THE CALL TO EXCEL STILL MORE! - 1 Thessalonians 4

It is Shabbat! Favour and shalom to you all from our Master יהושע Messiah; may His loving-kindness continue to be with us here as we gather together in His Name, unto Him whom all esteem is due!

Mishlĕ/Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

The path of the righteous – that well walked road of those who do what is just and right – is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter! As we continue to walk to path of righteousness we become an ever increasing bright light that keeps getting brighter and brighter unto the perfect day of our Master’s return. I love this verse for it speaks of a continuous walk of righteousness by which we are further equipped to be an ever increasing light in a very dark and sick world! How bright is your walk? Is it getting brighter as you walk in righteousness or has there been a flickering or a dullness due to some obstacle in your path? Tonight I want to encourage you all to continue walking in that which is the only path we know to be valid and life-giving – and that is to walk in the Torah as we guard to do all we have been commanded to do, and let our path of righteousness light up every step of the way as His Word lights up our path:

Tehillim/Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

In a time where the enemy will do all he can in causing us to lose the light of our way, we need to remain steadfast and committed to keep walking as we should and not shrink back in any way from the Truth but rather continue to press on with our all, and in a message tonight called, “The Call to excel still more!” I would like us to hear this urgent call to do just that as we all earnestly seek to excel in the Master even more. Please turn with me to Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 4 as we read Sha’ul’s encouragement to the believers in Thessalonica to do even more (Read).

This letter is a great encouraging letter to a people who were really living a life that was an example of great faithfulness to many. The assembly of the Thessalonians were an example to all who believed in Makedonia and Achaia! What we must understand from this is that this assembly impacted an entire region which forms the regions of the Greek Peninsula, with Achaea to the south which is now known as Greece and Makedonia to the north which lies north of Greece and is in between Albania and Bulgaria. Corinth was the leading city in Achaea and other cities in this region that we see being mentioned in Scripture is Philippi, and Berea. The Thessalonians impacted this entire region and did well to get the message of the Besorah (Good News) of Messiah out. As you read this letter from Sha’ul we see in chapter 1 how he commends them for this and how they had turned from idols to serve the True Elohim; and in chapter 2 he reminds them how his appeal was not done from any delusion, uncleanness or deceit as he spoke as one approved by Elohim who had been entrusted with the Besorah:

2:5 “For we never came with a word of flattery, as you know, nor with a cloak for greed – Elohim is witness –

Sha’ul never ‘tickled their ears’ but spoke straight, and he never brought the word with an ulterior motive for gaining wealth as do so many misguided and twisted false teachers do today. Sha’ul never looked for the praise of men; and the Thessalonican’s welcomed and received the Word, not as the word of men, but as it is truly – The Word of Elohim, and he reminds them that they were their esteem and joy. In chapter 3 he further elaborates on how he sent Timotiyos to establish them and encourage them in the faith, and Timotiyos brought back a good report; and Sha’ul tells them to remain steadfast in the Master as he prayed day and night for them, and by their steadfastness Sha’ul and others were encouraged to live.

3:8 “Because we now live, if you stand fast in the Master.

This verse we echo, as we did to you all on Bikkurim (First Fruits) where Carlien and I made these same statements of how you are all our esteem and joy before the Master and we continue to live as long as you stand fast in the Master.

Here in this chapter 4 which we have read tonight, Sha’ul sets forth a further encouragement to keep up and excel even more in pleasing יהוה, and reminds them to continue to become more and more set-apart, holding on to the belief in view of the Masters imminent return and refrain from all form of immorality and unrighteousness. In Chapter 5 he sets forth some rules/instructions for set-apart living to which they must hold fast in light of the events that would unfold in the near future, and be found blameless at the coming of our King and Master, יהושע Messiah. In this closing chapter we see Sha’ul remind them of how they ought to live and what kind of believers they ought to be in living set-apart unto Elohim:

1 – Be watchful, for we are not of those who walk in darkness and so the Day of יהוה should not overtake us as a thief.

2 – Be encouragers – build each other up, warn the disorderly and have patience with all.

3 – Be respectful towards those who are over you in the Master and toward those who admonish you, holding them in the highest regard.

4 – Be merciful and do not return evil for evil, always pursuing good.

5 – Be joyful, rejoicing at all times.

6 – Be prayerful, praying without ceasing.

7 – Be thankful, always giving thanks in all circumstances.

8 – Be careful – do not quench the Spirit, nor despise prophecies and test them all, holding fast to what is good and keep back from all wickedness.

By pressing on in these matters Elohim would set them completely apart, and preserve their entire being for the Coming of our Master יהושע Messiah.

This is in a nutshell the overview of this 1st letter to the faithful assembly at Thessalonica. An encouraging message that I believe is needed to the few remnant faithful who are walking in and staying in the Living Torah,  יהושע Messiah.

And it is with this encouragement in mind that I would like to look at chapter 4 which actually begins the second section of this letter, after having commended them on their work of belief up till now.

