Faithlife Sermons

When You Received the Word of God (2)

Fall '20 (COVID-19)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:02
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1 Thessalonians 2:7–13 NIV
7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, 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 a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

The Family of God

Paul begins this section of his letter by emphasizing how following Jesus means being part of a new kind of family. Here God is our Mother and Our Father and we are God’s children. But Paul extends this to how he tried to conduct his ministry among them. He didn’t try to manipulate them. He lived in a loving relationship with them. It involved the tender care that a mother provides for a child. Giving them what they need and bringing them along to solid food. But it’s a striking female image here in sharp contrast to all the macho leadership methods often lifted up in the church these days. But he’s not placing himself in the role of Mother. He also says he was fatherly to them. Again in the sense of giving loving guidance and encouragement. He calls them kindred, translated here brothers and sisters.
So we should try to think of each other as family to the extent it is appropriate and practical. We have some basic responsibilities to love each other. This is a big struggle in the modern church. Many people tend to think of church as like a mcdonalds for religion. I drive in, get some fast food and go on my way doing my thing. During the Pandemic it may be even easier to fall into this thinking. It takes real commitment to truly experience the life change that Jesus is offering us. It’s a different way of life following ancient pathways rather than new slick roads. But when Jesus is just an idea that makes me feel better and church is the building I go to or the website I logon to so I can get my dose of feel good, we are experiencing something, but it isn’t really the gospel.
Now I’m not saying having a church building is bad or having a website or livestreaming. These are very helpful tools. But the gospel is an entire way of life. The Church is a family to belong to: not in a cult like way that wants to manipulate your life. But it is a different life than a lone cowboy roaming the countryside. It’s a life with bonds of love. It’s a life with sharing your time and your ability and your resources. Stuff that healthy brothers and sisters do for each other.

Preaching and Living the Gospel

Paul started his life with them by preaching and living the gospel in a caring way: checking on them, praying for them. Giving them some tools and lots of encouragement so they could grow more mature quickly. The idea was for them to live lives worthy of God because God has called them into his Kingdom and glory. So once again we see it’s not about earthly kingdoms and kings. It’s about living up to the kingdom that is higher. Lives worthy of God. God calling everyone, not just pastors. All of us are called into his Kingdom. That means something. That means stepping into another realm. Like a few times on Star Trek when they jumped through a portal and into another time or another reality. Living the Gospel means living into this calling.
That’s why we sang: It’s a new horizon and I’m set on you. And you meet me here today with mercies that are new. We are living into a new reality. It’s rooted in ancient ways but it’s renewed each day. So we should truly make the effort to stay in sync. It’s a new way of being that goes with deeper truth than we ever knew before on our own. This results in a whole new life.
So what does this involve?

Teaching the Word

He says in verse 13:
…the Word you heard from us... the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. So Paul spent a considerable amount of time studying and teaching the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible but it’s not just the words on a printed page. It’s a word that is alive. We get the word “message” from this word. So it’s when the Scriptures become a specific message to people in a particular location. This is one important way that God’s message comes to us. So we need pastors and preachers of the Scriptures. Who hold it up and help us see it for what it is. This is what Paul did for them in caring for them and encouraging them in a fatherly and even motherly kind of way.
In another place he tells Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:13–14 NIV
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
2 Timothy 4:2 NRSV
2 proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.
This is what I try to do as your pastor.
Paul also acknowledges that the Thessalonians have their part to fulfill in this process. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, lol...

Receiving the Word

Paul says they did a good job, at least early on, doing their part.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV
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 a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
They received it as the Word of God. This means they were teachable. The average person is not highly teachable. But the Thessalonians were above average in responsiveness to the Word of God. Be a Thessalonian!
Do you want to be more like Jesus? Do you want to see his Kingdom come? It begins by opening your heart to the message about Jesus and to advanced teaching about how your life needs to make progress with your beliefs. Too many people say that believe way up here! [gesture high up] but their lives are still way down here. [gesture low] Now at the start that’s ok because we don’t know any better. That’s why Paul was patient. And let me just say as a pastor it’s a whole lot easier to be patient withe someone who has a deep desire to grow than it is to be patient with someone who is stubborn and not interested in progress. Amen? Now I’m sure that’s nobody here today… :) To simplify it for you: I’m here to encourage you and I’m also here to be encouraged by you. I want to help you grow in any way I can but you can’t blame me if you aren’t even trying to change. I care so much that all of you would grow and thrive in Jesus and in the Word and in His Kingdom. But ultimately I can’t care more than you do about your spiritual growth. You have to find that motivation. I think that’s what Paul meant when we said elsewhere: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. In other words care about this. Realize how serious it is and put some energy into it. Surely the love God has shown us and the pain in your past are enough motivation to answer that call into the Kingdom and his glory. But really that’s up to you. God has so much for you, if you really want it.
The Thessalonians received the Word and it showed in their lives. How is it showing in yours?

Sharing the Word

I want to touch on a couple of things that this means for our daily living. For Paul, receiving the Word meant sharing the Word and that’s what he did with his life. So naturally this was the same energy that flowed through their lives. They witnessed to their faith in Christ. They tried to live worthy lives. I’m sure they weren’t perfect. But we know they didn’t reject this letter. They saved it and passed it on so we could benefit today. So we know for sure they shared it because they ultimately shared it with us.
How are you doing at sharing the Word? How are you doing at encouraging others? Like a nursing mother. Like a caring father. As if we were brothers and sisters. This is how we are to pass on our faith. In holiness and in love.

Suffering for the Word

1 Thessalonians 2:14 NIV
14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
These folks were willing to step up and I want to point out something here that is relevant in our times. I hear so many Christian talking heads battling against non-believers trying to make the laws and the advantages suit us. We have to be very careful in walking this thin line. Paul says that being willing to suffer at the hands of your countrymen is a sign of being in Christ. Our lives are always in God’s hands. Here’s what it definitely doesn’t say: alienate every neighbor you have who votes differently and let them know they are scum and evil. Personally I don’t predict that our nation will suddenly collapse or surge into thriving on the basis of how the election turns out. We’ve let it go off the rails and it will take a lot of loving and healing work to get our nation unified again. I pray for whoever will be president in January. But I put my trust in Christ Jesus. If we act like an election is the end of the world, then we have to consider that our faith is in the comforts of this world a little too much.
I hope you never have to suffer for the Word. But if all your suffering is someone on tv rejecting the way you voted, you aren’t suffering that much. If all your suffering is having to watch the person you didn’t vote for leading the country, well you’d be just like everyone living in Roman times, which was the New Testament era. But even if our neighbors started calling themselves our enemies, we could still try to love them. We could still try to help them in their time of need. We could still know who we are and to whom we belong. If it went beyond this and we had to lose property or become persecuted intensely like the Jews or countless others across the ages, we would still be living well in another kingdom where we are rich in love and good deeds, storing up treasures for ourselves in heaven.
I don’t think we are even close to that yet. I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot of time worrying about. The thing that can turn it around will always be love. Love your neighbor while you freely can. Receive the Word. Deeply desire it and receive teaching and love that can form you in faith. Be a Thessalonian who receives it as the very Word of God, which it is and which is at work in all y’all who believe… Let’s pray
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