Summary: An encouragement to genuine Christian salvation and discipleship
An Exemplary Church 1 Thess 1.1-10
In her book "The Key To a Loving Heart" Karen Mains describes the most climactic moment of the wedding. The families have been seated, the groom and his attendants are waiting with the minister and the bridesmaids have all taken their places. The organ begins the bridal march; everyone rises and turns to see the bride. A gasp emits from the crowd. There, at the beginning of the aisle, is a limping woman in a torn white dress. Her hair is mussed beyond repair, her right eye is purple and swollen shut. She has a split lip. The bride has been fighting again.
In a Hollywood movie this would be a hilarious scene. In real life it would be awful. But, in the church, the bride of Christ, it is a travesty that isn’t necessary, albeit common.
The church at Thessalonica was more what the Lord had in mind. They weren’t perfect (as we’ll see in later studies), however, they seemed to have the basics in hand. What kind of church were they, (and should we be)? What kind of a bride does Jesus deserve?
What does it mean to be "in Christ?" It means we are saved. Paul’s prayers included thanks to God for believers who were in Christ. Someone has said Paul’s threefold rememberance about the church (1.3 faith, love, hope) was a summary of Christianity.
Faith looks back to the cross, love is expressed toward the brethren in the present, and hope sees God’s hold on eternity. To be "in Christ" means having accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord over all.
With such an emphasis on individualism and "rights" these days, it makes us sound antiquated to speak of a Lord who rules over us. However out of "sync" with contemporary society it may sound, it is the single most relevant decision a person makes.
To be in Christ means forgiveness of sin and eternity in heaven, not hell. Men have debated religion and theology for centuries. There are all kinds of views on baptism, church government, roles of men and women, and other issues. But when it comes to being "in Christ," there is only a sinner, recognizing his debt to a holy God, and trusting in the death of Jesus Christ to pay that debt!
It matters not how many aisles you have walked; how many church rolls your name adorns; or what rituals have been performed for and on you. If you have never come to the place of calling out to God that you are indeed a sinner and separated from Him - you are lost and OUT of Christ. And the day you stand before God as the only true judge of man He will say "Depart from me into the outer darkness. You’re not one of mine."
We went to the cat show at the convention center a few weeks ago. When we paid the admission they stamped our hands with an image of a cat. If we’d left, we could be readmitted by showing that stamp. Without allowing my hand to be stamped, I couldn’t have gone in. It is that way in salvation. The only way to BE saved is to present yourself, a lost and undeserving sinner, to God, Who had died for your sins.
When you are saved Jesus puts His mark of approval on you. George W. Truett, pastor for 47 years at First Baptist, Dallas, used to tell of a revival meeting he preached in West Texas. He’d been told about "Big Jim" the town’s worst pagan. Each time a revival was held, Jim would come one night and cuss everyone in sight, including the preacher.
Truett preached and the people prayed for Big Jim. Something happened that night. When the invitation was given, Big Jim came. Were the people dreaming? When he reached the preacher the man took his hand and said, "Preacher, I put you on your sacred honor - will Jesus Christ save me if I give up to him?" Truett responded, "He will!"
Several members of the church had gathered round to urge the big man to give himself to Jesus. Big Jim spoke again, "But you must remember that I’m the worst man out of hell." Said Truett, "My Saviour died for the worst man out of hell, and He is able to save him now." "Would he save me if I were to surrender to him right now?" "On the authority of Jesus Christ on which I have rested my soul for time and eternity, I declare that He will save you right now." Then he turned that great, bronzed face, pitiful in its anguish, up towards the heavens, and gasped this prayer: "Lord Jesus, the worst man in the world gives up to you right now."