Life is a response
For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. – ESV
And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. – NLT
Not all things in life have equal value. Friends who’ve watched a good film might encourage other to do so themselves. It’s not life altering, just a suggestion of something that might be nice. While a parent or a mentor might exhort or even plead with a young person to avoid certain places or people for their life’s sake or might even charge them to promise that they won’t do something or will do something of great importance…
The more important something is, the more urgent the appeals tend to become and the urgency of the appeals reveal something of the perceived importance of the matter to the person speaking.
So what is worth someone’s exhortation, pleading, encouraging, urging even their charging others?
Paul uses three phrases all in one sentence, translated as we ‘exhorted’, ‘encouraged’ and even ‘charged’, to stress how important this thing is that he wants to emphasise for them to make a priority in their lives….so what is it?
Paul is urgently insistent that the Thessalonian believers, that we ourselves would live our lives in such a way that God would consider those lives worthy of God’s having called us and saved us.
He feels like a dad as he says this. As a dad it’s a terrible thing when I see my kids taking something for granted, not valuing what they have been given, seeing them ignoring something incredible they’ve been blessed with, seeing no gratitude in their response.
The Christian life is a response. It’s a response to the wonder and mystery of the goodness and kindness and mercy of God’s saving love for us. The more we see the magnitude of what God’s done for us in sending Jesus to die in our place for our sin, the more we will respond with a life fuelled by gratitude expressed towards God who has loved us so incredibly. And that life will be a God-pleasing life! A life that is worthy, is an appropriate response, considering what God has done for us.
The Christian life is a response of whole life worship (Romans 12:1-2), not just 1-2hrs on a Sunday, but 24/7 worship of God in all and through all you do and say. That’s the type of life that Jesus’ gift to you and to me is worthy of.
So, how’s your life response, is it a worthy one?
What might you want to change?
What might God want you to change?
We love Jesus back by living our lives as a wholehearted response to His wholehearted giving of Himself for us. We do so not out of a sense of debt and trying to pay Jesus back but rather out of gratitude for who He is and what He has done for us – we respond by loving Jesus back with our whole lives.
And this is worth exhorting, encouraging & charging others with!
‘People-pleasing’ is a terrible insatiable noose that breeds nothing but insecurity and robs one of joy and confidence. And yet its such a common ‘life-operating-system’ that people function from.
Double checking everything you do or say through the grid of; ‘what will they think of me if…?’ Such a life-operating-system results in inconsistency as one always feels you need to adapt your words or actions to what will please those you’re with. And so this life-operating-system sets oneself up for compromise and the inability to hold strong convictions.
Here in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul is looking back at his time sharing the Gospel with the Thessalonians (see Acts 17) and makes some arguments for why they can stand on, trust in the Good News He shared with them;
- He reminds them that he and his team had just escaped Philippi where they were beaten up and then imprisoned for the Gospel. People don’t tend to risk their lives for something they are not convinced of… (vs1-2)
- He reminds them that again in Thessalonica they had preached despite being ‘in the midst of much conflict’. They were again risking their lives to share this Gospel news…
- Therefore the Thessalonians can know that there message is authentic, is not some made up story or con-man’s scheme to trick them
- They know that God approved them and entrusted the Gospel message to them and this is why they keep going, keep speaking the Gospel despite opposition and threat – they are living to please God and not people.
There it is, an alternative life-operating-system at work deep in the apostle Paul;
‘God-pleasing’ not ‘people-pleasing’.
What’s your current default ‘life-operating-system’?
God-pleasing or people-pleasing?
Living the God-pleasing life results in;
- Conviction: because you’re living out of eternal truth & unshakeable relationship
- Consistency: because what you believe is founded on solid rock not quicksand.
- Courage: because you know the ONE you’re serving, & He promised to Help you.
- Commitment: because you’re living to please the ONE that matters forevermore.
- Celebration: because you will be rewarded one day into eternity for living this way.
