FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Dear Christian friends,
There are some things absolutely astound me and I wonder how in the world such things can even happen. Rapper Kanye West says that he is $53 million dollars in debt. How does one get to be $53 million dollars in debt? But then the say could be said of our nation: how did we get to be $20 trillion dollars in debt? Politicians probably find it easy because it really isn’t their debt alone, taxpayers get hung with the bill. Mr. West, however, did that to himself.
It is hard to figure out how you get to mess with those kinds of numbers - $53 million dollars. But then there is a rogue professional golfer, John Daly, who says that he has gambled away $55 million dollars. $55 million dollars! I am simple minded. When Judy slips a twenty dollar bill into my wallet, I think I am rich. It is all a matter of perspective.
The Lord has a different perspective on things. He made it clear that a beggar who had sores all over his body that the dogs licked and was carried to the gate of a rich man was actually rich. When he died, he went to heaven. He knew Jesus. All the while had the greatest treasure of all, his life was set forever. Not a farthing in his pocket but Jesus in his heart. God says such a person is wealthy. You need to be a godly person to really understand that, don’t you?
We can do the same with the word mature. What constitutes a mature person! The person who will appreciate what the apostle has to say today understands the sermon theme today, For Mature Audiences Only.” 1) Let’s define mature; 2) Let’s live maturely
Government has determined a many ways what constitutes maturity. It is a one size fits all. You’ve got to have enough birthdays. When you do, they consider you a responsible adult. When I was college age, the age was twenty one. Then someone said that if you could go to Viet Nam and shed your blood for the country, it should be eighteen. So that passed into law. What does it entitle you to? Among other things you can vote. You can go into an establishment that sells adult beverages and buy a drink. Yet when many reached twenty one or eighteen, the label mature didn’t apply at all. Headaches the next day proved that.
Movies are the same way. The rating system is as follows:
G (General Audiences) – All Ages Admitted.
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) – Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children under 13.
R (Restricted) – Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian.
NC-17 (Adults Only) – No One 17 and Under Admitted.
The further down the list you get the more skin, the more awful language and the more violence that you hear. They are made for mature audiences. If people are really mature spiritually, theaters wouldn’t even try to pedal that garbage. Having a certain amount of birthdays doesn’t make on mature before the one that counts…the Lord himself.
The church to whom Paul was writing was a most amazing congregation. Paul had gone to the city on his second missionary journey and went to the synagogue in town for three weeks.
He explained how Jesus the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. The book of Acts tells us, “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” Some got violent and rounded up this upstart Christian church. Members of that church were brought to the city officials and charged with a crime so that they had to post bail. In the meantime Paul and companion Silas were advised by the church to leave the city in the cover of darkness. Paul and Silas needed to go to many more places and preach Jesus many more times. But for the little time he was able to spend in Thessalonica it was amazing how spiritually mature these people were.
“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” Maturity is not about having birthdays and gray hair or no hair, real maturity starts with a relationship with the Lord. Paul says, “We instructed you how to live in order to please God.” It all starts with God. Not the denial of, but the recognition of and the accountability to God. Maturity is not putting him on the back burner and we will get to him later, but maturity of faith is that he is front and center. Interest and the desire to know more about him is stirring all the time.
Maturity is the humble but insatiable desire to learn more deeply about the Lord, not from the opinions of people and what rolls around in the minds of all kinds of philosophers, but maturity comes from understand who he is from his own words written by those chosen to record it. Spiritual maturity allows God to tell us what he is like; it is not prescribing to him how he has to be and what he has to do. A professor once made reference to Einstein’s theory of relativity and said that to understand you must admit that you don’t understand. There is a lot of truth about that statement when it comes to the Lord. Maturity understands that there is no way that we can understand the fullness of who he is and contain it in all in our grey matter. Yet as Paul says, he teaches us to know what we need to know. He teaches us through people like the apostle Paul. “For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.”
It is an amazing fact that the apostle was in the city of Thessalonica for what seems to be three weeks and then had to flee. But that time he spent with them seems to have been real quality time learning more and more about God through the inspired apostle.
There is a story about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village. They walked by an old man who was sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, "Were any great men born in this village?" The old man replied, "Nope, only babies."
