Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The First Jesus Freaks

                I found myself in 1 Thessalonians this morning, being encouraged by God’s word once again. It was on Paul’s second missionary journey that he wrote this letter to the believers in Thessalonica. According to scripture he was only there with them for a few weeks before traveling onwards and ending in Corinth. However, in those few short weeks that Paul and the others spent with these new believers, something amazing happened.
                “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place; Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to 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, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
                As I read these verses, I was amazed at how quickly these unbelievers became believers. Paul was not with them long, yet they received the word of the Lord freely and with great joy. Not only did they believe, but there was a fire lit within them that burned so brightly that it was spoken of throughout all of Macedonia (which is modern day Greece). Paul says that they “became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia”, which when you look at a map of these times, that was a very great distance indeed. There were no phones, no internet, nothing but the word of mouth to carry the message of these believers to the surrounding cities and countries.  
                One commentary I read said that as Paul and Timothy and the others were travelling around to various regions, the faith and love of the Thessalonians was told to them. How great must have been their faith! To spend only a few short weeks with Paul, learning from him and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, then to go out and live lives that were proclaimed throughout all the regions! These Thessalonians were on fire for Jesus. They were truly the first “Jesus Freaks”. But as I was reading this, I thought about my own faith, my own love and my own walk with the Lord. Is my faith and love for the Lord Jesus Christ spoken of or do I try to speak of it on my own?
                The Thessalonians did not go around telling everyone about what they did, they did not tell others about their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope” what they did that was so spoken of was their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul says that their “faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” (vs. 7) Their faith in God speaks for itself. They did not need to hang a sign out in front of their church to tell others how wonderful they are. The people living in the areas around them heard about their faith and they became examples of how to live and how to walk.
                Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:2, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” These Thessalonians did not need to tell everyone about what they were doing for Jesus, their faith spoke for itself. As I pondered on this, I thought of myself and the times that I have sought to be noticed for a good deed that I have done. I was convicted of those times. What I do for the Lord, what I do in His name, He knows, He sees, and He rewards according to His desire. But when I go out and “tell” people of my good works, of my wonderful faith in Jesus, I am no better than the hypocrites that Jesus was referring to. I am seeking the praise of men and not the praise that comes from God.
                Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be an example to others. Just like the Thessalonians. They were on fire for Jesus, and no one and nothing was going to stand in their way. They dove in heart first and never looked back. Paul was a proud papa of the Thessalonians; his letter begins with thanksgiving towards them and for their faith in Jesus. That passion that these Thessalonians had is the same passion we as believers today need to embrace. We get so caught up in the works that we forget who we are working for.
                What we do for Jesus is for Him and Him alone. If we are doing it to get noticed, or to stand out as great people of faith, or to be the best church in the area, then our hearts are not where they need to be, and we need to do a Thessalonian check on our hearts. My faith in Christ should ignite passion and desire in others, it should stir up in them a desire to follow after Jesus. My faith should be spoken of not because of me, but because of Jesus Christ and the work He is doing in my life. Our faith in God should speak for itself. The love that these Thessalonians had, their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patient endurance for the hope that was to come was so widely seen and felt by others, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was spread over thousands of miles. Can you imagine how Paul and the others must have felt as they walked from city to city, mile after mile, country after country and heard people talking about the “faith of the Thessalonians”?
                Is our faith spoken of, or do we try to proclaim it ourselves? That is a question I had to ask myself this morning, and one that I need to work on. Proverbs 31: 31 encourages us women to keep doing what we are called to do, and let our own works praise us in the gates. We do not need the praise of man, for if we seek the praise of man, then we are not seeking the heart of God. The faith and love we have for Jesus Christ should not have to be spoken of by us, it should be spoken of because of it. Our faith in God should speak for itself. My love, my faith, my works should incite others to follow Jesus Christ. Does yours?
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:31