1 Thessalonians 1.4,5
For decades I have lived in the world of education. It has always been higher education. Whether undergraduate or graduate education my students often would have to demonstrate their learned skills by writing a paper.
Sometimes that exercise was a simple essay. Other times it was a research paper. Words on paper organized in a cogent argument display a student’s grasp of the material, the issues pertinent to a topic and demonstrate the talent to articulate conclusions. It is a helpful test of achieved outcomes.
All of us who teach know that a well written paper by an accomplished student is a breeze to grade. We commend the student for their use of facts germane to the discussion. Of course we highlight their logical argumentation and objective analysis of matters embroiled in a subject.
Just as clear to all of us teachers is how difficult it is to read a “snow job”. Words thrown on to a piece of paper that have no organization is difficult to follow. We teachers sometimes end up writing more on the paper to help a student than the student actually wrote himself.
The spiritual life of Christians is similar. Those who are actually living a life-like Jesus are easy to commend. It is self-evident that their applied values to life are everything that the Bible describes. Our compliment is merely a decoration to what they are putting on display.
Not all Christians live that way. They talk, use the right vocabulary, have some knowledge about Biblical matters and even show up at gatherings on occasion. However, their commitment is guarded.
The Apostle Paul puts the spotlight on the lives of the Thessalonian believers as great examples of how Christian living is done at its best. For him watching these followers of Christ is like reading a research paper written by a top student. Paul teaches all of us the benchmark of Christian living by their example.
A commendable Christian life is not something reserved for an elite few. Instead, Paul clearly notes that the foundation for such a life is identical for all who are given the gift of salvation. It is a self-evident fact that all who claim to follow Jesus are the beneficiaries of God’s choosing them.
This is practically a description of what the gift of grace means. Our sin put us into a bad-off state. We needed rescue and He chose to rescue us.
God’s motivation was love. It was not a decision or choice based upon anything selfish or wicked. His whole purpose was merciful.
Consistent with the Apostle’s assessment is the reason for his certainty in their faith journey. He knows that the good news of Jesus Christ, His Death and Resurrection came to the Thessalonians with transformational power. It was much more than good-sounding words.
In our day as it was in Paul’s, there is no shortage of people who talk. Faith living is not about words as an end in themselves, rather it is the truth and subsequent faith-living that responds to what is true. The gospel is not about what we say or where we are members or how we present an argument.
Rather it is how we live, what we believe and who the focus of our faith is. That then demonstrates itself in how we live. Is our example in life a reflection of how Christ would be living if He was doing our job, having our conversations, laboring with our intensity, giving up personal desires for the benefit of others or displaying a beyond earthly joy that comes from above?
A life that is transformed by the truth of Christ, through a faith response to the gospel demonstrates the presence of power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is characteristic in that person’s daily routine. No, that Christian is not a puppet. Instead, a deep sense of conviction of what they believe oozes into every aspect of their life. It is not a matter of what they know. The facts are not an end in itself. Rather, it is what they believe. It is a deep unshakable belief in the truth of Jesus Christ. The resulting life from this is a life that is worth putting on display. Do more than just know the facts. Live what you believe.