It was a condescending question in many respects, but the answer was probably a bit the same. A little sarcastic but also true. No one is born into the this world with a ready made faith and understanding of our God and his salvation. No one is born with a There are no instant heroes--whether in this world or in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time.
But remember how growth occurs. If you simply put a seed in the ground to plant a crop and neve watered it and kept it completely in the dark, your plant won’t grow. It needs water and sunlight. Weeds might have to be cleared away. A baby grows when the baby is fed. Paul says, “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” Mature Christians know that the word has the answers. Mature Chrstians love to park in it. Frankly the more we park in it and enjoy it the more mature it is.
Maturity also puts it into practice. Live maturely. There are words that Christians really need to know – important words. In the context of what Paul is saying right here I want you to understand the words justification and sanctification. The main teaching of the Bible, the reason for the Lutheran Reformation was the teaching of justification by faith alone. When God justifies us, he declares our sins forgiven. Why? Because of Jesus. The perfect life Jesus led is credited to us. The word that is often used is imputed or charged to us. Our sins were charged to him. He paid their punishment. Because of him we are justified – declared guiltless. Cool isn’t it?
Justifcation is complete all by itself. It doesn’t mean that all are going to heaven. What Jesus did for us is like the sun in the sky. It is there. It won’t be going anywhere. But we can close our eyes to the sun and not reap its benefit of light.
As children of God who believe what Jesus did, our lives do not stop there. What we do for Jesus after we have been justified is called sanctification. A set apart life, a life of living for and loving Jesus. What Jesus die makes a big impact on our lives.
The big difference is that Justfication is done by jesus, sanctification is done in us and not perfect. The life of sanctification is not smooth and steady. In fact there are often many setbacks when we are lured by temptation. But to live holy lives is the will of God. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”
One of the big obstacles to living the will of God then, as it is now, were the perversion of sex and sexuality. The Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. That certainly applied to and applies to sex and sexuality. No holds barred in the Roman world. Pardon the pun. In the Roman culture sexuality was promoted as a sign of prosperity. People turned to religion among the gods and goddesses to get their sexual house in order. Prostitution was part of ancient religion. Most everything was legal. Pornographic paintings were out in the open for children to see, not that it makes any difference from adults. Pedophilia was legal. They just couldn’t practice on the freeborn Romans. Slaves and servants were fair game. I read that in Latin there are no words for homosexual and heterosexual. The conclusion is that it didn’t really make any difference if it was same sex or opposite. Sex was sex.
When I began the ministry almost forty years ago, our church body was doing exploratory mission work on the Caribbean Island of Antigua. One of the problem issues was to teach that God’s will is that marriage is between one man and one woman. Paul’s warning is strong and is so applicable to today. “Avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
So much can be said. People get uneasy when this is a subject from the pulpit. People need to put on their big boy and big girl pants on and face the issue. Some say that sexual relations is only for the procreation of children. That’s not true. It is the ultimate of expression of being one with your spouse. In the KJV version the translators used the expression “to know” to speak of sexual relations. It might make us smile a bit and make ssay that it is more than to just know. Yet it is true that in physical relationship husbands and wives get to know each other in the most intimate way possible.
There is so much to say about this. When a husband and wife give themselves to each other fully in marriage, the sexual relationship is truly beautiful. It is truly an expression of unity that is special and exclusive of the couple. No one shares what the husband and wife shares. It is unique to their relationship. The sexual relationship is a way to make the other special and unique.
Outside of marriage, howver, sexual relations are sefish. They are always lustful. Unfaithfulness and cheating on the part of a husband or wife is a direct result on a person wanting his own wishes and desires satisfies even beyond not knowing what is right or wrong. At its base is selfishness, placing our own will over God’s. The same principle is true in premarital sex. Strong sexual impulses and immediate selfish satisfaction is always at its base. Never again can a husband and wife enjoy the relationship that is totally unique to them.
But then selfishness and pride, putting me ahead of everything, is at the base of all sin, isn’t? The problem is, as much as the Lord warns us, we are always the problem.
Thanks be to Jesus. Thanks be to Jessus who walked the way of the cross to declare us forgiven. It is true. God help us now to walk in gratitude and not in selfishness. God give us power to become spiritual Adults only.