What does “normal” look like in the Christian life?
In the Christian life, it’s normal to be loving, to be gracious. But are we loving all the time? Unfortunately, no. There are times when we can be grouchy and irritable. And then what do we do? When we’re out of step with the Lord, we must make the decision to get back in step with him. To be back on track — and in the center of his will. And we make such decisions through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, who’s already dwelling inside us.
Another part of the normal Christian life is growth — again the idea of “more and more” — a movement forward. But sometimes our growth is stunted or stops or pauses because of selfishness or other distractions in our lives. And then what do we do? Again, we must move back in step with God’s desire for our continual growth through the power of the Holy Spirit who continually guides us when we let him.
Still another aspect to living the normal Christian life is the desire to please God in all that we do. But do we always behave like that? Again, no, we don’t. Sometimes we’re too busy to please God. Sometimes we’re more interested in pleasing others or ourselves. That, too, is outside of the “normal” in our Christian lives. But again, if we find we’re not focused on pleasing God, we can move back into step with him through the Holy Spirit’s power.
One reminder: These processes of getting back in step with God when we fall out of it is not about our standing with God, which is a permanent state we experienced once and for all when we accepted Jesus into our lives. It’s instead about our sanctification — our daily, hourly, minute by minute movement forward to become more like Jesus.
As we get into our passage, verse 9 of chapter 4 reads: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” Paul mentions the word “love” twice in this verse. First, he talks about “brotherly love,” which is a family kind of love — then later in the verse he mentions love again, and this kind of love is agape, which is the sacrificial committed love God has for us and that we should have for each other.
Then in the next verse we see the phrase “more and more” pop up — and it’s in respect for the kind of love we as believers should be expressing. But there’s another important phrase that precedes “more and more,” and it’s “do this.” In fact, the act of doing is crucial as believers and is also part of living a normal Christian life. It’s about producing fruit, which is a continual process. A fruit tree doesn’t bear fruit only once. It’s also about letting Jesus turn us into “fishers of men,” as he told his disciples in the Gospels.
Here’s another cool thing about the phrase “more and more” that we keep seeing in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians — it implies the notion of “leftovers”! It’s the same concept as when Jesus fed the 5,000, and there was so much food that there were leftover pieces of fish and bread that filled many baskets. That’s the kind of love we should be giving more and more of — that there so much of it proceeding forth from us that there is more love left over to go around. An abundance of love that others will notice. That also should be our normal way of living our Christian lives.
In verse 11, Paul also urges the Thessalonians to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” There’s much more here than meets the eye as we study this passage together. First of all, why would Paul — an apostle of Christ who turned the world upside down as he spread the church over the known world — want us to “live quietly”? That’s certainly an example of an oxymoron, when two opposite ideas are in the same phrase. But as we dig deeper, we see that Paul’s charge to work really hard to live quietly is actually about a dual presence that should be active in all of our lives. In other words, while we’re being salt and light and helping others become uncomfortable where they are so that they can see Jesus, we also should have a quiet inside our own hearts. Because the world is a noisy place — and as believers, we need to be able to turn down the world’s volume so we can hear God’s voice more clearly.
Then Paul instructs them to “mind your own affairs.” Bear in mind that the Thessalonians are young Christians who are just starting their walks with the Lord. And as we know, young Christians who’ve just experienced the excitement of their changed hearts and brand-new way of looking at life and the world can be a bit overzealous in their interactions with others when it comes to how to live the Christian life. Sometimes new believers question others in areas where there are no specific guidelines in Scripture, which can create unnecessary disharmony in the body of Christ. So, when Paul says to “mind your own affairs,” he wants his young church to let others have their own convictions in the gray areas, to not impose themselves on others unnecessarily. Because people are watching how we treat each other.
Finally, he tells the Thessalonians to “work with your hands.” What does Paul mean here? Well, as we know the Greeks at that time were known for their love of philosophy — and talking and debating about it. While there’s nothing wrong with having such discussions, Paul here seems to be saying that there’s value in acting as opposed to speaking. And it relates to the other two things he’s urging us to do, so that we can be “dependent on no one” and be a good testimony to outsiders. Also, the mandate in verse 12 to “walk properly” is the same idea we saw last week in verse 1 — that our “walk” is how we conduct our lives.
All of us are going to trip and fall in our Christian lives. But when we do, we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s power as we get back up and back in step with the Lord. That’s the heart of what it means to live a normal Christian life. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about being “continually” filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s also part of the “more and more” phrase we’ve been seeing. Again, we have the Holy Spirit in us permanently in our eternal standing with God; but we must ask the Holy Spirit to fill us daily with respect to our sanctification — the continual process of our forward movement in Christ.
You can do that right now, in this moment, as a matter of fact. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a Christian for five days or 50 years. You can ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up right now with his power so that you can live your day for Christ with all of God’s strength. And if you mess up, don’t wait for a special time to confess your sin to the Lord — confess now. And then keep moving.
The world is not a “normal” place — and we’re seeing that more clearly every day as our lives become more complicated due to the pandemic. But we can all still live out our normal Christian lives with power, grace, and strength! Watch the live facebook post: