Bible First, Bible Most

1 Thessalonians

As you reflect back on your last week, how much did the Bible inform your life? As we continue our series on the book of 1 Thessalonians, Todd Wagner teaches through 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, teaching us that once we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Word should be the foundation of our lives.

Todd WagnerMar 22, 20201 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20; 1 Corinthians 2:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Pray for our healthcare workers!
  • What’s one way you can serve others—be the hands and feet of Christ—this next week?
  • In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, what are you filling your mind and heart with? Take an online equipping course. Start with Keys to Effective Bible Study.


As you reflect back on your last week, how much did the Bible inform your life? As we continue our series on the book of 1 Thessalonians, Todd Wagner teaches through 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, teaching us that once we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Word should be the foundation of our lives.

Key Takeaways

  • What should you read? You should read the Bible first and the Bible most.
  • When you open your Bible, think to yourself: “This is the Word of God!” Come eagerly, humbly, expectantly, ready to change, and ready to be sent to give it to others.
  • It takes as much energy as it does to pray as it does to worry.
  • When you meet with someone to learn from, bring a journal & a pen and come ready to write things down and take notes. Treat your time with God and His Word no differently!
  • One of the best discipleship opportunities we have at Watermark is to live life in community with other believers.
  • When you speak, the teaching of kindness—God’s Word—ought to be on your tongue. When Jesus spoke, he often simply quoted the Old Testament (at least 10% of the time, if not more).
  • God is always more eager to reveal His will to you than you will ever be to seek it.
  • I preach like an Arminian but pray like a Calvinist.
  • Christians should be the most humble people on the face of the earth.
  • We are blessed to be a blessing to others.
  • How do you get the mind of Christ? Bible first, and Bible most.
  • Do you want to know how you can know if a leader is from God? God’s leader teaches from The Book and he makes much of Jesus, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
  • If no one ever has a problem with you what are saying, that is a bit of a problem. If we are a people of another world this world should not always like what we have to say.
  • Hinduism is the perfect system for those who want to oppress others. If you want a system that entitles you in your privilege and allows you to enslave others who are created in the image of God, Hinduism is for you.
  • We don’t realize the privilege it is to be together until we can’t be together.

Memorable Quotes

  • “I have covenanted with my Lord that He should not send visions, or dreams or even angels! I am content with this gift of the Scriptures, which teaches and supplies all that is necessary both for this life and that which is to come.” -Martin Luther
  • “Oh Lord, only feed my on thy word and I will not envy King’s their delicacies, nor even angels around thy throne the bread of heaven on which they live.” -C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon ‘Thus Saith The Lord’ on Ezekiel 11:5

Here we go again, Watermark. Good morning, one more time. Now we're going to open up God's Word. Reminder, families, that we're going to have a little Kids Kit for you to be able to be a faithful leader and priest in your home, but this morning we're going to study 1 Thessalonians. If you have not been tracking with us in our message series, we've done chapter 1 and chapter 2, verses 1-12, and today we're going to finish chapter 2.

What I want to do as we get started is give you a little insight into the way I think and the way I always enter into God's presence when I'm studying his words. People have been asking me a lot, "Hey, Todd, what should I be reading? What should I be doing during this time?" One of the things I've been telling people is that you ought to read the Bible first and you ought to read the Bible most.

Every single one of us ought to be taking advantage of this time to increase our Bible intake. It is what makes us wise. I said just a little bit ago to those who were with us before we got into the message that Martin Luther has some incredibly applicable words to us, because he was a man filled with the Spirit who was exceedingly wise and was ready to meet the challenge of his day and age.

It's how you can be ready to meet the challenge of your day and age and be able to live out real truth every day in life and the leader God has made you and the world we live in. God wants that for you. Your little mantra ought to be that every day, the Bible should be first and the Bible ought to be most in terms of what you're taking in. When I go to God's Word, I just remember a few simple things. Every time I pick up the Word, I think this way. I remind myself that this is the Word of God; therefore…

1 . Comeeagerly. Right now, there are a lot of folks who are on Twitter, and things like that, asking questions like, "Hey, you know, that little game you play, like, if you could only be with three or four people, because they're trying to encourage us to shrink our groups, who would you want to be with?" and everybody thinks, "Oh, this celebrity would be fun to have" or "This person would be great to have in my house."

