As we enter the summer months, with their long days and beautiful nights, our tendency is to go into cruise control. Yet our redeemed souls are yearning to continue to mature in Christ; to grow in His grace. And though at times we need rest and relaxation for our physical bodies, our redeemed state says, “I want more of Jesus Christ.” These dueling realities come to a head when the body of Christ comes together for weekly worship. Our flesh thinks it needs three months off from life, yet the hunger of our redeemed soul says “No, let’s get going.”
No wonder the writer of Hebrews exhorts us in Hebrews 10:23–25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The reality of us growing together as a body of Christ is that we need each other. As the writer says, this is so that we may encourage, and build each other up, knowing that the day of God’s judgment is coming, and the return of Christ is imminent.
As the Lord’s church, we gather with a desire to turn our backs on the world and to turn to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. We must respond like the members of the church in Thessalonica, who lived out their faith with a desire to love others and serve the living and true God. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1 is inspired to write about this church’s faith and action in Jesus Christ. They were a church that lived in the truth and walked in the power of the Spirit. They had a faith that was tangible and a faith that was measurable. They were not ashamed of the Gospel or of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their faith was going and growing. They were sold out for Christ. They were a church that is worthy of imitation. Even today they speak to us from the inerrant Word of God as they give us eternal characteristics that God desires of His church.
That is not to say that every church must look the same or carry out the same ministries, but it is to say that the heart of the redeemed, the heart of every church, should be the same. What was the heart of the Thessalonians? It was a heart of repentance and faith and trusting and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is to be based on theology and doctrine, with lives to match.
That is where we find ourselves in this body. We strive to live in submission to our Lord and His truth and to live out that truth in the realm where the Lord has put us. Beloved, we don’t have to look to some church growth guru to grow the church. We need only look to our Savior and Lord, who gave His life for the Church and even today leads the Church. For Christ is the head of the Church; because of that, we look to Him as He uses His Word to direct us in what we are to do.
One could extrapolate many points from this chapter and the Thessalonian church, but one verse in particular caught my attention. 1 Thessalonians 1:9, reads, “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” When it says in verse 9, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,” that indicates that they had submitted to God. They turned from the world and their sins and toward their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as shown by their service to Him.
Paul says, “. . . you turned to God.” In this verse, “turned” is a verb that is used repeatedly in the book of Acts to refer to conversion. It’s a synonym for repentance and faith that leads to a new allegiance. He was saying to the Thessalonians, “You turned from idols to God, and you are serving Him. You became slaves to Christ.” Here is the reality of transformation: you become slaves to God.
Many of these Gentile Christians were former idol worshipers, perhaps almost all of them. Their lives were transformed, and so was their allegiance. If you’re truly converted, you’re going to be subject to God. When God converts a person, He changes the entire person, including his mind and his will. This becomes apparent in the regenerated person’s outward conduct, as he willingly submits himself to the purposes of God. Becoming a Christian involves a definite break with the old life and turning to a new Master in subjugation to Him —willing subjugation demonstrated in loyal and loving service.
The Thessalonian church was a remarkable one, a church to be grateful for. No wonder, in verse 2, Paul said, “We give thanks to God always for all of you.” Having faith that works, love that labors, hope that perseveres or endures, preachers that are powerful, life that is new, joy that is transcendent, behavior that is exemplary, and a witness that is strong and reaches out into the world—that is the kind of church our Lord wants us to be.
Now ask yourself if there are any “idols” from which you need to turn away. Is there anything that you put before God: your kids, your job, your money? Do you submit fully to Him? What about your service? Are you serving the Lord with a full heart? Or do you give God only that which is leftover? Are you trying to serve God while trying to serve the world? The Apostle John has made this clear that you can’t do both, 1 John 2:15–17 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Beloved, how then will we live? May the Lord’s passion burn in our hearts!