Monthly Archives: August 2015

A LIFE OF INFLUENCE

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A Life of Influence by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 4:1-4:12

FOLLOW THE LEADER – A Life of Influence
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (pg. 825) August 30, 2015

Introduction:

There is a huge difference between love and lust that this world will never grasp…Love always flourishes and grows when “the need and desires of the other person are put first.” Lust always has a selfish motive…meet my needs…meet my desires…the other person simply exists for this purpose.

Love takes real effort…self denial and sacrifice…Lust takes no real effort, because its very purpose is to gratify my desires…right now.

[Here’s a good example…suppose you’ve made a commitment to eat healthy…you’re trying to be healthy…and low carb. is the way you’ve chosen to go…and your wife brings home a delicious, sprinkle covered, chocolate glazed donut in a little white bag (One she got free for filling up her car). This is all a pretend circumstance mind you!!! And suppose the health conscious husband sees that bag on the counter for two days. He’s opened it and smelled it at least four times. He lusts for this doughy, delectable pastry…and begins to think…One donut won’t hurt…It’ll go to waste if I don’t eat it soon.

This donut and milk would be awesome…the tipping point for giving in is really close. Thankfully the pretend minister’s grandson ate the only hypothetical donut before “lust” won.]

The Apostle Paul is writing to us as believers in our study this morning to live in a world of donuts, as did the people in Thessalonica.

And followers of Christ have made a more important commitment than to eat healthy. We have made a commitment to live in order to please God. We have made a decision to continually grow up to be like Jesus… “more and more! It’s an intentional decision to seek God’s will and God’s Word as we follow our leaders’ instructions.

What kind of life is that? What kind of life is worth following?

I. A LIFE THAT PLEASES GOD

There are 4 ways we can live our lives:

1. We can live a life of reaction. Something happens to us and we react to it…something makes us angry…we explode…something tempts us…we give into it…It’s the default setting that most people choose to live by. I lose my job…I find another…I lose my relationship…I find another. We go through the same motions over and over again until something forces us to change…and usually we then revert right back to the same life. We live life reacting as we go along…a lot of the time we react the same way over and over again. It’s a dangerous way to live. When you were 17 your reaction to bad things was you got high and ate Cheetos in your basement. And you wonder why at 33 you still react to bad things by getting high and eating Cheetos in your basement.

The second way we can live life is:

2. We live a life of conformity. We allow the crowd to shape our lives. We float along on the current of popular opinion. We choose to make appearance more important than reality….because we want others to “like us.” We thrive on others liking us. It’s a dangerous way to live according to author Leo Buscaglia because “The easiest thing to be is you. The hardest thing to be is the you others think you should be.” It’s a chore to live your life trying to please a fickle crowd.

Or you can choose a third way to live:

3. We live a life of rebellion. We reject authority, every authority…our parents, our teachers, our leaders. No one is going to tell “me” what to do, not even God. We fight…we reject “old foundational” truths…for more current ideas. It’s a dangerous way to live because it’s built on pride, and self determination. It’s a life that seeks independence from all.

Or as the Apostle Paul advises us we choose:

4. We can live an intentional life. A life with purpose and direction…a life that believes in a Creator, who has become our heavenly Father. We choose to surrender to His will and plan. We choose to live in a way that pleases Him….We choose to believe we were created by Him for this very reason.

We stop living for self and choose to serve Him.

Choosing to live this life in a sexually promiscuous society will require intentionality and a power greater than this world offers.

“Learning to control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like pagans (unbelievers) who do not know God, requires “being sanctified.”

Sanctified is a biblical way of saying “set apart” for God’s use.

[In the OT the tabernacle was “set apart” for God’s use by Moses and the Israelites in the journey to the Promised Land…when Solomon built the temple…it was sanctified, set apart for God’s dwelling place…The Holy of Holy places…was “Holy” because “God dwelt there.” His presence would fill the mercy seat, between the golden cherubim on top of the Ark of the Covenant. A curtain kept everyone out, even the Holy Priest who could only enter it once a year…on the day of atonement, when blood sacrifices were made for the sins of everyone, including the priests. The writer to the Hebrews talks about this old covenant in Chapter 9

HEBREWS 9:1-8 (p. 842)

As long as the tabernacle and temple stood, the real way into the most Holy place hadn’t been disclosed. What does this mean for a world that has witnessed Jesus dying on a cross, and then conquering death 3 days later?

What does this mean when it comes to us living a “sanctified” life that pleases God?

II. OUR BODIES HAVE BECOME THE TEMPLE WHERE GOD LIVES

When the Lord called us to leave our sin and live a holy life (v. 7) He also is the very God who gave us His Holy Spirit to make it possible.

When we make the intentional choice to surrender our sin for cleansing in the blood of Jesus, it requires our death, burial and resurrection. Baptism isn’t the “washing of dirt from our bodies. It’s a commitment to God to wash our hearts” according to 1 Peter 3:21. It’s when we receive the indwelling gift of His Spirit…it’s when our bodies become temples that house His presence.

Now God lives in us…while we live in a very immoral world…a world that revolves around lust much more than love. God intended sex to be an absolutely beautiful art of oneness between a husband and wife. The two becoming one flesh…Satan twists the gift of God into lust. It’s like trading filet mignon for a .99 McDonalds cheeseburger…but Satan focuses on our hunger…and the Spirit of Esau, which wants immediate gratification.

Thessalonica was similar to our culture…It was a sexually driven culture. One of their Philosophers: Demosthenes wrote “We have prostitutes for pleasure. We have mistresses for the day to day needs of our bodies and we have wives for the bearing of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.”

