July 18, 2011 David Balzer

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16: A Royal Invitation

When Prince William and Kate Middleton became engaged, they sent out 1800 wedding invitations. ROYAL invitations. To the wedding of the century. What an offer! What an opportunity!

It was THE event of the social calendar. Ian Thorpe scored an invitation. So did Elton John. Julia Gillard was there. And Victoria and David Beckham. All sorts of people. Celebrities, royalty, politicians, sportsmen and women. But also lots of ORDINARY people too – University and work friends of Will and Kate.

And when the invitations arrived, people made all sorts of plans to be there. Bought dresses, booked flights, re-arranged schedules, changed plans, designed silly hats. They put up with crowded hotels, security scans, traffic chaos. All for the chance to be part of an unforgettable event.

When you receive a royal invitation, you give it the respect it deserves. And you do whatever you can – put up with all sorts of inconveniences – to ACCEPT it.

And that’s what the Thessalonians had received. A royal invitation. From the king of the Universe. From God HIMSELF.

You see, the gospel isn’t some HUMAN INVENTION. The latest philosophy or trend. It’s not a passing fad. Or a relic of ancient history. A quaint, culturally specific, outdated irrelevancy.

No! The gospel is the eternal, God-ordained, God-inspired, God-executed plan to restore the whole Creation. His plan to save mankind, and bring us back to Himself. THE GOSPEL IS GOD SPEAKING!

And when you see the gospel LIKE THAT. As a royal invitation. It’s GOT to have a huge impact on your ATTITUDE to it.

Have a look at what THE THESSALONIANS thought of the invitation Paul delivered. Jump down to v13. The middle of the passage.

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 the word of men, but as it actually is, THE WORD OF GOD, which is at work in you who believe.

Paul and Silas had DELIVERED the message. But it wasn’t THEIRS. They’d been ENTRUSTED with it, but only as MESSAGE BOYS. Mouthpieces. Like the mailmen delivering the royal wedding invitations.

They spoke THE WORDS, but the MESSAGE was God’s. And that’s the way the Thessalonians ACCEPTED it. Not as man’s words, but God’s. It’s an invitation ON A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL when GOD’S issuing it.

And you can see that’s the case there in v12. Paul says his job was to encourage, comfort and urge them to live lives worthy of GOD WHO CALLED THEM INTO HIS KINGDOM AND GLORY.

Who’s doing the calling? God is! Paul’s speaking the words. But God’s doing the CALLING. It’s his whole PURPOSE for the gospel. To call people back to himself. To call them into his kingdom. Under his rule and reign and influence.

And notice who’s INITIATIVE it is. It’s GOD’S. God does the calling. And we RESPOND. It’s never our idea, or our decision. It’s a gap that can only be bridged because GOD bridges it. He’s the One who wants to see people everywhere living under his rule. And who CALLS people to turn to him..

And, if you jump down to v15, you can see the FLIPSIDE of that. The message Paul preaches is to SAVE people. To RESCUE them from death and judgment. But there’s OPPOSITION. People who PERSECUTE the Thessalonians, and Paul, as well as the first Jewish Christians.

There from the end of v14. Notice what’s going on from God’s point of view. What He thinks of people like that.

You suffered from your own countrymen 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 all men 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.

God WANTS people to be saved.

He’s issuing his invitation through his messengers. And he’s NOT PLEASED with people who HINDER that invitation. In fact, his WRATH is coming. God will STOP people who try to STOP HIS MESSAGE. Who try to STOP people BEING SAVED.

Wrath is just and right because it’s against people who put lives at risk.

Avoca Beach has got a large rock platform at its southern end. And it’s very popular with fishermen and surfers. But it’s also DANGEROUS. And people are often swept off the rocks by unexpected big waves. And so, there’s a big orange life buoy hanging up on a hook on the rock. In memory of someone who drowned there.

It’s not locked up. That would make it USELESS. It’s easily accessible for anyone to use. Just hanging on a rock. Or steal. Which idiots occasionally DO.

And that makes locals, understandably and rightly, FURIOUS. Because it puts lives at risk.

And it’s the same reason God’s wrath is coming against those who persecute the Christians. Because it’s putting lives at risk. Lives God wants TO SAVE.

So hear it, receive it and let it work in you (13)

So that’s the royal invitation God’s issued. But what do you DO with that? Because God’s not just giving the invitation BACK THEN. Through his Word, the Bible, it’s an invitation that’s gone out to hundreds of nationalities and thousands of languages across oceans, up mountains, down rivers. And down across almost 2000 years.

