A Faithful Church in Uncertain Times

Dustin Folden August 23, 2020 1 Thessalonians 4
Outline

Acts 1:6 - So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 17:2-3 - And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”

Acts 17:4-5 - And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.

Acts 17:6-7 - When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

Acts 17:11 - Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Acts 17:14 - Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-7 - But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith…

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 - We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…

1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 - You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

2 ways to make an impact in a troubled world

I. Be People of Excelling Love

v. 9 – Now as to the love of the brethren…

1 Thessalonians 1:3 - …constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 - For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

Luke 19:12-13 - So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’”

Matthew 24:36 - But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

A. Because love is part of your new nature – v. 9

1 Thessalonians 4:9 - Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another…

Luke 22:20 - And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood…”

1 Corinthians 11:25 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Jeremiah 31:33-34 - “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

Romans 5:5 - …and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

B. On the foundation of the progress you have already made – v. 10a

1 Thessalonians 4:10 - …for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia…

1 Thessalonians 1:3 - …constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love…

C. With the goal and excitement of getting to an even better place – v. 10b

1 Thessalonians 4:10 - But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more…

1. by leading a quiet life – v. 11a

2. by working hard – v. 11b

3. by relating well to those who do not yet know Christ – v. 12

II. Be People of Unwavering Hope

A. Because of the future of those who have already died in Christ

“I was not; I became; I am not; I care not”

1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 - For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 John 3:2 - We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

B. Because of our assurance of what will happen when Jesus will return for His church

1 Thessalonians 4:17 - Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

C. Because of the great comfort we have in Jesus

1 Thessalonians 4:18 - Comfort one another with these words…

- would you agree with me this morning that we are living in days of unprecedented need?...

- there may be more fear and anxiety and worry in the culture in which we live than at any other point in our natural lifetimes…

- whether we’re talking about the campus, local schools, racial tensions, what’s occurring in many cities, the upcoming election…

- here’s a corresponding question…what does our culture need from the church of Jesus Christ right now?...

- what does our country need?...what does our community need?...what does the campus need?...

-A group of People who constantly point to the great love of Christ and the Great hope in Christ….

As I studied our passage for today, I was impacted by the Church of Thessalonica and how they did just that… how they impacted their culture, their community….in part I was impacted because of the history of that city and how opposed to the Gospel it was, and then how much of an impact the church, the followers of Christ in Thessalonica, had for the Gospel in all Macedonia.

- the history is that some in Thessalonica received the Gospel, but some not only did not receive the gospel, but stirred up the city in a mob so that Paul and his team were driven out…then Paul and his team down to Berea…and that’s where we have the famous verse that says…Acts 17:11 - Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

- then some of the Jews from Thessalonica heard about that, and went down to Berea and stirred up trouble there…and the end of that part of the story is…Acts 17:14 - Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there.

- so you walk away from all of that thinking – what is to become of this church, these people who had trusted Christ in the midst of all this chaos and turmoil…

- and that concerned Paul so much, that he sent Timothy back to check on them…and to Paul’s delight…the news hardly could have been any better…

- 1 Thessalonians 3:6–7 - But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith;

- this church was doing amazingly well…Jesus keeps His promise to build His church and accomplish His plan…

- that’s why Paul opened the letter we call 1 Thessalonians, which chronologically is a book of the bible he penned very early in his writings…and said this about them…

1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 - We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…

- 1 Thessalonians 1:6–7 - You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

- there’s the kind of church the country needs, the community needs …and this morning we’re going to look at a passage right in the middle of this book…that describes A Faithful Church in Uncertain Times

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to 1 Thessalonians 4…

- we’re coming down to the end of our series of Overcoming Fear and Worry

- but we are to continue to grow throughout the rest of 2020, no matter what it may hold…until the Lord returns.

- read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18

- so we’re talking about A Faithful Church in Uncertain Times, and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 2 ways to make an impact in a troubled world.

I. Be People of Excelling Love

- in the section we are studying… Paul begins verse 9 with the words…

- v. 9 – Now as to the love of the brethren…

- here’s what Bible students believe was happening in this church…during his relatively short time with them, Paul at some point taught them about the imminence of the second coming of Christ…

- in other words, no one knows when Jesus will return for His church and then begin the 7 year period of judgment on the earth described in the book of Revelation, but because it could happen at any moment, we ought to live and make decisions on the basis of that reality…

- well, thank the Lord…these people believed what Paul had taught them…

- Paul commends them early in the book…

- 1 Thessalonians 1:3 - constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

- that becomes the threefold outline for the rest of chapter 1…and the “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” part is expanded at the end of the chapter…

- 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10 - For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

- that’s another great way to describe the process of coming to Christ…turning from idols to serve a living and true God…

- however it appears that some of the people in this church had latched onto the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ to the point that at least 2 problems had developed…

- some people stopped working or focusing on the daily responsibilities of the everyday Christian life…I’m going to sit here and wait until Jesus comes…

- others were very troubled because what happened to the believers who had died between when they received the gospel and when Jesus returned…would the so-called “dead in Christ” miss His return…or would their bodies be left behind in their graves?...

