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Past Ponderings

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Do You Have Reverberating Faith? (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10)


Do You Have Reverberating Faith? (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10)

GIST:  Lives changed by Jesus are examples that make a reverberating difference.

“5b You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

After talking to the church in Thessalonica about how God’s love was poured out by the gospel being spread, Paul gives us a little picture of what saving love produces. The picture he paints is one of… reverberating faith. 

I. Lives Changed By Jesus

He starts by saying, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5b). This description in itself is really interesting. He’s not talking about the face they put on, but who they really were. Their characters were proven, and that was done for the sake of the Thessalonians. What does that mean? Paul and his companions came to Thessalonica physically spent. Still, they intentionally shared the life-rescuing gospel with these people they’d never met. They weren’t set to profit from their efforts. It wasn’t some forced kindness steeped in ulterior motives. It was natural for them because they’d been changed by Jesus. Their lives weren’t about themselves anymore. They were driven by the call and, now, heart desire to love God and love people.

I don’t want to draw this out unnecessarily, but I do want to at least make this observation. When we’re talking about Jesus changing you, we’re talking about a change that is real. Please don’t misunderstand me. We won’t be perfect— we’re still sinners covered by grace; we’ll still stumble; we’ll still screw up (just come see one of my basketball games when I’m coaching my little kids!)— but we should be more and more like Him. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling me about someone they looked up to or thought of as a strong Christian who falls and falls hard and it becomes incredibly evident that they’d learned to put their best face forward, but nothing had really ever changed in their lives. Who are you outside the church, in the privacy of your own home? We all need to examine our hearts to see if we’re really letting Jesus make that kind of change in our lives! We don’t outgrow that need to take up our cross daily and follow Him! 

Now, I’d be remiss if I left it there without saying this though. When you do stumble, even if you have been faking it entirely, that doesn’t have to be the end of your story either! There is forgiveness and grace for you still. Come to Him, and let Him make a lasting difference! 

Not only is this important because really belonging to Jesus is what saves you (which we’ll see in just a second, as well), but lives changed (and that word is key because all of our starting points are brokenness) by Jesus→

II. Are Examples That Make A Reverberating Difference

The Thessalonians saw this, and it changed them forever. In fact, Paul continues with: “and you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Now, I know this can sound a little murky. Don’t we talk all the time about wholeheartedly following after Jesus? Are we to imitate spiritual leaders as well? Only in so much as those leaders reflect the heart of Jesus to us. That puts a burden of discernment on us, and a weight of responsibility on leaders for sure. As Christians, we need to take our faith seriously. Know the Bible. Don’t depend on others to bring the word to you. Then, when something is said that isn’t right, you’re spiritual hackles will stand up. As leaders, we need to be very careful to guard our hearts and keep following Jesus and seeking His face and will the number one priority of our lives!

Even with all that, though, look at the full context of what these believers imitated. The church, like Paul, received the word, but it wasn’t easy. It is safe to say Jesus also faced much affliction for the cause of the gospel! However, His defining characteristic wasn’t sorrow. He exuded hope and love. Now, the Thessalonians—like Paul and because of Jesus— were covered in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Affliction might be part of our story, but it no longer defines those rescued by amazing grace! Instead, we can face the struggles that come—even the struggles that come as a result of following Jesus when it’s not easy—with the joy of the Holy Spirit filling our souls!

And here’s where we see the echo. Paul was faithful to follow Jesus and proclaim His word. This impacted the church in Thessalonica to the point that they “... became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia”; in fact, their faith echoed “forth everywhere”, so Paul didn’t have to tell people what had happened there (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). 

This faith was an echoing faith… because it was real. Look at how this chapter ends. Paul recounts that people from all around “report concerning us the kind of reception we had among 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, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). 

Five(ish) weeks ago, we started this study, and I told you each chapter has some kind of reference to Jesus coming back. Here, we see that in the context of what their lives are now about. Real faith turns from sin (there is an actual change in our lives) to grace-filled, gospel-driven (which is summarized there ☺️) expectancy as life becomes not about us but about the rescuing, loving Jesus! They have turned from worshiping emptiness to looking forward to the God of reality coming back and making everything as it was always meant to be!

Ok, let just break down one takeaway today→


  1. What’s reverberating from your life? Is your faith real? Is it impacting the lives around you?

Have You Experienced The Deliberate Love Of God? (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a)


Have You Experienced The Deliberate Love Of God? (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a)

GIST: God loves on purpose, and He demonstrates that through the spread of the Gospel.  

