Cowboy Fellowship Church Pete Pawelek May 23, 2010 The Method 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 We have to understand that our God is a God of purpose. I don't know if you ever feel like there is just madness and chaos just surrounding you in your life. I don't know if you ever feel like no matter what you do, you can never gain any traction and there is just madness and chaos going on all around you all of the time. Sometimes in the middle of that, in the middle of life, we forget our God is a God of plans and purposes, but I believe He is a God of plans and purposes. I believe He has a plan for your life and a purpose for your life. I believe He has a plan and a purpose for our church and for this congregation. We have to know, and we have to understand, and we have to trust that God is not just up there just rolling dice and saying, "What's going to happen today?" He's thought this stuff through. He knows what's going on, and He has outlined all of these things. So we have to kind of agree on that and know that as we head in to today's message. One of the things we did when I was down in Costa Rica, one of the services I got to preach at they had the congregation stand, and read some Scripture and read some other things, and it was just a really cool worship experience. I wanted to bring that back today. Instead of me just reading the text to you, I want to ask you all if you would stand. A lot of you have your Bibles open and you're ready to go in 1 Thessalonians. We're going to put it up on the screen. Go ahead if you're able, I want you to stand. We're just going to read this together. I want you to read it loud. I want to hear you, alright? I'll start us and keep us on pace, and you can read this off the screen or out of your Bibles, depending on what is more comfortable for you. First Thessalonians, chapter 1, verses 1-5, so we can get the full context of both last week and this week's message. It says (read with me), "Paul, Silas, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake." Amen, you can be seated. The first thing Paul talks about in The Method, if you're following along in your outlines, and you want to write this down is he outlines, or he talks about, or he mentionsâ€Ś 1. The God who seeks. He says in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 4, we just read it together, "For we know, brother loved by God, that He has a chosen you." Again, He is a God of purpose, a God of plans. He is a God who knows what is going on. Paul says, "He has chosen you." He has sought you. He is the God who seeks. He is the God who was in control of Thessalonica long Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
before Paul showed up. He is the God who had chosen, or sought these people at this church before Paul had ever even arrived on the scene. He says, "We know brothers, loved by God, that He has chosen you." I thought this week, Wow, what an incredible thing! I mean I think sometimes we forget how patient God is with us. I think back to before I was a Christian, and I think back to that time. I'm so thankful that God continued to seek me despite the fact that I rejected Him the first time, and the second time, and the third time, and the fifth time, and the tenth time, and the twentieth time, and the thirtieth time, and the fortieth time, and the fiftieth time. I kept walking away. I had heard the gospel and my friends had told me about Jesus. They had invited me to youth group. They had invited me to church camp. I thought, Oh rubbish. That's a bunch of foolishness. Who needs all that stuff? I walked away time after time after time. I am so thankful that God continued to seek me. He continued to pursue me. He continued to stay with me. I'm thankful that, as the book of Ephesians says, "Even when I was an enemy of God, He continued to love me, and He continued to seek me, and He continued to pursue me." Paul wanted these people in Thessalonica to know that he loved them. He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that the apostle Paul, this man, Paul who wrote these words, he wanted to remind them he loved them. Twenty eight times, you can go and count them if you want to, 28 times in the book of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Paul greets these people as brothers, brothers in God, or brothers in the faith, and things like thatâ€Ś28 times. It's remarkable. That's over 3 times per chapter. He is not saying like we say today, "Hey brother," he is not saying, "What's up, brother?" This isn't like a casual thing. Whenever he calls them brothers, he is reminding them he loves them as brothers. More than that, he wants to remind them that God loves them. He says, "Brothers loved by God," right there in verse 4. You might want to underline that or circle that because you will only find that phrase two other times in the New Testament. One time you will find it in the book of 2 Thessalonians, the letter he wrote to this same church. The other time you'll find it in the book of Romans. Paul doesn't use this phrase often. It is the most affectionate and loving phrase you can pen whenever you want to tell somebody in the Greek language that they are loved by God. He wanted to remind them that he loved them and God loved them as well because they served a God who seeks, and a God who loved them despite their deficiencies, a God who loved them despite their moral shortcomings, a God who loved them despite their evil ways, a God who had been seeking their very souls from the beginning of time. He wanted to remind them they were loved by God. Who do you love? Think about the people you love who don't know Christ specifically. You know how much you love them and you know how much you want them to come to know Jesus. I tell you I love the people of Atascosa County. I love the people of Texas. I love America. I love the people of the world. I want everybody to know Jesus. I want everybody to know Christ. I want everybody to know the joy and the peace and the comfort and the assurance of salvation I Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
