THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
PERSONALIZING OUR LIVES IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS
We have learned some important lessons about encouragement from Paul's attitude and his ministry to the church in Thessalonica. He arrived, gave people the Gospel, they responded to it, and Paul and his team remained there to establish the local church. We have learned important principles on how to deal with a new believer. We have also learned how to deal with believers who may have been saved for some time, but have only recently become positive to the intake of Bible truth. We learned what attitude we should have in dealing with them and ministering to them. We have everything necessary to take basic Bible doctrine we have learned and communicate it to them in a very challenging and encouraging way. It is one thing to have the information, it is another thing to share it with someone else. Remember, you do not try to change them overnight by cramming the Word of God down their throats. You have the right information, but it has to be given in the right way and at the right time. The Word of God shows us the right way to deal with people. Paul stated the correct mental attitudes and actions we should have toward others based on our unconditional love.
but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
FOLLOWING PAUL'S EXAMPLE OF GENTLENESS AND SELF GIVING
Paul began teaching the Thessalonians what was involved in encouragement of others. He reminded them what actually took place when he came into their city and established their church. He reminded them of how he conducted himself and the type of example that he set. Paul's example as a source of encouragement to these new believers was based on his application of Bible truth to his life through obedience to God's plan for his life. Through his example, Paul motivated them to establish a local church and to continue on in the Christian life through consistent intake and metabolization of Bible truth.
The first thing you must have in order to be a source of encouragement to other people is gentleness. Gentleness is many times not observed when meeting "grace people" or "doctrinal people." Often, they are harsh or abrupt in their interaction with other people and are often thought of as very "hard-nosed." They believe that each believer is strictly on his own! They cannot imagine becoming involved in other believers' lives. They often think that if a new believer sticks with doctrine, then that is all they will ever need. It is true that the believer has his own volition and should make his own decisions based on the Bible truth resident in his soul. However, it does NOT mean he needs no one else to help him along during his spiritual growth. I am thankful that when I received Christ that I had people in the local church who were gentle with this hardheaded Irishman and were willing to be patient and help me along in the spiritual life. The maturing believer is supposed to encourage new believers and to exhibit patience, gentleness, and other attributes of unconditional love towards them.
The church in Thessalonica was established and nourished through gentleness. Paul stated a specific quality that characterized his ministry. You see what the power of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit can do when you have love and joy and peace and long-suffering. Paul was a harsh legalistic type before Salvation. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was self-righteous, impulsive, and impatient. He was someone who loved to hurt other people. He delighted in killing Christians and hauling them off to prison thinking that he was doing God a great favor. This very cruel man was transformed by the power of the Spirit into a great, but gentle believer.
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Gentleness and self-giving love are the principles of 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. Paul was committed to communicating the message of Christianity and to giving the Gospel of God. Paul realized that message could only be communicated effectively in a context of concern. Many times we see people saved or brought across our pathway by the Lord who are positive to Bible truth. If we just throw the Bible truth at them, that would be like a mother telling an infant to go get his own bottle out of the refrigerator and drink it by himself. Instead, she takes the baby in her arms and helps the baby drink.
Gentleness and self-giving or unconditional love is so important for followup work with people who have just received the Lord or who are getting positive to Bible truth. You need to give them basic Bible doctrine. It has to be done in the attitude of gentleness and under the concept of self-giving love.
Regardless of what you were before salvation and Bible truth, if you stick with the Word and you grow spiritually, stay controlled by God the Holy Spirit and manifest the fruit of the Spirit, you can become one who possesses all of these tremendous qualities that the Apostle Paul had. Paul did not have exclusive communication with God. No one does! Everything that was available to Paul is available to you and I, including gentleness.
Another important quality or virtue that we should possess to encourage other people is seen in Paul's, Silas', and Luke's relationship with unbelievers near them. The Thessalonians had become very dear to Paul, Silas and Luke before they were saved. They saw great potential in these people who were hungry for the Word of God. These people were positive and wanted to get saved. These people wanted to learn what God had to say about their lives and His plan for them.
These people had accepted the hope of salvation when they heard the Gospel. That hope was transferred into the reality of salvation by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this, Paul said they were very dear to them and would be willing to lay down their lives for them in getting the Gospel to them. What does that tell you about this great virtue that Paul possessed that we should have in order to encourage other believers? He had a self-giving love. He had such a maximum unconditional love that he was selfless and always giving of himself.
