Sermon on September 05, 2021
KaB FKB (Andreas Latossek)
“Living with Hope – The good news has an impact”
“1. Thessalonians 1-10”
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Today we are starting a new series of services: Living with Hope It is about the two letters from Paul to the Thessalonians. They will be with us for the next few weeks until the end of October. And the topics in it are so topical for us too. They fit into our time as well as they did back then. It’s about a life that is filled with hope through faith, with hope because we belong to Jesus. With hope because one day he’ll come back. And this hope affects the togetherness, affects daily life, affects our taking Jesus seriously and living holily affects our ability to withstand pressure, even in situations of pressure and affects other people to recognize Jesus in us.
Thessaloniki is located in Greece.
The city was founded around 315 BC. Founded by the Macedonian king Kassandros and named after his wife Thessaloniki.
Around 168 BC The Romans conquered the city and made it the capital of the province of Macedonia. One of the most important trade routes of the Roman Empire, the Via Egnatia ran past there, connecting the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.
Accordingly, Thessalonich was a flourishing port and trading city with around 200,000 inhabitants, something as big as Kassel.
Today Thessaloniki is bigger, about 325,000 inhabitants. The city’s landmark is the white tower. And as was usual with such central cities, Thessalonica was also a center for culture and various deities who were worshiped there.
Paul is on his second missionary journey.
He wants to visit the places where they planted churches on the first trip and see how they are doing. There is Silas, called Silvanus in the letter to the Thessalonians, that was his Greek name. This journey is very exciting, because actually they have a completely different path in mind, but we read several times in Acts 16 that the Holy Spirit does not allow them to go to certain regions, but leads them a different path. So they finally come to Troas, which is in what is now Turkey by the sea, north of the island of Lesbos, and there Paul has a vision during the night of a man from Macedonia who says to him: Come over to us in Macedonia and help us! They didn’t intend to do that, but Paul is so sensitive to the talking of the Holy Spirit that he reacts. They take a ship and come to Philippi. A lot of things happen there, we looked at it in more detail a few years ago. A woman named Lydia comes to believe with all her people, Paul drives out a spirit of fortune-telling. That upset the whole city, they go to jail. They are set free by an earthquake. The prison guard also comes to believe, and finally they move on and come to Thessalonica. Paul deliberately chooses these strategic places and founds the church in Philippi there, because he knows that it will then spread from these centers into the surrounding area.
You can read about how the church in Thessalonica came into being in Acts 17.
Paul first went to the synagogue to show them through the Old Testament that Jesus is the Messiah they are waiting for.
Jews come to believe, as well as many Greeks from the synagogue and a number of women from the upper class of society. But the other Jews were jealous of this success and incited the crowd, and they used the reproach that the believers would not recognize the emperor in Rome because someone else was their king, namely Jesus. The pressure became so great that Paul and Silas had to leave the city. They travel on to Beroea, also plant a church there. But the Jews from Thessalonica get wind of it and also stir up the people there, so that Paul and Silas finally land in Corinth via Athens. And there Paul writes his ⁷ letters. After the letter to the Galatians, these are the first two letters from Paul. They show something of the special relationship that Paul has with the Thessalonians and, unlike the other letters, they are very personal and give insights into Paul’s way of working.
One can read in chapter 3 that at some point Silas and Paul could no longer stand it because they were concerned about the church and sent Timothy there to strengthen the young Christians in their faith and to report to them. Now Timothy was back and what he reported was very encouraging. At the same time, the community had questions. And Paul answers to these in his letters, he encourages them and brings up individual topics which he now considers to be important for a good church development.
The 1st Letter to the Thessalonians is nicely divided into two parts by three prayers at the beginning, middle and end.