Well, let me just say this. Can you imagine God himself showing up where you are and sharing a cup of coffee with you and spending some time with you? Every time I open this up, I realize, "This is God's Word. This is my benevolent, loving, kind, gracious Father who withholds no good thing from people he loves, who gives grace and glory. In his presence is fullness of joy, and in his right hand are pleasures forever." I come eagerly. I'm like, "What a privilege to get to have a Bible with me." When you open up your Bible, you want to come eagerly.

2 . Comehumbly. The Scripture tells us in Isaiah 66:2 that God says, "To this one I will look: to him who is humble, who is contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my word." Just remember, come eagerly, because this is your wise, loving Father, but come humbly, because this is your King. This is the decree of the Holy King of the universe, the one who established the earth and created the earth, who the earth is sustained through his power and on his foundation, and the one to whom one day every man will give an account. So when you come, you come humbly.

3 . Comeexpectantly. The Bible is called revelation. It means there is information headed your way there's no other way for you to get. God is pulling back the scroll, things eye hasn't seen and ear hasn't heard, things which don't even enter into the heart of men. All of these things God has freely given to those who love him. So when you come, you ought to get to God's Word and go, "Man, I can't believe I'm about to get to have time with God. I can't believe God would make it possible for me to graciously hear from him. Lord, I am ready to learn."

4 . Comeready to change. The Scripture says, "Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." That's Romans 12:2. That word there is an imperative. It's plural, which means it's a command to all of us. It's a perfect passive present verb. What's a passive verb? A passive verb is something that happens to you, not something you do.

It doesn't say, "Go change yourself." It says, "Let the Word of God transform you. Be conformed into the image God wants you to live in. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." That's what the Word of God does. So come ready to change. Pray Psalm 139:23-24. Just say, "God, know my anxious thoughts. See if there's any hurtful way in me."

Fretting, worry, and despair are hurtful ways in you. Panic is not our way. As I've said a lot lately, it takes as much energy to pray as it does to worry, and one is going to do you a whole lot more good. So come ready to change as you meditate on things that are true.

5 . Comeready to be sent to give the Word of God to others. You are blessed to be a blessing. Can you imagine if I was the only person who had 1 Thessalonians, if I was the only one who had the chance to go back and be encouraged from history from this true account, and I decided not to share with you; I just stacked it up for me? That would be a terrible sin. It's why parents are told to teach their children (Deuteronomy 6), and it's why missionaries like you are told to love and equip your neighbors.

Okay. We said this last week. Have you come expectantly? One of the things I always tell my sons and my daughters and my friends is that when you're going to meet with somebody who you believe has something for you, you should never show up empty-handed. Have your journal. Have a pen. Get ready to open it up and write it down. Don't open your Bible without your journal and your pen, ready to learn.

So, I'm going to give you a little second here, Dad, to model for your kids that this is the Word of God, and you're going to come expectantly. You're going to come humbly. I'm going to pray in just a second that God would open our hearts and show us something, that you are eager to learn, ready to change, and then you look at your kids or your roommates or your Community Group and say, "Woe be to us if we don't share this good news." God can handle you moving while I pray. Get your journal. Get your pen. Get ready. Let's pray.

Father, would you teach us now? I thank you for the way you've given us the Word of God, the way you have provided for us an opportunity to learn from history about how godly leaders have led in the past. I thank you for the example of Martin Luther during the bubonic plague of the sixteenth century. I thank you for the example of Paul during the plague of darkness and lostness and paganism.

We live in a land today where there is disease and people are scared and where there are a lot of folks who, just like in Thessalonica, are consumed with industry and with the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and do not have the sweetness of trusting in Jesus that we have. Thank you for your Word. I pray you would teach us from it now, that we might be blessed by it and that we would then be a blessing to others. In Jesus' name, amen.

Here's what we're going to do. We're going to read the text. I'm going to go ahead and read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, and what I want you to do as I go through there is I want you to notice how one phrase keeps popping up. I'm going to stop just to set some context. I'll remind you chapter 1 is Paul saying, "We give thanks to God for you, because among other things, you're a church that has a faith that works, a love that labors, and a steadfast hope," and then he just praises the Thessalonians.

In the passage we're about to read (chapter 2, verses 1-12), you're going to find out he says, "This is the kind of leader that I was that produces the kind of church others are thankful for." Watch what Paul says. We're going to have a little fun, a little laughter I'm going to insert right here, but this is what Paul says. You're going to see something pop up six-plus times. It's something very relevant to what is happening in our homes right now during this time when we're pushed more together. Let's read it.

"For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children…" Why? This is my prayer. This is my desire. This is why we're studying God's Word together. "…so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."

Let me show you this. We went through and underlined something that is repeated again and again. If you'll just look at the blue in that, you'll see where I went through a little bit, and I just noticed again and again in these first few sections Paul says, "You yourselves know…" "As you know…" "As you know…" "We proved among you…" "For you recall…" "You are witnesses…" "As you know…" There it is. Again and again and again it pops up.

Paul is saying, "You got to watch me. You got to see that my faith was genuine. I'm not telling you who I am. I'm just showing you who I am." Trust is an interesting thing. You can't demand that somebody trust you. You just want to live in a trustworthy way. We of all people should do that. One of the things that's happening right now, as we limit our social interactions, is we are upping the time we spend with folks. There are not as many places to hide.

We are around each other a whole lot more than maybe we typically are, or at least we're more often with one small group of people than we are a broad group of people, and folks really get to know us. I shared this yesterday in my devo at noon. I'm going to show it to you. My answer was A, by the way. This is just a little laughter. This made me laugh out loud. Watch this.


Male: Because of coronavirus, you are going to be quarantined, but you have a choice. Do you: A) quarantine with your wife and child, or B)…

Male: B. B. B.

[End of video]

That is so well delivered. That's so funny. "B. B. I don't care if it's elective surgery without anesthesia…B." Kids, don't worry. Your parents would not choose that. That's why they're with you now. They chose A. I show you that because Paul, just like Martin Luther, said, "I'm going to stay right here with my people. I'm going to care for them."

Paul said, "I wish I could stay with you." Let me read to you 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. We'll come back. We'll make some observations, some interpretations, and applications all the way through, because we come to God's Word ready to be changed. May this text change us. This is what it says:

"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out.

They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that [guys who do this] always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost. But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy."

Watermark, you are our glory and our joy. We love you, and we're grateful for you, and we're praying that as a result of our time together today you will walk worthy of the calling with which you've been called and that the evidence that God's people are present in this little Macedonia in which you live will be evident to all and the reputation of the faithfulness of Christ in this church will echo out all across the country.

Here we go. Let me show you some things I did. You already saw a little picture of this. I used to write in my Bible. I would mark my Bible up. I would write in very small ways, and I just can't read that little tiny writing. I frankly can hardly read what I put on this. This is an example of what I do. I take the Scripture, I double-space it, I copy and paste it, and then I just go to work. That's pretty much how I prep every single week.

David and I are going to talk more about that in a moment, but this is what I'm going to be looking at. It's my Bible, basically, right here with me. That's pretty much all I ever take up: just the Scriptures with a few notes I've made about it. Paul in the beginning, as I already said, when he said, "You yourselves know…" This has never been more true that right now people know more than ever who we really are.

This, by the way, is the beauty of community. It's why we push you into groups. Folks will do equipping and listen to podcasts and teachers they love all day long. They love to take notes and fill in the blanks and hear this study and that study, but what people don't always love to do is to apply it to their lives, and we have to apply it to our lives. One of the best discipleship opportunities we have that Jesus calls you to is to live life with other people, because when you're in community, folks see if the Bible is in you.

I made a little note to myself as I was reading through this to kind of set the whole thing up. The number-one qualification of church leaders is that they lead their family well. In other words, it's easy to put on a front when you're in a camera or in front of a bunch of folks on Sunday. I can sound spiritual and look spiritual in a moment when you don't really get to know me, but when you live with me, when you cook with me and clean with me, when you work through the trials and troubles of everyday life, you're going to find out really quickly if I've been conformed into the world or if I've been transformed by the renewing of my mind.

One of the true tests of a saint is that those who are closest to them are loudest in their praise and love for them. That's why Paul kept saying in the very first part of the passage we already read, "As you know…" "As you know, we behaved…" "You recall…" We've already seen that this morning. We're praying for you that as you get closer to one another you see how you each are close to Jesus.

My daily devo yesterday was on how even while we're forced to be together, you'd better make sure there is some social distancing even in your home, where you're seeking a lonely place with Jesus, and then when you're with people, that you remember Jesus in all things. Paul is going to start, in verse 13 down through the following, with this little statement: "We always and constantly thank God for you."

David and I are going to talk a little bit about how when you read a book or study a book (this is a short little book; it's just five chapters he and I are going to comment on), you read it a lot. Read it all the way through, and you're going to see some themes. One of the themes you're going to see is Paul doesn't get to any kind of admonishment or encouragement or challenge until we get to chapter 4, where he says, "Finally, just a few thoughts."

He spends chapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3 saying, "This is why I'm thankful for you." So, you might want to right now in your journal… You can go back and look at it. Go back and look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2. Paul says, "We give thanks to God for all of you." Then you'll see again in verse 13: "We give thanks to God constantly." You're going to find out why.

In chapter 1, it's because "your faith works, your love is part of the sweat of your brow, and your hope is steadfast." In chapter 2, he's going to say, "I constantly thank God," and today we're going to study why he's thankful. Then you're going to see the exact same thing in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. "We're thankful for you."

Church, I am thankful for you, because I can say of you what Paul said of the Thessalonian church in chapter 1, and I can say of you (many of you, most of you) what Paul says he's thankful for about the church in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and following. So what was it? "…you received the word of God which you heard from us…"

Paul didn't come and just give pithy statements. He wasn't an entertainer. He wasn't somebody who was up there who was funny and people went, "Gosh, man, that's an amazing guy. Every time he speaks he has so many little anecdotes and jokes, and I can't wait to hear him again." We're not Jim Gaffigan or Jerry Seinfeld. It's okay to laugh a little bit, but if you like your pastor because he tells great stories, then I would encourage you just to watch comedians on Netflix.

Stories aren't wrong. Stories help us explain the Word of God, but if you have more story than Word of God, something is out of balance. Do you remember how I said in your morning study that you ought to do the Bible first and the Bible most? That's true of teaching. Let me just say to any teachers listening to this: Bible first and Bible most. You ought to be talking about the Word of God, not the word of Todd, not the word of some great storyteller.

Observe, interpret, apply. There's your application. When you speak, you ought to speak often. The teaching of kindness ought to be on your tongue. That's what a godly woman was like in Proverbs 31. It's amazing to me how many times when Jesus, God himself, spoke he quoted what God had already said in the Old Testament. Some people have gone back and looked and estimated that one-tenth of what's preserved of the teachings of Christ are basically him quoting the Old Testament.

I would tell you it's a lot more. He's just expounding and explaining what the Old Testament said. That's all Paul did. The book of James is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. That's why you see again and again, "This is what the Lord said, not I." It has been wisely said that Jesus laid the acorn and Paul grew the oak. He explained the seed of truth that Jesus said, and the Spirit of God allowed Paul to expound on it.

Listen, pastors. We ought to be counseling biblically. In everything we do, we want to make sure the words of our mouths, because the meditations of our hearts are God's Word, are going to be acceptable to our King, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Paul was so thankful they received the Word of God, and then he goes on and says, "…which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God…"

Do you see what Paul keeps saying? "I didn't come to you as some philosopher." Reminder: Thessalonica was a very strategic city. It was at the crossroads of the Ignatian Way over there from Rome, which was the capital of the world, really, right through Asia and farther and farther to the east. The Ignatian Way went right through. Here's the map again. You'll see it. That's the Silk Road, some people call it. It takes you all the way over to Babylon.

If you went north through the cross section of Asia, you'd get down to the King's Highway and down into Africa. The whole world opened up right through Thessalonica, so there were all kinds of people who were sharing ideas. Paul said, "I'm not sharing ideas. This is the Word of God, and you received it for what it was: the Word of God. Not Plato, not Aristotle, not Socrates, not the best ideas of men…the Word of God."

One of the things I do again and again (and, church, this is what we encourage you to do)… You devote daily so when you pursue each other relationally you can admonish faithfully from God's Word as people live authentically and say, "I'm concerned. I'm overwhelmed. Should I leave the plague? What should I do? Should our community still get together?" Counsel biblically. What does the Word of God say? What principles are there? So that we can engage missionally to the glory of God. All right?

Let me take a second and do a little cross-reference to 1 Corinthians, chapter 2. First Corinthians, chapter 2, is a large section of Scripture which I'm just going to read. The Word of God. Are you ready? This is what Paul said to the church in Corinth, which is actually where he wrote this letter from.