Although the Apostle Paul was committed totally to communicating the content of Christianity, he knew that message could only be communicated effectively in a context of concern. A self-giving love is where you are concerned for the lost and for believers. You are concerned for their spiritual growth. You are so concerned that you get Bible doctrine information on the basics and you sit down with them, listen, and answer questions. You are so concerned that you start bringing them out to Bible class. You can get them started in the spiritual life! You can keep them going in the spiritual life!
You should have the same attitude as the nursing mother. The nursing mother does not take the newborn babe and say, "Well, here it is, try to find it. You have a volition. You have the desire. You have the motivation. You want that bottle. Get that bottle." No, you must take the baby to the bottle or bring the bottle to the baby. That is gentleness and a self-giving love. You have to be a giver and not a taker. If you have not outgrown that self-centeredness of being a taker rather than a giver, you are never going to be an encouragement to anyone else.
We are now going to discuss antithetical and analogous distiches. These are two-line poems from the Book of Proverbs. One line gives a thought and the next line gives an opposite thought. The analogous distich is where the first line is using something that becomes an analogy of something in the spiritual life.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-4)
The first line is gentleness. The second line is harshness. Shakespeare said, "The quality of mercy is not strained. It falls as the dew from heaven." You just cannot get enough of mercy or gentleness. The quality of gentleness is very dynamic in dealing with people of all ages. Not only does it soften the heart of a child, but it softens the heart of an adult. It can create beautiful memories. It can eliminate anger.
People in the grace movement can be very dogmatic. We say we have the Truth. We know we have the Truth. Yet, many do not lift a finger to show others what we have, how we got it, and where they can get it. Many are not willing to be gentle with others and personalize their outreach to others. Many are not consistent in their lifestyle and are hypocritical. Most cannot challenge others to follow them because they are not a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many do not have that self-giving love and are not gentle. Many grace-oriented believers want to cram the Word of God down the throat of people with whom they are dealing. This is totally contrary to the Word of God.
A gentle spirit is dynamic. We respond accordingly even as adults. We never grow away from responding positively to gentleness and negatively to harshness and insensitivity. Remember arrogance and preoccupation with self is insensitivity to others and hypersensitivity to self. Humility, on the other hand, is not hypersensitive to self and is genuinely sensitive to others. You can encourage people or discourage people with even the tone of your voice. That is why Paul was so emphatic when he said that all of us should be speaking the Truth in the sphere of unconditional love.
to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-15)
We need to apply the principles of gentleness and self giving love to our lives. Today, we live in a self-centered society or the "Me Generation". Most people think virtue is resident in materialistic things. The Apostle Paul was willing to give his life so that others might find the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, most people are not willing to walk across the street to help someone else much less lay down their lives for them. Christians can be as selfish and egocentric as any unbeliever. This is a real disaster among believers today.
There are seemingly more non-Christians that are more sincerely interested in other people than some Christians are. This is not the way it should be. It should be true that the most encouraging people in the world are believers. This becomes a reality with the advancing and maturing Christian because he is self-giving. Christians are a great encouragement if they are self-giving in their husband-wife relationship, their friendship relationships, their relationship with their children and in their hospitality to others.
Hospitality is NOT a spiritual gift. Hospitality is something that every Christian is commanded to extend to others. The principle is that great blessing could be yours because of your unconditional love to others exhibited by your hospitality. A kind greeting to a new believer can be a great encouragement. An invitation for them to join you for something to eat can impress them more than a thousand words heard in Bible class. One act of kindness and hospitality based on your application of Bible truth can be a tremendous encouragement to others. It is encouraging to see believers concerned for others within and outside the local church.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:21-29)
Unconditional love is also a sacrificial love. This principle is seen in Ephesians 5:21-29. Christians who really have unconditional love for the brethren have the heart of a servant. They do not have the attitude that expects the church to do something for them, but they would like to do something for their local church. They do not expect others to do things for them. They ask what they can do for others in serving the Lord by serving them.
