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When you reflect on your life, what big changes stand out to you? How about changes from the last year? Month? Week? As we continue our series on 1 Thessalonians, Todd Wagner teaches us how walking with Jesus should change everything.
The Marks of a Healthy Church Family
Clear Thinking About the End Which Leads to Christ-like Living in the Present
Ignorance is not Bliss - Always Being with Jesus Is
A Reminder that Holiness and Purity Matter
An Encouragement to Excel Still More in an Encouraging Way
Missing Each Other Without Missing the Mark
Getting The Most Out of Time In God's Word
Bible First, Bible Most
Get Used to Different
Leaders That Create Churches Others Are Thankful For
A Letter of Thanks to a Church to Be Thankful For
When you reflect on your life, what big changes stand out to you? How about changes from the last year? Month? Week? As we continue our series on 1 Thessalonians, Todd Wagner teaches us how walking with Jesus should change everything.
Suggested Scripture study: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Acts 17:1-10; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; James 3:1; 1 Timothy 1:5–7; Colossians 1:9-29
* TV Series: The Chosen
* *Real Truth Real Quick: *Does Acts 2:42-47 Teach Socialism?
Hello! It is good to be with friends who are here with me in Dallas and also in Plano and Fort Worth and Frisco. It was great to be with my friends in Plano last week when I was up there sharing the exciting news about what we believe God is going to do with that little community up there in Plano. It's great to be all back together this morning.
We are here, if you're a guest, studying a book called 1 Thessalonians. Let me just tell you a little about this place, because sometimes you walk into a community like this and you're like, "What is Thessalonians? Why are we studying this? My life has a lot going on. I've experienced a lot of brokenness, a lot of hurt, a lot of pain, and I don't know if I want to read a letter that was written to some folks who lived 2,000 years ago."
I don't blame you, but let me tell you what we're doing. We're about to study the Word of God, which is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, the Scripture says, so it is able to pierce us and divide, if you will, tear us open, so God can do surgical work and root out death and disease and bring health to us.
That's what the Word of God is. It's a living, breathing, kind word from a God who loves you. You need to know this. The word that went to the Thessalonians is the primary word I want you to hear tonight: that God loves you, that God doesn't want you to live in a way that's going to increase your own pain because of your own rebellion and foolishness against him.
He wants to rescue you from the domain of darkness that all of humankind is in until they get their minds right with God, until they see God for who he is in all of his goodness and all his glory and go, "I'd love to be in relationship with you," and he says, "Awesome, because I'd love to be in relationship with you, and ever since you and all of humanity left me, I've been seeking you."
Primarily, God sought us through his Son Jesus, who is the visible image of the invisible God. God's plan, as he revealed to us through Jesus, was that when people came to understand the holiness of God, the love of God through his own provision for sinners, that Christ died for us so we could be forgiven, that he paid the debt of our sin…
The wages of our turning from God is that we are left in death, but God has given us the free gift to be reconciled to him if we just trust in his goodness and the glory of what his Son has done for us. Then Jesus says, "I'm going to leave you here, though. I'm going to leave you here in this world that is not your home to love others in my name."
Now, before we're done today, I'm going to read to you from a section of Scripture where it says God left us here to complete what is lacking in Christ's sufferings. We don't believe Jesus is being constantly re-sacrificed for us. We don't believe there's a continual crucifixion. We believe Jesus when he said, "It is finished (tetelestai), paid in full." There's no longer a need to offer sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice has been offered.
All that's necessary is that you trust in God's provision and sacrifice. But he says, "Just like Jesus was the visible image of the invisible God, I want you to be the visible image of the invisible, if you will, seated at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus, who for a time cannot be seen in this world, but he is not dead and he is coming quickly. I want you to represent him."
Now I'm going to do something I don't do very often when I'm working my way through a book of the Bible: I'm going to stay right where we were. We are going to stay in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. We're not going to push ahead, because this section of Scripture is so core to everything we are supposed to be about.
