In this chapter, Jesus gets in to more conflict. First it is with the Pharisees, who disagree with him healing someone on the Sabbath. Then he gets into conflict with his own family. He famously says that those around him are his mother, brother and sisters, rather than those looking for him.
This does make me wonder whether conflict is just a normal part of the Christian faith. Will there always be people who disagree with us, even to the point where they want to kill us. Now obviously this is tricky for a number of reasons.
First, it is discerning whether the conflict is motivated for righteous and good reasons. The conflicts Jesus found himself in were obviously acceptable. He was sinless; it was always the other parties that were wrong. How do we know then when our conflicts are sinful or righteous? This is especially the case when, throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to show unity and love for one another. In fact, unity is one of the most important pieces of evidence that we are sent by Jesus. Therefore, if we are in conflicts with one another then we are not being particularly good witnesses for Christ. So, I suggest, that if the conflict is with another believer, it is wrong. Of course, the fact that we are reminded so often to live peacefully, patiently and lovingly with one another means we are likely to forget this. (You don’t remind someone to do something that comes naturally to them.) It takes effort but it’s an effort we should take.
Then, it is perhaps that we should expect conflict with non-believers. Perhaps not to the extreme shown here, but we should expect it nonetheless. But, we need to check our hearts and be humble. I don’t think we should be antagonistic, frustrating, stubborn or arrogant in this, as this is not a good witness. In fact, our words should be seasoned with salt and our answers should be full of grace. We should not pick a fight the the sake of picking a fight. However, we should not be surprised if opposition comes our way.
Again, this chapter tells us that we are to be strong, but the source of our strength is not within ourselves, but in the grace of Jesus. Paul provides three examples of what it means to be strong in the power of grace, using the analogies of a soldier, athlete and farmer.
The first example tells us to embrace suffering, not to get entangled in civilian affairs and to be a soldier for Christ. Again this begs the question of what it means by civilian affairs. Where do we put our focus and what are we to ignore and not be distracted by? What counts as civilian affairs? It does tell us that we are to be single-minded and to only seek our general’s pleasure. Therefore, whatever we do, we do it to glorify God.
The athlete analogy again shows strength, endurance and hard-work, but within a set of rules. These rules are to show us that we are to be obedient to the word and to the commands of Christ Jesus.
The final example of the farmer suggests the fruitfulness of pursuing God’s purpose. By living within the will of God, we will receive his promises.
Then Paul reminds Timothy of Jesus’ death and resurrection, to encourage him to share in this suffering for the gospel. He also mentions his own suffering, that was endured in the pursuit of fulfilling this gospel. Verses 11-13 tells us that if we die and endure in Christ, we live and reign in his resurrection power. However, he we disown him, we, too are disowned.
The final part of this chapter shows how Timothy is to focus on the word of God and avoid quarrels and Godless chatter. He is to be kind and gentle, even in his rebukes. Then, Timothy can present himself as someone who is not ashamed of the gospel he has heard.
The letters to Thessalonians are almost completed, despite having taken me months to complete them (a global pandemic got in the way). I’ve had to read back on what I’ve read in the letters to refresh my memory. It’s been somewhat sobering as I realise I have been doing exactly what James 1: 22-25 warns against doing: hearing and forgetting. The letters had lots of advice ready for me to use in this time of COVID-19 and yet I followed none of it. So, perhaps they weren’t lessons learnt after-all. ()r this was the lesson – who knows?)
Yesterday, I had a zoom prayer session and was blessed by friends on the other side of the world gathering to pray for me. My final prayer echoed the words of verse one: “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you.” I prayed that the message of the gospel may be heard whatever my situation and that Christ be glorified. Verses 2-4 are very encouraging as well. Verse 5 is an especially beautiful prayer.
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Can I get an amen? I certainly need my heart directed into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. It’s been running a on empty recently and my perseverance has been shaky at best. (Nonexistent at worst and probably at its most honest, too.)
Verses 6 to 15 is a rebuke against idleness. I manage to give an illusion of industry, but I’m probably pretty idle. I like a good nap and I sometimes (daily) put off things I should. I’d like to be a pathetic millennial and say adulting is hard but it’s not, especially in my situation. So, I probably should get a grip a bit more. It also might help me in making some rather large decisions about next steps, when I’m looking to make life easier but probably can’t.
Another consequence of COVID-19 is there is plenty of stress and uncertainty happening. So, again, the Bible is timely and relevant. God is good.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
Yes, Lord, be with me and give me peace at all times and in every way. Amen.
Like in his other letters Paul lets us know what living as a follower of Christ should look like and what it doesn’t look like.
First, he tells us to focus both our hearts and minds on heavenly things. Our desires and our perspectives should be based on higher things than the earth.
Then he tells us what the markers of Christian life are:
- Forgiving others
- Peace of Christ ruling our hearts
- The message of Christ dwelling among us
- Psalms, verses, songs to God in our conversation and in our hearts
- Wives submitting to their husbands
- Husbands loving their wives
- Children obeying parents
- Servants obeying their masters
- Working as if for God not man
Christian living does not involve these things:
- Sexual impurity
- Evil desires
- Greed (which is idolatry)
- Filthy language
- Fathers embittering their children
Again, these are quite a list.
But if we do it with our focus upon Jesus in his throne, then we will desire to love and serve him.
This part of scripture is just amazing. Just read it yourself a few times. Really take it in.
Verses 13-14 tells us of a rescue story. One where people were in the kingdom of darkness but were bought into another kingdom. This is our rescue story!
Then the next section tells us all about Jesus, who he is and what he has done. This is what it tells us
- He created everything
- He sustains everything
- He is eternal
- He is the fullness of God
- He rules over every authority
- He is the head of the church
- He reconciled everything—that’s everything— to God.
- He shed his blood
- He made peace
Then it reiterates how we were saved in verses 21-22:
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”
How amazing is Jesus and the work he has done!
Now Paul tells us his response to this, which is one we should all follow. Paul becomes a servant to this message and proclaims Christ.