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Are You Called by God? August 17, 2011

Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Election, First Thessalonians, Grace Bible Church, Sanctification, Second Thessalonians, Sermons, Spiritual Goals, Spiritual Growth.
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ARE YOU CALLED BY GOD?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Sometimes you hear people say, I do not believe in predestination. A strange thing to say if you are a Bible-believer since the word occurs in the New Testament a half-dozen times. To believe in Christ and not believe in predestination would be like walking in the forest and not believing in trees. Basic to everything we believe is that God is in control. That includes the weather and the financial markets but it also includes God’s great plan for eternity. That bothers us because on some level we all would like to think that God called us to salvation because of something we are or something that we did but it is not so. God’s show of grace and mercy to us through Jesus Christ was part of his plan from the very beginning.

It is clear though that not everyone will be saved, not everyone has been called by God. Now it might seem that you could know whether you yourself have been called by God but can you know about others? Paul certainly thinks so. He says in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 4, “We give thanks to God always for you all…knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God…” How did Paul know that these people had been called by God (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)? They had believed the gospel of Christ.

Remember who these people were. They were Jews and YWHW-fearing Gentiles who worshiped at the synagogue. Paul and Silas came and preached from the Old Testament Scripture the necessity of the Messiah’s death and resurrection and that Jesus is that Messiah. Before these people had believed that they were the elect of God because of God’s covenant with Israel but now they have come to understand that the elect of God are those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. That was how Paul determined that they were part of the elect. They trusted Jesus.

Now God was not surprised. Second Thessalonians tells us that “God from the beginning chose you for salvation…to which He called you by our gospel…” From the beginning of what? From the beginning of God’s plan for the universe.

For the persecuted church in Thessalonica, it is easy to see how that would be a comfort but how is that going to help us? We are rich! We can go days without praying! We don’t need God!

“We are a lot like Joseph Stalin. He was short-five feet; four inches tall…a childhood accident left his left arm stiff and his hand slightly misshapen. When the dictator commissioned his portrait, he instructed the artist to paint him form his best angle-from below, a perspective that made Stalin seem to tower over the artist. To add to the image, Stalin folded his hands over his stomach, making them appear firm and powerful- like the name he had chosen for himself: Stalin means “man of steel. We put ourselves in the best possible light but simply adjusting the angel of view does not change reality. God’s Word is a mirror that shows our true condition” (Leadership Magazine).

Oh, He knows the truth. We are poor and blind and naked, but He loves us. He is knocking at the door, calling. When we see ourselves as we really are, not evaluating ourselves by earthly blessings but by spiritual needs, then we can answer the call. It is then that we can be identified as one of the elect from the very beginning.

If elected by God also means called by God through the gospel of Christ, what are we when we respond to the call (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:14)? We are sanctified. Now I am throwing out a lot of big words so let’s see if we can clarify what Paul means.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality…that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother…For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” You see God called us out of sin and made us saints. That is what we are and that is how we should live.

That doesn’t mean that we are completely holy. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” In other words, until Christ returns, we need His help to overcome the selfish desires of our heart but He will do it.

How does God accomplish this? Second Thessalonians 2:13-14 tells us how, “…through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These verses tell us how and why. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make us saints so that we might share in the glory of Jesus Christ at His coming.

The Holy Spirit works like this: “If our church copier broke down, I might call the repair shop to see if they could tell me what the problem was and if I could do anything about it. I might discover, however that I don’t even know how to describe what is broken. I don’t know the names of the parts or what they are specifically supposed to do. Perhaps I can’t even describe what is wrong. I just know that the copier won’t work. So the repair shop sends out a technician. While working he calls the shop, just like I did but he or she knows how to describe what was needed. That is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He uses the Word of God to sanctify us and to complete that sanctification for we cannot do it ourselves” (Leadership Magazine).

If we are sanctified by the plan of God, by faith in Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, what makes us worthy of our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)? Living up to our calling.