This morning, we’re continuing our study through the letter of 1 Thessalonians, and, for the first time, we’re going to cover more than one verse! I mean, technically, we’re walking through a verse and a half, and it’s still only one sentence, but… ☺️.

So far, we have seen Paul writing to a group of believers who have been transformed by a relationship with Jesus. He has thanked God for this (and their fellowship) and prayed for them—specifically mentioning that they have a vibrancy about their faith. Then, he says this→

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

The message today dives into some waters that came sometimes be a bit murky, so let’s just plunge right in! ☺️ Here’s our gist: God loves on purpose, and He demonstrates that through the spread of the Gospel.  

I. God Loves On Purpose

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you…”

Chosen? In my experience, this concept of God’s election has been one of the most hotly debated topics amongst Christians and one of the teachings most ridiculed by those looking for something to critique. I’ve been on the receiving end of passionate appeals from both sides. In fact, the topic has sometimes become so polarizing, you might be tempted to tune me out before this sermon even starts! ☺️ Bear with me for just a second. I promise, I’m not trying to start any fights here. 

This truth as laid out again and again in Scripture was never meant to divide. It was never meant to become a soapbox or pet topic for merely intellectual debates either. In fact, Paul mentions it in his opening remarks to this incredibly new group of believers in Thessalonica because it’s supposed to point to… amazing love.

Look at the context here. Paul says he knows they are loved because God chose them. That choosing word is where the debates begin to rage. However, I feel this is largely because we cannot view the concept of choice apart from our own human selfishness. My choices can’t be separated from my desire for some things and some people over others for reasons that, often, are tied very closely to my emotional preferences. My choices aren’t equally loving, or equally just, or equally anything. In fact, my choices will never be holier than my deeply flawed character—neither will yours. Thankfully, we’re not God.

See, God’s choices are a reflection of His character too. His character that is always loving, and always faithful, and always just. That means any choosing He does must be a form of decision making alien to our natures. 

Still yet, it’s no less deliberate. We’re going to look at a way this love is demonstrated to us in a second, but before we do, let’s just camp out with what should be a life-shaking revelation: the God of the universe loves you on purpose! Contrary to being a source of unnecessary strife, this doctrine should remind you there is One—the One—who wants to walk with you and who cares enough to not only wipe your tears but to also point you away from all that causes them as He draws you into His marvelous grace and abundant life. Yes, this will pull you away from so much our world pushes as good, but it will also pull you into the arms of the Savior who chooses to love you! See, He loves you on purpose, and He loves you to a purpose—saving grace.

Why diminish that choice of love? Can’t we rejoice while we rest in that mercy instead? 

II. Demonstrates That Through The Spread Of The Gospel

 “...because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

Ok, so God—who is perfectly just, holy, and compassionate in all He does— chooses to love us. Now, look at how Paul tells us this love is, in part, put on display: God demonstrates His love by bringing His message of rescue in a way that makes a life-altering, heart-transforming difference. 

Notice the message comes to us “in word”. I know the verse actually says not in word only, but the implication is that words were involved; they just weren’t alone! That’s cool, but how does this point to love? Well, first off, it shows He cares enough to bring us His message. This isn’t some clandestine operation about which only the truly privileged are apprised. Jesus’ gospel isn’t top-secret information. This message of hope is for the whole world to hear. Remember, Jesus wasn’t obligated to save us. It is His act of love “that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Moreover, the fact this message is shared by people at all is a sign of God’s love. Jesus changes the hearts of His messengers. Otherwise, this would never happen because it doesn’t come naturally for most (if any) of us. Still, even with the resistance from outside forces and our own fear-driven unwillingness, the Gospel has continued to spread from person to person for thousands of years. Why? Because being transformed by love motivates you to love in ways outside your comfort zone. God uses broken people to point to His amazing grace by opening their mouths and sharing His word. 

However, those words are not alone, so what comes with them? Power. Specifically, the power of God. Paul is very clear: the impact didn’t rest on the cleverness of his voice. It was God working through His message making a difference. And that difference was and is transformative because it’s the direct work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, that’s how salvation happens. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Jesus to us, convicts us of sin, calls us to salvation, and comforts us as we walk the path to which He leads. Why? Again, because of love! 

That sentence then ends with and with full conviction.” There are two main interpretations of to what or to whom this conviction is referring. I think it is probably both. Paul was full of conviction when he spoke, and the listeners were fully convinced by what God revealed to them. Again, and I know this is probably starting to sound broken-recordish, but all of this is the result of God’s deliberate love for us.