He was in Corinth when he wrote to the Thessalonians. Paul says, "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. [That's what I brought to you.] For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

He said, "Listen. When I was with you, I was with you in much weakness and in fear and trembling, because I'm not a great public speaker," Paul might have thought, or "I'm not a very impressive person, but what I did have was a message, and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." This is Paul.

"…so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age [the philosophers of this age] , who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom…" Do you see Paul's pattern here? When he was in Thessalonica, he gave the Word of God. He was thankful that they heard the Word of God, and you're going to see in a minute they received the Word of God.

Paul says, "…we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood…" Most people in today's day and age are still trying to figure it all out. They have their little kabbalah. They have their little philosophers, their little love of miracles and different insights that others have as opposed to the miracle of the revealed Word of God.

"…for if they had understood it [the rulers of this age] would not have crucified the Lord of glory…" Because Jesus is anticipated all through your Old Testament, and they didn't know their Bible, they didn't pay attention to their Bible, so they didn't act biblically. Now watch. This is a quote from Isaiah 64:4. "…but just as it is written, 'Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, **** a***ll that God has prepared for those who love Him.'"*

It's why you come expectantly and eagerly: because things men could never know God has revealed. Watch this. It says in verse 10, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?"

This is Paul's argument. "Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." Well, guess what. The Spirit of God is gracious to you. I tell folks all the time, "Come expectantly, because God is always more eager to reveal his will to you than you ever will be to seek it."

Paul says, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak…" That's all you should speak. "…not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."

The words are spiritually apprised. Have you ever noticed this? You were probably like this. Maybe you were around a place where the Word of God was taught and it just bounced off you like Teflon. That's why we pray when we go. Here's an observation: nobody is going to respond to what I say because of the power of my preaching; they're going to respond because of the grace of God.

It's why I pray like a Calvinist, if that word means anything to you…somebody who believes in the sovereignty of God. It's also, though, because I know the words of the wise make knowledge acceptable, why I preach like an Arminian. I preach like somebody who believes it's up to men to make things happen. The truth is unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it, but God still wants us to build the house.

So when I preach, I act like my preaching is the thing that's going to make a difference in your life, and when I preach I try to do everything I can to grab you and shake you and wake you and spur you on, but at the end of the day, I know better. People have asked me, "Todd, do you ever have a hard time staying humble because of what God has done in this ministry?"

Let me tell you something. I am under no illusion why Watermark has become a church where there is a working faith, a laboring group of loving people, why there is steadfast hope, why the stories I've heard from so many of you this week on what you're doing are just increasing and abounding and are being reported all around the world. It's because God is at work in you and because you received the Word of God, not because I'm a great pastor.

If I'm a great pastor, it's because I'm reading to you the Word of God, because all of the pastors here, you guys, shepherd one another and remind each other of the Word of God. Listen. The Word of God is spiritually apprised, and if you're not a spiritual person, it's going to be like, "What? It doesn't make any sense to me." It's why we pray. One of the reasons Paul said, "I give thanks to God" is because Paul prayed that the Word of God would have effect.

Are you praying for your nonbelieving family members? Are you praying for your children who aren't right now interested in what I'm saying? Are you praying for your spouse who's in the other room? Are you praying for your neighbors who don't know it's sweet to trust in Jesus? Are you doing everything you can when you're with them to take the gospel to them in a loving and winsome way? It's going to be God's work. When something happens, it's God who causes the growth.

Let me give you a quick cross-reference before I come back and read 1 Corinthians 2 to you again. This is in Mark, chapter 4, verses 26-28. Your pastor is wildly aware of why something happens here. I'm not a great farmer and planter. Watermark isn't this amazing ministry because I went to Texas A&M and learned all about soil and all this different stuff.

I study the human condition and do everything I can to think about how I can improve as a communicator, but at the end of the day, this is not Todd who's bringing about transformation; it's God. I'm just the mailman. I'm just Johnny Appleseed. I'm just throwing the seed out there, and the seed has power, and when it goes into a heart that by the grace of God is quickened and awakened… Christian, it's why you should be the most humble person on the face of the earth. It does something.

This is Jesus in Mark 4:26. He says, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil…" I just throw seed down, and I go to bed, and I pray for you. I get up by day, and lo and behold, like little bean sprouts, the seed sprouts and grows. How? He himself doesn't know. It's the soil that produces the crop by itself, because the soil is where God goes to work; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. It's God who causes the growth.

