1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NIV):
 You became IMITATORS of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  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,  for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell 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–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION:
Sometimes I hear a new song, read a book, or see something that so grabs my attention, I can’t help myself. As soon as I have the opportunity, I want to tell someone I meet or share my experience on Social Media, “I gotta tell you about this book I’m reading…” or whatever it is.
That’s when it is CLEAR…it really made an impression.
And what happened when Paul and his fellow evangelists came to Thessalonica made that kind of IMPRESSION? Not only impressing the local church people, but also on people all over the place.
Conversation was “buzzing” all around Greece and neighboring countries. Nobody had to ask, “Have you heard about those strange Jews going around talking about someone called JESUS?” because everybody who had heard about them, were telling someone else without being asked.
That’s the meaning of what Paul says in VERSE 8: “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
And what people were talking about wasn’t just the new church down at “The Corner of Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road” ([i]Footnote). but the way it had come into being.
People were talking about the amazing and instantaneous effect the Gospel had effecting their lives.
At the heart of it all…
At the heart of it all was the call to WORSHIP…of the One True God rather than the surrounding idols.
It would be like asking the people of today, to give up using their cars, computers, tv’s and cell phones.
The gods of Greek and Roman paganism were everywhere.
For example, if you or your son or daughter were getting married this Summer, a serious and expensive worship of a deity would be expected of you.
At every turn in the road the gods were there; unpredictable, possibly mean and dangerous, and sometimes at war among themselves…there was really no way in appeasing them, making sure you had them on your side.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy…
Right smack dad into this wacky world came three unknown Jews: Paul, Silas and Timothy, telling these pagans there was only One True God and this God had a Son, and that Son had been raised from the dead!!! Nobody had ever said anything like that before!!!
And the people in Thessalonica, knowing right from the start, the huge risk they would be taking in the community–turned away from their idols to this Living God, and in doing this…discovered both suffering and great JOY at the same moment!!!
That’s what CONVERSION is all about–
The word “TURNED” in verse 9 of the text, is as close as Paul gets to the technical term of conversion or being SAVED:
“They tell how you turned to God…”
It’s what happens when someone stops going in one direction, turns around and begins going in the opposite direction.
Has this happened to you?
“Changing Beer Into Furniture”
In preparation for studying and meditating on the verses presented in this blog-post, I ran across a story told of a group of old friends hanging out and having conversation. One of the men had recently become a Christian:
His old buddies were giving him a bit of a hard time about his conversion experience.
“You don’t really believe all those miracle stories in the Bible, do you?”
In response, his friend replied,
“I don’t know about the miracle stories in the Bible, but I do know about the miracle story in my own life. Since giving my life over to the Lord, Jesus has changed beer into furniture!” ([ii] See Footnote)
It’s a sight to see when someone gives their life to Christ! I did so on August 15th, 1972–my spiritual birthday!!!
As we become more involved in a community of faith,
Volunteering our time,
Learning the JOY of GIVING to God,
Becoming friends–like a family with our brothers and sisters in the FAITH.
[In growing up, I had a brother who was seven years younger than I. But when I became a BELIEVER, my family grew. Now I have FAITH SISTERS in the Lord–and my wife, is also my sister in Christ!]
Christian Living in Thessalonica…
Christians had been true BELIEVERS for a very short time; we don’t know exactly how long, but it can’t have been more than a year.
They were very ordinary people doing something extraordinary in response to an unexpected MESSAGE and people from hundreds of miles around were talking about it.
The only explanation…the Living God at work through the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ!
“IMITATORS”/IMPERSONATORS – Verse 6 a.
“And you [set yourselves to] become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself” (Amplified Bible).
Even in the face of “severe suffering”, the Thessalonian believers of the day, talked about…
— GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF SOCIETY!!!
— ABOUT A MIGHTY GOD!
It wasn’t about them. It was about HIM!!!
Even in the midst of their suffering and persecution, they were filled with JOY and the POWER of the Holy Spirit.
And so, other people became curious and wanted to know what they had discovered: “What have they got that I don’t have?” I wonder myself, if my neighbors are asking the same question about my life: “Who is he, really?”
Or, is the only thing they notice–my car parked along side of the house on Sunday mornings with the engine at idle–waiting for my wife to get out of the house– then rushing off to Sunday morning services and back home by noon.
“Are the Thompson Family IMPOSTERS or what?”
The people of First Church of Thessalonica had become Imitators…
The church as a whole, through their IMITATION OF CHRIST, others began to imitate them…Macedonia and Achaia:
“Your FAITH has become known everywhere” Paul exclaims.
And when something is GOOD…something is REAL, and the word gets around to those who need to hear the Word.
When Christians begin to “LIVE OUT” with…
THE CALLING OF CHRIST JESUS,
THE LIFE OF JESUS,
THE WAY OF LOVE, and
GENEROSITY THROUGH CHRIST, and
the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…
…people can’t help notice that THE REAL THING HAS ARRIVED!
Living in a CULTURE engulfed in idols.
We may not call them idols, or call them gods, nor pray to them, but our ACTIONS speak volumes.
When we concentrate our efforts on building a better church buildings for ourselves rather than spending time, talent, money on going out to those who don’t know Christ…we’re WORSHIPPING IDOLS.
But when we give sacrificially so others can eat…
…when we knock on doors and offer a free cup of water or whatever…
…when we become peacemakers and reconcilers…
…when we make an effort in random acts of kindness…
…when we become lovers and not judgers…
–when we seek to heal, help and restore…
…when we offer Christ in these ways…
WE ARE TRULY WORSHIPPING THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD.
And that’s exciting!!! It’s exciting not only for us, but for those who hear about us.
No wonder the apostle Paul was delighted to write a letter to them,
“We continually remember before our God and Father
your work produced by faith, your labor
prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope”
“Imitators” are Contagious!!!
Bill Hybels says, “God wants us to become contagious [believers]…who will first catch His love and then urgently and infectiously offer it to all who are willing to consider it…” [See Footnotes – iii]
Are you living your life in such a way as to cause people to want what you have in Jesus?
Paul concludes the opening paragraph in his letter:
“And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven. Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah]” (verse 10 – Amplified Bible).
Jesus is coming again!
There is no “if’s” in Paul’s wording here. And being “left behind” as an RELIGIOUS IMPOSTER when He does return… is not a good thing.
“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Charles H. Spurgeon.
AN “IMPOSTOR’S” IDENTITY:
IMPOSTERS have religious activity that is not connected to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. They love to look religious–in a “form of godliness.”
“FORM” refers to an outward shape or appearance, putting style over substance. Read what JESUS SAYS about some impostors of His day:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
The Separating of Christ’s IMITATORS and the IMPOSTERS:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry…feed you…or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
And the IMPOSTERS…the “goats” on the left response?
“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (V. 44)
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did NOT DO for one of the least of these, you DID NOT DO FOR ME” (V. 45).
The “impostor’s” destiny…
“…they will go away to eternal punishment”
The “imitators” outcome…
“but the righteous to eternal life” (V. 46).
So where do you belong in your community?
A Imitator…or an Impostor?
[i] Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics @ http://elyrics.net > Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics to Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road.
[ii] Story from Kenneth Sauer.
[iii] Bill Hybels, Contagious Christian, pg. 23