Men held the upper hand in Roman culture, but sex dominated it’s culture and affected everyone. It was men and women who came out of this culture, but were now committed to God and each other…like Christians now…the culture was the same, but now they weren’t…because the Holy Spirit was leading them and us:

III. TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER

When the Holy Spirit is at work in us we begin to clearly put others in a place of value…we stop wronging people and taking advantage of them.

Paul says that a message Christians have obviously received, and it’s one God punishes when we haven’t…because it’s a rejection of His Spirit.

Remember He writes “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact you do love all of God’s family.

Love isn’t something you’ll learn in a class, or can memorize in a Standard lesson. God is love, and if He’s present in your body it shows in how you treat people…all people.

James Michener, writing in his book, The Source, tells the story of a man named Urbaal, who was a farmer living about 2200 B.C. He worshiped two gods, one a god of death, the other a goddess of fertility. One day, the temple priests tell Urbaal to bring his young son to the temple for sacrifice–if he wants good crops. Urbaal obeys, and on the appointed day drags his wife and boy to the scene of the boy’s “religious execution” by fire to the god of death. After the sacrifice of Urbaal’s boy along with several others, the priests announce that one of the fathers will spend next week in the temple, with a new temple prostitute. Urbaal’s wife is stunned as she notices a desire written more intensely across his face than she had seen before, and she is overwhelmed to see him eagerly lunge forward when his name is called. The ceremony over, she walks out of the temple with her head swimming, concluding that “if he had different gods, he would have been a different man.”

The Thessalonians now have a different God! So do we! No longer serving the gods of death and sexuality…we serve the Resurrection and life.

When a selfish, self centered, controlling husband became a gentle, genuine, giving mate and partner Love Wins over lust. When a critical, complaining, bitter woman becomes an encouraging, thankful, genuine friend…love wins.

When busy bodies make it their ambition to mind their own business and seek unity and peace over entertainment…Love wins!

There will be good days…and there will be bad days. There will be setbacks and failures…and there will be mountaintops and victories…but because you’ve chosen a life on intentionality your daily life wins respect and your self-worth doesn’t depend on someone else.

You know you are loved by a Savior regardless of the circumstances, your victory comes because of His presence in you…not what is present in this world.

In verse 9 Paul chooses a word that really strikes me as an intentional choice. When he talks about loving one another he doesn’t use the word “agape” for love. Agape is used in John 3:16 “For God so loved (“agape”) the world…He gave His only son.

Agape is used by Jesus when He says “For this reason the Father loves (Agape) me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” in John 10:17.

But in our text Paul chooses the word “phileo” (brotherly love). It’s intentional…not an accident. Why?

[I have one brother (Sam) and I have one sister (Barby). I call her “Bubs.” I love them in a way that I don’t love anyone else. We are connected by “blood.” We are family. We’ve fought with each other, we’ve laughed with each other, we have wailed in grief with each other. We’ve seen each other at our worst and we’ve seen each other at our best. Sammy is 65…Bubs is 62 and I’m 55. We’ve been brothers and sister for a while.

I believe Paul has chosen this word because in the Church we have this kind of bond. Even as new brothers and sisters join the family…we’re family. We love each other “phileo.” We’re blood relatives…forever.

I don’t really have a choice in who my brother and sister are. My parents influenced that…And when it comes to my brothers and sisters in the family of God…I don’t get to choose…Dad does.

Maybe if we started loving each other like this we’d get past the arguments…the stuff that makes us say “I’m leaving this family and finding another I like better…maybe if we realized that our connection is meant to be forever we’d speak more cautiously and quietly. Maybe we’d say we’re sorry quicker and I love you more often…and maybe love would win again.

Let’s pray.

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ADOPTION DAY

Adoption Day by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 3:11-3:13

FOLLOW THE LEADER – Adoption Day
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (pg. 825) August 23, 2015

Introduction:

Have you ever loved someone so much that after a period of time you had to see them again? I mean you just couldn’t stand being separated from them? And maybe, because of circumstances or distance…it was impossible.

[Kari and I dated for 2 ½ years while I was in school in Knoxville, TN and she lived in Fort Pierce Florida….About 900 miles and limited funds separated us for long periods…we talked every Sunday night. I had to use a payphone in the hallway of Brown Hall at Johnson, but I could hardly stand not seeing her in person…and as soon as I got the chance I’d get in my little pick up and head south on 75.

While my son was in Iraq for almost 2 years…we got to see him once…during his 2 week furlough…we wrote to each other…emailed…calls were more difficult, but there were a few…usually “I can’t talk long Dad…we’ve got a mission, but I love you…see you soon.”

I could hardly stand it…and couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around my son.]

The apostle Paul uses that same phrase 2 times in 1 Thessalonians chapter 3….
Right after he tells the Thessalonians… “You are our joy and crown.” He says

“So when we could stand it no longer…we sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage you.”

Both Paul and the people he loves are in the middle of a war…A war of trials and persecution of their faith…He says in verse 5… “For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent (Timothy) to find out about your faith…I was anxious that in some way the tempter had pulled you away…and I was afraid our labor might have been in vain.” (v. 5)

Paul uses the word “labor.” It’ s the same word that’s used to describe what a mother endures when giving birth to a child.

I’m not sure any man has the right to use that word…but the Apostle Paul says… “Labor…pain…work” was involved in the Thessalonians being “adopted into God’s family.” His labor…Silas labor…Timothy’s labor…was a part of these believers being born again.

You see most men can biologically sire a child…but making the choice to become a father is completely different…It involves a lifetime of love, sacrifice, and time.

It made the Apostle Paul tell his adopted spiritual children “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”
(1 Thess. 3:10)

It seemed impossible for Paul to get back to Thessalonica…but he knew something about our heavenly Father.

I. GOD WILL CLEAR A WAY FOR US

There’s a song that goes “God will make a way when there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see…God will make a way for me.”