PURE MOTIVATIONS OF THE BELIEVER
We must keep our motives pure. Do you love others unconditionally? Do you find yourself primarily giving to get? Do you get angry with others when they do not respond to what you are doing for them? This does not mean that we should be doormats letting others walk all over us. However, it does mean that we should attempt to understand people who take advantage of us or others and look on them with compassion rather than with intense dislike. Do you reach out to others in an effort to help them? If your motives are pure, you will not be terribly hurt and feel rejected if people do not reciprocate. What are you willing to sacrifice to help others succeed? The degree to which you are willing to do so is a clue to understanding why people do what they do. You will begin to understand their motivation. You must strive to be consistent in your motivation.
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
Paul wanted to be trusted so he demonstrated himself to be trustworthy in his motives. He did not take any money from the Thessalonians. He did as he had in Corinth where he made tents and was responsible for his own financial well being. One of the fruits of the Spirit is faithfulness. You must be faithful in administrating the Gospel under bona fide motivation because you are a trustworthy individual. You should never do it for personal gain. To demonstrate this quality of wanting to be trusted, Paul often gave up his own rights in situations where he felt that he could be misinterpreted as being manipulative or after some personal gain.
You must have pure motives. You should want to be gentle toward others and concerned for their spiritual growth. You should be motivated to give of yourself to others because of the Bible doctrine resident in your soul. If you are motivated to give someone Bible truth because you know they are a millionaire and will give a lot of money to the church, then this is NOT pure motivation. This is impure motivation.
STRIVING TO BE CONSISTENT AND STABLE
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. (1 Thessalonians 2:10)
Paul had a real consistent Christian testimony. He was not hypocritical. Paul practiced what he preached. He hesitated to ask people to do anything that he would not do himself. In fact, he often did things that were beyond what he expected others to do simply because of his prominent position as a Christian leader. Paul tried to practice what he preached. He did not lord it over anyone.
Some pastors lord it over their congregations. They prefer little personal contact, ministry, or relationship with those in their congregation. Some pastors feel they can not have a personal relationship with those in their congregations without compromising their position of authority. The pastor is to be the teacher AND leader by example and encouragement.
You cannot be gentle, have a self-giving love, show people that you have pure motives and be consistent in your Christian lifestyle if you are on an ego trip. You cannot lead others spiritually or be an effective encouragement if you think you are above everyone else and can never really get down there where they live.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
We are to live up to what we profess. The world needs to see Christianity in our lives not just hear about it. If new believers come out to Bible class and all they encounter is unfriendly people, then they may be so offended by the lack of true Christian virtue in the people that they may move on. The unfriendliness of the believers at classes can become the prominent thing that the person remembers. It is unfortunate that believers' unfriendly, self-centered, and holier-than-thou attitudes can make a bigger negative impression than the doctrine that was being taught. This is a sad situation evident in many local churches. If the friendliness was there, if the consistency of the Christian testimony was there, then new people would be impressed with Christianity as shown in the consistency of unconditional love.
This lack of exhibited unconditional love is what runs people away from the Word of God. Many believers think that the only purpose of the local church is to receive Bible truth. It is not. Each believer is commanded to first and foremost receive Bible truth under their priesthood and second, apply that truth to those around them. If their attitude of arrogant self-righteousness is all they show to others, then they are not in fellowship and they are not applying Bible truth as they should. We are to extend hospitality and friendliness to others. We should extend the attitude that we are glad that they are there to get the Word of God. We should make them feel relaxed and at home. They should feel that we really want them there.
The consistency principle also applies to our moods and to our disposition. If you are always in a bad mood with a bad disposition, you are not going to encourage people and impress them with the joy and inner happiness that Christianity gives. Christianity should make you happy and should produce contentment and tranquility. If you are shaking all over with fear, worry and anxiety, you are not applying the Bible truth that you have been taught. If you are in this category, you will probably convey this fearful and anxious attitude to others around you. Is this the mood and disposition that you convey to others? Not very encouraging is it? You must be consistent! You must be constant!
Most of us experience a twinge of anxiety ourselves when we are with people who are kind one day and harsh the next. These people are unselfish one day and selfish the next. They are emotionally up one day and down the next in their wide emotional swings. Often their expression of love reflects either feast or famine. They either lavish it on you or they give you absolutely nothing. None of us can be totally consistent like our Lord Jesus Christ. However, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ in the intake and application of the Word of God, we become characterized by an overall consistency. This is a part of spiritual maturity.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONALIZATION
Personalization means you are person-oriented because you are God-oriented. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will have unconditional love towards others. It is impossible to relate on an intimate, personal level with everyone we know, but we should not be aloof and removed either. It can be disappointing to see some believers who have been grace-oriented believers for 10 to 15 years and have yet to speak to a new person coming to Bible class. These believers are not motivated enough by the Bible truth in their souls to speak to newer people who need someone to be friendly and encouraging. These new people may need someone to help them along in their attendance and their spiritual life.
