The Third Sunday in Advent
December 12, 2021
I Thessalonians 5:16-24
As the Advent Children of God—
We Wait with Resolve!
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to resolve to do something? I have. Back when I was in school— both at college and at Seminary— there were times when I had to resolve to stay on the path that the good Lord had set me on. There were times when I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bill for tuition, room and board. There were times when some of the classes I was required to take became more of a burden than a joy. The end result was that on more than one occasion I had to resolve to stay on the path that I hoped would one day lead me into a pulpit in God’s church.
Over the course of the last 36 years I have known a number of people who due to an injury or an illness or an operation had to spend some time in therapy. The doctors, nurses and therapists knew what that person had to do in order to get better. They also knew from experience that the person could do what needed to be done. But, in the end, it was that person who had to resolve that they were going to do what they needed to do in order to get better and go home.
Resolve. While our sermon text for today might at first appear to be somewhat “disjointed,” the word resolve gives us a very good handle to use as we both study these words of our God and apply them to ourselves. With those two goals in mind, our sermon theme for today is: As the Advent Children of God— We Wait with Resolve! As I said just a moment ago, at first it might seem as though this text is somewhat “disjointed.” But the more I studied this text the more I could see how the word resolve very nicely divided this text into three parts. Today, then, my friends, let’s see how this portion of God’s holy Word helps us to remember that as the Advent children of God we wait: a) resolved to openly live our faith; b) resolved to remain faithful to God’s Word; and, c) resolved to depend on our God.
As the Advent children of God we wait— resolved to openly live our faith. Look at how that truth is emphasized in the opening portion of our text. Paul writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
God’s people in Thessalonica were enduring tremendous persecution because of their faith in Jesus as their Savior. In fact, Paul was so concerned about the Thessalonians that he sent Timothy to Thessalonica to see how God’s people were doing. Paul was overjoyed when Timothy came back from Thessalonica and told Paul that by the grace of God the Thessalonians were not only standing firm in their faith, but they were openly living their faith— even though it brought them persecutions!
Paul therefore encourages God’s people in Thessalonica to resolve to continue openly living their faith even if it does mean even more persecution. This resolve is brought out in the fact that all the verbs in the entire first half of our text are present imperatives. This means that all these verbs encourage continued on-going action. Very literally then, the opening portion of our text could easily be translated, “Keep on being joyful always; keep on praying continually; keep on giving thanks in all circumstance.” Why? Because “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”!
God’s people in Thessalonica have left a timely example for us to follow, my friends. We live in a time when the only religion that is allowed to be openly mocked is the Christian religion. For example, just this past week I read an article entitled, “Wreaths spawn debate over veterans’ graves.” Let me share a portion of it with you, “’We have no problem if people reach out and want a wreath on their deceased veterans’ graves, but to put them everywhere, to blanket them without permission of the surviving families is unconstitutional, an atrocity and a disgrace,’ said, Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The crucifix is at the crux of the opposition. Weinstein, who is Jewish, and his supporters— who include Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and the Jedi Church as well as Christians— believe the wreath pays homage to Christianity. ‘This should be an aspect of respect,’ Weinstein said. ‘It’s almost like a fundamentalist Christian gang sign to put a symbol of the Christian season of Christmas on any grave.’”
Since you and I are considered “acceptable targets” in our society today, since Biblical Christianity is openly mocked by people outside of the church and openly abandoned by people inside the church, you and I would do well to follow the example of the Thessalonians and resolve to openly live our faith— even if it means enduring ridicule! What does this resolve include? Paul emphasizes three things here in our text.
First, our resolve to openly live our faith includes, “keep on being joyful always.” No matter what other people say, no matter what other people do, as the Advent children of God we have the joy of knowing who the Christ-Child is and what He has done for us! (Pointing to the cross) Second, our resolve to openly live our faith includes “keep on praying continually.” Wherever we are and whatever we are doing as the Advent children of God we have the privilege of taking everything to our Savior-God in prayer knowing that He will hear us, knowing that He will answer our prayer in the way that is best for our soul. Let’s resolve to do so! And finally, our resolve to openly live our faith includes “keep on giving thanks in all circumstance.” In the end, it doesn’t make any difference how much or how little we have here in this world. In the end, it doesn’t make any difference how hard or how easy our life here on this earth might be. When we stop to remember that through faith in the Christ-Child we have already been given the most priceless gifts of all— complete forgiveness for all of our sins, eternal life and salvation— then we can indeed “keep on giving thanks in all circumstances.” So let’s remember, my friends, that as the Advent children of God we need to resolve to openly living our faith by “being joyful always,” by “praying continually,” and by “giving thanks in all circumstance.” Not only will this resolve help us when we are facing ridicule and persecution, but as Paul reminds us here in our text, “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
As we turn to the middle portion of our text we see that our resolve to openly live our faith is very closely connected to our resolve to remain faithful to God’s holy Word. Paul continues, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
It doesn’t take much to remind us of the fact that many many people today— both outside of the church and even inside of the church— outright reject that this Book is the holy, inspired, inerrant Word of God from beginning to end. People have become way too comfortable with “interpreting” what the Bible says so that it “fits” with whatever it is they want to believe. People have become way too comfortable in their quest to “re-define” God so that He reflects their “image” of who God is, what God will accept and what God is and is not allowed to do.
