The book of Acts serves as a history of the spreading flame of the gospel throughout the Roman empire and beyond. Thousands are baptized in Acts 2. Later we see the astounding conversion of the terrorist Saul of Tarsus. Persecution broke out against the church, but Christians kept sharing the great news of the resurrected Christ and every persecution just seems to cause an explosion in growth and passion for serving Jesus.
Whether it is a pandemic or persecution, the spark of Christianity is never silenced. The need for the message of Jesus is never diminished. Our experience with COVID-19 and the response to it has shifted our lives in so many ways. One of them is the way we are spending time together this morning. I think it’s changing every day, as we long for renewed freedoms and at the same time we are cautious about placing ourselves at risk. The financial strain, family strain, and constantly thinking about the virus has worn us down.
Christians face this pandemic from a certain perspective – our faith is in Christ. We are people who are on the mission of Christ, and we wear the name of Christ. More than any other time I wonder what we are known for? Those New Testament Christians were known for their resilience and unending mission to spread the gospel. But in the here and now – when the pressure of life is immense – what are we known for?
I want us to look at 1 Thessalonians 1 – a church Paul called a ‘model church’ to see what they were known for – and the kinds of things we should be known for as well.
In a Pandemic World What Should the Church Be Known For?
We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. 3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work…1 Thessalonians 1:2-3a, NLT
AMP: Work energized by faith
Living the life of faith would be one of active work and service. This is a challenge with social distancing – but it is not impossible. Faith is always active – not just a matter of prayer and conviction. It is evidenced by seeking God and by serving others.
Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, NLT
What kind of work are you known for? What kinds of works can you say your faith is energizing you to do? That’s what we desire as individuals and as churches.
1 Thessalonians 1:3b “…We think of … your loving deeds…”
What is your love for God and others leading you to do? This is a theme in most of Paul’s letters, and this one too!
And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.1 Thessalonians 3:12
But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.1 Thessalonians 4:9
But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.1 Thessalonians 5:8
Love is spoken of as overflowing for all people, taught by God, and a protection for Christians. When the pressure is on… when we are tense or afraid or uncertain … do we still allow the life of faith to produce loving deeds for others? What do we want to be known for? Faithful Work, Loving Deeds, and …
1 Thessalonians 1:3c We think of your…. enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
AMP: unwavering hope
I imagine all of us have wavered some in this crisis – it would only be natural. But when we think about what Jesus has done for us and for the promises God will keep – we can keep hope strong in our hearts. We are a people of Hope – not because we have all the answers, but because we have THE ANSWER. Jesus is our only hope and we can put all of our trust in Him. Hope, in the Bible, is not a think so, but it is a know so. The basis of that hope is God’s love.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.
We need to always pray that God will remind us of the hope we have in Christ and to never let anything shake that.
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.Hebrews 12:28
Are we known as a people of hope? How have you purposefully spent time reminding yourself of the hope you have in Christ? How have you offered hope to the world around you?
1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true….
We receive the Good News with power – God has the power to change our lives and save our souls and use us to love and bless others. We receive the assurance from the Holy Spirit – as we read the Bible, as we live out the message. Are we known as a people who are receptive to the Word of God? I believe so! But we also must make ourselves available to the Word to receive it.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.
The origins of the Thessalonian church is found in Acts 17. The church was birthed in persecution and violence. Paul and Silas came into town and taught in the synagogue about the Messiah Jesus. Several believed – including some prominent women – but the religious leaders were furious. One believer there was dragged before a court – his name was Jason. Three things about Jason: He had welcomed Paul and Silas (He was a hospitable believer), He believed in an ultimate sovereign king – Jesus – more than the king of the land; He held on to his faith while facing an angry mob.
Whether pandemic or persecution, we can’t let go of faith. We have to have a receptive heart that remains convicted and settled on following Jesus.
Imitating Jesus Christ
1 Thessalonians 1:6b-7a In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all the believers…
When we imitate the example of Jesus we become an example to all believers. In a social media world, we are exposed to believers and unbelievers in a global environment. Are we setting an example of faith, love, and hope for the world around us? Are we known for being people of faith, love, and hope? This is a high calling, but one we should all take seriously.
What do we want to be known for? Faithful Work, Loving Deeds, Enduring Hope, Receptive Hearts, and Imitating Jesus Christ.
Paul finishes the chapter by telling them two things:
- They had a faith that everyone everywhere talked about.
- They had a reputation for looking forward to the second coming of Christ
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10 And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
When you acted in faith and gave your life to Christ in baptism, you adopted a new mindset toward the return of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is raised / He has rescued us now
He has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
1 Corinthians 11:26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
As we commune together we acknowledge
What Christ has done – in dying in our place
What Christ is doing – in rescuing us from sin and death
What Christ is going to do – in bringing us to live together forever with Him.
Let us pray