Building Blocks (Part 8)

My father in law served as an assistant fire chief during his career in Northern California. I am always intrigued with the many stories that he has shared with me. From massive building fires to forest fires, he has fought them all. What I found interesting was that there was a method to putting out fires. You see, they didn’t go into those fires and just shoot the water directly at the fire. They had a strategy for putting out the fire.

Reversely, we want to have a strategy and plan to prevent the quenching of the Spirit. To “quench the Spirit” literally means extinguishing the flame of God’s work, whether in your life or in that of someone else. We are to be sensitive to the subjective leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must be receptive to His conviction, yield to His control, and walk with Him every day of our lives.

Let’s see what 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says about discernment:

21  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

1. Prove all things.

This word prove means to “examine” and is translated from a very common and familiar word. It carries the idea of testing something in order to ascertain its true character or nature.

Ancient stone masons would go through quarries and examine rocks. On those stones that passed the examination was painted a delta or letter “d” for approved. Those stones that failed the inspection were labeled with an alpha or “a” for unapproved.

So this verse means that we are to go through life, inspecting everything to see what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong.

We need to examine our entertainment. I always ask myself, “Would I feel comfortable if Jesus was sitting on the sofa beside me and I had control of the remote?”

We need to examine our worldview. Are your political views tied to your understanding of Scripture or for party loyalty?

We need to examine our motives. If we are honest, we often do many things to the glory of self. Examine your heart. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your motivation?

2. Hold fast that which is good.

Have you ever participated in a tug of war? You get a good grip on the rope and try not to let go. What things do you “hold fast” to in this life?

For me, I “hold fast” to my wife and children, children-in-law and grandson. Beyond my relationship to the Lord, they are the most precious in earth to me. Shelli and I have been through trials and struggles after 29 years of marriage yet we are still committed to one another. Even when everything is not perfect, we still cling of “hold fast” to one another.

I also “hold fast” to the ministry of the Word of God. The Word of God consumes my life. I know its power, I want to embrace its truth. I want to be bound to its command. I want it to occupy my mind. I want to possess more and more of it.

We are to “examine everything carefully” and when we find beautiful, good things we are to get a good grip on them.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things.

3. Abstain from all appearance of evil

“Abstain” is a strong graphic work. Literally it means “to shin away from.” It is the idea of being repulsed by something gross. Imagine walking across a field and encountering a rotting animal carcass infested with maggots… well maybe that’s a little much.

Of course you would shun away from the putrid sight. Let’s try another approach, imagine walking across the same field when you hear a rattlesnake rattle (we have a lot of those here in Tucson). What do you do? You shun away from it. You get as far away as fast as you can! Paul is saying in the strongest possible terms that we should shun away from “every form of evil.”

“Appearance” means type, shape or kind of evil. Evil comes in all shapes and types. When we carefully discern and discover something is evil, we are to run away from it, shun it.

Paul is basically saying, “Look, evil is going to come at you from every direction so you need to pay attention!”

We need to have a strategy for godly discernment. Paul lays a specific strategy out here in 1 Thessalonians. Let’s put it into practice this week and have Godly discernment!

Building Blocks (Part 6) – Gratitude

One of my favorite times of the year is Thanksgiving. I love the Fall weather, the crisp air, and the food on Thanksgiving day. It is nice to hear what people are thankful for during those days. However, shouldn’t we be thankful all year long? A holiday shouldn’t dictate our attitude.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

A growing Christian should practice perpetual gratitude. In this verse we see that we should give thanks in everything. This means even in the worst situations we should give thanks because it is the will of God.

Let’s look at some barriers to true thanks giving.

1. An unredeemed soul.

Romans 1:21 – Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

If you are unredeemed, you are not going to thank God because you do not believe that He really is the source of all good things. If you are never thankful, examine your heart. You may have never truly been saved.

2. Doubts

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.

When you are doubting, you simply aren’t believing. When I say doubts, I mean doubts about God’s sovereignty, the fact that God controls all things. In other words, we are thankful because we know that even when bad things happen, they are within the permissive will of God and that He can use evil to bring about good.

3. Ignorance

Some people are not thankful to God simply because they are ignorant of His blessing in their lives. They have not spent enough time studying Scripture. They do not understand what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do.

4. Pride

Some are not thankful because they mistakenly believe that they have accomplished something on their own, apart from God. Sure, you have worked hard. Sure, you have given maximum effort and made good decisions. However, who gave you the intelligence to learn and grow and make those decisions?

5. Anger/Disappointment

Some people are so angry with God because they feel like God didn’t give them a fair hand in life. They are unhappy in their circumstances. They had higher expectations. They thought things would turn out different.

Yet, what exactly do we deserve? What does God owe us? Nothing. He gives us everything out of a heart of divine mercy. To be angry or disappointed with God’s gifts is to presume upon His grace and feel that He owes us something.

6. Self – Centeredness

This is similar to pride, but this is an obvious mark of immaturity. Self-centeredness says, “I deserve this” or “I deserve more than this.” The self-centered person always speaks of I, I, I, and me, me, me. If you are not grateful for what you have, why should God give you more?

7. Pursuit of Pleasure

The world is rabid in its pursuit of pleasure and many Christians are caught up in the flow. We have so much but we want more. Enough is never enough. It has often been said, “We spend money we don’t have, to buy stuff we don’t need, to impress people, we don’t like.”

We do not stop to thank God for what we have because we are too busy lusting after something more.

8. A Critical Spirit

Some people have very high standards. This in of itself is not bad. However, instead of seeing the good, they look for the faults. Because they have unrealistic expectations of themselves, others and life itself, because they always see the negative, they rarely notice the abundant blessings God showers on them every day.

So let me ask, are you a thankful person? Is continual gratitude a characteristic of your life? Do you practice perpetual gratitude?

Building Blocks (Part 5)

Have you ever met someone who is like way too joyful? You know, the person who literally always has a smile on their face? The person who is always upbeat and never has a bad day? Sometimes those people are too much to handle. However, that person most likely is full of joy, not just happiness.

You see, there is a vast difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an emotion based upon circumstances. If everything is going great in your life, you’ll be happy (most likely). Yet, once you hear bad news about your job, health, or family then that happiness departs. However, joy is not rooted in anything in this world, but in our eternal relationship with God. If you have joy and you hear bad news, you might be sad, but you’re still joyful because you know that God is working behind the scenes.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice evermore.

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