In the spirit of the Christmas season, this morning, I have gifts for each of you. How often do you get Christmas presents in a sermon? To be more precise, they are not from me, exactly. The Christmas presents, I have for you, were originally from Paul. They were given to the Thessalonians in 50 AD. They have been handed down generation to generation for ages. That is not precisely true either. The Christmas presents are originally from God who gave them to Paul who gave them to the Thessalonians, and then handed down till this morning. I am regifting these Christmas gifts to you. Don’t let that bother you. These gifts are still as good as new! In fact, they may have even gotten better over the years. These gifts may be your favorite!
Let’s get busy opening the gifts.
The Gift of Protection
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. (Here is the gift part.) He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
Paul is wrapping up his second letter to the Thessalonians. Paul has a request. Pray for us... him and his missionary team. Paul wants the Thessalonians to pray for them so that the Gospel will speed across the world. That the word of the Lord will strike in the hearts of honest seekers. Paul wants them to pray that what happened with them will happen across the world. Paul has a vision of the kingdom of God bursting forth all over the place just like it did in Thessalonica.
Opposed to the quick spread of the word, is evil. Evil in the world is opposed to spread of the kingdom. Not everyone is going to be thrilled at the kingdom of God spreading. Satan is going to stand against the kingdom.
Here is the Christmas gift Paul gave to the Thessalonians that I would like to regift to you. The faithful Lord will establish you and guard you against the evil one. Paul offers the Thessalonians protection from evil.
As we open this gift, what does it mean? What does the faithful Lord protect us from? Certainly, it is not persecution. Nick died. Paul was often thrown into jail and beaten. The protection of God does not protect us from pain... or persecution... or humiliation or opposition or suffering.
Here is the gift... We are protected from evil. The evil one cannot touch those who are in Christ.
--The evil one cannot touch our faith. No matter what Satan does, our faith only grows deeper in Christ. In fact, suffering makes us stronger. Persecution makes our faith more relevant. Our trust in the Lord cannot be touched by evil.
--The evil one cannot mess with our love. Love advances through suffering. It is in the hurt of the evil one that we offer more love! The power of our love is activated when the evil presses us!
--The evil one cannot dissuade our hope. All that the evil one does to us creates more longing for the next life. Our hope grows clearer.
As you unwrap this gift, imagine a force field surrounds you. This is a one-way permeable force field. Stuff comes in from the evil one. But these hurts, which come in, are transformed into power which makes the force field grow. This faith, love, and hope force field absorbs the intended harm from evil and turns it into power to advance the kingdom.
Gift one... Protection... Unwrap this gift and turn on your force field!
Wait, there is more than another gift. Here is another... “Seriously, the first one was more than we deserve.” Here is another gift, regifted through the ages.
The Gift of Purpose
2 Thessalonians 3:4-10 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
“Wait a second Tim. This doesn’t sound much like a gift. Get a job! Is not much of a gift.”
Hang on. Let’s process this.
This may be the practical reason Paul wrote the second letter to the Thessalonians. I suspect, when Timothy returned from delivering 1 Thessalonians, he told Paul there were some who were just living off the love of the congregation. The body was so caring for each other they were allowing people to quit their jobs and mooch. This is amazing that there was so much connection in the body that they took care of each other. That is an amazing congregation. But, the command from Paul was... if you don’t work you don’t eat. You can’t just sit around waiting for the Parousia. Get a job. The Parousia was not going to happen in 50 AD... so get a job.
Here is the gift part. There is purpose in our jobs. The purpose to provide for others. The purpose of making money to be able to give. Our real jobs are meaningful because they advance the kingdom. Paul, who was an apostle, still worked, making tents, so he could support that advancement of the kingdom. The money we make working can be turned into the advance of love!
So, here is the gift. Regardless of what your job is... working at the lab, providing health care, working for the county, cleaning houses, teaching, going to school in order to someday get a job, even if you are retired, there is a value in doing a job. The advancement of the kingdom of God, in some part, relies, upon the support of regular old jobs. Paul pointed to himself as a pattern to follow.
Unwrap your gift... take some joy in the job you have which lets you advance the kingdom.
(sidebar note) Paul would be proud of this congregation too. You always give. We support each other. Take some joy in knowing that! I do!
There is yet another gift. Here is a third regifted gift. I like this next one.
The Gift of Purifying
2 Thessalonians 3:11-15 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
“Surely, this is not a gift. We are supposed to shame each other when we don’t follow this command.”
Hang on, let’s process this as well. One of the things that was a remarkable discovery I made several years ago was, what I call, the sanctification of community. It is commonly called peer-pressure. Within a community there is help in purifying each other. In Paul’s example there is direct help. If a guy is a moocher, don’t feed him and then ignore him until he shapes up.
Most purifying within the body is subtler. We see how others behave. We share a common Spirit which works within all of us to bring us up a level. The pattern we set for each other is reinforced to teach each other how to be more like Christ. We directly and indirectly encourage each other to be more faithful. We demonstrate more love. We express our hope to each other in a contagious way. There is amazing purification when we interact with each other. There is sanctification within the community of believers!
Unwrap this gift. Imagine... what-if we really cared for each other enough to be honest in “helping each other”. What-if we were lovingly honest with each other. What-if we were humble enough to accept sanctification from each other. Don’t treat them like enemies... warn each other as siblings.
Not an expected gift. But there is one more... It’s the best one. “Another one? How many are there?” This is the last one.
The Gift of Peace
2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now, may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
Listen to this article I found on biblestudytools.com about the word peace.
In English, the word "peace" conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew root shalom. Shalom which means more "to be complete" or "to be sound." The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning" to be complete or whole" or "to live well." The noun had many nuances, but can be grouped into four categories:
(1) Shalom is wholeness of life or body (i.e., health);
(2) Shalom is right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant and, when related to Yahweh, the covenant was renewed or maintained with a "peace offering";
(3) Shalom is prosperity, success, or fulfillment.
(4) Shalom is victory over one's enemies or absence of war.
Shalom was used in both greetings and farewells. It was meant to act as a blessing on the one to whom it was spoken: "May your life be filled with health, harmony, prosperity, and victory."
As we unwrap this gift. We rejoice in the Shalom we have with the Lord. At all times, in every way the Lord is with us! In the body of Christ there is shalom because the Lord is in our midst.
The Shalom with the Lord is a precious gift.
Wow, all four of or regifted gifts are in the body of Christ.
--We have protection from the evil one... on the inside of the body.
--We have the purpose of the kingdom... as we advance the word as his body.
--We have sanctification/purifying power over each other because dwells in his congregation.
--We have peace... wholeness and victory as we advance the kingdom.
Wow, I want to be a part of the body of Christ. I want to be interwoven into the community of Christ. I want to be a part of you... In Christ is where the gifts are!
On our regifted gifts there is a card. Nice presents have a Christmas card attached to them.
2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Paul signs the greeting card with his own hand... to prove that it is genuine. These gifts which come from the Lord, through Paul, to the Thessalonians, regifted through the ages, to us are genuine.
Best Christmas gifts...ever?
Los Alamos Church of Christ
December 9, 2018