God’s royal invitation is TO YOU, TODAY.

What do you DO with it? It’s fairly obvious really, isn’t it? You ACCEPT IT. God wants to SAVE you. He’s calling you into his kingdom and glory. Calling you to live lives worthy of him.

The OPTION, instead, is to risk his anger and wrath and judgment. How are you ANSWERING?

Look again at v13. At how THE THESSALONIANS responded.

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 the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

They didn’t just HEAR it. They heard it and ACCEPTED it. They took it in. Received it gladly.

But that’s not all. They didn’t just hear and accept it, they LET IT WORK in them. (The word of God, which is at work in you who believe). Because that’s what God’s word DOES. His powerful word brought the Universe into being. His word keeps it going. And when it’s received by people, IT GOES TO WORK in them, TOO.

How does it work? It’s a bright light to shine on black hearts and dark valleys, it’s living water to pour new life into dead souls, it’s ointment to unblock deaf ears.

It’s a needle to prick dull consciences, and a sharp sword to prune off sin,

It’s a rock to lean on, and a shelter to rest under.

So hear God’s word, receive it, and let it WORK in you. If you haven’t done that before, do it for THE FIRST TIME. Accept his invitation to be saved. To return to him. Turn from your sin.

If you HAVE done it before. Do it AGAIN. DO it EVERYDAY. Hear his word, receive it. And let it work in you.

So live lives worthy of him (12)

And what that will mean, as you do it more and more, is that you’ll begin to live lives WORTHY of him. Have a look at Paul’s encouragement in v11.

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,

It literally says TO WALK WORTHY of God. When God’s given you a royal invitation, the right response is to walk WORTHY of the One who’s issued it. To MEASURE UP to the dignity of the one issuing the invitation. Imagine turning up to Will and Kate’s wedding wearing thongs and board shorts! The invitation is embossed gold lettering, the wedding reception cost millions of pounds, and the best you can do is pull on a pair of shorts and a clean T-shirt!

But to walk worthy of God is FAR more significant than simply WHAT YOU WEAR. The worthy response to God’s royal invitation is to give EVERYTHING to the One who GAVE everything for you.

Listen to how Jesus puts it in Mt 10:37-39.

37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is NOT WORTHY OF ME; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me IS NOT WORTHY OF ME; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me IS NOT WORTHY OF ME. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE WILL FIND IT.

To walk worthy of God is to lose you life for Jesus’ sake. To hand over EVERYTHING.

Nothing less will do. Nothing less is WORTHY of him. This invitation is FREE – you can’t buy it or earn it. But at the same time, it’s SO VALUABLE, it costs EVERYTHING. It

Jesus lost his life for our sake. The worthy response is to lose our life for HIS sake.

Are you DOING that? Does Jesus have EVERYTHING? Or are you holding back? Perhaps it’s not mother or father or son or daughter you’re holding back. Perhaps it’s your security, or your holidays, or your money. Perhaps it’s your work, or your Sunday mornings, or your sport. Perhaps it’s your past, or your pastimes. Your emotions, your ego, or influence. Anything that you’re looking to  to satisfy instead of God.

Perhaps it’s a secret sin you’re not willing to let go of, or a special friendship you know’s not appropriate, but it’s so nice and comforting. And it’s not hurting anyone.

But that’s not walking WORTHY of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. Which is what Paul’s encouraging and comforting and URGING you to do.

So issue the invitation

You see, PAUL realised the significance of the royal invitation. And that influenced how he passed it on. How he encouraged OTHERS to respond to the gospel.

And that’s the SECOND consequence God’s royal invitation should have. FIRST, we should ACCEPT it. SECOND, we should PASS IT ON. We should issue it TO OTHERS.

Look at the impact it had on how Paul did things.

Dare to tell it (2)

Back up in v2, he DARED TO TELL IT despite being smashed for it.

2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

They knew what was coming because they’d already experienced it. But they SPOKE IT ANYWAY. People who do that are either crazy, or they realise that their personal safety is less important than the message getting out.

And Paul’s convinced that they did it WITH GOD’S HELP. See it there in v2? His Holy Spirit who gives courage and the right words to say. Who guides, and protects. And who opens the ears of those who hear.

God’s HELPING you, so DARE to tell his gospel.