It’s why our text begins “Our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus can clear the way for us to come to you.” (v. 11) That’s what we’re praying for!!”

Faith doesn’t doubt God’s power to do anything…but it also trusts God’s plan and His timing.

Human nature…our sinful one, desires immediate comfort when we are in darkness…and immediate happiness when we’re unhappy. We plead for the thorns to be removed…There’s nothing wrong with that…it’s human nature…but faith keeps trusting God when He says…“No, my grace is sufficient for you.”

Paul tells the Thessalonians and us something important in verses 3 and 4. “We don’t want you to be unsettled by these trials. FOR YOU KNOW QUITE WELL THAT WE ARE DESTINED FOR THEM.”

I struggle a great deal with preachers. Some who preach to multitudes, who say…it’s God’s plan for you to be healthy and wealthy…Really??? It’s God’s plan for us to be like Jesus…who’s only worldly possession they gambled for while He died on a cross…Paul had a thorn in the flesh, and Peter writes,

1 PETER 4:12-14 (p. 852)

Satan is a liar…it’s his native tongue according to Jesus…And so many of us become “unsettled” in our faith because we start believing His lies…Echoes from his deception of Adam & Eve.

Why is God with holding this…He knows what you need, but won’t give it to you…you won’t die…

And we become bitter of Spirit, we become cynical in our faith…and the tempter tempts us away from the Father, and we seek to find happiness outside His will…and His way.

[I was with one of my very best friends the other day and he shared with me that after relocating…finding a church was hard…they thought they’d found one, but things didn’t work out…and they started spending weekends camping…they met some folks…these folks brought other folks who did some things he used to do in his former life…pretty soon those things were tempting again. He wanted that connection, so did His wife…He had the spiritual discernment to see what was happening…the spiritual welfare that he was engaged in…and he made the right choices for he and his family…but Satan’s a schemer isn’t he? His goal is to pull you away from your heavenly father…and he’s had a lot of practice…and a lot of success too.]

When the way seems blocked…don’t take a rabbit trail…wait for God to clear it. Faith says…I’ll trust and wait…Satan says “Come on” take the rabbit trail” and it’s important to remember God’s Word says “We all, like sheep, go astray.” All of us take the rabbit trail occasionally…Thankfully the Great Shepherd continually calls us back to the Way…the Truth…and the Life…The only way to the Father…Jesus.

If you’re on Satan’s rabbit trail today, Man!

I hope you’ll hear His Spirit calling you back…

Paul wanted to get back to the Thessalonians so bad he could hardly stand it…they needed more discipling, and as they shared with their family and friends, new believers were made…All this in the midst of persecution and trials.

Why didn’t God open a way when Paul tried to return again and again…Paul says “Satan stopped us” in verse 18…Why didn’t God unstop Satan?

I don’t know… “His ways are higher than my ways…His knowledge is perfect…mine is shadowy and incomplete, at best.”

Sometimes God says “No.” Sometimes He says “wait” and sometimes he says “go.” Or he allows someone else, like Timothy to go, maybe for Timothy’s growth and maybe he was better for the situation.

Paul believed God clears the way…in His way…and that’s the best way…so do I!!!

Have you ever had God tell you no? To a relationship…to a job…to a possession…only to discover on the other side of the “no” that something much better was waiting…This is the essence of trust…it’s the essence of trust…it’s the essence of faith.

Remember the story of Abraham & Isaac in Genesis 22 after 2 ½ decades of waiting for God to fulfill his promise to bless Sarah & Abraham with a child. When He was 100 and she was 90…she had a child of laughter…Isaac.

So when Genesis 22:2 records these words from God…it’s shocking. “Take your son…your only son, Isaac, go to the region of Moriah, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on the Mountain I will show you.”

What’s even more shocking is the next verse…“Early the next morning Abraham loaded up…and set out.”

On that mountain are a father and his son…and the son asks a heartbreaking question “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering.” And the father replies: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burn offering…and the two went on together.” Listen to the scripture:

GENESIS 22:9-18 (p. 14)

God always provides. He is always Jehovah Jireh. This 115 year old man (just a guess) had stood on smaller mountains before…passed some tests…failed others…but had reached a place he understood…He trusted…the blessing that God has planned is on the other side of faith…even if it takes a hundred years…or the raising of a knife.]

Abraham and Paul knew through faith what 1 Thessalonians 3:11 says “Our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus Christ will clear the way.”

God’s plan is always to prepare us for His blessing…The Question.

II. ARE WE LONGING FOR HIS PRESENCE?

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as our does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” (v. 12-13)

Remember Paul says “Night and Day we’ve been praying to see you again.”

Paul longs to be in the presence of the people he loves…and he longs even more to be in the presence of God His Father.

One is prevented by imprisonment and persecution one is the future hope of Jesus’ return which hasn’t happened yet.

This adopted child of God longs and needs to be with other adopted family members in worship…And more than anything else He longs to see His adopted Father. It’s why he wrote these words to the Christians in Rome…Read with me.

ROMANS 8:14-18 (p. 787)

You see our relationship with God in worship and our relationship with other adopted children is essential for two reasons. (One) our love increases and overflows (to other believers and to everyone.)

The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to others…We begin to consider others more important than ourselves. We start to use our struggles as ministry to others who struggle. The love of Jesus begins to well up in our soul…and it pours over into the lives of people…As the church, we don’t just come to a place…we gather to share our lives and love each other…and those who are so lost….We long for other children to be adopted by the same “Abba” daddy that has adopted us.