have in my heart and my soul. I want everybody to have those things, and I love them in a way I would do almost anything to make sure they had a chance to respond to the gospel. Do you know what the gospel, the method of the gospel we're talking about today? It doesn't begin with my love for you. It doesn't begin with my love for Atascosa County, or my love for Texas, or my love for America, or my love for the people of the world. It begins with God's love. In the book of 1 John, chapter 4, verse 19, it says, "We love only because He first loved us." No matter how much you love your children who don't know Christ, no matter how much you love your brothers and your sisters and your aunts and your uncles, your grandma, your grandpa, your mamma and your daddy, whoever it is, God's method does not begin with your love, it beings with His. How incredible is that to think that as much as we love these people, and as much as we long for them to know Christ, God loves them more and He longs for their souls even more than us? He is a God who seeks. His method beings with Him, not with us. It begins with His love. He says to them in verse 4, "For we know brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you." The last part of that verse, that He has chosen you, has been one of many verses that has caused a great debate in the Christian faith. I don't want to spend a great deal of time this morning talking about this, but it's a common theme in the book of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and many of Paul's writings that must be addressed. I don't know if you've ever heard of Calvinism and Armenianism, but it's a debate. There are people in the Christian faith who are on two different sides. How many of you have heard those terms? Okay, 40 percent of you, 30 percent of you, something like that. Here's the deal. On the Calvinist side, and we're just going to keep this really simple, we're not going to go into the five points and all that today. We don't have time. On the Calvinist side, people say that God is a God of purpose and He loves people, but that He elects people. He chooses people. He looks at people and He says, "You'll be saved and you won't, and you'll be saved and you won't, and you'll be saved." He chooses who will and who will not come. They will be somehow elected into the faith and into heaven. We're not going to go into all the specifics, but that's the basic premise. On the Armenian side, these are people who love God as well. There are people on both sides who love God. The Armenians believe God is a God of purpose. God is a God of plans. They believe though that everybody has an opportunity to respond to the faith. Many on the Calvinistic side, those who believe God chooses or God elects, they look at this verse, and many others, several in the book of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and they say, "See right there. God chooses people and God elects some, and leaves others out." I can't get there in the text because here's why. Let me give you some reference points. You have a bunch of references, a bunch of Scriptures right there in your Bible. I'm just going to fly through these. Here's why I can't get there because the same man who penned this letter to the 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul also wrote these words in the book of Titus, chapter 2, verse 11, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
First Timothy 2:3-7, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles." Why would Paul or anyone have gone to the Gentiles if they felt God had chosen some and not others? First Corinthians 9:22, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak," Paul says. "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." The book of Romans, chapter 5, verses 17-19, "For if, by the trespass of the one man [speaking of Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." Verse 19, "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous." The apostle Paul didn't write these next two in the book of John, but they go to the same point. John, chapter 1, verses 6-9, "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him [guess what?] all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to…" Who? "…every man was coming into the world." Jesus would be the light for every man. Or how about John 12:32, Jesus Himself said these words, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Here's the deal. There is a great deal of evidence on both sides. The Calvinists could mount just as many Scriptures on that side, and the Armenians could mount even more Scriptures on their side. We could go back and forth and we could debate it all day long until we were blue in the face. I fear it is a great waste of time. If you want to debate Calvinism and Armenianism, this is probably not the church, and I'm not the pastor. I'll tell you why. I've searched the Scriptures and I