- Calm: because you know the ONE who loves you, the ONE you’re living for!
1) The Gospel CAME to you… vs5
‘not just with words’
This means at least two things; firstly, it did come with words, words are important, we must share the good news about Jesus with our words as Christ followers, with our preaching as the church.
‘but also in power and in the Holy Spirit’
Secondly, words alone are not enough but need to be confirmed with God’s power which at least is God’s miraculous power at work through Holy Sprit in anyone who believes. More than this it can also point to external miracles of healing etc that authenticate what is being spoken of about God/Jesus.
So when we share the good news we should pray for our words to come with Holy Spirit power and we should step out in faith allowing God to use us to authenticate His word with acts of power!
‘and with full conviction’
The Gospel was proclaimed as it is, the truth and so was proclaimed with confidence and or it was received with full conviction by those who heard it.
2) And you RECEIVED it…vs6
The Thessalonians received the good news about Jesus with joy that was given by the Holy Spirit in spite of much affliction from the surrounding culture (opposition/persecution) because they believed.
Do you remember that feeling of bubbling joy, the feeling that something was exceedingly right when you came to faith in Jesus?
Coming to faith might mean much struggle, much that needs to change or even opposition… But nothing can rob one of the joy of knowing, sins are forgiven, future is secure, identity & belonging are resolved forever!
3) You were TRANSFORMED & you RESPONDED passing it on to others…vs8-10
The result of the Gospel in their lives was that they became an example for other believers. The Gospel sounded out from them in the whole region, more than that their faith was reported way further….
The testimony that rung out from them was specifically how they had; ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God’ and how you’re now waiting ‘for His Son from heaven’.
True Gospel transformation starts with the gospel coming to us, then us responding to it with faith and then our being transformed so that we become ‘speakers’ relaying the very same Gospel to others.
Meditate again on your salvation, the goodness of the Gospel message.
Meditate again thanking God for saving you, for convincing you, for giving you freedom and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Ask God to use YOU, to let the Gospel ring out from you, your lips, your life.
The preaching of the Gospel always transforms! In Thessalonica the Gospel transformed people in the following ways;
- The Gospel formed relationships that had previously not existed. New relationships both within the church and also between those in the church and Paul’s apostolic team. Paul could write how they would regularly pray giving thanks to God for the Thessalonian believers and for what happened in the lives of those who believed there. (vs2) They had previously not known each other, but now they were joined at a heart level.
- The Gospel resulted in inner-life transformation in the believers of Thessalonica. Having believed the Gospel, they were described as those having faith, love & hope despite harsh opposition in their city. (vs3) They were described as having faith, hope & love. This triad (faith, hope, love) is used regularly in the New Testament to describe what the believer’s life becomes characterised by as a result of the Gospel’s transformative effect.
- The Gospel produced tangible external transformation. Note how each of the three Gospel characteristics is paired with a practical observable outworking in their lives;
- Faith results in work (action/deeds)
- Love results in labour (toil/trouble/pains)
- Hope results in steadfastness (cheerful endurance)
True faith in God is evidenced by actions that show that faith to be real.
True love received from God through the Gospel results in real committed love for others that’s robust.
True hope in Christ fortifies us in the midst of present trials and suffering enabling cheerful endurance.
When we believe the good news about Jesus, that truth doesn’t leave our lives unchanged but transforms our relationships, our experience, our thinking and our actions in very observable ways.
Do you see the hand of your God? In chapter 24, Joshua gathers the nation again and through him God speaks recounting the story of His people’s journey to the present and shot through the whole narrative God keeps pointing to Himself and what He did for His people.