And two: Our hearts are strengthened in preparation for His return. Our hearts are the bank we deposit every thought and emotion into…both Jesus and Solomon spoke this truth…Solomon said, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23)

Jesus said “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and an evil man brings evil out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

Satan would harden our hearts, make them cynical, fill them with selfish ambition and vain conceit. He knows our nature is sinful and selfish so he finds a ready helper in our flesh. When this happens the band is filled with counterfeit notes…Our mouths speak things which hold no value. They appear to be real, but aren’t. When the Holy Spirit fills the vault. He produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. And your mouth sings praises of longing to be with God…and your mouth proclaims “good news” to everyone. No wonder guarding our heart…strenthinging our heart is something we should do “Above everything else.” It’s the bank both the Holy Spirit and the enemy want to fill.

Conclusion:

[I have these great friends: Bart and Sarah Price

SHOW PICTURE OF PRICE FAMILY

Bart was in our youth group in Louisville, and Sarah is Allen Cooper’s daughter…the camp manager at Camp Calvary, one of my best friends. I did Senior High weeks with him for over a decade. Bart and Sarah minister at Antioch Christian Church in Willisburg…My first preaching ministry…Randall Barnett’s Father, O’rear was one of my elders. This past year Bart and Sarah began the adoption process for a daughter…a little girl named Pia…she’d join her brother Joe. But it was difficult…Bulgaria and it’s regulations, rules and bureaucracy…made it almost impossible…8 weeks ago that door opened. Papers were signed…Pia became a Price. God made a way..I’ll let Sarah tell you a little about it

Read Sarah’s Story:

Throughout this entire journey we have known that God has orchestrated things! When we weren’t sure where to start, He led us to Bulgaria. When we struggled and didn’t have the money. He provided every time something was due. When we were scared or worried over details, He provided peace to cover us. He closed doors we were not to walk through, and opened doors that took our breath away and left us wondering. It was not always easy, but God was ALWAYS with us. We never felt alone. There is so much hurt and pain and mistrust woven into adoption – we are still learning, but in the difficult times we know that God is faithful. He brought us here! And we would follow Him again through all of it to bring Pia home.]

bart, sarah, joe and pia

OUR JOY AND CROWN

TROPHY

Our Joy and Crown by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 2:13-2:20

FOLLOW THE LEADER – Our Joy and Crown
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (pg. 824) August 16, 2015

Introduction:

There is an industry that’s grown by over 300% in the last decade…it’s not internet related or high tech…It’s the trophy industry

SHOW VIDEO (Real Sports Promo 45 seconds)

Don’t you love when the guy is asked “How many kids do you have out here today?” and he says “About 650.” “How many of them will get trophies?” “About 650!”

Trophies used to mean that you excelled at something…you finished first, second or at least third…Now they mean “you showed up.”

What motivation is there to win? What motivation is there to do your best and get better…if there is an assumption that I’ll get the same reward as everyone else?

The Apostle Paul writes to his son in the faith Timothy, who served with him in Thessalonica and said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 2:7)

All sports analogies…and yes, they had an emphasis on endurance, faithfulness, finishing well…but he also used a sports analogy when he wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Doesn’t quite have the same ring when it says, “Don’t you know there are a lot of runners in the race with different levels of self esteem…It doesn’t matter who runs the best…because we’re gonna award the prize to them all.”

Who cares about self denial and sacrifice? Who cares who trained hardest? Who cares who stretches for the finish line? It’s all about how I feel about myself.

That is a worldly philosophy that has invaded the hearts of many church attenders and members…It doesn’t matter how I run this race of faith…after all we all get the prize…Thom Rainer says in the book “I Will” “When we have this kind of mentality we do not serve. Instead we seek to be served…We’ve paid our “dues” so we expect others to work for us. Church is about me…He shares some statements that reveal this attitude:

– “I told the pastor what I wanted him to preach; he just doesn’t listen to me.”
– “I don’t like the temperature in the worship center.”
– “If we don’t change our music style, I’m not coming back. I’ll find another church that can meet my needs.”
– “Someone is in our seat/pew.”
– “The church decided not to offer the 7:30 am service anymore because only a few people are attending. Well, that’s my service. If it’s gone, so am I.”
– “The pastor did not visit my sister’s mother in law in the hospital, even though I told him to.”
– “The church voted to paint the worship center a hideous color. I am infuriated. I just might stop giving.”

You get the picture. Biblical church life is about serving, about sacrifice, about giving and about putting others before our own needs and desires…He uses a word he calls “churchianity” and says it’s about being served, receiving, getting your own way and on insisting on your needs and wants before others.

C’mon give me the prize…I showed up…C’mon give me heaven because we all get the trophy…make me feel better!

Jesus is a leader worth following…and his example was one of serving others, washing feet, taking up a cross…“for the joy that laid before Him.”

The trophy and crown for Jesus awaited for Him after the finish line. That finish line involved a cross, a tomb and a resurrection from the dead…Hebrews 12:2-3 uses this truth to encourage us “to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

He did this to save us. He knew saving people and dying for our sins was the only way we could be forgiven.

This is the essence of the gospel…it’s the Word of God, it’s His powerful message. Those who hear it and accept it become transformed by its power…It begs an important question.

I. HOW DOES THE WORD OF GOD WORK IN BELIEVERS LIVES?

Paul couldn’t thank God enough that the church in Thessalonica listened to His message, accepted it as truth…Not human truth but God’s truth…and then he says “This word is indeed at work in you who believe.”

How can he know that it’s at work in their lives? How can “we” know God’s Word is at work in our lives? That’s a pretty important question for all believers!

Paul says the first evidence is:

1. You follow Godly examples…The Thessalonians “became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.” (v. 14)

“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” the Thessalonians chose the Judean churches to imitate…Each of us know this truth – “we become like the group we align ourselves with.

