Summary: As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl for all the world to see. Our reputation is at stake. The world needs to see a difference in us.
"The Stained Glass Aquarium"
1 Thes. 1
Israel is once again at war. We’ve all heard the news. It’s a powder-keg over there. Whenever something happens in Israel, we wonder again if this could be the end, when Jesus returns. It’s a valid question because we know that the end times will center around Israel.
This is a scary time for the world.
It’s a time when we’re forced to think about our relationship with Christ.
It’s a time when we’re forced to reflect on the hope we have in Christ.
A few months ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thes. In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time in history. 1 Thes. speaks about real hope in the midst of suffering.
Warren Wiersbe has written a commentary on 1 Thes. called “Be Ready”. That really sums up this Book as well as these current times. We begin our study by looking at 1 Thes. 1.
How many of us have ever had an aquarium/fishbowl?
What do you do with an aquarium? What do you do when you visit an aquarium? Just look. The fish, for the most part, are oblivious – they could care less.
As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl (see title). People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially now. They let us know when we mess up. (Bakker, Swaggart, New Era)
There’s another reason why they watch us (noted later)
The problem is, we’re oblivious – we could care less, which means that they may be viewing the wrong things.
Barna: no difference between believers and unbelievers. That’s tragic – it’s no wonder Christianity 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. They gave the spectators quite a performance - reputation spread. Paul hears about their reputation/testimony and writes them. It is a lesson for us to heed.
Our reputation is at stake. The world is watching us.
They need to see a difference in us.
Turn to 1 Thes. 1.
Background: fledgling church (?Paul only 3 weeks there), familiar with persecution (Paul kicked out, riots, founding pastor gone)
It was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq.
You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned about their reputation. The opposite is true.
1PAUL, SILAS AND TIMOTHY, TO THE CHURCH OF THE THESSALONIANS IN GOD THE FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU.2WE ALWAYS THANK GOD FOR ALL OF YOU, MENTIONING YOU IN OUR PRAYERS. 3WE CONTINUALLY REMEMBER BEFORE OUR GOD AND FATHER YOUR WORK PRODUCED BY FAITH, YOUR LABOR PROMPTED BY LOVE, AND YOUR ENDURANCE INSPIRED BY HOPE IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.4FOR WE KNOW, BROTHERS LOVED BY GOD, THAT HE HAS CHOSEN YOU, 5BECAUSE 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. 6YOU 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. 7AND SO YOU BECAME A MODEL TO ALL THE BELIEVERS IN MACEDONIA AND ACHAIA. 8THE 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, 9FOR 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, 10AND TO WAIT FOR HIS SON FROM HEAVEN, WHOM HE RAISED FROM THE DEAD—JESUS, WHO RESCUES US FROM THE COMING WRATH.
Here is a church whose reputation was faultless. They had an incredible testimony. We can learn a lot from their example.
What should others see when they look at us?
1 Thes. 1 gives us three distinct qualities (in v. 3, expounded in the chapter).
I. THE WORLD SHOULD SEE OUR WORKING FAITH.
v. 3: "YOUR WORK PRODUCED BY FAITH" - salvation (visible)
Phil 2:12 "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, faith gets us on the road.
Notice in vv. 4-6 what Paul says about our faith.
A. Election makes our faith possible. v. 4
4FOR WE KNOW, BROTHERS LOVED BY GOD, THAT HE HAS CHOSEN YOU,
He has chosen us (v. 4), not vice versa.
Jn. 15:16 YOU DID NOT CHOOSE ME, BUT I CHOSE YOU AND APPOINTED YOU TO GO AND BEAR FRUIT—FRUIT THAT WILL LAST.
Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him. Election makes our faith possible, but not automatic. That takes the next step.