A “Community Devotional” based on 1 Thessalonians 4

  Scriptures    Reference to the Importance of Community  
1 Th 4:6Sin hurts the sinner, his or her circle of relationships, and the Lord (4:8). This same concept is communicated through Paul’s use of the body metaphor for the Church…God’s people (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, 12:12-13, 26-27). The health of the whole body is affected when one part of it is sick or injured by sin; the same is true in the natural. It was not only for the sake of the community listening to the apostle’s message that he was exhorting them to live to please God (4:1)…it was also for the sake of those in relationship with them. Our remembrance of those our sin affects can help us overcome the pull of the sinful nature. Sometimes it takes seeing things through the lens of community to conquer it. In his weakness, a man cares less about harming himself through the pursuit of temptation than he does when he thinks of the harm it can inflict on his brothers and sisters in Christ; particularly his wife (present or future). Encourage your small group participants to remember one another when they are feeling weak. Invite them to think of their natural and spiritual family when they feel like they are being dragged away and enticed by evil desire (James 1:14). The community of many can conquer the temptation of one. Biblical community – in act and remembrance – empowers us to resist and ultimately reject evil.
1 Th 4:9Paul’s call to holy living naturally leads into the paramount ‘one another’ command in the New Testament: Love one another. The apostle doesn’t feel the need to elaborate because it should be self-evident from God’s teaching to them. This verse serves as a good encouragement in the obvious (“to love each other”), but it also provides sound instruction to us as group leaders to not take on more responsibility than what God is calling you to with regard to the spiritual well-being of those in your group. Believers are responsible for taking initiative for their own spiritual growth. When they’re obedient to respond to what the Spirit of the Lord is doing in their hearts then others can be effective in joining with them to encourage their growth in the Lord. Remember this as a small group leader so you don’t weigh yourself down with burdens the Lord isn’t calling you to carry. This is an important part of your own self-care as a small group leader.
1 Th 4:10Not only were the believers loving each other…they were loving all of God’s people throughout Macedonia. In fact, the believers in Thessalonica were a model for believers throughout the expansive region (1:7-8). Still, Paul implores them to love more. We want to show extravagant love to believers in our church family and the larger family of God. Do you know of small groups from other Christ-focused churches who would be blessed by an expression of love from your group? For example, you could share encouragements, ideas, resources like this update, or help them network. Where there are believers loving one another there you have biblical community. The love of Christ is meant to be broadcast and biblical community is a powerful way of doing that.
1 Th 4:11-12The second of these two verses reveals Paul’s motivation underlying the string of exhortations on how to live to please God: Winning the respect of outsiders and being dependent only upon God. The apostle was a great example of the kind of life he is passionately prescribing (1:5b-6a, 2:6; 2 Thes 3:6-7). He knew that if the believers lived respectable lives then onlookers – even critical ones – would be won over to the Gospel. These two verses taken together almost seem to contradict one another. Here’s a brief explanation: Our daily lives are the message. Witnessing isn’t so much an outspoken event as it is a series of quiet encounters over time. A respectable life – a life that’s worthy of being modeled – is critical to a believer being an effective representative of our all-powerful God. The way we live our lives is meant to point people to Jesus Christ. Evangelism is a lifestyle. This comes by living an admirable life within the sphere of people alongside of whom we live and work each day. Credibility in the community takes time to grow. We need the morale (not monetary) support of other believers so our daily life will lead people to Jesus. Your credibility for Christ in your own community is amplified through the ways your group members love one another. The Good News is heard through the language of love.
1 Th 4:18God gave us His words to point us to Jesus. We see Paul doing this very thing as he speaks of Jesus’ return and the rapture, reminding the believers in Thessalonica of their hope, which is certain in Christ. He gives us an example of how we’re to encourage one another with the truth of God’s Word and then tells us to follow his example. Paul shows how we, as leaders, can encourage others in our group: 1) He personalizes the message by using ‘we’ throughout – he’s not speaking at them…he’s speaking as one of them  2) he uses an encouraging tone  3) he directs them to the truth in what Jesus has done for us and who He is. We can strengthen our own skills in facilitating Bible study and discussion by doing the same.

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