That is why we need spiritual mentors according to 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Although we are saints and God is working in us; God uses the church around us (and Paul considered himself the spiritual father of this church) to guide us in the right path. In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, we see that Paul is praying for them to be worthy of the calling. In other words, it is possible to live worthy, appropriately to the calling we have received.

How should you respond to the call of God?
(1) You need to open the door to Jesus Christ. “[In] 1991, 90 year-old Harvey Penick showed a red spiral notebook to a local writer and asked if he thought it was worth publishing. The man read it and told him yes. He left word with Penick’s wife the next evening that Simon & Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000. When the writer saw Penick later, the old man seemed troubled…With all his medical bills, he said, there was no way he could advance Simon & Schuster that much money. The writer had to explain that Penick would be the one to receive the $90,000” (Leadership Magazine). What must you do? Open the door. You are poor, blind, and naked before God but Jesus is knocking at the door. Let Him in. Trust Him. Believe on Him for salvation from the wrath to come.

(2) You need to learn to live worthy of the calling. Does your life correspond to your profession? Are you living blamelessly before God? Does your sanctified position reveal itself in your everyday life?
Next week: Looking for the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 1:1-3:4)

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Thanksgiving Sermon (Thanksgiving in Everything) November 23, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Professor John Grassmick of Dallas Seminary has called the sixteen short commands found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 “16 exercises for body building.” Ray Pritchard calls them “Christian Aerobics.” What we want to do this morning is look at a few of these and understand what it is that God has commanded us to do that builds us up spiritually, that make us spiritually fit.

Since it is the thanksgiving season, we are going to focus on the last eight, which are centered around the command to be thankful and on how that these things are God’s will for our lives.

God’s will affects how we spend our time (verses 16-17). In other words, God wants us to spend our time developing certain spiritual habits.

We are to spend our time rejoicing (verse 16). This is a command that touches two areas of our life: how we feel and when we feel it. We are to make it a habit of our life to rejoice. This verse and none of these verses imply that we 24-7 are to be doing something but all of these commands are intended to be habits that we are to integrate into our lives. Now this is very important. I do not always feel like rejoicing but I am commanded to make it a habit of my life to rejoice. I am glad though that I am not alone in this. Paul tells in 2 Corinthians 6:4, 10a how that habitually rejoicing even during extended sorrow is not only possible but it is also a characteristic of someone who ministers to others.

How do you make rejoicing a habit? First, of all you need something to rejoice in. Twice Jesus commanded his disciples to rejoice and he told them why they should rejoice.

In Luke 10:20 we find that Jesus wants us to be thankful for who we are and not for any spiritual gift that we may have. Jesus sent out seventy men to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come to earth. These men are able to exceed expectations. In verse 9 when Jesus sent them out, he commanded them to heal the sick. When they return in verse 17 to report to Jesus on their work they are rejoicing because they have not only been able to preach and heal but they have been given power to cast out demons. They are not, however, to rejoice in this but rather that their name is written in heaven (verse 20).

In other words, first and foremost of importance is not your spiritual gifts but rather your spiritual relationship to God. The problem in this world is that most people don’t know how to become a child of God. The do not understand that they must receive Christ. They must accept as the word of God the truth that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

After you have become a child of God, there is a second reason why you can rejoice. Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:12 that we should rejoice because even when we are persecuted, we can look forward to a great reward in heaven. Our rejoicing is based on heavenly things not on earthly things.

Now after you know what it is that you should be rejoicing in, how do you make that a daily and a nightly habit? The answer is in verses 17-18a…

We are to spend our time praying and thanking God (verse 17-18a). Now this is not a new concept to us. In Philippians 4:4-7, a few months ago we saw that focusing on prayer and thanksgiving will produce a life that habitually rejoices in God. In this case we see that one good habit produces another. If you want to rejoice, habitual prayer and thanksgiving will produce the habit of rejoicing. You see praying without ceasing does not mean always having the spirit and attitude of prayer. I think we should always have the spirit and attitude of prayer. That is very commendable but the command here is pray habitually – pray repeatedly and often. In Romans 1:9 Paul tells the Romans, I pray for you without ceasing. Certainly, Paul does not mean, “I do not pray for anyone else” but rather, I pray for you often, over and over again I pray for you.

