The Map To Maturity - Part 2
How do the things we say and do make an impact on our love for others? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he takes us through 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 and continues to lay out the Map to Maturity.
What does the Lord desire from His children? He desires for us to grow and mature spiritually. How do we do this? Each day we tap into the Spirit’s resident power to put off the thinking and deeds of the flesh, while replacing them with the thinking and deeds that we know honor God. Is this easy to do? No. Why? Because our sinfu flesh fights against the Spirit; however, victories are realized as we yield to the Spirit and not to te power of the flesh.
Paul speaks about this ongoing maturation process in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Just what constitutes “the desire of the flesh?” Paul doesn’t leave you hanging:
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Since these are the fruits of the flesh we should cut out of our lives, what holy fruits or behaviors should we replace them with? Again, Paul is most forthright:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5).
What, then, is spirituality and Christian maturity? It is yielding the Spirit by confessing your sin, seeking His help to live differently, and working hard at implementing the thinking and behaviors you know bring God honor and joy. How are you doing in this process? Are you making headway, or have you hit a wall with a particular problematic sin that plagues you?
Just as Paul desired for the Galatians believers to strive to grow up in the faith constantly, he wanted the same for the Thessalonians. We know this because chapters four and five of his first letter to them move through several areas where they needed some work. Of course, since the Word of God is inspired, the counsel Paul gives here transcends time and applies to us. God’s desire in any age is for His children to move from immaturity to maturity. How do we do that? Again, this is what the last half of this short letter is about:
How Can Believers Move From Immaturity To Maturity? (1 Thess. 4:1-5:28)
In our study of the first eight verses, Paul drove home how important it is for us to mature in our sexuality. We should always strive for purity according to God’s standards and move away from perversion masquerading as purity. Did you make any radical course corrections in your life in the last few days in this vital area if there were compromises? If so, may the Lord be praised, and may the Spirit give you strength to overcome the power of temptation to fall back into sexual sin, be what it may.
Starting we verse 9, Paul addresses several other areas where maturation is desperately needed in the local body of Christ. There are four to be exact:
Be A Lover! (1 Thess. 4:9-10)
I know this sounds funny in light of what Paul talked about in verses 1 through 9, but the emphasis here is quite different. Here Paul addresses the need for believers to be known as those who love each other:
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, (1 Thess. 4).
“Love” here is from the Greek philadelphia (φιλαδελφία), a word composed of two words: love, and brother, or brotherly love. From Paul’s remarks here, these new believers came from various walks of life and didn’t just talk about loving each other; they showed it in their verbal and sacrificial actions. According to Danker’s Greek lexicon, the word here speaks of “affection and love for a sibling.” No wonder the term was applied to believers, for are we not brothers and sisters once we are born mystically into the body of Christ? Indeed, and this is why this term is used as such in the NT (Rom. 12:10; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 1:7). As brothers and sisters, we should, therefore, naturally love each other, right?
This question leads to a few more:
- Is how your are responding to a less than optimal situation with another believer dripping with love or anger?
- Is how you speak about certain believers in the body demonstrating you love them, can’t stand them, or maybe even resent them?
- Do your words and actions demonstrate an unusual, quantifiable love for the saints in this body? Do they, really? If so, amen. If not, then you have some work cut out for you.
Maturing saints are known for the love they show toward other saints.
How do believers know they are supposed to love each other? Paul’s answer is found in the second clause:
9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (1 Thess. 4).
The verb Paul employs here is called a hapaxlegomena, meaning it only occurs once in the NT. Here is the word: theodidaktoi (θεοδίδακτοί). It comprises two words, theos or God, and didasko, or teach. Being schooled in the Torah and the prophets, Paul probably made this word up on what Isaiah said: “I will make all your sons taught by God” (Isa. 54:13, LXT I καὶ πάντας τοὺς υἱούς σου διδακτοὺς θεοῦ καὶ ἐν πολλῇ εἰρήνῃ τὰ τέκνα σου). What does it mean in our text? It means that God teaches saints internally and personally from birth of the importance of loving other believers. Sure, Jesus spoke about this by way of command in the gospel of John (John 13;34; 15:12, 17). But this is not what Paul references here. He says that if you are saved, your heavenly Father daily makes you aware of the utter importance of loving your brothers and sisters. Why does He do this? Because He knows our flesh will tempt us to fight.
