A Voice Out Of The Past–
One morning at work, while sitting over a desk of paperwork, the phone on my desk rang:
MY VOICE: Hello…
VOICE FROM THE PAST: Hi, is this Mel?
MY VOICE: Yes it is, who’s this?
VOICE FROM THE PAST: This is Tom. Do you remember me?
I had to take a pause from concentrating on the work at my desk, but yes, I did remember Tom. We both worked at the same employer in San Diego years before. As I remember, Tom knew that I was a Christian and always had many questions about the FAITH. I used to tell him, “Tom, I’ll try to answer your questions AFTER work. We don’t want to steal time from our employer [‘time is money’–in stealing time you are stealing money as well!]. So without fail, Tom would stop by my desk after work and I would attempt to answer his questions. And if I didn’t have the answers, I would tell him, “I’ll find the answer and get back to you.”
MY VOICE: Sure Tom. Of course I remember you. We had a lot of neat conversations at work. How are you and your family doing these days?
Tom had been promoted to Branch Manager within the same company. And at that time, I was Branch Manager in Renton, Washington and Tom’s responsibilities were in Ventura, California.
TOM’S VOICE: Mel, I wanted to call you and give you some good news. The words that you shared with me after you were transferred kept echoing in my mind. You know, like the sound of a waterfall in the distance; even before you see it, you can still hear it in the distance. It keeps drawing you towards the source.
About 6 months ago, my wife and I accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our family is attending a WORD based church and I wanted to thank you for sharing Jesus with me after work. I thought by calling you and telling you my story, it would encourage you to continue sharing Christ with others as I’m doing.
JESUS knew I needed a reminder of continuing in the FAITH– by sharing the Gospel Message.
1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER ONE (Open your Bibles next to your computer):
In Paul’s day…
Two-hundred thousand people lived in Thessalonica. Most of the inhabitants were Greeks but also many Romans and a strong Jewish minority.
In Acts chapter 17, Luke records for us Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica–where he spent 3 weeks teaching and preaching in the local synagogues. Luke mentions…
“And Paul entered, as he usually did, and for three Sabbaths he reasoned and argued with them from the Scriptures, Explaining to [them] and [quoting passages] setting forth and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead and saying, This Jesus, Whom I proclaim to you is the Christ (the Messiah–the Savior)” (Acts 17:2-3 AMP).
Now THAT is the simple GOSPEL MESSAGE. No religious words of the day but an explanation of who JESUS is–the Savior of the world. And in response to Paul’s communicating the Scriptures simply…some Jews, a large number of God–fearing Greeks and some prominent women were persuaded by the Resounding Gospel Message through Paul and accepted Christ JESUS.
A “RESOUNDING” MODEL:
“You’re a MODEL–student.”
“He is a MODEL–father.”
“She is a MODEL–mother.”
“Joe is a MODEL–employee.”
What does it mean to be a MODEL?
It means, we are to do something so well that warrants others doing the same thing. Listen carefully to what Paul says to the young church who had gathered to hear his words read from a letter:
“And so you became a MODEL to ALL the BELIEVERS in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message RANG OUT from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your FAITH in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it” (1 Thessalonians 1:7, 8 NIV).
“Rang Out” or “Sounded Out”–
The words refer to the sounding of a trumpet, and the idea is, that the gospel was proclaimed like a sonorous voice of a trumpet (or a “waterfall”) echoing and re-echoing from place to place [Isaiah 58:1; Revelation 1:10].
Their influence had an effect in diffusing the Gospel in other places, other than the confines of church walls.
What is Paul saying about the new Thessalonian assembly of believers?
He is saying, being a MODEL to all believers…he is saying, that ALL believers can learn something by living the Christian life from them–even you!
Paul is saying, if a church or any Christian, are like those in Thessalonica–they will be well rooted and well on their way down the right path…
WHAT CAN WE TODAY LEARN FROM THE “MODEL CHURCH”?
In Paul’s closing of this letter, he makes a statement not found in any other of his letters. He writes [HELLO CHURCH]:
“I solemnly charge you [in the name of] the Lord to have this letter read before all the brethren” (1 Thess. 5:27 AMP).
Why was the Thessalonian church a MODEL for ALL churches and for ALL believers? And why, was their FAITH worth talking about? What were they doing that was so right?
For us to answer these questions, we are going to have to take a closer look at the MODEL–to listen to the “echoing of voices”– echoing and re-echoing off the canyon walls of the town and city where we are living.
We Are To MODEL Their Work And Labor–
“We continually remember before our God and Father your WORK produced by FAITH…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV).
In the Amplified version, the word “energized by faith“… That seems to agree with what JAMES says in the 2nd chapter of his letter that FAITH “without works is dead…” When simply put means, true faith will always result in works for God.
BUT, can we have WORKS without FAITH? Can something besides FAITH produce works…? (sure, for some their work is produced by)… guilt, duty, selfish ambition or no one else will do it.
Yes, you can work without FAITH, but you can not have FAITH without works. “Is it a JOB or MINISTRY?”
