¡°THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 November 3, 2013
1) Gospel of words, no power: This is about how we Christians present the gospel and the fruitless result. Many preachers and Christians present the gospel to non-believers only with words: teachings, doctrines, benefits of believing in Jesus. They stop short carelessly or on purpose just to lead them to believe and get baptized. These new believers were never taught of the ways to acquire the power of the gospel, to be productive, joyful, hopeful and active in serving the Lord, his church and the community they live. Those who were made believers this may know some words of the gospel, but never have the power in their life to live, to bear fruits for God.
2) Gospel of words and power: But the Thessalonian Christians were not like that. When Paul brought the gospel to them, he taught them both the words and the power of the gospel, so, they showed their life with ¡°work produced by faith, labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope.¡± (1:3) Paul brought the gospel to the Thessalonians with the power of the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. (1:5) No wonder Paul was thankful to God for all of them every time he mentioned them in his prayers. (1:2) How many of us are sure that when other brothers or sisters pray for us, they are thankful for who we are and what we have done with the power of the gospel in our lives?
FOUR STEPS OF THE GOSPEL:
1) Step one: The words: ¡°The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith we are proclaiming.¡± (Romans 10:8) This is the first step of spreading the gospel message to non-believers so they can listen to the gospel. We Christians are messengers of the gospel and we need to bring the message to all who don't know the message. That is what Jesus wants all of us do in Matt 28:19, the Great Commission. All believers are to share the gospel message to people, starting from our inner circle, family and friends. then to others around us. This is sowing the seed of God's word.
2) Step two: The growing: ¡°Therefore, if anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.¡± (2 Cor. 5:17) This is about the power of the gospel growing in person who had been born with the new life. This is more just knowing the gospel, but living out the power of the gospel. A true Christian must have this process happens in his life. He cannot live like he used to live before. We see sport players switching from team to team in a new season, but they are always that same person: seeking only his own benefits. There isn't anything about loyalty, commitment or moral duties in their hearts. But this can't be in Christian life. ¡°When He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his Son,¡± (Col 1:13) we are suppose to live in the light, not in darkness. We need to be new creation because of the power of the gospel works in us.
3) Step three: Fruit bearing: ¡°I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.¡± (John 15:5) Fruit bearing is the evidence of the new life in us. In Galatians 5:22-23, there is a list of the fruits God expects us to bear in our lives: ¡°The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.¡± Little at a time, we are to show the world we are children of God by producing fruits of the gospel so we witness to the world the power in us. The world is not interested in what we know, but they want to see if we have anything to shown them.
4) Step four: The reward: ¡°I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteous -ness, which the righteous judge will award to me.¡± (2 Tim 4:7-8) Yes, we will pay the price to bear fruits, we will sacrifice something in this world and we will suffer someway for the Lord as we strive to bear fruit in our lives. But God will never let our good work go in vain without rewarding those who are faithful. Paul encourages us in 1 Cor. 15:58 like this: ¡°Therefore my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord in not in vain.¡± Salvation is free to us because Jesus has paid for us. Rewards are not free but earned. Whatever you have put in today, you will receive your fair reward when you are face to face with the Lord in heaven.
FOUR EFFECTS OF THE POWER: (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5)
1) The joy of memory: ¡°We always thank God for all of you mentioning you in our prayers.¡± (I Thess 1:2) Paul couldn't forget how fruitful the power of the gospel among the Thessalonians and he constantly remember them when he prayed for these faithful believers. There is nothing more satisfying and joyful for preachers and pastors to see the faithful growing, fruit bearing in the demonstration of the power of the gospel among the people they serve. Whenever Paul remembered these faithful of God in his prayers, his heart was filled with joy and thanksgiving. How much more we may imagine how the Lord Jesus would feel when he sees us fruitful and faithful. The last thing Christians want to do is to disappoint our Lord when he looks for fruits in our lives but couldn't find any. (Luke 13:7-9, the fruitless fig tree)
2) The work produced by faith: ¡°We continually remember before our God and father your work produced by faith.¡± (1:3) A true saving faith in Jesus Christ will always result in the mighty work of God that produces changes in one's nature. The work of faith is action of the transforming power of regeneration. (2 Cor 5:17) Christians engage in holy and righteous deeds to glorify God. ¡°Work¡± in Greek, ergon, refers to deeds, achievement, function. True faith in Jesus can't be ¡°business as usual¡±, like nothing has happened. James says: ¡°Faith without work (deed) is dead.¡± (James 2:17)
3) The labor prompted by love: This is the second identifying mark of true belief in Jesus Christ. Labor, koros in Greek, denotes arduous, strenuous kind of toil done to the point of exhaustion. It is in strain of one's energy. This is about our service to the Lord, the noblest, altruistic and selfless because of our love to the Lord. If we say we love God or love our neighbors, we must demonstrate it by good work. Besides obedience of his command, the best demonstration of our love to the Lord is by serving him and others the best we can do. We serve those whom we love as human, how can we not serve the Lord who loved us so much to die for us. Service is one important measure of spiritual quality.