Ok, on to some→ 


  1. Rejoice in His deliberate love.

  2. Be part of His love distribution plan! If God’s love is demonstrated through His word being shared, shouldn’t we want to be part of that process? You don’t have to be a theologian to share the love of Jesus. You just need to open your mouth and share the truth that brings hope—His amazing grace. Remember, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that does the saving. Yes, we should model the transformative impact of His amazing grace, but we should also… say something!

  3. Remember, He loves you so much He pours out His truth for you! Do you realize this? It’s true. 

Friday, March 3, 2023

Laboring Reaction Of Love? (1 Thessalonians 1:3)


 Laboring Reaction Of Love? (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

GIST: Being in Christ Jesus leads to faith that works, love that perseveres, and hope that doesn’t give up.

Today we’re continuing our study in 1 Thessalonians. We’re coming to verse 3, but I want to read all the verses leading up to that to remind us of our context. (Oh, and next week, we’ll probably get through at least 2 verses. Then, it will get crazy… and we might get through five or six!)

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Work. Labor. Be steadfast. These implied admonitions don’t seem near as appealing as “come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I mean, I listened to a pastor last week talk about the spiritual value of naps, and I subscribed to his podcast immediately! Still, there is no avoiding these clear depictions of Christianity in Scripture. It’s meant to be an active life of eager worship and deliberate service. 

Paul wrote encouraging the Thessalonians to remember their identities in God the Father and Jesus Christ. They were now children of God following the leadership of their Savior. He thanked God for their salvation and fellowship and reminded them of his commitment to pray for them constantly. Then, coming back to that same language about God, he gave them a peak at some of the content of those prayers. Namely, that he reminisces with God the Father about how—now that they’re defined by their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ—they have real faith, love, and hope (I know faith, hope, and love rolls off the tongue better, but I’m following his pattern here☺️!) It’s in the context of those new characteristics that he brings up this toil language, so here’s our gist: Being in Christ Jesus leads to faith that works, love that perseveres, and hope that doesn’t give up.

I. Faith That Works

“…work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let’s start by keeping this context center stage. This transformation in their lives is the direct product of being in Jesus Christ. Because He came and made a difference… they’re different. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me this morning and think I’m referring to somehow earning your way into Heaven. Salvation is the work of Jesus. He saves us by His grace which produces in us faith…that changes stuff!

It’s in that context that we see this church had a faith that works. Not only is it effective, but it also… does stuff. This reminds me so much of what James wrote in his letter: “...faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18). True faith isn’t the product of doing enough “good things”. Instead, good works are the product of true faith. If you’ve been changed by Jesus, the way you live and the way you love is directly impacted because real faith is alive! 

We won’t just claim to care, or sing about compassion, or talk about righteousness. Being changed by grace will move us to actually live the truth, to really love people, and act on that love. I could try to give some examples here. Knowing me, they would probably be something about claiming to love by wife but never actually doing anything for her, but I’m sure you’re tired of those ☺️, so let me just put it like this: if your faith never leaves your pew, it’s not real because it hasn’t changed your life.

II. Love That Perseveres

“…work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This faith, which comes from being rescued by Jesus, will not only result in love that is lived out but love that perseveres tirelessly. The word translated “labor” here implies working to the point of exhaustion. That resonates on a deep level for me. As a pastor, teacher, husband, father of four, Upward basketball coach, column writer, and…well you get the point—I understand exhaustion. I’m sure most of you do too. We live in a sprinting culture. We fill our plates high and run from table to table trying our best not to slip in our spills. 

However, the picture of labor here isn’t one of just general busyness. This isn’t a call just to do a lot of stuff. That’s probably just as dangerous as not doing anything at all because churches have a tendency to just get caught up in busyness and call it “ministry”—all the while missing out of doors God is opening to serve all around us.

Instead, this is a call to give our all to the cause of love. That is, giving our all to the mission of Jesus. It’s a labor because there will never be a moment when this love isn’t needed, but it continues in the face of exhaustion because it’s fueled by the endless supply of Jesus’ abundant, unconditional love! We get filled up by our daily walk with Him, so we’re ready to pour out the love He’s overflowing our hearts with.

III. Hope That Doesn’t Give Up

“…work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Being those who have experienced this love firsthand—those who have been changed by knowing and belonging to Jesus—provides hope that doesn’t give up. Biblical hope is eagerly expecting God to be God. If your hope is in anything else, your anticipation of good is resting on an unstable foundation, but when you’re standing on the surety of His character and the promise of His sovereign grace, your hope lasts.

