Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”
  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

____________________________________________

CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.

 

 

We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

1thess

Several days ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thessalonians.  In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time with the worlds current events.

I Thessalonians speaks about REAL HOPE in the midst of the trials and tribulation that surround us.

Warren Wiersbe written commentary on 1 Thess., “Be Ready” really sums up what we face ahead.

Aquarium/Fishbowl Experience –

What do you do with an aquarium?  What do you do when you visit an aquarium?  I just look.  The fish, for the most part are oblivious–could care less.

I remember when first married and we were as poor as a church mouse.  An aquarium sat on a stand in our duplex style apartment, with not much else in the room.  It was Valentine’s Day, and unable to afford much except exchanging Valentine cards, my wife said,  “Did you notice the aquarium?”  “No,” I replied. “Why?”  “Just go look,” she said.  There on the outside of our aquarium, on the outside of the glass, was a heart drawn in pink lipstick–“I LOVE YOU”.  But there’s more!  For fourteen cents, my wife bought an angel fish.  I must have watch that fish swimming around behind the glass for hours.  Even days later, that angel fish reminded me of my wife’s love for me and it wasn’t the amount spent, but the LOVE behind the gift.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” John 3:16.

As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl.  People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially in times of stress and discomfort. They let us know when we misspeak or mess up entirely.

153338028

There’s another reason why they watch us.  The problem is…we’re often oblivious–like fish in a bowl–we could care less what they see or even read on our social media page; which means they may be viewing the wrong things.  

The Barna Group–“Knowledge to navigate a changing world” says there’s “no difference between believers and unbelievers.”  

That’s tragic–it’s no wonder Christianity as we know it isn’t growing like it should.

This was definitely not the case with the Thessalonians.

Here was a church who realized they were being watched on all sides.  Paul hears about their reputation/testimony, and writes to them.

There’s a LESSON here for us.  Our reputation is at stake and the world is watching us; they need to see a DIFFERENCE is us.

1 Thessalonians 1 BACKGROUND:

This was a fledgling church (Paul was there but 3 weeks).  Paul had been kicked out, riots going on, their pastor was gone.  They were familiar with persecution.  I can imagine it was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq today.

You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned with their reputation, but the opposite is true.

slide_2

Here was a CHURCH whose reputation was faultless.  They had an incredible TESTIMONY.

WHAT OTHERS SHOULD SEE WHEN THEY LOOK AT US:  

“Your work of faith” – salvation (V. 3)

Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, my dear friends; as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In our spiritual journey on this earth, FAITH gets us on the started on the right path.  Notice what Paul says about our FAITH:

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

[4]  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  [5] because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  [6]  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.

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible — Vs. 4:  “He has chosen us” not vice versa.

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16]  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him.  ELECTION makes our FAITH possible, but not automatic.

That takes us to the next step:

CONVERSION makes our FAITH actual “because”– Vs. 5:

“BECAUSE our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.”

“Because” shows why Paul is so convinced that God CHOSE them.  He sees their changed life, their “conversion.”

The Gospel isn’t just some fancy speech we mouthe that most don’t understand.

No amount of persuasion can “convince” someone to turn to Christ Jesus.

What makes our FAITH actual is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in our lives.

Colossians 2:13 (NIV):  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”

Our conversion, the transformation of our OLD dead nature, to our NEW nature in Christ, is what makes our ELECTION sure.

The Thessalonian church didn’t just HEAR the Gospel message, they experienced the Gospel!  It transformed their lives!!

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible while CONVERSION makes it actual.

But there’s even more.  We need to have a WORKING FAITH, a VISIBLE FAITH.

ACTION makes our FAITH visible–Vs. 6 (AMP):

[6]  “…become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit.”

THEY, the church, became IMITATORS (of Paul and the Lord).  They acted out their FAITH and they welcomed the message with JOY (in suffering).

A baby learns by imitating/children playing “copy-cat.”  The same is true in our spiritual lives (we learn by imitating).

When someone comes to Christ, they immediately begin looking at other professing believers to see how they behave; how they act.  [ Prayer, church etiquette, sit in the back, express/hold our emotions, worship. ]

Who are you imitating?  Your spiritual parents?  Your Pastor?  Are they truly IMITATING Christ?

