Year 2 Day 341
Read - 1 Thessalonians 2v17-3v5
Message - Scott Woodburn
Can you believe that this time last year we had returned to online worship only? Christmas 2020 was our last big party before the country was once again shut down from Boxing Day 2020 until Easter 2021. I'm glad that those days are over and by the grace of God we will never see a repeat of such moments. But, just like you, Covid taught me something about the condition of my own soul.
Whilst I found the whole process of preaching into a camera in an empty building thoroughly frustrating, there was something very seductive about the different pace of life. I would wake on Sunday morning with nowhere to be. I didn't have to go to church. I didn't have to keep a list of attendees. I didn't have to make sure that we had enough hand sanitizer. I could simply wake when I wanted, watch the service when I wanted and hit pause when I wanted. I quickly realised that my sinful heart was being led astray by the ease of an enforced lockdown. I had been forced to give up meeting with my brothers and sisters and slowly but surely I was growing to enjoy the distance.
I suspect I know what Paul would say to the church in our online Covid age. In today's passage Paul speaks with language saturated with love for his fellow Christians in Thessalonica. He explains that his absence from them was not by his choice. He had been "torn away" from them (v17) but still in his heart he longed with great desire to see his brothers and sisters face to face (v18). Paul understood what we often forget, that meeting together face to face is an essential part of what it is to be a Christian.
On numerous occasions Paul tried to get back to Thessalonica to share fellowship once again with the church and yet he was hindered by Satan (v18). What does Paul mean? Paul understood that in this world we wrestle against the unseen spiritual forces of evil and we can be sure that our enemy seeks night and day to hinder and harm the local church. We aren't sure what methods he used to stop Paul from getting to Thessalonica but Paul was confident that Satan was involved. My brothers and sisters never doubt the activity of the devil. He continues to rage against the church and he uses all kinds of methods to divide, hurt and harm the people of God. Be aware and resist him!
Let's be clear though, God is sovereign over evil and Satan will not win. With unbridled love, Paul spoke of the church in Thessalonica as his glory and joy (v20). He longed to be with them to encourage them in their faith. His desire was that he would be able to present them before the Lord on the final day (v19).
Such was Paul's concern for the church and the afflictions they faced, that while he was forced to stay in Athens (3v1) he sent Timothy to strengthen the faith of the Thessalonicans (3v2). Paul knew that the church was facing serious troubles and afflictions (3v4), this was and is the destiny for those who follow Christ (3v3). If we are with Christ then we cannot expect to avoid the gaze of Satan and his minions. In this world we will have trouble, Christ Himself told us it would be so.
So what should we do? Brothers and sisters, meet together. Is that it? Yes. Brothers and sisters, meet together. I know that we live in the internet age and I know that our very own sofa is a cozy and tempting place on a Sunday morning, but nothing beats the significance and importance of the church of Christ meeting together each and every Lord's Day. We are called by the Lord to gather as little outposts of heaven to sing His praise. He has given us the ordinary means of grace (the Word, the Sacraments and prayer) and we are to diligently use them. The ordinary means strengthen our faith so that we can resist the devil's schemes. Finally as we meet we look each other in the eye and help each other in the midst of affliction and as we walk through life together we grow in love for the Lord and His people.
May the Lord give us an increasing hunger to take our place in the visible church. Brothers and sisters, meet together.
Q95 To whom is Baptism to be administered? Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptized.