Prepared to Face the World

September 11, 2022 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: First Thessalonians

Topic: English Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

Some years ago, my wife and I went to a couple’s cooking class. And the chef in charge told us about an old cooking tradition which says that a master chef’s hat has 100 folds which represent the 100 ways he knows how to prepare an egg. It’s a visual representation of what the chef has learned.

Food historians don’t really know where or when that idea originated, but it continues to be a popular belief. A master chef should know over 100 ways to cook an egg.

We might be impressed with someone who has that level of cooking knowledge, but we also know that you don’t have to know how to cook an egg to enjoy one, right? There is a difference between the knowledge of food and the consumption of food. You don’t have to know a lot about food in order to eat it and enjoy it.

You can consume food with little knowledge about it, and you can have a lot of knowledge but not consume it. Think about that. You can know all the recipes in the world, you can know all there is to know about food, but if you don’t eat, you will starve.

That is true in the physical sense, and it’s also true in the spiritual sense. In order to be spiritually healthy, our souls need constant nourishment. And what is it that our soul feeds on? God has said that it is His word.

Having knowledge about the Bible is good. It’s important. It’s a foundation for a healthy Christian life. But do not confuse Bible knowledge with Bible intake. You cannot rely simply on what you know. You and I need to feed on the word of God regularly. If the only Bible intake you get is on Sunday morning when you can make it to church, you are going to be spiritually weak and malnourished [desnutrido].

If I had to guess, I’d say most of us, myself included, eat more than just three times a day. But what would happen if you decided to eat only once per week? Besides losing weight in an unhealthy way, you wouldn’t have the energy to do what God calls you to do.

The same thing can happen in our own lives spiritually if we stop regularly feeding ourselves on the word of God. This is how we feed our souls. This is how we receive the energy and the power to do the work God has called us to do. This is how the Spirit of God works in and through us. It’s all by His word.

Last week, we ended our message at the end of verse 13, which speaks about the power of the word of God. We reminded ourselves that the power of God’s word can be seen both in salvation and in sanctification. The Spirit of God works through the word to bring sinners to faith, and to bring Christians to spiritual maturity.

Notice again that at the end of verse 13, Paul doesn’t speak about the working of God’s word in the past tense. He speaks of it as an ongoing reality. He says: The word of God…performs its work in you who believe. That’s talking about the work of sanctification.

As Christians, we need to remember that the driving force in our lives is the Spirit of Christ, who dwells within us. And the way He works in our lives is through the word of God. So, we need to be taking that in.

In John 17, when Jesus prays for His disciples, He says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Just like we need food to grow physically, we need spiritual food, which is the word of God. And the Bible speaks of God’s word as food.

Psalm 19 says the word is sweeter than honey. First Peter 2:2 instructs us: like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. This is our nourishment.

Speaking of his teaching of God’s word, Paul said to the Corinthians, “I feed you with milk.” And he contrasted that with solid food, which is what comes next, once there are signs of growth. The author of Hebrews says the same thing in chapter 5. The word of God is milk for the young and solid food for the mature. We need to be taking in God’s word on a regular basis. That’s what our soul needs.

Whatever the state of our soul, what we need is to hear and to apply the word of God. The real “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is not funny stories or sentimental anecdotes. It is the word of God.

Now, when you’re taking in God’s word and you’re growing spiritually, that’s going to have an effect on your life. That result is called sanctification. You are going to be more like Jesus Christ. You’re going to see the fruit of the Spirit. That’s not simply a hope; that’s what God has said is going to happen to those who trust and receive the word of God.

And one key attribute that God’s word will produce in the life of a true believer is perseverance. Perseverance. Back in 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, we were told that the American swimmer Michael Phelps consumed about 12,000 calories every day. Twelve thousand calories.

Most adults only need about 2,000 calories each day, but Michael Phelps was an Olympic swimmer in multiple events. He needed the calories, and we don’t.

Sometimes, we take the same approach with spiritual intake. I’m not a missionary. I’m not a pastor. I’m not a seminary student. So why should I need to depend on the word of God so much?

The answer is because you need perseverance. You may not think you need it, but you do. And I’d like to show you why in the passage we’re looking at today.

Beginning in verse 14, Paul describes a specific manifestation of God’s power through His word in the Thessalonians church. Look at it with me. First Thessalonians 2:14. Paul says: For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews.

The work of God’s word in them made them more like the Christians in Jerusalem. In a general sense, that points to their sanctification, but specifically, Paul is talking about their perseverance. They suffered for the sake of Jesus Christ. Just like the Jewish religious leaders opposed Jesus and opposed the early church, the church in Thessalonica faced enemies too.

And Paul says that the suffering was basically the same. You suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews.

I mentioned some of that suffering last week when we looked at Acts 17. The mob that formed outside Jason’s house was saying, “These men… have turned the world upside down.

Though the bulk of the opposition for the Thessalonian church came from the Greek authorities, Paul says it wasn’t much different from the opposition the church faced in Jerusalem. Why did he say that? Because behind every opposition is the same spirit—the spirit of this world and the spirit of Satan, the enemy of God.

