Saturday, August 14, 2010

"More on the Knowing..." 1 Thess 2:1-16

When we face issues in life in light of the impact of the Word, what is our usual response? Is it one of obedience or reading the small print looking for a way out? Do we doubt that we can really live the way the Bible teaches us? Do we feel we are not worthy of this task—of this life and therefore, may tend to soften the message a little to fit our life style? Maybe if I were more spiritual, then it would work for me. But I know I am not spiritual—would like to be—but not me. I am more of a sinner today than I ever was! I am more fallen today than I ever had been.

Is that true? Is that the way the Lord has called us to be? I think not!

As Paul remembers his time with these people, [and he knows human nature,] he was encouraged to learn of their spiritual growth. He was really excited to hear of their turning to God from idols: that they serve the Living God. This was big! Very big, indeed! People evey where lived far from God’s plan for their lives. Very few knew of the God of the Bible. And more and more non-Jewish people—without a Biblical background—were coming to know this Savior. Their lifestyle would be so changed from what they used to live. Way different. The whole society was pagan. Not just non-Jewish, it was really wild. Open sin in the streets. A completely corrupted society. Evil in every form was everywhere! The political leaders were corrupt. The religious leaders were corrupt. The man on the street was corrupt. The women at the market were corrupt. The kids at play were dishonest. There just was not a person anywhere in this society that was not corrupt. And in the middle of this wild and depraved society, a Church was born. Church leaders were found and the Church grew to please God in every way!

And as we read from Chapter 2, Paul sees that his work among them was not a failure. Look at what he wrote: 2 So, friends, it's obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. Let’s look back to Acts 17:1-9 to find out about his visit.

We see that he was only there for a total of three Sabbaths: three weeks. He spent most of his time teaching at the synagogue. And what was he teaching? From verse 2-3: “… he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. It was the simple Gospel!

How was this received? Rather well, given what would happen soon there after. Verse 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

From this, we can gather that many more non-Jews followed and converted to the Faith as Paul stated, as we saw last week, 1:9-10 9 They tell 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—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Many of this new church were, to say the obvious, not of a Godly background. They worshiped idols. And as we saw last week, there was a transformation of their life that showed them as different, 1,000% different.

What does this mean? Paul saw that they NOW lived a life that matched the teaching of God. What his message was during his short time with them stayed with them and grew. It was not a waste of time for Paul. It was growing. People all over the place knew of their changed life … their transformed life was well noted. Transformed by The Word!

And certainly unlike the conduct of the people of Philippi, where they spent some painful time in a jail—after being beaten, and then cared for by the jailer who came to Faith in Jesus. Talk about a transformed life! He might have been the one who beat Paul and Silas! (Reference to the killings of aid workers in Afghanistan. See YouTube short clip under Pastor Charles Beckett's daughter Cheryl Beckett .


“Pray for those who harm you…”

I believe that those new believers back in the early years of the Christian Faith, are very much like us in 2010. I believe the same could be said of us as we look at what our God has done in our lives. Sure there are times were we fail. There are times when we doubt. When we even fall away into sin! But we need to look at how Paul looked after them as see if the Spirit of God is very much like that today.

Verse 7-8 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

And then again, a family picture: Verse 11-12 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.

Paul is very much impressed in how these Believers held up during hard times. We need to do the same during our hard times—and I do not believe really hard times are here yet. (One promise Jesus makes to us that does not get a lot of press is this: We will be persecuted.)

· 1 Thessalonians 3:4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, So be ready! He will be there with you—don’t fear! He is near!

To close, let’s look at this whole issue of hard times. What does the Bible say about when things fall apart around us? What is our response to be? We will need to look at 2 Cor 4:8-10 to learn more!

First, Paul was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. The verb hard pressed means "to press in hard against" someone, or, as we say today, to squeeze the life out of a person, while the term “not crushed” indicates that the pressure never got to the point where there was no escape or way out. As in, squeezed by a snake…

Second, he was also perplexed but not in despair. There is a play on words here. To be aporoumenoi or perplexed is to be at a loss how to act, while to be exaporoumenoi or despair is to be utterly at a loss (i.e., in extreme despair). Although Paul may have been at a loss about how to move on, he never--as we say--went off the deep end.

Third, Paul was persecuted but not abandoned. The verb means "to pursue" and is commonly used of tracking a prey or enemy. Paul was pursued from city to city by hostile Jews. But through it all, God never abandoned him. The idea here is that God did not leave Paul behind for the enemy to pick up.

Finally, he was struck down by the enemy but not destroyed. Paul was not only pursued by hostile Jews, but when they caught up with him, they stirred up trouble whenever they could. He may also be thinking of the time he was stoned at Lystra and left outside the city for dead. Yet he lived.

Hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down . Do you ever feel that way? Join the Club. Paul did too. These words are summed up in the clause we always carry around in our body; that is the death of Jesus. “The death of Jesus” is actually an expression that stresses the ongoing nature of the process; the transforming process. We are being renewed! We are not yet what we will be but we are pretty far from what we used to be—by the Grace of God!

When we think of the "dying" of Jesus, we tend to think of the Cross. And it is this Cross we turn to now with a thankful heart for what He had done there. He took our punishment on Himself so we would be set free—that is how much He loves you. His life for yours. Freely given/freely offered. Yours now for the asking.

It is a matter again of knowing and in this case, it is the knowing of our Lord—alive in our lives or making His Will known to us, by His Grace. Undeserving Grace. Dumped on us to bring Him Glory so that our sins are forgiven. To the Glory of God, Amen!