A Proper Walk (chapter 4:9-12)
One Step at a Time
A Proper Walk
I Thessalonians 4:9-12
There is a theme that develops quite early in the book of 1 Thessalonians that lends itself very easily to our call to follow Christ. In chapter 1, verse 6 Paul acknowledges that these young believers are "followers of God". And in so many words, he reminds them that God called and they followed.
In fact, it was receiving God's word that resulted in their salvation. And God, having placed them in a fellowship of believers, under the teaching of the word desires that they walk in a way that demonstrate His work in their lives.
In chapter 2, he reminds them to "walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
In chapter 4, verse 1, he says, "you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;"
And as we learned last week, God's goal, in fact, God's will is sanctification. We see that in verse 3 of chapter 4.
Sanctification simply means that we are set apart for God. We are to be distinct and different, unusual, if you will because of our separation from sin and our commitment to the things of God.
Now, it occurs to me that verse 3 is really kind of the blanket verse which carries us all the way through to the conclusion of the letter.
For the remainder of the letter he is going to discuss practical living, the fleshing out of our Christian faith, and he begins that discussion with this verse about sanctification. "For this is the will of God, your sanctification."
Now, sanctification has a negative aspect and it also has a positive aspect. To be sanctified, there are some things we have to leave alone and there are some things we have to embrace. Last week we dealt with one of those negatives. In order to walk with God and live a sanctified life, we must abstain from sexual immorality.
But there is also a positive side to being sanctified and that's what Paul is dealing with in the verses before us this morning. And once again, we find Paul returning to this familiar theme as he introduces another dimension of our Christian walk.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
In this section, the focus is on how to walk in relationship with other Christians. And he addresses very practical things like your how you work at your job and your impact on lost people.
Now this is real-world stuff because every day you and I come in contact with lost people. We encounter people who do not know the Lord as their Savior. So Paul meets that issue head on as he talks about how to be a positive influence on the world around us. He is connecting our Christianity with our daily walk with God.
Jesus said that we are in the world, but we are not of the world. That is, if you are saved you still live in the world. You go to the same job. You are involved in the same settings. You are in the world, but you are not of the world. Unfortunately, one of the real tragedies of modern Christianity is that there are those who say they are believers who are not only in the world, they are also of the world. It is one of the major concerns of the Christian faith today.
Not long ago, Christian researcher George Barna wrote, as a result of his research regarding the church said, "We find very, very few instances where Christians look any different from anybody else in their values, attitudes, behaviors, and relationships. They are almost a mirror image of those you find among non-Christians.
Christians do not act differently because they do not think differently. They do not really understand what their faith has to do with every dimension of their lives. One of the greatest challenges is to help believers understand how the Christian faith should influence every thought and every word and every perception we have."
Apparently many of us who claim to be believers have never made the connection between our Christian faith and our daily behavior. Does it make any difference that you are a Christian? Does it affect the way you live and act and respond? Does it affect you out on the job? Does it impact your marriage and the way you raise your children? Students, does it affect the way you act at school?
We attended the basketball games at Ardmore High school this past Tuesday evening. Lisa and I were some of the last ones leaving the gym as I'm usually talking with someone. I was visiting with a friend who's grandson is a starter on the high school team, when one of the teachers came up to us and thanked us for the way we are raising our boys. He talked about how much he appreciated their behavior in class and they way they conduct themselves around the school. And it's not the first time he's talked with me about that.
As I pondered on that, I realized that all those boys are faithful Christians being raised by faithful Christians. And I don't say that to brag on us or them, although it wouldn't hurt some kids to be bragged on when they do the right thing, I share it to illustrate the way it's supposed to work.
I've just got the idea that it's not the school's responsibility to discipline my children. That's my job as a father. In fact, as I told this teacher if there is every a time when what you say is not the case, let me know as quickly as you can so I can get it fixed!
He didn't think that would ever happen, but I reminded him it is a very real possibility because they've got some of me in 'em!
I find it extremely embarrassing as a Christian that Barna has to say what he says about us because when you study the New Testament you will find that it very clearly indicates that it should make a difference if you know Jesus as your personal Savior. Shouldn't your life be different if you know Jesus as your Savior?