Do you know what some guys do? They pat themselves on the back and go, "I'll tell you why this church has grown: because I'm an amazing pastor. I'll tell you why Thessalonica became a church that others are grateful for: because I'm Paul." No. This is who Paul was. He was a guy who didn't come with impressive words.

This is why I tell you… I think you're trying to encourage me. You say, "Todd, if you just would have been there, I know something amazing would have happened." You don't need me there. You need the Word of God on your lips. Open it. Show it to your neighbor. Tell them the story of God's love. Explain to them why, on a scale of 1 to 10, we can be a 10 in confidence before God, understanding and knowing what he has done for us that we might be saved.

God is not a God we try to earn favor with and a relationship with so we can sneak into heaven. No. He's a God who has crashed into our sinfulness and brokenness and set us free. The wages of our sin is death, but the free gift of our incredible, kind God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. Oh my goodness!

Now watch, humble Christian. You're blessed to be a blessing. Verse 15 of 1 Corinthians 2: The one who is spiritual, the one whom God in his grace has allowed the soil of his heart to be receptive… By the way, you might be sitting out there thinking, "Okay. Gosh, Todd. I want my soil to be receptive." Just say, "God, change my heart. Show me what is true. Let me see it." Make that your prayer.

Remember Isaiah 66:2? "To this one I will look: to he who is humble in spirit, who has a contrite heart." So, you want your soil to be receptive? Just say, "God, I know I'm a sinner. I know I'm a person who makes everybody else want to choose B, not to be around me, and there's no reason a holy God should want to be around me. Will you change me, will you forgive me, and will you allow me to be somebody who is restored into relationship with you so in your grace you can restore the glory that is lost by sin in me?" That's how you become spiritually apprised.

The one who spiritually apprises, apprises all things of God as true, yet he himself is not made righteous by anyone, or apprised by no one. This is what the Scripture says in verse 16: "For ** who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."** How do you get the mind of Christ? Bible first, Bible most. Come on, church. I just love the Word of God.

Can I just say this before I go forward? One of the things that concerns me… Listen, church. If I told you we were going to have a prophetic ministry up here and that I was going to put on Watermark TV a time when the elders of this church prophesy over you, I will tell you, of all of the shows we do, I guarantee you that would be the number-one rated show. Everybody would go, "Oh my gosh! Todd and the elders are going to prophesy! They're going to get a more sure word from God, and you're going to want to tune in."

Listen. You should if we were going to give you the Word of God, and we are right now. This is prophecy, and it's 100 percent true, so tune in. Lean in, like, "Oh my gosh! Todd is about to tell us something, a revealing." The Word of God is what will change you. So, Martin Luther again. I get so frustrated when people want to see miracles so they can somehow think that guy is anointed or they want to hear prophecy from that guy, like he's some special envoy from God, or an angel would show up.

Martin Luther essentially said, "I have covenanted with my Lord that he should not send me visions, or dreams, or even angels. I am content with this gift of the Scripture, which teaches and supplies all that is necessary for both this life and the life which is to come." Martin Luther stood against the most powerful forces on earth and said, "Hey, I don't need a dream. I don't need a vision. I don't need to stand up against the pope and against kings. I don't need to have any more confidence that I should go to a stake and be burned or be separated from my family into a cell. I don't need a vision or a dream or a prophet to show up."

In fact, one of the things we're warned against… If you go back and read Deuteronomy 13:1-3, it says if somebody comes to you and does miracles but doesn't teach you the Word of God, kill them. I'm not recommending that you run a stake through them. What I'm recommending is that you don't stake out where they are. The most important thing about a pastor and a teacher is not the glory cloud he could bring in; it's the glory of God he represents.

If they're not teaching you a biblical Jesus, if they're not rightly dividing the Word of truth, it doesn't matter. Let me read to you Deuteronomy 13. "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true…" The thing which he said happened. "…saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer…"

Do you know something? Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Sometimes there are powerful, magical, mystical things that happen that make it look like it's from God. Not always. Do you want to know how you can know a leader is from God? He teaches the Book. He rightly defines the Book. He makes Jesus who Jesus is supposed to be. He doesn't tell you Jesus died on a cross to heal your physical diseases. He tells you Jesus died on a cross to deliver you from sin and death.

Now, we should pray for each other in our sickness, but the mark of a godly leader is not that he prays for your body and you get well. The mark of a godly leader is that he rightly represents God. God says, "I'm going to test you by giving people who put on great shows for you, who are cool and funny and who sometimes even give the illusion that I'm working in them, but they won't teach you what I teach you, because I'm going to see if you love me."

