The Marks of a Miracle and Mighty Church! Pt. 4
Preached By Ken Humphries,
We have taken time to examine the content of their evangelism, lets now examine the context of their evangelism. And we might well ask, in what context did they carry out this powerful evangelism? Well, it seems very evident that the context in which they carried out this evangelism is threefold. V9. Look what they have been saved from! "And how you turned to God from Idols" v9a.
Nothing in this life is of more importance than having a true understanding of your Spiritual Condition. I received a letter recently to attend my doctors surgery for an M.O.T. that is to have a check up with respect to the condition of my heart and my blood and to ensure I was in as good working order as it’s possible for someone my age to be in. I must say, I was deeply impressed! They did not do very much and were surprised by my comment, well is that it? What were you expecting? came the reply. They did two things, they gave something to me and took something from me.
They gave me a tetanus injection that was something to protect me from the many poisons that war against my blood and secondly, they took from me some blood, through the examination of which, they could determine just how healthy or otherwise I was. And in a very real sense that is something we should carry out on ourselves from time to time, a Spiritual M.O.T. There are two things here which show that these believers were in good Spiritual health, they turned to God and they turned in their Idols. And if there are some things more than others we need to know today it is to be continually aware of the fact that we have turned to God and that we have turned in our idols. Now, firstly, what does it mean to turn to God?
It means repentance--A change of mind! Matt.3v8 + Matt. 4v17.
It means regeneration—A change of heart! John 3v3.
It means conversation—A change of life! Matt. 18v3.
It means adoption—A change of family! Rom. 8v14-17.
It means sanctification—A change of behaviour! Heb. 10v14-16.
It means justification—A change of state! Rom. 5v1.
It means glorification—A change of place! John 17v24.
(I draw the above from Dr.John Phillips)
Some years ago a prisoner was studying a correspondence course, as he did so he came under conviction of sin and was wonderfully saved. In a later paper he was asked to express where he stood in relation to his new found faith. His remark was perceptive indeed, he wrote, "I am a new man in an old body." That is exactly what we are, new people in old bodies! But you know it goes even beyond that for one day we will be new people in new bodies, and on that day we will face the final test by the Lord of Glory himself. Thus the need for a Spiritual M.O.T. from time to time, in time.
Secondly, what does it mean to turn in your idols? By the way, what is an idol? Well, an idol is anything I fear more than God, anything I love more than God, anything I serve more than God and anything I worship more than God. When we turn in those idol’s God immediately gives us his Holy Spirit to fill that void, that vacuum.
I will have the Spirit of Truth, John 14v7. which means I should never be deceived! I will have the Spirit of Faith, 2 Cor.4v13.which means I should never be discouraged! I will have the Spirit of Grace, Heb. 10v29. which means I should never be disgruntled! I will have the Spirit of Holiness, Rom. 1v4. which means I should never be defiled! I will have the Spirit of Wisdom, Eph.1v17. which meansI should never be daunted! I will have the Spirit of Power, 2 Tim. 1v7. which means I should never be defeated! I will have the Spirit of Love, 2 Tim. 1v7. which means I should never be discordant! I will have the Spirit of a sound mind, 2 Tim. 1v7. which means I should never be disturbed! I will have the Spirit of Life, Rom. 8v2which means I should never be dead and I will have the Spirit of Glory, 1 Peter 4v14.which means I should never be dull! (I draw the above from Dr.John Phillips)
The interesting thing is, each of these wonderful characteristics is a characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ and is that not our worthy task in these amazing days, to Glorify Him. Read carefully Kenneth Wuest’s translation of v9 of our chapter.
"For they themselves kept on reporting concerning you what kind of an entrance we had as we came to you." Now that word reporting is the word testifying which means they had been testifying about these Thessalonians. Who had? Why these people from Macedonia and Achaia. They had been giving testimony of the Thessalonians and their new found faith. Interesting! Here was a people whose testimony was being given for them by the unsaved world around them, and believe me, it was a good testimony.
