July 22nd 2017: Alan Davison

alan davision - july 20171 Thessalonians 1: 9-10

1 Thessalonians is generally considered to be one of the first epistles written by Paul. Thessalonica was an important port city, strategically places by the Aegean Sea, therefore a very good trade route. Paul recognised this made the city a very good place to spread the gospel. In Acts 17: 1-9 we read that initially Paul’s message was well received but after three weeks this changed. The frustrations of the people were taken out on Jason, one of the first converts. In the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians Paul continued to think of the Thessalonians with thanks. Their reputation needed no defending. ‘For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.’ (1 Thessalonians 1: 8). The Thessalonians had made good progress in the faith.

What can we learn from the Thessalonians?

First, they turned to God from idols, ‘you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is a picture of repentance.

Secondly, the turned away from idols. This tells us they were likely to have been Gentiles. In Greek culture, the twelve main gods were set in gorges in Mount Olympus. Each of the gods would have had a temple. People would have looked to Mount Olympus and would have been reminded of these gods. But the Thessalonians ‘turned away’ from their idols. Every family would have had their own personal idol, something that had been important to them in their past, but now they had turned away from these.

In our society today there are many idols, such as love of money. The Thessalonians had not only turned away from their idols but they had turned to God. They replaced idol worship with worship of the one true God. They had a purpose in their lives. We too need to have a purpose in our lives, a focus for our existence. Following true conversion the Thessalonians acted differently. They found real life comes from the God of the Bible.

The Thessalonians served a living, true God. Slavery was common practice of the day. However, this was not slavery as we think of today. In Greek culture, slaves were cared for by their owners. The slaves did the menial tasks but there was a reciprocal relationship. At the end of their period of service a slave could opt to remain in their master’s service. Whole-hearted service was to serve a master who was so good the slave would want to remain with him. We are in service to a Master who really cares. Ownership came at a great price – Christ’s death for us as He set aside His glory. God’s justice had to be met. Once we are His we are always His. We can never pay back the price. ‘And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.’ (John 10: 28-29).

There are two descriptions of God:  ‘you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The people serve a living God. This is in contrast to the inanimate idols. We have a relationship with God which deepens over time. Scripture tells us Jesus is the only way we can obtain access to God. We can come to God in different ways; some have a sudden experience, like Paul on the road to Damascus, others have a gradual awareness, like Timothy. We each have an individual relationship with God.

God is also described as ‘true.’ The idols were false gods. Our God is eager to help. It is a liberating experience.

‘Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!’ (Psalm 47:1) The Psalmist is being taunted and slandered by his enemies but his plea comes in verse 3: ‘Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.’ By appealing to God’s truth, the Psalmist is vindicated. No matter what accusations Satan throws at us, Jesus Christ’s blood vindicates us.

The Thessalonians had a desire to serve God. There’s an internal change. They waited. Doesn’t that grate on our human nature? They waited – not sitting idly around, but waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus Christ. ‘For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). The term ‘wait’ comes from the Greek ‘perusia,’ awaiting a royal visit. There is great debate about what form the second coming will take. There are even suggestions what some American airlines will not allow two Christian pilots to fly together in case the rapture occurs. Whatever one believes, what is clear is that Christ will return and Christians should eagerly await His return, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).

The second coming also brings with it judgement. We will be judged by what we have done in Jesus’ service (Matthew 25:21). No-one knows when Jesus will return, ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.’ (Mark 13: 32). We need to live our lives as if Christ would come today, always looking to do God’s Will in our lives, which Wayne Grudem refers to as ‘responsible egesis.’

We know there is a day coming when Jesus will return. Accept the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. ‘Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ (Luke 21:28). The Thessalonians were going about the Lord’s business as if He would return at any moment. We should be living as if Jesus is on the point of returning now.

The Thessalonians turned from idols to God, they repented of their sins and looked to the living God. They sought to serve God whole-heartedly. Critically, they lived their lives in the knowledge that Jesus will return again. On that day Christians will be protected from God’s wrath. We need to know Jesus will most certainly return again. Let us all echo the closing prayer of Revelation, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).

