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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflecting on 1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians was written by Paul to a church he established there around the year 50 A.D. during his second missionary journey (Acts 17). It was a city that had approximately 200,000 people during this time. Paul's custom was to go the synagogues where Jewish people met for worship. Jews from Alexandria had established in Thesalonica around 168-103 B.C. What is interesting here is what Paul's strategy was when he started new churches. He went to the synagogues and as a Jew, he would be allowed to speak to those present. He presented the Gospel: how Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament, how it was necessary for Him to die and rise from the dead to give everlasting life to those who believe. The message was simple. Some received it. Many rejected it and turned against Paul. But those who God granted to believe became the foundation of the new church.


In 1 Thessalonians Paul reminds the church in Thesalonica how they had come to believe. He points to the evidence of their belief. The evidence was observed by those around them, especially as they experienced persecution from those who did not believe. Their faith had a profound effect and was noticed by those around them. Paul describes their conversion:


"For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (v. 9)


Their conversion involved several things:


1. Turning away from idols.

That is what repentance means. It means turning away from something, in this case the worship of idols. Thesalonica was known for their idols. It may seem strange to us, but idols can take different forms. An idol is anything that we give worship (the worth). Idols have no power, except that it makes us feel better. But they do nothing for us with the exception of making us captives to them.


2. Serving the living God.

It is not enough to turn from something if you are not turning to something. They turned away from worshipping idols to worshipping the true and living God. There is only ONE true God. That is what the Bible teaches. And He is not an idol, He is a living, transcendent Being. He can be known. We can serve Him.


3. Waiting for Jesus's 2nd Coming.

We hear all kinds of predictions of the end of the world. But that is not what Christians wait for. They wait for Jesus Christ who is coming back from Heaven. And He is not coming to save but to judge. Those that have believed in Him do not have to fear. They will be delivered from His wrath.


Why would Jesus do that? Isn't he about love. He is! He loved us so much he gave his life so that we can know and serve the living God. Now. If you want to wait until He comes back then it will be too late.


Becoming a Christian is not about changing religions (akin to changing idols). It is about turning away from those things that have captured our hearts to serve the living God available through the sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.




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