25 Jan. 2003 AM
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
A Strong Conversion and Conviction
1 Thess. 1:5-10
A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted from a conversion experience. She declared, “I’m so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much that I vowed that I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go!” (Contributed by: Jim Kane)
A famous Methodist evangelist named Peter Cartwright was known for his uncompromising preaching. However, one day when the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, "Old rough and ready," came to Cartwright’s church, the elders warned the Pastor not to offend the President. In those days, the President had great power to influence a denomination for good or bad. Content, that their Pastor would not say anything to discredit their church, the elders retired to the back of the sanctuary. When Cartwright got up to speak, the first words out of his mouth were, "I understand that President Andrew Jackson is here this morning. I have been requested to be very guarded in my remarks. Let me say this: "Andrew Jackson will go to hell if doesn’t repent of his sin!" The entire congregation gasped with shock at Cartwright’s boldness. How could this young preacher dare to offend the tough old general in public, they wondered. After the service, everyone wondered how the President would respond to Cartwright. When Andrew Jackson met the preacher at the door he looked at him in the eye and said, "Sir, If I had a regiment of men like you, I could conquer the world!" When we appreciate the power of the word of God and the Holy Spirit speaking from the lips of people with conviction we will make eternal differences. (Contributed by: Paul Fritz )
I would have to say that Cartwright had both a strong conversion and a strong conviction that what he was proclaiming was the truth and that all people, regard less of who they are, needed to hear it. The same it true for the Thessalonians, they were strong in their conversion. We looked a couple of weeks ago, at what a strong church they were and this morning we are going to continue looking at this church and it’s people and about their conversion and conviction. So let’s start by looking at this passage of Scripture. 1 Thess. 1:4-10
We know that God has chosen you. What a powerful thing to say, but it means nothing if it can’t be backed up. Paul doesn’t just say this and go on to something else, he offers us two bits of evidence for why he feels this way. First, he believed the Thessalonians were chosen by God because of the way he and his colleagues were enabled to preach. Look at what he says in verse 5, “because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” When Paul went to Thessalonica, he went for one reason and one reason only: to preach the gospel and to minister to the needs of the people. He didn’t preach just words, and he didn’t preach what the people wanted to hear. Churches today are filled with people who go just because the preacher makes them feel good about their lives. They never hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This should not surprise us because Paul tells us in 2 Timothy chapter 4,
“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Paul was allowed to preach the Word of God, he preached the truth, and the church grew stronger because of it. A strong church will always be found where the preachers are allowed to preach the gospel. A church with great numbers may not necessarily be a strong church, but to be a strong church we must hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
How did Paul preach? He didn’t use just simple words, he said that the gospel he preached came to the Thessalonians with “power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” Preaching in power means preaching in the power and energy of God Himself! Here’s something that I think is fantastic. The Greek word for power here is “dunamis” the same place we get our word dynamite! That to me means that the power of God is explosive! That it is a force to reckoned with! We need to remember that telling the gospel is not just saying words, it is much more than that, it is the power of God at work in the human heart. The gospel is the power of God operating, working, stirring, convicting, and energizing a person to believe and accept the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul preached under the power of the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit’s working on the hearts of the listeners and Paul preaching what God had given him to proclaim. He constantly prayed for those he was preaching to, that the Holy Spirit would be working on their hearts – we need to do the same thing today. We need to pray before we talk to others about God, and let the Spirit lead us and them.
Paul also walked the walk of living for God. He lived what he preached. If we tell others how they are to live and then do the opposite, what meaning are we sending? We have to live our lives with conviction, knowing that what we have is better than anything the world has to offer.
The Thessalonians had a preacher who preached the gospel as it should be preached. They had a minister who surrendered his life totally to Christ: he lived and preached Christ and Christ alone! And that is what we should all be doing. When we live and preach like we should, then our preaching will be in power and in the Holy Spirit. And the presence and power of God Himself will rest upon our lives and ministries!
The second way that Paul knew the Thessalonians were chosen by God was their response. In verse 6 Paul says, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord”. Now don’t get the idea that Paul has a big head here by saying that they became imitators of him and then the Lord. We have to remember, we are being watched, and if people don’t see in us what we are saying they will never come to Christ. They follow us first and when they come to know the Lord they will follow Him. But we need to be following Jesus, what’s the old saying, “we may be the only Jesus they see”? We need to be a reflection of our Lord and Savior!
He continues on in verse 6 and says, “in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit”. Here is more evidence that God has chosen them and is at work in their lives: they welcomed the message, they received it warmly and gave it room in their hearts and this was shown because they exhibited joy given by the Holy Spirit.
This is the second time the Spirit is mentioned. First it gave the evangelists to preach effectively and then He enabled the hearers to receive the word into their lives joyfully in spite of severe suffering.
Sufferings or tribulations are not things that we normally have to deal with here in this country, but for the early church, it was the norm. Among Jesus’ last words to His followers, just before leaving the Upper Room, was the warning, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; NIV). In the case of the Thessalonians, an evidence of God’s being at work in their lives is their joyful acceptance of the gospel message and their perseverance in spite of severe hardship. We don’t know what those suffering were for the Thessalonians, but it would be easy to see that the same forces that got rid of the Paul’s missionary team would next focus their attention on the local believers. But they did not let this get them down, and they did not give up their faith – they called upon the Holy Spirit and joyfully continued worshipping our heavenly Father. This should teach us that nothing, absolutely nothing, should keep a person from receiving the gospel, not even opposition and persecution.
This persecution did not stop them, look again at what Paul says in verses 7 & 8, “And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it”. When Rome had conquered Greece, it had divided the country into two provinces, the northern province being Macedonia and the southern province being Achaia. Paul clearly says that the testimony of the church had spread all over Greece and not only that but that it had spread out beyond the Greece’s borders. Thessalonica was a major commercial center where salesmen, tradesmen, and businessmen visited from all over the world. Can you imagine the witnessing that the church and its believers were doing day by day? Their excitement and enthusiasm for Christ and the opposition and persecution against them must have been the talk of the city and world.
This is a great testimony and a dynamic example of witnessing! What a lesson for us today! How do you think things would change if we talked to everybody we met about Jesus? Not just family and friends, but each and every person. If we proclaimed the gospel to all people.
And what was it that these people outside the church were saying? Verses 9 & 10 say, “for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell 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 rescues us from the coming wrath.” These people who witnessed what was happening in this church were telling others about it. They told how Paul was received and what he had done while there. They told how the Thessalonian church turned to God, and then from their idols.
We cannot stop our sinning before going to God, but when we accept God, He helps us to turn from our wrong way of living and our sinning lives and helps us to live for Him, so that we might serve the Living and True God, while we wait for His Son to return.
Have you ever thought about what Paul has written here? He says, while we wait for God’s Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. This is so special! God is not sending someone else to get us. Jesus did not wash His hands of us when He died for our sins – this same Jesus, the One who died for us is coming back for us. I get the picture of a very anxious Jesus coming before His Father, each and every day, saying – Is today the day? Do I get to go get them today? Can I go, huh, Can I? He wants to come and claim His own, He wants to rescue the churches that have been in persecution, He wants to call His brother and sisters home –
So what has this got to do with us? Well, we need to be strong in our conviction. We need to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what, no matter who we are talking to. We need to walk the walk of being a Christian. We need to pray each and every day that the Holy Spirit would lead us in our conversations, and lead us to someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ, even if it means someone may laugh. We need to become strong in our faith, our love, in our walk and our proclaiming the gospel.