It’s why Paul told the Corinthians and the Church as a whole… “Do not be misled “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)

One of the greatest dangers for the early church was groups within the family of God who chose to ignore “truth” and gather “cliques” that opposed Paul and other apostles…1 Cor. 15:33 is written to one of those groups who were questioning the “resurrection.” Some were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:12)

There is always a temptation to follow and imitate the sensational, gossip, scandal and the controversial…it happens all the time as Satan seeks to lead astray those who are not grounded in God’s Word.

There are many who have heard the Word of God, but not really accepted it as life changing truth…resurrection truth.

Who you choose to imitate will always dictate the attitude of your heart and the spiritual growth you experience…or stifle.

Remember earlier in Chapter 1 where Paul says, “You became imitators of us and the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of sever suffering with joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

Choose the godly people, like Paul, Silas and Timothy that produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit, even in the midst of difficulty to align yourself with.

There are no perfect people, other than our Lord, but any group that produces dissension and disunity because it would rather be self focused, isn’t worth imitation…but those who serve, those who are letting the Word of God flow into their daily lives and actions…connect yourself with them…The Thessalonians did…so are many of you.

Another one of the best ways to identify the people who have accepted the Word of God and love letting it work in them is:

2. It creates an “other” focus instead of an “inner focus.”

Verses 14-16 in our text is a short synopsis of what the churches in Judea suffered and what the Thessalonians were now suffering.

The suffering…the pain came from “their own people” in Thessalonica…Jesus died because He willingly laid down His life…but the mechanism that drove this event was religious Jewish leaders who plotted His death…as they had the prophets…and as they had Paul, Silas and Timothy almost everywhere they went.

The result was “this group” displeased God and became hostile to everyone (This group had fruit as well, and it was rotten and nasty).

Their goal: “To keep us from speaking so the Gentiles could be saved.”

Ironically this was a group that studied God’s Word, God’s law constantly…but never let it work in them for His glory…They wore little boxes on their bodies filled with scripture, but never saw that each one pointed toward our sin and the need for a Savior.

They hated that Jesus would open His Kingdom to people they thought were totally undeserving…Gentiles, tax collectors, Samaritans…SINNERS!!! Ironically that’s what the gospel truth is all about…It’s why Dr. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

II. PEOPLE NEED TO BE OUR JOY AND CROWN

Paul’s love for this Church in Thessalonica oozes out of every pore of his being…He felt orphaned in their absence…He intensely longed to be with them…He made every effort to see them…He considered it “Satanic work” when he was stopped.

Why? Because when he stands in the presence of Jesus at His return…It’s people like the Thessalonians being there with him that are His joy…His greatest accomplishment.

He says, “Our joy…our crown…the reason we hope…Is it not you?”

[The most precious possessions I have aren’t worth a lot of money…I have my Dad’s first toy…an Amos and Andy jalopy…it still works after 80 plus years…Dad grew up very poor…it was one of the only toys he had as a child…I’ve got the ring my mom gave me that my grandfather Dr. Back wore every day of his adult life, bent and worn through..but it’s something he treasured…This godly and good physician died before I was born…I can’t wait to meet him…I’ve got a couple of horseshoe trophies that I wouldn’t sell for any amount of money that are probably worth $5. But my most treasured is a book…it belonged to my godly grandfather…It’s not a first edition…It’s worn from constant use and it was given to me by my mother after my ordination into the ministry. It was the most influential book in my life, other than God’s Word. It’s called “In His Steps” written by Charles M. Sheldon…Its main theme “What Would Jesus Do” in our everyday lives.]

Henry Maxwell is a minister that seeks to do this and challenge his flock to do the same…Some follow his lead, some reject it as “too radical.” The book reveals the affect of those choices in both people’s lives.

The book ends with Henry Maxwell, the preacher dreaming of these people…Singers who chose service over worldly fame, Bank President who chose the kingdom of God over money. Store owners who sacrificed profit so they remained people of integrity and people who denied their master and who became “cold, and cynical” filled with bitter remorse that no worldly success could remove.”

God’s people are the key to unlocking eternity for a world that needs salvation…The New Testament is a picture of Jesus and what He did…How He loved…How He served…How He obeyed God’s will…What He did was all about people…He wore a physical crown of thorns…so Rick could be in heaven.

Paul and I have the same gratitude. A thankfulness that Jesus rescues “the worst of sinners” and then allows us to share that testimony.

My treasures…are all about the people they’re linked to…The toy, the ring, the book…And when I see Jesus face to face…after I get off the ground from hugging His feet…I’ll look for people…men and women I’ve poured my life into…people that I’ve served with, people who have helped me to be more like Jesus…and people I’ve helped be more like Jesus…each of us “casting our crowns” before the King of kings and Lord of Lords.

Let’s pray!

PLEASING GOD INSTEAD OF PLEASING PEOPLE

 Follow_the_Leader_std_t_nv  1.You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.

2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.

3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children,

8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.

11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,

12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Pleasing God Instead of Men
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (pg. 824) August 9, 2015

Introduction:

Opposition can come in many forms…It can be an outright attack, violent and physical…and it can also come more subtly…through conversations that gather support from someone who disagrees with you or your purposes. Neither are fun! And both are hard to deal with…especially for the Christ follower who is trying to guard their witness, accomplish their mission, and “be at peace with all people as much as they are able.” (Romans 12:18)

But what happens when as a leader you can’t be at peace with everyone? What happens when you are firmly convinced that for the “good news” of Jesus to be presented effectively and for the health of the body of Christ you must deal with opposition?

Paul gives an answer in our text.

“The appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you…On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people, but God; who tests our hearts.”
(1 Thess. 2:3-4)

How can you know if someone is approved by God and entrusted with the gospel? How can you be sure the leader who says follow me as I follow Jesus is worth following?