Revelation 22-20

 

May 7th 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-May 2017.jpg1 Thessalonians 1

Evangelists go into all the world to tell people about the gospel. In 1 Thessalonians the people were going into all the world. 2,000 years ago their message is still the same message we’re being told today.

What is it God was doing 2,000 years ago and what is it we can do now? Paul gives the Thessalonians praise; he’s thankful for them. It’s just a lovely letter. ‘Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul and his companions always thanked God for the Thessalonians in their prayers, they knew they were Christians and could see how God was working in them and through them and continued to do so.

People all over the world knew about the church in Thessalonica. They once worshipped idols but turned away to worship the living God. They believed Paul’s message. Their eternity was changed forever. This is true of us today if we’re Christians. We once had idols but now we live for Jesus, putting our faith and trust in Him.

Often in Christian ministry we forget God’s power. It is so infinite and has no end. It takes people who are dead and makes them alive. The Thessalonians were spiritually dead but when God came in person they had new life.

The Power of Beginnings:
People in Thessalonica went about their daily jobs. When Paul arrived (Acts) he preached about Jesus’ death and His resurrection. Why did Paul want to preach this message? On the road to Damascus Paul (then known as Saul), was persecuting Christians, but on that day God worked in power. Saul’s dead spiritual state was brought to life. Before Paul, others were preaching the good news of Jesus, even before that Jesus Himself preached the good news. Even before that there was a time before Jesus walked this earth and people preached the good news – the Old Testament prophets, kings, exiles, Elijah, Joseph and other men in other stories. Go back even further to Adam and Eve, when the created world was ‘very good.’ But then Adam and Eve turned from God and sinned. Even though God made the world and it was very good, that one sin brought death and destruction.

Going back to the very beginning, God knew we would sin. He had a plan before the foundation of the world, when Father, Son and Holy Spirit would come together. God knew you and I would sin. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The power of beginnings is love. Before the foundation of the world, knowing what we would be like, God loved us. Love is powerful, it permeates time, it evokes passions. Right at the start, this gospel came to the Thessalonians because it had a beginning. Despite who we are or what we’ve done, God loves us. We fail God everyday but He still loves us. Jesus died on the cross for our sin. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die on a cross for His people.

The Power of the Message:
‘And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The Thessalonians welcomed the message with joy. Paul didn’t tell the people to try harder, or to have a fresh start. He came with a message so powerful it was going to change their hearts and lives. The Bible is full of history, poetry, songs, narrative. As we open the Bible we see a message of truth, of relevance, that matches our deepest needs, that meets us where we are. The Thessalonians received the message with joy because it met their needs. It’s so powerful.

The message gives us forgiveness. Our sins are forgiven. It cleanses us. We can enter paradise and meet God who will provide everything we need. It’s a message that will change people’s lives for eternity.

There are many messages we may hear, but they can never satisfy us like the message of the gospel. Jesus died so we could have our greatest need met by Him; sins forgiven so we can be welcomed into heaven to be with Him.

The Power of changed Lives:
The Thessalonians not only received the message with joy, but they lived out the message. ‘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). They were serving the living, true God, using their time and energy to serve Him. His power had changed their lives. The Thessalonians work was reported everywhere. The message was being lived out. When we live the message out, others start to see, others start to hear. As we see the Thessalonians, we see changed lives. They worshipped a true and living God. They prayed to the true, living God who answered their prayers, a God who gave them everything they needed. They had fellow brothers and sisters who all had similar needs and anxieties, who helped and supported one another, who worshipped together. Their changed lives were reported throughout the world. God was acting in power, giving a message that could change people’s lives.

What do you want for your church? A refurbished vestry, more people to sit in the pews, more money for various projects, to do something different this year that you’ve never done before? This is all good and right. But a greater desire is that God will come and work His power and will take the dead and bring life. That’s what happened in Thessalonica – people had died in trespasses, in sin, but God came and worked in Paul and others, and raised the dead to life. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Let us be joyful people serving the living God. As the Thessalonians did this, others saw and heard.

What do you desire? Pray for God to work in power, for when He works in power the world is turned upside down.