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New Thanksgiving Series from the Thessalonian Epistles (Thanksgiving Sermon on Transformed Lives) November 2, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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THANKFUL FOR TRANSFORMED LIVES

(1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12)

Paul and Silas and Timothy had spent only three weeks ministering in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-2). The impact of their message was so great that they were accused of turning the world upside down. The message they preached had transformed lives. Paul, writing on behalf of Silas and Timothy, is thankful for this transformation.

When we gather together during this time of year, there are five things for which most believers express thanksgiving. We are thankful for family, for good health, for material well-being, for political liberty, and even for the salvation which Christ was provided for us. How many of us are thankful for the transformation that is taking place in the lives of those with whom we come in contact? How many of us are even aware of any transformation taking place?

The Transformation in Thessalonica was the reason that these men were thankful. Something happened that even weeks after it happened, continued to fill their heart with thanksgiving.

As we look at this trio’s ministry in Thessalonica, we find that this transformation was a result of those listening to the gospel of Christ being persuaded of its truth (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5 with Acts 17:2-4a). They were persuaded because they saw this team’s example. In those three short weeks they examined their lives and saw that this message these men were preaching was a transforming message.

§ It was a transforming message because the power of the message was in the preachers. There is a sense in which the message itself was transformed. It was no longer a message of words but now it was a message of power, capable, able to transform. We quote the verse sometimes that my word will not return to me void. We forget though that God is talking through Isaiah about His promises to His people. He is not talking about evangelism. It does make a difference whether we believe and live the truth which we preach. When we do, God’s word is powerful to transformation. When we live an untransformed life, the gospel appears weak and incapable.

§ It was a transforming message because the Holy Spirit worked through the preaching. You see, the Holy Spirit is the means by which the gospel takes root in hearts. He is the one who takes the word and takes it through the mind into the inner being of man.

§ It was a transforming message because it was persuasive and assuring. The persuasion was complete, it was not temporary, it built confidence and assurance. That is why it resulted in a transformation of the Thessalonians.

We also find that this transformation resulted in a spiritual union with Paul and his team of missionary believers. They were joined or added to Paul and Silas (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6a with Acts 17:4b).

§ Paul points out that they knew what kind of men they were (1:5b). The Thessalonians knew what manner of men the three were. They were transformed men. They followed these transformed men and they themselves were transformed by the gospel of Christ.

§ They themselves became examples to others (1:7-10). They proclaimed the gospel and those who heard it began to tell others until soon around town, it was known the these three men were preaching a transforming gospel (1:8b-9a).

This transformation was confirmed by the opposition which arose against those who had been transformed. Not everyone was persuaded of the truth of the gospel and those who were not persuaded became envious and began to cause trouble (Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6b with Acts 17:5-9). Because Paul did not spend a long time with them, he wrote an epistle. He had not had time to disciple them. He had not had time to explain to them everything that he knew. He wanted to encourage them in the midst of continued persecution That is one of the main reasons why he wrote 1 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5). In order to encourage them, he wrote to them and said, We are thankful for you all. This was not, however, simply a self esteem builder. Paul said, we continually, without ceasing, give thanks for you. In other words, it was the habit of this team of men be to thankful for the Thessalonians.

§ There was, however, specific times, when they especially were busy thanking God for these transformed individuals. Paul writes, “When we pray for you, we thank God concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 1:2b). These three missionaries prayed (the middle voice participle hear emphasizes those who were thanking God in a way that the next two participles do not). That is the focus of this phrase, these three men prayed for these people. The text implies that they prayed together at specific times and during those times they focused in prayer on the Thessalonians. They practiced corporate prayer.

I know that a lot of people do not like corporate prayer. It makes them uncomfortable. It is too intimate. It is too up close and personal. These men, however, are an example to us. One of the points of the first two chapters of this letter is that men and women like these are the type of people who make the gospel alive with their lives. People who pray for others and with others, thanking God for what He is doing in their lives, are the type of people God uses in His transformation work. They are the type of people whose message is powerful. They are the type of people whose message comes through the means of the Holy Spirit. They are the type of people whose message gives confidence and assurance to the hearts of their hearers.

§ When we remember the transformation that took place in your lives, we thank God for you (1 Thessalonians 1:3). When the time of prayer was over, they did not forget these people. They continued to be thankful for them in their thoughts. There is a significant difference in conscious thanksgiving and thankful thinking. Conscious thanksgiving puts all other things aside and says this is the time for important business. Thankful thinking is multitasking thanksgiving. Now there are some things that just do not fit well in a multitasking world and a time of thanksgiving is one of those things. But our thanksgiving for transformed lives does not have to be limited to those conscious, focused moments. In fact, this is where the reality of thanksgiving is proven. As important as times of prayer are, prayer can be faked. Jesus pointed that out Himself. Only you can know if you are truly thankful when God does a transforming work in the life of someone else. What is it that was constantly in the thoughts of these three men?

1. They remembered what faith had worked in the Thessalonians (“work of faith”). I find it difficult to imagine those three weeks in Thessalonica. Not only had Paul and Silas and Timothy demonstrated to the Thessalonians the quality of their salvation through their lives but the Thessalonians themselves had been so obviously transformed by their faith in Christ that it had made a permanent impression on their thoughts.

2. They remembered what burdens love had brought upon the Thessalonians (“labor of love”). Now faith had accomplished a transformation in the lives of the Thessalonians. Love, though, is a harder taskmaster than faith. Their love cost them. It caused them trouble. It brought on them persecution and separation from loved ones. In those few short weeks, these men had seen what kind of trouble and heartache love for Christ and love for His people had brought into their lives. Look back again at Acts 17.

3. They remembered what the Thessalonians hope in Christ had enabled them to endure (“patience of hope in Jesus Christ”). The Thessalonians had learned that the end was coming and they were looking forward to that day when they would stand before God their Father with all the trials that their love for Christ had brought into their life in the past and their future wholly wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. It was that hope that enabled to endure the trials that their love had caused.

§ Because we know that God has chosen you to work within your heart (1 Thessalonians 1:4). They knew that this transformation was a God thing. Yes, they had been effective tools but God was the one who had loved them and God was the one who had elected them for this transformation. You see, the emphasis here of the word “election” is not just on the ultimate destination of these believers but also on the transformation that has taken place within them.

Obviously, the reason behind their thankfulness for the transformation of the Thessalonians lay with their passion for the gospel. Do you have a passion for the gospel? If you do, it will change you, your life, and the way that you view and interact with others. Look at the cross, recognize what Christ did for you on that cross, and let yourself be transformed.

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