We always thank God for you all and always mention you in our prayers. For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. Our friends, we know that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own. For we brought the Good News to you, not with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with complete conviction of its truth. You know how we lived when we were with you; it was for your own good. You imitated us and the Lord; and even though you suffered much, you received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. So you became an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For not only did the message about the Lord go out from you throughout Macedonia and Achaia, but the news about your faith in God has gone everywhere. There is nothing, then, that we need to say. All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God and to wait for his Son to come from heaven—his Son Jesus, whom he raised from death and who rescues us from God’s anger that is coming. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
When I read these verses this morning I was both excited and saddened at the same time. I was excited because the good news of Jesus Christ was spreading like wild fire so long ago. This was before social media when things traveled by word of mouth and it truly mattered that you lived a life worthy of Christ. No one was hiding behind their computer professing their faith; they were living it every day. Faith and works was, and still is, an essential part of spreading the gospel. People saw a dramatic difference in these Christ followers and they wanted to experience that kind of life. How have we gone so far off course that the world sees us as judgmental hypocrites rather than people who are so loved by God that we can’t help but to love others? They should see that we love them too much to speak anything but God’s truth to them. It saddens me that nonbelievers often feel judged in their sin rather than experience the grace that God gives us. We have traded speaking God’s truth with condoning sin. Jesus never once compromised His truth by condoning sin. In the presence of Jesus, people felt loved even in their sin.
These followers of Jesus were carrying the good news to all and they treated people in the same way Christ did. They didn’t condemn with truth. They loved with truth. I have to believe that we are called to do that same thing. We have to pray that we can speak God’s truth, all of His truth, in a way that makes people feel loved not judged. These people didn’t turn from sin because they felt condemned. They turned from their sin because they felt set free. Jesus was about saving souls for eternity and that meant speaking truth not tiptoeing around it so as not to offend people. When we tell ourselves and others that sins in the Bible are no longer considered sin because they were for Bible times not our time we are robbing them of the joy that comes from laying their sins at the foot of the cross. It robs them of the joy that comes when we know we are SO loved and forgiven by a God who came and died for them. Verse 9 says,” All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God.” To serve the true and living God means serving God in all things not just the things that we are comfortable with. That means the things that stretch us way past our comfort zone and into the place where we are challenged by our faith. We cannot look at the Bible as an advice column. Instead we must look at it as an instruction book for life because that is why God gave us His word. Let’s live out the truth that God has called us to live.
Pastor Rick Warren reminded me as I read his devotion this morning that life on earth is a temporary assignment. He said,” Earth is only a temporary residence. You won’t be here long, so don’t get too attached. Ask God to help you see life the way he sees it.” No one knew how temporary life is better than Jesus. I pray that we spread the gospel of Jesus with such urgency and love that others can’t deny Him.
Loving and Gracious God, help us to live a life so immersed in your word and love that we can’t help but love your people with truth. Lord, I ask that as we take your word into the world that they may know us by our love not our judgment. I humbly pray that we choose your truth over the world. In Jesus Name, Amen.