Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Book of 1 & 2 Thessolonians
In the Book of Acts chapter 17 we read that during his 1st missionary journey the Apostle Paul, along with his colleagues Silas and Timothy, came to the Greek capital of Thessalonica. Their visit to this town would prove to be much different than many of their previous stops. If you follow Paul’s ministry you will find the heart of a church planter. Every town he moved into he did with focus, vision and determination; preaching the Gospel of Jesus, establishing churches, raising up leaders and then handing the church over as he prepared to move on to the next city. But things did not go as planned in Thessalonica. Acts 17 tells us that things started normal enough. Paul, as he had done numerous times before, went into the Jewish Synagogue and began to tell of the wondrous story of Jesus. We read that this happened for 3 weeks and during that time many put their faith in Christ. This infant church was a ragtag group made up of Jews, devout Greeks, and prominent women in the city. All indications showed that there was a lot of work to be done here before this church could ever stand on it’s own. In a perfect world Paul would have the time to invest and disciple these believers to full Christian maturity.
But the 1st century Roman empire wasn’t perfect by any means, especially for those preaching Christ. There was a mob that formed in the middle of the city. They went into the homes where the Christian missionaries were reported to be staying. When their search for Paul turned up empty they drug a small group of believers to the city courthouse where they were scolded and warned that there would be no more talk of this Jesus in Thessalonica. That night Paul, Silas and Timothy where whisked out of town for their own safety. I am sure they wondered if their three week investment in this baby church would have any staying power with the odds stacked so mightily against her. The book of Acts charges forward leaving us with the same question, what will come of the believers in Thessalonica? That question is answered in the opening of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, check it out! “6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering 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.” How is it that a church with so much stacked against it thrived in this way? Popular thinking in the church today tells us that if we are going to make an impact in our world, our community, or even our own church we must first be in a deliberate discipleship process with “mature Christians”.
We need to learn from people who have been around the block a time or two, attended enough Bible studies, served on a Deacon board; you know the kind of people the church needs to move forward. Although this is a great model for development, what do we do when there is no one there? Do we just sit and wait for someone to come along? Do we resign ourselves to thinking I can’t get where God is calling me if there is no one here to show me the way? Paul commends the Thessalonians for refusing to believe this. In these 2 Epistles we see a church that heard the Message, responded with joy and then allowed the Holy Spirit to take it from there. In a world that is constantly looking for the next guru, the next book, the next “it” church, what a beautiful simplicity! I know I am guilty at times of allowing my pursuit of God to warp into a pursuit of men. The Thessalonians allowed the Holy Spirit to become the teacher and guide for their church. When they had no one to lean on, they dove into scripture and allowed God’s Spirit to do a work in them. Maybe this “handicapped” church had a distinct advantage in never learning to look to an Apostle, a Pastor or an Evangelist. They learned that true maturity came through a living relationship with God, His Word and His Spirit. We are so lucky at the Genesis Project to have many mature Christians who give their lives to God and to discipling other believers. But with this great treasure, we need to be cautious that we are ultimately not looking to a person but to God.
Each of us, whether we have been a Christian for 20 years or 20 days, has a responsibility to pursue God on our own. We have the opportunity to know God intimately through His Word and through His Spirit. Those who come along beside us are just icing on the cake. I am reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We are promised to find God when we seek HIM. I am so thankful that this was the promise to the church of Thessalonica. I am so thankful that this is the promise for us today.