lack of faith.  Isaac learned, because Isaac showed favoritism, to Esau, he was a man’s man, he was a hunter.  And it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  You know, just giving you the example, you know Joanne’s 23, Mike’s 21, Josh is 15, and Hanna is 13.  I got that down anyway.  I used to say, ‘You know, I have three kids,’ and Frank would yell ‘Four!’ yeah, you hear that on a tape once in awhile.  And I love Joanna the most.  And here’s why, her sensitivity, common sense, she’s waiting, doing things right.  My second one’s Mike, here’s why I love him the most, he’s godly, he’s filled with the Holy Ghost, loves me, we’re men.  Josh my third, here’s why I love him the most, he’s in an orbit I never saw before [laughter], great sense of humor, extremely sensitive, keenly aware of the mortality and frailty of human life, at 15.  Hanna’s my fourth favorite.  Here’s why I love her the most.  She is the kindest, gentlest, most sensitive spirit in some ways that I’ve ever encountered.  Exhorted, comforted, charged, every one of you, no favoritism, no favoritism. 


True Ministry Is A Process Of Walking Believers From Spiritual Immaturity To Spiritual Maturity


Because your ministry to people is not based on their performance, because your ministry to people is through the Holy Ghost God is giving you, and the Holy Spirit is not relating to them on the basis of performance, but on the basis of his grace and the blood of Jesus Christ.  ‘Ah, how do you like that jerk out there smoking cigarettes?’  Ah, want to see a jerk, first of all look in the mirror.  Second of all, you think that guy is a jerk, you don’t know that three months ago he was carrying a weapon and selling heroine, and God saved him and the biggest problem he’s got cookin’ right now is cigarettes, that ain’t bad. He’s in-process, he’s sanctified, being changed. [Pastor Joe was talking about a real guy who was outside having a butt, and he probably heard some people in the congregation whispering about this guy.]  But it is a process.  God is gracious, longsuffering, patient, kind.  That is the fruit of his Spirit.  And that’s everything that he is.  ‘And I did that to every one of you as a father loves his children.’  “that you would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (verse 12)  Paul says, now that’s the heart of a father.  John said ‘I have no greater joy than to know my children walk in truth.’  The heart of a father, that they might walk worthy, axios, “weighing as much as their profession.”  You know, they’re not just talking the talk, but they’re walking the walk, ‘that they might weigh as much as what they profess, and that is that they’re the children of the Most High God, saved from the wrath to come, filled with the Holy Spirit, that they might walk worthy of God, who’ and the tense is who is calling you unto his kingdom and glory.’  His calling is still on our lives.  I haven’t figured out everything he wants me to do, he’s still calling me, I have a tremendous sense of God’s calling.  I know what I’m supposed to do tonight, teach a Bible study, I’m a pastor, it isn’t like I’m bumbling around, I know some things about his calling.  And if you turn away from God’s calling, you live frustrated.  If you turn back to it you get no information, because it comes to you a-day-at-a-time, and an-hour-at-a-time [and that can be immensely frustrating at times as well, I know], and as you yield to his Lordship, it evolves around you, it’s a progressive revelation.  Paul says ‘he is calling you, that you walk worthy of him, the one who is calling you into his kingdom and glory.’  And you know, Thessalonica was a pagan, pagan town.  Don’t think ‘Those are New Testament Christians, I live in Philly.’  Believe me, it was Philly, it was Atlantic City, it was Las Vegas, it was all of that.  Now their surrounding was completely pagan, and Paul’s not trying to change this…they needed to change.  You know, the problems don’t change, this world is full of problems, full of sickness, full of difficulties, that doesn’t change.  What changes is the way that we function in the middle of it all.  And I hear people say, ‘Well that’s the way I am.’  Imagine if your kids said that to you, ‘Yeah, pooped in my pants, but that’s the way I am.’  ‘Yeah, but you’re 24 now, you know we’ve been going through this a long time.  We want you to grow up and to mature.’  ‘Doesn’t matter, that’s the way I am.’  Yeah, but God’s not happy with the way you are, and that’s why he’s conforming you into the image of his Son.  Don’t sit around and say ‘Well that’s the way I am,’ that doesn’t impress me.  We should all be glad that we ain’t the way we was.  We wouldn’t be here together, a lot of us, if we were the way we was.  It was Spurgeon that said, “I ain’t what I should be” (he probably didn’t say “ain’t”, but that’s ok) “I’m not what I should be, but I’m not what I used to be, and I’m not what I’m going to be.”  He’s calling us, we’re in process. 


