Devotional # 175. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Devotional # 175. 2/4/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

Intro. In the last Devotional we talked about a lot of great things but what is probably most important for us to remember in order to apply to this weeks is that when Paul gave the gospel to the Thessalonians it wasn’t “in word only“. It was in power, the Holy Spirit and much assurance (v. 5). This week we will see how the people of Thessalonica latched onto the truth, having been worshipers of idols they responded to the living God. Today’s section of Scripture will challenge us but if we hold to it and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us we will move mountains!

v. 6. Paul says that the Thessalonians became “followers of us and of the Lord“. When he says “followers of us” he means they had seen Paul, Silas and Timothy living out their faith, trusting in the word of the Lord, praying for them and fellowshipping. And in so doing the Thessalonians were also “followers…of the Lord.” It’s the beautiful picture of how we first trust in the Lord. We must “hear it” and how can we hear it unless there are people preaching it (Romans 10:14)? The Thessalonian church came about in just three weeks of Paul being there (Acts 17:2). They trusted in him and what he was saying because it was proved as they started trusting “in the Lord“. The great part is that they weren’t holding Paul, Silas and Timothy up on a pedestal as we often do with Christian pastors and speakers. No, if that’s what your entire faith is based upon you will be disappointed. I’ve actually seen people walk away from the faith because a pastor was adulterous or caught in sheisty business deals. Yes, this is disappointing and should break our hearts but they’re just people who can be corrupted. And so we lean upon the one who cannot be corrupted. We lean upon our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. 

How do I know that the Thessalonians trusted and loved Paul but held Jesus as preeminent and worshipped Him only? Because in the second part of this verse it says, “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” If it had just been Paul’s word that they were receiving it would’ve faltered and there would’ve been no reason for them to cling to it through “much affliction“. WARNING (I have to pause here and say what I’ve said many times): the Christian life is not easy and you will go through many difficulties. In fact we’re going to see a couple chapters from now that we are actually “appointed to [afflictions]” (1 Thess. 3:3). So if someone is telling you that as a Christian your life is going to be all roses they don’t know that God has actually chosen (“appointed“) each of us to go through some really tough stuff for His sake*. Not only did the Thessalonians go through trials but it was very evident that they had the “joy of the Holy Spirit“. This cannot be replicated or faked for any sustainable amount of time. This “joy” in the midst of severe hardships and beatings and persecution (“much affliction“) cannot happen without the Holy Spirit living and working inside of you.

Trials for His Sake: Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that just because they’re going through a difficulty they are enduring persecutions for the Lord. But that’s just not always the case. Sometimes it is because we have sinned and although we have confessed that sin and God has forgiven us for it there are still consequences to it. Sometimes you’ve just made a poor decision, it wasn’t necessarily sinful, but again there are consequences for our stupidity. So the next time that you’re going through something difficult don’t just pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I’m just going through a trial for the Lord’. Instead pray that the Lord would reveal whether it was your stupidity that brought this about or the fact that you’ve truly stood for Him and are being persecuted for your faith in Him. I know when I do this in my life it puts things in perspective: it makes me not want to sin and do stupid things and makes me more cognizant of when I am in line with His will and therefore being persecuted either by sinful people or by Satan who hates that I am loving as Jesus loved and bringing more people to the foot of the cross.

vv. 7-8. We see that when you live with the type of life that the Thessalonians were living you become an example to others. If you become a Christian and continue to be one even when times get tough and not only that but have joy during those times, then people will look at you as a spiritual role model. Paul takes the time to clarify that this is being a role model to other Christians (“all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe“). Does this scare you? Do you not want to be held as an example? Think of it like this: have you ever been encouraged by another Christian? Chances are good that person was scared of being an example but God used them anyway. In his book on leadership called Leading With a Limp, Dan B. Allender talks about how the #1 qualification we should be looking for in a leader is someone who was put in a leading situation, failed at it but has returned hesitantly yet willingly to serve again. Why? Because they have been humbled and they realize power and popularity are really difficult to manage. They also understand they may not be the best choice for a job but they’re simply willing to be of service anyway. You have a choice today: accept what God calls you to do and do it with His help and power or not to do it. If you don’t do it you will have a difficult life because you’re running from the call of God and also you will have to answer to Him in heaven someday about why you told him “no”.

If you say “yes” you will also have a hard life (“many afflictions“) but you will have Him working through you, you will receive his peace, you will be used to bring someone to faith in Jesus which results in them escaping hell and going to heaven, and you will receive crowns (see Devotional #136 for the full list) for being faithful. As for me, I will be faithful to His call.

