These verses before us speak of a total commitment to God on the part of the Thessalonian believers. Their transformation of character and conduct was complete and irreversible. Whereas they once served idols, now they served the "true and living God." These believers had done an about‑face.
Anyone who is familiar with driving in a large metropolitan area is acquainted with those large street signs which show an upside‑down letter "U" with a red slash through it meaning absolutely no "U" turn. In St. Louis there is a residential neighborhood off of Olive Blvd. composed of large, well‑kept, stately mansions. At the end of that street there is no exit and upon an ivy‑covered brick wall is a sign which reads, "U‑Turn Absolutely Required!" There is no way to keep going the way you are‑‑you must do an about‑face.
That sign teaches us a contemporary parable. Christian commitment begins with an authentic conversion. The word "conversion" means "to turn around." A U‑turn is absolutely required. Rather than running away from God in willful independence and disobedience, we must turn around and move toward Him in acceptance and responsiveness. When we do, God receives us with the outstretched arms of love, forgiveness, grace and peace. This is what the Thessalonians had experienced. Because of their conversion they were now committed to the "true and living God."
I. THE THESSALONIAN'S COMMITMENT BEGAN WITH GLAD AND OPEN RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL STORY
vv. 8‑9a "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. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you ... "
- verse 6 tells us that the Thessalonian believers received the gospel message with "joy"
- the road of Christian commitment begins with a simple, single step
- Romans 10:13 tells us that "Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
- no where do the Scriptures ever qualify who can be saved
- the gospel is for all who hear its message and gladly receive it
- the believers at Thessalonica had trusted the Lord Jesus Christ which resulted in such a transformation of their lives that they became examples to all who believe
- v. 7 "And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia."
- the Thessalonian believers became models of Christian virtue
- the Thessalonian believers became models of Christian discipleship
- the Thessalonian believers became models of Christian commitment
II. THE THESSALONIAN'S COMMITMENT WAS AUTHENTICATED WHEN THEY TURNED FROM IDOLS
v. 9b " They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,"
- as in many cases of translating the Scriptures into English from the original Greek, it sometimes takes several of our words to give full meaning to one Greek word
- such is the case in verse nine when Paul writes, "how you turned"
- it is one Greek word
- it is a word Paul uses only two other times in all of his letters
- it is a word which refers to a real, inward change which results in an action which all can easily see
- like that sign in St. Louis which demands an about‑face, the Thessalonian believers where moving in the opposite direction from whence they had been going
- they had received new marching orders and were stepping to the beat of a different drummer
- when God converts a man, he changes the entire person
- He changes our emotions, so that we regret our former manner of life
- He changes our mind so that we repent of our former manner of life
- He changes our will so that we resolve never to return to our former manner of life
- that one Greek word which we translate "how you turned" is also a verb in the aroist tense
- it is a tense we do not have in the English language
- it refers to a transaction which, once it takes place, is irreversible
- in other words, these believers turned their backs on the false gods they were worshiping never to go back to them
- commitment in the believer's life is often authenticated by what we give up and resolve never to return to
- their are sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit which Christians need to "turn" from
- Col. 3:5‑8 "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."
- most people today seem unwilling to give up much of anything for the cause of Christ or his church
- it's obvious most Christians don't want to give up their time
- worship and bible study have become a drudgery for many who claim the name of Christ
- only 50% of Christians who have a church affiliation are in church on any given Sunday
- it's obvious most Christians don't want to give up their talents
- fewer and fewer adults are volunteering for service within their church or their community
- it's obvious most Christians don't want to give up their tithe
- stewardship and support of Christian ministries is often seen as "someone else's" responsibility
III. THE THESSALONIAN'S COMMITMENT WAS CORROBORATED BY SERVING THE LIVING AND TRUE GOD
v. 9c " ... to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven,"
ILLUS. A pig and a chicken were in a spirited debate over their respective value to mankind. The hen clucked with an air of superiority, "I'm of more value to man then you. Why, the eggs I lay are high in protein and other food values. They are compact and have an infinite variety of ways in which they may be served." "That may be true," oinked the pig, "but from you men only require an occasional offering. I have to be totally committed!"