That is precisely why we need to resolve to remain faithful to God’s Word, my friends! And, as Paul brings out here in our text, remaining faithful to God’s Word includes a number of things, doesn’t it. First, it includes making sure that we “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” One of the ways that we can “put out the Spirit’s fire” is by neglecting His holy Word. Skipping church because we have “too many other things that we need to do.” Not attending Bible class because we simply “don’t feel like going.” Not bringing our children to Sunday school because it is “takes too much time.” Not paying attention in church because it is “too boring.” Not reading our Bible because it is “too difficult.” These are all ways in which we are in danger of “putting out the Spirit’s fire” by neglecting His holy Word.
Second, resolving to remain faithful to God’s Word also includes consciously striving to make sure that we “do not treat prophecies with contempt.” Scripture proclaims any number of truths that many people today hold in “contempt.” This includes the Scriptural teachings on things such as: Creation, the sin of homosexuality, the sanctity of life— including the life of an unborn child, the deadly power of sin, the reality of hell and the fact that faith in Jesus is the only way to eternal life in heaven. Because we all have that old sinful nature which always agrees with the world and always rejects God’s Word, we need to resolve to remain faithful to what God reveals to us right here in the Bible.
And finally, resolving to remain faithful to God’s Word includes, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” No matter who is standing here in this pulpit, do not simply accept everything he says. “Test” what I say by comparing it to Scripture. If what I am preaching to you agrees with what God reveals to you here in His Word then “hold on” to it as something that is “good.” If I ever teach something that contradicts what God teaches here in His Word then “avoid” it as something that is “evil.”
Resolving to remain faithful to Scripture also applies to “testing” what other preachers are teaching and what other churches are doing. It seems like it is very easy today for people to go online and get all caught up by preachers who are very charismatic and by churches that are very contemporary. While it is not wrong to be charismatic and while it is not unscriptural to be contemporary, don’t be fooled by the superficials, my friends. Preachers and worship styles and music can easily make us “feel warm and fuzzy and good” about ourselves. But if the preacher or the worship style or the music is not clearly and consistently focused on the Truth of God’s holy Word then they can easily do more harm than good to your soul. So, as the Advent children of God let’s resolve to remain faithful to all of what God Himself reveals to us right here in His holy Word!
The final point that we need to take home with us from this portion of Scripture is that as the Advent children of God we need to resolve to always depend on our God. Paul brings this out in the closing verses of our text when he writes, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
The older we get the easier it is for us to see just how much we need to depend on the Lord our God. Every time we stumble or fall in our walk with our Lord we are reminded of how much we depend on Him to “sanctify us through and through.” Every time we look into the mirror of God’s holy Law and see how much we have sinned against the God of heaven— even though the cross reveals how deeply He loves us (Pointing to the cross) — we are reminded of how much we depend on Him to keep our “whole spirit, soul and body blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Every time we humbly recognize how often we have not been “faithful” to our God we are reminded of how much we depend on our God to be “faithful” to us. Yes, my friends, no matter how we look at it, as the Advent children of God we need to resolve to always depend on our God.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to resolve to do something? Our text for today makes it clear that each and every one of us needs to answer that question with a very humble, “Yes.” My prayer then this morning is that as the Advent children of God— children who are waiting to once again celebrate Jesus’ first Advent into this world at Christmas time, children who are still waiting to celebrate Jesus’ second Advent into this world on Judgment Day— my prayer is that as the Advent children of God we will indeed wait with resolve— resolve to openly live our faith, resolve to remain faithful to God’s Word, resolve to always depend on Him. (Pointing to the cross)
To God be the glory!