You see it wasn’t that the people in Thessalonians had become popular it was that “the word of the Lord” had been proclaimed and not just to Macedonia and Achaia “but also in every place.” The gospel had been preached so well by them that Paul didn’t have to hit those areas, not only that but he didn’t have to remind the Thessalonians to do the preaching because they had done such a great job. They actually made his life easier so that he could go on and focus on others. Don’t you see that’s how God uses us? You’re afraid of going out of your comfort zone but really you’re expected to take up some of the slack and by you answering the call of God you make other Christian’s lives easier which in turn makes your life easier to focus.

vv. 9-10. Paul shows how others were talking about how the Thessalonians had such a dramatic change in their life. They had been idol worshipers and they left that and followed after “the living and true God” instead. They waited on Jesus. It’s interesting how Paul puts this; he shows that Jesus is the “living and true God’sSon from heaven.” Not only that but Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father and it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” This is great because not only is Paul acknowledging who Jesus is and what He has done but is also summarizing the very gospel message that the Thessalonians are now famous for preaching!

 

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Devotional # 172. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

Devotional # 172. 1/14/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Intro. Today we start the book of 1 Thessalonians! We have had a break from studying through just one book with the Christmas and New Year’s Devotionals. But now we continue on, having gone through Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians we come to the book of 1 Thessalonians (pronounced “thess-uh-lone-ee-ans”). As with many of the books in the New Testament we call them books but they started off as letters. This is the first letter (that’s why we call it “First Thessalonians”) that we have from Paul to the church in Thessalonica. Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy were with Paul on his “second missionary journey when [this] church was founded (Acts 17:1-9)” (Source 1) so although Paul is the primary author, he still acknowledges that his traveling companions also greet the church.

Thessalonica is modern day Salonica (see map below) and became the capital of Macedonia around 168 BC (Source 1).

250px-Salonica_Eyalet,_Ottoman_Balkans_1850s.png

It’s important for us to understand why Paul wrote this letter, and without breaking it down section by section, he simply had gotten a good report from Timothy’s last visit (Acts 18:5) and wanted to encourage them. This is a nice change of pace for us when so often we are reading something from Paul because Christians have screwed up!

v. 1. As mentioned above this letter is from Paul and he wrote it to one of their fellow, God-fearing churches. Just here in verse 1 we see the phrase “Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” twice. The first time Paul notes that he is writing “in” as in “through” God. The second time he notes he is writing “from” God. So God is both inspiring him to write and it is therefore true and important but it is also from God so it shows His heart towards them and the things they are doing well and things which will strengthen their walk with the Lord.

I’ve been careful to leave out the words prior to “Father” both times it’s used here because I wanted to draw special attention to them. The first time the phrase is “God the Father” because He truly is the one and only Father God. But the second time the phrase is “God our Father” because He is relational and His heart towards His people is to know them and be known by them. God the Father is a distinct Person of the Trinity (separate from God the Son) and Mighty Creator of the Universe but He is also “our” Father where He knows the small things like each of us by name, knitting us together in our mother’s womb and loves us unconditionally.

Both times Jesus is referenced it’s the same: “Lord Jesus Christ“. This is a great phrase because we get:

 

 

-His title – “Lord” meaning Master.
-His personal, Human name – “Jesus” meaning “Yahweh is salvation” (See Devotional Christmas: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen for more).
-His purpose – “Christ” meaning Savior.

So what does our Master, God-who-is-salvation, our Savior, desire to make known to the Thessalonians and us today? It is: “grace to you and peace”! Do you remember how important this phrase is? “Grace” was a common greeting among Gentiles and “peace” was common among Hebrews so there is recognition of the diversity of the church while at the same time bringing unity! The importance of Christian unity cannot be understated in 2016. I’m serious. You may think the Christian church in the United States is probably as unified as it has been in the past but it’s never been more fragmented and disjointed. Read the book The Great Evangelical Recession by John S. Dickerson for both the sad statistics of how we’ve allowed ourselves to be divided and the encouraging solutions to fix it. Check out Devotional #142 for more on the importance of “grace and peace.”

Conclusion.

-Try picturing your “companions” in the faith when you read through sections like 1 Thessalonians 1:1. If you put yourself in Paul’s shoes it will come alive. Do you have a Silas and Timothy? If so be thankful and if not seek a few brothers and sisters that you can become close with in serving the Lord. You will hold each other accountable and “motivate each other in love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

-Take encouragement in knowing that “the Father” who is “our Father” speaks “in” and “through” the Holy Spirit using average people like Paul. In the same way God will speak through you if you are willing.

-Meditate on the “Lord Jesus Christ” who is your Master, personal representative with the Father Yahweh and your Savior. However, He is not yours only but Savior of your next-door neighbors, of people such as Paul and Mary Magdalene 2,000 years ago and Abraham and Sarah 6,000 years ago. Do not try and hoard or hide Him, there is plenty to go around! Tell someone about Jesus their Savior.

-Pass along your “grace and peace” to others, whether they are your enemies or friends. And share the “grace and peace” that can only come from God the Father and God the Son.

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1841.