Believers in the local church must understand that when a new person sees everyone in a church form into their little groups, this can be fairly intimidating. You should go over to them and greet them and invite them to join you or your group! We must be consistent and person-oriented! If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be person-oriented. If you have learned what unconditional love is, you will be able to greet others even though you may be a little shy. In the power of the Spirit, you will at least be able to say, "Hello, how are you? It's nice to have you here."
It is amazing what the Holy Spirit enables you to do. You take the step, open your mouth, and He will give you the words. You open your mouth and He will fill your mouth with the words that He wants you to say to others and to be source of encouragement to them. He can do that. He can enable you to give the Gospel and He can enable you to give the information that will be a blessing to someone else. Person-orientation is thinking about fellow believers and unbelievers in a way that does not appear aloof and removed. We should stop thinking so much about ourselves and think more of others. This is especially important in our own families. We can, through Bible truth, develop an attitude that conveys concern even when we cannot personally do something about everyone's needs. The very fact that we are concerned can be a great source of blessing to other people.
Paul became personalized to the people in Thessalonica. He served as their spiritual father and dealt with each one personally. He exhorted, encouraged, and implored them to live lives worthy of God who had called them into His own kingdom and glory through salvation. This kingdom is of believers. We share Jesus Christ's glory for ever and ever in the heaven that He has created for us to live with Him throughout the eternal future. How do we apply these things to our lives today? Imitate Paul.
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:16)
Paul taught the Corinthians that he was willing to do almost anything to teach them and encourage them. He did this even as others thought him a fool as far as human viewpoint was concerned. Paul was probably the greatest intellectual who has ever lived. When he was in Corinth, the legalists and all of the troublemakers in that area accused him of being a money grubber. They accused him of being there just to get money from the people. To prove this accusation wrong, he refused to take any money from anyone. He began to make tents once again to support himself. Here is a great example of Paul's humility. When you think of his academic background, training, experience, and his spiritual maturity through utilization of the grace of God, you would think he would have the right to expect some sort of monetary support from the Corinthians.
Paul was the Pharisee of Pharisees. He had the best Greek, Roman and Hebrew education of anyone in his day. His humility enabled him to do what needed to be done to get the Word of God out. He made tents and did not make an issue of himself. This is the great principle of imitation of one who is Christ-like.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Here is our challenge from the Word of God - be imitators of Christ. We should be seeking to give the Gospel to someone and to be and encouragement to fellow believers in their spiritual life. Can you honestly say to yourself that you want to know how Jesus Christ would be conducting himself in your situation? Could you honestly tell others to follow you because your thoughts and lifestyle reflect Christ? As you grow in Grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you will become a "genuine imitation" of the incarnate Christ. Remember, the components of the Christian way of life for you are the exact same components that the Lord Jesus Christ had during His incarnation.
You are Spirit-filled just as He was Spirit-filled. You apply faith-rest principles just as He did. The Son of Man had absolutely nothing by way of promotion and prosperity in the things of this world, but He constantly ministered to others. Materialistic things were not a concern to Him. He had genuine humility in the mastery of the details of life from His grace-orientation. He had continual daily perception, intake, and application of Bible truth. He had that wonderful personal love of the Father and unconditional love of others. He had a tremendous capacity for life and shared the very happiness of God. The very virtues that were resident in the incarnate Christ are the same virtues that are available for you and I as the components of the Christian way of life.
We will never have them perfectly or at all times as He had them because He was impeccable. However, we are to have that general quality of life that reflects the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be gentle as He was gentle. The quality of gentleness is powerful in dealing with people of all ages. It can soften the heart of a child as well as an adult. One of the great things about gentleness is it can alleviate anger and it can produce very beautiful memories.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
Paul's ministry was personal. He dealt with each one on a personal basis. In teaching basic Bible doctrine to a group, the pastor must be willing to follow up with clarification and dealing with people personally by answering their questions and helping them along in the spiritual life. This is just as a father does with his children. The father does not take the whole family and set them down and lay out the rules. He has to deal with each child differently because they are all individuals and even with just two children they can be as different as night and day. What works with one child, as far as discipline and training, might not work with another child.