There is a test for all of us…and especially for those who would dare to lead.

I. GOD TESTS OUR HEARTS

[In 1994 I weighed 185 pounds…I’m 6 feet tall…I was playing ball several times a week. Had done 3 or 4 hundred miles hiking on the Appalachian Trail…walked when I played golf…for being 34 years old I appeared to be in pretty good shape…and I felt pretty good…but appearances can be deceiving huh?

Because on a sunny beautiful day, Friday my day off, I was playing golf at Bob-O-Link, just across the road from our house…I began to feel some pressure in my chest, and my left arm and neck started to go numb…I ignored it at first…after all I’m 34, in pretty good shape, and do a lot of physical stuff…But on the 4th hole I had a frightening realization…I’m having a heart attack…I called Kari…we went to St. Joe hospital where Dr. Joe Richardson did a stress test…which I failed…He kept me there for a heart catheterization in the morning, but before they could do it…at 4 am I had a myocardial infarction ( heart attack). They kept asking me about my pain level…from 1 to 10…Being burned was a 10 so I said 8 or so…They gave me morphine….Asked again…6 or 7…they gave me heparin an more morphine…How is it now 3 or 4…more heparin…more heparin…more morphine…How’s it now…“Uhhhh…what pain?” LOL

A heart catheterization done immediately revealed 100% blockage in one of my arteries which was treated with angioplasty surgery…a balloon inserted in my femoral artery and expanded to deal with the blockage.

Without this test the true condition of my heart would never have been revealed or fixed.]

The Apostle Paul says God has a test to reveal the true spiritual condition of our hearts…regardless of how they might appear by outside evaluations…

The test of our hearts, especially there in leadership involves internal probing as well…Does your heart’s message spring from error, impure motives, are you trying to trick people….and maybe the most revealing…“Are you trying to please God…or people?”

How can we know the motives of somene’s heart? God will test it…He’ll put our hearts under the microscope of a spiritual catheterization and reveal what flows from it…or sin that blocks it…He’ll reveal over time whether your message promotes His agenda or yours…whether your mission is to please others or please Him.

The first blockage His test reveals to effective leadership is…

1. We tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear…Why? Verse 6 tells us “We’re looking for praise from people.” Flattery is different than encouragement. Encouragement recognizes and lifts up the value of someone else…it’s positive and never uses comparisons with someone else or the negatives of another to make someone feel better…it’s something we are encouraged to do. “All the more daily as we see the Lord’s return approaching.” (Heb. 3:13, 10:25)

Flattery has another goal that’s much more selfish…you tell something to someone that you believe will make them like you…Your motive is to “butter them up” so you can get them on your side…or they’ll give you what you want.

When you lead people the temptation always exists to let their opinions be your guide instead of God’s Word. Opinions are where error and impure motives can be cultivated like germs in a Petri dish. God’s Word, scripture on the other hand…is God breathed…profitable…His commandments are sure…It’s rock solid in its truth.

Flatter will make you treat people with money and power differently than you would treat others.

You make non-kingdom judgments about who you’ll love and who you won’t. Your nice to certain people, but let a straggler…someone whose life is in rags, come in and “the blockage of your heart is clearly revealed.” James puts it this way in a very powerful Church story.

JAMES 2:1-4 (p. 847)

Discriminators…Judges with evil thoughts…evil motives…a specific revealer of our heart’s condition.

And the 2nd blockage God will reveal through His testing:

2. Those who hide behind a mask.

Why do you wear a mask? To cover up your true identity…just ask Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or a bank robber. You don’t want people to see who you really are.

Paul tells the Thessalonians “We never put on a mask to cover up greed. (selfish motives) God is our witness.” (He always is!) (v. 5)

The Word Hypocrite literally means “one who wears a mask…it comes from theatrical presentations from ancient Greece where actors would wear huge laughing masks during comedic performances and huge crying marks during tragedies.

SHOW MASK PIC

You still see them as symbols in many theaters to this day…The actor that wore the mask during the performance was called “hypocrotis” (Hypocrite).

Why is it so tempting for all of us to wear a mask? Well some of it has to do with those with spiritual heart blockages and evil motives. We’ve experienced the harshness and judgment and we think the mask protects us from their venom. If I take my mask off people will see my struggles, my failures, my sin…And if my motive is to please people instead of God I wear this mask so they’ll like me.

Paul knew as a minister and leader…The fishpond is a difficult place to swim, because people stand on the outside looking in. My belief…and I think Paul’s…is “we’re all fish swimming together in the bowl…and God is the only one who looks in. “There is nothing in all creation hidden from His sight, everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)

If you want to judge me or my family, that’s your prerogative. I’ll try to let you see my heart wide open, but even more clearly my Savior who died for my unrighteousness…and I’ll clearly tell you I need His grace just as badly today as a 55 year old minister as I did as a 17 year old pothead.

What do we as leaders, who live in the same fishbowl as everyone else, do when we encounter opposition from people, like Paul did in Thessalonica?

II. PROTECT AND GUIDE THE CHURCH LIKE THE FAMILY OF GOD

When I watch Jessica with “Caleb,” or Lori with “Landon,” or even Laura with “Evie” or Desiree with “Adeline” I get a glimpse of something more powerful than I can imagine… “a mother caring for her children.” (v. 8)

Leaders don’t protect their territory or their investment. They protect and care for God’s family like a mother does her child.

Paul says “we weren’t looking for people’s praises, yours or anyone else’s…even though as an Apostle of Christ I could have asserted that authority…I didn’t. We were like young children among you.”

And in verse 11 he says “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live a life worthy of God.”

Mother, children…fathers…sounds like a leader who wants to protect and guide the church like a family huh?

