1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (Third Sunday in Advent—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 11, 2011
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle Reading for the day, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; 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 and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
What parts of a person’s life need to be Christian and what parts of life is it okay if it’s worldly? How much Christianity is enough? Are you and I satisfied with a partial Christianity? Maybe we’ve never examined our lives from this angle before. Do we live our lives as partial Christians?
A partial Christian has parts of his or her life that are Christian and parts of her or his life that are not. Partial Christians have parts of their life where they will hold to Biblical principles and parts of life where they will do as they see fit. There’s a lot of jockeying for position, if you will. Which aspect of life will I connect to my Christian faith and which areas of life will remain outside of my Christian faith?
I guess it sounds a little crazy that Christians should do such a thing. Doesn’t every believer want all of his or her life to be filled with the things of God and the Word of God and the love of God? Yes, but stop for a moment and take a look at your life. Are there parts of your life that are still worldly? If so, then you may be satisfied with a partial Christianity. “Oh, Pastor,” you say, “I would never be satisfied with that. I’m not like that.” Ah, but you are. I know you are, because I am like that.
Every one of us has worldly things that we hold onto, things we are not willing to give up, areas of life that we are reluctant to yield to the Lord. For some of us it is language, bad language. We feel we have to say things around our friends and coworkers that we would never say to our mothers nor to the person sitting next to us in the pew. If we don’t use those words, we’re not cool, not part of the group. All we want to do is fit in, so we don’t allow our Christian faith to affect that part of our life.
When we make the choice to have a partial Christianity we are found to be quenching the work of the Holy Spirit. We end up despising the Word of God saying that it doesn’t pertain to a particular part of our life. We fail to hold fast what is good because our desire is to keep the form of evil which we are too selfish to give up. This partial Christianity which results from the extinguishing of the Spirit in our lives can lead us deeper into sinful, addicting behaviors like the world of Internet pornography, biting sarcasm, unpredictable anger, or grudges that won’t leave until there is revenge. We are left with skeletons in our closets that end up rattling louder and louder. We end up in despair and guilt, knowing there are parts of our life that we hide from others, yet we continue to live out in other circumstances.
And that’s no good. It’s not physically healthy and it’s not spiritually healthy. We cannot keep up the ruse of living a double life. Not only will other people find out about our inconsistency and hypocrisy, but the Lord already knows about it. The Lord knows how we try to block out His life-giving Spirit from certain parts of our life. And that is not His will for us. God’s desire is to sanctify you completely. That means it is the Lord’s desire to fill every nook and corner of your life with His Holy Spirit and to have His peace penetrate every part of your life. God desires to reign completely in every area of your being.
How much of you did Christ save from sin, Satan, and death? It was all of you, every part of you. What areas of your life did Jesus redeem, buy back, from sin, death, and the devil’s power? It was every aspect of your life. The saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross was all-encompassing. Christ didn’t die for part of me, or for this particular area of my life that needed improvement and not for that other area of my life. Christ died for me—for all of me, for all the areas of my life where I have fallen short of the glory of God because of my sins. Christ died for you—all of you, for all the areas of your life where you have fallen short of the glory of God because of your sins.
We have a complete Savior that gives to us total forgiveness for and full salvation from the punishment of our sins. As we heard in the Old Testament lesson, the Spirit of the Lord God anointed Jesus, the promised Savior, to bring us good news, to bind up the brokenhearted, the proclaim liberty to us held captive by Satan, sin, and death, to proclaim the year of God’s favor to us because Christ has taken away our sin. There is no part or parcel of our life left untouched by Christ’s grace, mercy, and love. There is no niche or recess of our life that is left where the peace of God that comes as the result of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection cannot penetrate because God has given us the Holy Spirit.
The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is called sanctification. Sanctification means being made holy. In other words, the Spirit fills us inwardly and outwardly with the forgiveness and peace of Christ our Savior. He makes us into holy people by grace through faith in Jesus. He enables us to live lives that reflect God’s will for us—not just in part of our lives, but in every area of our lives. Through Word and Sacrament, God the Holy Spirit continually works a renewal of our whole life so that we are able to love God and to love our neighbor in all kinds of ways.
It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to abstain from every form of evil. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive the Word of God in faith and to truly live out that Word in all areas of life. We are empowered to let go of those areas of life where we had previously quenched the Spirit and blocked Christ out. How is this possible? The God of peace Himself makes us completely holy through the work of Christ by the Spirit’s power. He Himself keeps our whole spirit, soul, and body blameless at the coming of our Lord and Savior. He is faithful; He will surely do it!
By the working of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, you and I are able to hold fast to what is good. And this happens not just on a Sunday morning or when we are with other Christians, but wherever we are and with who ever we are. We can say “no” to going along with the group whose words and actions go against God’s Word. How is this possible? The God of peace Himself makes us completely holy through the work of Christ by the Spirit’s power. He Himself keeps our whole spirit, soul, and body blameless at the coming of our Lord and Savior. He is faithful; He will surely do it!
We will never be satisfied with being a partial Christian. Because Jesus died to save us from our sins, we are forgiven. Because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, we are made holy. That means there is no part of our life and being that Christ has not saved, that He has not redeemed from sin and death. There is no part of our heart and soul that is not filled with the peace of God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. There isn’t a single aspect of who we are as Christians, or in what we do or in what we say as Christians, that is left untouched by the grace and mercy of the Lord. Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit, go and be filled with His peace and let Him permeate your life day in and day out with His love, forgiveness, and strength. Amen.