Looking Governs Living.

Our theme for 2019 will be "Looking and Living." The expectation of seeing our Lord Jesus Christ is always attached to our living (Titus 2:11-15).

Paul had to urge Timothy to be pointed as he preached for the health of the church. Eagerly anticipating the return of our Lord Jesus Christ affects how Christians wisely choose their leadership (Titus 1:5). They must be able to confront doctrinal error (Titus 1:9). This anticipation also affects the interaction of older believers with younger and our biblical work ethic (Titus 2:1-10).

Anticipating Together

Some believers waiting to see Jesus in the Thessalonian church had quit living. Paul wrote with apostolic authority to correct them. Christians are not to live with anticipation on their own. We live with others to encourage each other that Jesus is coming! Discipleship is the mandate of the New Testament church. We go into the world, win lost souls, shepherd each other, and live life together. We look up and look around together. This is an ongoing practice, not a limited one-time mandate.

Paul's letter is bookended with reminders that our spiritual growth together begins and ends with God. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 shows that the Thessalonian believers were nurtured by each other. They were immediately connected with someone to follow when they were born again. Those relationships were not just situational, but continued.

How Spiritual Relationships Are Nurtured

Discipling relationships are nurtured by a Spirit-filled disposition, which in turn nurtures the church as a body (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). When individual independence is emphasized, disposition suffers. Institutional enforcement of rules produces impatience with the normal pace of progressive sanctification. Obedience is much easier when pursued alongside someone else.

This will produce a better understanding of God's Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Reading the Bible becomes more than an academic exercise because we need to help others understand and live it. The Thessalonians received God's Word with open arms and fully embraced it. This led to a natural resolve to do it in spite of persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:14, James 1:25).

Those who eagerly anticipate Christ's return will be concerned about the faith of others. Note the repetition of the word "faith" in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5, 6, 7, and 10. The Thessalonian church was healthy because they were assisting one another, and this brought joy to Paul as their human founder. It also enabled them to endure affliction (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4). We are not called to be alone in difficult times. A desire to be alone should concern us. We need the Lord, His Word, and others.

Living Together Protects the Church

When a Christian goes their Christian walk alone, temptation can undo the growth that God has done in a life (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Facing normal temptation alone easily leads to falling. Dealing with that guilt alone can lead to unbiblical guilt and resulting struggles with assurance. Pursuing spiritual growth with another person can help avoid this heartache.

Christians discipling each other grow into greater maturity, and leaders are encouraged (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10). Expectant, interdependent believers are always interested in growing their faith. Verse 10 refers to the embodiment of faith, not saving faith. We must never stop growing on our own, studying and reading God's Word, and hearing it preached; but we must also help each other understand and live it. God's Word is fully capable to grow us in grace on its own. It is much more influential in our lives if learned and lived together.

This was awkward for Grace Church to grow into at first, but it soon became natural. Churches that only preach and teach well, but do not apply God's Word individually with each other, leave themselves wide open to the influence of unbelief. The letter of 1 Thessalonians is addressed to the people of the church, not the pastor. Everyone is equipped to help each other grow.

Application Points

  • Who do you live the Christian life together with? Have you submitted yourself to following someone more mature than yourself?
  • Growth in Christian obedience is much easier with somebody else. It may be awkward to begin such a relationship, but your church leaders will do their best to help. We understand that it can be hard!
  • Are you trying to go through affliction alone? This should concern you. In difficult times, we need the Lord, His Word, and others. Who is one fellow believer you can reach out to?
  • Don't face normal temptation alone. This can easily lead to your falling, unbiblical guilt, and struggles with assurance. Pursuing spiritual growth with another person can help you avoid this heartache.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • James 5:16, Romans 12:15 – Commands to live the Christian life together.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Christian Hearts, in Love United"

Christian hearts, in love united,
seek alone in Jesus rest;
has He not your love excited?
Then let love inspire each breast.
Members on our Head depending
lights reflecting Him, our Sun,
Christians, His commands attending,
we in Him, our Lord, are one.

Come, then, come, O flock of Jesus,
covenant with Him anew;
unto Him who conquered for us,
pledge we love and service true;
and should our love’s union holy
firmly linked no more remain,
wait ye at His footstool lowly,
till He draw it close again.

Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
"Love each other," we comply.
Aiming with unfeigned affection
Thy love to exemplify,
let our mutual love be glowing,
so that all will plainly see
that we, as on one stem growing,
living branches are in Thee.

O that such may be our union
as Thine with the Father is,
and not one of our communion
e’er forsake the path of bliss;
may our light shine forth with brightness,
from Thy light reflected, shine;
thus the world will bear us witness,
that we, Lord, are truly Thine.