Let me just encourage you with this. Let me show you how relevant this book is. History is really helpful to us if we don't repurpose it for our own agendas. Thessalonica was a very strategic city. It was a harbor city. It was a major trade route from east to west, and it was a place of all kinds of world commerce. It was a place where there were pagans, there were Jews, there were Roman worshipers of Roman deities, there were Greek worshipers of Greek deities, and there was amazing lawlessness.
Listen to what one historian said about Thessalonica. In fact, when archaeologists did some digs on ancient Thessalonica, they found there were no windows in the houses, which was uncommon in that region, but the reason they said there were no windows was because people living in Thessalonica were in such fear. There was this thing called the coronavirus which had swept over Thessalonica, so they just shut it down. No. I don't know why there were no windows. There was no coronavirus, except there was the virus of sin.
What you're going to see is that sin wasn't a Jewish problem, it wasn't a non-Jewish problem; it was a people problem. So when all of the nations of the world gathered at this massive trade route, there was nothing but an influx of the disease of sin in Thessalonica, and when people built houses, they would not put windows in them. Murder was commonplace. Divorce was frequent. Prostitution was high. Immorality was rampant.
One of the things you have to do is remind yourself that the world you live in is not unique in its horror and brokenness. The world has always been crazy ever since it said, "I don't think God is good. I don't think his Word is true. I don't think disobeying him is that big of a deal." So if you've been divorced or are being divorced or are doing things that deserve to be divorced from, if prostitution is alluring to you, if immorality is attractive to you, if you're scared and fearful of the world you live in, this is a book which should encourage you, specifically that God wants to use you as a person who brings peace to that chaos.
Let me just say this to those of you who are in here today and who are not like the apostle Paul, who was the one who wrote this book along with his other buddies, this plurality of leadership. Paul and Silas and Timothy were coming together to share with people the story I started this message with today, which is just that God loves you. He doesn't want you to live in fear and immorality. He doesn't want you to be marching toward death. He wants you to be set free. He wants to forgive you. He wants to give you purpose and joy.
Now, one of the things to remind you of is I spent some time the very first week we were in this book talking about what was true of people who believed in Thessalonica. Paul was only there for three Sabbaths, about 21 days, and then he was run out. In those 21 days, the message of the gospel took root, and then it flourished, and it created a group of people who had become legendary in their repentance and their transformation, so that all of the Macedonian region was talking about what God did in Thessalonica.
That's what's happening in Fort Worth. It's what has been happening in Dallas. It's what happens in Plano and Frisco and, like I said, other places that God is going to let us be. It's what should happen every place the people of God gather. The people of God should not be a gathering of people who are just going through some cultural exercise. They should bring something that sets the whole world on its head.
They bring about a cultural revolution, and the revolution is more kindness, more goodness, more grace, more selflessness, more hope. That's what the people of God should be. I say here all the time: if the only people who care that Watermark doesn't exist are the folks who drive here on the weekends or on Monday nights for re:gen, Tuesday nights for The Porch, Wednesday nights for re|engage or women's study or men's study…
If the only people who care that we're not here are folks who are experiencing a place to gather, then we are not the church Jesus wants us to be. Thessalonica… On one hand, you're going to find out, there were certain people who didn't like Paul's message, but you're going to also find out that all of Macedonia goes, "You know what? We don't much like what he said, but we sure like the fruit he left behind."
Let me just do this. I haven't done this yet. I want to read Acts 17:1-10, because this is the story of Paul engaging with these folks. Here we go. This is Acts 17. "Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews."
So, what Paul is going to do is he's going to go to them, he's going to open the Bible, he's going to teach them the Scripture, and he's going to begin to share with them from the Scripture how this has been God's plan all along, which is to bring a Messiah, an Anointed One. Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor was going to come to the world for the world through the Jews.It was never about the Jews; it was that God was going to bless the world through the Jews.
