I’d like to challenge you to read the book of Thessalonians this week. Then I’d like you to read chapter 1 in 3 different versions – it is only about 10 verses – so it should take you about 45 seconds per version. You need to take it beyond Sunday morning – you need to go deeper. I urge you to take the time to really get to know your Bible. It is what we are supposed to base our lives on – we need to know it.
Some versions are ‘word for word’ – which is really a misnomer – formal equivalency, because you can’t really have word for word translations. Then some are thought for thought (functional equivalency) and others are paraphrases .
You can use BibleGateway.com to read in many translations – or blueletterbible.org
I will be emailing out how to go deeper in the word – and will include some links. Tim Keller does an interview with Christiana from CNN(?) - “The gospel will question and confront every culture at its roots.”
I’d like to give some background. We’ve had lots of maps, so here is another one.
Thessaloniki is at the top – it is in northern Greece, near Philippi. Acts 16-18. Called Therma until about 315 BCE by General Cassander – Thessaly Victory (nike = victory)
It was an important trade route - Via Egnatia – most important port in the area –
Lord, I thank you for Eric and his trip – use that time – we ask that students in China would come to Christ. Thank You for the work You are doing in China – it is amazing how the underground church is thriving – we have much to learn from them here. We pray for their support, that you would help to provide for them. May Your words in this book become real in our lives and make us different people as we study and apply your word to our lives. May we have ears to hear – to make the most of these days we have here on this earth. We pray for those in the South who have been hit by tornadoes – may the Chistian witness serve them well. May Your grace, mercy and comfort go out to those people as well. May we live to honor You.
Paul gets a call to go to Philippi – then he is chased out of the city – and comes to Thessalonica.
17:1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and [saying,] "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."
Paul would go to the synagogue – because the gospel was first for the Jews.
Luke – and Acts – are together – the Gospel is part 1 and Acts is part 2 of one large book.
There is almost identical working to last week…
Luke 24: 25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Paul reasoned from the Scriptures – that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again.
These Jews hadn’t heard yet – it was the first they were hearing of this. At first they couldn’t understand – How could this be the Messiah? We are not victorious under a new leader and new government. So in this gospel message, there is a proclamation of something different.
As we move on –
Acts 17 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
We think we proclaim things and God does this miracle. But we have a responsibility to reason/explain, prove/persuade people to come to faith in Christ. We need to take the time to do this! Do you have the ability to persuade someone why it is important to come to Jesus? Are you able to share why Jesus is the answer to the question of what they need? I challenge you to get to know your Bible and to learn how to share your faith. Then when God give s you the opportunity – you can share it – and share it clearly. First understand your faith – then share it. Lee Strobel has written a number of ‘The Case for…’
It is all of our responsibilities to communicate our faith.
For the Jews, He had to explain why The Christ had to suffer.
First, people need a Savior. Most don’t even realize they need a Messiah. They have most what they need – and we need to be able to show people that they need someone to save them from their sin. Technology won’t work, education won’t work, the government won’t work – those things don’t change the world.
Second, we need to be able to persuade that God’s justice demands the cross. There is a penalty for sin and rebellion. There is judgment coming – and apart from the judgment that Christ took at the cross – there is no payment for them apart from Jesus. People think they are pretty good – but it is our job to communicate in a winsome, reasoned way, that no, you need someone to die on the cross for your sins – and without that you can’t make it.
Third, God really can forgive and that God forgives sinners. There is a tremendous amount of shame in our society today. This is big, and we don’t realize. I listened to a story on my iPod (while mowing th grass) about a woman who spent years in jail – not believing that God could accept her – and then she came to Christ. She didn’t believe that God could accept her and that a community could either. People are dealing with significant shame.
We need to be a community that convinces people that these things are true – who forgive and accept and show God’s love and forgiveness. Here is a place where I learn forgiveness. Here is a place I learn and understand what Christ has done for me and I am accepted, not rejected.
Acts 17: 5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they did not find them, they [began] dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting,
Some are converted of the Jews, but mostly, it is Gentiles. And that is the start of a new trend. The Jews don’t like what is being preached, so they stir up trouble and they grab Jason -
"These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus. " 8 And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.
So they come in and say that these men have disrupted and disturbed the entire world and are defying Caesar. Their conduct is subversive. This is a very serious charge – like treason. And we have to ask, Why? What did they do? They were peaceful, law-abiding citizens – charitable – good neighbors who didn’t abuse political power. Yet they were viewed as disrupting the world.
1) We can be looked at as troublemakers. In their worship – in the Roman world, it was pluralistic – many religions and gods. But with Christianity – there is a preaching of one God and He is exclusive – and everything else is wrong – and that had tremendous repercussions. But even today – we are coming in with a message – there is one exclusive way to God. There is one exclusive way to God. IN His name only – there is no other name in heaven and earth by which people can be saved.
2) They were not political or subversive – but they spoke a message in opposition to most if not all of what the Roman Empire believed.
3) The gospel will question and confront every culture. Do you know what that means? It will question and confront our culture. What we speak and believe should stand in opposition to what the current culture believes?
Are you a trouble maker? Not because they were doing anything bad – they were doing everything good but it went counter to what everyone else was wanting. The issue – they came with The Gospel – and were changed. We need our lives to be changed by what we believe. Continually by what we read and believe – ad that we are not like what we see in the rest of the world.
The political impact – the imperial cult – believed that Caesar was Lord and King. It was okay to worship others gods in their culture – but the Christians said, we will only worship our one God. There are many things that can capture our minds as idols – like taking something good and raising it up to something it is not supposed to be raised up to. Things become as important to us as God is – When Paul went in to Thessalonica:
1 Thess. 1: 9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God
It was to serve Him – to change things – to give Him His rightful place – and we need to check – as we go through Thessalonians – is there anything else that means too much to you? And I mean anything else – your marriage, children, church, career? When good things become ultimat things, they are idols that take away from God. They lead us astray. God demands our whole hearts – and demands our loyalty – and when we do that – and do it well because of our loyalty, He must be first – He demands that! As they were chased out of town after town of the Roman world, saying that God demands first place in our hearts and in every way.
Lord, we long to give you first place in our hearts – help us to see, Lord, and to understand Your rightful place and what we owe You and what You’ve done for us. Help us to give it willingly, knowing that when we give our lives to You, we will never be disappointed. You know what is best for us – and what will make us fulfilled, happy, satisfied – and as we give our lives to You in every area, we will experience You. We will experience the good, acceptable, will of God. In Your name we pray.