Some children respond very well to verbal reprimand. Others require corporeal punishment. Some require both. Parents must deal with their children as individuals to accomplish the intended training and behavior. When the child responds positively to discipline, the parents can then teach the child. This process must be both consistent and structured yet tailored for each child to be effective. This is also personalization. A good father is personally involved in love, training and discipline of each child. He does not just issue a blanket policy that is going to work on the entire family. He issues general policy, rules, and general organization for the family, but realizes that each child is an individual and requires a personal approach.
You personalize yourself to be the kind of father that you should be to your children. That was the way Paul and his missionary team came to Thessalonica. They had this attitude of personalization. They did not have the attitude of some leaders who demand respect and teach without any contact with their congregation on a personal basis. A pastor who is a leader must understand what his congregation is thinking. He has to also deal with them personally. This is the way that you have good follow up and good communication of basic Bible doctrine. Paul was talking about basic Bible doctrine. He was giving the Gospel and basic Bible doctrine as a follow up. Paul personalized his teaching.
There is a place for teaching to a group of believers. This at a local church under the authority of the pastor-teacher and in prep-school classes under a qualified teacher. There is also a place for personalized interaction. This is in teaching children and question and answer sessions after basic Bible doctrine classes. This is also true for grace-oriented camps that have been established throughout the country. They have had a tremendous effect upon people because the speakers, leaders, counselors personalize their messages. There is a place for one-on-one teaching. Our Lord did it when He spoke to the woman at the well and when He spoke to the woman taken in adultery. He communicated the Word of God many times directly to individuals.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (John 4:7-8)
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. (Luke 7:44-45)
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)
Matthew 18:20 does not refer to the teaching of the Word of God in a local church. It deals with the issue of one believer sinning against another. The believer having received the offense goes to the other and tries to clear things up. If the offending believer does not correct the matter, then a eye-witness to the act is to be brought. If the matter is still not corrected, then two witnesses must be brought. The principle here is that in the mouth of two or more witnesses every truth shall be established.
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:15-20)
Our Lord was saying what where two or more are gathered to be a witness against an individual, there He will be also. And if there is no repentance, then the matter is taken to the entire church. And if there is no repentance, then the Lord says to treat that person as you would a Publican or a prostitute in that you are to have no fellowship with them and you are to separate yourself from them.
These verses have nothing to do with assembly worship. It has nothing to do with dealing with people individually and personally. This does not diminish the importance of assembly worship and the pastor-teacher communicating the Word to the people in a group. The pastor should be willing, whenever necessary, to have the attitude and the heart of a servant. He should be willing to meet with people one-on-one and to help them in their questions and their difficulties. He should help them in their areas of weakness by relating how the Bible doctrine that he has communicated to everyone applies to them individually. This is just as a father should deal with different children one-on-one. The Christian leader should be willing to deal with people individually because each one is different.
Do not try to conform your soul to the pattern you perceive in another's soul - not even the pastor's! You have your own soul! You have your own personality which is the expression of your soul that God designed for you in eternity past. You need to be your own man. You need to be your own woman. You need to live out of your own soul. You need to have the expression of your own personality and not think that you have to imitate anyone except imitating the Lord Jesus Christ in the framework of your own personality. We are all individuals. We should be willing to become personalized to deal with other individuals.
Christianity is intensely personal. It is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through occupation with the person of Christ. It is also application of your personal love for the Lord by having an unconditional acceptance toward other believers. You should be willing, under the ministry of encouragement, to personalize your relationship with other believers and to console, comfort and challenge them from the Word of God.
Personalization is necessary for prep school teachers. When I see prep school teachers talking individually with their students at break time, that is encouraging for me. That is great. They are becoming personalized to their students. The students realize that their teachers are an authority figure, but they are approachable. They are very caring and they care for those students personally and individually.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
Personalization is becoming person-oriented as a result of being God-oriented. Being God-oriented is our capacity to love the Lord Jesus Christ through the intake and metabolization of Bible doctrine which, of course, is the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result of that, we will become personalized to other people. This does not mean that you have to be personal and form a friendship relationship with everyone you meet. It means that you are thoughtful, kind, and considerate. It means that you have the basic manners and courtesy of life so that you can involve yourself in a self-giving or unconditional love. You cannot really be an encouragement to other people unless you are people-oriented as a result of being God-oriented. God-orientation is our capacity to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the application of Bible doctrine, we become people-oriented.
