Second Sunday After Pentecost June 26, 2011
1 Thessalonians 5:21-23
239, 335, 421, 53
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
We all know people who like to save things. My father used to say: “You never know, I might be able to use this piece of pipe…or board…or plastic for something!” But if a person saves everything, he will surely lose himself in the mess!
Collecting is a bit more selective than saving. For instance, you might save a particular glass bottle because of its color or shape, but if you collected every bottle you brought home, your house would turn into a warehouse of bottles!
Now what about discriminating? All would agree that to spend our money with careful discrimination is a good thing. If we invest, spend, and give our money carelessly, we are bring poor stewards of the wealth and goods our Lord has given us.
But today we hear so much about discrimination based on sex or color, that the very sound of the word seems criminal! Yet, our Lord wants us to be discriminating disciples, and You are discriminating disciples!
When Paul commands us to “test all things; hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil,” [vv.21-22] He is telling us that discrimination is necessary in this world.
Young children dream about the day when they are all “grown up” and can do the “fun” things their parents do. What they do not realize is that when they are children their parents make most of the important decisions for them in order to protect them from the very real dangers of life in this world. Ideally, children are not permitted by their parents to make moral and spiritual decisions for themselves until they have been trained in the Word and way of their Savior God.
This is the way it ought to be in every Christian home, for our Lord commands and promises us: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
So it has been with you young adults. You have been tested in the school classroom and on the athletic field. Your parents have acted upon you and influenced you in many ways, some of which you are yet to discover! But now Paul says to all who have been instructed in the Word of Christ: “You now do this testing! You test all things.”
This is a life and death challenge! Are you up to it? There is much that is against you! The prince of this world is doing all that he can to erase the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. Abortion, homosexuality, and premarital sex were once recognized as wicked and sinful. Today these evils are called “choices.” Many church-going people will tell you that the Bible is not really God’s verbally inspired Word, without error, and should not be the standard of right and wrong. Rather they say: “It all depends on the situation and what will make the individual happy or cause the least amount of trouble in the church.”
When someone claims that because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we are to accept every sinner in his sin, then you are to apply the test of God’s Word. When people say there are other ways to be saved beside faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins in His name, you are to apply the test of God’s Word. For this reason, John says in his first epistle: “Test the spirits whether they are of God, for many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). You are to be a discriminating hearer and reader using God’s Word to test the truth of every teaching and word of men including those of your pastor and church.
Beyond that, you are to test “all things.” To the Philippians Paul wrote: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). Hold fast to what is good, and keep away from every form of evil.
What a great and undeserved blessing from God that we, Christ’s disciples, are enabled to discriminate in the testing of all things! We are living in a passive, unthinking, “sponge-like” society. High technology has not only made our work easier, but it has given us more leisure time. This means that we not only have more time to play, but more time to be preyed upon by the Devil!
Long before the royal wedding of William and Kate, the TV show, “William and Kate,” was suggesting that their long courtship involved pre-marital sexual relations with others. You young people in junior high, high school, and college do not have it easier than the older people among us—you have it harder! Through the magazines, internet, You Tube, the so-called reality shows, and Hollywood soap operas, are you being invited into the bedrooms and living rooms of move-stars and recording artists?
Sponges are useful. The trouble with a sponge is that it does not discriminate! You can pick up water with a sponge, but you can also pick up oil and dirt until the sponge must be thrown away! You are not mindless sponges, dear Christians. You should not sit by and absorb all the evil that comes your way. What the apostle Paul said of the Christians in Corinth is true also of you: “You have the mind of Christ!” (1Corinthians 2:15-16).
You are wonderful, spiritual creations of the Almighty God! You are able to rightly judge all things because you have been given the mind of Christ!
What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Think about the mind-set of our Savior as a 12-year old boy in the temple. Jesus was going about His heavenly Father’s business. He had been sent into the world to act on the world, not to be influenced and transformed by the world. He came to preserve mankind by bringing the light of His salvation to us by His words and deeds. He did not come to condone sin by taking part in the spiritual and moral darkness of the world. He came to correct sin and to condemn sin in His own flesh so that we might be saved from its destructive power!
Christ our Savior preached the Gospel and gladly served His heavenly Father and His fellowman so that you and I might be delivered from the eternal torment of Hell. Christ did not soak up the false teaching of the Pharisees just because they were the most obviously religious people of His day. Instead, Jesus exposed their errors with the light of His truth! When He was tempted, He subjected Himself to the Word of God and declared that Word to be “the truth.” He did not hesitate or act as if He were ashamed of His Father’s truth.
Now you have received this “mind of Christ” through faith in Him. That’s why He who is the “light of the world,” (cf. John 8:12) also calls you who believe in Him, “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). As you go about this world, growing in the wisdom of God, sharing the light of His Gospel, you are the light of the world; and, unless you hide your light under a bushel basket, you shall be discriminating in your testing of all things. That’s the very nature of the light which God has made you in Christ. Your light like the natural light of the sun distinguishes, reveals, and judges the darkness and the shadows—not to blend with it, but to blast it!
But we should never think that we have reached this blessed state and will continue in it because of some good thing in us. It is your Savior God “Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” Peter says, “so that you may proclaim His praises” throughout your lives! By His great mercy God has called you by the Gospel to faith in Christ so that you might be “His own special people!” (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).
The Spirit of God began this great work at your Baptism. You have learned to call this work, “sanctification.” The God of Heaven has sanctified you, or set you apart for Himself, so that you might be discriminating disciples of Christ all your days and finally stand before His presence in heavenly glory!
As you humbly return to His Word of grace when you have sinned, He will bear you up. As you grow in the knowledge of Christ and heavenly wisdom by His Word, He will bear you up. As you make constant use of prayer, remembering His promises to hear you, your Lord will bear you up. As you cling to the cross of your dear Savior, even though all the world forsake Him and you, He will bear you up on “eagles’ wings (cf. Isaiah 40:31) and keep you through faith unto eternal life in Heaven.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.23] Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.