Paul and his companions were convinced that the Thessalonians were true believers because:
- The Gospel proclamation was accompanied by signs and wonders & by the power of the Holy Spirit displayed (vs5).
- The Thessalonian believers received the good news about Jesus with full conviction. They weren’t uncertain about what they had heard & believed (vs5).
- These believers also began to imitate the faith and the life-example of Paul and his ministry companions; they learnt his ways and changed theirs (vs6).
- So much so, that they became an example to other believers elsewhere as the testimony of their faith spread (vs7-9).
True believers in Jesus, turn from worshipping anything else to worshipping and serving the one true God. More than this, they live then with eager expectation for the return of Jesus Christ the Son. The one whom God raised from the dead, the one who alone can deliver those who believe in Him from the wrath to come (vs9-10).
The Gospel doesn’t just change our eternal address it transforms our lives, our thinking, our speech, our lifestyles, our rhythms, our habits, our community…
What an amazing clear testimony these believers in Jesus had. The evidence of their changed lives testified loudly to the authenticity of their faith. People were speaking about the changes that had occurred in them.
When we truly make God the centre of our lives, everything begins to revolve around Him and find it’s proper perspective or orientation to Him.
Is your faith crystal clear like that of the Thessalonians? Is it evident to others that you have forsaken any other “gods”? And that in their place you are passionately focussed on, worshipping and serving God with your whole life?
This is the only “reasonable response” (see the NIV or ESV footnote of Romans 12:1) if you have grasped the wonder of who Jesus is and what He has done for you.
May you, may we live lives that are radically focussed on Jesus, worshipping and serving Him for His glory, while we wait for His glorious return!
Hezekiah was a mighty man of God, yet sadly his son Manasseh did not follow his father’s example. Even worse than that Manasseh actually undid all the good his father had done and re-erected altars to Baal and Asherah, he even had altars to these false gods erected inside the Temple! He burned his own son as an offering and consulted fortune-tellers and mediums provoking the Lord to anger.
How does this happen? Father follows God incredibly, and yet his son is evil personified.
Sadly, the bible has a number of this sort of one-generational God-following.
- Eli and his sons (1 Samuel 2:12)
- Samuel and his sons (1 Samuel 8:3)
- David and Solomon (1 Kings 11)
In Deuteronomy Scripture clearly portrays God’s plan for parent to teach God’s ways to their children, to ensure that God-following, that faith is not one-generational but is passed on.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
And yet this is dramatically not the case with Hezekiah and Manasseh. Seventy five years later Manasseh’s grandson Josiah who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, re-discovers the Book of the Law while he was repairing the Temple. His grand-father and father had been so ungodly that when the priest gives Josiah the Book of the Law it is simply referred to in the following way;
“Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” (2 Kings 22:10)
But when Josiah heard the words of the Book of the Law he tore his clothes, humbled himself and repented. And because of this God forgave him and granted him mercy (2 Kings 22:18-20).
We then read in 2 Kings 23 that Josiah went on to reform all of Judah, leading Judah to renew their covenant with the Lord. Josiah went on to purify the temple of Baal & Asherah worship and removed false priests and broken down the high places and even finally fulfilled the prophecy God brought against Jeroboam back in 1 Kings 13:11-32 and his rebel altar at Bethel.
Lastly Josiah restores the Passover festival which has not been mentioned in Scripture since Joshua 5:10-12. And so as the epitaph over Josiah’s life is a glowing one;
Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. (2 Kings 23:25)
Hezekiah didn’t pass on faith to Manasseh, faith was lost for essentially 75yrs in Judah and then sadly Josiah although he followed God was another example of one-generational God-following as his son, Jehoahaz turned from the Lord again.
If you’re a parent – what can you do today, and do beyond today that can ensure that your God-following is not one-generational too?
And if your parent(s) have not followed God, can you believe God that you could be like Josiah and break with the past and follow God wholeheartedly and be used by God to accomplish amazing things?
Although I am a devoted Christ Follower, I am not a good person in and of myself! There are plenty of people who are more loving, more generous, more patient , more kind — than I am sadly. There are far too many times when I don’t like who I have become in this scenario or that one, when I’m provoked or prodded.
But then a passage like this one reminds me, that I was hopeless without Christ. I was more than hopeless, I was DEAD, living breathing but spiritually DEAD before I came to the point of trusting in Jesus and asking Him to be my LORD and Saviour (vs13).
