14 November 2012

Not a Trade School or a Book Club

by Frank Turk

For those interested, the whole sunday morning lesson this series is based on can be found here.

We have been talking about this passage in 1Thes:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

And we have discussed that, in this passage, in Paul's view, the normal life of the local church has at least 3 components: Pastoral Care, Personal Affection, and Preaching the Gospel.  But there is a fourth component: Perfecting the Gospel.

4. Perfecting the Gospel

“walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory,” Paul said to the Thessalonians.

When Paul said this same thing to Titus at the end of his life, he said it this way, in Titus 2:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
He means that there are necessary consequences of the Gospel.  He says right above that section that they must “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”  That’s what “adorn” means: your wife may be beautiful in her own right, but there is something you can do for her which prefects her beauty.  You may “adorn” her with praise, or “adorn” her with honor, or better yet: “adorn” her with love.  You make what is already there perfect, complete, by doing the things which are necessary in order to show that they are true.

This is also what Paul sees as the ordinary life of the local church.  The fruit of the Spirit is there.  There’s a sense there that somehow, Jesus is coming and we must be ready for him, and that when we behave as if what we believe is actually true, being called to God’s Kingdom and Glory are worth it.  We must walk in a manner which is worthy of God, worthy of the calling into God’s Kingdom and God’s Glory.

So this is Paul’s ordinary instruction to the church:
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
It’s funny how Paul can pull the cover off the ordinary so quickly to reveal the extraordinary that is underneath it.  We get ourselves wrapped up in the idea that somehow, the big issues of the Christian life are wrapped up in big words and systematic theology.  We think that somehow God has decided that to follow him you need to get a whole new vocabulary which might not even be complete or adequate if you don’t know Greek and Hebrew and Latin.  But here, in this letter to people in a persecuted church, Paul doesn’t use any of those words at all.  He doesn’t resort to extraordinary language.  And he doesn’t appeal to an extraordinary experience – but he makes the point that somehow the Gospel makes us zealous for an ordinary life which is worthy of Himself, and His Kingdom.

This letter is written after Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica, yes?  But what Paul is describing here is what happened when he was in Thessalonica.  When he was done teaching, this is how Acts 17 describes the outcome:
But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
After the Thessalonians were taught by Paul, their whole city knew there was something different about them – and described it as turning the whole world upside down.  Yet somehow when we look at this letter, and Paul’s description of what he taught these people, somehow it looks utterly harmless.  It looks simple – maybe too simple, too obvious or boring.  But when it was first demonstrated, it was an event that changed the world.

Pastoral Care.
Personal Affection and concern.
Proclamation of the Gospel.
Perfecting the Gospel.

It’s a completely-ordinary thing – or it seems that way.  We are prone to take it for granted, to forget that this is not a social club or a trade school or a book club.  This is the place where the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world, and the victory of Jesus over sin and death is doing something that is not of this world.

I’m going to tell a story here to close up our time about my brother-in-law, David.  He tells a story about the first time he visited Boston. David's ex-military, and He says that he can remember all through school people told him about American history -- about the events that happened that caused us to be a country, the list of facts. But in Boston, he found himself out in the harbor looking down into the water, and when he looked into the water and out at the harbor he realized: "Wow. This is were they dropped the tea into the harbor." And at that moment, all those men and all the stories about them weren't just facts or true statements anymore: the real people became obvious to him, and it changed the way he thought about our country and his part in it.

It seems ridiculous – he lived his whole life in the United States, and walked around in it receiving all kinds of benefits from being a citizen.  But for him to really get it, to really understand that something happened to change the whole course of history, he had to do something as mundane as stand in front of the body of water where they threw some cargo into the ocean for the light bulb to go off.

But that’s what it seems to be about the local church – about Paul’s ordinary message to the Thessalonians.  In the same way that David finally got it, that THIS is where they threw the tea into the Harbor, Paul is telling us: show them the real Jesus.  Show them the Gospel of God not as a metaphor, not as a seminar on ancient literature.  Don’t just show them a nice time.  Show them that Jesus died for sin, and now the Glory of God and his Kingdom are coming into this world here, in the local church.  Show them the Gospel of God, the extraordinary thing under the ordinary life of the church.









5 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

Show them that Jesus died for sin, and now the Glory of God and his Kingdom are coming into this world here, in the local church. Show them the Gospel of God, the extraordinary thing under the ordinary life of the church.

Nicely phrased ending to a solid lesson. Thanks.

Linda said...

This is a wonderful article Frank.

"We get ourselves wrapped up in the idea that somehow, the big issues of the Christian life are wrapped up in big words and systematic theology. We think that somehow God has decided that to follow him you need to get a whole new vocabulary which might not even be complete or adequate if you don’t know Greek and Hebrew and Latin."

Paul understood that we MUST live by faith -Faith that understands that - "apart from me you can do nothing". We all know this precious truth. But we take our eyes off of Christ and begin to promote in our own strength the Gospel, the building up of the saints which can become rote, overwhelming and such an impossible task especially with a large Church.

only when we are captivated by Christ's matchless beauty by fixing our eyes on HIM can God produce in us "the obedience that comes from FAITH". Only Jesus is a sight for poor eyes to see. Only Jesus is so lovely to look at. then our hearts are filled, captivated and soar with God's love to the saints and adorn the gospel.

Worthy is the Lamb--only Jesus is worthy.

Andrea said...

Every day those mundane opportunities arise to live in a way that shows we really believe in the bible. And that adorns the gospel? What an amazing, powerful truth!

Zorro! said...

Reminds me of this idea, quoted from "The Abolition of Man" "...Johnson's famous passage from the Western Islands, which concludes: 'That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.'"

Marcus Wilkinson said...

Did you notice that Paul identified Silvanus and Timothy as apostles ...??? I had always been taught that Timothy was a young pastor. Imaginé my surprise when I read the verse immediately before the verse that you began your article with. I've cross-checked this verse in many different translations and it is translated the same way in all of them. Considering the fact that Paul did not take apostleship lightly, it seems to stand to reason that he meant what he said when he called Silvanus and Timothy apostles along with himself. If that's the casé, should we then look at I and II Timothy as letters to a young apostle or was he changed from a young apostle to a pastor...???....or should they be seen as letters to a young apostle simply fulfilling a pastoral function...???...your thoughts...???