THE BELIEVER'S SELF EVALUATION
We know that every Christian is to be an encourager. This is an on-going experience and is not achieved overnight. We need to evaluate ourselves constantly as to where we are in the process of encouragement. We should think through all of our human relationships - with our mate, our children, our friends, our employer or employees, and with fellow believers. In the quietness of your own soul, how would you rate yourself?
In the area of gentleness, can you truly say you are a gentle person? This comes from genuine humility. A person who is humble and meek will be gentle in his relationships with others. Are you gentle with your mate, your children, your friends, your employees, your employer, people with whom you have contact on a daily basis? Do they think of you as someone who is gentle and kind or someone who is always confrontational? Are you someone who is always hard-nosed and tough when it comes to personal relationships? Are you always someone "to be contended with" rather than someone practicing humility and gentleness?
How do you rate yourself in the area of self-giving love? Are you a self-giving person? Do you maintain bona-fide motivation from the Holy Spirit and the Word of God? Do you have proper motives? Are you a consistent Christian? Are you person-oriented as a result of being God-oriented? Do you have a people emphasis as a result of God emphasis? You should thank the Lord for these strong qualities because they really give a boost to your Biblical self-respect. On the qualities that need improvement, we should think of ways that we can begin to practice that particular quality. Paul has already challenged us from the Word of God. He has told us to imitate him as he imitates the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to follow in the footsteps of Paul who followed in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, who was a cruel, self-centered, and impatient individual, became the great encourager. He was one who was gentle, self-giving under unconditional love, and had pure motivation, consistency and personalization. Paul had all of this as a result of following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can have the same characteristics and assets of spiritual growth and maturity in our imperfect humanity that the Lord Jesus Christ had in His perfect and sinless humanity. We can never have them to the extent or on the basis of never sinning as our Lord Jesus Christ had them. We will sin and we are imperfect, but we do have a very high quality of impeccability when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit.
When God the Holy Spirit is in control, the Old Sin Nature is not in control. Your life is impeccable. When God the Holy Spirit is not in control of your soul and the Old Sin Nature is in control, then there is no impeccability. You are sinful, carnal and you are living out of fellowship with the Lord. Jesus Christ, in His humanity, constantly had all of the characteristics of spirituality and spiritual maturity. He was always filled with the Spirit, produced the fruit of the Spirit, perpetuated the faith-rest life under the worst kinds of circumstances, had enforced and genuine humility, exhibited that wonderful principle of meekness and self control, and perceived and metabolized Bible truth daily. This gave our Lord that maximum capacity to love God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the perfect Biblical self-respect. His maximum spiritual maturity gave Him consistent unconditional love toward all people and made Him spiritually self-sustained. This gave Him the great capacity for life that He had while undergoing all kinds of momentum testing. And, or course, His life was characterized by inner happiness.
Because Jesus Christ had no Old Sin Nature, all of His testing and temptation came from the world and the devil. Even with maximum testing and temptation, He shared the very happiness of God at the age of 12 years old! We can have all of these characteristics of the Christian way of life within our own lives! That is truly following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ.
C-H-R-I-S-T: CONSTANCY, HUMILITY, RESILIENCY, INTEGRITY, STABILITY, AND TENACITY
Constancy is your ability to be consistent. To be an encouragement to other people, you must be consistent. You cannot be hot and cold. It is very frustrating to be around people who are very giving one day and very selfish the next day. Many people are inconsistent. One day they very kind, but very harsh the next day. They can appear very humble one day and self-centered the next day. We cannot be perfectly consistent like the Lord Jesus Christ, but metabolized Bible doctrine in your soul will make you more consistent overall and appear to others to be stabilized in your thinking.
Humility comes from the consistent intake and metabolization of Bible truth through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The maturing believer begins to take on the genuine humility and teachability exhibited by our Lord Jesus Christ. Even if we have learned and applied a lot of Bible truth, we should still be eager to learn from others and from those in authority over us. This humility will appear to others to be a friendly and gentle self-confidence in the Grace provision of God.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back. If you have a self-giving love and truly have unconditional love, you will bounce back from failure. People will fail you, hurt you, and generally let you down in life. If you are resilient, you will not react to their "human condition," but will exercise the faith-rest principles you have learned and respond with unconditional love which is a relaxed mental attitude. You should forgive them and move on in the Christian life. If you are functioning with unconditional love based on your personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be resilient.
