1 Thessalonians: Real Fellowship/Community 2
Science class has book-work and lab-work. Both are important.
Study the book together—read, discuss, understand—
and then put it into practice in the lab
researching, experimenting, testing, etc.
Partnering with God & each other to have real Biblical fellowship
is the lab,
the place we put the Book learning into practice.
We must have the Book & lab…let’s look at them together.
In the last post we looked throughout 1 Thessalonians
for the Holy Spirit to paint a picture for us
of what true Biblical fellowship/community looks like.
For this post (and the next), we will look to 1 Thessalonians
to answer the question:
What Do We Do To Partner With the LORD
As He Grows Biblical Fellowship/Community Here?
First, The Thessalonians Were Christians.
Their identity came before their activity.
Before they learned to act like Christians,
they became Christians.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6: “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God,
that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you
not simply with words but also with power,
with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction…
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message
in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Thessalonians 2:9: “…we worked night and day in order
not to be a burden to anyone
while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:13: “and we also thank God continually because,
when you received the word of God, which u 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.”
You might say, “Yeah, I’m a Christian. Been at church for years.
Next point! Let’s build community!”
Hold on. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).
- At the hospital, you might feel fine, but there are tests
to show if you’re healthy, regardless of how you feel.
Matthew 7:21-23: they tried to “tap into the power of Christ,”
but they were not in Christ by faith.
James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
The fellowship/community of 1 Thessalonians is only possible
for those who are in Christ by faith,
just as only organs that are in the body
receive the blood that the organs need to live.
Are you? What does it mean to be in Christ? How do you get there?
What is “receiving salvation”?
In medicine, getting healthy involves two sides of the same coin:
- agreeing with the doctor’s diagnosis
- and receiving the doctor’s cure.
Both are absolutely necessary.
If you don’t agree with the diagnosis
that you need a heart transplant
but think it’s just indigestion, you won’t get healthy; you will die.
If you agree with the diagnosis but don’t receive the cure,
if you try to heal your heart your own way (exercise, diet, etc.)
or go to a different doctor giving u a 2nd opinion that you like better,
you won’t get healthy; you’ll die.
Health is agreeing with the diagnosis & receiving the cure,
asking the doctor to do the surgery,
getting on the operating table.
Same with becoming a Christian.
Biblical Diagnosis: we are sinful rebels, not just unintentional mistakers.
We haven’t just colored outside of God’s lines,
we’ve attacked Him with our crayons.
We didn’t just jay-walk in God’s Kingdom,
we committed treason by
trying to be our own gods & have our own kingdoms.
We don’t just have slightly elevated cholesterol;
our hearts are dead & we need a complete transplant.
Has the Holy Spirit helped you agree with this diagnosis?
This is so crucial, agreeing with God’s diagnosis,
because we can go to church & be involved
but still not be in Christ by faith,
just as you can go to the hospital
- but simply hang out in the gift shop,
- get a meal in the cafeteria,
- even visit others, or
- get your ankle looked at/fixed
but still never get the heart transplant that you need asap.
It’s possible to get earthly benefits from involvement in a church
but never get the eternal benefit of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This isn’t just a 21st century phenomenon;
we see in the Gospels that
many people followed around Jesus as a fad,
but didn’t follow Him by faith.
- Some received a free meal,
- saw miracles up close, and
- were caught up in the excitement/buzz around Him,
but most still walked away when He said
we must eat His flesh and drink His blood by faith (John 6),
when He said that our internal soul-sickness of sin
was far more serious than our external problems;
when He said they needed to turn away from sin & repent,
not just add Him to their current lifestyle.
Many waved palm branches declaring He was the promised Messiah,
but when He didn’t give them what they were looking for,
they yelled “crucify Him” 5 days later.
Again, what is the salvation, being in Christ,
that is necessary for Biblical fellowship/community?
After agreeing with the Bible’s diagnosis,
it’s trusting Christ to be your cure,
by faith receiving His perfect heart
to replace your sinful heart;
trusting that He is the God-Man, fully God & fully human—
fully qualified to cure you—
and that He died on the cross in your place &
rose again three days later for you.
Not just believing that the cross happened,
but that it happened for you, for your sins,
to set you free, to pay your debt, to make you alive,
to adopt you as His brother/sister.
Luke 22:19-20: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Greatest prepositional phrase in the English language: “for you…”
Many stop right there before the “for you…”
They believe it all happened, just not for them.
