Sunday, May 12, 2013
Steps to a Victorious Christian Life
1Th. 1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,
1Th. 1:5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
1Th. 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,
1Th. 1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
We know that the church in Thessalonica did not have it easy. From the early days of Paul's ministry there had been persecutions and yet those who had become followers of Jesus were faithful to their calling. Paul writes them this letter of encouragement in which we discover the steps they have followed to live a victorious Christian life.
The message was preached to those in Thessalonica. They heard the word of the Lord preached to them and this planted the seeds of their faith, but this was not enough on its own. The word was preached, but they also experienced and sensed the power of the Holy Spirit when listening to the word. The result -- they were under full conviction and they responded.
Those who came and preached the word knew that preaching alone was not enough. Manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit were also not enough, but there had to be a consistency in their daily lives that was truly transformational. Their preaching and their lives had to be a consistent, day in and day out witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in their personal lives. When those who did the preaching lived holy lives in the presence of the people of Thessalonica, lives were dramatically transformed. The people wanted to imitate the lifestyles of Paul, Silas and Timothy. The result was that they became spiritually strong and were filled with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit, and an example to all of the believers in that region of Europe.
Sometimes I sense that we are living in a time when there is very little conviction of sin. Everyone seems to believe and be affirmed that whatever they do is okay. We are to encourage one another to do whatever feels best. And yet, that is not what God would want of his children. At the same time could it be that there is very little conviction of sin -- even in our churches?
I don't think that Paul was talking about hell-fire and brimstone preaching. The steps to a victorious Christian life including hearing the good news about Jesus preached. This is what the evangelists did in the early days of the church. They traveled the world telling people about Jesus, the Messiah, who had come into this world -- about the son of God -- who had died and been resurrected. They wanted people to know about the hope found in Jesus who had come to set things right and create a pathway for all of us to have a relationship with God. This was the good news -- this was what was preached.
This entire letter begins with Paul, Silas and Timothy affirming that they pray continually. Could it be that it was a lifestyle of prayer that brought about the possibility of a victorious Christian life. Those who brought the good news engaged in a lifestyle of prayer. Then, when they preached the good news about Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit was present. When the Holy Spirit was present -- the power of God was there. This is when conviction fell upon those who were hearing. There will be no conviction today without power and there will be no power without spending time in the presence of God through prayer. It takes time and it takes sacrifice. Are we willing to give up our precious time to spend time in the very presence of God so that his Holy Spirit and convicting power will again speak to the hearts of people as the word is preached? Could it be that this is the breakdown today in the steps to a victorious Christian life?
Or, let's look further. I am scared to even touch the idea of those who preach being an example to those who are to follow Christ. Unfortunately in this media driven day and age there are those who preach who are not good examples of the holy life. Instead they become the focus of scandals and continue to give the gospel a bad name. The world expects there to be a consistency between the words we speak and the lives we live. This is one of the steps to the victorious Christian life. If that consistency is not present, then the entire system breaks down.
Where is the power? Where is the conviction? Where is the holy life? These must all be present for there to be a victorious Christian life. It is possible. The people of Thessalonica were an example to the entire surrounding territory. God was working miracles in their lives and all the world could see. What would happen if we would step into this victorious Christian life today and the world around us could begin to see this transformation? God needs followers who will step into this victorious Christian life and become role models for him in such a way that their lives will be a louder witness than all of the televangelists combined. Is it possible? Yes -- through the power of God's Holy Spirit.
Lord, please help us to be in a state of continual prayer, calling upon your presence in power and conviction and then lead me into a life of transformation as I imitate you. Amen.