We Also Need To MODEL Their Labor–
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your LABOR prompted by LOVE…”
The word that is translated “LABOR”, means: a beating or the weariness caused by beating… It also means: the exertion that brings weariness… It was used to describe the tiring that one undergoes in battle.
LABOR isn’t described as having a good time (right ladies?)… It’s one thing to be mentally willing; to do the LABOR of the Kingdom–but it’s also quite another; to be made weary by it–to be afflicted by it–to groan because of the struggle required in order to accomplish the task. If that is the case, why would someone LABOR…in the Kingdom?– What could possibly motivate someone to undergo such exertion?
PAUL says the motive is…LOVE!
But LOVE for who? Not for ourselves…it’s the LOVE OF SELF–the desire for ones own personal comfort that causes so many to simply drop out or refuse to LABOR in the Kingdom.
Mark 12:28-34 [READ] gives us the MOTIVE for the driving force behind our LABOR in the Kingdom–we must LOVE for God’s sake and for the LOVE of others… Any other MOTIVE won’t do, any other reason is weak and won’t last.
WE NEED TO MODEL THEIR “ENDURANCE”:
“…and your ENDURANCE inspired by HOPE…”
The word translated as ENDURE (NIV), means so much more than patience (KJV)… It means: to stay alive, to stand firm–to endure–to bear–to suffer–
It was used to describe the bearing pain by the wounded–heroism in the face of bodily suffering. And the apostle Paul tells us, the church in Thessalonica suffered (1 Thess. 2:14). What was it that inspired that kind of endurance? IT WAS HOPE–not just any HOPE…the HOPE of Christ’s return.
ENDURANCE in the things that life brings–
A lot of people I’ve met over the years in my Christian life have placed their HOPE in the wrong things:
–Their financial stability
Or, in SUCCESS AND PRAISE FROM MAN…or in a bottle or a pill.
Those “things” will not long endure. If you want to really ENDURE in your life–not just for a couple of months or a few years–you need to put your HOPE in Christ Jesus! The ONE who rescued you from dying–and is able to carry you home!
I love the words laid down for us in an OLD HYMN–not sung much anymore and I wonder sometimes…WHY?
MY HOPE IS BUILT ON NOTHINGNESS THAN JESUS BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. I DARE NOT TRUST THE SWEETEST FRAME, BUT WHOLLY LEAN ON JESUS NAME. ON CHRIST THE SOLID ROCK I STAND; ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND, ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND.
“SINKING SAND” or “SOLID ROCK” Faith?
The “Echos” of Discipleship -Making in the city–
Paul, Silas and Timothy were “church planters” and the Thessalonian church wasn’t an exception. They went on a journey for disciple-making and not just for converts. They were passionate as they planted disciple-making churches and as they did so…through the Holy Spirit traveling along side of them, turned the Roman empire upside-down. Do you want to turn your city upside-down? Then be specially attentive to what I’m about to tell you.
They were not satisfied or content with seekers, supporters, sympathizers, admirers, attenders, or converts. They were all about hearing the echos of the voices in the cities they visited.
TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: “What is the difference between being a Christian and being a Disciple”–“What is a Disciple-Making Church?”
My thoughts on the two questions concerning American churches across the land is a simplifying, streamlining, dumbing down the answers.
Apparently, we seem to want to make converts, not disciples of Jesus. The two are not the same and clearly, you can be saved; born again believers without being a disciple. BUT you cannot be a disciple without being a Christian.
A woman was in the hospital giving birth to to her first baby. When the pain and contractions increased, she grabbed her nurse, pulled her closed and screamed, “IS THE HARD PART OVER?”
The nurse smiled and said, “Honey, this is the easy part. The hard part is the next 18-years!”
The Need In Our Cities Is Simple–We Need More Echoing Voices!
Being Imitators– 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (a):
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers… The Lord’s message rang out...“
IT RANG OUT SO LOUD AND CLEAR THAT IT ECHOED IN THE CITIES!
The Greek word “memeomai” means: imitator, imitation and the English words, mimic and mimeograph come from the same source. We live in a world that loves to mimic–that just has to imitate. Imitate clothing styles, celebrities, even our pastors.
BUT the question arises, JUST WHO WERE THE THESSALONIAN DISCIPLES IMITATING–who were they mimicking in their daily lives? Paul says, “YOU BECAME IMITATORS OF US AND OF THE LORD…”
When the 12- disciples followed JESUS in His ministry, He mentored, taught by word and example. It might have taken three years of disciple-making on Jesus’ part, but He knew that it must be done accomplish the task given to Him.
When the people in Thessalonica saw the way the disciple-making church…
How they treated each other,
How they served the Lord,
How they talked–how they lived…
When people in the cities saw them–they said, “HEY I KNOW WHO THESE GUYS REMIND ME OF–THESE GUYS REMIND US OF JESUS, YEAH THAT’S WHO…”
ARE YOU READY TO BE A DISCIPLE OF JESUS–TO BE AN IMITATOR OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD–A VOICE ECHOING IN YOUR CITY?
The believers in the Thessalonian assembly were–The Echoing of Voices that ARE STILL being heard! And they are a DISCIPLE-MODEL for us…for you!
Are the churches in your city listening, or have they forgotten the model?
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).