Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Thessalonians 3


1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God's service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.

6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Who is a brother and co-worker in God's service in spreading the gospel of Christ? I want to point out to you that brothers and sisters, who are co-workers, could apply to any and all disciples. It seems that each of us has a different walk with Jesus and others as we stand before the world in which we live.

Then, NOTE their anticipation of trials. They warned the Thessalonians that they would be persecuted and this actually happened. Again, what kind of trials were these and where were they coming from? As we have pointed out frequently, the trials and persecution spoken of here is pressure from the religious community. It is not from the "secular" world. It is from the spiritual or religious community. Even in the 8th Beatitude Jesus speaks of being persecuted as primarily a verbal offense. Although the verbal attacks did grow into some physical persecution, the vast majority of it is all verbal pressure--either talking badly toward you or about you.

I've experienced this a bit since we have been stubbornly following Jesus more closely. The rejection comes in the forms of saying, "Well, that's fine, but living this kind of lifestyle just can't be practiced within the structure of the church." Or, "It all sounds too simple." "You're ignoring the doctrinal teachings and even much of the Bible." At one point, when I mentioned JESUS PLUS NOTHING, a comment was made, "You've got to be kidding. You can't live like that. There's more to Christianity than Jesus plus nothing."

I'm reminded once again of the words in the 11th chapter of II Corinthians: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. In another translation this is "to be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."

Every time we feel the need to add-on something to Jesus, then we have added too much. In fact, add-ons too easily become the primary focus. And then the add-ons are received as "the truth" that is equal to or greater than Christ or instead of Christ. This is precisely what is meant by the biblical term, ANTI-CHRIST--all that is "instead of" Christ. The spirit of anti-Christ or "instead of" Christ is not something we're waiting for; it is already here. I beg you...hang on to JESUS PLUS NOTHING. He is the only One Who can get you out of this world alive!

I Thessalonians 2:17-20


17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you-certainly I, Paul, did, again and again-but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Over the past few years this dynamic is becoming more and more real to me than ever before. It's the dynamic of being thrilled by the lives and testimonies of those you have invested in. NOTE Paul says here that he views the Thessalonians in a very special way. They are his hope, his joy and his crown in which they all will celebrate, when in the presence of the Lord Jesus upon His return. He uses a couple of interesting terms, when he says, "You are our glory and joy."

"Glory" is literally a reflection of something. When we glorify Jesus in our lives, we are positively reflecting Him in our lives. In this case, the trio is saying that the Thessalonians are reflections of them--in what they say and how they say it, their emphasis upon Jesus plus nothing and the kingdom of God. And, because of this positive reflection, the Thessalonians are also their "joy".

Here's how it works: WHO HAS GOD BROUGHT TO YOU? Who has the Lord brought into your life for you to invest yours into them? You see, this is the kingdom principle that coincides with the "power of the few"--the power of multiplication through hanging out with two or three in the name of Jesus.

What's becoming more and more fascinating to me is how simple this approach is. Well, on the one hand, it's simple, but sometimes the stumbling block to people is that what we're talking about IS so simple. Just in the past couple of weeks we have had some interesting, brief sessions with pastors, doctors, corporate executives, non-religious neighbors and a variety of turned-off people and in these sessions we simply shared our experience, strength and hope in walking with Jesus and with others. The message of the simple good news of Jesus is so easily caught and embraced. It just doesn't take long at all. So, the trio walked into Thessalonica and walked out nearly three weeks later with a powerful impact. This is because it is easily caught. In fact, this walk with Jesus and with one another is more effectively caught than taught.

So, who has God brought into your life? And, are you investing in them? Well, when you do, you will find that the joy of seeing others grow and develop spiritually is the most thrilling thing you'll ever know. I love speaking before a group of thousands of people. It is definitely a thrill for me to take on the challenge of moving the audience to some sort of action. HOWEVER, the most thrilling thing I do today is investing my life in a few, and sometimes it's more than a few. But seeing the light bulbs come on in the mind and heart of a person, when he really "gets it" about Jesus Plus Nothing is the most thrilling experience ever. I glory and find great joy in seeing others grow and develop in their walk with Jesus and with others. There is no greater satisfaction. When I hear that a person--man or woman--has actually shared with someone that he or she is doing the most difficult thing ever and that is following the principles and teachings of Jesus. Now that is a simple thing, but that is also most remarkable and life-changing.

NOTE one other thing. The trio believed that Satan was most interested in thwarting them from getting together. Now, if you were the devil, what would you do that would be most effective in stunting the movement of Jesus in this world? You would do everything you could do to discourage followers of Jesus from getting together. So, remember this, investing your life in others will give you great joy, but there is always someone who will be coming around the corner to rob you of your joy.

This reminds me of the words of James, when he said, "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Make certain that you are spending your time doing the best things, mentoring or discipling others, investing your life in them. One of the greatest struggles in your life will be discerning between the good and the best. it's the GOOD that always seems to take precedence over the BEST.

I Thessalonians 2:13-16


So far in this chapter we have found two of the three universal dynamics for effective persuasion. FIRST--ETHOS or ethical appeal which answers the question, "Can I trust you?" The trio of Paul, Silas and Timothy demonstrated a great ETHOS in front of the Thessalonians. They proved to many that they could be trusted and came without any hidden agenda.

SECOND--PATHOS or emotional appeal which answers the question, "Do you care for me?" The trio also demonstrated a powerful PATHOS as they came alongside the Thessalonians. They proved they cared for them as a nursing mother or an encouraging father would do. They demonstrated an unconditional love toward them.

Now, look what happens when they present the message. This is the LOGOS or logical appeal which answers the question, "Do you know what you're talking about?"