The First Receiving Of The Word Is With The Ear, The Second Receiving Of The Word Is With The Heart---The Power Is In The SEED, The Word of God


“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (verse 13)  He does an interesting thing here, there’s two words for received.  For this cause we constantly thank God, Paul says, without ceasing, “because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us,” that means to accept, you accepted it.  You said, ‘OK, I agree, that’s the Word of God.’  when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men,” that’s a different word that means “to welcome.”  The first hearing is with the ear, the first receiving is with the ear, the second receiving is with the heart.  Paul said, ‘When you received the Word of God, you acknowledged it, ‘Yeah, that’s the Word of God,’  But you also welcomed it, you took it to your heart.’  “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”  Isaiah would say it this way, and of course I love Isaiah.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  But as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth and maketh it to bring forth to bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth.  It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I send it.”  The Word of God, that’s why we teach the Word of God, we’re never going to forsake it.  Because, in and of itself, it is alive and powerful.  Jesus compares it to seed that a sower goes out and sows in the field.  The miracle is in the seed.  They can get seed out of a pyramid that’s 2,000 years old [older than that, more like 3,000 to 4,000 years old], it’s wheat, and it’s dried up, and it’s brittle.  But somehow you can put that in the ground, and there’s something in that seed that senses the warmth from light, and the moisture, and after 2,000 years in its own DNA, it has the potential to start to sprout and put forth life.  And Paul says and Peter says and Jesus says the Word of God is like seed, it gets sown in our hearts.  Oh I know, some of us go to the university, and that’s fine if God’s leading us there, and we study seed, take a two-year course on seed, four-year course on seed [he’s referring to the Word of God].  And we learn how to divide [discern] the Word of God, we should do that.  And I’m going to go to school someday.  Right now I go to church, and got four kids, but some day I’m gonna go.  Not to learn what to believe, but learn to study the languages and history, I’m going to study for the rest of my life.  But you know, sometimes religious people don’t understand the simplicity and the power of the Word.  We have people come here and say ‘What’s going on?’  ‘I don’t know.  Ask Frank.’  [laughter, Frank is his assistant pastor]  ‘Well where’s your roll, how many people on your roll?’  ‘How many people can you get on a roll?’  ‘Well, do you do this?’  ‘No, no, we don’t do that.’  ‘Offering envelopes?’  ‘No, we don’t do that.’  ‘Do you do this?’  ‘No, we don’t do that.’  ‘Well, what are all these people doing here?’  Seed, free food.  And it’s almost offensive.  I had someone say to me, ‘You know, all inspiration and no perspiration is irresponsibility.’  And I knew what they were saying.  They’re saying ‘The Holy Ghost is teaching this, and if you don’t STUDY to show yourself approved, that’s irresponsibility.’  I knew what they were saying.  So they said to me, ‘All inspiration and no perspiration is irresponsibility.’  And I said, ‘Yeah, but all perspiration and no inspiration is BO.’  [laughter]  The Word of God, Jesus says it brings forth of itself.  Oh, we can sow it with enunciation, ‘Let’s OPEN our BIBLES,’ it doesn’t grow better because of enunciation, the power’s in the seed.  ‘I sow it this way, and that way,’ [laughter], no, the power’s in the Word, and it’s so simple, and so powerful, and it’s eternal, and abides forever, and it’s living, and it gives life.  And I grew up in church and never heard it, it was never opened, it was never preached.  I never heard the Gospel, I never knew Jesus loved me, I didn’t know he died for me, I didn’t know he was returning.  And I was “confirmed,” I was a confirmed idiot, I didn’t know anything.  [laughter]  And maybe that was my fault, maybe I should have known something, I don’t know.  ‘For this cause we don’t cease to give thanks, because you received, you’ve accepted the Word of God, which you heard of us, you welcomed it, you received it from us, but you welcomed it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, it is the Word of God,’ “which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”  That is was producing in them, it was working in them.  Look over in verse 3 of chapter 1, “remembering without ceasing you work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father”, that was the Word of God working in them, look in verse 5 of chapter 1, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost,”, in the power of the Holy Ghost, no wonder it’s working effectually in them, verse 6 said, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, and joy of the Holy Ghost…” it was effectual.  Over in verse 9, “and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…” it was effectual, ‘waiting for his Son from heaven.’  Paul says ‘You know, we rejoice because you receive it, not as the word of man, but as the Word of God, and it’s effectual in your lives, look at what it was producing.’  He was there for three weeks and was driven out.  And he knows that God’s grace and God’s Word is working in their lives. 


