More and More (I Thessalonians 4:1)
January 29, 2017 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials
Topic: I Thessalonians Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:1
So here's the hypothetical: you are the parent of a college-age student who convinces you that his calling in life is to be a concert pianist. After much discussion, you tell him that if he is truly serious, you are excited to support his dream. Without hesitation, he tells you he is 100% serious, and will be committed to this pursuit.
And so you spend your time and money helping him move forward. You help him purchase a piano, the books he needs, and piano lessons with the best teacher in town. You loan him your car to go to lessons and give him time alone at home to practice in a quiet house.
After two years of this, the teacher tells you to book a venue in town for your son's first recital. But when the big night comes, your son steps to the piano in the suit you helped him purchase, sits down, and begins to play...”Chopsticks”. And that's all he plays.
Okay. So, would you be pleased or disappointed? I'm guessing you would be disappointed. And why? Because it sure seems like your child has failed to move forward, in spite of everything he's been given.
Turn over to I Thessalonians 4:1. Feel free to use one of the Bibles we've provided.
II. The Passage: "As You Received from Us" (4:1)
Keep that opening hypothetical in mind as we read what the Apostle Paul wrote, almost two thousand years ago, to the young Christians living in the Greek city of Thessalonica. He said:
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (I Thessalonians 4:1)
Do you hear Paul's heart coming through? Not only is he “asking”, he is “urging” them. And he's not only “urging” them, he's doing so “in the Lord Jesus”. He really, really cares. But what exactly is urging them to do here?
Well, what he is urging them to do in the present is connected to what he urged them to do in the past. When Paul shared the gospel with them (as recorded in Acts 17), he reminds them here of what they received from him. Not only did they receive the Good News of Jesus Christ, but they also received instruction about how to walk with Jesus and please God in their words, actions, and attitudes.
Earlier in this same letter, Paul reminds them about the spirit with which they received the word of God. Paul remind them of what happened...
...we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (I Thessalonians 2:12-13)
And I love how he encourages them in 4:1... “'you are doing' those things, the things we taught you”. But this is where the present encouragement comes in. Paul is asking them, he is urging them to “do so more and more”. Did you hear that? “More and more”.
While the piano-pursuing son might have failed to move forward in spite of everything he'd been given, Paul wants the Thessalonian Christians to move forward in light of everything they've been given. He wants them to grow, not plateau. He wants them to excel as disciples, not simply exist as disciples.
Brothers and sisters, this is God's word to us as well. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, listen to this encouragement again in regard to your own Christian life...
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
III. What We've Received
But why this verse today? Why for us? Well, in addition to this being a wonderful reminder and a great encouragement in any and every situation, I believe this is a great reminder and encouragement for us, in light of what we've received for the last twenty weeks (see our booklet, "Our Four Essentials-Memory Verses").
You may recall that back in September, we began a journey through God's word in light of our Four Essentials, those four foundational areas on which our Christian life is built, and in which we grow in Christ: One Lord, One Body, One Truth, One Mission. And so, just as the Thessalonians received God's word from Paul and his companions, we too have received God's word about “walking in a worthy manner”, about “how [we] ought to walk and to please God”. Do you remember?
This morning, I want to simply remind you of what God has shown us, and for some of you, what you have hidden in your heart by memorizing these verses. Let's see if we can weave these verses together in such a way that we really do see the beautiful tapestry God is revealing to us.
We begin with the One from which everything began:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)
But remember this Creator is our creator:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
And why did He create us?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
And what is the chief way in which we glorify God?
Jesus answered, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-30, 31)
But we cannot love our Creator and love our fellow human beings without knowledge.
But [Jesus] answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
This is why God calls us to faith.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5, 6, 7)
But each of us has NOT trusted; we have turned. Each of us has leaned on our understanding. We have been wise in our own eyes. We have not turned from evil, but to it. Thus we are all “sinners”. And we must be honest about our condition. We must feel the full weight of it. But at the same time, we should grasp the weight of God's grace for sinners.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (I Timothy 1:15)
You see, our Creator came into the world to make a way of grace, to make a way of truth...
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14a, 14b)
This is the beginning of the greatest news ever; what the Bible calls the Good News, or the gospel...
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… (I Corinthians 15:1,2,3,4)
This is the message God wants taken to all people; it's a message for all people.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)...Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19, 20)
But for those who trust in this Good News about Jesus, who look to Him as both Savior and Lord, we are not called to this work alone...
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)
The gospel not only gives us a relationship with God, but also with each other...
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone… (Ephesians 2:19, 20)
But our new identity means we are connected in yet another way...
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4, 5)
And because we are part of one family, one temple, and One Body, our calling to “love your neighbor” is especially critical. But now it is informed by and empowered by Jesus, as part of our witness to the world:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34, 35)
This kind of love, flows from a heart of humility, and is radically self-giving, not self-grasping:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Phil. 2:3, 4-5)
So this mind of Christ in us enables us to love like Christ. In fact, we speak the truth in love to one another, the very word of God by which we live, for...
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
And so as renewed people, we bring this Good News, this gospel to a hungry world. But God's word reminds us that our One Mission will not be easy. Various trials and temptations await us. But through Jesus, we even have a new perspective on what is pressing and painful and problematic...or...
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
You see, we go into a fallen world, facing a crafty Enemy, and prone to wander because of sin, we go with a incomparable promise, an empowering promise, given in grace...
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
And with that promise in our hearts, we look ahead with our eyes, the eyes of hope, knowing one day our mission will be complete...
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (I John 3:2, 3)
Brothers and sisters, think about everything we've received. Think about what we've learned about “how [we] ought to walk and to please God”; about being servants of One Lord, about being siblings in One Body, about being students of One Truth, about being sent ones on One Mission. Will we, like the Thessalonians, accept it for what it really is, the word of God?
If so, then I believe we will take these things and “do so more and more”. We will not be like the piano-pursuing son who failed to move forward, in spite of everything he'd been given. As we look to Jesus Christ, and we see the grace of God, the mercy of God, the compassion of God, the love of God in His sacrifice and gift, we should want to “do so more and more”. I appreciate the way the commentator Matthew Henry expressed it, several hundred years ago:
It is not enough that we abide in the faith of the gospel, but we must abound in the work of faith. We must not only persevere to the end, but we should grow better, and walk more evenly and closely with God.
What will a “more and more” life look like for you today and this week? For some it will be very small steps of faith in the right direction. For others it will mean very decisive breaks that are seismic in nature. For still others it will mean bold action for the kingdom of God for the sake of others.
But it will always begin with the Spirit of God working through the word of God. Say that with them me. Take time to talk to God about hearing God. Take time to talk to God after hearing from God. And let's pray for one another, that we would grow, that we would move forward in light of everything we've received over the last twenty weeks.
By His grace, may God help us to remember, to trust, and to “do so more and more”.