Summary: A sermon on practical guidelines in love from 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Sermon for 3/7/2004
Recently, the Associated Press conducted a survey of 39 different Protestant denominations. And they asked one question: "What is the number one factor that causes congregations to grow?" Are there any factors you can find in every growing church regardless of doctrine, denomination, location, culture, etc?
Well, it wasn’t the preaching. It wasn’t the presence of a children’s ministry. And it wasn’t air conditioning. On the basis of the survey, they discovered that the number one characteristic of a growing church was the atmosphere of love among the membership. The Press concluded that people everywhere are looking for love. And if Christians really began to love each another the way God would want us to, then we would have to lock the doors to keep the people away.
A. The greatest compliment a church can receive is that it is a loving church. They will know we are Christians by our love.
B. Vs. 9- No need to write to you. Taught by God. God is love. The essence of the gospel is love. If we have Jesus Christ in our hearts, then he will teach us to love.
C. I am sure that Paul had mentioned love in his preaching but it is concept that is easier said than done. God teaches us how to love. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
D. The New Testament world was a world not so unlike our own. This church had been together only a year and they came from many walks of life. Jews and Gentile together. Sexual immorality was more of a problem among Gentiles. Very offensive to Jews.
E. Different political views; different nationalities (Greeks along with Romans, barbarians, and Eastern Peoples); Freed men and slaves; different languages (Greek and others); Different religious backgrounds; Social statuses; generational issues. Beginning to sound like our world. Only fellowship (sharing something in common) that they could have was around the gospel. This bound their hearts together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
F. 4 words in the Greek language that translate as love. 2 are not used. Other two are agape and philia. Agape is the sacrificing kind of love. Philia is a love prompted by appreciation and affection. The phrase “brotherly love” in vs. 9 translates Philadelphia, a word partly based on the root of philia. In Greek, Philadelphia is almost always used of the love among the children in a family. In the New Testament, the world always refers to the love of Christians for one another.
G. Behold, how they love one another.
H. The deeper our love to Jesus, the warmer will be our love to all His disciples. This can break down any wall, barrier in our world. See a group of Christians that are not harmonious, not loving; we see a group of people who need more of Jesus Christ. This is the only way of unity. Must have agape love and philia love.
I. VS. 10- Not only to the Christians they saw on a daily basis but also had love toward Christians in the region. 5th Sunday rallies; National Day of Prayer; the Passion of the Christ. Competitive spirit needs to be eliminated. Alexander Campbell talked about this a great deal.
J. Increase more and more… The difficulties that we have with one another are opportunities for us to grow in our love. This explains why Christians who have had the most problems with each other often end up loving one another deeply, much to the amazement of the world.
Thesis: In Vs. 11 Paul gives us three practical guidelines in love and then he gives us two benefits of these guidelines.
A. Three practical guidelines
1. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life
a. Sounds like a paradox- J.B. Phillips translated the phrase as “Make it your ambition to have no ambition!”
b. If you are ambitious, your life will not be quiet. Searches after greatness cause us to have a loud spirit; do this and then do that, etc.
c. For the phrase "quiet life" suggests a calmness, a serenity
d. Yet for this we are to be "ambitious", apply diligent effort, which seems to be contrary to the idea of quietness, calm
e. The "quiet life", like many good things, does not come without concerted effort
f. A quiet and peaceful life is more likely if we:
1) Seek first the kingdom of God - Mt 6:33
a) Which requires setting our priorities
b) Which requires saying no to many distractions
2) Learn contentment in Christ - (Phil 4:11 NIV) I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.(Phil 4:12 NIV) I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.(Phil 4:13 NIV) I can do everything through him who gives me strength.