Work. Labor. Be steadfast. These aren’t meant to be burdens. They aren’t forced obligations. They’re the natural result of walking with Jesus and being changed by His gift of faith, reflecting His abundant love, and living with His unending hope. I mean, I still like naps… but this is the vibrancy I want resonating from my life.


  1. Does your faith work? Is there evidence of His grace in your life? Do you have a faith that drives you to love God and love people actively and intentionally? Is it real, or something you put on for special occasions or when the atmosphere is right? His salvation should change how we live because it changes who we are. Is that your experience?

  2. Does your love persevere even in the face of exhaustion? Honestly, this feels like a part 2 question. What will motivate you to keep going? Renewing our hearts with the love of Jesus. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6‬:‭9‬-‭10‬ 

  3. Will your hope last? What if everything just stinks? What if you face loss after loss? What if the light at the end of the tunnel feels like a myth…or what if it looks like a train☺️? If we are in Christ Jesus and God the Father, we have every reason to hope regardless of how hard things get this side of Heaven. 

  4. Talk to God about these things! In the context, Paul is thanking God that this is happening in the lives of these new believers. He’s talking to God about His movement in their lives. We should take time to thank Him for them and ask that they be active realities in our lives and in the lives of others.   

Friday, February 24, 2023

Are We Praying For Precious People? (1 Thessalonians 1:2)


Are We Praying For Precious People? (1 Thessalonians 1:2)

GIST: Relationships are a gift from God, so praying for the people in our lives should be natural.

Today, we’re continuing our study in 1 Thessalonians. On Wednesday, Gary jokingly asked me if we were going to get through verse two this Sunday. My response was… well at least that one. ☺️

Before studying this letter in preparation for going through it with you, I didn’t really think too much about how much is packed into each section. But that’s how Paul writes. Inspired by the Holy Spirit to send these letters to the early Christians, he wastes no words… which is awesome. However, it also means a lot of the verses are packed!     

After addressing the letter to a group of people who have just recently accepted Christ against the pressures of their culture, Paul writes to encourage them to remain faithful. That first bit of encouragement comes in these words:


“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers”

Full disclosure, we’re not going to walk through only one verse per week for the entire study. In fact, next week, we might get through two ☺️ (Update: that is actually looking progressively less likely ☺️…).  However, sometimes it is worth slowing down, especially on parts like this that are typically skimmed over, and really digest what they mean for our lives. 

Within the past year, my family has lost five people for whom we cared deeply. Two of those losses have come within the last two months. Losses like this are hard because of love. Indifferent loss doesn’t hurt, but intimate loss leaves a lasting impression.

Stepping back and reflecting on the memories I carry with me, I’ve felt a lot of emotions. It would probably be very pastoral to say all those feelings have been positive. They haven’t. I still regret words never spoken and opportunities squandered. Yet, I am, by God’s grace, ever more aware that these relationships were precious gifts from God, so gratitude is settling in as the lingering sentiment. 

When Paul was writing the Christians in Thessalonica who had been miraculously saved by Jesus’ grace, his correspondence jumped very quickly to thanksgiving. He remembered both the gift of their salvation and the joy of their fellowship was God’s provision. The intimacy this then created led to continuous and compassionate intercession. And that’s kind of our gist for this morning: Relationships are a gift from God, so praying for the people in our lives should be natural. This, in turn, has led me to ask two questions this week I want to share with you as well: 1. Do I actively thank God for the relationships in my life?, and 2. Do I pray constantly for the people in my life?

I. Relationships Are A Gift From God

There are two quick observations I want to make here. In the context of this entire chapter—and we’ll see this very clearly in the next few weeks—Paul is thanking God for both their salvation and their fellowship

Both of these are important to remember. First, when people are saved, this is the result of God’s work in their lives. I know I make this remark often, but we have to remember, we don’t save people. The burden rests not on my cleverness or persuasiveness. It is the Holy Spirit working in hearts and people receiving His gift of salvation. When we see people saved, we should thank God for that! Likewise, God brings people into your life on purpose. This isn’t the result of chance or your charisma either. Which leads me to→

Question 1: Do I actively thank God for the relationships in my life? There are no accidental encounters. Life is purposeful, and the people we’re surrounded by are here on purpose. Yes, these will come in a variety of packages—some more pleasant than others—but none are meaningless. As Paul wrote to a group of believers with whom he had only spent about three weeks of his life, he was nonetheless incredibly thankful for the impact of those weeks. He knew it was God working both in their hearts and his that led to their salvation and the beautiful fellowship they experienced. Even after being separated from them by force, this truth continued to permeate his thinking, and he continued to be grateful.