"Have you heard about these folks at Thessalonica? Can you imagine it, they have turned to God, they have turned in their idol worship and I tell you there really is a change in those folks. It’s real! It’s real! No hypocritical lifestyle with them, it’s personal, it’s pure, it’s powerful." Anyone who lives like that and sounds such a pure note for Jesus Christ and serves God in that wonderful way deserves a listing.
Dr. Vance Havner says, "The Church needs time out to tune up. We are so busy building a bigger and better orchestra that we cannot stop to tune our instruments" He continues in another context, "The early Church did something because they believed something. We are trying to do what they did without believing what they believed." (end quote)
The second context in which they carried out this evangelism is, look what they have been saved to v9b. "to serve the living and true God" Now, there stands out a wonderful duet here. Notice in Christian service how service and Sovereignty are always married. That simply means that any service I render for God must be in the perfect will of the Sovereign God and it must be in the power of the Sovereign God!
To serve the living and true God is a very blessed privilege indeed, but how can we best give that service. In Mark’s Gospel chapter 13v34 Jesus said, "to every man his work" reminding us that in God’s work every member has a place to fill, even the weaker ones. (1 Cor.12v22-23) So as there is service for all, how best can we carry out that service to the Glory of God. Here are wise words from the pen of the past.
If you plant for a year, plant grain, if you plant for ten years, plant trees, if you plant for one hundred years, plant men, if you plant for Eternity, plant God’s Word.
An old professor of biology used to hold a little brown seed in his hand, it was barely visible to the eye of his students. He would say, I know just exactly the composition of this seed. It has nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon. I know the exact proportions. I can make a seed that will look exactly like this one, but if I plant my seed it will come to naught; its elements will simply be absorbed in the soil. If on the other hand I plant the seed God made, it will become a plant because it contains the mysterious principle which we call the life principle. And so it is with men and woman, John 12v24.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." This is a practice that cannot change! The corn of wheat is the word "kokkos" signifying the seed corn of the wheat. And we know, don’t we, that all gardening and farming are founded on that principle, that a seed has to be sown in the ground, that its germ of life can reproduce only when the seed is sown and dies. A grain of corn can never fulfil the "law of its being" apart from the process of death, burial, and reproduction in resurrection.
Now the reason we Christians are called seed is because we contain life. John 3v36.
"He who believes in the Son of God has everlasting life; and he who does not believethe Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him" N.K.J.V.
And by the way, you will discover in this world, wherever God plants true seed, true believers, Satan comes and plants counterfeit. Satan is not an originator; he is an imitator 2 Cor. 11v13. Christians are like seed in that they are small but can be powerful, but also like seed, its only when we are planted, buried in Christ that the power is released, and this is the practice that cannot be changed. It’s another way of saying, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me! This is always to be the context of any evangelism, there must be death to self, sin and the world. Rom.13v14 "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."
This is also a paradox that cannot be changed. John 12v25. "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life."
The paradox is that death is the way to life! We must be so committed to the Lord Jesus Christ we will off load everything else. Rom. 6v1-7v6.
An old Man to be put to death! Ch.6v6. b. An old Monarch to defeat!
An old Master to depose! Ch.6v16-18. d. An old Marriage to dissolve!
If burial is the way to light, then death is the way to life, real life! I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today, I know that He is living whatever men may say.
John Ruskin, the English author, said, "the highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it." This is what Paul, in 2 Tim. 1v6 called the stirring up of the gift that is in thee. What have I become for God?
Again, this is a principle that cannot be changed, John 12v26 "if any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me him will my father honour."
C.H.Spurgeon said, there are no crown wearers in Heaven who were not cross bearers on earth! This is a principle that every dear Christian must determine in their own hearts. What world am I living for?
We can live for Jesus and the world to come and be in receipt of our reward, or we can live for this old world and be losers in the world to come.
1 Cor. 3v15. "If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."
It’s very possible to have a saved soul and yet have a lost life! Many have been saved but have never served or served with a wrong attitude and that means great loss.
