Summary: 6th in the series "Left Behind: 1 & 2 Thessalonians." Focus is on how we should live in the last days, Honoring Spiritual Authority, Accountability, Spirituality, etc.

Being God’s People in the Last days

Text 1 Thes 5:12-22

In the last passage we read the message was the Lord’s return, and our need to be ready for it. In that passage we are reminded specifically of the fact that Christ died so we could have eternal life. In that context now we see that as the people of God awaiting the return of Christ there are certain expectations about how we live our lives.

Craig Barnes shares a story that illustrates this point “my minister father brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger, whose parents had died from a drug overdose. There was no one to care for Roger, so my folks decided they’d just raise him as if he were one of their own sons.

At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home—an environment free of heroine-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, I heard my parents saying to Roger:

"No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family."

"No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want."

"No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family." And in time Roger began to change.

Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.

Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, "No, no. That’s not how we act in this family."

Today we see how we behave in God’s family.

1. Respect Spiritual Authority

12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

Coming right on the heels of that great teaching about watching for the Lord’s return comes this reminder to respect Spiritual Authority. This respect defines us as the people of God.

Every morning at 8:30 President Harry S. Truman would have a staff meeting. One day the mail clerk brought in a lavender envelope with a regal wax seal and flowing purple ribbons. Opening it, the President found a letter from King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, whose salutation began, "Your Magnificence." "Your Magnificence," Truman repeated, laughing. "I like that. I don’t know what you guys call me when I’m not here, but it’s okay if you refer to me from now on as ’His Magnificence.’"

Later Truman sent a message to the United Nations supporting the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. Soon afterward he received a second letter from King Ibn Saud. This one began: "Dear Mr. President."

I think often in the church we treat spiritual leaders this way. If they are doing things the way we like them they are “Your Magnificence” if not, they are known by other names.

We don’t need instruction to respect when we feel like it, so this instruction is obviously for when we don’t feel like it.

Scripture makes it clear that God establishes authority in His church—and I happen to believe He’s capable of it. Therefore as the people of God, unless the need for church discipline comes into play, our job is to respect those whom God places in authority over us.

2. Hold Each Other Accountable

14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

God’s people are a family. As a family we care for each other. We help those who need help, we encourage those who need it and we hold accountable those who need to be held accountable.

Too often we confuse love with permissiveness. It is not love to fail to confront another believer about sin any more than it is love to allow an alcoholic to drink or allow a baby to play with matches. True fellowship out of love for one another demands accountability.

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