Monday, July 28, 2008

In Search Of Truth


1 Thessalonians Chapter 1

As we read in Acts 17, Paul had just started a church in Thessalonica, but had to leave because of some antagonistic Jews that didn't like what he was teaching. In the first three verses of Acts 18, Paul finds himself in Corinth, living and working with a husband and wife who had been expelled from Italy for being Jews. During this time, Paul writes two letters to encourage and inform the young and struggling group of Christians he had been forced to leave behind in Thessalonica.

In his greeting, Paul uses a phrase common to his letters: "Grace and peace to you."

You may remember that we've defined Grace here before. In a nutshell, it means "undeserved favor". In the Bible it can be used as broadly as it sounds, but often refers specifically to the undeserved favor given to us by Christ's death and payment for our sins.

"Peace" refers to undisturbed and untroubled well-being. Having peace with God, through trusting in Jesus, instead of the natural conflict with him we create with our sin, is the real key to having peace regarding the other details of life.

Paul highlights several positive traits in the Christians he's writing to that we can look at and try to imitate.

1. Their "work of faith". The Thessalonians had genuine faith that motivated them to take action.

2. Their "labor of love". Their genuine love propelled their strong efforts.

3. Their "endurance of hope in Christ". They continually chose to trust in Jesus.

Paul also says that God "chose" them. This might seem like an odd "blip" on the radar, considering that so much of the Bible seems to ask us to "choose" or "believe in" God, right? But although we are responsible for our decision regarding Jesus, in some way we can't quite grasp, God also chooses those that he will save. Everyone that genuinely chooses to believe and trust in Christ, has also been chosen by God.

The text doesn't allow us to go any deeper into this topic right now, but we'll very likely be returning to it at some point in the future.

Let's take a look at the "indicators" Paul mentions that convinced him the Thessalonians had been chosen and saved by God. (Verses 5-7)

They accepted the words of Paul's "gospel"(which means "good news" and usually refers to the basic truth of who Jesus is, what he did for us, and what it means for us now and forever). There was some unspecified display of God's power and the Holy Spirit. There was also a sense of conviction. This last one is a point worth pausing for.

If we're really allowing the Holy Spirit to do some work inside of us, then our own sins will bother us enough that we take action against them. We'll also have priorities in life that are reorganized in light of the truth. If neither of these things are happening, there's a good chance that we are ignoring the Holy Spirit. If these things are happening, then like the Thessalonians, we'll be used by God to transform the lives of those around us!

Even while suffering pain and mistreatment by others, these new Christians became "imitators of the Lord" and received the truth with a sense of joy despite their circumstances. (v.6) This ended up being a striking example to those around them. (v.7-8)

The Thessalonian Christians were all people that had broken from their traditional culture to trust in Jesus. They had some Jews in their ranks, who would have been familiar with God, but most of them were non-Jews from polytheistic backgrounds, who were strong enough to break from the norm and follow the genuine, legitimate, God of all existence. They waited for "His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come."

It had only been about 20 years since Jesus had been raised from the dead, so the Thessalonians had the benefit of eye-witnesses and other forms of fresh evidence. It takes a little more digging for us today, but like the Thessalonians, we have to decide if we're willing to break from popular opinion and begin the search for truth.

Next Week- Searching For Truth In "Spirit Blade, Chapter 5"!

Coffee House Question-

Who has been the biggest "influencer by example" in your spiritual life?

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