Jesus did miracles, but he rightly divided the Word of truth. That's why he kept saying, "Have you not read? Go and find out what this means." I found this quote. Charles Spurgeon was teaching a sermon on Ezekiel 11:5. The title of the sermon was Thus Saith the Lord, and that's where I was exposed to that quote from Martin Luther.

This is what Spurgeon wrote after reading what Luther wrote about "Don't give me dreams or visions or angels; just give me your Word." You guys have it. You don't need an angel to show up in your little sequestered place; you just need your Word. Spurgeon said, "Only feed me on [your] Word, and I will not envy kings their delicacies, nor even the angels around [your] throne the bread of heaven on which they live." Just give me the Book.

Guys, this is the Word of God; come eagerly. This is the Word of God; come humbly. This is the Word of God; come expectantly. This is the Word of God; come ready to change. This is the Word of God; come ready, having received the blessing, to go be a blessing to others. That's just verse 13. Thank you, guys. This is such a privilege to get to study God's Word with you. Come and get it.

Verse 14: "For you, brethren…" Do you see Paul? Paul said earlier, "I love you like a mom. I exhort you like a father." But he said, "I'm not an apostle. I'm not greater than you." He said, "I have apostolic authority…" Listen. I am a leader and an elder in the church, but my authority is the love of God, and I'm your brother.

I am a Christian, saved by grace, who needs your prayers, who needs your encouragement, and you're my brothers. I've been calling a number of members of our body. We're calling every single member of our body these next few days. If you don't get a phone call, it's because you're not a member…you haven't gone through the process…or we've made a terrible mistake. When I've been calling my brothers, I have been so encouraged by their faithfulness.

Paul wasn't some celebrity pastor who had some security around him. There was no honor culture where when he walked into the room people stood up. It frustrates the heck out of me the way I see so many guys make a big deal about themselves. No. I'm your brother. You're my sisters and brothers in the Lord, and I love you.

He says, "Brethren, I'm thankful for you because God answered my prayer that you'd receive the Word of God and because you became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea." Just so you know, when the church first started in Judea, for seven years it really was nowhere but in Jerusalem and Judea, just that little region, and then it started to go out to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. Seven years.

They suffered a lot, because Christ followers… The early church was all Jews. Again, the most Jewish thing you can do is believe in the Messiah, but not all Jews did. It disrupted their systems, which were a distortion of the Word of God. When somebody preached the gospel or the fulfillment of the Prophets and the Law, they ran them out because it made them not as powerful.

These guys who were the leaders of that system loved to lord it over others in their positions of authority, so when you came with the gospel that flattened the playing field, they ran you out. They said, "No. You've got to trust our systems, our ways, our structures, our polity, our sacraments. That's how you get saved." No. You get saved by trusting in the cross.

Paul said, "That church suffered a lot because they stood up against the powers that be, and you became imitators of them." Paul had already heard in the months he had been away from Thessalonica that, as it says earlier in chapter 2, "You had experienced many trials, and we had much opposition. You're suffering some, and in doing so, you're showing yourself to be the true church of Jesus Christ."

Christian, if nobody ever has a problem with what you're saying, that's a bit of a concern for you. Show me your friends; I'll show you your future. If everybody loves everything you're saying and this is a world that's not spiritually apprised, there's a pretty good chance you're not speaking the words of the Spirit. Let me give you a few examples about this. Actually, let me read a little bit, and I'll tell you why I'm going to do this.

He says, "…you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen…" The church has always been tested with hardship and suffering. He says, "Even like the church in Jerusalem suffered at the hands of their Jewish brethren," because that's where the first church was: in Jerusalem, around a lot of Jews. "…who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men…"

There are a couple of things I want to say here. This is not an anti-Semitic statement. What Paul is doing is observing what happened in that particular area. Paul himself was a Jew. He prayed that he himself would die so his Jewish brethren could come to know who God was. That's why he would go right to the synagogue in every town he went to. That's what he did in Thessalonica. That's what he did in Berea. That's what he did in Corinth. He didn't do it in Philippi because there was no synagogue.

Paul loved the Jews, and we love the Jews. We love the Hindus, the Muslims, the agnostic, and the atheist. But one of the things Paul says in this little section is that when men are confronted with things that disrupt the status quo, they're not going to like you. Let me give you a couple of real-life examples.

