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Decisions: Salvation (HS)

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The Most Important Decision You Can Make
Be your own CEO
Be in a good mood
To focus on the right things
To love yourself
Who to model your success after
To be willing to change
Now, I feel all these things. I think there are all important decisions to make. However, I think there is one that is more important than all these. I mean, obviously, right? This is church. But I want you to think about something. What do all these have in common: They’re about you becoming self-fulfilled. I want to be more successful, so I’ll be my CEO and I’ll find a successful model, or I want to be happy, so I’ll be in a good mood and I’ll love myself.
The decision to join the Christian story is not primarily a decision toward self-fulfillment (although I think that gets wrapped up in it). The decision to join the Christian story is about giving away yourself to the God of the universe who made himself known in Jesus.

The Most Important Decision of Your Life is to Receive the Message of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 1:2–10 NLT
We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia. And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
Paul is explaining the experience of the Thessalonians when they heard the message of God, and how they responded. Here’s what happened. Paul shows up in Thessalonica and he preaches the gospel in the synagogue (Jewish church) there. But it’s not just words, the Holy Spirit shows up flexing, and the Thessalonians decide to receive, and not to reject, the message. And that means, then, that their lives are changed as they throw their idols on the ground and stomp on ‘em and they go and follow Jesus instead. And they do that even though they were different from the world around them, so different that they suffered for it. And then, this story of their faith spread out to all the people all over and encouraged all the other churches in the area.
Do you feel like you have “full assurance” of your faith? How? (v. 5)
Does your faith in Jesus bring you joy? How so? Does it ever not bring you joy? (v. 6)
Do you think this is the most important decision of you life? Why?

Receive the Message

In verse six it says that they received the message with joy. And this is the message: The good news of the gospel.
In the beginning—in fact, before the beginning—God existed. and God, out of love, decided to create everything that is, every galaxy and every microbe. And he created you and me as his image, his representatives on earth. But, we messed that up pretty good. We all, each and everyone of us, has broken God’s commands and rejected goodness, so the whole world was being driven into chaos, brokenness, and evil. But, God chose a tiny, little nation—Israel—and he promised them that through their family, God would rescue the world. In their worst times, they had prophets who reminded them that God was sending a king who would fix everything, everywhere, forever. And then one day, a baby is born who is God himself: Jesus, the King. The people didn’t get it. They rejected him. They killed him. But three days later, he rose from the dead, and it was in his death and resurrection that he absorbed the sin of the world, defeating sin and death forever. Finally, one day, he will come back and set up his perfect kingdom here on earth.
That’s the gospel. That’s the message the Thessalonians received. And it’s the message that has come all the way down to you, here, now. Will you receive it? Have you received it?It starts with belief. Do you believe that God really exists? Do you believe that Jesus really is God? Do you believe that Jesus really rose from the dead? Do you believe that his death and resurrection saves you from your sin? Do you believe that heaven is coming?
& When they receive it, it comes with the power of the Holy Spirit, and full assurance of truth. I want to take a moment to talk about this idea. So, when we become Christians, we get the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us, encouraging us, and teaching us the truth of the gospel. Now, I think it’s important to try to step outside of 21st century, western culture, because we hear the word truth and we can’t help but think proof. Like I did a science experiment, or I did a logical proof, and this is the 100% certain answer, and it’s literally un-doubtable that this is a fact.
Can I be honest with you? There are lots of things that I am unsure about related to Christianity. I do not have all the answers. Doubt is a part of every Christian’s life. We see doubt in the Bible! The psalms and prophets sometimes are like, what’s the deal, God?? So, doubt is normal. But the Holy Spirit gives us this burning conviction that the gospel is TRUE, in a deeper sense than just it makes sense of the evidence. The Christian story, that there is something wrong with the world, with me, and God did something about it by flipping all our human expectations on their head—it rings true deep in the core of who I am.
What do you find about the gospel message exciting? What is hard to believe?
Do you feel like you have “full assurance” of your faith? How? (v. 5)
But it shouldn’t end at belief. It didn’t end there for the Thessalonians. Their belief translated into action. You know, we know a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t always mean that we do it. There was this Greek philosopher named Aristotle who said basically: You know the good, you do the good. But that’s not how it has worked in my life. I know that it’s good for me to run to stay in shape. I know that it’s good for me to do my homework instead of playing Geometry Dash. I know that it’s good for me to say, “yes, Karly” even when she’s wrong. But I don’t do them all the time! So, it can’t just be about knowing about Jesus. It has to involve action. You also need to reject your old self, and follow Jesus instead.

Serve Jesus Instead Of Yourself

In verse nine, we find out that the Thessalonians, when they decided to follow Jesus, they turned away from their idols to serve God. Not just any god, but the Living and True God. Because these idols, these false gods, they weren’t real. They were just statues. But Jesus, God himself, was a person in the flesh, living and true. Jesus is so much better than any of the fakers that this world has to offer. We don’t usually have little statues in our houses, but we do have things that we worship. But none of them compare to God. Worship your popularity or success, but you’ll never feel as significant as you do in Jesus. Worship your happiness, but you’ll never have the joy that you do in Jesus. Worship yourself, but you’ll never be as fulfilled as you are in Jesus. What clicked for the Thessalonians was that their gods would never stack up to Jesus, so they chucked them. What do you need to chuck out of your life?You know, Paul doesn’t say a lot here about what these idols were. But in , we actually see the story of the founding of the church in Thessalonica.
NLT Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
What happens when you decide to follow Jesus is that you change your allegiance. There is a worldly king, a worldly power of sin and selfishness, and we are all citizens of that kingdom. From the day we’re born, we pledge allegiance to that flag. But when you decide to follow Jesus, you decide to switch your allegiance. And here’s the really hard thing: We have to give up ourselves as kings and queens of our own lives. The most important decision I can make is not to find some new way to fulfill myself, but to actually give up myself to Jesus, the true King of the universe, and allow him to change my life. Now, I do things differently. I live by a different code. I serve Jesus, and Jesus alone, and, in so doing, I actually find myself.
Mark 8:35 NLT
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
What do you find about the gospel message exciting? What is hard to believe?
What, other than Jesus, wants to be king of your life?
Do you think Christians ever say that Jesus is King, but don’t act that way? Why?
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