We Give Thanks to God for you (1 Thes. 1:2-3) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 23 November 2017

This may feel unnatural at the beginning. But think about all the things that feel like your second nature and how awkward and frustrating they were at the beginning—e.g., driving, the sports you play, typing, and even walking. (There was a time you could not even crawl!) It may take a lot of efforts to live by faith at first. But if we do not give up so easily, if we are as persistent as we are with our hobbies and professions, living by faith will be our second nature. Someone wisely said, “One year from now, you will wish you had started today.” Aren’t there so many things we wish we had started earlier? If we did, we would be so good in so many things! Let us begin today to live by faith. Let us be diligent and persistent in our work to live out our faith. Our church is here to remind us what we believe, why we believe it, and why it matters in our life. Let us help one another to be abundant in our work of faith so we can give thanks to God for one another—until God welcomes us into His glorious kingdom and reward us richly for what we ought to have done as His grateful people! The most important thing about the work of faith is to believe that Christ will not fail to make us all that God wants us to be by His word and Spirit!

 

 

What do you see when you look in the mirror? You can see what other people cannot see—all that stuff that even your smile cannot conceal. Being a man or woman of faith doesn’t mean that you deny it and ignore it and try to think more positively about yourself. Being a man or woman of God means that, while you see all that is wrong and broken about yourself, you also see your wonderful Savior, who can pick up the broken pieces of your life and make you whole. I hope we will all see in the mirror a man or a woman of faith, who is being transformed into the image of Christ more and more, from glory to glory.

We Give Thanks to God for you (1 Thes. 1:2-3) Part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 23 November 2017

This phrase is interesting because in it Paul brings together two opposing ideas: work and faith, which are often presented in an antithetical relationship in many of Paul’s epistles: “we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28); “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16; 3:2). We can see why the two are set against each other. We already said that faith is an act of depending on God and His grace. Works, on the other hand, are “meritorious” deeds, which rightly deserve some kind of rewards. When Paul says that we cannot be justified by the works of the law, he is not saying that God refuses to acknowledge our merits; he is saying that we don’t have any legitimate works that are worthy of God’s reward: “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” (Isa. 64:6).

 

But in other passages, works are used in a more generic sense: simply as something we do, which requires our conscious exertion of energy and effort. We see “works” used in this sense a lot in the Book of James: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (Jam. 2:14); “as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (Jam. 2:26). As you can see, in these verses, faith and works are not pitted against each other: James takes pains to show the inextricable connection between the two. But you also notice that the word, “works,” is used by itself in these verses without “[works] of the law.”

 

 

We Give Thanks to God for you (1 Thes. 1:2-3) Part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 23 November 2017

For those who placed their trust in Christ, God’s grace is the environment in which they live and move and have their being. And faith is the basic posture of living in God’s grace. Why? Because God’s grace, as it is God’s free gift to sinners, is not something we can pay or work for; it is something we gratefully receive by faith as a gift. We need faith to receive it 1) because it is a spiritual gift, which we cannot see with our eyes and receive with our hands: we receive it by trusting God’s promise-keeping character; 2) because it is too good to be true in its enormous value, benefit, and impact.

 

Faith, then, has two effects on us. First, it humbles us because it recognizes God's grace as the efficient cause of our salvation as well as all the blessings we enjoy in this life and the life to come. There is nothing we can contribute to our salvation. Whatever good work we do as believers doesn’t count toward our salvation since it is not so much something we do for our salvation as it is something we do as a result of our salvation. It’s like a child being adopted. Whatever good he does is not so he can be adopted—he is already adopted by grace, as it were; it is because he is now part of the family, for which he is grateful. The faith which recognizes God’s pervasive grace in our salvation is a humble faith.

 

 

We Give Thanks to God for you (1 Thes. 1:2-3) Part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 23 November 2017

This triad of faith, hope, and love occurs a lot in the New Testament. We have the most famous of them all in 1 Cor. 13:13: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” There are other occurrences in Paul’s letters: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation…” (1Thess. 5:8); “…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4-5; see also Rom. 5:1-5; Gal. 5:5-6, Eph. 4:2-5). This triad appears also in other New Testament books (Heb. 6:10-12; 10:22-24; 1 Pet. 1:3-8, 21-22).

Why are faith, hope, and love considered three primary virtues of the Christian? We cannot know for sure because the Bible doesn’t explain why. But from what the Bible says of them, we can guess why. These three virtues point to three fundamental aspects of our salvation: faith points to the gracious foundation of our salvation; love points to the relational nature of our salvation; hope points to the eschatological orientation of our salvation.

 

It is easy to see that faith points to the gracious foundation of our redemption. In Paul’s letters, faith is often contrasted with the works of the law: “we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28); “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16, 3:2). Faith is an act of depending on God and His grace. Works are meritorious deeds, which rightly deserve some kind of reward. This contrast is clearly presented in Rom. 4:4-5: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness….” Because we are justified by God’s grace and not by our merit, we have nothing to boast of but everything to be grateful for: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’" (Rom. 4:2-3).

 

 

We Give Thanks to God for you (1 Thes. 1:2-3) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 23 November 2017

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A person who is happy and fulfilled and full of life? Or, do you see a person tired, discouraged, unmotivated, barely scraping by? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Your height or your nose? Be more extroverted and sociable? Be more assertive and confident? Or be gentler and more patient? And what do you look for in a future mate or friend? What would you like to see more in your spouse or children? What are you looking for in an employee or coworker or boss? In different settings and relationships, we look for different qualities in people we deal with. Generally, the qualities that are valued in people are competence, consistency, considerateness, and, of course, a great sense of humor. 

What do you think God would like to see in you? I’m sure many of you are thinking of the fruit of the Spirit Paul lists in Gal. 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We must keep in mind that these characteristics are not just for certain, special Christians: these are characteristics that all Christians should cultivate. But there are nine of them and it’s not easy to keep track of them all. Fortunately for us, in Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians, we have three Christian virtues, which are highlighted for us: faith, love, and hope.

 

 

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