Sixteen times God says; “I….” in only 12 verses of chapter 24! God is taking a highlighter as it were and pointing out a myriad of times and ways that it was God Himself who was acting lovingly, protectively, providing, caring, always faithful to His promises to His people. Joshua points out to God’s people;
- How God called Abraham out of God’s own sovereign free will
- How God gave Abraham a miracle promised son to his barren wife
- How God gave that son a line of sons to fulfill God’s covenant promise to Abraham
- How God provided land for those sons
- How God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egypt
- How God delivered His people by dealing with the super power Egypt
- How God miraculously divided the Red Sea for His people’s deliverance
- How God answered the panicked cry of His people when Egypt pursued them
- How God showed who He really was through His powerful dealings with Egypt
- How God brought His people through the Wilderness protecting & providing for them
- How God gave victory to His people over the Amorites
- How God destroyed their enemies before them, God was their protection
- How God delivered them from the hand of Balaam
- How God took His people into the Promised Land & gave them victory over all people
- How God fought their battles for them in miraculous ways (using hornets one time)
- How God gave His people a land they hadn’t laboured for, cities they didn’t build, farms full of produce they didn’t plant or cultivate…
Do you see the hand of your God in your life?
God is good, all the time, God is good. You might not always see it, understand it, feel it, but it is true. God is at work in your life in a myriad of ways, always has been and always will be. God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful, He cannot be unfaithful, its just not possible, it’s not who He is.
Brother, sister; if you don’t recognise how your life is saturated with the activity of God, then you won’t thank God, and you won’t respond to His love for you with love for Him and worship of Him…
Consider daily, thank God daily for small things worship Him and devote yourself again and again to loving Him & serving Him only in all of life.
God renews the covenant with His people in chapter 24, calls them to respond to His goodness towards them, urging them to love Him only and to forsake anything that would seek to rob them of their faith and love for God.
Joshua warns the people of the sinfulness of the human heart to wander away from God, to be unfaithful, and yet declares that for Him and His household they will serve God (Joshua 24:15).
And Israel served God all the days of Joshua (great leader!) and all the days of the other elders of Israel who served alongside Joshua and outlived him and who knew, who remembered all that God had done for His people. Remembering, recognising God’s hand in our lives is so vital to a life that honours God. So, pause, recognise, remember…
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, (Rom 15:1-3a)
This incredible piece of art sums up the two extremes of our heart’s dispositions. Will we serve or look to be served? Will we be a taker, getter or giver? Will we be a consumer or a Christ follower?
I face these questions internally on a daily basis. My old sinful self-centered heart pattern is to look for others to serve me, to seek my own will above that of others and to get frustrated or irritated by those who obstruct my plan to serve my own interests or have that plan served by others…
Are you like me?
Think about what you get most frustrated about? On reflection you’ll probably find that it’s often centered around moments when your plans are being frustrated or obstructed by circumstances or people… What caused this frustration? What I wanted, what I wanted to take or get in some situation was hindered.
Paul points us to Christ though, who did not live to please Himself but laid His life down as a sacrifice for us. He urges us to be like Christ, to follow His example by not living to please ourselves but to serve others for their benefit and their upbuilding.
Today – start by meditating for even just a few moments on Jesus and how He lived, died & rose agin to serve you! Thank Him, praise Him. Then choose today to be like Jesus, flowing out from this heart of thanks, seek to serve others rather than being served and see what God will do through you.
This for me is a picture of the total salvation that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. It would have been ridiculous for Lazarus, having been given new life to keep his grave clothes on! Yes he has been given new life but he needs those things taken off to really allow him to enjoy his new life.
Lazarus is a picture here for me of someone who is saved yet stuck. Stuck with the things that weigh us down, the things that hinder us and the sin that entangles us (Hebrews 12:1-2), restricting our freedom in Christ. Jesus’ concern is for Lazarus to be totally free (Luke 4:18-19) and so he said to…
- In what ways am I saved but stuck?
- Do I have grave clothes still restricting my freedom that was given to me in Christ?
- Who in my life right now has Jesus said to me; “Unbind them and let them go”?
- How do we unbind people (get them unstuck)?