1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 – We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, 4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. 5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
There is a pharmacy close to my home with a sign board that declares scriptures, devotional thoughts, along with items for sale within the store. He made a statement about Christians needing to look more redeemed so as to tell them apart from the world. I began to research this idea and found a surprising thing from history. The nineteenth-century German philosopher, Nietzsche, who helped lay the intellectual cornerstone of Nazi-ism, declared that he once considered becoming a Christian. He decided to go and live among Christians who were thought to be quite devout. Apparently the effort failed, because years later he reported, “These Christians will have to look a lot more redeemed before I can believe in it.” You may be right in saying he had no excuse for rejecting Jesus based upon some Christians, yet his words speak to us even today.
This world is looking for someone who is truly transformed by something, and they will accept the philosophy of just about anyone, if it will give them something to hope for. A movie star just starred in a movie called “Eat… Love… Pray…” It was reported that she has decided to become a Buddhist because of her experience in this film. This world is looking for something to fill the void of their lives. Perhaps they would even accept the Good News of Jesus if they experienced that Redeemed living within one of us.,.
Perhaps we can glean something from Paul’s writing to the Thessalonica church and determine where we fit in to the glowing remarks given to this church. Gospel (Good News) living is something we must experience and grow into every day of our lives! Paul writes and speaks of the visibility of the gospel in their lives.
How can we look at others to see if the Gospel is alive and well in our own lives? Look at these three thoughts:
First, the Gospel came to them not only through words, but through Power (vs 5).
True, there is power in our spoken word. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” But we all know the evil of our spoken word in the moment of anger.
- Dr Laura Schlesinger experienced just this week when spoke in anger and excitement and blasted a caller using a word that has no place being used in today’s culture.
- James writes that no man can tame the tongue, it’s evil and full of poison (James 3:8) while at the same time he considers that from the same mouth that curses, there are people who will bless God (James 3:9-10). This is a double minded person – unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).
If there is power in our words, then we must realize there is a larger power active through the Holy Ghost. Power we receive as a result of His Spirit entering our lives (Acts 1:8). Power that makes us to be witnesses worldwide, not just here at church, but everywhere we go.
That Spirit not only represents Power, it is Power! (Romans 8:11) If that Spirit that raised Christ from the dead – whoa, just a minute!
- The Spirit has power over Life and Death! This is the power of Christian living!
- Through that Spirit, we have power over everything around us – not power to destroy or curse when we choose, but the power of God within us to extend life to someone who is approaching death, not to slay them with the power of our words spoken in a moment of anger.
Perhaps we struggle with our Christian living because we struggle with the absence of Power in our lives! Paul tells the church of Rome that the “… God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. “ (Romans 5:13). Abound in hope! This word abound is full of imagery of leaping forward, so we leap forward with a powerfully induced Hope that comes from the Power of the Spirit within us! I am not ashamed of what I am before this world, or before my God! I know who I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to him until that Day! (2Tim 1:12)
Next, The Gospel, as with the church at Thessalonica, is a power that transforms our lives (Vs 2-4, 6-7), not just as a miracle, but as the results of how our lives are affecting others! If we are blessed and full of the Spirit, and full of Faith and Assurance of our walk with God, then the Faith that we have will PRODUCE works!
James 2:14-18 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Let’s see your works! You cannot live only a life of Faith, because Faith without your works is dead! The works that you do are not prompted by some reward system to see if you get the higher prize than someone else! It’s prompted by the Love (v9). Our lives are transformed by the love of Christ and the love we have for Christ (Matt 25:34-40) so thus our works are prompted by love (1 Cor 13).
Perhaps we are not happy with the results of our Faith and Works. When I was young there was a commercial for Jack In The Box when it was new to the Houston area. It showed a huge ladder fire truck going through the drive through – the driver would place the order and by the time he drove all the way through, the driver of the ladder section behind would pick up the order. Oh, if only Starbucks in Yelm could be this fast! We have to learn and realize that there are some things that take time and while they are taking time we need to be patient. Our Hope should show forth our patience (vs10).
James 1:3-4 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Instant gratification – the reason we want digital cameras! Yet there is something that happens only over time and we need to be prepared to wait out our desire! Waiting upon the answer from God does not mean that we do nothing! It means we are busy about His business until He points us into another direction!
Finally, think about the Gospel, not as religion, but as a result of the Life, Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus! James describes Religion.
James 1:26–27 — 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The word translated “religion” means “the outward practice, the service of a god.” It is used only five times in the entire New Testament (James 1:26–27; Acts 26:5; and Col. 2:18, where it is translated “worshiping”). Pure religion has nothing to do with ceremonies, temples, or special days. Pure religion means practicing God’s Word and sharing it with others, through speech, service, and separation from the world.
Religion is man-made but the Gospel is God given.
Religion is what man does for God but the Gospel is what God does for man.
Religion is an outer reformation but the Gospel ends in an inner transformation.
Religion often becomes a farce but the Gospel is always a force.
The Gospel must become more to us than just words we speak – It must be a life that we live in a demonstration of power through a transformed life. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.