Here was a people who had eagerly and faithfully responded to the teaching of Sha’ul on set-apart living; and here Sha’ul focused his encouragement on the reality that motivation for correct set-apart living is out of a love for Elohim. While so many today sadly see living a set-apart lifestyle according to the Torah of Elohim as a set of rules to be obeyed, or a list of do’s and don’ts to follow or a long list of things to be avoided; Sha’ul regarded set-apart living as a true outworking of a loving desire to please Elohim – to please the Master יהושע Messiah, who had chosen them; and his 3 chapter introduction and encouragement helped his readers be prepared to respond positively to the exhortations that would follow.

The instructions given from chapter 4 onwards were in no way intended to get them to do something totally different but rather to simply be encouraged to do more of the same! In other words he urged them to press on; and it is with the same urging on that I come to you tonight with. A simple yet powerful and much needed boost to help you be pushed to excel yet further in the Master. In verse 1 and 10 we see the phrase ‘call upon you’ being used, which is the Greek word παρακαλέω  parakaleō – Strong’s G3870 and means, ‘call near, invite, invoke, exhort, encourage, appeal, beg’. This word is used in a variety of forms, for example: a)when summonsing someone to action that is required; b) to beseech others for an urgent response to help; c) to exhort as in the context used to encourage soldiers headed for battle; as well as d) to comfort and encourage especially in times of hardships and grief.

The believers in Thessalonica had certainly been faithful, yet were also facing the persecution that comes with set-apart living and the daily temptation to slip back into worldly customs that surrounded them, and here Sha’ul ‘calls upon them’ to excel in their belief and set-apart living unto the Master.

In verse 2 he further strengthens his encouragement reminding them that they know the commands that had been given them – so press on and keep doing them, more and more!!! All too often today we see many people who are simply seeking new knowledge for knowledge sake without any desire to walk in the knowledge as they just want to know all; while Sha’ul tells them they already know the Truth – now excel in it and press on to experiencing a greater understanding of the truths that they had already been given and were practicing to a limited degree.

Yoḥanan Aleph/ 1 John 2:7 “Beloved, I write no fresh command to you, but an old command which you have had from the beginning. The old command is the Word which you heard from the beginning.

Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 2;24 “As for you, let that stay in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning stays in you, you also shall stay in the Son and in the Father.

We have the Truth and the commands that Elohim has given from the beginning – it is now time to excel in them for in verse 3 Sha’ul expresses the reason for excelling – and that is that the desire of Elohim is simply this –

SET-APARTNESS!

How do you excel in your set-apartness? Well for starters – abstain from whoring – so that you know how to possess your vessel in set-apartness and respect and not do as the nations do. I find this a timely encouragement for us in light of having just gone through the torah portion last week in Wayyiqra/Leviticus 18 where Yisra’ĕl was instructed not to do as they do in Mitsrayim, nor do any of the abominable ways that are done in Kenaʽan. This instruction was given while in the Wilderness, where Yisra’ĕl learnt to hear the voice of יהוה, and were being exhorted to hold fast to the commands of Elohim and not be found slipping into the ways of the nations! We too, have come out of Mitsrayim and Baḇelon so to speak and are headed as sojourners for the fulfilment of the Promises in Messiah when He comes for us again, and we are to not fall back or shrink back from our obedience but rather do our utmost to excel even more, even when we think we do not have more to give!!! One of the dangers of having come out of Mitsrayim is the same danger Yisra’ĕl faced in the Wilderness and that was to fall into the pagan worship practices of Kenaʽan. We too are to be on our guard to not fall into the trap of mystical teachings of the Torah through the interpretation of oral traditions and mysticism of Baḇelon with its many confusing theologies.

The reason to excel still more in the Master is because of our desire to please Him. Set-apartness in the Greek is ἁγιασμός  hagiasmos – Strong’s G38 – ‘consecration, sanctifying’. To ‘consecrate’ means ‘to make or declare to be set-apart and be devoted to a purpose with the deepest irrevocable dedication’. We as chosen, set-apart and royal priesthood unto Elohim declare and make our lives solely devoted to the purpose of serving and worshipping יהוה our Elohim, and as we have certainly learnt through the Torah portions of ‘drawing near’ to Elohim that we can only do so by the Blood of Messiah and as we are continually being set-apart in Him through an on-going process  of being sanctified as a people for a possession. The Hebrew term equivalent to this Greek ‘hagiasmos’ is קָדוֹשׁ qadosh – Strong’s H6918 meaning, ‘consecrated, set-apart’ for which we have been called:

Shemoth/Exodus 19:6 “and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and a set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl.

Being set-apart has to do with separation and that is exactly what we have been called to do – be separated from that which is of the world:

Qorintiyim Bet/2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says יהוה, and do not touch what is unclean, and I shall receive you.

To be set-apart we must not be found to be whoring after the nations as Yisra’ĕl did and were vomited out by the land! The word used here for whoring is πορνεία  porneia – Strong’s G4202 meaning, ‘fornication, immorality, sexual immorality’ and comes from the word which means harlot, prostitute and we get our English word ‘pornography’ from this word. Now while we must clearly heed the literal and physical meaning here in that we must not engage in any sexual activities that are unlawful and abominable, which we also looked at last week in Wayyiqra/Leviticus 18, however what we can also learn from this is that running after the world’s ways of the flesh and doing what the world does can also be seen as whoring after other mighty ones; especially when one’s attempt at worship conforms to a fleshly man-made systemised form of worship that is against the manner of worship prescribed in the Torah. As the Bride of Messiah we are to keep ourselves ‘pure and undefiled’ and not be found whoring after the flesh.