If you have earthly siblings, think briefly about how you got along or failed. My little sister, Julie, is here today. I must say we didn’t always get along. When my older sister, Marla, headed off to college, and Julie would now have to sleep in a bedroom all by herself, she was petrified with fear. To calm her nerves that first night, she placed a wide array of stuffed animals around her for protection.
I, on the other hand, felt compelled to terrorize her. I took my cassette player and copied Jaws’ opening and scary theme song from our massive family stereo record player. I made sure I started the recording a few minutes into the tape so it wouldn’t start playing right away when I slid it underneath her bed. With all the lights out, everything was calm and quiet for a few minutes, and then, her blood-curdling scream bounced off the walls of the house as the foreboding, spooky music of Jaws played beneath her bed.
It didn’t take my parents long to isolate the perpetrator.
I tell you this amusing story to say this: sometimes Christian brothers and sisters do lame things, and sometimes they engage in hurtful things. When that happens, there should be admonishment, confession, and restoration. Why? God calls and teaches us to love each other because we are united forever in our faith relationship with Jesus. We had better get things settled here, for in the hereafter, we will spend much time with each other. Do you have any fences you need to mend with another saint?
The church in Thessalonica must have been quite the church. I say this because of what Paul adds about them in the following verse:
10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, (1 Thess. 4).
These saints practiced love . . . now watch this . . . “toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.” The Greek verb practiced here is a present tense active indicative (ποιεῖτε ), meaning they worked on showing love as a rule, as a lifestyle. While many churches are focused on all the wrong things, like being culturally woke, this church set the stage for what a mature church is to be concerned about. It’s called brotherly love. Being the capital of Macedonia and a busy seaport, Thessalonica was strategically situated to impact the region. The church used all of this to spread their example and expression of love to the other churches in the area, like the ones in Berea and Philippi.
What should a church be known for? It should be known for the love the members have for each other. Is our church known for brother love? Indeed, and for this, I commend you. But knowing human nature, I side with Paul when he closes this section out when he challenges them “to excel still more.” There is always room for improvement, isn’t there? Here’s a prayer for yourself today: “Lord, show me where my love for the sisters and brothers of this church can improve radically.” Expect a quick answer. Follow up the solution with quick action, and God will be praised and you will move onto greater maturity.
Before we move on from this critical point, I must answer a practical question: What does brother love look like?
- You believe other siblings are innocent until proven guilty.
- You don’t gossip about them behind their backs.
- You don’t withhold forgiveness. God doesn’t with you.
- You thoughtfully and sacrificially meet their needs, be what they may.
- You are genuinely concerned when they grieve or when they rejoice at some good news (Rom. 12:15).
- You listen to them when they speak with you.
- You check in with them occasionally to see how they are doing.
- You admonish them when they slip the Jaws tape under your proverbial bed.
- You tell them you love them even when, not if, tough things happen in the family.
- You don’t speak to them in an insensitive fashion.
I’ll stop there because I’m sure you get the point. Let love abound among us for it is what Christian maturity is all about.
In addition, we encounter three more pivotal keyhat need attention in the next verse.
Be Quiet! (1 Thess. 4:11a)
Let’s first read the text and then reevaluate and make some observations:
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; 12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thess. 4).
What should be your spiritual ambition, according to Paul? Answer: Lead a quiet life. The Greek word here is esuchazo ( ἡσυχάζω). Here are the lexical meanings according to Danker:
ἡσυχάζω [ἥσυχος ‘quiet’] – 1. ‘abstain from toil/work’, rest Lk 23:56. – 2. ‘refrain from disorderly conduct’, be peaceable/orderly 1 Th 4:11. – 3. ‘keep one’s peace’, be silent Lk 14:4; Ac 11:18; 21:14.
