This morning, we continue our study of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. This is good stuff...
Remember, last week, we discovered the Christian life is composed of three essential elements... faith, love and hope. These three spiritual components are what our lives are based upon. They are like a three-legged stool that supports who we are. My life is stable because of my faith in Christ. My life is secure because of my love for God, or more importantly, His love for me. My life is positive because of my hope, my promise of the Spirit to restore all creation. That is who I am. I am Faith. I am Love. I am Hope.
But watch this... This is who we are. We are a community formed in faith, love and hope
--Faith creates a covenant-community. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to be the blood of a new covenant. Our faith in Jesus creates a covenant-community. We are faith.
--Our love for God, our love each other and our love for the people around us is the power of our covenant-community. There is no power more powerful than the power of love offered to each other! We are love.
-Our hope keeps our community going forward. We don’t give into the despair of pessimism. We look forward to every new day because we have hope! We are hope!
We, this covenant-community; we are Faith. We are Love. We are hope.
Last Sunday, we had fun discovering...Sometimes we need a little faith. Sometimes we need some love. Sometimes we need more hope!
--When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, they had become hateful towards a portion of their community. They needed love... the greatest of these is love.
--When Paul wrote to the Galatians, their theology had become confused. Faith was emphasized. They need to get their faith sorted out.
--But, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians... Hope was stressed because... Nick had died. The Thessalonians had an eschatological dilemma. What happened to Nik? 1 Thessalonians is primarily focused on hope.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, before Paul gets to the hope part of the letter - because Nick died - Paul reminds them of his love. Paul reminds them of the power of love in the formation of their covenant-community.
Listen to the first 12 verses of chapter 2. Listen for the power of love.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed- God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Paul loved the Thessalonians. That love was the power that formed the Thessalonian community. God’s love was transmitted through Paul as power to the Thessalonians.
Within these 12 verses; within these words, we are going to discover how love operates in a covenant-community. We are going to discover our power. The power of the Los Alamos Church of Christ in 2018 is the same power Paul transmitted to the Thessalonians in 50 AD. Let’s dig into how Paul loved the Thessalonians. How Paul loved them is how we can love. There is a pattern of love for each other and beyond!
Seven ways Paul loved the Thessalonians
1) Love is Sacrifice
1 Thessalonians 2:2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, (remember the Philippian jailor) as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
Love is all about giving. Love is not love without sacrifice. Our Lord left the glories of heaven to be one of us, to be a servant, even, to die on a cross... for us. The model of love is to offer ourselves as living-sacrifices. Love is only love when it is given away.
We offer our time, our expertise, our money, our listening, our patience, our understanding, our willingness... to sacrifice.
#1 Love is at its core sacrifice!
2) Love is Authentic
1 Thessalonians 2:3,5 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, for we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed- God is witness.
In Paul’s day there were wandering charlatans. People went around selling all kinds of snake oil and philosophies and magic. But, Paul was different. There was no hidden agenda. No deception. No bait and switch. No telemarketing. Paul was Paul. What you saw was what you got.
That is who we must be. Love must be sincere. We share who we are. No pretending. No hiding our warts. We don’t have to prove our slickness. What you see is what we are! We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are just us.
A community of people who can be themselves with each other is a powerful thing. The world craves open people; honest people; genuine people; humble people...wow.
#2 Love is authentic.
3) Love Pleases God
1 Thessalonians 2:4,6 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others...
This is a hard one. We love others, but we do not place our value with others. We invest our lives in loving others, but we only want glory from God. It is a temptation to judge ourselves by how many people like us. We want to be loved. But, at our core we must leave our approval to God.
When, people, we are loving, walk out of our lives we keep on loving. We only want God’s praise; God’s glory. Our hearts must be given into the care of God, not people. I love not for the praise of people, but for the approval of God. The security of who we are, our identity, is in who God values us to be.
What this does is make us amazingly free to love the unlovely. I am not seeking popularity, I’m popular with God. So, I am free to love anyone... even the hard ones.
Our love comes from God and resides in God.
We love to please God.
4) Love is Gentle
1 Thessalonians 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
I suspect there is no better metaphor for gentleness than a nursing mother. As a fundamental operating principle, we are gentile with each other. Sometimes there is going to be conflict, problems, disagreements, people are going to be upset... but we are gentle. We never solve our problems with boots.
It is easy to find fault. It is easy to be sarcastic. It is easy to hammer the “idiots” of the world. It is easy to be harsh to ding-dongs amongst us...but... Like a nursing mom...
Love is gentle.
5) Love Shares Life
1 Thessalonians 2:8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Here is where we can be powerful. We share our lives with each other. We don’t only go to church together, we are involved in spending time together with each other. I see it like a spider web of connections. Each interaction, outside of church, creates a strand of bond to the body. The more of theses connections we create the more powerful our love becomes in the church.
--projects, problems and prayers...
--golf, games and grief...
--soccer, sowing, and sadness...
--kids, coffee and cares...
--football, friends and frustrations...
--driving, decks and desires...
--movies, menus and more...
That is who we are and can be even more... We should be involved in each other because...
Love shares life.
6) Love is Blameless
1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.
Paul was unwilling to take his support from them. So, Paul made tents. He would preach all day and make tents all night. Paul did not want to be a burden. Paul was blameless.
We should avoid hurting each other. Careless words or thoughtless behaviors, or hateful jokes or hurtful jabs... weighs down the body. We are careful of our whining. We are discouraging. We are holy and righteous and blameless. We are careful that how we act around each other is not a source of grief. We don’t offend.
Love is a joy... Love is blameless.
7) Love Speaks Truth
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
This is the hardest, I think. Sometimes, we need to exhort each other. We need to be bound together in love strong enough to be able to speak the truth, even though it might hurt. There is no such thing as constructive criticism. Criticism tears down. But, sometimes, there is necessary criticism. So there can be healing. This might be the true measure of the love of a church. We can speak the truth even if it hurts.
Sometimes, there is more at stake than someone’s feelings. The kingdom and the glory are what it is all about.
Love speaks the truth.
Paul loved the Thessalonians. Because of this Paul can say...
1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain...
Paul’s amazing love for the Thessalonians was the power that created a community which became a source of love all over their part of the world. Love is the power of the kingdom!
--We cannot depend upon our building to connect to people. Our building is not awe-inspiring.
--We cannot bank on our programs to connect to people. There are lots of programs around us.
--We cannot count on our worship service to appeal to people. When we are at our best, we are adequate.
--We cannot think that if we have a great advertising budget... better sign out front, newspaper, commercials, mailouts... people are inundated advertising. That is not our power.
--We cannot rely on having the best preacher in town to draw people to Christ. Even I can’t compete with Disney for attraction.
But what we can do. What we must do. What is more powerful than all that is to love each other. There is nothing more powerful than a sacrificial, authentic, God-glorifying, gentle, life-sharing, blameless, truth-speaking... covenant-community! We can out love the world!
Los Alamos Church of Christ
September 30, 2018