Prayer and thanksgiving are spiritual habits and they are the most basic of spiritual habits. It is easy for us to make excuses to neglect these spiritual habits but if we do we will be spiritually weak. For years I made the excuse that I really did not need to have a specific time of prayer because I prayed all through the day and was always in a spirit of prayer. When, however, God began to work in my life and teach me to pray, it was then that I first realized how spiritually flabby I was. I dressed well spiritually and thought that I covered up my weakness well but God was not fooled and those who knew me best were not fooled. I needed, just as you need, as time of spiritual prayer and thanksgiving.

God’s will affects how we make our decisions (verses 19-20). It is possible for us to be in the habit of making wrong decisions. God wants us to break that habit. Verses 19-20 tells us how to break the habit of making wrong decisions spiritually.

We are to listen to the Spirit (verse 19). Now your outline has the phrase, “walk in the Spirit.” This is certainly part of breaking the habit of making wrong decisions spiritually but as we look at the verse, we realize that we are looking at something more basic than living the spiritual life. We are talking about listening to the Spirit. We are talking about being sensitive to what God is wanting to do in our lives. You see, the Spirit of God is always working and He wants to change us, to shape us, to transform us into spiritually strong believers but He cannot do it if we are not willing to listen. When I coached junior high basketball in Germany, I had a number of fellows of various skill levels who played for me. There were times when a player would begin exhibiting a bad habit in their play. During practice I would spend extra time with them, trying to show them what they needed to do, giving them extra practice to break those bad habits and instill new ones. Sometimes a kid would decide that he did not want to do what I said. He would hear what I would say but he would not listen and every time that happened the kid not only persisted in his bad habit but eventually ended up sitting on the bench because of the danger of that bad habit costing us the game. In the same way it is necessary that we listen to the Spirit of God. How do we do this?

By obeying God’s revealed will in His Word (verse 20). The text says do not despise prophecies. There actually two possibilities for meaning in this command. It could mean do not despise the spiritual gift of prophecy. However, based on the surrounding commandments, I believe the second possible meaning fits much better in the context. Do not despise the Word of God. Remember, most of the New Testament had not been written. These people lived in a day when prophecy was both common and necessary because the New Testament had hardly been begun much less completed. Paul wanted them to realize that they were responsible to obey prophecy.

Now what is prophecy. Prophecy in the Bible is not foretelling the future although it might include that. It is also not simply preaching and explaining the word of God. Prophecy is God’s will revealed to a human who then tells others what God has said. Now the last chapter of Revelation indicates that there is no more prophecy. God has closed for now the giving of His Word to others. But we have in the Old and New Testaments God’s revealed will and if you are going to be spiritually fit, you must read and endeavor to understand God’s Word. If prayer is the treadmill of spiritual exercise, God’s Word is the spiritual diet plan that God has given us to guarantee that we will be spiritually nourished. Both are equally necessary.

God’s will affects how we evaluate our environment (verses 21-22). We do not live carelessly (verse 21a). Now this grows out of the first two areas of spiritual training. When one is in the game it is necessary for the player to understand the situation he is in, to evaluate what should be done. These three commands tell us that we need to establish not only good practice habits but also good game habits.

Stay awake during the game. There is no time to rest. Now the word actually means to look at something that is genuine and probably refers back to these prophecies that are supposedly from God and the fact that these people need to carefully evaluate what is true and what is not. We need to do the same. We need to be very careful and evaluate everyone who claims to speak for God, to hear from God, or to explain what is in the Word of God, evaluate whether what they say is true.

When you find something that works, that is, truth, use it, apply it! Put your mark on it. People need to know that you live by God’s Word and not by your own wisdom or the wisdom of some man but by the Word of God.