As we conclude this segment there are two texts worth thinking about John 14v21 and 2 Tim.4v7-8. Here we have a two fold honour for those who will truly serve the Lord. On earth, Jesus will manifest (make known) himself to us, in heaven He will manifest us with a crown of honour! What are we saved to? To serve the living and true God. You are either leaving your mark on this world, or the world is leaving its mark on you.
The third context in which they carried out this evangelism is, look what they have been saved for, v9c. "to wait for His Son from heaven", It is true, they are not long saved but one thing marks them out as being truly the Lord’s, they are living in the hope of a coming Lord and Saviour. You see, wherever there is a true love for the dear Saviour there will be a true looking for and longing to meet the one who is everything to us. And that should be the major hope of every dear believer. The hymn writer puts it like this. With such a blessed hope in view, we would more holy be; more like our risen glorious Lord, whose face we soon shall see.
What is your hope? On what does your hope rest? This world puts its hope in banks, saving institutions, political leaders, military power, the things of this world, but as Solomon discovered these were all "vanity of vanities." That’s why when people lose those things, they are like someone going through a desert panting with thirst, who see a mirage and instead of finding what will quench their thirst, they find only dry and parching sand. If our hope is built on anything but a coming Saviour, it is a wasted hope. I realise much mystery surrounds or clouds our full understanding of many of the features of our Lord’s return. But if you think that is an excuse for ignorance, scepticism, or apathy on this great subject of the Second Coming, then you need to have another thought. Many times in the Bible we are encouraged to discern the signs of the times in order that we may be watchful and ready, to keep alert. Underscoring the mystery of His return for the disciples, the Lord Jesus reminded them many, many times, "The Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." But the corollary he continually and inevitably stressed was:
"Therefore you also be ready" (Luke 12v40). The Lord Jesus even rebuked some folks for being oblivious to the signs of the times: "O you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky; but you cannot discern the signs of the times." (Matt. 16v3b). And John the beloved Apostle when instructed to pen The Book of the Revelation, was instructed right at the beginning of the book to have these words inserted, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Rev.1v3).
So you see, these are issues we should study and gain a keen awareness of while we seek to deepen our understanding of God’s Holy Word. We cannot afford to treat as unimportant the study of eschatology just because it presents us with inscrutable features or back away from it just because it is such fertile ground for disagreement.
We are commanded to know the signs of the times, to continually be watchful, and to be ready whatever time Christ comes. Why the hope of Christ’s Coming is a hope that purifies and prepares. And a Hopeful, Holy life prepares us for the fight and the finish as Paul reminds young Timothy in 2 Tim.4v1-8. In essence, that is what has happened in this infant Church at Thessalonica. It is without doubt, they have a sure Hope in the coming of their Saviour which produces a Holiness of life that prepares them for the Fight and for the Finish. Because of their hope they will be found faithful to the end. No faint heartedness here, no throwing in the towel half way through the fight here, this is a fight to the finish and they expect to be there at the finish and they expect to receive their reward. Here is a Church, if being tried on the charge of being Christian, without any shadow of doubt would be convicted. They are an Energetic Church, an Elect Church, an Exemplary Church, an Evangelistic Church, and most certainly, an Expecting Church.
The early Church had its greatest impact upon the world when it lived least like the World. Truly, this was a Miracle and Mighty Church for Jesus Christ!
It appears that Themistocles, when a boy, was full of spirit and fire, quick of apprehension, naturally inclined to bold attempts, and likely to make a great statesman. His hours of leisure and vacation he spent not--like other boys--in idleness and play, but he was always inventing and composing declamations, the subjects of which were either impeachment’s or defences of some of his schoolmates, so that his teacher would often say, "Boy, you will be nothing common or indifferent. You will either be a blessing or a curse to the community."
So remember, you who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus, that to you indifference is impossible! You must bless the church and the world by your Holiness, or you will curse them both by your hypocrisy and inconsistency. In the visible church it is most true that "no man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself." Charles Haddon Spurgeon.