So he went to the synagogue, opened the scrolls, and showed them. "This story I'm about to tell you, Jews, is the story God told you he was in the middle of." I'll say it again. Christianity is not a new faith system. It's as old as Moses, literally. Islam and Judaism flow out of the same story. There's a perversion in there, one quenching revelation, the other inventing new revelation, but you need to know Christianity is not just 2,000 years old; it is the fulfillment and the completion of what God said.
So here's what he says. Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures. Verse 3: "…explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, 'This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.'" Don't be alarmed that the Jewish Messiah died. It's all there. Look at Isaiah 53 and other places all throughout the Scripture. "And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women [in the city] ." So the church of Christ is born.
"But the Jews, becoming jealous…" Some who didn't believe, seeing that folks were now following this new teaching of Paul, were like, "Hey, we don't like what this guy is doing," so they stirred up trouble. "…and taking along some wicked men from the market place…" Probably guys who were for sale to just create trouble. "…formed a mob and set the city in an uproar…" The Greek word here is antifa. Kidding. All right. Be offended.
"…and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people." They went to Jason's house where they were staying. It says, "When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, 'These men who have upset the world have come here also…'"
They upset the world. In other words, things were radically different. I'm going to just put in a little shameless commercial for you. How many of you guys have heard about this thing called TheChosen? It's a show you can find. Literally, show of hands. Who has heard of The Chosen? Okay. Not very many. Today you're going to all hear about The Chosen.
The Chosen is an amazing story of Christ that's being produced by some folks who have done an outstanding job in taking the story of Scripture and having to add some content that's not there to make the narrative work. It's the best I've ever seen. You can watch it. You can watch the first four episodes for free. There are eight. They're going to make eight seasons of it, and I'm just going to tell you, the first eight episodes are world-class.
I'm going to give you a little spoiler alert. You might know how the story ends if you've been paying attention at all while you're around here, but this is how season 1 ends. It ends with Jesus saying, "Hey, we've got to go to Jerusalem," and the disciples say, "Okay. Let's go. We've got to get going, because it's six days to get there." He goes, "Three," and they go, "It's six." He goes, "It's three." I'm watching this, the first time I watched it, and I'm thinking, "That's kind of odd that they put that in there. Why are they putting that in there?"
Some other interactions happen, and they go, "Hey, Jesus, we've got to get going. It's just five days. We're going to have to really hump it to get down there in five days." He goes, "It's only going to take us three." So now I'm thinking, "Okay. What are they going to do? Is there some secret Jesus tunnel he gets in and slides there? Is he going to get a magic carpet? Where is this thing going to go?"
Anyway, they're walking. I love this. They're walking along, and they get to the spot as they leave Galilee where all of the righteous Jews took a left and went east across the Jordan River into what's called Perea, which is modern-day Jordan, and walked down the eastern side of the Jordan River and reentered just north of the Dead Sea, and then they went up to Jerusalem. Why? Because between Galilee and Judea there was this region called Samaria.
Samaria was made up of Jews who stayed around during the exile who wed and joined themselves to Babylonians and Assyrians. They were half-breeds, and Jews felt like they weren't real Jews, so they basically said, "We won't go through Samaria." You know Jesus didn't much care about men's prejudices. So they get to this spot, and they all start to go left, and Jesus keeps walking straight. They go, "It's this way, Master." He goes, "No, it's this way."
The Matthew character, who has the map, says, "No, no. It says this way." He goes, "It's this way," and he keeps walking. They turn to each other, like the disciples were prone to do, and they say, "That's different." Jesus is already about 10 steps ahead. He hears them say, "That's different," and he turns around and goes, "Get used to different," and then he keeps walking. That's the way it ends. I'm like, "That is brilliant."
When you are with Jesus, you'd better get used to different, because if everything doesn't change, then I don't think you've met him. The one thing that changes everything is the way you think about God, you think about his Word, you think about church differently. It's not a place you go to kind of punch your ticket and do what you need to do to work your way up to God. No.
This is where you come to be around God's people to remind each other of things that are true, to remember the kindness of God, and to sing songs about his love and his goodness and the work he has done so you can be reminded on how you are to live for him, because the world should be turned on its head when Christ followers, God followers, redeemed people, begin to interact with others. Are you with me? That's what's going on right here.