The first part is praise and encouragement for their faith, and the second part is an invitation to live according to Jesus. Paul sent the second letter only a short time later, because the situation with the Thessalonians had come to a head. The persecution had increased, and they looked upon the return of Jesus with confusion and fear. Because there were false teachings about this very return of Jesus. Some believed that they would leave everything behind and no longer have to work. And there were even false letters in Paul’s name, so that Paul, who dictated this letter, says at the end: I’ll write a few more lines here with my own hand as a mark of authenticity for this letter. Paul gives them hope in the midst of their persecution, he clarifies the coming of Jesus and finally writes how we should live in the face of the expected coming of Jesus. Who is more interested in the structure of the letters: There are two very nice videos that we have linked on YouTube under this service. Now we go into the first chapter of the first letter and I read verses 1-10:
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye 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, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
If you read the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians, you will find that the two are almost the same in content, just worded a little differently. The first chapter is something like a short version of the whole letter and it begins with a greeting from Paul and Silvanus to the congregation in Thessalonica.
But we read about these two sentences far too quickly, because this is where the whole core of the good news lies. To all of you who belong to God the Father and Jesus Christ the Lord, we wish grace and peace. That’s the good news in the Bible. That we can say to almighty God the Father that we are children of God and belong to his family. And all because Jesus is our Lord. Your salvation is grace. You receive it by faith alone. It says in Eph. 2.8 And in Rom 5: 1: After we are accepted by God on the basis of faith, we have peace with God.
Paul writes that the Thessalonians, and that applies to each of us as well, are loved and chosen by God. God wanted you to be there. You are not a coincidence. Yeah sure, your parents did their part too, but in the end God wanted you. No matter what your parents said about you no matter what your classmates said about you. No matter what, I don’t know who spoke into your life. God wanted you to be there. He loves you, and he wants you to be part of his family!
This is why his Son Jesus Christ came to this earth to overcome the separation between God and us on the cross and to pay for our debt.
He offers us reconciliation, it is grace, a free gift. But not only are we saved by grace, we also live by grace. Hence Paul’s wish. We need God’s grace in our lives. Unfortunately, some think that after being saved, they must now show God how good they are, that they really deserve this, this salvation. And others find it difficult to understand that they are really loved by God and that the smallest mistake does not cause a world to collapse and God is now totally disappointed in us. No, God knows us. He knows what we are made of. And Paul writes in Phil. 1,6: God is the one who brings the good work that he started to completion in us too. Again and again I notice that I can’t do it and that I have to rely on his strength in my life. Therefore Paul wishes grace that we understand this and that God’s actions become visible in our lives, even if we do not deserve it. If we accept the gift of forgiveness in faith, and faith in the biblical sense means trust, that is, that we trust Jesus, then we have peace with God. And this peace, which is initially completely independent of our circumstances, an inner peace in God, but it also has an external effect on our relationships. And at the same time Paul wishes peace again here, because if we trust Jesus, then this trust affects all areas of our life. That is why Paul calls Jesus Lord. He is really the master of our life, that is, he can say where we’re headed. And he will lead us on a good path because he loves us and knows what is good for us. We have to learn more and more to listen to him. And sometimes our actions just do not agree with God’s will, then God’s spirit causes unrest in us. Many here probably know that. And so Paul wishes peace that we listen to God’s spirit and align ourselves with it and so also continue to live in this inner peace. And if Paul addresses things that are not in order in the course of his letter, then it is just as much a question of the heart for the Thessalonians as it is for us whether we are ready to allow ourselves to be corrected in these places or perhaps others in our lives . But the good news doesn’t start in the back of this letter and then we point the finger and say: That’s how we have to do it, that’s how we have to live properly. And then there is religious pressure. Then it’s all about our behavior. The gospel comes from the undeserved grace of God, from the gift God gives us, and from relationship. And it comes not only with words but also with the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. And where I understand that and thereby understand God himself more and more in his way, in his love and experience him, then the good news also has an impact, and if we look at these effects on the Thessalonians right now, we can ask ourselves:
Is that also the case with us?
Does the good news have such an impact on us?
And if not, why not?