find evidence over here in abundance, and I find evidence over here in abundance, so I decided to do this. I decided to try to figure out if Jesus was a Calvinist or Armenianist. Do you know what I discovered? He was neither. He was the Son of God. He was the Messiah. He was the Savior of the world. That's who He was. So I'm not a Calvinist and I'm not an Armenianist, and I don't get in the debate because do you know who I am? I'm a Christian. I'm a Christ follower. I follow the Christ. I don't understand this mystery. I can't comprehend it. I think this is one of those things no one can fully comprehend, but here's what I know and here's what I believe Paul is speaking to here in the book of 1 Thessalonians in the larger context. There is a God who seeks the souls of men. There is a God who is a God of plans and purposes, and He seeks our souls. No matter how many times we run, no matter how many times we hide, no matter how bad we've been or how Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
far we've gone, He continues to pursue us. His method, God's method begins with Himself, and His love, and His seeking us. Second part of the method, we have the God who seeks, the God who seeks our souls, the God who seeks us as men, and then we have… 2. The gospel that saves. Paul does a great thing with this verse here in verse 5. He says, "Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction," He breaks it down into the different parts of the gospel. I love how He says, "Our gospel." He wasn't saying our gospel because this was the gospel of the apostle Paul, he wasn't saying our gospel because he believed he was the one who made the gospel up. He wasn't saying our gospel, taking possession of it because he was the one who was saving people through his own gospel, no, he was saying our gospel because he believed in what he preached. Do you? Do you believe in what you preach to others? Do you believe in what you read in the Bible? Do you believe? Is it your gospel? Have you taken possession of it? Do you believe it in the core of who you are? Down deep, do you know it to be true? The apostle Paul certainly did because he takes ownership of it, and he says, "Because our gospel came to you." This wasn't his daddy's gospel. It wasn't his momma's gospel. It wasn't his grandpa or his grandma's gospel. This wasn't his preacher's gospel or his priests' gospel, or his pastor's gospel. He said, "This is our gospel. We believe it. We know it to be true. We've experienced it. Our gospel came to you." They took ownership of it. They believed in it. We must as well if we're going to be effective. The method depends on it. Then he tells us how the gospel came. He says, "Not simply with words." Not simply with words…he uses a negative here in the Greek. What he is saying is that it came with words, but not just with words. He doesn't want anybody to be confused. He doesn't want anybody to say, "Well, you know the reason all these people were saved in Thessalonica is because the apostle Paul showed up. That guy, he is a crafty teacher. He is a great preacher. He somehow convinced them to give their lives to Christ. It was his great sermons and his great teachings, and his great writings that brought the people to Christ." No, he says, "The gospel came not simply with words." He wants to make sure everybody knows and everybody understands the gospel came with words because we must verbalize the gospel, but it did not come simply with words. We know words are important when it comes to the gospel. I'm not going to read the entire passage to you. I'm just going to read Romans 10:14 this morning. You can go back and read the rest later. In verse 14, we find the climax of the point. "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" Paul penned these words, "And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Paul believed in the power of words when it came to the gospel, but he says, "The gospel does not come simply with words, or only with words." We must be careful as we're out there preaching the gospel and telling people about the good news of Jesus in two areas…two things we must be careful of. Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
First, we must be careful that we do not rely on words alone. We must be careful we do not think because we can explain it well or because we can talk really well or because we have a great illustration, or because we have an evangelism cube, or because we have the next greatest track in the world that we can just go up and by our own power and our own will, we can convince people to give their lives to Christ. That's the first thing we must watch out for. The second thing is that we don't keep our mouths shut, and we don't just walk around and say, "You know what? It's not my job to tell people about the gospel because it doesn't come just with words." No it doesn't come just with words, but words are a part of it. It's the only part we get to play in the gospel…using our words to verbalize it. These next three areas, we have nothing to do with them. He then says, "It came not simply with words, but it came with power." We don't have time this morning to analyze this one word, but I'll tell you this, it comes from the Greek word we get the word dynamite from. It's a huge power. This isn't like a power drink. It's not like a power aid. It's not like a boost you get in the morning from a power breakfast, or it's not like how you feel after taking a power nap, man. This is some powerful