If that's not what's happening in you, then you're not going to produce in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, and other places what God wants you to produce. He doesn't want you just to come hear Paul teach in Thessalonica. He wants you to turn from idols to a living God. So these are men… The word is out. When the gospel these men bring goes forward, the world just flips on its head.
So it says in verse 7, "…and Jason has welcomed them…" Jason is the one who has taken these people in. "…and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar…" Because they've said that there's no king but Caesar, and these guys say there's another King. Verse 8: "They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things." It was just chaos. It was just going nuts. "And when they had received a pledge from Jason…"
We'll talk more about this, potentially, a little bit later. Jason did something… Jason himself probably was arrested. Whether he bonded himself out and said, "I'll no longer provide these guys safe harbor. I'll no longer make my house a house of peace to them…" Whatever he did, whether he cut a deal or whether he just couldn't handle it anymore, the brethren went back, and they said to Paul and Silas, "You've got to go. You've got to leave."
Maybe because they thought, "They did this to me. I got my way out. We love you. I had to bond my way out so I could tell you they're coming to hang you in order to beat you to death or to stone you," so they snuck them away by night to Berea. That's the best-case scenario. We know they went on to Berea. So what did Paul do? He just looked for another synagogue, and he said, "Let's go. Let's do it again."
Now look at 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2. Watch this. "For you yourselves know, [church in Thessalonica] , that our coming to you was not in vain…""It was not without effect. The power of God went to work, and it turned your world upside down. You heard about the kindness of God, the fulfillment of the Scriptures, that Jesus is the living sacrifice, Jesus is the living God, that Jesus changes you, and it radically changed you. It wasn't just some elixir that had some small effect that only was psychosomatic. No. It radically changed you."
What Paul is saying is that everything is different. I'm going to say to you again: if Jesus doesn't change your everything, if he doesn't change your perspective about every aspect of your life, you have not met Jesus. If Jesus doesn't change your everything, you have not met Jesus. It doesn't mean you're going to be without sin from here on out, but even your attitude toward sin is what changes.
You don't just hate it now when you get caught. That's a worldly sorrow. No, you hate it because you're like, "What am I doing? Why am I going back to this life of death when I know the goodness of the Word of God?" Paul is saying, "You know that our coming was not in vain, but…" Watch this. See if you now know the context of Acts 17.
"…but after we had already suffered…" That's a word for physical suffering. "…and been mistreated…" That's a word for judicial error, injustice. "…in Philippi…" That's what happened in Philippi. They were beaten up there. They came to Thessalonica. "And we still had the boldness to speak to you. Even though we caused a riot there in Thessalonica, we moved on to Berea and let them have it there, and then we went down to Athens and let them have it there, and then we went to the Corinthians and let them have it there."
Guess what happens when Paul gets in each of those places. It stirs it up again, because there are certain people who go, "I don't want to know that there's a God. I don't want anybody telling me I'm culpable to anybody or anything. I'm going to live the way I want to live, and don't you dare tell me there's truth I have to bow my knee to. I bow my knee to nobody." Paul said, "Well, you will one day, every one of you, every knee, and every mouth will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Some people don't take kindly to that.
Watch what Paul did. He had boldness because of God's greatness and God's reality. This section of Scripture we're in is so important. The very first week I taught a message in Thessalonians, I titled it A Letter of Thanks to a Church to Be Thankful For, and then last week, the message was titled Leaders That Create Churches Others Are Thankful For. That was last week's message.
What I want to do is spend some time again in here telling you who Jesus expects us, his church, to be. If you're here and you're a guest and you're not sure who Jesus is, you need to know we take seriously God's command to us to be about what he wants us to be about. We don't get our fire insurance and then just join our little club and get along. We change everything. Everything is different, and we're here for you.
