Lent Second Sunday Morning Prayer (28 February 2021) 1 Thessalonians 4:7
Today’s meditation is based on our epistle reading, St. Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians chapter 4. Theologians believe that this could be St. Paul’s first epistle. The early Thessalonian church had a different thought about the second coming of Jesus. The main issue was their misunderstanding about the end days and the second coming of Jesus. During Jesus’s time, the Jews were under Roman reign. Some Jews who lived in Thessalonica believed Jesus was the Messiah. The people of Galilee were with resurrected Jesus during ascension. They heard what the angel said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”. The early Thessalonian church believed that Jesus would soon return to liberate Israel from their enemies and give them a separate nation. St. Paul wrote this epistle to the early Thessalonian church to give them more clarity about the second Advent and to emphasise the importance of holiness. In 1 Thessalonians 4: 7 we read, “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness”. This is similar to what the Lord commanded the Israelites through Moses. In Leviticus 19:2 we read “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.”
Why does God expect us to be holy?
In 1 Samuel 2:2 we read Hannah praising God saying “There is none holy as the Lord”. In Isaiah 6:3 we read the seraphims cried “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” We worship a holy God who expects us to be holy. I would like to meditate on four reasons:
1. Not to be separated from God’s presence: God created angels without sin to praise and worship him. The archangel Lucifer had many talents which made him to be proud before God. His pride was the early sin and he was cast into the pit. The archangel became the fallen angel. God then created Adam and Eve, the first humans, in His own image without sin. God expected them to be holy as they were created in God’s image and had His breath. But Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil and committed sin against the LORD God. They were sent out of the garden of Eden. The sin separated them from the presence of God. 2 Timothy 1:9 says Lord has “called us with an holy calling”. God expects us humans to be holy so that we are not separated from God’s presence and can be faithful to our holy calling.
2. Not to be destroyed: After Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden of Eden, Can killed Abel. Sin passed on through generations. The world was filled with sin and God destroyed the world by flood during Noah’s period. . The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah was great and God saw the city was filled with sin. He destroyed the city. When the Israelites worshipped idols, God’s wrath destroyed many people in the wilderness. The people of Nineveh sinned against God and God decided to destroy them. Habakkuk 1:13 says “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity”. Our God whose eyes cannot behold evil has called us unto holiness to save us from being destroyed.
3. To overcome trials, temptations and devil: The Old Testament laws and commandments could make the people righteous; they could not make them holy. God the Father sent His only begotten Son to save the whole world from eternal death. Jesus came to this world as second Adam and overcame the temptations in the wilderness. He broke the chain of sin and victory over devil. Jesus Christ overcame trials, temptations and the devil during His life on this earth. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was “tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We must overcome temptations and cleanse ourselves of all filthiness. We who are following Jesus’s example are expected to be holy to overcome trails, temptations and the devil just like He did.
4. To be with Him in the kingdom of heaven for ever: The purpose of the first Advent is to prepare us to be with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus shed His blood for the remission of our sins. We receive salvation through the blood of the Lamb of God. Jesus came so we would inherit eternal life. In Romans 6:22 we read “now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Jesus came and shed His blood for us to free us from sin. God expects us to bear fruits unto holiness to inherit everlasting life. God called us to be holy because it is His will that we should inherit eternal life and be with Him in the kingdom of heaven for ever.
We briefly meditated the reasons for God expecting us to be holy. God expects us to be holy so that we are not separated from His presence, so that we are not destroyed, so that we can overcome the devil, trials, temptations and so that we will be with Him in heaven for eternity. Hebrews 12:14 says we cannot see God without holiness. The purpose of our Christian life is to see God and be with Him for eternity.
So what should we do to be with Him in the kingdom of heaven?
In Revelation 7 we read John “saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb”. Revelation 7:14 tells they “came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 and 2 encourage us to live our lives pleasing God by following the commandments given by our Lord Jesus. The Almighty Father gave commandments to the Israelites when they were in the wilderness. When Jesus ministered in this world, He consolidated the ten commandments to two prime commandments. The first one is about our relationship with Jesus and the second one is about our relationship with our fellow humans. To have a proper relationship with Jesus, our robes should be washed by His blood. Only when we wash our robes, we can be in the kingdom of Heaven. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 to 6 tell us how we can have a good relationship with our neighbours: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified”.
In Revelation 2 and 3 we read about what God appreciated and hated in the churches. We should know about what God hated and what pleased Him. God was not pleased about the Pergamos church because of their idolatry. God was not pleased about Thyatira church because of their fornication. God was pleased about Sardis church because they have not defiled their garments. God was well pleased with Philadelphia church because they kept His word and did not deny His name. This is in line with what we heard in our epistle reading. Revelation 2:4 also says, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” God expects us to love Him and be true to Him until the very end. We must be washed of our sins that separate us from God every day. We must renew our relationship with Him every day. The blood of the lamb of God was shed for every of us on the Cross. Our robes must be washed by the blood of the lamb of God every day.
Sin separates us from God. We must repent every day and moment when we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We must wash our robes with the blood of the Lamb of God. We must reconcile with Him so that we are not separated from His presence, so that we are not destroyed, so that we can overcome the devil, trials, temptations and so that we are with Him in heaven for eternity. We cannot see God without holiness. The purpose of our Christian life is to see God and be with Him for eternity. Lent is a season when we spend time in self-reflection and prayer. It is a time to get closer to God and learn to be more obedient. Revelation 22:11 says “he that is holy, let him be holy still”. I pray we take time to be holy and holier this Lent so that we live with God for eternity. Amen!