What is missing?
I noticed 4 effects in this text, for which Paul praised the Thessalonians and thereby encouraged them: Keep up the good work, you are on the right path.
And Paul begins with this list by saying: Not a day goes by when we do not thank God for all of you and then also stand up for you in prayer. I find that exciting. Not a day to thank and pray for everyone, and the Thessalonians weren’t the only church. We see how deeply Paul was anchored in prayer and we can learn a slice from that.
And then: were the Thessalonians so pious that one could thank everyone at any time? If we continue reading the letters, we will find that this is not the case. But Paul had Jesus’ eyes.
He saw how God worked on the Thessalonians. He sees the fruit, in 2 Thessalonians 1 it says that their faith grows and their love increases. Yes, there are also the inadequacies, which Paul also addresses. But the basic attitude is different.
We are all loved by God and it is a huge gift and party in heaven when people recognize and accept Jesus and live with him. And that applies to each and every one of us, even if we have quirks.
But now to the implications of the good news
I named the first one:
1. Turn firmly to God
Paul writes, we remember how resolutely you put your faith into action. And that’s what he says at the end of this chapter:
People tell how you turned from idols and turned to the living and true God. So the Thessalonians heard the message and then they made a decision and they are now putting it into practice without compromise.
Don’t hesitate, not like Jesus as an add-on to my already good life. Just add Jesus and then so on. Or change a few things where we disagree or notice that it costs us something, because it is better not to. No, the Thessalonians get involved in God completely and without compromise, change their lives and grow in their trust in Jesus.
How is it with you?
Do you get involved with God like that too? Of course, you may not have heard so much about Jesus and faith, then it is good to find out more. Ask your questions, read the Bible, maybe join one of our small groups and learn more about Jesus. But at some point the time will come to get involved with God. Relationship is always about trust and it takes a step towards God.
In the course of a life with Jesus, as we can see in the many parables that Jesus tells, we are constantly in danger of compromising our faith. Where you recognize this, God invites you to turn back and to get involved with God decisively and uncompromisingly.
Also this morning. His grace is for you and he would like to give you peace again.
The second impact of the good news is
2. Commitment out of love
Paul writes: We remember the tireless commitment you are willing to do out of love, And in the 2nd Letter to the Thessalonians he explains again: Your love for everyone else is constantly increasing. We’ll come to this aspect in the course of our series, so just a few brief thoughts.
In Romans 5: 5 we read that God’s love is poured out in our hearts. God’s love, the agape love, as it is called in the Bible, is an unconditional love with which Jesus even gives his own life for us when we were still his enemies, so we didn’t want to know anything about him.
The love of the Thessalonians is expressed in their love for other believers. But it does not stop with nice and nice people, it increases with everyone else, including those who may not suit me, who I find weird, who have a different opinion in individual areas, and it even goes that way far so that she loves those who persecute the Thessalonians and want them evil.
From a human point of view this is not possible, but it is also God’s love that is poured out there, and ultimately it is a love for God. And this love is always active. That doesn’t just mean a few nice words. Yes, they are important too. And you also notice the attitude in which someone meets me. In addition to God’s actions and his word, togetherness is of elementary importance for the congregation, and especially for congregations that are exposed to pressure. People recognize from our love for one another that we belong to Jesus. By loving one another, a church survives in pressure situations. The love for the needy and for the persecutors sends a strong signal that word gets around. But the Bible also warns that people’s love will grow cold. Is our love still alive and so deep and real?
The last few months have been a real ordeal.
And the next few months will be too. In my environment, I experience how people and our society split due to their opinion on Corona and their vaccination status and how people are bullied and ostracized. As Christians, we are asked to set another example here. We are called upon to meet the need of the world, the illness, the suffering and the fear with love, to help people practically and to pray for them instead of withdrawing into our own walls. Where we lack this love, we can ask the Holy Spirit for a new outpouring of this love into our lives.