Last week was the seventieth anniversary of a guy named Richard Wurmbrand. One of the books I read early in my journey toward Christlikeness was a book called Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in Romania when Communist Russia moved into Romania, and most of the church in Romania bowed to Communism. They were offered a pay raise if they would put Stalin in the front of all of their churches and basically embrace Communist ideology, if they distorted the Scriptures to be explained in a way, just like you're hearing in America today.
There are all kinds of politicians who distort and twist the Scripture to tell you, "Hey, this is what love is," and there are some who will distort it and go, "Hey, this sounds like Jesus wants us to live in a commune. Have you read Acts 2? It says they sold all of their possessions and held all things in common." Communism, socialism. But you need to understand this. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on Acts 2. I beg you to go listen to it. Acts 2:42-47 does not teach socialism or communism. It just teaches that people who meet Jesus are different.
Just like socialism and communism are from the pits of hell, so is crony capitalism and greed. It's a problem when people, especially people who take the name of Jesus, continue to live to make a living instead of live to make a difference. So, church, I do not believe in socialism and communism. It's going to ruin every bit of freedom we have. I also don't believe in greed and materialism and obsessive capitalism that shows favoritism to some people at the expense of others. It's unbiblical completely.
I do believe in personal autonomy, personal responsibility, personal freedom, personal property, but I'm going to remind you of something. You're going to be personally accountable for what you do with the blessing God has given you. So watch that Real Truth. Real Quick. and watch your heart and don't let it grow old. I love the Bible. It is here to comfort the afflicted, and it's here to afflict the comfortable.
Too much of the church today is way too comfortable. Paul wasn't. Paul was certain about God's reality. He was certain about God's goodness and God's power. He was certain about the truth of God's Word, and that's what made him bold. I want to just say something to you. Are you sure you know who God is? As lawlessness increases, the hearts of many will grow cold. That's what's going to happen in the last days. Jesus tells us that in Matthew 24.
So you'd better steel yourself, just like Richard Wurmbrand did. He was sitting in a meeting with all of the different faith leaders who were there, and the Communist people were there watching, and he saw the church bowing with a weak knee to the Nebuchadnezzar of the day. His wife said, "Why are you sitting here?" He looked at her. He goes, "Because if I stand up, you're going to lose your husband." She says, "I don't want a husband if he's a coward."
That brother got up, and he walked down and took the mic, and he rallied the church and called them to not forsake the one true and living God, and it cost him. He watched a bunch of people who stayed in the church. By the way, if you go back and watch what happened in Nazi Germany, the exact same thing happened in Nazi Germany, and the exact same thing is happening in socialized Western worlds today.
Listen to me. The church that starts to say the world's way is what love looks like, that when you hold to an orthodox interpretation of Scripture it's hate speech and intolerant and bigoted, it's going to be the church that persecutes the church. Mark my words. They're going to parade all kinds of individuals…robed, collared, and casual…before media and say, "This is the kind of church leader we want. Guys like that over at Watermark and Wagner… We've got to get rid of them. We're going to imprison them."
Martin Niemoller was a great leader in Nazi Germany. He was a great theologian, a contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was in jail, and when he was in jail one time, there was a young church leader who had kind of bought into the fascist way and wasn't preaching a gospel that was not governed by Nazism. He was acquiescing to the powers that be in order to keep in power.
He was walking along. Martin Niemoller was no small name. He walked by, and he saw Niemoller, and he goes, "Pastor Niemoller, what are you doing in prison?" Niemoller looked back at him and said to the young guy, "No, my son. The question is, what are you doing out there? I know why you're out there. I know why you're still getting money from the government to be a pastor: because you're no pastor." Richard Wurmbrand saw that happen.
By the way, if you want to go read on this, you ought to go study the church in Nazi Germany and the way it went from the church, and then they formed the Confessing Church, and then it was the true Confessing Church, and it kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller until they could imprison Niemoller and hang Bonhoeffer. If we don't do our job, that's going to be our job: to get hung, to get beaten. You cannot be silent in the face of what's happening in our country. You have to stand up and not care that it's not popular to speak truth about God's morality and God's truth.
