Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reflections on 1 & 2 Thessalonians

I've never spent much time in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, but after reading the account of God moving in that city, I decided to remedy that this morning. I'm really encouraged by this church. Paul was not with them very long (a minimum of three week, a maximum of not that much longer). Then he was gone, off to a new city. He sent Timothy to be with them later, though we're not exactly sure when that took place nor for how long.

The first thing to look at is the state of the Thessalonians before Paul met them. In his letter to them, he reminds them that they "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess. 1:9). They worshiped idols. They didn't know the Most High God, and they had never heard of Jesus. Contrast that with my culture. Most people have heard of Jesus. My question is, "What have they heard about Jesus?"

The amazing thing about these people is that they listened to Paul. The gospel came to them in word and in power (1 Thess. 1:5), and they received it, even though it meant that they would suffer for it (1 Thess. 1:6). It's almost as if Paul was surprised by their receptivity, especially after his time in Galatia. He praised God for this, though.

Why did Paul write to them? Many of his letters came as rebukes. In the letter to the Galatian churches, Paul rebuked them for replacing the true Gospel for one based on works. He was very harsh in this. Paul has less nice things to say to the Corinthian church later on. They completely forget who they are and start living like they used to live. They are filled with pride and allow sin to run rampant. But these people are different. Paul doesn't correct them. He loves them deeply. He compares himself (along with Silas and Timothy) as both a mother (1 Thess. 2:7) and a father (1 Thess. 11-12). He describes them as being torn away from one another (1 Thess. 2:17), though there was great joy in being able to send Timothy back to them later.

God had moved deeply and quickly through this new church. To go from idol worshipers to, as Paul said, "you have no need to have anything written to you" (1 Thess. 5:9) is amazing. Does God want to do this type of work here in Memphis? What would that look like? Paul led, taught, and poured himself out with such passion and intentionality. If I'm honest with myself, I don't know if I have that passion or intentionality...but I want to. I want to pour out my life for the gospel. I do want to see God do what only He can do. Do I have faith for this? Am I willing to suffer for it? Am I willing to do foolish things, and to call others to do foolish things? These are tough questions, but I'm drawn to wonder what our city could look like if we saw God move in this way.

If Paul had started a church here in Memphis, what would he have to say to us? Pause...where to begin! We have so many resources. We have a good foundation of faith. We have seen God move in our lives. Yet we are impotent. We are not affecting our culture. We are ashamed of the Gospel. We are often more a slave to our flesh than a slave to God. We don't really want God to do what only He can do, because that would mean that we would not be in control, and it might mean that we have to suffer. We have Bibles on our shelves, yet we have no idea what the Word says. That which we do know, has it spread from our head to our heart? Are we living obedient lives? Are we daily being shaped by the Gospel? Are we hearing from God daily, and if so, is it having an impact on how we live our lives?

We must repent!

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