12 April 2007

1st Thessalonians 2:13-20

Just to recap what we’ve seen so far: In chapter 1, Paul commends the changes in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. Their works of faith, labor of love, patience of hope. How they became examples to others. Then in the first part of chapter 2, Paul reminds them that he didn’t bring them the gospel out of deceit. And that even though he and his companions came this close to being arrested, their mission was a success because many of them believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then last time, we saw Paul’s humility in his preaching. Many times he refers to himself as a “servant.” One Bible dictionary defines that word "servant" as "One who is devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests." That my friend is how you describe a servant. That’s how you would describe Paul. He was truly, and tenderly, and totally humble in everything he did. He didn’t puff himself up as a king. He went to Thessalonica for the same reason the people at our church go into the projects. To impart the word of GOD so that all may know the love of GOD which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Well, today we are going to see that a life dedicated to Christ isn’t always easy--but it is most definitely worth it. In fact, these next verses we could have easily written about every true believer in Christ. These verses really shows the pattern of following Christ.

First, the Thessalonian believers RECEIVED A PROCLAMATION.
Verse 13
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Received. They didn’t just hear it, they received it, they took it into their hearts. listen to what the Bible says about "receiving."
Hebrews 8:10—I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people
2nd Corinthians 3:3—…you are an epistle of Christ…written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on…the heart.
Many people today say the Bible is “a nice story.” Some people—who may not even believe the Bible—quote parts of it to make some argument. Or they’ll hear someone quoting Scripture and think “Oh, how nice.” These are all people who hear the word, but they don’t receive the word. But the funny thing is, when you take hold of the Word of GOD, the Word of GOD takes hold of you.

Paul told these people, You received it not as the word of menThese Thessalonians realized that Paul, Silas and Timothy were preaching the true word of GOD. How many times do we see that the word of GOD has power?
Romans 1:16--I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of GOD unto salvation, to the Jew first and to the Greek.
1st Corinthians 1:18--The preaching of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But to we who are saved it is the power of GOD...
Luke 4:31-32—And Jesus came down…and taught them on the Sabbath days. And they were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with authority.
Whenever and wherever Christ is preached, of course there is power. 1st Corinthians 1:24 tells us that Christ is the power of GOD. That is what the Thessalonians received, that’s what we receive. We don’t just hear the word; we take it into our hearts. We don’t just take words into our hearts; we take the power of GOD into our hearts.

Which also effectively works in you who believe. Remember in chapter 1, where Paul talks about their works, labor, and patience? Now let’s apply that to ourselves. What were we like before we took that power of GOD into our hearts? What kind of faith did we have? What kind of love did we have? What kind of hope did we have? The power of GOD, once we take it into our lives, and let it pour out of us, does some amazing things. But we can't just keep it bottled up inside.
Matthew 5:14-15—“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
That is the power of GOD that works effectively in all men. When it isn't kept hidden under a basket, but displayed for the world to see. Not to get an “attaboy”, or a warm fuzzy. But to glorify our Father in heaven.

After they received the proclamation, they MADE AN IMITATION.
Verse 14a.
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.

When we come to know Christ, the first thing we do is seek out a body of believers, a local church. We seek out other believers that we can imitate. Listen to how Paul described this church that the Thessalonians were imitating.
Galatians 1:22-24—I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me.
I can only imagine what the people I went to school with would say if they heard I become a Southern Baptist preacher. One of our brothers who comes to our service, he used to be a priest in the church of Satan. Now he proclaims the glory of GOD! What would some of his old friends think? He, like these Thessalonians, like you and I, received the proclamation, and made a good imitation.

They more than likely SUFFERED INTIMIDATION.
Verses 14b-15.
For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men...

Have you had people make fun of you for following Christ? How many times do you think prostitutes get beat up by their pimps if they try to get off the streets and into church? Slave owners in this country were some of the most vicious men who ever lived. But they were nothing compared to Satan. He does not like for his slaves to find freedom. Well guess what? When we escape from him, and run to our new Master, our new Master will never send us back. I’ve mentioned before that everything in the OT points to Christ. Listen to Deuteronomy 23:15-16—You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him.

Wow!! Back in the 1800’s, if you caught a runaway slave, you were required by law to return him to his master. Remember that definition of servant? Now we have a more loving Master, who we willingly serve, who we will be devoted to with no regard to our own interest. John the Baptist told his followers that he must decrease so that Christ may increase. In the book of Luke, Jesus tells His disciples that they’re going to be arrested, beaten, their own families would disown them. Intimidation. You hear about these cases involving gangs, or the Mafia. Witnesses in these cases get phone calls, death threats, trying to keep these people silent. But one thing that Satan has found out is, you can't shut up a Christian. If you ever get a chance, read “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”. Read Acts chapter 8, where they stone Stephen. As Christians, we will suffer intimidation from Satan.

We MAY ALSO FACE LIMITATIONS in our preaching.
Verse 16.
...forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

Ever heard of the ACLU? We hear about all of these lawsuits, people saying they are “offended” by religious speech. “They can't talk about Jesus!! Why, why, that’s…OFFENSIVE!!” I’m sure they are offended. Now, walk out your front door, walk down the street, and notice what kinds of speech you hear. But that’s “OK.”
Proverbs 12:5—The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
Proverbs 12:15—The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.
Proverbs 16:25—There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.
And notice what Paul says is happening to these people. They are ...always filling up the measure of their sins. If you take a quart jug, and you try to pour a gallon of water into it, what’s gonna happen? Without going too deep, in Matthew 23:31-32, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.” What Paul is saying is, that these people, they don't just have a quart jug, or a gallon jug, or even a 5 gallon bucket. Those who prevent others from sharing and hearing the gospel of Christ, they’ve got a big old tanker truck full of wrath coming from GOD. I sure would not want to be in the ACLU’s footsteps right now. I said at the beginning that following Jesus would not be easy, but it would be worth it. Get ready for the payoff. You receive the proclamation into your heart, and you imitate other believers, and you suffer intimidation from skeptics, and you may even be limited in how much you can say.

Verses 17-20.
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.

The Bible talks about several crowns waiting for the believer.
1st Corinthians 9:24-25—Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize...And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
We fight, and we struggle, and we wrestle against principalities and powers to gain a crown that can never fade away, will never be taken away, but that we shall one day lay at the feet of Jesus Christ!!
2nd Timothy 4:8—Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
All those who have turned their backs on themselves and have chosen to not only follow, but be identified as belonging to Jesus Christ, who have had His righteousness deposited in their account, who have trusted in Him as their Savior, shall receive this crown of righteousness.
1st Peter 5:4—And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Our salvation is eternal, it is everlasting, and it is neverending. It is a crown that shall never fade away. It is our treasure that we lay up in heaven, and when our glorious Shepherd returns to call his people home, he Himself shall lay it upon us and we shall glorify Him forever, in the presence of GOD our Father.

It ain't easy but it sure is worth it. And have you ever considered the fact that you are a crown?You’re a friend, you’re a brother, you’re a sister, and you are a crown and glory and joy!! I leave you with the words to this old hymn:

There is coming a day when no heartaches will come
No more clouds in the sky,
no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore
on that happy golden shore
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There'll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear
No more sickness, no pain,
no more parting over there.
And forever I will be
with the One who died for me
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see

And I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace.
When He takes me by the hand and leads me through the Promised Land.
What a day, glorious day that will be.

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