I'm going to tell you this. This is something Wurmbrand wrote in a book called In God's Underground. He quotes someone who said, "Strange that men who wrote with what seemed deep Christian faith should turn traitor so easily!" It seems strange that the tens of thousands who came to Watermark all of a sudden turned traitor so easily. Wurmbrand writes, "Perhaps the answer was that in their writings…" And he mentions a couple of folks who wrote like they loved Jesus.
What they really loved Jesus for was his gifts. They loved the peace that was offered. They loved the salvation that was offered. Wurmbrand writes, "A real disciple does not seek gifts but Christ himself, and so is ready for self-sacrifice to the end." Listen to this line: "They were not followers of Jesus, but customers; when the Communists opened a shop next door with goods at lower prices, they took their business there."
We are praying that's not going to be what happens to you, church; that you have no business but God's business and you will do the business of suffering and being mistreated in Philippi and in Plano and in Fort Worth and that you know about God's greatness and God's reality, so you can handle opposition. You're not going to do well in ministry if you don't like opposition.
By the way, some of you are getting no opposition amongst your parents in your school districts. Some of you are getting no opposition from principals and school boards because you're silent. You're just going along with it because it hasn't affected you yet. You'd better wake up, church. You'd better start running for office and in love leading. You'd better support candidates who don't tolerate sin and stupidity, and you'd better offer a better way in the name of Jesus, because that's part of what God wants us to do.
One more quote from Wurmbrand. He says there are two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe. You can tell them apart in decisive moments. Can I just say something to you? We are in a decisive moment. Some of you have been silent when you watch the child abuse that is going on when we're teaching kids in our elementary schools that there is no binary gender. That is child abuse. That's social conditioning.
In Hosea 4:6, it says, "You have forgotten me, so I will forget your children." You think suicide and drug use and anxiety is a problem among this generation's youth? Just hang around. Keep giving them the miasma and error that is being preached in political correctness. Keep letting them read the books and follow the philosophy of the progressive elites. Keep sending them to godless, atheistic, liberal seminaries and colleges and not preparing them to speak up. It has long been time.
What I want to do is show you in this little section that we don't have an option to speak up. The kind of church that turns the world upside down in every good way is the kind of church that's led by the kind of men Paul says he was in 1 Thessalonians. Here's a little chart. I just went through 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, and in this section (I'm going to show it to you in just a moment), you're going to see that he used this little teaching technique.
He goes, "We were not _this, but we _were_ this. We were _not _this, but we _were this. We were not_ this, but we _werethis." We'll post this. You guys know every week we put our sermon notes online where you can go, and there are questions of application. If I mention a Real Truth. Real Quick., there's a link to it. You can study the Scriptures that were here and talk about it with your group and dive in it deeply. This will be posted on that.
Here it is. Paul said, "I was not, when I came to you, without effect. I wasn't just some guy who ran a service. No. It was the very persevering power of God. I came with great confidence when I came to you. I was not wandering with speculation, but I produced wonder because the power of God was with me. I wasn't immoral, but I was pure. I wasn't cunning and manipulative, but I was filled with love and kindness." All the way down, you're going to see this again and again and again.
It was all there so that Christlikeness would be produced in others; joy and power would be produced in others; purpose, hope, wisdom, life would be produced in others. Can I just say this to you? Why did you live this week? Were you a Christian capitalist who just sat in the wealth of your gospel and read your Join the Journey and went to your Bible study and gathered in your church and went to your night of worship and just got richer in your confidence? Which you should, but you should not just feed your soul; you should feed others.
There's so much fun I could have with this. I'm not going to have a lot of time to do it, but let me show you when Paul is talking about this in verse 3, just to show you all that's here. He says, "For our exhortation does not come from error…" The word there is plane. It's where we get the English word planets from. It means, "We didn't come just wandering all over the place."
That's why you saw in that little chart I put up there… "I didn't come in wandering speculation, just making things up like it was the latest and greatest idea by some guy who sat down under some sycamore tree in Upstate New York and had some vision. I didn't go to some ashram in India and get some idea as I smoked weed or meditated. No. This was not a wandering."