And I'll tell you this, if nothing changed after you walked down the aisle and through the baptismal waters, then chances are that nothing happened before you walked down the aisle and through the baptismal waters.
If you are saved you are a new creature, and it ought to change your life. It ought to change your language. It ought to change your habits. It ought to change your values. It ought to change your standards. It out to change your ethics. It out to change everything about us.
And in this text, Paul points out three areas in particular that are affected by our sanctification and he makes it easy for us to identify those three areas by using the little phrase "that you". In verse 10, as he speaks about brotherly Christian love, he says, "that you increase more and more."
Then in verse 11 he says, "that you aspire to lead a quiet life". and in verse 12 "that you walk properly toward those who are outside". Let's take them one at a time. First, he talks about
1. Christian Love
The first mark of walking properly is the way we love one another, and notice, he says God Himself is our teacher. There are some things God teaches us as a member of the family of God. That tells me that Christian love is so important that God takes personal responsibility for this lesson. We are taught by God to love one another.
Now that makes all kinds of sense because nature determines action. What you are determines your action. For instance, a fish swims because it is the nature of a fish to swim. A bird flies because it is the nature of a bird to fly. God loves. Why? Because God's nature is love. Therefore, it is His nature to share and show love.
When you and I are born again, we become a member of God's family. We take on God's nature. So if God's nature is to love, now we have the nature of God and it is our nature to love.
Romans 5, verse 5 says this. "For the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." When you get saved the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in your heart. The Spirit of God comes and dwells in your heart and the Spirit of God teaches you to love.
In fact, so elemental is that to our faith that 1 John 4:8 says, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
See, it's easy to evaluate whether or not you are a Christian. Are you loving to other people? is the love of God evident in your life? Do others sense God's love when they are around you?
If not, then you need to think about what we're reading here. Paul says, "You don't need anybody to reach you anything about how to love one another because God Himself will see to it that you know how to do it."
Then, in verse 10, he adds this caveat:
"You don't anyone to teach you. You just need to make sure you do it and you increase you're doing of it."
That's his way of saying he wants their love for one another to grow more and more and become more and more evident.
So how does God teach us to love one another and how does God help our love to grow? One of the ways God does that is to put us in situations which become opportunities to love. Let me give you an example.
Maybe you have a real crabby, unlovely neighbor. That neighbor can be so obnoxious and irritating. Your first reaction is to give him a piece of your mind. But God works on you and tells you that you need to pray for that neighbor. You don't know what is going on in the life of that neighbor. As you begin to pray for that neighbor, God teaches you to love that crabby, ornery neighbor.
Maybe you find yourself in a situation at school. There's some in your class who are obnoxious. They just rub you the wrong way. You say, "I can't love them!" But God says, "Let me show you how to love them. After all, I loved you so you should learn to love them the same way!"
It may be a spouse or an in-law or a co-worker or a multitude of other possibilities. But God puts us in these situations to make us pray, to humble us, and to teach us how to love people.
You'll find that sometimes the people who were the most difficult when you initially meet them and cause you to pray the most, before it is over they will become some of your best friends. God can teach you to love one another.
One of the ways we walk properly is through Christian love.
Second, we walk properly through
2. Christian Labor
Here's the second "that you" amd it addresses our work habits.
As you read this letter, you find Paul gives a lot of press time to the second coming of Christ. Apparently, this young church had received a lot of instruction and information about the return of Christ, some of it right and soem of it wrong.
And because of all this information, there were some believers in Thessalonica who had gotten so caught up in the idea of the second coming that it was affecting their behavior and their activity in a negative way. Some were no longer working as they waited on the Lord, and it appears they were making it their business to be critical of others and stirring up trouble in the church.
So Paul says "You should work hard at living a quiet life." I think the best understanding of that word "quiet is calmness. The word used here doesn't mean not to speak. It really means to be calm. To be tranquil.
And what he's getting at is the truth of the Lord's coming again should cause us as believers to have a calmness and tranquility and a sincerity about us that is unlike anything this world knows. It is a call for us to quietly go about our responsibilities. Make it your ambition to be calm and serene and tranquil.