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

NOTE they heard the word of God and because of the ETHOS and the PATHOS, they were persuaded that this is not just another man-made, religious twist. This actually is the supernatural word of God. This is the word that is not only heard, but is dynamically at work in those who are believers.

This is true persuasion at its best! When we approach people in this way, the message of Jesus is more readily received--more than that, it is embraced by those who believe as their own.

Then the trio goes on to encourage the Thessalonians to hang in there and keep it up: 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your fellow citizens the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

This is such a desperate need in our world today. Instead of pushing people or trying to convert people, it's vital that we simply share our experience, strength and hope that we have found in our walk with Jesus and with one another.

This walk we are walking requires that you be a planter of seed and not a peddler, a sharer and not a deal-closer. It requires that you see what Jesus did and said and do the same. It requires that you BE JESUS to all who come your way.

I Thessalonians 2:7-12


Yesterday we discussed the first of the three universal ingredients of persuasion, to move people to action with proper reflection, so that they embrace it and own it for themselves. These were the three dynamics that Paul, Silas and Timothy employed to most effectively touch the hearts of the Thessalonians. The first was ETHOS or ethical appeal. It answers the question, "Can I trust you?"

The second ingredient was PATHOS or emotional appeal. The first one had to do with personal qualities, but PATHOS has to do with relational sensitivity. This one answers the question, "Do you care for me?" Once the trio demonstrated that they could be trusted and had pure hearts with no hidden agenda, they then demonstrated that they cared for these Thessalonians. They give two illustrations as to how they showed their care.

First, as a nursing mother. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

They cared for the Thessalonians as a mother cares for her children. I like this. "Because we loved you so much." The primary purpose of our lives is twofold: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. This they did! Then they point out that this love was so great that they were very happy to not only share the gospel of God, but their own lives. This is the dynamic of love that you give yourself. This is what a mother does and this is what the trio did toward the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica.

Now, in between these two illustrations the trio returns to the ETHOS theme. Check it out in verse 9: 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.

This is most impressive to me. The trio didn't hold meetings or mass crusades in order to fill their coffers or to even pay their bills. They worked on the side in order not to be a burden to the Thessalonians in any way. This took away one of the most common barriers that seems to block people's acceptance of God's message to man. This is a great illustration for us today.

So, they showed how much they cared for the Thessalonians as a nursing mother would do. Then, second, as a father: 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Just as a father's encouragement, comfort and gentle push toward living a life that counts, so did the trio relate to the Thessalonians. The interesting thing about a mother and a father is that they do CARE FOR and give themselves up for their children. This is a terrific image regarding the trio's relationship with these believers.

Years ago, when speaking at the university campuses around the country, I discovered that speaking to a large group of students was somewhat limited with respect to true persuasion. I spoke on a given message and then I opened it up for questions. This candid interchange of questions, answers and ideas was much warmer and it was easy to communicate how much I cared for them as people. And again, the smaller the crowd, the warmer the atmosphere.

This is another dynamic that is sorely missing in most of our Christian settings. This is why there is such an emphasis placed on getting people in smaller groups. Growth just doesn't happen in a vacuum, but in the nurture and support of a few...a few who really care.

I Thessalonians 2:1-7


We have observed the world-wide blueprint for revolution in chapter one. It all revolves around the power of the few, where Jesus will show up. Now, our attention is turned toward the 3 most vital approaches they used with respect to the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica. These 3 ingredients are universal principles for true persuasion versus propaganda. True persuasion is moving a person toward making a decision with proper reflection. Propaganda is moving people to making a decision without proper reflection. When a person is persuaded, he owns it and embraces a truth for himself. When propaganda is used, the person just goes through the motions without embracing it for himself. What does this sound like? It's Christianity and churchianity at its best! One person standing before the many. This one participator and the many spectators gather together to hear only from one person. There is no interaction, little time for reflection, so, people walk away being propagandized at best.

True persuasion has 3 dimensions to it... 1. ETHOS--ethical appeal, which poses the question of personal trust and and must answer the question, "Can I trust you?" before persuasion will take place.

2. PATHOS--emotional appeal, which poses the question, "Do you care for me?"

3. LOGOS--logical appeal, which poses the question, "Do you know what you're talking about?"

True persuasion occurs when the communicator is able to demonstrate personal trust, genuine compassion and make sense to others. This first one is what i call the ethical appeal. It has to do with the ETHOS of these three men--Paul, Silas and Timothy. Can they be trusted? Are they good men? What was their agenda--really? Listen to how this is described here:

1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed-God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from any human being, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our prerogatives. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

Of the three persuasive appeals, this one is the strongest. It's the demonstration of authenticity and genuineness. In my experience everyone, young and old, is looking for authentic, for the real thing. God's trio demonstrated their goodness and authenticity in six ways:

1. They didn't come across like they were trying to trick them and clearly had pure motives in what they did.

2. They were entrusted by God with the Gospel--this message of good news that was so supernaturally attractive.

3. They didn't try to be people-pleasers, but God.

4. They never used flattery nor did they put on a mask covering any hidden agendas.

5. They were not looking for praise from the people.

6. They approached them with the simplicity of being child-like.

Now, tell me something. How is it possible to trust someone when you are unable to see them up close and personal? How is it possible for you to trust a person you don't know? This takes us back to the power of the few. Within the smaller context is where persuasion is most effective. There is nothing wrong with the large masses who gather for worship and teaching by gifted leaders. It's just not the most effective in persuading people to come along. This is why Jesus used the power of the few as His primary method to turn the world upside down.

Your ETHOS or ethical appeal is the foundation of any ministry. This reminds me of Jesus' illustration of building your house on a rock or building your house on the sand. Without a strong ethical appeal, the only thing you can build is a sandcastle. A sandcastle ministry and lifestyle is sure to fall flat!