"The Visible Church"
The church is the people, and how we are seen by others identifies our character. When people see you, do they see a Christian marked by perseverance, authenticity, and God-focused? That's how Paul wanted to be seen.
The Visible Church
(1 Thes. 2:1-12)
A. When you examine how the message of God has changed who are what are some of the marks in you of a Christian? I ask that question because the point of being a Christian is to be like Christ. It takes an intense desire to become the disciple of Jesus many of us say we want to be.
B. But when asked what short term goals help you reach your long term goals, many Christians eyes gloss over and begin to tune out the rest of the conversation. Yet, for some, Christianity is so “old hat” that it acting like the character of Christ, thinking like the mind of Christ, and possessing the heart of Christ is not our intentional goal.
C. When you think about the early church, people who were introduced to Christianity by Paul or others, they had to judge those people based upon their message and their method. Paul understood that in his day there were many “wandering philosophers” that were often out to make money on the emotions of people. They knew how to manipulate others through persuasive rhetoric and Paul knew that the message of God was far different than the message of men. So he strove to become as close to the image of Jesus as possible so that the message would be God’s message and not his. That is what made the church visible to the world. People judged the message and method of Christians.
D. So we come to this letter that Paul writes to young in the faith Christians and walks them through how he was with them, in part so they would know how they ought to be with others. These marks, or traits, of being God’s light are just as valuable to us today as it was to the church in Thessalonica when Paul wrote this letter.
A. Read with me 1 Thes. 2:1-2. Christian people, the visible church to the world, does not quit just because life is difficult. Paul make reference to Philippi and them.
B. He begins by telling them that his time with them was not a failure. So many times people feel like something is a failure because it didn’t turn out just the way they thought it would. It just might be that what you thought didn’t turn out the way it should, was simply a part of God’s greater plan. Paul and Silas were beaten, locked in prison in Philippi and there God gave them the opportunity to share their faith through song and prayer. God blessed that with an earthquake that brought a jailor to salvation. Philippi was far from a failure even though Paul was physically beaten.
C. Thessalonica, the next stop and home to this congregation met Paul again with a riot that forced him to leave quickly, not giving these young Christians much time to be developed in the wisdom and knowledge of God, but again, Paul’s time with them was not a failure. The church was growing because this congregation, like Paul, didn’t quit went it got difficult.
D. I want to make a point here that is a little different than our text. While many Christians fear physical suffering and persecution, Satan can use the seemingly “good time” to cause us to become complacent, as I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon. Don’t fail to walk in Spirit simply because you are not being persecuted. Christians move forward in good time and difficult times.
II. Righteous Motivation
A. Let me take you to a second point Paul was teaching these Christians. READ 1 Thes. 2:3, 5
B. Our message is heard in the context of our character. People want to open up to someone who is authentic. Paul did not come with words of flattery. He was not trying to manipulate them, trick them, or simply try to get money from them.
C. Our motivation for needs be examined. Do we as a church want to have a large attendance, the nicest church building, the newest electronics, or the most money in the bank? When you share Jesus with a person who has limited knowledge of Him or the Bible, what is your goal?
D. Paul says their appeal was not driven by error or deceit. It was not simply flattery to manipulate them and they did not wear a cloak of covetousness. The NIV says “put on a mask to cover up greed.” This pretext for using spiritual teachings to swindle people from their money was not new. In several places Paul would write about such a mask.
E. The motivation of Paul was that God’s mission for him was to be a messenger of good news to everyone. To help people see beyond this life and examine if they will live with the one true God for eternity or separated from Him in a pit of darkness and despair.
F. Do I want to see people I care about in a covenant relationship with God through Jesus? Yes. Why, because I know what happens to those who do not obey the Gospel.
III. Pleasing God, Not Men
A. READ 1 Thes 2:4 and 6. Don’t make it your goal to please the sheep, make it your goal to please the Shepherd. It is difficult to please everyone. As one person said, “If you carry the football you better expect to be tackled.” You will not make everyone happy all the time.
B. If you have tried hard to do something you believe is good, you probably felt some degree of resistance from someone. Paul said to these Christians that he was not out to get the praise of men, instead he wanted the praise of God.
C. Jesus talked about Pharisees that stood on the street corner and prayed with many words so that they could be heard. His response to such action, “They have received their reward.” We must all ask ourselves, “Why do I do what I do in this church family?” God knows the heart of us all.
A. The visible church is you and me that people in this community see every day. It is not this building, it is not our doctrine, it is us. We are called to persevere, have a pure motive in how we deal with others and never forget our goal is to please the one true God. Don’t lose your zeal and fervor. Don’t’ let your faith stagnate. Be the one God has you.