I think about a lot of things. You do too. From my experience being around people pretty much all the time, I’ve found that though we are admonished again and again in Scripture to let the good and perfect gifts of God be what consumes our thoughts, we tend instead to dwell deeply on all the “junk” that comes our way while often only appreciating goodness when it comes in the form of grief. I know this is how our world functions. I know this taints the conversations around us. Yet, we can be different. We can thank God for the blessings of people now—while we’re still experiencing them—and let those thoughts flood our hearts. If we look at our relationships through the lens of “God is doing something here”, it should dramatically change the way we live life together.

II. So Praying For The People In Our Lives Should Be Natural

Let’s just jump straight into→ 

Question 2: Do I pray constantly for the people in my life? Of course, I could broaden that question to ask if I pray constantly for anyone or anything, but I’ll save that conviction for another day. The fact is I know I don’t even pray for the people I love near as much as I should. Oh, it would be awesome to try to sugarcoat this, but I can’t. Paul knew these people for three weeks and prayed for them… all the time. Why? Because that’s what the love of Jesus should do to our perspectives if we let it. 

I was listening to comedian Michael Jr. a few years ago share a testimony about a time when he found himself the victim of injustice. What he went through was bad, but in the middle of that trial, he encountered someone else who needed help. It would have been easier to just sulk, but he chose to step into her pain and help carry that burden. Immediately, he noticed his bitterness and frustration lessen as his perspective went from anger to compassion. His heart was changed, and so was her life.

See, it is really easy to get very self-focused. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When we live like that, our bubbles are popped very easily. Everything becomes a huge weight on our shoulders because we’re living with blinders that only see what’s right in front of us. What if every day we spent time praying for the needs of those precious people God has put into our paths? All the sudden, our perspective broadens. We see that there are hurts and needs outside our own, AND we get to be part of what God is doing in the life of someone else! That places us soundly in the middle of His will (because we’re following His heart of compassion), which draws us near to Him… and all the sudden mountains don’t seem just insurmountable, and valleys don’t seem as dark. I know I quote this all the time, but it’s just so powerful: when you turn your eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. When we orient our hearts toward praying for others, we’re turning our hearts toward the compassionate heart of the Savior who so loved the world that He came and took on Hell in our place, rising again to rescue us from the destruction of sin!

Yeah, I know, this one hits my toes too.  Let’s ask ourselves these questions again in our→


  1. Do I actively thank God for the relationships in my life?

  2. Do I pray constantly for the people in my life?

The passage today was shorter again, so let’s take a moment to do what we usually don’t have time to do—intentionally pray together for a moment. 

First, I just want you to take a few minutes and thank God for the relationships you have. There might be many you don’t have. If you’ve loved and lost, thank God for those moments. If you’re longing for a relationship you don’t currently have (be that friendship or romance), thank God for the people in your life who have shaped you into who you are now, and thank God for the plans He still has.

Now, take a few moments to pray for the people in your life. Yes, you can lift up their physical ailments, but go deeper than that. This life is hard. Living for Jesus in this life is even harder. Yet, being the God of relationships, He is the one they need more than anything else. If they are lost, please pray for their salvation. If they are saved, pray their faith is strengthened, that their walk is rejuvenated, and that they experience His peace, hope, and love!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Rescued to be… New? (1 Thessalonians 1:1)


 Rescued to be… New? (1 Thessalonians 1:1)

GIST: People rescued by Jesus have a new identity; therefore, they can experience a new reality.

After two weeks away, one unexpected, we’re coming back to what is really the beginning of our 1 Thessalonians study. Two weeks ago, I introduced the letter by looking essentially at what we can learn from the mere fact it was written at all, namely: God can use unexpected people doing unexpected things in unexpected places to change lives in miraculously unexpected ways. Paul, the author of this letter, wasn’t who people would have expected God to use; sharing the gospel with people outside the Jewish community wasn’t the normal method of evangelism; and Thessalonica wasn’t on the original itinerary. Still, God moved. And He still does.