The word planets means wandering. Why? Because if you're getting directions at night, you want to be guided by the stars, because the stars are fixed points of light in the universe. So the word for planet comes from the Greek word which means wanderer. Paul says, "I'm not a wanderer. I'm coming with a power anchored in heaven, and it will show you where to go."
I love this next word where he says, "I didn't come with impurity." It's the word akatharsia. If you have a catheter, it cleans you out. It's the word for purity or cleansing. When you put an A in front of it, it means it's not clean. There was great immorality. Paul said, "I didn't come here as some swami to seduce your women. I didn't get you involved in temple prostitution." When we get to 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, I'll talk about how God is calling them out of sexual immorality.
What was common in that day was that you believed these godly individuals who would come to you and had visions and insights into other things, that the way you could commune with them was to have sex with them. That's why the temple prostitutes were individuals that you would go there to sleep with the head of the church so they could impute to you some insight. It was a scam to get women.
I think about this. How many of you guys know the story of the Beatles? The Beatles in the late 60s were using a lot of drugs, and Lennon said, "Part of the reason we write so well is because we're just 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds.' We're just floating on this other plane, and this non-consciousness is bringing out all this great music."
So Lennon was looking for the next great thing, and George Harrison heard a speech given in London by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and he goes, "Hey, this guy says that through transcendental meditation you can go to other planes and other realities." Lennon was like, "Great! Let's get some music out of that." So Lennon goes and hears the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and talks to him.
They didn't get to finish it, because their manager Brian Epstein dies, so that cuts the conversation short. Yogi goes back to his ashram in India, and the Beatles get on a plane and go on over there. When they got there, at first they were like, "All right, man. Let's learn. Let's learn. Let's learn." Then they realized the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was just like them, just an insecure guy who was jealous of the Beatles' success.
Not only that, but they brought along with them a young little American actress named Mia Farrow, and they saw that the Maharishi wanted to commune with Mia Farrow and he was no holy man at all. He was on the prowl just like them. Lennon got discouraged. McCartney left first. Lennon stayed a little longer, but they just took off.
By the way, do you know who Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's disciple was? Because you're like, "What a bunch of idiots. Why did they go over there and do that?" Well, it's Deepak Chopra. That was one of his disciples. Ever been impressed with any of his work? It's error, it's immoral, and it's deceitful. Paul says, "Not me. It has been approved by God what I gave you."
Folks, I have to tell you. I did it this week. I'm talking to somebody about the gospel that I'm left here to share with other people, and I don't tell them what I think. I just take my Bible. I open it up. I go, "Well, you tell me what you think that means. Read it."
"I don't know if I agree with that."
"Great. That's up to you, but now you know what it means and you're accountable to that. Listen. I'd love you to come. Let's hang out. Let's be friends. I'd love you to see if there isn't a better way than what you're currently experiencing, but I'm not here to convert you. I am here to do what God tells me to do, and I am his ambassador for Christ. I'm not just making my way through the first week of March. I'm not just hanging on until Spring Break. It's as though God himself is making an appeal through us. I'm begging you on behalf of God, be reconciled to him."
Was that your week, church? How was our mission this week? How many folks heard the gospel? How many folks saw the love of Christ because we took our abundance and cared for them? How many people are just communing with folks who are in their same socioeconomic status, and how many people are going, "Hey, is there anybody here who's a faithful widow indeed, a single mom indeed, a person who's just trying to do the best they can but maybe, through some health crisis or life crisis, doesn't have what I have?"
How are we doing, church? I can tell you, I know so many stories that would make you so proud. Jump in with us. It's amazing. Here's an application for you: leadership is everything. As the leader goes, the mission goes. When the leadership fails, the mission is soon to fail with it. You're the leaders of Jesus' church in Dallas, in Plano, in Fort Worth, in Frisco, in Rockwall, South Dallas, and anybody who's listening to me. You're God's ambassadors, and Jesus' interaction with you is not to be without effect.