- spiritually speaking, are you a chicken or a pig?
- true conversion should lead to ever deepening consecration of heart and soul and profound commitment of one's own will to the will of God
- these attitudes characterized the lives of the Thessalonian believers
- spiritually speaking, they were pigs‑‑totally committed to Christ
A. SERVING THE LIVING AND TRUE GOD OFTEN REQUIRES MOMENTOUS CHANGE
- the Thessalonian Christians turned to God from idols
- notice it does not say from idols to God
- these believers did not reform themselves first and have faith in God secondly
- they gave themselves to God who then began the work of reform in their lives through the Holy Spirit
- what a momentous change these believers had made in their lives
- it is not always easy to reject gods which one has worshipped from the days of childhood ...
- gods whose name had become household personalities ...
- gods who your ancestors had paid homage to and who your family still may worship
- their commitment to Christ amounted to nothing less then religious revolution
- no wonder the enemies of the Christians worried, "these men have turned the world upside down"
- how different it is among people today
- poll after poll reveals that the vast majority of Americans‑‑4 out of 5‑‑consider themselves to be a Christian
- the same polls reveal that Americans are thoroughly orthodox in their theology
- in other words most Americans "believe the right things" about the bible
- at the same time most Americans are unable or unwilling to integrate spiritual belief into daily behavior
- they dismiss the biblical mandate for a Christ‑like lifestyle as impractical and unreasonable for today's world
- most adults in today's society‑‑many of them good, church‑going folks‑‑consider the bible's call to sacrifice, obedience and selflessness to be out of line with their own direction in life
- ILLUS. R.G. Lee "A very large proportion of the American people are professedly religious, but their religion is not deep, vital, or real! It does not grip the whole man and change and transform him into a new creature in Jesus Christ!"
B. SERVING THE LIVING AND TRUE GOD OFTEN REQUIRES MOMENTOUS COMMITMENT
John 12:26 "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."
- the Christian faith is more than a theology
- the Christian faith is a life‑style with purpose
- the Christian faith is a multi‑faceted way of life which permeates every thought, action and experience we have
- in other words we cannot be Sunday Christians
- our faith must be relevant and impact every facet of our lives
- this kind of faith requires momentous commitment to Christ
- the Thessalonians served the "living and true God"
- the phrase "to serve" means "to continually serve as a slave" by surrendering one's will to that of another
- ILLUS. The slave in Paul's day had no time which belonged to himself. He had no moment when he was free. Every single moment of his time belonged to his master. He was the absolutely exclusive possession of his master, and there was no one single moment of his life when he could do as he liked. In Paul's time a slave could never do what he liked; it was impossible for him to serve two masters, because he was the exclusive possession of one master. (William Barclay)
- 1 Cor. 7:23 "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
- some of you here this morning may chaff at the idea of "enslaving" yourself to Jesus Christ
- ILLUS. In Old Testament days it was not unusual for an Israelite to sell him or herself or even one's family into servitude to another Jew when times were tough. But this servitude was only for a brief period of time‑‑six years. At the end of those six years the Jewish slave had a choice. They could choose to end their servitude and go free, or they could choose to remain a slave. If they chose slavery it was for the rest of their life. Their ear was pierced through with an awl and a ring placed in it as a sign of ownership. From that day on they were considered a "Bond Servant" since they had bonded themselves willingly to their master.
- he does not coerce us
- he accepts only that which we are willing to give
- ILLUS. The bible is full of example after example of those who choose to serve God despite the great personal cost they suffered in doing so. Abraham, who could have lived a life of ease in the land of Ur, but who chose to follow God "to a place he knew not where." Moses, who chose to help his people when he could have enjoyed the pleasure of royal life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who could have bowed to the king's idol but refused to do so. Joseph, who could have given in to the seductive advances of Potiphar's wife, but who instead fled. Jesus, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the ikeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" [Phil. 2:6‑8
To serve the living and true God a "U‑turn" is absolutely required!