4) The endurance inspired by hope: This is the third fruit produced by the power of the gospel. Endurance is from the Greek word, hupomone, which conveys the idea of perseverance, a condition of staying under pressure. This is about the staying power we all need to stand firm, unmoved, non-stop and keep going. This is one of the most important tests of our faith in and love to the Lord Jesus. Many believers were fervent and faithful in their spiritual life at the beginning of their journey of faith, just to slide behind, lagging that power to endure hardship, low point in life, distraction of the world and the weakness of their fresh. Paul says we need to focus our hope in the Lord Jesus in all kinds of life experience. We need his power to sustain us in time of trial. We hope for his answer to our prayers in desperate situation. We also hope for his guidance and mercy in time of confusion and despair. Hope with faith and love are signs of a growing Christian life. (1 Cor. 13:13)
SEVEN CHANGES WE NEED TO HAVE: (2 Cor 5:17)
1) Putting the Lord first: ¡°I have been crucified with Christ and I no long live, but Christ lives in me. The live I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.¡± (Gal 2:20) We need to let Christ occupy our life, surrender the seat in our heart to the Lord. The Lord should be the first in our life. When you make decisions, who is the first factor you concern: you or the Lord?
2) Pleasing the Lord: ¡°So we make it our goal to please him (Jesus) whether we are at home in this body or away from it.¡± (2 Cor 5:9) We need to change the purpose of life from pleasing ourselves or the world to please the Lord. Anything we do, we must ask if the Lord is happy in that.
3) Sacrifice for the Lord: ¡°Brothers, in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to Go this is your spiritual act of worship.¡± (Rom. 12:1) Instead of living for selfish ambition, we are to give our bodies as living sacrifices for and to the Lord. The Lord sacrificed his life for us, it is now our turn to sacrifice for him. How much have you sacrificed for the Lord in recent years: your time, energy, material resource, etc?
4) Building spiritual interest: ¡°I consider everything a loss compare to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.¡± (Phil 3:8) We need to change our interest of life from worldly, ungodly and filthy matters to interest of spiritual, God pleasing and wholesome matters. We need to have strong interest in learning God's word, in worshiping our Savior and Lord on the day of the Lord, Sunday, and interested in search for opportunities to serve Him and his church, in spiritual matters that help us grow. What are the things you are most interested in doing?
5) Fixing eyes on eternal: ¡°So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.¡± (2 Cor 4:18) We need to remember this world isn't our home. We have a new home in heaven once we are done with the earthly journey. So we need to change our pursuit for things eternal. Have you accumulated anything in heaven so you will enjoy them when you move there someday? What is the main focus of life today: here in the world or there in heaven also?
6) Stay away from sin: ¡°Do not allow sin reign in your mortal body to obey its evil desire. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instrument of wickedness, but offer yourselves to God as instruments of righteousness.¡± (Romans 6:13) Christians need to be sensitive to sin and temptation of sin. We need to see sin as evil and filthy and do our best to stay away from them. Do not allow temptation and sin to control your life. Do not mingle with people who are living in sin or you will be led to sin with them someday.
7) Enjoy Christian friendship: ¡°Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourself.¡± (Romans 12:10) We need friends of all kinds of people, but we need to have closer friendship with those in the body of Christ, the church. Because we are members of the body of Christ, we are to live in closer friendship with Christians to support, encourage, look after and mutual accountability. You will be in greater risk of spiritual fatigue or failure if you are deeply involved with secular and ungodly people. We need to build closer relationship with people in God's family. We need to learn and seek advice from godly people when we have problems. Remember this: you are who your friends are.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) ¡°Where is the beef?¡± This was the slogan of a popular commercial many years ago. It focused on ¡°the real thing¡± of the advertised merchandise. The moral is: people are not fooled by your words, they want to see the ¡°beef,¡± the real thing. This is also true in Christian faith. We can talk all we want about being saved with a new life. But we also need to demonstrate with evidence of that new life. If you want to be effective in your Christian life, show some evidence, the fruits of the power, that you are a real Christian.
2) Where is the blessing? Even though God promises us many blessings if we follow his instructions, many of us have never experienced any of them. Many Christians are still living on their own, mostly after the world, like those in the world, and feeling weak, helpless and exhausted. Stop doing this, turn to a better way. Take God's blue print of a vibrant, joyful and effective Christian life seriously and you will be one of those who enjoy all the good things God has promised us to have. You are in a winning team, why would you forfeit your right to be in God's blessing?