You’re Being Persecuted Just Like We Have Been In Judea---Religious People, Pharisees Can Be Tough, Contrary


“For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus:  for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:” (verse 14)  Now, they were persecuted in Jerusalem by the religious leaders (cf. Acts 4, one example), and he said there in Thessalonica they had also been persecuted by their own countrymen for converting to Christianity from believing in idols.  And speaking, he says, of the Jews, verse 15, “who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:” Now religious people can be like that, can’t they?  Man they can be contrary.  They’re like, you know, never mind.  I don’t want to offend more people than I’ve already offended, amen.  But religious people can be tough.  I mean, I’ve got some of them in my family, who just, want to fight.  They are just tough.  I just wish they’d win a basket of cheer and leave me alone for awhile  [his family are dyed-in-the-wool Lutherans].  “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway:  for the wrath is to come upon them to the uttermost.” (verse 16)  Here’s the Jews forbidding them to speak to the Gentiles, ‘They don’t want us to preach to the Jews, so we’re going to go to preach to the Gentiles,’  ‘No, we don’t want them to hear either.’  “that they might be saved,” they’re forbidding them to be preached to that they might be saved, “to fill up their [own] sins alway:  for wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”  Now you know, the Church had begun in Judea, Jesus was there in Judea, they had seen Jesus  [see,], his miracles, his preaching, his healings, his Passion, his resurrection, the apostles.  Where there’s great light there’s great responsibility.  We are accountable for the light that we have, that had seen great things.  ‘But God,’ Paul says, ‘hath not cast off the nation of Israel, God forbid,’ he says.  What a wonderful plan God has for the Jews and the nation of Israel.  [Want to read a little bit about that plan, which will include the whole world too?  See, and especially]  God says to them in Deuteronomy ‘Not because of your righteousness, it’s not something you deserve, it’s something in the Divine counsels of God Almighty before the worlds were formed that he decided he would do.’  And you look sometime and you can see it’s without rhyme or reason, it’s not earned or deserved.  But it is planned.  Paul says at this point (cf. verse 16) that God’s wrath was upon them, they had turned away from Christ. 


Realize The Actual Power Of God, That All Of Satan’s Successes Are By God’s Design


“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.” (verse 18)  Paul says, ‘Look, we were driven out of there, we were there, we were sharing, the people were getting saved, but we were taken from you.’  The word literally means “to be orphaned.”  ‘We know what it feels like to have your parents ripped away, we were orphaned from you,’ in that sense, ‘we were driven away, ripped away,’ “for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoring the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.  Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.” (verses 17c-18)  Several times he desired to come back.  “but Satan hindered us.”  Now, that’s interesting.  I am convinced all Satan’s successes are by God’s design.  [Man, it must be frustrating being Satan.]  There was a great persecution that arose in Jerusalem.  It scattered the Church across the known world.  In fact, Peter writes to the Diaspora, ‘the seed sown, the scattered seed.’  That’s how God saw their lives, scattered throughout the Roman Empire to bring forth fruit.  Paul talks about one place where there was an open door ‘with many adversaries.’  But it’s very interesting in the Book of Acts, there’s one place where they seek to go to Bithynia, they’re traveling, and it says ‘the Spirit forbid us,’ but the Greek says, ‘the Spirit of Jesus forbid us to preach the Gospel in a particular area.’  So there are times, it seems, when the Spirit forbids.  Paul says here, ‘We were hindered by Satan,’ it doesn’t tell us exactly what that means.  And I don’t have that figured out.  You know, some people like to say that right away, ‘Satan made me do it, it’s warfare, the devil.’  I don’t understand that all the time.  [And no, sometimes what we do is our own stupid human nature.]  Certainly, if you’re laid down, you’re sick, you’re miserable, something hard is going on in your life, I don’t believe the devil says, ‘Ah, poor pastor, down and out, I like a fair fight, I’ll wait till he gets back on his feet…’  No, I believe when I’m down and out he jumps on me with both feet, digging his fingernails in, you know what I mean, toenails, whatever he’s got there.  But I don’t know what percentage are demons, Satan, it’s painful.  ‘OK, this is, get a color-graph, this is 35 percent warfare, and 15 percent stupidity, and 52 percent of the fall of man, and you know…’  No, it’s all the providence of God in one way or another, he’s sovereign and he’s wise, and he oversees, and the enemy is on a chain, a choker.  But Paul says in this situation ‘he hindered us.’  But I’m not sure exactly what he’s speaking of. 