“We loved you so much we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” (v. 8)

Paul, Silas and Timothy made this happen in 3 weeks…They shared their lives, they worked in other jobs to earn money so they didn’t have to take a paycheck…They showed integrity, honesty and love…All of this said, “We’re family!”

I’m going to end this message with the protecting aspect of Dad’s for their families. It’s one of the things that fathers take most seriously…as they should. It’s why we clean guns as boys show up to date our daughters. It’s why we’re the ones that get up in the middle of the night when our wives wake us up and ask “Did you hear that?!”

As the end of Paul’s live, as he was about to sail back to Jerusalem and face the anger of the Sanhedrin and eventually his death. The last groups he spoke to were the Elders…the leaders of Thessalonica and Ephesus. Listen to one of the most powerful goodbyes that a family will ever experience:

ACTS 20:17-38 (p. 775)

This is my dad saying goodbye to Sam, Barby, me and our children on that couch in March of 2004…Time is short…words are important…love is powerfully evident.

And in the midst of this Paul is still trying to protect his family…Guard the flock…protect God’s family. “Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock…Even from your own number people will arise and distort the truth in order to gain a following.” (Acts 20:30)

How fervently does he express this truth? “Remember that for 3 years I never stopped warning you about this with tears.” (v. 31)

“Among you” and “your own” is different than the attacks that come from the jealous Jewish leadership or outside factions…It’s scarier and harder when the wolf has on a sheep’s disguise.

Paul’s not talking about minor disagreements…He’s warning these leaders with a broken heart about people who devour and attack other sheep. Sheep now under their care that ultimately belong to God.

[Suppose you had thirty 4 & 5 year olds on a playground…You and 2 or 3 other adults were supervising them…and all of a sudden a pit bull ran into their midst. He’s growling and trying to attack…Would you run away? Would you ignore the dog? Or would you do whatever it takes to protect them from being attacked and hurt…even at your own expense? This is the picture the Apostle Paul shares…This is what Paul says leaders must have a heart for…protect your family…guide them to safety.]

This is hard work…sometimes dangerous work. That’s why it must be something a person desires to do…and is gifted by God to do. We’ll examine this section of scripture in more depth towards the end of the series…but I’ll close with Paul’s final instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-15 (p. 826)

Love your leaders. Love each other. Live like Jesus. Do what’s right, even when it’s hard.

CAESAR OR GOD?

thorns

Caesar or God? by Rick Burdette

1 Thessalonians 1:1-1:10

FOLLOW THE LEADER – Caesar or God?
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10  August 2, 2015

Introduction:

Let me tell you that King Herod was not a very nice man, and about as ungodly and ruthless leader as this world has ever known. He murdered his own family and many Rabbis. He was both ambitious and paranoid…as Governor of Galilee, a position granted him by his father Antipater, he ruthlessly crushed a revolt in Galilee but overall he treated Jewish religion with tolerance. He was a pragmatist who had learned that Jews could not be forced to worship idols…in fact Rome granted Jews an official status during his reign of being exempt from Roman State religion…but with that exemption came a punitive tax levied only upon the Jews called “fiscus Judaicus” that made them pay for this exemption….He used the proceeds from these taxes and others to build more monuments and projects than almost any other Roman leader and the most ambitious was the rebuilding of the temple…It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the temple mount…the Wailing Wall that still stands, is part of this retaining wall. Why so big? Herod knew there were between 6-7 million Jews living in the Roman Empire (plus another 1 million in Persia), who would come to Jerusalem during the three holy festivals…It was huge for this reason…and each had to pay taxes for the privilege.

After its completion Herod did exert his Roman influence even upon this building…at the main entrance he placed a huge Roman Eagle, which pious Jews saw as blasphemy and promptly smashed it…Herod had them hunted down, dragged in chains to his residence in Jericho where they were burned alive.

The cauldron was beginning to boil and pretty soon it would ERUPT…much of this prompted the Pharisees to try and trap Jesus in a no win situation…letters to what happens in:

MATTHEW 22:15-22

Why didn’t Jesus deal with the fact Caesar claimed to be god…butchered people, including his own family, allowed “female” babies to be exposed until dead because they could not become soldiers and morally slept with whoever he wanted? Because he’s afraid? I don’t think so…his critics have even said, “We know you teach the truth no matter who is confronted with it.”

Could it be that His priorities are about God’s kingdom and not Rome’s? could it be that His kingdom is not of this world and although He’s certainly not afraid to deal with individual sin, like murder and adultery…He’s wise enough to know that the human heart is the issue…listen to His teaching:

MATTHEW 5:21-22; 27-28

The law of God can identify sin…but unless there is a “heart change” then there is no healing…If you don’t deal with the deeper issues of “lust” and “hate” then adultery and murder have already invaded your soul.

Jesus and the Apostle Paul knew “that work that changes us is produced by faith…that labor is prompted by love and a life in Christ that endures is inspired by hope.” (1 Thess. 1:3)

As we live in a culture that seems to ever increase the battle between Caesar’s Kingdom and God’s, what is the most important thing we can remember…as Christian men and women who would ask others to “Follow Our Leader?”

I. GOD LOVES YOU AND HAS CHOSEN YOU

Paul says, “Brothers…sisters…loved by our God and Father we know that He’s chosen you.”

[If you’ve ever been part of “the choosing” of teams when 2 captains…usually the best players begin to pick up sides you know how important this is! “I pick John!” “I pick Billy!” “I pick Jim!” “I pick Chuck!” You get anxious the farther down the list you fall…You never want to be last… “OK…I guess I’ll take Rick.”]

Playing well when you know that nobody really wanted you is tough.