Sometimes we look at people and think they’re ok, they’re not that bad really. But Scripture never allows for that false perspective – outside of Jesus we are all DEAD in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1 & Colossians 2:13), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), not one of us is righteous enough (Romans 3:9-12), everyone of us is morally corrupt and bankrupt (Romans 3:23). I was, we were or still are in a bad situation…
But God. “God made us alive together with Him” (vs13)! God forgave us all of our many sins, God cancelled the long list of all my, all our wrongs against Him and against others (vs13). What good news this is for a person like me, like you. God set aside our sin, by nailing it to the cross when God nailed Jesus to the cross, so that Jesus could pay the punishment for our sin (Romans 6:23) so that we could be ransomed, set free from the consequences of our sin.
And so now, I am free from sin’s consequences and I am free to love and obey and follow God, I am not under the control of sin or the devil anymore (like I once was – see Romans 6:15-23) but am under the loving command and control of Jesus Christ my LORD.
I still mess up, but praise God I am forgiven and I am able to continually keep becoming more and more like my LORD and Saviour Jesus, keep becoming more loving, more kind, more generous and patient…
But only because I have been ‘made alive together in Him’ (vs13) and because of that I have the life and the light of Jesus in my life which keeps having the effect of transforming me daily. Thank you Jesus!
Today we start our journey through the book of Colossians. There will be times when the reading for the day will only be just a few verses. I urge you in these days, to grow in reading & meditating on Scripture. I urge you to read, read again, to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you (from even the smallest section), to wait and to listen to the Holy Spirit for revelation about God, about faith or about the implications of our faith in Jesus for our lives. Bless you.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)
Here in this greeting for the letter, I see a person with a name. Scripture is full of real people, individuals who were rescued by God, with real personal stories to tell, just like you and I. More than that, this letter is written by an unlikely person!
His name was changed, he used to be ‘Saul – the persecutor of believers in Jesus’ but had been renamed by God and became ‘Paul – the anointed preacher, discipler and church planter’. His name used to be feared by believers and yet God had transformed him so that now he was one of the leaders of the early church across the known world. God is in the business of changing people!
How have you been transformed by faith in God?
What change is there that’s still needed in your life?
Is there someone you’ve been praying for that really needs big change?
Remember that change, total transformation is what God does, so be encouraged and call out again to God for your life or the life of someone else.
‘Paul, an apostle’
Paul identifies himself as ‘Paul, an apostle’ (vs1) – what does this mean? At its most basic level it simply means ‘sent one’ or ambassador! Although the term means other more specific things in Scripture just for today I want you to see that this man Paul who did such amazing things for God is no different in one sense to you and I. We too like him are ‘sent ones’ sent by God into our 24/7 lives as God’s agents, God’s ambassadors.
What would change in your life if this truth were more front & centre for you?
Whom has God sent you to?
What are you doing about it?
‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father’
All Christ followers are united in their experience of the grace of God. God saved us not by our own merit but by His grace and God continues then to pour out into our lives after salvation His unmerited favour and blessing.
God’s grace is the very air we breath every day as believers in Jesus and grace not legalistic striving leads to us being at peace with God who has become our Father in heaven. We could never be at peace with God through our own effort, but because of God’s grace we have been reconciled to right relationship with our maker our heavenly Father and so we are a blessed people.
We start the journey with Jesus by grace and grace is what we need everyday to stay on the journey. As the great hymn from 1779 declares;
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun. (John Newton)
Why trumps what! Why you do what you do, matters more to Jesus than just what you do.
The Pharisees and scribes are indignant! Jesus and his disciples are not adhering to the strict codes and traditions that had built up around God’s law that regulated every aspect of life in the attempt to keep ‘pure’.
These regulations legislated behaviour in everything, here Mark mentions the scenario of coming home from the market where one could have been defiled by contact with Gentiles and the need to wash hands, pots, plates & even couches!
Jesus’ disciples were being accused of not walking ‘according to the tradition of the elders’ (Mark 7:6). Jesus rebuffs their accusations, accusing them of caring more about their human traditions than about the original commands of God that the traditions were meant to encourage obedience to (Mark 7:8-13).
So what really matters? Jesus quotes the Old Testament to them (vs6-7) which reveals what God wants from every one of us. God wants our hearts not some external compliance that’s not rooted in love for God.
You see, why trumps what! Worship/godliness that’s only skin deep or behaviour that’s not emanating from a heart of worship is not worship at all.
God is after our hearts. What we do does matter, how we live does matter but its the motivation behind the external actions that God really cares about. It’s why we do what we do that matters to God.