If Paul could say that the opposition from the Jews was the same as the opposition from the Greeks, I think it’s fair to say that the opposition Christians face today is the same as well. It might manifest itself in a different way, but at its heart, it’s the same kind of rejection. And because of the opposition, that’s why we need perseverance. And that’s why we need to feed on the word of God.

What are we up against? What kind of opposition are you and I going to face if we are serious about serving Jesus Christ? Let me give you three descriptions of what you and I are up against in this world. And they come to us in verses 15 and 16.

Number 1, we need to be ready to face a hatred of Jesus. A hatred for Jesus. Verse 15 begins with Paul describing the opponents like this: They killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out.

From a theological perspective you need to understand that Jesus’ death was part of God’s eternal plan. But that doesn’t erase the guilt of the people involved. The Jewish authorities condemned Jesus to death because they hated Him.

Paul knew this firsthand. As a faithful Jew, he would have been there in Jerusalem during Passover when Jesus was crucified. And then, two years later, when Stephen was stoned for his faith, Paul was there in person collecting people’s coats. Then he went out looking for Christian so he could put them in jail. Paul lived in this kind of hatred. And he tells us it’s because he was a slave to Satan. He was serving the prince of the power of the air.

You and I need to understand this, and we need to remind ourselves about this. The system of this world hates Jesus Christ. And if you desire to serve Christ, you will be hated you too. That’s exactly what Jesus told His disciples.

That means that if one of your top desires or priorities is to have this world accept you and praise you, you are not going to be able to do that if you surrender your life to Jesus Christ. All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. That’s what Paul told Timothy. This world has a hatred for Jesus.

In Mark 13:13, Jesus told the people: You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Hatred is coming. It’s part of serving Christ, but we need endurance. We need perseverance.

There’s a second reason we need to be ready. This world is marked by a hatred for Jesus, and secondly, a hostility toward man. A hostility toward man.

Continuing in verse 15, we see that the enemies of the gospel displease God and oppose all mankind.

This world rejects Jesus Christ, and they do not seek that which pleases God. They have no desire for that. They only live for themselves. One evidence of that, based on what Paul says, is that they “oppose all mankind.”

In a specific sense, their hostility is seen in their murder. They are promoting the death of those who follow Christ. But there’s a bigger principle here. This world isn’t just set against Christians; it’s opposed to all mankind.

This is an important reminder because the unbelieving world accuses those who uphold the Bible as being bigots. They say we oppose human rights and human happiness. But the truth is that just like with Satan’s temptation of Eve, his purpose in the world is not for the good of mankind; it’s for the destruction of mankind. Satan’s lies don’t promote human flourishing; they denigrate mankind’s true purpose as being created in God’s image.

Just think about the loudest messages this world is sending to our children: “Don’t listen to external authority; follow your heart. You be whoever you want to be; don’t let people pull you away from what you really want.” And that underlying message is what has led to the dangerous escalation of immorality and perversion. That’s what this world is selling, and they say it’s for the good of mankind.

They don’t say it like this, but their message might as well be: kill the babies, mutilate the children, let lawlessness reign. The only law that this worldly system wants is one that promotes their agenda, not ones that promote the righteousness of God.

Is it really good for a child or a teenager to be told that the essence of their identity is found in their own sexual expression? No. It’s inaccurate, and it’s dangerous. The core of our identity is that we made in the image of God. We were created to serve Him. Our life is hidden [escondida] with Christ in God.

And every other sin this world promotes has the same kind of destructive effect on mankind. To oppose Jesus Christ is to oppose all mankind. That’s not God’s side. That’s the side of Satan, and that’s who this world follows. This system hates Jesus Christ, and it’s hostile toward mankind.

Well, if the world system hates Jesus and is hostile toward the God-ordained purpose of mankind, then this final characteristic shouldn’t be a surprise.

Number 3, we need to be prepared for a hindrance of the gospel. There is hatred for Jesus. There’s hostility toward man, and there is a hindrance [obstáculo] of the gospel.

This come from verse 16 which is an expansion on how this world opposes all mankind. Verse 16—enemies oppose mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved.

In Paul’s day, hindering him from speaking meant threatening his life and forcing him out of the city. In Stephen’s case it meant stoning him to death. What does that look like for you today?

Officially, our nation isn’t at the level of what we see in Afghanistan, China, and North Korea and other countries like that where it’s illegal to proclaim the biblical message of Christ.

But what we do see in terms of our culture is a growing pushback against the message of Jesus and against the word of God. For example, if you have enough followers, and you say a man isa man or a woman is a woman, you can get booted off some social media. That’s already happening. You can lose a job over a statement like that. You can lose your college admission.

At a minimum, because of the general pushback against the message of Christ, you will probably experience a hesitancy and uncertainty if you start to talk about Jesus Christ. You know it’s not going to be accepted.

