Feb 23 2020 1 Thess - Faith, Love, Hope (and How to Know if you are Worshiping Politics!)
23rd February 2020
We started Thessalonians last week – if you were not here, I encourage you to go back and listen to the Bible Project Video on 1 Thessalonians.
1 Thess 1: 2 We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers, 3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are 4 themes in this letter. First, Paul’s pastoral care for the people of Thessalonica,
And the others are found in verse 3 – Faith, Love, Hope – and there are descriptors with each of these words – and there is this thread that runs through this book.
Work of Faith – Paul connects faith to work. But we must not go to the Faith vs. Works argument – this has nothing to do with that in any way, shape, or form. Some think to have a right relationship with God you have to go to church a number of times, do good works, but we know, from Ephesians 2:8 – We are saved fully by God’s grace in faith. There is no work we can do to be made right with God.
Paul is describing the faith of the Thessalonians. He is saying – this is what real or genuine faith looks like! James tells us that real faith has works. Our biblical faith is much more than an intellectual assent to certain truths or doctrines.
The word belief in our context is very different from Paul’s. We say – do you believe in aliens from other planets?
Cindy’s sibling sent a box of all kinds of Time/Life/etc. – from the beginning of WWII – it is extraordinary to read – you can’t say much today of what they said!
Do you believe in the second shooter on the grassy knoll – or do you believe in Jesus.
There are 3 aspects –
Salvation by Allegiance – by Matthew Bates – Google his podcast! In an hour, he can explain the whole thing to you, rather than trying to work through it in 6 months.
Biblical faith is first a transfer of loyalty or allegiance.
For the Thessalonians – this was clear – but for us, some of this is not as clear. When they came to Christ, they were transferring their loyalty from Caesar to Jesus. Caesar claimed to be God, the son of God, the Savior of the world!
So when Jesus came – and someone says in Paul’s day – Jesus is Lord – they were also saying – and Caesar is not! And for them, that was a dangerous endeavor. And so it was for the Thessalonians – some were killed for saying that simple statement. What we tend to do – we tend to over personalize it – we say – Jesus is my Lord and Savior – and yes, that is true – but that is only part of it. We put the MY in there – and that is true – but Jesus is the Lord and Savior over EVERYTHING.
Before you came to Jesus, you had another Lord and Savior – for us, it is cloaked – for them, it was Caesar. They had idols – things built that they would bow down and worship – we’ll look at idolatry as we study this book. But for most of us – it is hard to know what those idols are. Here is a little history: When the church – in the Roman Empire – everything was about idolatry. You couldn’t go to the market, or work, without bowing down to the idols – they were extremely religious people. When the church became the dominant faith of the Roman empire – 308 or so, within a short time, idolatry was eliminated – never to return! Never return to those idols! The problem – when someone comes to faith in Christ, or drifts away from it – it is impossible for humanity to be void of God and the worship of God. Even atheists – all it means to be atheist – you don’t believe in a supreme being – but you still worship gods!
As Christianity began to wane, people went to the gods of money, sex – and a huge one – in the western world – the religion of politics is one of the fastest growing religions! I think we’re in the middle – this election cycle – and we are full-bore into it – and we could say – there are a lot of people who worship politics.
Let me tell you how you know – I’m guessing it is going to be nasty and ugly – if you find yourself speaking and behaving poorly, in an unchristian way - toward those in the party you disagree with – it is probably an idol in your life – You can bet it has become too important to you,.
Misseo-alliance – I was listening to a blog – they said this:
There are two decisions that we have to make – both are important. The firs t- how will you choose to vote? I am confident in us here, that we will be informed, in our conscience, to determine what we think is best for this country and then vote based on that.
What is the best thing for people?
I think that is pretty straight-forward.
The second question: How will you choose to engage? We have a choice. In one sense – this harder – but really, it is easier, because we have a perfect example – One who gave a perfect example of how to disagree with those in opposition – Love your enemies, do good for them, pray for them! Wow, what a different year this would be!
Okay – let’s move on.
There are other ways in which this concept of idolatry zeroes in – and this concept of having a transfer of loyalty.
Second – when one comes to faith in Christ, they are joining a new community. For them – it was simple – when they came to faith in Christ, their entire social system was set up around idolatry.
Families had idols! Social events – like 4th of July – but you better be there! So when one came to Christ, they stopped being part of the community to a large extent. For us, it is different. At least, when you go to work, you don’t have to bow down to the idol. But when we are a new community – Peter says we are a new RACE. We relate to race – we are not Caucasian – Black- Asian – We are Christian! I joined a new race!
Maybe family – the church really is a family! Our social activities – I put it this way – well – maybe it is like no longer being a Buckeye or Michigan fan – you are a Christian! That might be harder for some as football is an idol!
We know people addicted to their phone. I know none of you are – but if you are addicted to something – it has become an idol.
We don’t notice it – let’s say the FCC says in order to use this – you have to bow to the god of 5G! You would have to disconnect from the wireless world.
The economic system – everything was tied to food safety.
What if the FDA said that all meat had to be offered to the god of the almighty dollar! It is part of idolatry! That is what it was like for them! It was significant – they were joining a new community.
Third – there is a transformation of our inner being. It is not just I used to believe this – now I believe that – it is a transformation of our inner being. When we come to Christ – things are transformed. We have a whole new spiritual formation – a new approach to relationships and people. Faith transforms.
Second - After work of faith, we have the Labor of love
3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,
Our labor of love flows out of our experience of God’s love for us.
Our love relationship with God is foundational to all we do. All of our service to God must have at its source our love relationship with Him.
For those of us who are doers who live in the land of accomplishment – we don’t feel like we are doing enough. We feel like we have to do FOR God – and to do enough to gain recognition and to feel good about ourselves.
Those motivations fail. The only motivation should be God’s love.
As we move down – the endurance
5 in that our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (surely you recall the character we displayed when we came among you to help you).
Salvation is a work of God – not about our presentation. God does all the work in the heart of an individual – it is a work of God. We are to simply share His message and back it up with a genuine life. People know if you really love them – they know if it is genuine. People are that way -
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction.
They received with joy – and then the trouble started! As they backed out of community festivals and worship of Caesar, the persecution began. But they endured.
As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.8 For from you the message of the Lord has echoed forth not just in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place reports of your faith in God have spread, so that we do not need to say anything.
Here we see the power of the gospel. Paul was there for 2-3 months at most and God did this amazing work – they, in their normal daily lives, the message spread. It is amazing what went on with the Thessalonians and all they were doing. This is what Biblical faith produces. This is how it works – it transforms who we are.
9 For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and 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 our deliverer from the coming wrath.
Turned to God – that is faith – a new allegiance – a new loyalty – from idols… to serve the living and true God – Labor of love – and to wait for His Son – That is the hope part.
Hope looks beyond this life and our current circumstances to a future existence.
We think hope means that God will make all things better in the situation I’m in. But the reality – that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes stuff just goes wrong. Sometimes the doctor report is not good. Hope that endures looks beyond that – and it is this time – to wait for His son. That is the hope.
The hope can’t be in who wins an election. I hope none of you has that hope! How awful that would be! The hope can’t be in who wins the super bowl – or in a relationship – or a job – there is only one hope – Jesus bringing us into His kingdom – this relationship we’ll have for eternity.