Three admonitions, six imperatives, eight brief admonitions, and closing prayer. This is how Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians. Fasten your seat belts. This could be an exhilarating and life-altering experience for us, sitting with the rest of the last-day believers in church homes and other meeting places around the world. What is Paul’s fundamental message to fellow Christians today?
[Thought Questions for Church Life September 5, 2012]
1. Supporting one another. Have you ever been hurt and bitterly so by a critic in the church? What right does Paul have to censor or reprove the members of the Thessalonian church? Where did he obtain that right? When a new pastor arrives at your church, how long does it take before words of criticism begin circulating? Or does pastor criticism in your church stay in the background for the first year or so? Do pastors always possess the talent of “tough love?” What is that talent? Is there ever room for a church leader at any level to correct the members? Are all members able to handle correction? Why is it so hard to accept correction from fellow members? Is a smile and a “thank you” the best way to acknowledge your errors that have been pointed out? If not, what are some better ways?
2. The patient ministry. Do you ever have a problem being patient with everyone? What about people who make foolish mistakes? Or have worries they bring to church? Or what about yourself? Do you ever lose patience with yourself? Do you know of anyone in your church who doesn’t have a lot of experience as a Bible-believing Christian and presents problems with seemingly hollow and unending questions? What are some ways to be patient with such a person? What if your pastor or the conference president or some other church official is strong-minded and seems to relish pulling the church apart with condemnation? Can you still be patient? How?
3. A positive attitude. What do you think is the proper attitude for the “perfect Christian?” How important is attitude in developing a Christian life? If your primary goal in life is to live in perfect harmony with Jesus and His way of life, are you becoming more and more perfect? When you talking to God in prayer, do you take time to smile? Is God pleased when we are absorbed in His love and overflowing with appreciation for all that he has done for us? Does your church, generally speaking, have a positive attitude? If not, what can you do to help to change the way people in your church think so that all of you can join in positive worship?
4. New light. Haven’t we been given all the light there is for us as end-time Christians? Or is there more new light that God wants to share with us? Didn’t Ellen White provide us with plenty of light–all we need at this time? What do you say to people who no longer take Mrs. White as seriously as they used to? Is there any validity to the statement that some of her admonitions are out of date? What are some specific counsels she gave that are largely ignored today? Does that make her ministy of no value? If you have been blessed by books such as Steps to Christ or Desire of Ages and others, does that add to your respect of what she has written? Are some among us too anxious for “new light?” Too eager to break away from old, established principles? Or too slow to recognize change and “new light?”
5. End-time Holiness. Have you ever been ready to throw yourself overboard because of your hasty temper or silly mistakes? Does Paul’s admonition to be “preserved blameless” at the coming of the Lord strike fear in your heart? This isn’t original with me, but from some wonderful source I cannot recall has come up with the concept that perfection is built on perfect harmony with God. In other words, once we choose the God of love as our only champion and source of insight, are we not perfect in God’s eyes? Doesn’t He promise to cover us with His robe of righteousness and throw our signs away? If you’re right with God, all the way with God, no matter what happens–are you not holy unto Him?
6. In conclusion… Would there be a Seventh-day Adventist church today without the ministry of EllenWhite? Would your Christian life be as pure as it is without her counsel and guidance? Or do you think we’ve outlived her usefulness, that maybe it’s time for another light to share a special message with last-day believers? What about the ministry of the prophets throughout the Bible? Did they each have a specific time to serve and then moved off the platform? Or did their message become so absorbed in the ways of secular society that we can’t imagine a life given wholly to God? Or are we learning at last that Jesus bore it all and is eagerly waiting until circumstances are just right to gather us home with Him?