And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Nice job, but I want you to do better.
Well this is what Paul is doing in his letter to the church at Thessalonica. He applauds their effort, but prays that they shine even more. Is Paul unpleased? Is he an evil task-master? Is he being legalistic? No, not at all. Paul exhorts them because he understands two biblical principles. First, spiritual growth and refinement come as a result of being tried and tested. Without it we grow dormant, become stale, and eventually putrefy.
Second, there is the constant hazard associated with becoming content in our past accomplishments. Within us all there is this tendency to rest on our past deeds and then ease into a spiritual comfort-zone. We know we’ve settled-in when we become agitated at the mere suggestion we need to move forward.
Have You Been Poured Out?
Paul, a biblical scholar was likely familiar with the Jeremiah passage regarding Moab’s satisfaction with their status quo:
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed. “Therefore behold, the days are coming, ” says the Lord, “That I shall send him wine-workers Who will tip him over And empty his vessels And break the bottles.” Jeremiah 48:11-12
The prophet Jeremiah compares Moab to the wine-making process of the day. The ‘dregs’ or sediment is cleared from the wine as the bottles are poured one to another. If this process is not done, the wine will eventually take on the flavor of the dregs. What does this look like practically? Ever hear a Christian give a testimony that’s filled with all the cool, spiritual stuff he did…10 years ago? We can almost hear God say,
So what have you done for me lately?
If we don’t willingly and gratefully submit to this process; if we fail to see the benefits and blessings that occur as a result of our refinement, we will become stagnant and risk being dumped-out and smashed by the enemy. That is not to say the person’s salvation is at risk, but it does bring into question the person’s sincerity when he or she accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Was it Godly sorrow that produced their repentance that led to salvation or was it merely an analytic, emotional response? Well that’s between God and them, but it does stand to reason if conversion is real, subjection and commitment are the divine byproducts of intense gratitude and appreciation. A Christian knows, or in time they will come to know, that they are not just saved, but they are saved for a purpose.
“…We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
- Have you become stagnant in your walk with Jesus?
- Have you settled into a spiritual comfort zone?
- Has God sent you wise counselors to get you moving?
- How have you reacted?
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