Right now in India, we have a relationship with our friends at Empart who are faithful over there to plant churches and advance the gospel. Their prime minister Modi right now is allowing that culture to be more and more radicalized with Hinduism, so you're finding that he's shutting down a lot of Christian organizations. Compassion International, our partner in El Salvador, has been run out, even though they were caring for, I want to say, millions or hundreds of thousands of children. I can't think of the exact number.

Millions of dollars of care and compassion to India were being provided, but because it was done in the name of Jesus, they ran them out. Hinduism is the perfect system for individuals who want to oppress others, because Hinduism tells you the reason people are of a lower caste, the reason people are poor and diseased and untouchable is they lived a poor life in the previous life. So if you care for them or help them, then you're disrupting the will of the gods, so it's going to be bad karma for you.

So, if you want a system that entitles you in your privilege and causes you to not have to be compassionate and not have to be gracious and generous to others and you can have a class system that allows you to enslave and abuse and ignore people created in the image of God, Hinduism is the perfect system. So the powers that be, the elite of Hinduism, hate Christianity and persecute Christians, because it's exposing the lie of that demonic system.

You have similar things that were happening in Jerusalem. This is why our culture that loves sex and wants abortion to be, if you will, a secondary form of birth control, when we start to talk about the dignity of humans created and how that shouldn't be an option to eliminate human life because it's an inconvenience or an interruption or an unplanned beginning of life in your womb… That's why they come at you: because you're messing with their religion, which is their desire to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

You'll see the same thing is going to happen around certain people who increasingly give themselves over to the secular age. There are going to be churchmen in churches who say people who teach a biblical orthodoxy are hate-speakers, intolerant, because they love their power and they love their position, just like the corrupted church in Germany went along with fascism and Nazism and hated the Jews because that was the thing to do.

There are going to be individuals who say, "If you hate our expression of gender ideology or human sexuality, that's hate speech," and you're going to find there are going to be churches that will persecute the true church. So, Thessalonica, Watermark, let me just say this to you. You want to be somebody who is ready to stand firm and not shrink back amidst a lot of the opposition. He says true believers do that.

When people have a lack of belief in God, one of the greatest dangers… This is a very humbling passage here. One of the greatest dangers to your unbelief is not only that you're an unbeliever but that you profligate rebellion against God, that you stand against others. This is a quote I wrote down that basically says the greatest problem with people who are against the way and the will of God is that they partner with the Enemy in discouraging people from believing the will of God.

Let me give you a better quote: Matthew 18:7. This is where Jesus said, "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" The people who were in Jerusalem who persecuted the early believers were causing a stumbling block to others who believe, and Jesus said, "That's not going to go well for you."

Look at what's going to happen to them. This is a really humbling thing. It says they're going to fill up the measure of their sins, and they're going to have wrath come upon them to the uttermost. When Paul wrote back to Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, he says of these people, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…" That is a humbling verse.

So be kind to those who persecute you. Pray for them, that God would give the soil of their heart kindness. Now verse 17 very quickly. If there's one verse that's perfect for this day and age, it's verse 17. This is what it says: "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face."

Man! If there is ever a verse that goes with this day and age, it is 1 Thessalonians 2:17. We're away from you in body but not in spirit, and we are all the more eager to greet you with a great desire to your face. There's going to be a day when God is going to let us gather again, and we're going to see that while sometimes being online is kind of nice, there's nothing like being together. I long for that day.

Paul says, "For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us." You're going to find out the reason Satan hindered them is because some believer cut a deal and, basically, gave a pledge and money that these guys who were turning the world upside down would leave town.

So Paul, out of respect for the word a believer who was hosting him gave, felt like he couldn't go back because it was going to cause too much trouble. He longed to be with them, but he sent up Timothy, and we're going to find that out next week when we study some of this together. Paul said, "You need to know that you are our hope, our joy, our crown of exultation."

Church, you're our lasting impression. Evidence that Christ is in us and we're at work is you. You're the lasting impression. Your faithfulness in your smaller communities, your faithfulness in loving your neighbors… It is our joy. It's our crown. Other people you have ministered to…it's our exultation. You are our glory and our joy.

You are a church we're thankful to God for because he has answered our prayer that you would receive the Word of God for what it is. We're thankful because you're imitators of the true church, and we're thankful that you're disciple-makers who are causing others to know the goodness of God.