1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Rejoice always! 17 Pray constantly. 18 Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
1. God’s promise for Christ’s return
2. God’s will while you await Christ’s return
How’s your Latin? Do you know any Latin phrases? I bet you know more than you think. We use some in worship like, “Agnus Dei, Lamb of God,” or “Nunc Dimittis, Dismiss us now.” Unfortunately, the only Latin phrase that most people know is, “Carpe Diem.” Do you know what that means? “Seize the day.” Well, today I am going to teach you another Latin phrase: Respice Finem.
We often say, “All’s well that ends well.” Peyton Manning threw two interceptions last week but the Broncos still won. All’s well that ends well. Experience teaches us that we need to keep focused on the final outcome of what we want to achieve. Even if we hit some glitches along the way, if we keep heading toward the goal, it will turn out in the end. All’s well that ends well. So we want to keep our eyes on the goal. Respice Finem. That means, Focus on the goal; keep your eyes on the end.
For many of us that end is December 25th. We are focused on all the things that need to be done in the next ten days, baking, shopping, wrapping. That deadline is looming and we have to get everything done. Our eyes are focused on that goal. But Advent is a season that reminds us what our goal really is. Our goal is heaven. Our goal is being prepared for Jesus’ return. We need to keep our eyes on that goal, even in these hectic days before Christmas. Respice Finem.
Paul keeps us focused on the goal in this lesson from his first letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote, Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. In this verse, “spirit” means “person”. God will sanctify your whole person, soul and body. God does that because we can’t. We can maybe give ourselves a buff and a shine but to sanctify, that is, make ourselves completely holy, isn’t something we can do.
If someone came to your house with a white glove and started checking for dust, could your house pass the white glove test? Of if they brought a microscope to your bathroom, could you be sure that your bathroom is completely sterile? You can clean all you want, but you probably aren’t going to get your house perfectly clean. So neither can we get our lives to be sterile of sin. We can’t sanctify ourselves completely.
And that’s why Jesus was born. As we celebrate Christmas, we see how Jesus got down in the trenches – he put on his working gloves, and started his work when he took on flesh and blood in the manger. He got out his hammer and saw, and started building a stairway to heaven, as he obeyed every law for us. Every time that Jesus avoided evil, another step was built. Every time that Jesus learned God’s Word, another step was built. And then at the height of his work, he slaughtered himself and gave us his perfect covering for our sins, so that we could stand before God blameless. (Adopted from Joel Pankow) Jesus completed his work and now Paul’s prayer is that the Holy Spirit would do his job of beginning, building, sustaining and growing our spiritual lives.
In answer to that prayer, Paul states a promise. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. If the cross couldn’t stop God, nothing will. He is faithful to his word and he will do what he promised. Are you ready for the promised Savior? The good news is that it doesn’t depend on you. God himself, the God of peace, is at work sanctifying you and making your ready through Word and sacrament. From eternity God has Respic Finem, kept his eye on the goal for you. He has promised to present you blameless and beautiful for that day when Jesus comes. Trust his work. Don’t worry about how much you must do, but trust his work in you through Word and sacrament.
God has you ready. Now we also need to Respice Finem, that is, we need to keep our eyes on the goal and when we do that, we remember what’s important. There are times believers would like to know God’s will for their lives. Should they sell their house and move to an apartment? Should they try another round of chemo? There are many things about which God has not told us his will. It’s far better to focus on those that that God has told us are his will for us.