Does this mean believers shouldn’t talk to each other? No. Does this mean we should be quiet after worship when heading into the busy foyer? Right, no. Danker’s second lexical meaning tells us what we need to know. A calm person isn’t necessarily one who speaks little (which can be the case, especially if they are an INFJ or Advocate personality type on the Meyers-Briggs spectrum). The word Paul employs denotes a person who doesn’t live to create disorder and unrest around them. In a word, they are not all about DRAMA. Have they ever met anyone like this? Wherever you put them, almost instantly people are mad at each other, certain folks stop talking to each other, laughter goes out the window as things become dire, and there is always some new chaotic event because this type of person lives for DRAMA, and they are pretty skilled at creating and keeping the flame of DRAMA burning brightly.
Is this you? Do chaos and complex issues seem to follow you wherever you go? Is there always some new tragedy swirling around your life, a tragedy between you and other people, and you surely haven’t done anything wrong? Right. Do you jump from church to church to escape drama, only to discover you are in the thick of it again? Has it ever occurred to you that you might be the fountainhead of the chaos? Today is the day to come clean, to get quiet.
Next up is this concept for those interested in Christian maturity:
Be Private! (1 Thess. 4:11b)
For introverts, this command may not be that difficult, but for extroverts this might be a bit challenging:
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you;
The Greek idiom is one we all understand. It means simply to mind your own business. It means to keep your nose out of everyone else’s private affairs. But you reply in self-defense, “Hey, what about what Paul says in Philippians 2:4, “looking not to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”? Yeah, what about this? Doesn’t this tell me it’s all right for me to gather as much personal information from Instagram and Facebook on other Christians in this church so I can know better how to minister to and pray for them?”
In Philippians, Paul speaks about wholesome, genuine care. We should pay attention to each other’s lives so we know how to encourage, care for, and pray for each other. This is different from what Paul speaks about here in relation to the Thessalonians. As we know from 2 Thessalonians 3:7ff, some of these saints struggled with meddling in other people’s lives to sow dissension, disharmony, and mayhem. Do you remember Mrs. Kravitz in the sitcom show Bewitched? She used to drive me crazy as a kid. She snooped around Samantha and Darrin’s home every chance she got, seeking to dig up dirt on the couple so she could tell others. She was constantly peering and prying to get the latest scoop on her interesting neighbors.
Is this you among the body of Christ? Do you live for hearing the next juicy bit of church gossip or asking a bunch of questions about a complex family situation so you can appear concerned when in reality, you can’t wait to send out an informative group text message? And more precisely, do you gather information on other saints so you can bend and shape it to fit a narrative you want to push, which makes the person or persons look bad, and you so much more holy?
Here’s a prayer for you: “Lord, forgive me for being a busybody in the body. Show me how I can do a better job at minding my own business.” Again, expect a quick answer from the Lord on this one.
Be A Worker! (1 Thess. 4:11c-12)
Negatively, in the body of Christ, there should be no slackers, no people who look for doing as little as they can with the speed of a sloth. Positively, Christians should set the pace for what a hard worker looks like:
11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; 1
Paul knew what hard work was all about as a tentmaker. Imagine the grip he had from pulling, cutting, and sewing heavy tent material. And Paul didn’t suffer lazy people because he knew wha the OT Scriptures taught:
4 Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth (Prov. 10).
19 He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty (Prov. 28).
2 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thess. 4).
And you know Paul must have been quite familiar with this one:
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no chief, officer or ruler, 8 Prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest. 9 How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest "-- 11 And your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man (Prov. 6).
What can you learn from a little, seemingly insignificant ant? You can learn how to work.
- Ants are consistent
- Ants are builders
- Ants network with one another and are constantly communicating with one another
- Ants are not threatened or intimidated by other
- Ants work fast
- Ants do not require supervision
- Ants are detail-oriented
- Ants have leadership abilities
- Ants are focused
- Ants are survivors
- Ants work ahead, so they have provisions for the future
- Ants don’t waste their time
- Ants can lift 50 times their weight
Ants get the job done with no questions asked.
