We are going to continue to look at the letters or epistles to the churches from Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit. Every congregation of God’s Church that was written to was dealing with internal and/or external problems, just like the different congregations today. Government interference, offense, financial problems, a lack of Love, and the list goes on. Yet, they were called to be the Church and fulfill their mission. Just as we are today.
How do you behave with and toward unbelievers? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Do you tolerate them? Are you concerned about where they will spend eternity? Do you act like them when you aren’t around other believers? Do you ignore them, snub them, avoid them? Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine.
There are those who protest abortion clinics, crying out to those who are going in that they are baby killers, murders and that they will burn in Hell. Others, against homosexuals, protest at military funerals shouting at grieving families and display such signs as, “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God blew up the troop,s” and “AIDS cures fags.” (News article from CNN).
Others just don’t care one way or another, they are church attenders if nothing else is going on.
Then there are Christians who quietly build relationships with one another, their neighbors at work, on the street where they live, or in coffee chops. They serve God with the local church while always seeking to grow, they may also volunteer at a local shelter, stand outside of abortion clinics to pray, or be involved in the community as a witness to unbelievers.
Where do you fit in? Do you share your faith using hugs or headlocks? Honey or vinegar? Or do you even share your faith at all?
The letter to the congregations of God’s Church in Thessalonica starts out with Paul telling how he prays for them all. He goes on to applaud their faith and love in vs 3 and their steadfastness of hope in Christ Jesus. In vs 4 he reminds them of God’s love and that he knows they were chosen of God. Because they acted on what they heard, they were convicted, as vs. 5 tells us, by the Gospel, and they acted in power not just in word. In other words, they did not say one thing and do something else.
Then in vs.7 he tells them that they are an example to all believers…. First, they became examples because they received the word with joy in the midst of affliction.
Second, they were examples because “the word of God (The Gospel) sounded forth” from them. They, the Church, preached the word!!! They spread the Gospel, they talked about God’s Love and what had done for them, and that those they spoke with, witnessed to, could know God’s grace as well. And I can tell you that it was not just lip service or it would not have taken root. Their faith in God had gone forth as well and was seen in their faithful actions!
Third, the people in Macedonia and Achaia told of their turning from idols to the true and living God, to Jesus whom He raised from the dead who delivers us from the wrath to come. They were known for their service to the living and true God. Do people know that you have turned to God? Do they know that we are disciples of Christ, a church of the living God?
What do the people in our area know about us? Are we known for our faith, for our turning away from the World, the flesh? Are we serving the living God or do we serve something else? Are we known for our love for one another and our service to Christ or is there something else we are known for?
Every word you speak, every action you take, is an example to others of your faith, belief, and love or lack thereof. And it is also to be an example of God’s Church and our congregation. When we gossip, bad mouth leadership, one another, the pastor or their family, if we are not involved because we are carrying a grudge or have chosen to take offense…what kind of example are we setting?
Do they know that we are a church of believers by our love for one another, others and, first and foremost, God? Who is to set the example of Christ likeness to the local communities, co-workers, neighbors? The local Church is!
You are that local Church!!!
The example that we are to have is that we are one in Christ, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Church was a new creation – and the Church is a New Creation. Back before Jesus, there was no Church, no body of Christ. Now, as then, it is made up of those in Christ, those made new in and through Salvation. Notice the greeting…
Paul’s prayer is that the Church would extend the grace and peace they had received to others. Without God’s saving grace we could never experience peace, grace is receiving something that we do not deserve. Salvation is because of the grace of God. So without grace, we cannot know peace and, keep in mind, that peace is not just the absence of conflict. Biblical peace is fulfillment, wholeness, prosperity, security, and well-being. All of which we have in Christ. We have done nothing to earn our salvation and we should remember that as we minister to people as examples of Christ.
Maybe it’s time to set an example for other believers…
- Is today’s church an example for others?
- Since you are the Church, are you an example of Grace, Love, Mercy, and Peace?
- Do they know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another?