“If You Are Standing Fast”

“If You Are Standing Fast”

The letter to the Thessalonians is written in the midst of trial.  The Thessalonian Christians faced opposition to their faith in God, and so did the Apostle Paul.  And as Paul has written to the Thessalonians, he expresses concern that perhaps the Thessalonian Christians have drifted.  One of the things we notice about Paul throughout his writing is that he cares deeply for the Christians that God has allowed him to serve and to impact.  He had seen the Thessalonian Christians converted and had a major role in establishing that church.  But here he is clearly concerned that in the midst of opposition, perhaps the Thessalonians would not remain fixed on the firm foundation of Christ.

            But as Timothy, one of Paul’s co-laborers goes to visit them, he brings back word that they are indeed growing and still have a deep affection for Paul and a love for the gospel that he had preached.  And Paul says something very interesting in light of this.  He writes in verse 8, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” (English Standard Version)  He has such an affection for the people of God, for this congregation that he has been separated from for so long, that he ties their faithfulness to the Gospel in with his very life.

            But Paul is a God-centered pastor.  He knows that their continued faithfulness depends not ultimately on their own ability or even on his own pastoring, but in the power of God to keep them.  That is really the hope of every Christian.  How do you know that you will remain in the faith, that you will persevere?  It is grounded in the power of God.  That is where our chapter concludes, with Paul’s confidence in the Lord: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Verses 11-13)

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas Dream Center at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash.

Gospel Thankfulness

Gospel Thankfulness

The Apostle Paul was known as a thankful person.  This is undoubtedly due to the fact that he was aware of the grace of God shown to him in Christ Jesus.  He had been a persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ and an enemy of the Gospel, and yet by grace God had opened his eyes and his heart and made him an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude of thankfulness flows through many of his letters and especially his greetings and introductions.  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy send greetings and write, “Grace to you and peace.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:1, English Standard Version)  The grace and peace of which they speak is that which is found in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the gracious Savior, has given His people peace with God by His work on their behalf.  It is by knowing the Person of Christ who has done this work that the people of God have grace and peace. 

The introduction to the letter goes on to commend the Thessalonians, with Paul noting his thankfulness.  While Paul is thankful for these believers themselves, we may note that the thanks he expresses is ultimately based upon what God has done in the lives of the Thessalonians.  This is a Gospel thankfulness, a thankfulness based on the Good News of Jesus Christ and the ways in which God Himself has transformed these believers.  Paul writes in verse 4,  “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”  Paul is thankful for what God has done.  The Thessalonians are faithful and an encouragement to the Apostle Paul because God has chosen them.  This is the same choosing grace that Paul himself knew well.  As Paul had at one time been opposed to Christ, God chose him and drew him unto himself.  Paul next references the way in which God has specifically saved and worked in  the Thessalonian Christians in verses 5-7, writing, “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  When the Thessalonian Christians heard the Gospel preached by Paul and his company, the Lord called them irresistibly to Himself, changing them from the inside out.  Paul rejoices at their conversion that God wrought and also at their continued growth in grace. 

Are we marked by Gospel thankfulness?  Are we thankful for the work God has done in our lives and also in the lives of fellow believers?  Do we long, as did Paul, to see the lost converted? 

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.  For the order of service, click here.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash.

Here Be Dragons!

Here Be Dragons!

I confess! I am not adventurous.   I like things predictable, manageable, consistent.   I see no reason to add colors to my wardrobe.  Blue and khaki always coordinate.   And while menus have options, the ‘old favorites’ are favorites for a reason.  Sure, mystery might be exciting, but I am not a huge fan.   Especially when it comes to travel.  

The internet is a boon for the non-adventurous traveler.  Every detail can be examined, anticipated, and planned.   Not only can I plot every course — and every alternate route — but with GoogleEarth, I can view the landscape and landmarks as well.   Travel should be like a Swiss watch — smooth and accurate.  No broken cogs or gears, no unexpected cancellations, no alternate routes, no field retrofits.  And certainly, no uncharted territory.

I completely understand the anxiety of ancient mariners whose maps ended short of their destination.   No comfort comes from drawings of beasties labeled, “here be dragons!”   As if the prospect of sailing off the edge of the world was not enough.   Thankfully, most places we travel are now mapped.  And despite the History Channel’s best attempts, no dragons have been found.   Or have they?

Some journeys do, indeed, boast dragons.   The Bible, the map that guides our spiritual journey through this life, does indeed warn of a dragon.   A vile beast who appears as an angel of light.  Jesus described as “a murderer from the beginning, [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 

He is no mere abstract idea.  He is described as real and personal.    He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  He longs to enslave us with a lifelong fear of death.  He plots our ruin.  He seeks to lead us to sin, then accuses us before God’s justice.   He is the enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy.   He hates anything that gives glory to God, and everything made in God’s image.  He is at enmity with all mankind and at war with the people of God.

Revelation portrays him as an enormous dragon, with seven crowned heads.   He is the Great Pretender to the throne of the universe, a vicious tyrant who hates all his subjects.   He is a defeated foe, but his defeat has only made him more malevolent.  Revelation 12:7-12 describes his current condition.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

He is defeated, but not to be ignored.   The futility of his conflict has not led him to surrender.  He is the enemy of the church and is at war with her.  We read that “the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

Revelation is a book of comfort, not discomfort, but “forewarned is forearmed.”   Christ has broken the power of the Devil.   Satan cannot triumph, but he is carrying out a war of terror.   Revelation 12 paints this picture with vivid colors and bold brush strokes.   Using a palate from Exodus, Daniel, and Zechariah, the Holy Spirit creates a stunning spiritual view of the persecuted church.   Satan tries to destroy both Christ and His Church.   But fails at every turn.  

God’s word tells us that our journey is marked with “here be dragons!” But that is not the last word. The Bible tells us that, “the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].” (Colossians 2:15) Join us this week as we examine Revelation 12:1-18 and consider a call to vigilant, yet victorious life in Christ.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.  For the Order of Service, click here.