- you can imagine that those two issues could dramatically impact a church’s ability to function in proclaiming the gospel of Christ…

- they needed to remember truth like Jesus taught in the parable of the minas…

- remember Luke 19 when the Lord said this…

- Luke 19:12–13 - So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.

- that’s the situation the Thessalonians were in…and that’s the situation we’re in…

- the “do business with this until I come back” phase…

- Jesus also made this clear…Matthew 24:36 - But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

We see here that future hope is always to have present implications…Because of What Jesus did in the past and because He is returning in the future…we are to love one another in the present.

- so we are to seek to be people of excelling love….please look carefully at verse 9…

A. Because love is part of your new nature – v. 9

- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 - Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

- if you wanted to be the devil’s advocate – I suppose you could ask, well then Paul…why are you writing it?...

- but this is actually a very powerful motivator and its laden with hope…

- take this quick rabbit trail with me…the OT contains a series of covenants…you could say that’s the skeleton on which the OT hangs…I’m speaking especially about the Abrahamic covenant, and the Mosaic covenant, and the Davidic covenant, and the New covenant…there are others, but those are the four primary ones…

- the new covenant is spoken of towards the end of OT history – in Jeremiah 31…

- that one is so important because remember at the Lord’s Table…Jesus lifted the cup and He said…

Luke 22:20 - And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood…”

- Paul repeats that in the passage we read every time we celebrate the Lord’s table together…

1 Corinthians 11:25 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

- if you’re tracking with me logically, one of the questions is – what are the primary provisions of the New Covenant?...

- Jeremiah 31:33–34 - But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

- ultimately this and all the provisions of all the biblical covenants will be fulfilled completely after the 7-year tribulation when Christ returns to earth with his bride the church and establishes His kingdom on the throne of David…

- but because we personally know the king, we are enjoying some of the first fruits of those provisions…”this cup is the new covenant in my blood…”

- that means – when a person trusts Christ as Savior and Lord…the law of God is written on your heart…that’s why you don’t need someone else to write to you…

- loving others, putting them first, because Christ died for you is not something that is onerous, inconvenient…or impossible to understand in light of the New Covenant

- the more you focus on your relationship with Jesus…being in Christ…the more you live in light of your identity in Christ…the more naturally loving others comes…because you connect everything to the New Covenant you are in with the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

- and our culture, and our community, and our campus desperately needs people who will move away from self-focused fear and anxiety and move toward sacrificial love for others…

- and that brings us to a very important point in this series – the antidote to sinful fear…biblically speaking…is sacrificial love…

- 1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

- why is that?...because fear focuses on what I might lose…and it becomes an endless, downward spiral that is exhausting and self-consuming…

- love switches the paradigm…it reverses the focuses…it changes your whole worldview on how you view God, the World, other people, and of course yourself.

- now, as if it couldn’t get any better…the Holy Spirit is actively involved in this process from Day 1 of your Christian life…

- Romans 5:5 - and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

- So…what should our church family be doing this fall?...letting the Holy Spirit work in and through us – making us the most sacrificially loving people we can possibly be…I am in a covenant with God…and He is at work in and through me…each day.

- each day should be filled with you giving up what you want to love and serve other people because of the New Covenant of Christ’s blood.

That sort of growth and progress is made …

B. On the foundation of the progress you have already made – 10a

- Paul went on to say -- 1 Thessalonians 4:10 - for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia…

- this church was not starting from ground zero…and neither are we…by God’s grace…there were times this week you focused on loving and serving others…

- remember – that was part of the initial commendations…the Thessalonians were known for this…

1 Thessalonians 1:3 - constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love…

- that’s an interesting turn of a phrase…these people had been working at it…

- by the way – in case you’re wondering, throughout this book there are different original words used for love – sometimes it’s philew [brotherly love], at other times its agapa [sacrificial love]…I don’t think we need to try to tease out any differences in the way Paul is using the words…they appear to be more interchangeable here than anything else…

…but don’t you want that to be said of us?...

-The people of Faith Church are extremely loving people….

and what’s Paul’s follow-up admonition?...

C. With the goal and excitement of getting to an even better place – 10b

- 1 Thessalonians 4:10 - …But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,

The point is wherever we are by God’s grace…we cannot stop growing in love…we must keep going until the Lord returns.

- so what does that specifically mean for people like us this fall?...let me offer several concrete examples…

  1. Take time to check on your brothers and sisters during this time when we can’t meet together as regularly and normally…
    1. The people of the Thessalonian church cared about each other…it wasn’t about one pastor checking on everyone…they had a love for each other.
    2. Who is the last person in the church family you have checked on, been praying for, been concerned about…so many of you are doing this…but we all can excel still more.

- our challenge to you this fall is that FC be known for our extravagant love for one another and our community…to represent Christ in that way…we must

2. Invite Someone to take an FCI class with you so you can grow together…if you have not taken that step to join the church and enter into a covenant with other followers of Christ…we have one of the easiest ways to do that…We have an online Intro to Faith in Sept.

