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Another Thanksgiving Sermon: Thankful for Receptive Hearts November 9, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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THANKFUL FOR RECEPTIVE HEARTS

(1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 we learned that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were thankful for the transformed lives of the believers in Thessalonica. Paul emphasizes in 1:4 that the reason for their thanksgiving and the reason for the transformation was the knowledge that God was the one who had set the events in motion necessary for this transformation. We also saw the part that the lives of these three men played in making their message believable. Today we want to look a little closer at the Thessalonians themselves and how that they came to the place, as stated in 1:10, where they turned to God from idols. In other words, what happens in the heart of a person when they trust Christ and how is it that we can be thankful when someone’s heart is receptive to the word?

We can be united in our thanksgiving for the work of God’s word in the lives of others if we are active in proclaiming that word (verse 13). One obviously cannot be thankful for what one does not have. The farmer cannot be thankful for a bountiful harvest if he never plants a seed. In the same way, you cannot be thankful for receptive hearts if you have not planted the word.

We will decide next year whether to build a parsonage or not. The purpose of building this parsonage is that we might more effectively use our church building to reach boys and girls and men and women in the Castleton area with the gospel of Christ. We want to improve both evangelism and the training that is necessary to win others to Christ and train them in God’s word and work. In the years to come, our thanksgiving should not be for a parsonage but rather for those receptive hearts which we have reached because of the building of the parsonage. It is kind of like buying a tractor. The farmer who puts more emphasis on his tractor than on his harvest has his priorities wrong. His priority must be and always must be the harvest. That is what makes him a farmer.

For that reason, I want us to think about the harvest a bit. What is it that we want to see God do in the lives of the people of Castleton and the surrounding area.

We want them to hear the word. There are two words that could be translated “received” in this verse. This first one talks about hearing. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, we see Paul using this word in the same way. The Thessalonians received the message from Paul. In Romans 10, Paul puts it this way, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God and how shall they hear without a preacher…” If people are not willing to even listen, they will not have the opportunity to believe.

We not only want people to hear the word but we desire that they receive, that is, welcomed the word that they hear as from God. They recognized it as authoritative. Not just to be believed but also obeyed. It is not to be corrected but rather followed.

In the immediate context of these verse, the contents of the “word” is not elaborated. We know, as we saw last week from Acts 17, that the message concerned Jesus Christ. Paul in relation to this same message explains in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 both what the “word” is and also the significant difference between hearing and believing. The “word” is the death of Christ for my sins in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead. That is what one must both hear and welcome.

Anytime I approach this subject it is with fear and trembling but it is important for everyone of us to understand that there are those who are hear the word but do not welcome. Paul terms this in 1 Corinthians 15:2 as having believed in vain. Fortunately, he also tells us how to identify whether we have believed in vain or not. Those who truly welcome the word of the gospel are those who hold fast. Jesus used this same illustration in the parable of the sower. He tells about four different kinds of soil but only one bears fruit because it kept, that is, held fast what it had heard. All of the soils heard. Three of them even assented to the truth but only one welcomed it as the word of God and that was evident by the fruit which was produced.

The word has worked in our hearts. There is no energy crisis when it comes to the word of God, that is, the message of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is powerful, that is, it works with energy. In third grade science we learned that energy produces work. Something happens that is obvious and visual. You see the thanksgiving of these men was based on the hearing and the welcoming of the word and then the word itself working in the lives of these believers.

What was this work for which both these men and the believers in Christ could be thankful and which also united them. It was the endurance of suffering. These believers were united in their suffering for Christ (verse 14-16).

Their backgrounds were different (verse 14). The churches in Judea were made up mainly of Jews persecuted by the religious system of their day. The church in Thessalonica was a mixed group including according to 1:10 former idolators. They were persecuted also by both the Jewish establishment as well as the political rulers in their city. They were in a thriving metropolis while the Judean churches were scattered by persecution into a large region. There were reasons why they should not get along…

…but their Savior was the same (verses 14-15). 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 describes for us what it looks like when the word is received. One of the characteristics of receiving the word is that it is so precious that one is willing to suffer as a result. These people, however, not only regarded Jesus Christ as precious and valuable but they received him with joy and with changed lives. Notice a couple of phrases that describe for us the relationship of these people to Jesus.

Verse 14 points out that they were in Christ Jesus. When people trust Christ as Savior something significant happens. We become a part of Christ. He becomes everything to us. I am not talking about our attitude toward Him but rather our position in Him. He are no longer a part of this world but rather have our portion in Jesus Christ.

Verse 15 points out a second significant word. Jesus is Lord. Our unity in Christ is only apparent when He is Lord of our lives. When He is the one who determines our priorities and our lifestyle, when He is the one who determines our choices in life, then we have a unity with other believers who also obey the same master.

Let us not forget though that the forces of Satan are united (verses 15-16, 18). Now they may not be united politically or socially or financially or even religiously but they are united against the Lordship of Christ in their lives and will do whatever God allows to destroy those who welcome the word of God. To believe the gospel of Christ, implies that you are willing to accept the opposition that comes with that faith as well as willing to accept the damnation of those who oppose Christ.

Finally, we should notice that these people were not only united in thanksgiving and in suffering but Paul looked forward to the day when they would be united in Christ’s presence (verse 17-20).

Being united with those we have led to Christ is part of our hope. (This is illustrated for us by Paul’s comparison to the trio’s ministry among the Thessalonians as maternal in 2:7-8.)

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