Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Live to Please God - Look to Your Redemption

1Thessalonians 4:1-18

People have tried to figure out when Jesus would return for a long time - in fact, the first disciples believed He would return before they died.\r
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In A.D. 204 a Roman Christian named Hippolytus records that a bishop was convinced that the Lord was going to return immediately. He urged his followers to sell all of their land and possessions and following him into the wilderness to await the Lord's coming. He was wrong and his followers were left homeless and became beggars. (SermonCentral.com)\r
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You might remember a man by the name of Edgar Whisenant. He was a NASA engineer who used his mathematical skills to set a date for the return of Jesus. He wrote a book called, "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988" The book caused a real buzz in the Christian community. \r
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He was so certain that Jesus would return on Sept 10 that he said, "If I'm wrong then the scripture is mistaken." He knew for certain that Jesus would be here that day.\r
This is amazing. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The angels didn't know, and Jesus didn't know, but amazingly enough, Edgar did. \r
But the day came and passed and Edgar didn't know half as much as he thought he did. The old saying held true, "If first you don't succeed, fail and fail again." Edgar wrote a second book the next year claiming that he forgot that the calendar didn't start with 1 but year 0, so he said he was a year off. Failed again. (From Barry Robinson at SermonCentral.com)\r
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We can make two mistakes - either we are so convinced that He's coming now that we create a bunch of credit card debt - or sign out from society and sit on the rooftops. Or we give up hope altogether and worry about those who die as if there is never going to be a return. Neither is true - and Paul addresses both extremes in this chapter.\r
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1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. \r
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The Thessalonians were doing well - Paul just wants them to continue to move forward in what they already know. Sometimes we Christians make the mistake of thinking that we have arrived. If we've studied or read the Bible, if we've been around church our whole life - or if we are in vocational ministry - that there isn't anything for us to learn anymore. Far from it - there are always new things to learn, new ways to grow.\r
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Paul gives us a few here - they involve three areas of life: how you are as a person, how you act towards others, and how others react to who you are and how you act:\r
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3 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. \r
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The overall point of this paragraph is in verse 3 - God wants you to be purified. It's a process that starts when you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He cleanses you from sin through His sacrifice on your behalf on the cross - then transforms you.\r
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Philippians 3:20-21 And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. \r
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How Paul brings this home is through an exhortation around sexual purity. Why? Because it is perhaps among the most common and certainly most pervasive areas of sin in the world of then and the world of today.\r
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To sum it up:\r
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1. Keep it in your pants (I know that sounds crude - but a close rendering of the Greek actually supports this idea)\r
2. Just 'cause the people around you lust doesn't mean it's okay\r
3. Sexual sins do have victims\r
4. Sexual sins do have consequences\r
5. You have a different job - to become like the Lord, not the world\r
6. I'm not blowin' smoke here - this is God's instruction.\r
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Bottom line: whatever sin holds you - put it to death with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13) so that inside you can be purified - a person held by sin cannot effectively reach out in love - which is the next part: how you act towards others.\r
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9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. \r
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The good news for Thessalonica was that they were already following Jesus command to love one another (John 13:34). This is agape love - that self sacrificing love that gives, rather than gets (lust is self-getting love - self-worshipping love)\r
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But like Paul said earlier in verse 1 - whatever you are doing - do more of it. It may be widening your reach - or it may be intensifying the way you love. This is mature Christian stuff - God calls the maturing to an ever higher and deeper love for others - to the point where some might say "man, what are you doing in giving that much!" \r
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So first - how we are on the inside, then how we act on the outside - now, how others perceive us. This is especially important in light of what comes next - about the Rapture. Apparently, some Thessalonians figured that they'd just sit around and wait for Jesus - doing nothing.\r
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11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. \r
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Live in an orderly way, don't push other people around, and don't force others to provide for you. \r
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Translating this section is a little difficult - but one way to look at is if the Thessalonians ignored Paul's advice here - what would happen? They would be decidedly unpopular with others in and out of the church.\r
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What may have been happening here is that group just decided to sit back and relax since Jesus was going to come any moment - they didn't work, didn't earn a living, and that forced other Christians to provide for them so they wouldn't starve - but not content to leave it at that, these people made it clear that everyone should act the way they are.\r
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Sometimes we do that to self-justify our actions ("everybody's doing it"). That doesn't make it right. \r
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It does bring up the point - how are we to act until Jesus comes back?\r
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1. Occupy (Matthew 24:45-51 Faithful Servant, also Luke 19:13 Ten Talents) \r
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2. Change (Philippians 1:6 He who began a good work in you â?¦)\r
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3. Reflect the Gospel (Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men â?¦)\r
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4. Live like He's coming today in your character - but be able to continue living that way if He didn't come for a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:9 - the Lord is not slack concerning His promise â?¦ but longsuffering â?¦ not willing that any should perish."\r
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Paul emphasized this in his second letter to the Thessalonians: 2 Thes 3:10 "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." \r
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It doesn't mean that if we lose our job we should just starve to death - he's talking about a willful choice not to provide for yourself if you can.\r
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So now - we leave come to one of the most exciting portions of the book - and of all the Bible - the Rapture of the church!\r
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13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.\r
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The Thessalonians were so focused on the return of Christ that they wondered what happened to those died before He came back - would they miss the kingdom of God? No, says Paul.\r
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The great question that faces all men - but which all men try not to deal with is "what happens after I die?" Funerals are a place where this question cannot be denied - and so pastors that I know love to do funerals simply for the reason of sharing the gospel in an environment when hearts are sometimes the most open.\r
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1. We have hope (verse 13)\r
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2. When Jesus comes back, we'll come back with him \r
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Jude 14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,\r
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3. Verse 16 - we don't know if these three things (shout, angel, trumpet) are the same thing or three different things. The Shout is the command of a military leader - and the trumpet blast signaled an extraordinary event.\r
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4. Remember that we move out of time and space when we die - so its quite possible that to someone who dies it will seem like they instantly go to be with Jesus then come back for us who are still alive - as if no time has passed - they "sleep"\r
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5. "Caught Up"\r
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Greek: Harpazo - translated in Latin Raptus - English: Rapture.\r
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Means: To snatch away violently - like pulling down a ripe piece of fruit off of a tree. \r
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1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.\r
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6. This is meant as an encouragement - not to worry about what happens to loved ones - God knows each heart and will never lose one of His own.\r
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Conclusion\r
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Don't let the Lord's patience lull you to sleep\r
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Keep up your relationship with Him\r
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Let Him change you into His character - who knows how He'll use that in eternity\r
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Be an active believer - in ministry, in relationships, don't withdraw from society - affect it! The Christian life is one of activity - not passivity!\r
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Don't lose heart that He's taking so long (Jesus was supposed to come back in 1973 by one account - I didn't become a Christian until 1976)\r
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