What’s a lazy person like? Just the opposite of all of this. They like to sleep in. In fact, they like to sleep a lot. They sleep so much in their lifetimes that one-day poverty creeps up on them like a mugger and mugs them, leaving them wondering, “How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?” And, please, don’t pick on high schoolers. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teens should sleep between 8 to 10 hours per night. Sleep is suitable for their growing bodies, but what counts is how they approach the other hours of the day when they are up. If you, however, are a forty-year-old and you’re getting 10 hours or more per night, there might be a problem. You only need around 7-8 hours to be in good shape the next day.
Paul’s point, then, should be well-taken by those saints who desire to mature: Get up and get to work and be known as one who works hard, not as one who does very little and makes all kinds of excuses as to why they don’t put the pedal to the metal. Hard work is a sign of holiness, for God created you to work hard, and laziness is a sin. After all, Jesus is the one who will castigate the lazy servant who misuses monies God entrusted to him while the Lord is “out of town,” as it were (Matt. 25:26). One day, the Lord returns and rewards those who worked hard with what He entrusted to them, while He will judge those who were slackers. Are you ready to give an account to Him regarding how you have approached the concept of work inside and outside the church?
How we should approach work is stated well by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:
31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10).
Whether you stock shelves at the local Safeway or Whole Foods, dry cars off at the local car wash, crunch endless numbers in a windowless room at the Pentagon, drive a school bus full of screaming children, work as a plumber doing some nasty jobs, being a surgeon at a hospital, or commanding an Army battalion, each saint should do their respective position as if they were doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you? Will you?
Why should we be so concerned about whether we have a sound work ethic? For one, we are commanded by the Lord to be known as hard workers. For another, hard work serves as a witness to the lost, and it leaves you in a position where you are self-sufficient:
12 so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thess. 4).
If you behave correctly by working hard, others will sit up and take notice. If they are lost, they will start asking questions, and you’ll have an answer: I work hard because my primary motivation is to please my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who has been saved because of how hard you work? Anyone? Who will be in the kingdom of God because of how you worked inside and outside of the local church? People who desire to do something meaningful with their lives are drawn to hard workers. They respect and admire them. They are not drawn to sloths. Sloths are drawn to sloths.
Finally, when you work, you can meet your needs, which is how God wants life to function. You aren’t supposed to sap off the government to see how much you can glean from government assistance programs as so many lazy people do or to bleed relatives dry because you don’t have your financial house in order. On the other hand, as a Christian, you are called to work hard, save more than you spend, tithe to the Lord His due, and take care of yourself. Again, what a testimony to the non-Christians who don’t live this way.
If this is not how you live, then commit right now to head in this direction: Dear Lord, forgive me for not working as hard as I should and for squandering so much of my disposable income that I am not a good witness.
- 42% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings as of 2022.
- The average American savings account balance is $4,500.
- Between 1959-2022, the average U.S. savings rate has been 8.96%.
- The average household savings rate in the U.S. was only 5.1% in the second half of 2022.
- 10% of Americans have no savings.
- Only 28% of Americans could survive three months on their emergency savings.
- 58% of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings.
- 62% of American women have less than $1,000 in savings.
- Americans under 35 only have an average of $33,240 in their savings accounts.
- 13% of Americans over 60 have no retirement savings.
- 21% of Americans don’t save any of their annual income.
Yikes (it may be a Greek or Hebrew word)! We know we have some work to do if any of these stats bleed into the local church. So, here’s your prayer: Lord, I resolve right now, by your good grace, to grow up in this area and make you proud.
Christian maturity is no easy road to walk on, but it’s the right way to go, and you know it. Apply these concepts to your life today and watch your growth take off to new heights to God’s glory and joy.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 349.
 Jack Flynn, 20+ SHOCKING AMERICAN SAVINGS STATISTICS : AVERAGE PERSONAL SAVINGS ACCOUNTS, DEMOGRAPHICS, AND FACTS, Zippia, accessed on March 16,