Summary: Lessons we can learn from those at the Thessalonian Church.
Warnings, Exaltations & Instructions: The Church at Thessalonica
A few years ago, I had the privilege of going to a Penguin’s game at the Mellon Arena with a few of my friends. As we waited for the game to begin, we decided to go to our favorite food stand to get the game started right. We visited the nacho stand.
Now, in this particular season, my friend had gone to quite a few Penguin games and had made an acquaintance at one particular nacho booth. Because of going there so often, the man who worked there would always pile on more nachos and add more cheese for my friend than for anyone else. So, we searched for this particular stand. When we found it, the vendor said hello to my friend who ordered nachos for all of us. It was astounding how many nachos and how much cheese he put in our containers. There were mountains of nachos that dwarfed the sizes of all other customers. We were extremely happy.
Just as we started to leave, a voice called out to the worker at the stand. His boss had come to the back door of the booth and stood there with a disgusted look. “What are you doing? Why are you giving these guys so much?” The man, with a straight face, turned around and with a straight face stated, “Boss, it wasn’t me.” That was quite a statement to make since he was the only guy working at this particular vendor booth. However, the boss just shook his head and exited the booth.
When I look back at this experience, I realize that this food vendor is a lot like most of us. Nothing is ever our fault. Do you agree with that statement? We have excuses for everything that we do. If we do something wrong, we can almost always find someone or something else to blame. We never take the blame for ourselves. Let me give you a few examples. First of all, how many of you are familiar with the Peanuts comic strip. I hope most of you are. Now, one of their reoccurring themes involves Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown to kick. Now, every time Charlie goes to kick, what does Lucy do? She pulls the football away and Charlie Brown ends up flying through the air and getting hurt. In one of these strips where this occurs, Charlie goes on to tell Lucy that it is going to be her fault if he gets really hurt sometime doing this. Lucy answers back, “It’s not my fault – you’re the one who keeps trusting me!” This was an excuse to shift the blame from her onto Charlie Brown.
In real life, how many of you have been following the Mark Foley story in the news? In case you haven’t heard, Foley was a Congressman who sent illicit messages to a male page who was only 17 years old. Now, instead of taking the blame for this action, Foley told the press that he had an alcohol problem and that he was molested as a child. Now, don’t get me wrong. These are both horrible things, but they are just used as an excuse. He still made the choice to send these messages to the child, and he should never use past situations or situations to justify his behavior. We do this all the time though.
This even happens in the church. So many times, I hear people explain away sin and wrong behaviors. They use phrases such as, “In my fleshly nature I did this,” or “The devil made me do it.” Well, as a book title in our library says, “If the devil made you do it, you blew it.” We use excuses all the time for our mistakes and sins and for not doing more for God. And then, we say that God loves us and understands and will forgive us. All this is true, but I think it’s time we take a step forward in one of the fruit of the spirit. It’s time we start practicing self-control. Let’s take a look at what Paul tells the church at Thessalonica about this area in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
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 to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such things, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.