We need to be ready for that. This world’s rejection of Jesus Christ isn’t a reason for us to be quiet; it’s the reason we need courage and boldness while still speaking with gentleness and respect. We need to be ready to face opposition and rejection.

That’s why we need perseverance. And that’s why we need to consistently return to God’s word.

Paul wasn’t describing the enemies of Christ in order to scare the Thessalonian church; they already knew what he was saying. He was saying it to encourage them to continue being faithful. He wanted them to persevere in their ministry.

And one way to help persevere in ministry is to remember that no matter how glorious and glamorous this world may seem, in the end it will face the judgment of God.

Look at the final words of verse 16. This world opposes the gospel so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

What does it mean to fill up the measure of your sins? It means that nothing this world does is outside God’s sovereign plan. He’s not surprised by it, and He will not ignore it. God has already measured out how much sin they will commit. It’s like there’s an empty measuring cup, and God has already marked out how much sin they will pour in there. And while it looks like they are simply adding sin upon sin without any consequence, what they are really doing is adding to the cup the wrath of God.

We serve a patient God. He sees the sin in the world. He sees the hatred and the opposition, but for His own glory, He permits it. He delays His wrath. In some cases, it’s so an individual will come to repentance, but at a larger scale it’s so that His judgment will be completely vindicated. Everyone will know that the sinner is getting exactly what he deserves.

It might interest you that in Genesis 15, when God is talking to Abraham, before the nation of Israel exists, God says that his descendants will be in slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, but then they would return. And one of the reasons God gives for the delay is that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Centuries later, after Israel comes out of Egypt, Joshua will lead them into the Promised Land, where Abraham was, and Israel will be God’s instrument of judgment against the idolatrous and immoral nations.

There are times when, as a dad, I see one of my kids doing something wrong. And I suppose I would have the authority to step in and give some immediate consequence. But some parents might disagree, or I might not be totally sure what the best consequence is, or worse, my child might not be convinced about the severity of his or her own sin.

But if I let the sin continue and grow into something worse, then there’s no debate to be had. My wife, and the rest of my kids know full well that this kid deserves to be punished. Now, he’s filled up the measure of his sins, or her sins.

That’s what God is doing with the world. He is not condoning what’s happening, and He’s not ignoring it. He is sovereignly allowing it to continue for a time, but His judgment will come. Don’t forget that.

Again, the end of verse 16 says: wrath has come upon them at last! The phrase there that gets translates “at last” could also be “to the end.” There is a horrific judgment of God that will endure through all eternity.

This is not some strange or obscure teaching in the Bible. This is all throughout the Old and New Testament. The wrath of God abides [permanece] on those who reject the Son of God.

Romans 1:18 reminds us: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Romans 2 says: because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed…for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

And there are plenty of other passages that speak of the wrath of God. Those who reject will receive the fiery torment in an eternal darkness. God is not blind to those who reject Him. Unless you repent, that’s what awaits you. But if you trust in Jesus Christ, if you surrender your life to Him, calling out to Him as Lord, He will save you, on the basis of His mercy on the cross and His victory in the Resurrection.

But for most of you, this isn’t intended by God to be a message that scares you; the intent is to encourage you to continue to be faithful even amidst the sin and the hatred and the hostility and hindrances of the world. And the best way we can prepare ourselves to face that is by going back to word of God. This is the good news; this is the gospel that bears fruit in our lives.

As we wrap up our time together, I’d like you to turn with me to Psalm 73. Psalm 73. This is an important Psalm to remember. Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, and in the psalm, he describes his own inner anguish as he looked around and saw evil and wickedness prospering in the land. And nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

Psalm 73. Look at verses 1-3. It says—Truly God is good to Israel, to those who  are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph is going to describe a personal journey. He was caught being envious of the prosperity of the wicked. And that’s a real danger for all of us. this world is filled with pleasure and false promises, and it’s all so alluring to the flesh.

Asaph looked around at the wicked people, and he saw people whose lives seemed to be going well.

Verse 4 continues—For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of  mankind.

He goes on to describe their arrogance and their blasphemy against God. Initially, it would produced a righteous anger, but eventually, it became a frustration and a temptation. These people aren’t suffering any consequences!

Verse 11—And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.

So, Asaph thinks, what’s the point of being righteous? My life is difficult, and their life is easy! At the same time, though, Asaph knows that his conscience and his God wouldn’t let him continue down that path.

Verse 13—All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every  morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the  generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task. And now, notice verse 17. Here’s the key. Here’s what changed Asaph. Verse 17—until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.

“I discerned their end.” Their life may seem comfortable and pleasant right now, but I went to church, and I heard the word of God, and I remembered where that life is headed.

Verse 18—Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

That’s pointing to the wrath of God that will come upon the wicked. It will be a terror.

But for Asaph, he remembers that no matter how difficult his life is, God is always with him. Let’s read the closing verses, and then we’ll pray.

Verse 23—Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in  heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

More in First Thessalonians

September 4, 2022

The Centrality of God's Word

August 28, 2022

Spiritual Fatherhood on Display

August 21, 2022

Minister like a Mom