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Imitators Or Imposters

 "11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
Good Morning beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We are honored to have all of our brothers and sisters from around the world here with us.

As we continue our study of God's precious Word, we are again returning to the book of I Thessalonians chapter 2. Today, our text comes from the verses 11 through 13. I have studied the Scriptures for many, many years, both the Old and New Testaments, and I am constantly amazed how often I see, again and again, the emphasis that is placed upon the matter of church leadership. The Bible has much to say about spiritual leadership in the church. 

From the very beginning of human existence in the book of Genesis, and God established the leadership of Adam, God has established the need for leadership. In the family, He established man, as the husband and father, who is to lead his family in the matter of spiritual leadership, to the book of I Samuel, God Himself, chose Saul, the son of Kish, to be the first king of Israel. All throughout history, both past and present, the corruption of man's leadership, has been a crisis that is a familiar issue to all of us.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the greatest leader of all time appears. Who calls to Himself, the collection of random men, who were chosen before the foundation of the world, to be trained to be as church leaders, preparing them for ministry to take the Gospel to the world, upon His crucifixion and ascension, that they might produce more leaders. And so, the process continues, even centuries later, with a premium placed upon training spiritual leaders. Establishing how important leadership really is to God.
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father, 
Thank You for Your Word for us. Thank You for the clarity, that today, we would understand its meaning. We are grateful for the knowledge, wisdom and discernment granted to us, through the Holy Spirit. We are so richly blessed.
Father, we are especially grateful for Your Son, Jesus Christ, who was the perfection of leadership, showing us by His example the balance between leadership and authority. unwavering obedience, love and compassion. Yet as tender, loving and forgiving as He was, we hear His words of judgment and condemnation on those who fail. Lord, we pray that we would not only understand what is asked of us, but that You would lead us in our God given role, which we acknowledge we are not adequate for, let us not endeavor to be a leader on our own authority, for self promotion and selfish gain, but for the advancement of the kingdom, all for Your glory.
In Jesus' precious name.

Today's Message:
In our culture today, many seem to have developed the mindset of "anything goes." Therefore, we have a need of those who will admonish from a heart of love. While we certainly shouldn’t seek to offend anyone, we must stand for truth and be willing to confront error. I believe, that much of the trouble we are experiencing today, is a direct result of churches being unwilling to confront issues that are contrary to the Word of God.

If we are to be imitators of Christ, we must walk worthy of our calling, we must also heed the challenge to be set apart from those who not imitators but imposters! Many times, throughout Scripture, we see that our Lord confronted hypocrisy. A hypocrite was and is viewed as one who was an imposter, one who hid behind a mask of false pretense, an imposter. We, as believers of the Lord Jesus, teachers of the Word of God, have not been called to a life of hypocrisy. We have not been called to be imposters, but imitators of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Holiness and righteousness cannot and should not be falsified. The world does not need counterfeit Christians!

Open with me your Bibles to the Book of First Thessalonians chapter two, verses 11 through 13. I would like to encourage you to follow along with me as I read to you this wonderful portion of God's Word. First Thessalonians 2:11-13.

"just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
In my many years of studying the Word of God, I have learned that it is easy to find passages in Scripture, that will help believers grow in their walk with Christ. However, I also discovered, that when it gets personal, it becomes uncomfortable. As Christians, we are often quick to offer advice, however, we are more often slow to accept advice. This is especially true of church leadership. 
When studying the Word of God, I often find myself challenged and humbled and convicted. However, I am not one of those pastors who seek to avoid teaching that is uncomfortable or convicting, whether for you or for myself. I do not go through a passage just so you can watch me squirm, I teach because I believe there is much to be learned in Scripture for all of us. As pastors, we must always be faithful to God to preach the Gospel, entrusting it to others, for His glory. I believe that an ideal pastor not only builds up his people but also confronts ungodly behavior, and in himself, willing to heed the correction of God's Word. The Bible is God’s hammer that sometimes gently taps on us and other times it pounds away at our stubborn pride.

In verses 11 and 12, Paul writes "just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
Here, we see that the Apostle Paul is acting as both their loving mother, but also their loving father. Paul is building up his children that they might be men/women of God. He encourages them, comforts them, and counsels them. 