stuff. This is the word we get the word dynamite from. It's an overwhelming power. It's a huge power. It's a mysterious power. It's a power that can't be comprehended. The only thing I can even think we might even be able to relate this to is the day if you were around, if you were here then, when you first heard or first saw or first read about the atom bomb being dropped for the first time on the human population. If you were there, if you read or heard or were alive at that time, didn't you go, "Where did that power come from? How did we make something like that?" This is the kind of power we're talking about, a mysterious power that we can't fathom…a huge power. I think sometimes as we get further and further and further away from the day we were saved, we forget about the thunder of the power of the gospel that came into our lives on that day. We forget about the mysterious awe-inspiring abundant power of the gospel. We forget it was the power of the gospel that transformed our lives, that caused us to go from the old to the new. We forget the power of the gospel, the power to save us of our sins and cast them as far as the east is from the west, we forget the power to take that load off of our shoulders and get rid of it all. We forget the power of the gospel when it came into our lives and filled that hole that we had lived with for so long. We forget we lay in bed that night, or we went through that day wondering, Where did this awesome power come from, and how did it find its way to me? Paul says, "The gospel came not simply with words, no, it came with power…a great power." Not just with power, it also came with the Holy Spirit, he says. The Holy Spirit plays a major role in the work of the gospel. We forget this all the time, too. We treat the Holy Spirit kind of like a redheaded stepchild, as they say. It's kind of like, "Ah, He's there." We've heard about Him, but I don't know, I think it's the Holy Ghost thing. We're all scared of ghosts. We don't want to be around a ghost, so we're like, "Ah, we know the Holy Ghost is there. We know the Holy Spirit is there, but it's kind of weird. We don't understand it." So we just kind of push it off. Cowboy Fellowship Church Jourdanton, TX
Paul says, "The Holy Spirit plays a great role in the gospel." He doesn't just say it here, he says it in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 6. I'll just read verse 11 for the sake of time. "And that is what some of you were." He's talking about how bad they were in the previous verses. He says, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." The book of Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 13 and 14, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory." Paul says, "The Holy Spirit was at work in your life when the gospel came to you. It's part of the method." Then he lists the last one…deep conviction. The conviction in question here is not that of Paul, Timothy, and Silas. If you were here last week, we talked about the time they spent in Philippi and how they had been arrested, how they had been chained, how they had been shackled, how they had been stripped naked and been beaten within an inch of their lives in Philippi. Yet, as soon as they were released from prison, they didn't go home to lick their wounds. They didn't go back and pray about whether or not they should continue to preach the gospel. No, they marched right out of town, went 100 miles down to Thessalonica. We know they were convicted. They didn't stop when they were shipwrecked. They didn't stop when they were beaten. They didn't stop when they were in prison. No, when all that happened, they just prayed, "God, where do we go next?" We know they were convicted. We know they believed in the gospel. Paul says the conviction came to the Thessalonians. They were convicted of their sins. They were convicted of their shortcomings. They were convicted of their evil ways. They were convicted of their ungodly lives because when the gospel comes, it comes in power. When the Holy Spirit begins to move, you begin to get convicted. It came with deep conviction. This wasn't a decision the Thessalonians made on a whim. It wasn't just because Paul showed up and preached good sermons. Remember, it wasn't simply with words. No, it came from their deep conviction. As they pondered their lives, and what was going on, as they searched the Scriptures, they came to the conclusion through their conviction that Christ was the only way. The method beings with the God who seeks and it moves to the gospel that saves. God's method ends with this third part. See here's the thing about this third part of the method I believe God uses, and this method that worked in the first century in Thessalonica still works today. It will work in Latin America. It will work in Africa. It will work in your neighborhood. It will work anywhere. This is God's method, for God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I tell you this method works. The God who seeks is where it starts. The gospel that saves, we have very little part in those two. All we can do is tell people about the God who seeks. All we can do is verbalize the gospel as best we can, but God does the rest. This third part is our part. It's crucial to the method…