3. As you interact in the community…Avoid at all costs snarky-ness to people just trying to do their jobs during COVID…instead let your word be packed with loving kindness, gratitude, patience and thankfulness.

- Pastor Aucoin was recently in the hospital for blood clots, and before he was dismissed, he thanked the nurse for serving him so well and for serving the community during such a difficult time…she just stopped and had to process that as our appreciation for one another wanes as the pandemic continues…but as the people of God…our love is to excel still more no matter the season.

4. Here’s another great one – serving down at the Hartford Hub with urban children or at the NCC with our new Northend Teens program…

- the Hartford Hub is the neighborhood Center we built right down the hill in the northend…

- it’s open Monday-Friday 3-6 as a place to hang out with neighborhood children, help with their homework, and just be a consistent presence in the lives of these kids…

- contact Bob Anderson at banderson@faithlafayette.org if you would like to talk about volunteering…[develop the grad who just contacted us this week – because of COVID, I’m going to be in the area longer, how/when/where can I serve?]…

- we’re also starting a brand new teen ministry at the NCC…we would love to have you volunteer in this program…

- all of this starts on August 31st

- you can also Text Pastor Bob Anderson at 847-873-4762

- also, please pray for Pastor David Mora and his family as they move here in the next couple of weeks, Lord willing…

- Pastor Mora is our newest staff member and I can’t tell you how excited I am for this addition to our team…

- it was only by the providence of God that we were able to construct the Northend Community Center how/when we did – just prior to everything that’s occurred with George Floyd and others…

- we’ve made it clear we want to promote racial unity and harmony and love through incarnational life-on-life friendships and relationships…

- we don’t have time for politics…or arguments…or honestly – we don’t even have time for fear and worry…because we’re just too busy trying to be people of excelling love…that’s why we want to…grow in love…by

  1. by leading a quiet life – v. 11a
    1. It wasn’t about getting a following of people to support you.
  2. by working hard – v. 11b
    1. It isn’t about expecting others to supply your needs
  3. by relating well to those who do not yet know Christ – v. 12
    1. That way you can share with others about Christ from a testimony of someone who does not use others or expect others to serve them.

- now, how does this last portion of the chapter fit into all of this?...

II. Be People of Unwavering Hope

A. Because of the future of those who have already died in Christ

- many in our culture are wondering like never before – what happens when you die?...what happens when a loved one dies?...

- Paul says - 1 Thessalonians 4:14–16 - For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

- Scripture teaches that when a followers of Christ die – their souls immediately are in the presence of the Lord…as in 2 Cor. 5:8 – “to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”…that’s why Jesus told the thief on the cross that that day he would be him in paradise…

- the next step in the eschatological timetable…[end time events] is when Christ returns for His church…

- this is why we don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope…we do believe Jesus died and rose again…

- so according to the word of the Lord, Paul says – when Jesus descends with a shout, accompanied by the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God – what happens?...the bodies of the dead in Christ rise first…

- that’s why John said…1 John 3:2 - …We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

- but think about all of those in our church family who have preceded us in death…they go first…there is a specific plan even for their resurrected bodies…

B. Because of our assurance of what will happen when Jesus will return for His church

- what happens next?...

- 1 Thessalonians 4:17 - Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

- this is where we get the idea of the rapture…

- this is why we do not fear death…because we know that because we are in Christ – we will always be with the Lord…

- This is why we have hope…bc there is something (Someone) wonderful and amazing and powerful to look forward to….

-In Roman and Greek cities, when a general or a dignitary would come the city would go out to meet them as they entered…it was this huge celebration…The bible even talks about this as Kings go out and come in before the people…

- MAYBE MOVE UNDER NEXT POINT?

- Don’t you love how the Thessalonians are concerned about their brothers and sisters in Christ who they do not want to miss the greatest celebration of majesty the world has ever known…

-even more so, isn’t it amazing that the comfort Paul provides is that your brothers and sister in Christ who died…they will rise first….this is an extension of loving the brethren…focusing on others going, giving honor to others….the way we are comforted is by putting others first…not putting ourselves first…and the result is that we can all enjoy the celebration.

- So if we are to focus on putting others first at the resurrection…we can do that now..put others first in love each and every day became of what we are looking forward to…

We are to be people of hope…looking forward to something wonderful…and because of that we are to have comfort and we are to comfort each other…because

C. Because of the great comfort we have in Jesus

- I Thessalonians 4:18 - Comfort one another with these words

- and when we think about this fall – we want as many people in our sphere of influence as possible to have observed the compelling example of a loving follower of Christ, followed by a clear presentation of the gospel…

- so those around us can be comforted with these words as well…

Dustin Folden

Roles

Pastor of Discipleship & Extension Ministries - Faith Church

Bio

B.S - Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Dustin Folden and his wife Trisha joined the Pastoral Staff in 2010. They have two children, Mackenna & Sawyer. They enjoy playing board games, cooking together and going on hiking adventures. Pastor Folden shepherds the 9:30 worship service, oversees the Adult Bible Fellowship ministry, the Wednesday evening Faith Community Institute as well as serves in Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries.

Read Dustin Folden's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Folden to Faith Church.