Sermon for Oct 9

By on October 9, 2016

A Faith Worth Talking About

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 9 October 2016

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

NIV 1 Thessalonians 1:1 ¶ Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

2 ¶ We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.

3 ¶ We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia– your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell 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, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

When I set up the manuscript for this sermon, I found out that this is the first time that we have preached a sermon from 1 Thessalonians.  I know that we’ve done Sunday School lessons from this book, but after reading through this letter, I wonder why it has taken over 13 years to bring a sermon series to you from this powerful and practical letter!  While you can wait for me to preach through all 5 chapters, I encourage you to read all of the letter in one sitting this week and you will be blessed!

 

A bit of background informs us about Paul’s letter.  Paul visited the area on his missionary journey with Silas, Timothy and Luke in response to God’s leading.  It was a rather large city consisting of a Greek, Roman, and a Jewish minority.  Because of its location, it was an important center for trade and a gateway for Roman influence.  It was a happening place, much more like Asheville and less like Weaverville.

In this diverse community, Paul plants the church.  Sometime later, Paul wants to check on them and being unable to go in person, he sends Timothy.  After Timothy returns, Paul pens this letter as an open letter for the congregation and in fact, for us.

 

Our theme for this week’s sermon can be summarized with two interlinked words, reputation and imitators.  You will see as I read the text that it is a relevant question to ask of ourselves, is our reputation one that people will want to imitate us as individuals and as a church?  Our long standing mission statement says that we’re to be a loving example of the work of Christ in our lives.  So we have a connection!  Let’s dive in to the text and ask ourselves this question at the end of the sermon.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

Paul complements the Thessalonians on their three-fold reputation (v3): work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Work, labor, and endurance are all related words about doing.  What they did was produced by faith, love, and hope.  If the string of faith, hope, and love sound familiar, they should; it is how Paul ends 1 Corinthians 13 as he says that faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.  Our motivation for doing the Lord’s work in the kingdom of God is motivated by faith, hope, and love in our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is what sets us apart, making us a holy people.

 

Paul takes a moment to remind them about the gospel that motivates what they do and what they believe.  It is a gospel conveyed by words and also of power in the Holy Spirit and with full assurance or conviction.  Think of it this way.  This gospel is more than a creed or a bible verse or the plan of salvation.  Part of proclaiming the gospel is with these words.  But the gospel is also our invitation and entry to be participants in the kingdom of God.  These words bring power when belief is turned into action.

 

And that is what the Thessalonian church is doing.  They are living the gospel with power, assurance, and conviction.  Paul gives their testimony based upon these 4 points about their reputation.

 

First, they became imitators of Paul and Jesus.  We mean this of course in a good way in that they adopted the teachings, behaviors, and obedience to God that is associated with a follower of Christ.  They will know we are Christians by our love, by our mission, by who we represent.  This is why we teach the faith and come together in community so that we too become imitators of Jesus.

 

They also welcomed the gospel with joy.  The gospel is good news.  Not only that, it is transformational.  The gospel has the power to rescue us so that no matter what we have done or what our circumstances are, we can have joy in our soul now and for all eternity.

 

As a result, their faith is known beyond their community.  Here is their reputation being noticed.  We all have a reputation.  Some are noticed and some are not.  Some are noticed for good and some for bad.  Their faith was known throughout the region.  In fact, it became a model for other churches to follow and to find inspiration in.

 

Finally, they turned from idols to God.  This is last in Paul’s sequence.  It is his summary that their faith is genuine and that the gospel has taken hold of the way they live.  A sure fire sign is that they had switched their allegiance from the idols of the day to the one true God.

 

Into Our Experience

 

So let’s come back to the challenge question of this text.  Is our reputation one that people will want to imitate us as individuals and as a church?  Here are some characteristics that our reputation should support:

  • Are we known as people who know and practice the teachings of the Bible and in particular, the teachings of the Apostles and most importantly, of Jesus Christ? The most important commands are to love God and love neighbor, so are we known as people who worship God and love people through our ministry?
  • Do we practice a gospel that is invitational and proclaims life changing joy? I’ve been to some churches in which there was little joy and not welcoming.
  • Do people know of our faith beyond us? Let me couch this a bit.  We are not a large church.  But we get a letter from ABCCM thanking us for our partnership.  Tonight, we’ll have an opportunity to gather with other churches in our region and perhaps be inspired to strengthen our connection with other churches in shared and common ministry.
  • Is our faith and practice genuine? Is church a once a week event or are we people who live the faith each and every day?

 

I want to affirm to you that we are a church and a people who share in these characteristics.  We have a reputation that is rooted in Jesus Christ.  And so be encouraged!  However, the Christian faith is one in which we continue to practice and stay devoted to Jesus.  So as we continue in this study, let us be people whose faith is one in which people can say, they trust in God, they reflect the love of Christ, and through them, I see the power of the gospel.  That is what I hope and pray our reputation is and will continue to be.

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