The third effect of the good news is:
3. Stand firm in hope
Paul writes: We remember how steadfastly you hope that Jesus Christ, our Lord, will come again Or according to Luther: Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, we will come back to this in more detail in the series. The pressure that led to Paul and Silas having to leave the city was felt by the newly converted believers from Thessalonica. And Paul praises them for not giving in, but for standing firm.
In many places around the world, people experience persecution for their beliefs. And the Bible says it will increase. I am convinced that this will also happen to us. And will we then give in or remain steadfast?
What makes the Thessalonians stand firm, and that is more than giving up, burying their heads in the sand and waiting for whatever is over.
No, the Thessalonians were totally active and Paul writes that they endured the hostility with joy. So what leads to it?
It is not just any hope that fills the Thessalonians, but the hope has one goal: the coming of Jesus and that we will be with him in eternity. And it has a reason: namely Jesus himself.
I am fascinated by people who are persecuted for their faith, who report that they have Jesus so clearly before their eyes and he is so important to them that they are ready to give their own life for him. I believe this hope is based on three pillars:
- Once on the resurrection of Jesus himself, which is real and so well testified and reliable that we are allowed to know that it is true. And when Jesus is resurrected, so will we.
- Then on the certainty that the Holy Spirit wants to give us inwardly and the joy in Jesus and the joy of belonging to him. Paul writes that it is a joy that the Holy Spirit gives. So let’s reach out for that joy and ask the Holy Spirit for it and more of Him in our lives to fill us, every area of our lives. This shows that compromises that suppress the Holy Spirit always have a negative effect on our lives and our lives of faith.
- And thirdly on the personal encounter with Jesus and that he is so in front of our eyes.
If we don’t have that, then we can ask for it, but it is also good to be deeply anchored in the relationship with Jesus, to cultivate it, to read about Jesus in the Bible. That’s how we see him. Wherever you despair, where there is no way out, you can take new courage by looking at Jesus. He is the Eternal. He has everything in hand. He’s got your life in hand, he’s got your worries in hand. He knows your problems. And finally, the fourth effect of the good news:
4. Shine exemplary
Paul writes: You yourself have become a role model for all believers in ‘the provinces’ of Macedonia and Achaia. Yes, from your church the message of the Lord has spread all over Macedonia and Achaia, and not only there: there is now hardly a place where one has not heard of your faith in God. Everyone is talking about it, people are telling how you turned your back on idols …
The Thessalonians are the talk of the town, and even more so, the talk of the country, and that despite the people who want bad things for them, talk badly about them and even stir up people against them in the neighboring city of Berea. All of this does not prevent everyone from talking positively about the Thessalonians and from spreading the good news.
Jesus says: A city on a mountain cannot remain hidden, and neither can faith that was kindled by Jesus remain hidden. He has to get out and he comes out automatically. The decisive turn to God and the changed life become visible. Love becomes visible. Hope and joy become visible. And people take action to pass this hope on. Because they can’t keep it to themselves. They believe that the good news is the best people can hear. They are convinced that people will be lost without Jesus. You feel God’s loving heart for all people. And they obey God and do not compromise on this either, even if it costs them disadvantages like pressure and persecution with the Thessalonians. Dear ones, are we as a community and are you as an individual such a shining city in your area?
Did Jesus touch you personally in this way?
And has you been so moved by his heart for other people?
And has obedience to him so moved you?
Life with hope
Jesus invites us this morning, for the very first time, or perhaps again all over again, to entrust our lives to him and to focus on him. It is a gift that God gives us because he loves us to be able to live in friendship with him. And where I understand that and thereby understand God himself more and more in his way, in his love and experience him, then the good news also has an impact in my life The decisive turn to God and the changed life become visible. Love becomes visible. Hope and joy become visible. And people take action to pass this hope on and shine in an exemplary manner I wish that we would become such people and such a church and I am looking forward to discovering more of this life with hope in this new series.