Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 8 July 20:
Note: Here is a short video overview of 1 Thessalonians: https://youtu.be/No7Nq6IX23c
1 Thessalonians 1:4 — For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.
Paul shared the Gospel with as many people as he could, and he continuously discipled other Christians to greater maturity in Christ. Often Paul’s words and testimony were not well received; he was mocked, rejected, threatened, beaten, cast out, and imprisoned, but that didn’t stop him. In fact, on more than one occasion, when he was persecuted by a group of people, rather the shutting up as most would do, he only preached more emphatically. Paul understood that his mission was to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), “in season and out of season,” (2 Timothy 4:2) and the Holy Spirit would convict hearts in ways beyond his understanding – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)
Paul understood that he could not know where the Holy Spirit was moving among those to whom he preached and proclaimed the Gospel, but he did rejoice over the evidence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of many. Today’s readings point out some of the attributes which should be naturally visible among true followers of Christ –
– Receiving the word with joy (v. 6)
– Full conviction (v. 5)
– Imitators of the Lord (v. 6)
– Supernatural joy through affliction (v, 6)
– Living exemplary lives before others (v. 7)
– Caring for others and hospitality (v. 9)
– Turning from idols, things that previously detracted from wholehearted fidelity to God (v. 9)
– Waiting upon the Lord with steadfastness, perseverance and hope (joyful confidence) (v. 10)
Paul makes the point, “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8) These Christians proclaimed the Gospel through their changed lives, and the news concerning the impact of the Gospel on their character spread throughout the land. We have all heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” and certainly the behavior of these Christians was a power testimony; but actions are not a substitute for words. When Paul said, “we need not say anything,” he didn’t mean we don’t say anything. The truth of the Gospel must be proclaimed verbally – “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)
Too many Christians hope to influence others through their behavior alone without ever sharing the Gospel message. You may have heard some Christians misquote Francis of Assisi, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” What he really said is a person’s words should match his or her deeds – practice what you preach. Good deeds apart from the Gospel certainly have a positive impact on others but also potentially give glory to the Christian rather than to Christ — ‘Julie is a great person. I want to be like Julie.’ Also, our salvation is not based on our behavior, but rather in the grace of God bestowed on us through Jesus despite our behavior. In our performance-based, contractual culture, we must be clear about God’s grace and covenantal love by which He saves even sinners like us – “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15) Without the Gospel message, we are merely ambassadors for moralism rather than ambassadors for Christ. It feels good to live a moral life, but sharing the Gospel with others can be very uncomfortable. Get out of your comfort zone, and do what God called you to do, authorized you to do, and empowered you to do in the Great Commission – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 July 20: Proclaim the Gospel through your actions while sharing the Gospel through your words. True love speaks the truth in love.