This is the difference between religious legalism and the gospel! Tim Keller sums it up when he says;
‘“I obey therefore I am accepted by God” = Religion
“I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey” = The Gospel
God freely accepts those who believe in Jesus and accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness for their sins. God then delights as those saved sons and daughters begin to obey His will for their lives, not because they must, not because they’re trying to be accepted but because they already are accepted by Him, because their hearts have been melted by His love and His mercy and His grace and transformed so that they beat now with a new desire – to please their Father who is in heaven! What results, is the motivation for all true godly behaviour. Why trumps what!
So, gaze again at Jesus! Consider who He is and what He has done for you. Be freshly impacted, amazed at Him and live your whole life as a response to His incredible love for you. What will result is observable godliness rooted in worship, and that pleases God.
Let’s consider this account of Jesus and the demonised man from a number of perspectives.
Townspeople: Imagine the combination of feelings from the towns people… This man was wild, uncontrollable, strong, scary. They used to be able to keep him locked up with ropes, then when he kept breaking those they tried chains (vs4), but eventually even those failed to restrain him. So he roamed the outskirts of the town amongst the tombs, crying out, terrifying people.
The demonised man: What did he feel? Tormented from inside, not in total control of his outbursts, under the influence of not one but many demons (vs9). Although nothing physical could hold him, he was nonetheless gripped with fear and anger and shame, ostracised and unloved. Where were his parents? His family?
Jesus: Jesus has been busy. Healing, delivering crowds from their sickness and all forms of oppression, teaching parables about the kingdom challenging mindsets and preparing the ground for the gospel. So tired he fell asleep in the midst of the storm while on the lake (Mark 4:35-41). Arriving on the shore, Jesus is met by this man (who must have looked unkept at best, wild or even unclothed even maybe) who comes running and throws himself down before Jesus. Jesus is discerning, he knows what’s in play here this man is not free, this man is being traumatised, humiliated by demonic influence.
The Disciples: They’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the highs of seeing multitudes set free from oppression and healed, hearing perplexing yet mysteriously uplifting parables, afraid for their lives because of a storm & then in reverential awe at Jesus the one who just spoke and waves and wind obeyed Him! Maybe this guy’s reputation had preceded him, maybe they fear again as this man comes running to them…
‘Legion’: Terrified! Trembling, this is going to be a bad day! The King of kings has landed on their shore and they know who He is, they are in no doubt of His ultimate authority. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (vs7)
The demonised man: Did he feel hope? Did he often fight his own body and what the demons made him do? This time, did he feel hope as he found himself running to Jesus? Had he heard about Jesus, was he crying out inside yet his voice silent to those watching him? Scripture doesn’t say, but when Jesus began to engage the demons controlling and robbing his life – I believe suddenly he must have felt hope for the first time in a long time! Can Jesus help me, is this going to be the best day of my life?
The Disciples: What’s going on here? Who’s talking to Jesus, begging him? Who is Legion? How do they know Jesus is God, we’re just starting to get that!
‘Legion’: In the presence of the Almighty one, this group of demons who had seemingly had so much control and power, had none at all. They are pleading with Jesus the King of kings; ‘send us to the pigs…’ (vs12)
The herdsmen/farmer & townspeople: That day, one man’s freedom was more important to Jesus than 2000 pigs owned by someone else. What a statement about the value to Jesus of the man who had been seen as having no value by the town he came from. Was this action of Jesus’ a judgment on the town for the way that they had treated the man? Strangely, they beg Jesus to leave them (vs17). Did he rebuke them?
The redeemed man: What an incredible instant transformation! From raving mad-man, scary and uncontrollable to ‘sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (vs15). He tries to join Jesus, stay longer with Him, Jesus days ‘no’ but rather commissions him to share the good news of his transformation through his encounter with the Messiah. And so he does, and he comes probably one of the greatest evangelists in the New Testament spreading the good news with the 10 cities in that region to the amazement of everyone (vs20). #grateful
The disciples: “Note to self…” at this point in Mark’s Gospel
- Jesus really has authority over sin & forgiveness (Mark 2)
- Jesus really has authority over sickness
- Jesus really has authority over the waves and wind
- Jesus really has authority over all demonic influence whether it’s mild (Mark 2) to massive (Mark 5)
- Jesus is really God!?
What’s happening in your life right now?
Have you considered not just yours but some of the other perspectives especially God’s? How could that change things?
How does knowing Jesus’ authority over all things impact your perspective?