Approved by God (4)

And because it’s God’s message, and because he’s HELPING. Paul’s convinced he’s APPROVED by God. V4.

4 On the contrary, we speak AS MEN APPROVED BY GOD to be ENTRUSTED with the gospel.

Just like the Royal Mail is delivered with the approval and authority of the Queen, so God’s gospel comes with his authority. It’s got his stamp of authority.

Don’t flatter or trick (3,5)

And when you’ve got that sort of authority behind you, you don’t need a sales pitch. A devious presentation that compels people. v3.

3 For the appeal we make does not spring from ERROR OR IMPURE MOTIVES, nor are we trying to TRICK you.

You can just speak it plainly, and simply. You don’t have to hide behind emotional music, or manipulative altar calls, or snazzy publicity that disguises what you’re REALLY doing.

You don’t NEED it, because it’s GOD’S invitation. He’s CALLING people. And he’s APPROVED you, and he’s HELPING you.

Pleasing God not men (4,6)

And because it’s GOD’S invitation, that affects who you’re WORKING for. Your goal isn’t to build up a church, or meet people’s felt needs, or help them achieve their potential, or satisfy their longings. You’re not working for the denomination, or raising your profile, publicising your website, or furthering your career.

Some of those things might happen. But you’re ANSWERABLE ONLY TO THE ONE WHO’S MESSAGE IT IS. Look there in v4.

we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. WE ARE NOT TRYING TO PLEASE MEN BUT GOD, WHO TESTS OUR HEARTS.

And again down in v6.

6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

People are EASY to impress. You only have to worry about externals. Appearances. But God looks at the HEART. He looks THROUGH performances and results. Right past competencies and ability. He sees ATTITUDES, AND MOTIVATIONS. He see whose empire you’re REALLY building. Whose glory you’re REALLY working for.

So let me ask you – Are you a person-pleaser, or a God-pleaser? When you’ve got a difficult choice to make, how much does WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WILL THINK influence your decision?

The opportunity comes up at work to say something about Jesus. You worry what other people will think. The strange looks, the awkward silence, the muffled sniggers.

Or you want to invite a friends to church, but you not sure whether it will spoil the friendship. Whether they’ll come up with a weak excuse, and then keep brushing you off.

Or you want to pull out the Bible at family meal-times, but you’re worried about everyone complaining.

Or there’s a Christian who you need to have a tough conversation with. To correct them. Encourage them to change their attitude or behaviour. But you’re worried about their reaction. Will they get defensive? Or still worse, accuse you of being a hypocrite, because you’re not perfect either?

Follow Paul’s example. Don’t worry about pleasing PEOPLE, but God. Look for HIS PRAISE. Work for an audience of One.

Giving it top priority (6b-12)

For Paul, everything else came second. Delivering the message was TOP PRIORITY. Look there from the second half of v6.

Rather than stand up for his RIGHTS, rather than be a burden to the Thessalonians, he was GENTLE. He COULD have demanded a living from them. But instead, v9, he worked night and day in order not to be a burden, while he preached the gospel.

In other words, he earned a living AT NIGHT, so he could preach to people ALL DAY. ANYTHING rather than put a barrier in the way of them accepting his message.

There in v7. He was LIKE A MOTHER CARING FOR HER LITTLE CHILDREN.

8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Mothers will DO WITHOUT, rather than see their kids miss out. Someone told me they grew up thinking their mum’s favourite part of the chicken was the parson’s nose and the neck.

It was only when he grew up, he realised his mum only took those leftover bits, because that’s all that was left.

And that’s Paul. Sharing not just the message, but his LIFE as well. Doing without, so his kids could have what they needed.

How well does that reflect the way WE treat each other? Are we willing to get down and dirty with people? Share the REAL parts of our lives? Or is it just the EASY bits? Sunday mornings and Thursday nights?

Are we helping each other in real, practical, sacrificial, costly ways? Are we SERVING in ways that push us out of our comfort zones? Just because there’s a need, just because Jesus would WANT you to. Rather than because there’s something in it for you.

Are we sharing REAL, PAINFUL, PERSONAL prayer points, or just the nice, safe, homogenised ones. The ones that don’t give too much away?

Let’s be a little RISKY in our relationships. With each other, and with our friends who don’t know Jesus.

Let’s remember who we’re seeking to please. Whose praise we’re looking for. Whose invitation were passing on. Who we’re to walk worthy of.

 

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