Integrity is your loyalty to the Truth. Loyalty to Bible truth makes you a virtuous individual. From loyalty to the Truth, you become properly motivated from your learned personal love for Jesus Christ. Virtue, honor, and integrity give you the proper motivation in life. You will be an encouragement and a refreshment to other people. You may not hear them tell you how wonderful you are, but you still do everything as unto the Lord. Your motives for action will be because you love the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the basic motivational virtue in life is personal love of God. If you have that, you have Biblical self-respect. Then you can have the operational and functional virtues of loving other people and becoming spiritual self-sustained.
This is all because of integrity. Integrity is the basis of proper motivation. Also, it is your integrity that enables you to be God-oriented and then to be people-oriented. Your loyalty to the Word of God gives you a strength of character where you can be gentle and have a self-giving love to other people and be consistent in your relationship with others. It is always a great source of encouragement to have fellowship with someone who has the ability to roll with the punches, be consistent, constant, and love you in spite of yourself. It is encouraging to know believers that can forgive and forget without strings attached and to never hold anything against you.
Stability is the consistency that comes into the life of the mature believer. He is stabilized because of his constancy and consistency in his intake and metabolization of Bible truth. The believer's spiritual growth because of application of Bible doctrine makes him more and more dependant on the thought patterns of the Lord Jesus Christ. This state of maturity allows him to consistently and confidently apply Bible truths to every situation that comes along in life.
Tenacity means you hang in there when things do not always go your way. You can really encourage other people when you have courage. You have to have courage toward people. It is blasphemy to have courage toward God. It is blasphemy to think that you are so brave and courageous that you can bombard and blast your way into the throne of grace. We are commanded to come boldly to the throne of grace, but we always come with humility. We always come with a deep sense of reverence. We have the privilege of addressing the God of the Universe. That is something that puts you on your knees within your soul. You can take anything and everything to God in prayer, but you always do so with a sense of reverence, respect, love, appreciation, and admiration for who and what the Lord is. You never have courage toward God. You have confidence in God.
When you have confidence in God, that makes you constant, consistent, and stabilized. When you are constant, consistent, and stabilized, then you can be courageous toward others. You can have wonderful tenacity. That is the ability to be courageous toward other people and to keep going. People will fail you and let you down at one time or another. People will never measure up to your expectations at all times. God will always exceed your expectations through His grace plan for your life.
Our expectations of fellow Christians, especially the ones that we know in church, are much higher than anyone else we know in our lives. We do not have the same high standard for our family, people with whom we work, people at school, or people in the neighborhood. We have the highest expectations of fellow believers. Many times, when they fail to measure up to our expectations, we react to them and we put them down. Many times we apply the same tough standards to others that we apply to ourselves. Our own standards may be too high for others. Many times, we excuse our own failures to live up to our standards, but we take others to task for the same failures.
The Word of God sets perfect divine norms and standards. These standards are impossible to attain without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We have to realize that although we may be growing spiritually and conforming more and more to those standards of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will never have them perfectly. We have to also realize that there are other believers who are adolescent believers and baby believers that are just getting started in their Christian way of life. Some believers we come in contact with are crawling, toddling, stumbling and just beginning to learn to walk with the Lord.
Walking with the Lord is like walking in life. You have to start somewhere. The first step is the hardest. We need to have that gentleness and patience with fellow believers. Although we have high expectations, we should have them for ourselves first and foremost. This is one of the great characteristics of Biblical self-respect. Another is the attitude and action of regulating your own life - not trying to regulate everyone else's life. If you first regulate your own life, then you can be an encouragement to other people. They look at you and they see that you are an example to them. They will want to follow your example just as new believers followed Paul - because you are a genuine imitation of Jesus Christ.
How do we imitate Christ? Constancy. Humility. Resiliency. Integrity. Stability. Tenacity. Thank the Lord for your strong qualities. For those where you need improvement, we should rely on the daily intake, metabolization, and obedience to the Word of God. With this focus, you will begin to practice all of these qualities and virtues.