We are to be found only to be doing the desire of Elohim:

Marqos/Mark 3:35 “For whoever does the desire of Elohim is My brother and My sister and mother.

Tehillim/Psalm 40:8 “I have delighted to do Your pleasure, O my Elohim, and Your Torah is within my heart.

Doing what Elohim desires can only be a delight when we recognise and have His Torah within our heart, so that we do it, and it takes diligence and effort and an ability to be a people who will not stop excelling more and more to grow in the knowledge of the Torah that equips us to do the desire of Elohim.

Mishlĕ/Proverbs 19:2 “Also, desire without knowledge is not good; and he who hurries with his feet sins.

This is very clear – desire without knowledge is not good, and sadly we see so many who have the desire but lack the knowledge and find themselves very quickly on the wrong side of the plumb line of the Torah!

Kěpha Aleph/1 Peter 4:1-3 “Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,2 so that he no longer lives the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but according to the desire of Elohim. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the desire of the gentiles, having walked in indecencies, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, wild parties, and abominable idolatries.

We may live in the world but we are not of the world and we need to endure and excel in continually being a set-apart people, pleasing Elohim in every way;

Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 10:36-39 “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the desire of Elohim, you receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while – He who is coming shall come and shall not delay.” 38 “But the righteous shall live by belief, but if anyone draws back, my being has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of belief to the preservation of life.

How is the desire of Elohim accomplished many may ask… look at what יהוה says in:

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 55:11 “so is My Word that goes forth from My mouth – it does not return to Me empty, but shall do what I please, and shall certainly accomplish what I sent it for.

A Hebrew equivalent to the Greek word - θέλημα  thelēmaStrong’s G2307 for ‘desire’ is חָפֵץ chaphets – Strong’s H2654 and is used in this verse of Yeshayahu that we translate as ‘I please’. It is His Word that accomplishes His desire and when we diligently excel in hearing, guarding and doing His Word, then we do that which He desires, for it is His Word that sets us apart and equips us to be a spotless Bride.

Tehillim/Psalm 51:6 “See, You have desired truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You make me know wisdom.

We have been called in set-apartness and not to uncleanness and so we must stay clean and in order to do that we must grow more and more in knowledge and discernment that we can love Elohim in the true set-apartness that He desires:

Pilipiyim/Philippians 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love might extend more and more in knowledge and all discernment.

Kěpha tells us to grow in the favour and knowledge of our Master and Saviour, יהושע Messiah (Kěpha Bet/2 Peter 3:18).

And so while, as Sha’ul told the assembly in Thessalonica, that it is not necessary for me to ‘write’ to you about brotherly love, as you are taught by Elohim to love one another – I do too, tonight, call upon you to do so more and more!

We are a small assembly in Messiah and we earnestly desire to please Elohim in all we do and are trusting for greater growth and so too do we want to be able to impact a region just as the assembly in Thessalonica did. Now what is required is a call for more… the call to excel still more and I make this call with urgency.

Sha’ul tells us in Romiyim/Romans 8:8 that those in the flesh cannot please Elohim, and we are to be a people who walk in Spirit and in Truth and in Romiyim/Romans 7:14 he reminds us that the Torah is spiritual.

You are being called upon in the Master יהושע to excel still more!

When The Word does not find expression in the daily life of a believer, then  - it has simply not been heard!!!

Are you hearing what the Spirit is saying to us as an assembly?

I believe that we have been doing well, and I commend each of you for your faithful walk – and now I am calling you for more! We have the opportunity to let this light grow and grow all the more as we together walk in Righteousness and give our all. You may have been giving your all, just as they were in Thessalonica – yet today I still call upon you to excel still more – there is always room to excel in the Master for none of us have arrived.

More and More is the call – and to this assembly, for we need to grow, and while we certainly praise יהוה for all He is doing in our midst, we recognise and realise that the collective life of the Bride of Messiah is one of open-ended growth where there is always room for more attention – and this is a joyful thing to do – as we press through together excelling in the challenges of life in order that we, together, get shining brighter and brighter unto the Perfect Day that is coming, Aměn!

It is my hope to simply encourage you all the more to excel in יהוה.

Perhaps you have found that your ability to excel in doing what pleases יהוה has been dampened a little of late due to a crazy schedule; and while I certainly understand the extreme pressure that we all find ourselves under, I stand here today and echo the words of Sha’ul to an already committed people in that I beg you and call upon you to excel still more and may our Master direct us and make us increase as we begin to overflow in love to each other, having our hearts established as blameless in set-apartness before our Master at His Coming and be with Him forever.

May we, together as ‘At the Foot of The Covenant Ministries’, excel still more, as I believe that each of you here have been placed by the Master Himself and is asking for more.

Shalom

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