Given that today is August 1, I figured a school-themed title was fitting. Additionally, I was reading in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-25, and Paul talks of testing things. So, let’s go to it! Are you ready?
When I was younger, I hated pop-quizzes. Frankly, I STILL hate pop-quizzes, but I see their purpose. A pop-quiz allowed a teacher (if used properly) to assess what knowledge a student had absorbed and retained. Anyone could study for a test, but not everyone did so without prompting. Of course, there are also those of us who hate being surprised by anything, let alone a test, and clammed up in such moments.
With God, there aren’t many pop-quizzes, but there are times when He chooses to give us a chance to test what we’ve learned from Him, to test if we’ll lean on His understanding or our own. As a hyper-analytical person, I spent much of my life (even as a young Believer) trusting in my own ability. If I didn’t understand a situation, I wasn’t inclined to step into it. If I couldn’t understand a solution, I wasn’t inclined to believe it or try it. And yet, God is gracious; so, He threw me some serious curveballs and taught me to trust in Him and His understanding more than my own, which led me to the past 6-7 months of crazy, exciting, terrifying steps of faith.
In the midst of my reading, though, this jewel stood out.
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, emphasis mine
Paul reminds us to be careful what we do and do not listen to. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit calls us to do crazy things, and I, for one, have often reasoned myself out of doing it. This is “[stifling] the Holy Spirit.” We don’t want to do that! We want to be so close with Jesus that when the Holy Spirit speaks, we listen and act.
This also holds true for prophecies! It seems that people tend to break down into three groups: 1) tries to deny the prophecy, off hand and without consideration, 2) accepts whatever prophecy, regardless of it’s source or accuracy, and 3) seeks to be balanced, though sometime falling to skepticism or being too quick to accept something. Paul calls us to be the last, but careful not to fall to either side. Rather, he calls us, like the Bereans in Acts 18:11; we aren’t to scoff (to be quickly dismissive) but to test the prophecy, does it hold up or is it contrary to what the Bible has said?
I’ve personally watched too many believers fall away because of false prophets. It may be the guy saying that if you give him money, God will make all your wishes come true. It may be the convincing blogger who says that they know when Jesus will return. Or it could be some wolf who has evil intentions to cash-in, through the church, on some Believer’s gullibility.
This doesn’t mean you have to be up-to-date on the latest scams and cons. Nor does it mean you have to be careful of ever trusting anyone. Rather, it means you need to be so well-fed in the Scriptures (spending time reading and understanding the Bible, to the point of recalling verses from memory) that a scammer, conman, or evil trickster stands little-to-no chance of convincing you of some falsehood. That means time in the Bible, time in prayer, and time in worship.
When bank tellers are brought on, they aren’t shown dozens and dozens of examples of counterfeit money. Rather, they are encouraged to handle real money, to use the tools that help spot fake money, and trust their instincts. You see, if you handle the real thing, then when the fake is handed to you, it’s pretty easy to spot it. If you don’t catch it right away, there are tools that help. The same is true of spiritual things. If we are well-read, well-prayed, and well-worshiping, we will be able to quickly identify the fakes, and even if we don’t catch it right away, a faithful application of the Word will make clear the forgery.
As closing thoughts, Paul prayerfully blesses the Thessalonians. But his words stood out, as well, today.
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.
Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.1 Thessalonians 5:23-25, emphasis mine
While I hope to flesh this out more in another post, I couldn’t keep this tidbit from you. God does call us to be blameless; other places use the phrase “above reproach”, which means that for someone to bring a complaint against us, they’d have to make it up, and even then, anyone who knows us would, most likely, be immediately suspicious of the accuser.
This seems almost impossible! And that, I believe, is why Paul follows up his call to blamelessness with the statement that God will make this happen. For me, there’s always this question of “where does God’s responsibility end and mine begin?” But the reality is that if I am spending the time I should, God’s responsibility and mine are the same. In other words, when I am staying connected with Him, I will find it easy (or, at least, relatively so) to live without blame. Meanwhile, He is empowering me, teaching me, working out the truth within me, so that I live more and more blamelessly. To put a fine point on it, it’s not my responsibility to live perfectly, but as I focus on Him, spend time with Him, and worship Him, I will find myself becoming more blameless.
God does the work, as I continually surrender to it. He is so good!
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10