Ready to meet the Son 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:12

I put more preparation into that one day than any other day of my life. More than for exams. More than for my ordination.
I’m not just talking about the two haircuts or the new suit and shoes. Not just sorting out the details of the service or the buying of the rings or of the invitations. It took us FOUR YEARS to get ready for our wedding day. And the preparations the groom has to make are almost nothing in comparison to all the things the Bride finds to do so she will be ready for wedding day – the greatest and happiest day of her life.
There is a wedding coming up soon. I don’t know the exact date but it is getting nearer every day. It will be the most important marriage in the history of the universe. It will be the wedding between Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and His Bride, the Church. It’s the marriage feast John talks about in the Book of Revelation which will take place when Jesus Christ returns. And we are invited. We will be there. Every Christian will be there. But will we be ready? When Jesus comes to take His chosen people to be with Him forever – will we be prepared? Will we be ready to meet the Son?
Paul want the Thessalonians to be ready. The whole of life waiting for the Son is to be spent getting ready to meet the Son. Because
JESUS CHRIST IS RETURNING
312 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 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.

So what should we be doing to be ready to meet Christ when He returns with the glory of all the angels? Paul suggests two things – and we will think about them in the reverse order.
BE HOLY
313 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.
Holiness is not merely a negative quality, an absence of sin. Holiness is something very positive. It is being set apart and belonging to God. And the standard God calls for us is to be blameless. That’s why we need to God strengthen our hearts so that we can resist temptation. Be HOLY.
BE LOVING
312 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
Loving each other as God has loved us in Christ. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.” Increasing, overflowing love.
Every Christian needs BOTH of these qualities. To be Holy AND to be Loving. Holiness without love risks the legalism of the Pharisees. Love without holiness risks compromise. Increasing holiness and increasing love. More and more!
4:1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
And Paul urges the same in verse 10. More and more.
10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

More and more. Moving on, not standing still. Some Christian friends of mine used to sing and play guitars as a duo. The name they chose as a group was most appropriate. “Not perfect yet.” That name described not only their music and their singing but also the life of Christian discipleship. “Not perfect, yet.”
Paul urges the Thessalonians to holiness and to love by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
4:1 … Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus is coming back. Maybe soon. Maybe even tonight. We must get ready to meet the Son by living a holy life and by loving one another. Paul goes on to unpack these two themes.

LIVE A HOLY LIFE.

3 13 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.
Paul could have gone on to talk about all kinds of sin. Stealing, lying, arguing, idleness, selfishness, pride, jealousy, anger, self-righteousness. Paul could have reminded the Thessalonians that our thoughts matter to God as much as our actions. But as it turns out, Paul goes straight to the point of the sins which were threatening that church at Thessalonica. And his message is simple – avoid sexual immorality.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

Avoid sexual immorality. Any sexual activity outside the pattern God has decreed. Faithfulness within marriage. Celibacy outside marriage. In the biblical understanding, anything else is immorality.
The heart of sexual morality is learning to exercise self-control.
4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen,
Self control isn’t made any easier by the pressures from society all around us, from television and books and films and adverts. For young people especially there can be all kinds of pressures from their friends around them. Self control, so that
Verse 6 in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.
It seems clear that at least some of the Thessalonians were finding it difficult to leave behind their pagan backgrounds and some were falling into immorality, some even within the Christian community. We don’t know what sins they had fallen into, but they were serious! So serious that here in these few verses Paul gives no less than SEVEN reasons for sexual purity.
Jesus Christ is returning!
So we should be living to please God (verse 1)
We must obey God’s instructions given in the authority of Christ (verse 2)
It is God will that we are sanctified, that is, made holy (verse 3)
There is the threat that God will punish those who sin (verse 6)
7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (verse 7)
8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (verse 8)
We should not forget that sexual activity has a spiritual dimension. Paul spells this out in 1 Corinthians 6
13 … The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Of course, sexual activity is not of itself evil or dirty in any way. On the contrary, in its proper context of marriage sex is the most magnificent and beautiful expression of love and intimacy. It is as close as we can get in human terms to the unity of Christ and His church. That is why sex is so precious. That is why we should avoid sexual immorality, and avoid the passionate lusts of the heathen who do not know God, says Paul. And the sexual morality of the world around isn’t any better today than it was in the first Century. Sex remains the substitute which many run to in the face of the emptiness and hopelessness of a life without Christ. So the command remains for Christians to be holy, and avoid sexual immorality. But alongside the call for holiness is a second call.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
312 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
Christians should not need “the passionate lusts of the heathen” because we have found true love, God’s love. The kind of self-giving love we see Christ showing on the cross. Love for God. Love for our neighbours. And particularly love for other Christians, increasing and overflowing. Sexual immorality uses and takes from the other person. God’s kind of love serves and gives to the other person. We all need to be growing in this kind of brotherly love.
9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

Brotherly love shows itself in very practical ways. Concern for those who are ill. Support for the weak. Friendship for the lonely. If Christians are showing that kind of love for one another then all their needs will be met in Christ’s love, and none will be drawn to sexual immorality out of loneliness or sadness or boredom. Brotherly love in everyday Christian living.
11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

There was a risk in Thessalonica which we read more about in 2 Thessalonians that some Christians were so looking forward to the return of Christ that they had “downed tools” and were just sitting around waiting for the Son. Some were sponging off other Christians. That is NOT brotherly love. Brotherly love is about every Christian playing their part. Not being dependent on others but each pulling their weight and doing their bit, “so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.”
Holiness – and love. The two go together. Ever increasing, overflowing, more and more, ready to meet the Son.
Suppose you were invited to meet the Queen. Would you go dressed just as you are now? Of course not. We would want to look our best! I am sure we would be talking at least new clothes, haircut or hairdo, in fact all the same preparations a bride and groom make for their wedding day.
Jesus Christ is coming back again. Jesus Christ, King of King, Lord of Lords is returning to take us to be with Him forever. Until that day we are simply “waiting for the Son,” getting ready to meet Him. Being holy and loving one another are simply the ways we can become more like Jesus – ready for that Day!
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.
(1 Thess 3:12-13 The Message)

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