A Committed Church

Paul gave thanks always for the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:2). They were a joy of his. We can see in 1 Thessalonians 1 why they so profoundly impacted his heart. Chuck Swindoll, in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, highlights how the people of God in Thessalonica had committed to three things: each other, non-believers, and Christ. We would do well to look at what their commitments entailed.

1. Commit To Stir Each Other On

If I am to live a life of faith, love, and hope like the believers in Thessalonica, I need help. I’m prone to discouragement. That is something that is engrained in me due to circumstances and sin and I’m constantly needing to work on that part of my heart. I don’t naturally live with vibrant hope. That’s where friends and fellow church members come in. In my years here in Vernon, I have been the recipient of words of affirmation that have helped me to keep going and to keep ministering. It’s likely that you need others too. It’s not weakness to need to be lifted up from time to time. Living life as a follower of Jesus is difficult in a fallen world. We need to encourage each other more than we do.

We need to be deeply committed to one another. We live in a culture of isolated nuclear families. That culture effects how we read the Scriptures and how we apply them. We are designed to be together. I’ve sought to break through some of this milieu by telling people that my home is open to anyone and everyone. I try and live a life of deep openness. In doing this my prayer is that people come to realize that one, pastors are normal men, and two, life is better when we’re walking through it together.

The church in Thessalonica was known for its works of faith, labors of love, and steadfastness of hope. If we want our churches to be known for the same things, we need to equip and empower one another to pursue those things.

2. Commit To Live In A Way That Draws Non-Christians In

The church in Thessalonica was known for its powerful response to the gospel.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

The surrounding regions knew about the faith of these Thessalonian believers. That’s a powerful testimony.

It gets me thinking. Do my actions and way of life match up with what I claim to believe about Jesus? Are non-believers drawn into the community of faith I’m a part of because they see a man who is wholly different than them?

Or, do they see a man who claims to worship the King but fails to live for the King in certain areas of my life, either public or private.

My prayer is that I would be different.

Whenever I feel at home in our country, our culture, our community, it gives me pause. Yes, God has a purpose for me in any place I find myself. But I should never be too comfortable here. This isn’t my home. And if I never feel different or distinct or placeless, then I likely am not living in a way that is too different from those around me.

We as God’s people need to commit to live in such a way that draws others in.

3. Commit to Pursue Christ Rather Than Idols

The church in Thessalonica was also known for their turning from idolatry.

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we have among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, – 1 Thessalonians 1:9

What are your idols?

It’s highly unlikely you have statues to other gods in your living room.

Idolatry in our modern church is much more insidious and subtle and dangerous.

A good diagnostic question to help you discover your idols is “what makes you the most angry?”

What posts on social media or news stories or conversations or circumstances get you riled up the quickest? At the heart of whatever it is is something you value. We get angry when that which we value or that which we love is threatened.

So what gets you angry?

I know for me it is typically revolving around respect. I’m an insecure man and when I feel like I’m not getting the respect I think I deserve, I get angry. This caused problems in my marriage early on, and still threatens to impact many of my relationships. I’ve had to realize that I idolize being respected and affirmed. So when I’m not, which is often, I can get heated. It doesn’t often come out in words, but it certainly fills my mind and heart and spirit. This is an idol I have to actively rid myself of.

The church in Thessalonica moved to the living and true God. They moved away from idolatry. They were committed to this endeavor.

Paul’s words urge us to be free from any and all entanglements that pull us away from the Savior. – Chuck Swindoll

This is easier said than done.

It’s painful.

It’s painful for me when I come face to face with the idols I’ve placed above God.

But on the other side of that pain is the joy of finding my security and identity in Christ.

The church in Thessalonica was committed to each other, the non-believers around them, and Christ.

May we do the same.

A Slow Burn

Churches that seek to cause great numerical growth at a fast pace tend to cause explosions that do lots of damage to lots of souls.

We need to return to the slow burn of relational discipleship. It’s messy. It’s painful. Mistakes are made and opposition is faced. But it’s the Biblical way.

Check out an (I think) encouraging conversation about this based in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. You can listen below, or go find the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. Just search Roach Ramblings!

Show Me What You Love

This past week I was in Clayton, OK speaking at a youth camp. One afternoon I went with a youth group that I had gotten to know to a lake not far from the camp’s grounds. The electric guitarist from the band, my friend Mason, was partnering with me to destroy young men in several rounds of chicken fights out in the murky water. Our final round was an awe-inspiring come from behind victory, as I as the base was fully submerged under water but stood strong in the sand. After my almost drowning (not to be dramatic), we retired on top of the world. Our conversation turned to working out, something Mason does a lot of and is really good at. I shared about the one time in the year 2021 that I went to the gym to lift. Mason mentioned in passing that my body type was one in which if I got committed to working out that I could see a lot of growth. Without skipping a beat I informed him that I don’t care enough to work out. Or in other words, I don’t love it enough to pursue growing in it.

We act upon what we love.

We labor towards what it is that we love.

It’s how we’re wired. And according to 1 Thessalonians 1, our love for God and others should lead to laboring alongside God and for others.

Paul gives thanks for three characteristics that the church in Thessalonica was known for.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Labor motivated by love.

The Christians in Thessalonica were known for this. What about you? When people look to you and your community of faith, do they see us laboring for one another?

I can’t claim to love my wife Jamie and then never show it via my actions.

In much the same way I can’t claim to love Jesus and His bride if I never show it via my actions.

If we love sports, we’re going to spend time watching them whether in person or via the media.Our kid’s participation in practices or games will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love earthly pleasures, we’re going to spend time and money preparing for vacations and going on vacations. These things of earth will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love money, we’re going to spend time working as hard as we can to earn more money and the love of money will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If Paul was to look at the modern church, he’d likely see a lot of labor motivated by love for vacations, sports, and excess.

Gone are the days where the commitment to one’s local body of believers trumped any other commitment. In a modern church context worried about the deceptive and destructive throes of legalism, the thought of deep commitment to a church body is seen as just a legalistic tendency of a bygone era. I would argue however that a deep commitment to a local church isn’t being legalistic, it’s being obedient.

Obviously, love for God and neighbor isn’t relegated to just attendance in a church on a Sunday morning. No, it’s much deeper than that. It shows itself in acts of service, evangelism, and intentional discipleship.

At Camp Minnetonka this week I saw so many adults who had given up a week of work not to go on vacation but to come intentionally invest in students by partnering alongside the pastors and youth pastors of their church. And it made my heart swell with joy.

Do you want this labor motivated by love for God and others?

I do.

And thankfully 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us the answer as to how to get it.

Not by working hard. But through receiving it via the Spirit.

our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b

The Holy Spirit brings the power.

Chuck Swindoll says “these qualities could only come from the work of the Spirit in the lives of genuine believers.

We all have room to grow in this. But that growth comes from the Spirit. The growth comes through communing with God.

And once we catch the fire of love, we share it with those around us. We model it.

My parents taught me to love God and others via the local church. That meant getting up at 7 AM for Sunday School after getting home from a Rangers game at 1 AM. That meant opening up our home for staff members, Sunday school classes, and students. That meant discipling younger believers. I watched and watched and watched. The fire was lit in me. And I want Gracie to grow up in a home where our commitment to the Lord and His people is shown by our wallets, schedules, conversations, and relationships.

I want her to see a labor of love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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