A pastor prays for his people. Paul prayed continually for the churches he planted. I am privileged and greatly honored to stand in the gap for all of you. If I, as your pastor do not faithfully pray for you, who will? A pastor isn't to pour out his life for his church, in order to "win points with God." Nor should the congregation try to win points with God, by their prayers and actions. We do it because we serve God, we are to sacrifice ourselves for others. That is what is expected of us, to bear one anothers burdens and concerns. It is my honor and privilege to do so. And, I am grateful for your prayers for me and this ministry, that God would be glorified.
Philippians 3:16 teaches us we are to "however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."
In verse 13, Paul tells us "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
The word used for receive in our text, is the Greek word "paralambanó," which comes from the word "pará, meaning "from close-alongside" and the word "lambánō, meaning to "aggressively take," "to take by showing strong personal initiative."
It communicates the idea that the Word of God is to be taken by us. The Greek verb "edexasthe," translated as "accept" goes a step further. It means, "to welcome eagerly." When we receive the Bible, we’re saying that we acknowledge its authority. When we accept it, we’re allowing it into our hearts so that we can be changed by it.

If the Bible is the Word of God, and we know that it is, then we must willingly bow in submission to it. We must never say, "I know what the Bible says, but…" I believe, if we know what the Bible says, there is to be no ‘but.’ We are, therefore, to say, "I know what the Bible says," period!

It reminds me  of a church I know, that is going through a difficult period, in which there is much controversy. There is no one who can collectively agree on anything. At a church meeting one afternoon, the various factions were arguing about the leadership of the pastor, the worship, and lastly, the church budget and finances. Yet, there was at no time, a reference or reading of the Scripture. Which, I believe clearly speaks on these matters. 
Beloved, the Bible stands approved, as read, without correction, without change, without deletion, without addition.

May I submit, that if you’re doing something right now and you know what the Bible says about that activity, you already have God’s answer. It’s not up for a debate or vote. If you’re waiting for God to let you know something different than what’s in the Bible, I am afraid, you will be waiting for a very long time. I believe that God speaks to us today through the Holy Scripture. We must not only acknowledge that fact, but, we must also accept that. 

The Apostle Paul takes this one step further in the last phrase of verse 13: "…which also performs its work in you who believe." The power of the Word of God is tied to a believing heart. The Greek word "energeitai," is translated "work," from which we get our English word "energy." In other words, the word is energized within us, as we believe it. 

When we hear the message outwardly, and welcome it inwardly by faith, it will rejuvenate us and produce a harvest in our life. Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

The Gospel is the power of God! The Gospel is the power of God. I believe that Psalm 119 is perhaps the clearest Old Testament Scripture about the beauty and power of God’s Word. Nearly every one of its 176 verses has a reference to the Word of God.
And, Hebrews 4:12 is the clearest New Testament description of what the Bible can do in our lives: 
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 
Many of you can give testimony as to how God has used His living and active Word to speak directly to your needs. When God’s Word is working within us, our attitudes and beliefs radically change. In order for God’s Word to change us, it has to be "in" us. I know that some of you are morning people. And, that’s probably the best time for you to read your Bible. While others of you are night owls. And find it best for you to read before you go to bed. The point is, that it really doesn’t matter when. What matters is that we read it.
I often find that the second facet of spiritual growth isn’t very fun to hear. To the extent we experience the power of God’s Word within us, we will collide with a world that rejects it. We could say it this way: If you believe and uphold the Bible, you are going to encounter some enemies. 
Now, allow me to quickly read to you verses 14 through 16, which we will study in our next lesson. But for the purpose of illustration, I want to address them briefly today.
"For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost."
Beloved, one of the greatest evidences that God’s Word continues to work within is the fortitude that believers experience when persecution comes upon them. Jesus taught in Matthew 13:21 that there are some who will run at the first hint of difficult times. "yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away." The Thessalonians didn’t bail. They stood strong in the face of persecution. 
In Closing...
As followers of Christ, we need to be reminded and challenged in regard to our thanksgiving for the church. We are not here by accident. God saw fit to save us and place us within this fellowship of believers. We need to be thankful unto the Lord for allowing us to be a part of His family among the local church! Thank the Lord for the help, encouragement, and support we receive from being a part of a local body of believers!
My beloved, a church will never prosper without spiritual growth. Immature believers will have a hard time reaching the lost. Spiritual growth must come before numerical growth. We will never reach our communities until we have ourselves, matured in our faith. I have seen spiritual growth in many of you and I rejoice in that. To me, that confirms that the numerical growth is on the way. We are growing to a point that we can be even more effective in our Christian ministry.
 I sense a love and appreciation for the Word of God. I sense a hunger to learn more of Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him. I see those of you who are comforted, challenged, and changed by God's Word. That is something in which to rejoice. May we never depart from making the teaching and preaching of the Word of God our priority!
May it be so...

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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