By Brooke Holt
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
The church thrives when God’s people dwell together in love and unity! Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica to encourage them. With some unexpected deaths within their congregation, people grew concerned about the coming of the Lord, what that meant for those who had died and for those who were still waiting. Paul wrote to assure these new believers that their salvation was secure. There was hope for those still among them as well as those who had already gone to be with the Father.
As Paul wrote, he expressed his delight and love for the church while he also expressed his desire to be among them. Both sides felt the disappointment of his absence, and Paul sought to comfort and encourage them through his written words. While Paul loved them from afar, they could love one another in their church fellowship. What a beautiful prayer of Paul, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (v. 12). God’s people were to love God and to love one another. The love of God is sure and secure but grounded in faith, whereas the love for one another manifests the love of God personally and up close.
Paul’s desire, God’s desire, was that the church would flourish through this love. Was it easy? Absolutely not! Just as God demonstrated his love for sinners by sending his Son, so humankind is to demonstrate love for one another through sacrifice and grace for each other. Just writing those words is hard, so reading them must also provide a challenge. How in the world do we love those who are annoying, petty, demanding, or too much in our space?
I think Paul’s continuation of verse 12 addresses that question—we learn to love God and others as we establish our hearts in the Lord, in the holiness of the Lord, and in the hope of Jesus’s second coming. Establishing our hearts in the Lord means that we allow the Lord to transform our hearts. Maybe it is easier to think about the Grinch, and how his heart grew three sizes in one day. That is a glimpse of what the Lord can do in us. He can take our broken, selfish, and impatient hearts, and he can fill them with a love so great that it begins to overflow. Love fills us then love overflows from that full heart and onto others, even the difficult others.
Throughout that process of having our hearts transformed, healed, and filled, we become like Jesus. We become his holy dwelling place, and we become those who build the church through loving as Jesus loved. Have you ever noticed that Jesus never judged anyone into the kingdom of God? Jesus always spoke the truth, and that truth was laced with grace and invitation. For those who would receive his truth, grace abounded. For those who would reject him, judgment would come. Yet, there was always grace and love that accompanied truth.
May that be true with us today. May we receive these words of Paul and put them into action through God’s Holy Spirit.
How is the Lord calling you to establish your heart in him today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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