What It’s All For


But he says, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?  (verse 19)  Paul says, ‘But the purpose of it all, all of the hardship, all of the struggle, all of the working night and day, all of the exhorting, all of the caring like a mother caring for her children, the purpose of the whole thing is to one day see your faces around the throne of God.’  “For ye are our glory and joy.” (verse 20)  What a day that will be.  Think of it for yourselves, how many of us here prayed for our parents for years.  You don’t want to end up in the Kingdom of heaven and not have had the opportunity to share with your parents, or your children, or your brother or your aunt.  And when they get saved you think, all the hassle, everything you went through, what’s it all about?  ‘Are not even ye, in the presence of God, on that day of rejoicing, what a hope.’  And Paul, ‘our hope, joy, crown of rejoicing, are not even ye in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ he was not in it for any other reason.  ‘in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming,’ well chapter 3, verse 13 tells us what that coming is, it says “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”  Here’s the important word, “with all of his saints”---saved from the wrath to come, coming with him at his return.  There’s a big difference between Christ coming for his Church and coming with his Church.  He comes for his Church in a twinkling of an eye, a shout, voice of the archangel, the trump of God, that’s coming for the Church.  Coming with the Church is when the heavens split open, and he comes back in glory, and every eye sees him, the tribes of the earth wail because of him, they see the One that has been pierced.  What a great hope.  I’m not willing to negotiate any of that away.  You can sit here with your theological position, and we can work together and be co-labourers, but I am convinced that the Lord Jesus is coming for us any time.  And I am convinced that he’s coming for us before the seven years described in the Book of Revelation.  [And before you judge one way or the other, wait until you hear, read Pastor Joe’s explanation for his belief in 1st Thessalonians 4:16-18 a little later.  It doesn’t explain all the other prophecies away that may run counter to this belief, and all that means is we don’t have the whole doctrinal/prophetic picture, which means all of us, with our differing views and prophetic interpretations don’t yet have God’s understanding on how it all fits together.  So this site gives all the pre-millennial interpretations for 2nd coming prophecies, and when some of you genuine theologians can sit down, laying aside all your pride in your own interpretation, and work out a godly, Holy Spirit inspired solution that makes all these prophecies fit together, then maybe I’ll herald it as the way it’s actually gonna pan out.  Personally, I just have to honestly say, when asked how it’s going to happen, based on all my current understanding of prophecy, I just have to say, “I don’t know yet.”]  I am convinced that we will not be punished with a Christ-rejecting world.  I’m convinced that Christ could come tonight.  Are you?  And if you are, you should be living a certain way.  There should be a certain urgency attached to that.  You shouldn’t be sitting around stoned or messing around or living in immorality, ‘Oh yeah, I believe Jesus could come tonight,’ no you don’t.  Christ is coming, now look, what’s going on in the world?  What’s holding it together?  You know, the world right now reminds me, because we’re talking about raising children tonight, you know, a little kid gets attached to a blanky, and they like to suck their thumb and rub the silk on that blanky.  You know, the problem is, that blanky gets funky.  Three years goes by, the silk is all shredded, the blanket’s in pieces, ‘Give me that thing.’  ‘Aahhh!’  and the world to me looks like that worn-out blanky right now.  It’s falling apart.  What’s holding it together?  I used to look at it and think ‘What’s holding it together?’  What’s holding it together?  Will it hold together for six more years?  In one sense I hope so, as I look at the multitudes of people who have not heard of Christ.  You know, Steve’s back, Paul’s back from India, we hear about that whole 10/40 window, there’s thousands and thousands of people in some places that have never heard the name “Jesus,” have never heard it.  There’s millions of people right in front of us here in this city [Philadelphia, PA] that have never heard it.  I had heard it, but I had never heard it.  I had heard his name, I knew words to Christmas chorals, but I had never really heard it.  But there was a time when I heard it, Jesus.  And it was like something I had never heard before in my life, and it set me free, gave me life, he changed my life, he revealed himself to me, and he paid for me.  And saved from all of God’s wrath…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on 1st Thessalonians 2:1-20 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


related links:


What is the Gospel?  See,


What was the early Church in Judea like?  See,


What is God’s Plan for the Jews and Israel after Christ’s return?  See,


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