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3. The life that wins. The life that wins, if you're following along in your outline, and I'm not talking about a life that win awards. I'm not talking about a life that gets an award for being the best missionary or saving the most souls. I'm not talking about a life that wins for itself. No, instead I'm talking about a life that wins for God. It is so easy to overlook the last part of verse 5. I cannot tell you how many times I have read these verses and read this passage and read this book of 1 Thessalonians, and never even seen the last part of verse 5. I got so wrapped up in the God who seeks, in verse 4. I got so wrapped up in the gospel that saves in the first part of verse 5 that I forgot about the third part of the method. Paul says this, "You know how we lived among you for your sake." Such a simple statement. So easy to overlook, but that carries so much power and so much impact. See the apostle Paul lived his life in a way that was so holy and so pure and so open and so transparent, he could look at people, or he could write to people and he could say, "You know how I live my life. I have nothing to hide. There are no skeletons in my closet. There is nothing about me you have not seen. I have lived it out in front of you, and I've done the best I can." Paul said this in the most humble way, for it was Paul who said, "I am the worst of all sinners." He didn't think he was above anybody. He lived his life in such a way where other people could see him striving toward the goal. Paul, time and time again, tells people, "You know how I live my life. Imitate me." In the book of Philippians, he says it two times, in chapter 3, verse 17, "Join with others in following my example," he says. "Join with others in following my example brothers." In the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 9, he says, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in meâ€”put it into practice." In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, he says in verse 16, "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." Paul lived his life in a way that won. It won souls. He lived his life in a way that as he encountered people, he could look them in the eye and say, "Just imitate me." Not in a bold way, not in a cocky way, not in an I'm better than you way, just in a way that said, "I'm doing the best I can as a man to follow Christ, and you can follow me, and imitate me." That's the life that wins. Let me ask you this, those people you love so much that we talked about in point number one, your family, your friends, your coworkers, your aunts, your uncles, whoever they are, could you look them in the eye and say, "Imitate me?" Could you stand before those people and say, "Just follow my example, and live the way I do"? I tell you, I want to be the kind of man who can stand before my children as they grow up, and say, "You know what son, and you know what to my little daughter who is going to be here in August? You can just follow my example. You can just imitate me. Don't worry about what the world is telling you. Don't worry about what your friends are telling you, just imitate me." But if I don't live my life in a way that wins, I can't stand before my children and say that, or my wife, or my parents, or my grandparents, or my friends, or anybody else.
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Paul lived his life in such a holy, and pure, and amazing way that he could say with confidence, "Just imitate me. Live the way I live." Can you say that? Here's the problem. If we don't live our lives in a way that wins, people will probably never experience the gospel that saves or the God who seeks because we're all they see. If we come to church on Saturdays and Sundays and we act one way, and we go out into the world the rest of the week and we act another, if we come in here and we stuff all of our skeletons in the closet for an hour and ten minutes on Sunday or Saturday night, and then we go out and we let them all out all over the place the rest of the time, we have failed. God's method involves you. It involves your life, not an hour on Sunday. It involves 24 hours, seven days a week, your entire life and living it in a way that wins where other people can look at you and you can look at them and say, "Imitate me." If we don't live our lives in a way that wins, they will never experience the gospel that saves or the God who seeks. I stand before you today as a Christian, not just because God sought me, and not just because the gospel saved me, but because there were people in my life that I could look at and I could imitate. I saw something in them I wanted. It wasn't until I saw that, that I gave the gospel and the God who seeks a chance. All those times I turned away from the gospel, do you want to know why I did it? Because I looked at the people who were telling me about it, and I said, "Your life doesn't match up. You're telling me one thing over here, and then I see you act in another way over there. What do I want to be a part of that for? I'd rather just be true to who I am. I'd rather just be a pagan and be a good one. I'd rather just be the best heathen I can be, I guess. That's just the kind of person I am. Why do I want to act one way here and be another over there?" It wasn't until I encountered a man who acted one way and was one way everywhere he went and everywhere he went. I said, "There might be something to this God who seeks and this gospel that saves." We need to live lives that win. We take and have a great part in the method God uses. We're a part of it, and this is plan A, and it's the only plan. Let's be a part of it.
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