Do you know who he is? Do you know what he has done? Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:5-7, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Is your faith sincere or are you just here because you like the way it's generally working, and when the Communists open up a shop next door that's a little bit more fruitful for your today, will you shop there? No. Paul said, "That's not us. That's not Timothy. That's not Silas. That's not me. That's not the leaders who create a church that the world is thankful for."
"For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." Mr. Buttigieg has no idea what he's talking about. Elizabeth Warren has no idea what she's talking about. Bernie Sanders has no idea what he's talking about. Donald Trump tweets like he has no idea who Jesus is. He has lived an immoral life. By the grace of God, I don't know what he has done lately.
I know he has a lot of guys around him loving him and praying for him, but I'm just telling you, there are a lot of people who are making confident assertions about what they know nothing about. Our job is to pray for Elizabeth and Donald, and our job is to pray for Pete and our mayor and your school board, and our job is to make confident assertions that are rooted in Scripture, to pray for AOC, to pray for all kings and those who are in authority, and to be men and women informed by the Word of God.
What God wants us to do is to walk with Paul as he walks with Christ and learn how to walk so others can learn to walk with Christ when they walk with you. Let me say that again. Our job is to walk with Paul as he walks with Christ. That's why we're studying how the brother turned the world upside down.
Answer: he did it by not being a wandering planet; by not being immoral; by not being cunning and manipulative; by not being flattering or seductive; not exploiting; not self-promoting; not bothered or burdened by lost people; not out of obligation to lost people; not self-serving, insecure, or people-pleasing; not in weakness but being a guy who perseveres with confidence; who has a wonder-producing power because it's the gospel of God; who's pure, filled with lovingkindness; gentle, with integrity; selfless and tender; freely, joyfully, self-sacrificing; faithfully sharpening others with strong exhortation.
Our job is to walk with Paul as he walks with Christ, and we're to learn how to walk so others can walk with Christ when they walk with you. Your job is not to go to church; your job is to be the church. Let me close with a letter Paul wrote to a church he had never been to. He had never been to Colossae, but he sent a letter up to this group of people who were in Colossae. I'm going to ask you to do something we don't do here very often. I'm going to ask you to stand out of respect for the Word of God, and I'm going to read to you about 16 verses.
This is why we're here, and this is what we're about. If you're here and you don't know Jesus, we're not better than you. God has plucked us out of the domain of darkness and called us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, and all we're trying to do is show you he has changed us and we're not afraid and this world isn't our home. We are the hands and feet of Christ to you, and our message is not our message; it's his message. Why?
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
[Jesus] ** is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ** [Jesus] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through [this Jesus whom Paul preached in Thessalonica and I'm reading to you now] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you [church] in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister [and of which you, all true believers, were made ministers] .
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Watermark, that's for you. Can you say that, that we rejoice in our sufferings for his sake and in our flesh we share on behalf of his body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions? What's true is: "Of this church [you were] made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on [you] for your benefit, so that [you] might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God…" That's written to you.
"…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to [you] , to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you [Watermark] , the hope of [God's glory being displayed on the earth] . We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose [we] labor, striving [not according to our flesh but] ** according to His power, which mightily works within** [us] ." Amen? Let's go, church.
Father, I pray we'd be your church. I pray we would be people who don't just go somewhere and listen, and I'm so thankful that folks are here listening today who are trying to figure out, "Okay. Jesus, are you the one, the firstborn of all creation? Are you the one who makes men holy and blameless in God's sight?" Yes, you are. I pray today they'd say it. "Yes, you are."
For those of us who have said that, who have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light, our prayer is that, Lord, we would grow in Christlikeness and we would walk with Paul as he walks with Christ, that others might know more of Christ as they walk with us. So, Lord, thank you for a chance to be reminded that this is our Thessalonica. This is our moment. This is our mission. We get to participate in New Testament, God-glorifying, world-shaking ministry. Don't let us miss that for being people who just go to church. Let us be your church. Hear this song. It is our prayer to you.