Some say, “I’ve done too many sins, I don’t deserve Him,
I just can’t accept this, it’s too big of a gift.”
Some of us really have a hard time accepting a gift from others,
whether a meal, shoveling our driveway, a financial gift, etc.
We might be quick to bless someone else,
but we almost don’t let anyone ever bless us.
It makes us feel bad, indebted, helpless, needy,
scared they’ll use it against us in the future.
We don’t want to “owe” anyone, we can handle life ourselves.
This is unhealthy in our interactions with others;
this is eternally deadly in our interactions with Christ.
We don’t deserve Him to die for us,
but we still must receive His broken body, His blood, as a gift.
It is a false humility that believes in Jesus
but won’t receive His death as payment for our sins.
And so, trusting in Jesus’ diagnosis and cure—being in Christ—
is a kind of death:
- death to our idea that we’re not that bad,
- death to the idea that our best is enough,
- death to the thought that we can get better on our own
and fix our situation;
it’s a kind of death to agree that we are worse than we imagined…
Christ & His cross confronts us: we need to be saved (not improved)…
and we can’t save ourselves…
But trusting in the Lord Jesus’ diagnosis & cure
is also a glorious rebirth,
- the Truth that we are more loved than we imagined,
- that Christ’s best IS enough,
- that He would go through the cross to pay for our crimes
and pay the adoption fee to make us children of God.
He is able to save us…AND willing to save us!
- “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross…” (Hebrews)
- He said to the leper, “I am willing” to make you clean!
Oh the willingness of God in Christ!
Have you trusted in Jesus’ diagnosis and cure by faith?
Remember the prodigal son?
He “came to his senses” in the pig-pen,
the Holy Spirit enabled him to realize
that he had sinned against heaven & against his father
(he wasn’t just going through a youthful phase),
then he went back to the father to apologize, &
he then received his identity as an undeserved gift:
- the father’s grace of forgiveness,
- the ring of sonship,
- the robe of righteousness,
- the sandals of peace,
- the sacrificed calf of celebration.
Have you done this, just between you & the Lord Jesus,
agreed with His diagnosis & trusted in/received His cure:
Himself Who suffered, died and rose again…for your crimes?
The son didn’t try to do better in the pig-pen,
he didn’t try a new life-hack/technique to be better/get cleaned up;
He went to the father in as-is condition, still smelling like the pig-pen,
and confessed and received the undeserved gifts of sonship.
John 1:“To those who received Him, to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God.”
There is a belief that doesn’t receive;
but there is faith that believes, receives & becomes…
Are you a Christian?
Is your hope for heaven based on
what people say about you after you die (good deeds)?
Or is your hope for heaven based on
what Jesus said about you right before He died,
“It is finished, paid in full.”
Each day, do you eat/live on a soup you’ve created
of your favorite beliefs from all over the world
on the stove of your effort/good deeds?
Or by faith do you eat the Bread of life, Jesus, the uncreated Creator,
baked in the oven of the cross?
Are you a Christian?
This is essential for Biblical fellowship/community.
- Is Jesus just your coach…or also your King?
- Does He just give you advice…
or have you given Him your allegiance?
(I don’t mean do you practice your allegiance perfectly;
no Christian does.
But have you given Him your permanent allegiance as your King,
or just your temporary preference as your genie?)
- Is He Mr. Rogers—a nice man—or your Master—the God-Man?
Has Christianity/church/the Bible
been a technique you’ve tried out to see if it “works”,
or is the Lord Jesus the Way, the Truth & the Life
that you have surrendered to by faith?
Were you once kind of excited about Jesus
but then when life didn’t get easier,
when life got hard,
you went looking for something else?
The Lord Jesus said some people will at first
receive the Gospel excitedly,
but when trouble comes they will grab on to something else.
They weren’t in Him by faith.
Have you been a spiritual wanderer/hitch-hiker
who gets a ride with Jesus for part of your journey,
but hop out to get a ride in other cars/beliefs
for other parts of the journey?
Do you have your own trail to blaze,
& you’ll ride with Jesus as long as
He gets you where you want to go?
Or have you climbed into Christ by faith and put away your thumb,
trusting not in your thumb to get you where you want to go
but trusting in Christ & His nail-scarred hands
to get you where you need to go?
Having Christ by faith
is the only way to have real community in practice.
You can receive Him now, by faith…
by agreeing with His diagnosis & trusting Him to be your cure…