hears a great deal today about “lifestyle evangelism.” The concept is
sometimes misused to mean, “I’ll be a nice person and everything will be OK.”
This is simply not true; and when it is shown to be false we are often very
disappointed. Paul here lays out the true principles of lifestyle evangelism.
It’s harder than it appears; perhaps that’s why it is so seldom tried.
let’s see what we are aiming for.
brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be
glorified, just as it did also with you;
and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning
you, that you are doing and will continue to
do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and
into the steadfastness of Christ.
(2Th 3:1-5 NASB)
begin by examining the objectives the Apostle lays out:
that the Gospel will spread rapidly. This is supreme for the Apostle
Paul. He is therefore willing to do anything needed to further this
goal. That is his mission (and ours).
with this he wants the Gospel to be glorified. If you cannot convert, you
can at least break up the soil to make it fertile ground. If all think
well of the Gospel, growth is much easier.
that he and his companions will be rescued from others. Note that he does
not ask to have no trouble. He knows he will have trouble. He asks to be
delivered in it.
can also see how he expects this to be accomplished.
Lord is faithful
a point where a modern Christian would begin to lay out plans, fundraising
drives, missionary campaigns and such Paul tells us his method: the Lord is
faithful. It is the secret of his success; he knows his source. He is not shy
about saying so, either. He proclaims the Lord faithful at a point where we
would talk about our budget. It brings up the question: do we know the
Lord is faithful? Do we count on it? And if we do, then surely we will praise
Him for it.
is a curious thought here. Just how does the Lord show his faithfulness to
us? What’s his method?
strengthens us – largely by trial.
delivers us – from trial.
appears inconsistent; it also has that certain “nick of time” air about it. It
is not inconsistent. It would be so if we were the ones being
glorified. We aren’t; he is. He is foiling the work of Satan through us.
Seen through the world’s eyes, it is inconsistent. Knowing the purpose of God,
it is perfectly consistent.
thoughts might dismay his readers; so Paul is gentle with them. He tells them
he has confidence in them because of their relationship to the Lord. And what
is that relationship? It is one of obedience. The result of that obedient
life is two fold:
it produces good work which is all done in love.
that good work is consistent, for experienced Christians are steadfast.
see an example here of the ordinary Christian in obedience to God – producing
the fruit of the Spirit.
you’re going to preach this doctrine, you will quickly be asked to show that
you have lived it yourself:
we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep
away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the
tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to
follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among
you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and
hardship we kept working night and day
so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the
right to this, but in order to offer
ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.
(2Th 3:6-9 NASB)
is traditional in American evangelical churches to announce that we follow no
tradition, only the Scripture. Indeed, we are very proud of our rejection of
tradition. The word used here is the same word Christ uses when he condemned
the Pharisees for following the traditions of men rather than God. But did you
catch that word, “Proud?” That’s the difficulty. By and large, we don’t
reject tradition because it’s bad; we reject it because we are proud. It is
just possible your mother was right, you know.
are so sure that freedom in Christ means “no rules” that we tell ourselves that
there are no rules. But see here what the Apostle teaches: no rules means an
unruly, undisciplined life. We hate the word “discipline” too. But there it
is. Consider it in the context of the phrase, “disciplined athlete.”
truth is simple: rebellion, in most circumstances, is a sin. It is not the
virtue we paint it to be. Teenage rebellion is not good; mid-life crisis
rebellion isn’t either.
Paul is careful to point out not that he is rebellious and rejects all the
rules – but that he exceeds the rules. It is clear from the Scripture
that those who devote their full time efforts to the church are, in general, to
be supported by the church. This is something acknowledged not only in the
church, but outside. Any atheist would acknowledge that our pastor is our
employee, and therefore entitled to his wages. Consider, then, the effect of
exceeding the rules. Paul’s entitled; but he supports himself so that he would
not be a burden (and all that this would imply). He does so deliberately, so
as to be a model for them. The method is still used by missionaries today.
kind of model?
he is the model of a disciplined life. You can look at him and see the
virtue in his life. We don’t hear much about virtue anymore.
is also a model of endurance. He endures labor and hardship; these speak
convincingly to his hearers.
purpose is to spread the Gospel. His method is to be the example of what he
wants us to become.
this end, then, Paul gives his instruction:
even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not
willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you
are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like
busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work
in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow
weary of doing good. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter,
take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will
be put to shame. Yet do not regard him
as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now may the Lord of peace Himself
continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! I,
Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark
in every letter; this is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with you all.
(2Th 3:10-18 NASB)
lives for others – you can always tell the ‘others’ by their hunted look.” The
people in Paul’s day had no thought of retirement; even if you were rich, you
had to look after the money. Idle days were, for most, rare. But it was
always possible that if you were old enough (especially for widows) that the
church might be persuaded to feed you. So how do you tell the difference
between the idle busybody and the senior saint? Elsewhere Paul goes into more
detail, but the principles he lays out here are sufficient:
the busybody leads the undisciplined life. If you are too busy to pray,
too busy to study the Scriptures and too busy to spend time in sweet
communion with your Lord, something is definitely wrong. The charitable
life is also the disciplined life.
is most commonly seen by the symptom of doing no work. With rare
exceptions, there is always something we can do to help. Even if it means
knitting slippers while you rest in your wheelchair. (The point is not
how productive your labors are; it is the elimination of idle hands, the
to recognize a busybody? If you’ve never seen one in action, then God has
blessed you. If you have, I need explain no further.
to do about it
things first: don’t grow weary of doing good. Dealing with the idle takes
tact and patience. Here’s Paul’s simplified method:
note of the person – and don’t associate with him. Let the shame of
idleness be pronounced; if the conscience is not dead, things will
change. But do not do this in an angry, mean spirit; rather, do it in
love. Our society exalts leisure; sometimes we see leisure as life.
Bring the idler around gently.
not hesitate to admonish; it must be done. One of the perils of the idle
busybody is that he thinks he’s exhibiting Christian charity – he’s going
around identifying everyone’s faults, for example. There are some things
in which the mirror lies.
farewell is somewhat unusual, until you remember that this letter is a response
to a fraudulent one from an imposter. Look for the signature, he tells them.
But there is one point here for our learning, too. He ends this letter as he
began it: with grace and peace from Christ. It is the goal of the ordinary
Christian: live a productive life, full of grace and peace, at the end of
which your Lord will welcome you home from your pilgrimage.