Sermon for Oct 16

By on October 16, 2016

Can I Get a Witness?

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 16 October 2016

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

NIV 1 Thessalonians 2:1 ¶ You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed– God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

9 ¶ Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

13 ¶ And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

Marjory can tell you that I’m not much for shopping.  I try and make up my mind what I need, figure out the best place or product to get it from and then just do it, though sometimes, I need to reflect on what I’m getting.  Now Marjory on the other hand, enjoys the experience.  Time has no meaning in the store and success for her is finding a bargain.  When she takes me along, I have learned to bring something to read or listen to the radio.  And we get along just fine!

 

One thing we both agree on is that we can tell when we’re getting that sales pitch which means we’re going to walk away.  We still tell the story about listening to a sales pitch, I said no, the salesman turned to Marjory and said do you realize he is taking bread off of your table?  Marjory told him that she trusted me and we both got up to leave.  It has now been 30 years of less bread for her.

 

In other words, we do not want to be bamboozled by something that is inauthentic.  As we delve into today’s scripture text, the two words I want you to hear and consider are authentic and witness.  Authentic itself is not mentioned, but I think you will agree with me that Paul is describing the authentic gospel that we witness to.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

Paul continues in his letter by recounting in light of Timothy’s report and Paul’s own recollection, that his visit to them was not a failure.  Paul had every reason to be concerned as this story is told in Acts 16 and 17.  Paul had been in jail in Philippi and immediately went to Thessalonica.  It appears that he was there for about 3 weeks before a mob forced them out under the cover of darkness.  Paul must have wondered would the gospel have taken hold with 3 weeks of ministry during a time of persecution.

 

But it did and part of the reason was the authentic way that Paul presented the gospel.  The appeal of the gospel stands on its own when presented by people who are pleasing God.  Look at how Paul reflects on how they presented the gospel.  In the first part of this list he said that they had pure motives, no tricks, no flattery, and no greed.  On top of that he turned to their proclamation by the way they lived as they were gentle, loving, sharing their lives, and worked hard to not be a burden.  And finally, they didn’t just present the gospel as a onetime event, but rather as a way of life in Christ.  The continued by encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live Christian lives.  This is the proclamation side.  On the other side is the receiving of the gospel.

Paul recalls how they authentically received the gospel.  They received the gospel as from God and not from people.  In doing so, it worked in their lives so that they became imitators of Christ, just as other churches had.  In fact, the gospel gave them strength to withstand persecution and to help in the mission of proclaiming the gospel to all people.

 

Into Our Experience

 

As we reflect on this authentic witness to the gospel, I’d like to share these thoughts with you.

 

I’m struck and perhaps you are too that sometimes we think we need to dress up the gospel. We live in a culture in which marketing is expected and so it is no surprise that the church can adopt some of these practices.  If we have turned on our television sets, we have run across people whose motives and salesmanship of the gospel can be called into question.  Don’t get me started on the prosperity gospel folks who are clearly in it for greed.  We have also seen the gospel presenters who sound like they are using a bullhorn and will force feed the message instead of approaching from a gentle, loving, and life sharing style of presentation.  And then there are those who are concerned about a decision, but neglect the nurturing and development of the Christian way of life.

 

What I have just described is not the biblical or apostolic way of presenting the gospel.  Individuals and churches who are successful in presenting the gospel do so with the characteristics of authenticity, purity, gentle love, and encouraging accountability.  There is no gospel gun, but a genuine interest in a person’s soul.  And so we will proclaim the truth in love, and demonstrate our love by treating each person as if we are ministering to Jesus.

 

My other reflection for you is to receive the gospel as from God and to become imitators of Christ. Paul later warned Timothy that people want to hear what their itching ears want to hear.  We receive a gospel that is from God, otherwise it is a human invention and we are to be pitied.  A gospel that comes from God is one in which we take our stand on and one in which we desire to grow in.

 

At our District Gathering, Beth Crissman challenged us to be missionaries in our region.  We’ll talk about this more on our first Sunday gathering in November.  I’m convinced that we’re at a time when we have to view ourselves as on a mission field for Christ.  So as we close, let this word challenge the gospel you believe in.  Is it one that is from the pages of scripture, faithfully proclaimed, and causing you to grow in your love for God and all people through Jesus Christ?  And as you think through that, will you take to heart the need for us to faithfully proclaim this gospel in a culture which is in great need for the truth in love?  And as the title of the sermon says, can I get a witness?  Amen.

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