[I grew up trying to play football and wiffle ball and basketball with my brother Sam’s friends…They were all 8-10 years older than me and a lot bigger…I’ll never forget the day Walter Gadd picked me first…that never happened…It was always… “OK Ricky you can be on our team.” On the day Walter picked me first He had God’s heart…And I would have broken every bone in my body to play well for Him on that day.]

Godly leaders understand this truth. We didn’t love God first…He loved us first. We didn’t pick God…He picked us. He called our names first. Over and over scripture teaches this essential truth…God loved the world. Jesus called us out of the world. He knows our voice…and we know His. This is the “gospel.” This is the good news. Caesar’s kingdom recognizes the strongest…the smartest…the best looking…God’s kingdom…and His choices are radically different…Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:25-31:

1 CORINTHIANS 1:25-31 (p. 793)

God didn’t just give us a list of rules about how the game should be played…and leave us to our own devices. God chose a team nobody would have picked…and then filled us with a more sustaining power than “Gatorade.”

“Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (v. 5)

[We don’t just “say a prayer”…or “get baptized” or “join the Church.” We respond to the God who calls us…We cry out “God forgive me of my sin, we die to self, are buried in Christ and rise to “walk in newness of life” because “our sins have been cleansed.” We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and we don’t have a choice about “joining the Church.” God adds us to the Church (we can choose what family to serve Him and worship Him with) but we don’t choose whether we have brothers or sisters or not…He does.]

In God’s kingdom and in this world, everything we do…our very lives influence others… “considering others to be more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:3) is the essence of Jesus our leader… “His attitude and mindset” (Phil. 2:5) but it’s not natural…it’s the exact opposite of Caesar’s Kingdom…it’s only possible if we are influenced more by God’s Spirit and Power than this worlds.

One of the scariest things we can ask others to do is:

II. IMITATE ME

The Apostle Paul lived everyday among the Thessalonians for quite a while before a riot broke out…ironically they were accused of defying Caesar’s decrees…“saying that there was another King called Jesus.”

ACTS 17:1-9

This is Paul’s second missionary journey…He’s with Silas now because of a disagreement with Barnabas about a young man named John Mark getting a second chance, because he deserted them on their first missionary journey.

It’s ironic that those who hated Paul, the Jews in Thessalonica would use Caesar as a battle weapon against him. They hated Caesar and Rome…but it seems they hated Jesus and Paul more…This persecution threw the city into turmoil, and the persecution affected church people like Jason and His family…and it forced Paul and Silas to leave.

But while in Thessalonica Paul and Silas and their team lived, worked, shared life on a daily basis with these families.

The words “we”, “our”, and “among” are used 9 times in the first 6 verses of 1 Thessalonians.

The sentence that sums it up… “You know how we lived among you for your sake.” (v. 5)

You cannot imitate someone who doesn’t give you an example to follow.

[There is a picture that thrills me and scares me at the same time…here it is:

SHOW PIC OF PEYTON IN MY SHOES

He has my shoes on…And it thrills me that he wants to be like Pappaw…but it scares me because of my responsibility to show him how to walk in them.]

I know it’s my greatest privilege to say “Follow Me.” And even if I don’t say it…He will.

We say that to our children…grandchildren, nieces, nephews, our students…our kids we coach…all those who look for a pattern to follow…so when Paul tells those he lives among in Thessalonica “Become imitators of us and the Lord.” It’s the us part that should get our attention.

Paul’s only in the synagogue preaching for 3 weeks before the riot that forces He, Silas and Timothy to flee…Here’s my question…do you think Paul and his companions get connected to the Thessalonians during those 3 speeches? Not on your life.

Those sermons were truth…the fulfillment of prophecy…but you don’t get to a place where you thank God for people remembering their faithful work and genuine love with words.

“You live among them for their sake (not yours) Paul gave them a flesh & blood example of what a follower of Jesus looks like…It’s a 2 way street. They want to share their lives with these godly leaders…and these godly leaders want to share their lives with them…The result:

“Even in the midst of severe suffering there’s joy…given by the Holy Spirit.” (v. 6)

[I’ve come to understand a very vital truth about the real church…real leadership and real love…I want to share, as much as possible with those who want to share with me…Satan’s weapon that disconnects so many people who “come to church” or “attend services” or “work in a ministry” is a belief that sharing the real you…and your real struggles with others makes you appear weak…You cannot share real life with real people who pretend to be followers…you cannot be a model for others believers to share a life of faith with unless you live a transparent life of faith.]

Transformation and healing are only possible for those who open their hearts (the place where God works best) to Him and other believers who are doing the same.

It’s why we’ve stopped serving idols and started serving the living and true God. Caesar isn’t coming back in power. The government doesn’t answer eternal questions of life and death.

Jesus is coming back in power….He rose from the dead and raises the dead. He has rescued “us” (there’s that word again) from the coming wrath.

Conclusion:

Let me end by asking you…do you practice “convenient” Christianity…that’s saying you believe Jesus is God’s son…but during your everyday life…His words…His Spirit…His return have almost nothing to do with how you treat others, what you do or what you say…your life…your activities, your desires are no different than those who claim no belief in Jesus…while you say you’re waiting for His return…nothing really proves it to be true to your mate, children, family, friends or co-workers, or enemies…The pattern you’ve given others to follow is not different than being “lost.” It’s convenient to hope Jesus is your get out of Hell free card…but that’s all you really want Him for…It’s convenient.

Those shoes don’t follow in Jesus’ footsteps…That life is simply “words.”

Or do you live “conviction” Christianity…it’s deep…it’s penetrating your heart to such a degree that the Holy Spirit shows His power. It’s fruit is faith…it’s fruit is genuine love and endurance because you have real hope. You live for the sake of others, your message doesn’t change even in the midst of severe suffering…And only because you seek to follow the Savior who rescued you do you tell those you love and those you influence…Follow Me…as I follow Jesus.