October 23rd 2016: Ian Middlemist

Our service and communion was led by Ian Middlemist who preached on 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11, focusing on verse 9, ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Ian began by asking us, ‘Are you ready to stand before the judgement seat of Christ?’ He is coming again and we need to be prepared. This life is not all that there is, this life is passing – here but for a moment. We need to be ready for what is to be. There is an appointment to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge all men – Christian and those who are not Christians. Many assume there is nothing after this life, they agree with the mindless words of John Lennon, ‘Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people living for today.’

The believers in Thessalonica were worried about those who had passed away – how would they fare? They were also wondering how would they, themselves fare on the great day. There are three things to note: to stay alert, to know salvation is in Jesus Christ, to encourage one another.

To stay alert (verses 1-8):
Some people hide away. Some believers thought if they could pinpoint the day Jesus would return again then they would be prepared. The first thing to note is that nobody knows the date or time when Jesus Christ will return again. Jesus told the apostles, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.’ (Acts 1:7).

Picture the scene of the thief in the night. The burglar never announces when he is going to burgle our houses, there is no text message, he comes unexpectedly. Second, we have a picture of sleep. Burglars generally come at night time; it’s dark – often the time when most evil is done. Shame is less of an issue at night. It is a time when most arguments take place in homes. It is a time when may feel safe and secure in their houses under their duvets – maybe after a few glasses of wine. People feel safe and secure but not ready, thinking about comfort, not safety. Switched off.

Are we ready for the coming of Jesus> Are you spiritually alert? The problem with those who do not know Christ is that they are in the dark, they will totally be shocked at His coming. They will be whisked away to everlasting punishment. They must wake up. We need to be alert ourselves. Those who do not know Christ need to walk in the light and anticipate His coming.

Salvation is ours (verses 9-10):
Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who knows our future. Everything is dependent on Christ who is looking at our life right now. On that great day it is heaven or hell – no second chances. Hell is likened to a prison, where the prisoners are in ‘chains of gloomy darkness.’ It’s an eternal prison. Verse 9 is all about salvation, ‘For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ What is salvation? We recognise that we need it, that we need to be saved. What does it mean to be saved? It is to be rescued. But what are we to be saved from? Our greatest need is salvation from the wrath of God. This is what Christ saves us from. On that day of judgement God will judge all people for those sins against Him. He will do this because He is holy and righteous. The law is a reflection of God’s character. He will be vindicated. He will judge. Your sins have caused a separation between you and God. It is God’s wrath we are to be concerned about above everything else. We need to be saved from it by faith in Christ. He is the one who brings salvation through His work on the cross. The gospel is Jesus died for sinners, was buried, rose again from the dead and HIs sacrifice turns away the wrath of God so we are appointed to the grace and smile of a holy God. We have great reasons to praise God for His great salvation.

Encourage one another (verse 11):
The apostle Paul says in verse 11, ‘encourage one another.’ This letter is one of great encouragement. We should take up our responsibility to encourage one another. We live in a tough world. It’s difficult, particularly for the believer. It’s easy to get hurt. Bereavement was an issue for the believers in Thessalonica. How comforting are the words of Joseph Scriven’s hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

We need the encouragement of one another. We need the church. The world offers so much to a troubled people – escape through television, entertainment, drink and drugs, experiences that make you forget your pains. These are all temporary and damaging. We as Christians turn to these things as well. We can turn to professionals to help us, to counsellors, but for our personal salvation we are a body of people who are not to leave it to someone else. It is my responsibility to care for you. You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Encourage one another, build up one another. Let’s do that more and more.

Are you in the light or the dark? Are you alert to the coming of Christ? Where will you be on that great day? Encourage one another, especially when we are weak. Press on until He returns!