The Power of the Gospel

Devotional for Today, June 23, 2018

“…They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NIV)

Notice how the new converts [in Thessalonica] were described, [and] observe the incredible power of the simple gospel message.  Men and women turned away from the popular pagan idols of their day to trust in God who gave his Son, Jesus, for them.  They not only went to church; their lives had a new center as they humbly served the living and true God.  They also made the most of their fleeting days on earth as they waited for God’s Son to return to earth—the same Jesus who would rescue them from the coming divine judgment.   These believers were the real deal; what a church that was in Thessalonica!

Besides the unspeakable immorality of “divine” emperors such as Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, the Roman Empire was permeated everywhere with greed, degeneracy, and a constant pursuit of pleasure at any and all costs.  Human life meant nothing, and unwanted babies were discarded the way one would throw out the trash. Innumerable gods were worshiped along with the emperors, and the preaching of any kind of monotheism, whether Judaism or Christianity, could often provoke harsh reprisals.  No printed New Testaments, no church buildings, often no legal protection from the courts—this was life in the Roman Empire, and yet the church at Thessalonica prospered!

Notice, however, the subtle—and not so subtle—ways this great church differed from what we consider a great church in America.   First, we don’t hear any mention of the names of the pastor or gifted teacher. The only name celebrated back then was Jesus Christ! …

Notice also that no mention is made of how many people were attending the church in Thessalonica.  No public church buildings for Christians to gather in existed for at least three hundred years after the death of Christ, so religious practices were vastly different from what our contemporary minds imagine.  No attendance numbers are supplied because mere numerical growth was not the goal of the apostles, but rather authentic believers in Jesus Christ.   Isn’t it interesting that when they focused on making true believers, God added huge numbers of people?

-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from Strong through the Storm)

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10.

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