1 Thessalonians 1
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 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 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and howyou 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 delivers us from the wrath to come.
I struggle with my sin nature. As I once again called up my sponsor and friend and confessed my character defects he said to me, “thanks be to God that you continue to find your way out of the holes that you have yet found a way to circumvent”.
Not long after that beautiful vision of God’s faithful love and compassion for the sinner (which I sometimes forget includes me – righteous piety can be flipped by the devil into pride and self-righteousness in a whispers breath predicating a great fall in the flesh), another brother brought up the conversation of The Elect. Who is the Elect?
I have long pondered the concept that Christ died for all, even the most wicked in the land since the beginning of time. God offers salvation to all, but there is a response to the unmerited gift that man must participate in. This concept can get very deep into theological quagmire very quickly, and it is not someplace I choose to go often. Many brilliant minds have pondered, debated and defined the reach of God’s sovereignty and tri-omni-ness (my own word, you like it?) and how that defines our role in salvation.
I completely agree that salvation comes by God’s grace alone, but in that must come a transformed life, a life converted from selfishness to selflessness, one that hungers to know more of the Creator, the Resurrector, the Healer, the Life Giver. How can a person who has been tapped by God and moved from blindness to sighted, from darkness to light be unchanged?
Sadly I know several Carnal Christians, people that go to church on the weekend, raise their hands and sing songs, are members of their church, even serve in some capacity yet the rest of the week they are fighting with their spouses, yelling at their kids, combating with co-workers, partaking in drugs and alcohol, watching porn, telling dirty jokes, gossiping, watching filthy movies and the list goes on.
A life touched by Christ may still fall in the holes of temptation, but he won’t find excuses to justify his actions, he will reach out to his Christ-centered friends and confess, he will cry out to Christ Jesus in agony over the fresh nails that he drove into the wrists of his loving savior, he will drop to his knees and petition the Holy Spirit within to be delivered from this evil that continues to remind him of who he once was, he will open God’s word with an anticipatory heart knowing that truth, love, peace, purpose, redemption, hope and direction are all promises found within God’s book of life written just for us.
This first letter to Thessalonia is beautiful in that Paul is letting them know that their faith is evident through their labor of love and steadfast hope.
As God continues to reveal the hardness and darkness of my own heart that was born of years of abuse as a child, then further hardened by me making the free will choice to play victim my whole life and reach out to drugs, alcohol, sex, career, money, and other worldly pursuits as a seeker of self-worth, this letter reminds me that my service, hope and steadfast repentance are evidence that God loves and has chosen me (v 4). That the deep convictions to hate sin in my own life, to reach for a bar so high that others think I am insane for even trying, but in all that I become an example to others, my family, my peers.
In my old life I was an example of what the world has to offer, and I had many who loved to follow and be a part of that life style. Today I am surrounded by people who love Christ, and look back on those days as proof that God knew our pain, and walked along side and kept us alive and minimized in many cases the damage we did to those around us because He had a bigger plan. He was building our God-story.
If we find ourselves regretful over what seems like a wasted life of being lost and blind, take great joy in the fact that God’s timing is perfect. No matter where we find ourselves in this journey of sanctification, we are where we are, when we are, and how we are by God’s great design. Our past path of destruction is evolving into God’s great testimony of redemption.
We are the elect, the ones who can now speak to the blind, for we once were the blind, and our history of destruction proves it. We have become hope for the hopless, sight for the sightless, light in the darkness.
If we can remain filled with hope, continue to climb out of those holes that we seemingly can’t wait to jump into at times, press on toward the goal, shine the light that God pours into us simply by sharing our story with anyone in earshot, then we can rest in peace knowing that God’s plan, vision and purpose for our lives goes far beyond our imagination and all we must do is continue to get up each day, give thanks and praise to our God, and hang on for the ride.
May God continue to bless and press on our hearts the journey that He has prepared for us this day.