When you find something that is false, that is evil, let it alone. Paul said in 2 Corinthians that we need to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Pay attention to what you read and listen to and watch and participate in and when you find evil, let it go, leave it alone.

This is an important part of our basic regimen of living God’s will. It especially, however, impacts how we give thanks (verse 18). “In everything” implies during every situation, with every difficult decision, and within the most evil of environments we can be thankful. Why? Because God is good to us. We do not deserve to be able to rejoice. We do not deserve to be able to pray to God. We do not deserve the Holy Spirit living within us, working in our lives. We do not deserve the will of God revealed to us through the Word of God. We do not deserve the privilege of discerning between what is right and wrong. But God has given us all of these spiritual blessings and we can in respect to every situation and in every circumstance and at all times be thankful to God.

Let me remind you again of the basis of all this, becoming a child of God, a son of God. That is you must trust Christ as your Savior as the only way to be saved from your sin. Without Christ you cannot rejoice because your future is bleak. Your prayers and thanksgiving, no matter how sincere cannot deepen a relationship that you do not have. You cannot listen to the Spirit of God because He does not live within you. You cannot respond to God’s Word properly because you are already in rebellion against God’s Word because you have not accepted Christ as Savior. And you cannot properly evaluate spiritual things because you are spiritually dead. In other words, you cannot exercise spiritually until you are living spiritually. You must be born again!

Next Week: Genesis 3:14-15; THE FIRST MENTION OF CHRISTMAS

Thankful for persevering faith (from a thanksgiving sermon series) November 16, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Perserverance, Religion, Sermons.
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THANKFUL FOR PERSEVERING FAITH (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13)

In this series on thanksgiving, I have mentioned the importance of investing our lives in others. I have been asked, how do we do that. In this sermon I will mention a couple of ways in which you can invest your lives in others. These are all in the context of sharing our faith and witnessing of Christ and how that those who believe in Christ are not only transformed but that they also persevere in their belief in Christ, in spite of whatever difficulties they may have in their lives.

First of all, I want to describe what perseverance in the faith does and what it looks like. You see, when we persevere in the faith, those who are living for Christ rejoice (verses 6-9). In other words, when you invest in the lives of others and they persevere in Christ, the pay off is joy in your heart.

Generally, perseverance shows itself through our faith and our love (verse 6a). In Thessalonians 1:3 we find faith and love connected to each other in the same context in which we find them here. These people were going through some trying times. They were being attacked by those who hated Christ Jesus. Paul wrote that this faith and love working in them is what got them into these trying times. It was this same faith and love reported by Timothy that confirmed that they were in Christ. In 5:8, Paul encourages them to continue to arm themselves in an evil world, awaiting the coming of Christ with this same faith and love.

Specifically, perseverance shows itself through our love for God’s people (verses 6b-7). Now there are a number of ways in which we can show the reality of our relationship to Christ but nothing trumps our love for our fellow believers in Christ. True fellowship with other believers is a proof of our fellowship with Christ. 1 John 3:14 tells us, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”

This is the relationship that we see between these three men and the Thessalonians. They loved one another. They cared for one another. They prayed for one another. This love was the proof of the reality of their faith in Christ.

This is why we emphasize the importance of being integrated into the local church. Ultimately, it is not about church membership. It is not about full offering plates and full buildings and Sunday School rooms. It is not about a good worship experience. It is not about church attendance. The local church is loving one another with all the faults and failures that we may have. If you love the brethren you will want to join the church. You will not try to protect yourself by holding the church at arms length. You will want to take part in ministries and give toward them and bring others in, if you love the people to whom you belong in Christ. You will want to be in as many worship services as you can, if you love your brethren. I did not say “if you enjoy your brethren.” It is hard sometimes to enjoy everyone but you can always love them.

