Paul and Silas had been beaten and jailed in Philippi because of the gospel. Their joy, as they sat in prison singing hymns, had famously helped the jailer and many others to come to know the Lord.
Likewise, the Thessalonians had received the gospel with joy and zeal EVEN THOUGH they knew doing so would cause them to face persecution.
Yes, they knew what they would face. Yet, they left their idols and their flesh-filled living for the narrow way,
the hard way,
but the BETTER way.
This was not lost on Paul, he wanted to encourage them in this, and let them know their choice to do so was impacting others all across the region—
“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and 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 delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1Thess 1:6-10)
You know, it’s easy to say “yes” to Heaven, but are we ready to face the affliction that might come because we follow Christ? Are we ready for that? Will our kids be?
Those Thessalonians knew Paul had been beaten and thrown in jail for the faith. He didn’t tell them they could have their “best life now”.
Paul preached grace AND truth.
Adrian Rogers once said, “People say, “Don’t take a stand for doctrine. Just be full of love….” Thank God for the love of God. He is love. But that’s not all of the truth. He’s also a God of justice; He’s also a God of truth. And when you say “God is love,” and that’s all you say, that’s only part of the truth. When you take part of the truth and make part of the truth all of the truth, that part of the truth becomes an untruth. You get a skewed idea of truth. God is also a God of justice and truth. The Bible says, “Speak the truth in love.” There’s never any competition between truth and love. There are two dangers: Number one is loveless truth. The other is truth-less love. Speak the truth in love.”
The truth is, it is easy to walk away when you never really understood the magnitude of your need for God (your great sin debt) nor ever truly surrendered your life to Him (meaning His way over your way).
It is easy to fall apart when you really don’t know and truly love Jesus, but some watered-down, false version of the One True God.
Certainly, this lost world needs to know how amazing grace is, but they also need to know how much they need it.
We need to stop telling others “they are enough” and help them understand that Jesus did for them what they could never do for themselves. They can’t be enough. They don’t have to be enough.
We need to stop worrying about our kids’ self-confidence and, instead, help them to learn to stand Jesus-confident.
They need to know (and for that matter be relieved) that their best works will never be enough to snatch them from Hell.
They need to rest in the fact that God came to save them; and they don’t need Jesus plus something else.
He is enough to satisfy, really satisfy them (John 6:35) and, yes, give them peace and hope and joy as they trust Him (Rom 15:13)… even when they walk through valleys of the shadows of death.
They need to know God, well enough, THROUGH HIS WORD, to trust He is also enough to carry them when all else fails them.
The true gospel is not a prosperity gospel. It is deny-yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (not yourself, not the world, not what feels right) …BUT when you do, there is peace and hope and joy far beyond anything this world could ever give.
But you don’t get all that from a cheap understanding of grace.
Only when we understand how precious, how costly, how magnificent, the gift of Jesus REALLY IS will we hold onto it with all that we have.
So, what do we do? How do we make disciples who make disciples, who don’t walk away, but even find JOY when the road gets hard?
We start by telling them the whole story…grace and truth.
We can’t forsake one for the other. Especially now. In these hard days!
Like Paul, like those Thessalonians, when we walk in grace AND truth, we can have peace and joy despite hard days, and others will see Jesus in us; and the Kingdom of God will continue to spread like wildfire just like it did through those early believers in the Thessalonian church!