A Sunday School teacher was telling her class how God created everything, including human beings. A young boy in the class seemed especially intent when they told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs. Later that week his mother noticed him lying down as though he were ill, she asked him what was wrong? He looked up at her and said, ?I have a pain in my side, I think I'm going to have a wife.? Mothers have the wonderful challenge of bringing relief to such dilemmas, of preparing lives for what is to come. G.K. Chesterton offered these words to underline the essential work of motherhood, ?Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. How can it be an important career to tell other people's children about mathematics, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe?...A woman's role is laborious...not because it is minute, but because it is gigantic.? The task of preparation is always under estimated, nor matter the application. In fact the greater the need for preparation the easier it is to underestimate the importance of that work. Let's look at a passage of Scripture this morning that emphasizes this truth in the highest way, turn to 1 Thessalonians 5: 23-28.
I. God Prepares Us For What We Could Never Accomplish On Our Own.
Can you remember a time when you began a new job, it was your first day and there was no one around you to show you how it was supposed to go? Do you remember how nervous you felt over the possibility of messing it up? The good news is that you gradually figured that out and you got better at the task. When Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians he knew that what he was laying out before them was not only going to be difficult, it would be impossible. To ?admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone?, this would be difficult to consistently do, let alone the injunction to 'rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks??. Paul knew that what he had just set before them was gigantic. It's why he now says what he does in verse 23, ?Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely??. The words ?of peace? and 'sanctify? have reference to something that God has done that cleanses us, that purifies or frees us from the guilt of sin. The term ?Himself?, sometimes translated 'very?, possibly has reference to the unseen way in which He works. But it's the last word that is most rare. We translate it as the word ?entirely?. The literal rendering according to A.T. Robertson would be, 'through and through?, or, 'the whole of each of you, every part of each of you. So putting it all together, Paul prays that God will, in an unseen way, purify us in every aspect of who we are, spirit, soul and body. Many times we can read verses like these and take them as general expressions of well wishing, kind of like, ?I hope you have a good trip home?. Was Paul just being polite or did he really mean what he said? Was the Spirit that inspired Paul to write this just wanting to encourage us or was there an assertion of truth being given that was meant to prepare us for what lay ahead? Consider what the implications then are:
1. All of who you are needs to be changed, mortal flesh, immoral soul, irreverent spirit. Forgiveness of sin is about our exemption from judicial penalty, but these other speak of the fallen-ness of humanity that has to be redeemed.
2. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross opens the way for all who believe in this gift to experience complete forgiveness, to the point of one day, the day that Christ comes again, or on our death, we will be considered by God as being without blame. Oh how we need to hear that this is possible and that God will bring it to pass. The second coming of Christ and our restoration in that time will be like beginning again, but with a new type of Adam as our pattern. 'so then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. (Rom.5:18)
3. These are impossible things for any man to even begin to attempt to accomplish. They come to us by faith while we are still at disagreement with God. In this sense they are absolutely undeserved? it is grace. They come to us as an act of God's love for us, in this sense He preserves us, it is His perseverance that thus keeps us.
Considering all these things, we can truly say, ?What a wonderful Savior?!
II. God Prepares Us In His Unique Way To Accomplish What He Wills.
The truth of the faithfulness of Christ is indeed unique. He calls us to an awareness of Who He is, to an awareness of sin and the consequence of sin. He draws us to a place of curiosity about the character of God, about the extent of the sovereignty of God, to wonder over the love of God. He calls us to a place of agreement with Him. Do you remember that passage from the book of Isaiah 1:18, ?Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.? God calls people to Himself, but don't miss how He does it. He is faithful! That is, Jesus does exactly as He has been asked to by the Father. That meant the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection, the return, glory. Jesus is here this morning, faithfully moving with the Holy Spirit, to bring to pass the impossible in your life. Where there was deadness of spirit, He brings life; where there was emptiness, He brings hope; where there was no direction, He brings love. Amazingly we begin to realize that ?right now? is part of what our Savior does. It is why we call Him Savior, because apart from His intercession in my life, I am lost. So how does this work, what does it look like?
1. It begins by God urging people to come to Him on behalf of others. He brings to pass the desire to pray and the answer to prayer. The words and actual action of prayer He invites you to do. Paul healed the sick, wrote down the inspired words of Scripture, saw the risen Christ and yet knew the essential need he had for these young believers in Thessalonica to pray for them. God prompts prayer to bring about faith in others.
2. It begins by God urging people to risk loving Him by loving one another. For a woman who was a slave to greet another who was a woman of wealth with a kiss of sisterhood in Christ, this gloried the God Who reigns in them. How does God prepare you for what He wants to uniquely accomplish? He presents you with the opportunity to open your heart and risk being loved as you love.
3. It begins by God urging people to read His word and to tangle with it, to wrestle with it and finally to be in agreement with it. Some who read this letter to the Thessalonians will fight with what they hear, that's what Paul was thinking. Good, let them hear it, let them read the word of God, it will not return to God without its? accomplishing the purpose of God.
4. It begins by the grace of God, specifically the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ with you. What else could this mean but that Jesus has through His death completely paid the price of our sin, bringing us to a place of right standing with the Father. This great righteousness is ours by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. From this grace flows all other acts of grace towards us as the children of God in Christ? grace upon grace.
The conclusion of all this is yet again, What a Wonderful Savior!
Every act of preparation that a mother takes toward those that are so dear is done in the hope that the child will grow and have life. Even so, the Father has done in a higher way the preparation of those who for all eternity are His children.
Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.