Today, we’re going to actually walk through at least the first full verse of the letter ☺️. If you’ve read any of Paul’s letters before, you will be familiar with the fact that all of them start with a greeting, which was customary at the time. However, though they follow a similar pattern, they’re not stock messages he “copied and pasted” for each church. Instead, each is personalized for the congregation he’s addressing, and each has some broad takeaway for us, as well. Let’s look at this one→

“1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

We could go further this morning, but I really think just camping out with the truth presented in this opening greeting is worth our time. It seems like Paul had really only spent about 3 weeks with these young believers, but— as we’ll see more as we work through the letter—these appear to have been three pretty intensive weeks ☺️! They had been changed by Jesus’ salvation, and during their time with Paul dug deeply into Jesus’ word. Now, as Paul writes to them not long after having to leave them (at their urging) due to safety issues, he’s eager to remind them who they are now. If you have been rescued by Jesus, if you’ve come to know Him as your Savior, these are core truths about you, as well. If not, then they would be if you came to Him. Here’s our gist: People rescued by Jesus have a new identity; therefore, they can experience a new reality.

I. People Rescued By Jesus Have A New Identity

This letter was written to the church, the Body of Christ, at Thessalonica. However, let’s not forget this was a group of Christians primarily comprised of people who just months earlier had not only been steeped in the paganism of their community but had also never heard the name of Jesus. Though there were some new believers who had come out of the synagogue, so they had grown up on the Old Testament, most were Greeks. This was entirely new to them. 

Either way though, they hadn’t been experiencing hope… but Hope came looking for them! That’s the beautiful thing I tried to point out two weeks ago. This happening didn’t make sense from a worldly perspective, but it was 100% on purpose. This Jesus they needed but didn’t know came crashing into their lives, and they were completely changed. 

The nature of that change is what I want to draw particular attention to this morning, as well. Notice the preposition here. They were now in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Being in means this position now defined them. Being in direct fellowship with their Savior was now their direction, purpose, and identity. It determined where they were supposed to be, what they were supposed to be doing, and who they were. They were completely transformed.

And look at why. Look at the specific terms being used to describe their relationship with God. He is called God their Father. Those who once had no knowledge of His existence, who had been living lives opposed to His grace, were now called His children. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it is so worth remembering every single day. Being a child of God is a privilege beyond my understanding. I’m not a perfect daddy, but I can tell you aside from my love for my wife nothing in my life compares to the love I have for my kiddos. I would literally do anything for them. And if you want an emotional response from me of any kind, mentioning my kids is a surefire way to get it! And I think many of you here get that. Again, and this is coming from the broken, sinful version of parenting. How much more does God then love us? It’s crazy. It’s humbling. It’s life-changing!

Likewise, Jesus is referred to as their Lord. They had allegiances before, but none of those mattered anymore. Their ultimate King had come. That ruler we all long for, the hero who can swoop in and save the day, right the wrongs, lead where we stumble—that’s Jesus. AND→ they knew they could trust His control because He was also their Christ, the Messiah. Their King was the one who came to their rescue, and now, they were His! The most important truth about them, and all those who have been rescued by Jesus, is that they belong to the God who loves them unconditionally. It is a completely new identity.

II. Therefore, They Can Experience A New Reality

Their lives would never be the same. Because of this new identity, they were recipients of both grace and peace. Love and favor they did nothing to deserve were poured out for them—that’s grace— and they would now experience the peace they had always longed for but nothing in this world could offer. In fact, this is doubly encouraging when you consider Paul was taken from this city at the urging of these same believers because a riot had broken out against him. Still, he had come to know what they now also had: a peace and security that supersedes circumstances.

They had a new way of looking at life. They weren’t exempt from hardship. Clearly, they were facing some precisely because of this new identity! However, they could look at brokenness through the lens of belonging to the God of grace who calls them His children and walks with them even when everything is falling apart giving them… peace. 

Yeah, and that’s just the greeting ☺️. Let’s consider what this should mean for us in our quick→


What about you?

  1. You can have this new identity—children following the rescuing King! You are loved with this same love. Are you experiencing this transformed identity? Are you walking under the guidance of your saving King? Are you changed by the knowledge that the God of the universe calls you His child? Do you walk with confident obedience because you know Jesus is not only the King your heart longs for but also the Savior your heart needs?

  2. You can experience this new reality—recipients of marvelous grace and lasting peace! Do you realize you don’t have to earn His favor but instead can experience His grace precisely because Jesus came to rescue you and bring you lasting peace? Can you take a deep breath knowing all this is true, or are you still embracing the world and trying to figure things out on your own apart from His hope?