Then he adds, "mind your own business". That phrase deserves a sermon all its own! He is telling them to keep their nose out of everybody else's business. Don't be a busybody.
He will address this again in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 11
A busybody is somebody that gets in your business. Minds your business. Do you know people like that? I do. They don't tend to their business. They try to tend to everybody else's business.
What you and I should do as Christians is keep our hearts in other people's business but keep our noses out of it. Mind your own business. Do your own work. Wouldn't that solve a lot of problems? Wouldn't that help our relationships with one another? If everybody would just do their own work and stay out of everybody else's work!
Then thirdly, "work with your own hands". And apparently, this isn't the first time this subject has come up since he says, "as we commanded you". And it wasn't the last time it came up either since he address it again in
2 Thessalonians 3:10
Simply put, he is saying that if you are a believer, you ought to be a good worker. Apparently some folks in the church of Thessalonica, weren't being good witnesses through their work.
So Paul's instruction is get a job and make a hand so you can take care of yourself and be a good witness.
In fact, the Bible makes it very simple. If you don't work, you don't eat. If you get hungry enough you'll work.
Obviously, this is not talking about unemployment and going through difficult times. This is talking about a way of life and people being too lazy to work, expecting others to take care of them.
There is nothing wrong with work. Work roots all the way back to the Garden of Eden where we find Adam and Eve working before the fall. Work was not a result of sin. Toil and sweat were the results of the sin. If you are able, you have a responsibility to work, and that is especially true if you are a Christian.
Paul's point is Christians walk properly before God when they faithfully work. Make it your goal to live a calm and tranquil life, trusting God, mind your own business and work with your own hands while you await the return of Christ.
The third "that you" instruction is
3. Christian Lifestyle
Here he addresses how our lifestyle as a believer should be attractive to lost people and draw them to the Lord.
"Those who are outside" is an interesting phrase. We find some commentary on it in
1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Notice he address both those "outside" and those "inside". Those are scriptural references to the spiritual condition of every human who has ever lived. Those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior are "inside" and those who are not saved are "outside".
Do you remember what Jesus said in Luke 14 when He gave the parable of the great banquet? He said, "Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in."
In John 6, verse 37, He said, "He that comes to Me, I will by no means cast out." Same terminology. Those who are saved are within. Those who are lost are without.
That means that everyone here is either inside or outside. You may be in the building, but the important thing is whether or not you are in Christ.
Now here's the deal: You and I who are within have a responsibility to live in such a way that Jesus will be attractive to those who are without. That's why back in I Thessalonians 4:12 he says "Walk properly."
That means decently or honestly. It roots back to words like respectable and honorable or appropriate. I like the word influential, especially in light of the context. The idea is that of expressing your Christian influence through your lifestyle. And notice the direction of that walk: "toward those that are outside."
If you have a lost boss, the fact that you do a good job, that you put in an eight-hour day for eight hours of pay, is a good testimony. If you have a lost teacher at school, the fact that you are a good student and do the very best you can is a good testimony. Whatever area it may be in your relationship to a lost world, you are to behave in an appropriate way so that those who observe you are pointed toward Christ.
Then he adds the little phrase, "that you may lack nothing". The phrase is connected back to verse 11 and the responsibility to be a god worker so that you don't have to beg from others.
Eugene Peterson handles it this way: "Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends."
Now, you may be asking, does it really make any difference how I live?
Between 1991 and 2007, Fuller Theological Seminary surveyed 750 former Muslims to fill out an extensive questionnaire about how they came to decide to become a Christian.
The respondents were from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups, representing every major region of Islam. They were asked to rank the relative importance of different influences that brought them to Christ.
What they reported to have had the most influence on them to reject Islam, and all that means, and come to Christ was the lifestyle of Christians. They said things like there was no gap between profession and practice. They treat women as equals. They loved others rather than being unloving toward people who were different. The most powerful witness to people entrenched in the Islamic way of life was a consistent Christian witness.
I have an idea if it will work with Muslims, it will work with anybody, including those you rub shoulders with.
Now the sermon boils down to this: Are you IN or are you OUT? If you are out, the good news is today you can come in and join the family.
If you are IN, then live like it! By the way you love, labor and live, let anyone who is watching know that you are walking with God.