1 Corinthians 4:16 (Paul says)  “So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.”  He could say that because in Galatians 2:20 (NIV):

[20]  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had a REAL working FAITH.  In other words, they wore their FAITH on their sleeves, visible to everyone they came in contact with.  There was a great difference between them and their pagan, unbelieving neighbors.  So Paul didn’t need to defend them, he bragged about them!

1thessalonians1_6-7
1 THESSALONIANS 1:7

People often wonder how we can know if someone is SAVED or not.  Paul knew that God chose the Thessalonians for SALVATION because he saw the POWER of the Gospel in their lives.  He also saw their transformation in their working, visible FAITH.

DO WE HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH?

The world should see JESUS in us!

The WORLD should see our LABOR OF LOVE – Vs. 3:  “Your LABOR should be prompted by LOVE”

Whereas FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle on our way.

Will Rogers once said,  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What is the LABOR OF LOVE?

1 John 3:18 (NIV):  

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

John 4:15 (NIV):

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

There are so many opportunities that are missed in our Christian life in reaching out to others with the LOVE of Christ.

  • At WORK:  working for the Lord or your boss?
  • At HOME:  patience?  loving our families as Christ loves us.
  • In SOCIETY:  Lifestyle Evangelism?  integrity?
  • In CHURCH:  seeking to meet others’ needs, rather than our own?

FAITH & LOVE go hand in hand.  You can’t have visible faith without real love!

Galatians 5:6 (AMP):

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”

The WORLD is watching us!  Our reputation is framed and hanging on the wall!  

They should see our working FAITH and our labor of LOVE in action.

V. 3…your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The WORLD should be able to SEE our everlasting HOPE!

Paul actually uses three qualities as bookends in the closing of this chapter (vs. 9-10 AMP):

[9] For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine.

[10] 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 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].

FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle, and HOPE…? HOPE shows us where we’re going.

There’s a difference between HOPE & WISHING.  This HOPE Paul’s referring too, isn’t like dropping pennies into a wishing well.  This HOPE is like saying, “I hope tomorrow is Monday!”

The Thessalonian BELIEVERS had a real, visible, enduring HOPE.

They hoped for 3 things that we too, should hope for (VERSE 10):

#1.  They HOPED for Jesus’ return!  “…look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.”  (v. 10)

#2.  They HOPED in Jesus’ resurrection, who He raised from the dead and because of the RESURRECTION, they knew too,  and they will eventually conquer death and be raised to a new life in Christ.  When Jesus returns, all those who HOPE in His resurrection can have confidence that we will live with Him forever!

#3.  They HOPED in Jesus’ rescue from God’s coming wrath (v. 10).  There’s coming a Day when God will return vengeance and wrath upon this godless and evil world we currently live in.  Those who’ve chosen God, those who’ve been transformed, those who’ve a visible faith and a labor of love…have a heart peace from the HOPE they will be RESCUED from His great wrath.

SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE WHEN THEY LOOK INTO… OUR “FISHBOWL”?

Do they see CHRIST in us?

Do they see a WORK OF FAITH?  a labor of love?  an enduring, everlasting LOVE?

Do they see a DIFFERENCE in us?

If not, why would they want to become a Christian?

Whether we like it or not, we are LIVING in a public aquarium, where we’re putting on a show for the world to see.  How’s the show going?

sealion194

 

We need to be ready for Jesus’ soon return.  

In the meantime, we also need to be busy bringing people to Him by being imitators of Jesus, before it’s too late.

 


CREDITS –

COMMENTARY:  Enduring Word Bible Commentary:  1 Thessalonians 1 – Receivers and Responders.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imitators or Impostors?

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10  (NIV):

[6] 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.  [7] And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  [8] 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,  [9] 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,  [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

charlescalebcolton203963

 

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!!!

Transformation–

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!!!

—  COURAGE!

—  COMMITMENT

—  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…

DEEP CONVICTION,

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.

JESUS' Social Media Post

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?

Footnotes:

[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