This gives strength to those who truly follow Christ (verses 7b-9). Verse 7 says they were comforted, that is, the good news of their perseverance in faith and love was a help to these three men in the midst of their on afflictions and trials. In verse 8, Paul expands this idea and says, based on your standing fast in the Lord, our lives are enriched. It is a strange statement to our ears but Paul says the quality of our lives are improved by the fact that you are standing steady in Christ. Then in verse 9 he loses himself in trying to describe how the faithfulness of the Thessalonians effects these three men. There are no words to describe the thanksgiving which we give for you. We rejoice with joy. When we come before God in prayer, you are the subject of our thanksgiving and you are the subject of our discussions with God. You are our strength and comfort and joy and thanksgiving.

Although we persevere in the faith, we continue to need perfecting (verse 10-13).

The perfecting of faith is important work (verses 10-11). It had such a high priority that Paul made it an integral part of his prayer life. Now we have already seen previously and know from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 that Paul, Silas, and Timothy gathered together at specific times to pray with one another for the believers in Thessalonica but this says that these three men were constantly during the day and during the night taking time to thank God for and pray for the believers in Thessalonica.

Perhaps you would say that such prayer goes above and beyond the call of duty. Paul would agree with you. He says they were praying exceedingly. The word means we prayed much more than much for you. These people were not on the backburner of their prayers but were given special attention by these men before God.

Remember, these men had only had three weeks or so among these people. Paul himself had attempted repeatedly to visit them again but he says Satan hindered him. He had sent Timothy to them and Timothy had come back with a good report of them but these three men’s concern for these people was so great that they made it priority in their prayers that God would enable them to return to Thessalonica.

What made this such a priority? They wanted to perfect their faith. These people had a faith that works. It was obvious to Timothy that there faith was real but they had some gaps that needed to be filled. They needed teaching on moral behavior, they needed teaching about the Rapture, and they needed to know how to function as a church. All of these things are a part of the perfecting of their faith.

Certainly, they were submissive to God’s will in this matter. In fact, it was quite awhile before God allowed them back into the region and we do not know if these men were ever in Thessalonica again. What we do know, however, is that these men had made the spiritual well-being of these people a top priority in their lives as revealed by the way they prayed for them.

Some of you are saying, I want to make praying for others a priority, but how.

Plan times of prayer. That is what these three men did. They planned times of prayer. Praying night and day as these men did does not come naturally for us but if we plan to pray we are more likely to pray at other times.

Pray with others. Besides memorizing Scripture there is nothing that will challenge you and encourage you spiritually more than praying with others.

Write down your thanksgiving for God’s work in others.

Memorize verses that talk about the things that you want to pray about.

The perfecting of faith builds on the love God has already placed in our lives (verse 12). Yes, these people were characterized by love for their brethren but their love needed to increase abundantly. This was Paul’s wish for them. The perfecting of our faith, the filling in of the gaps in our Christian lives is directly tied to our relationships to each other.

The perfecting of faith is revealed at the coming of Christ (verse 13). What Paul is saying is this, as your love abounds for each other and for those who are outside of the faith, you become stronger in the faith, you persevere more until ultimately when Christ comes and you stand before God, you stand without blame and holy because of your love for each other. In fact, that is the purpose for loving your brethren. It is about more than just getting along or all going in the same direction. It is about our standing before God. Do you want to have a good reputation before God? Love your brethren and love those who need your Savior. Do you want to be holy before God? Love your brethren.

Is your faith the type that will last when trials come? Obviously, you cannot know that until the trials come but you can still practice this love for the family of God. You can integrate yourself with each other in a myriad of ways. For most you it should mean an increase in prayer for God’s people and an increase in time spent around God’s people. When the game gets serious, it is those things that we worked on in practice over and over again, that are not forgotten.

Some of you are outside this family. We are commanded to love you also. Not just to be nice to you and polite to you but to love you. There is no better way to love you than to invite you today to put your faith in Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes this love as that of parents for their children. There is nothing that would thrill us more than to have you come to Christ, putting your faith in Him for salvation. Do it today!

Next Week: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING

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.)

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.