Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fast (But Satisfying) Food (1 Thessalonians 1)

Paul and Silvanus (Silas) had served up some very good food indeed (the bread of life) in Thessalonica for three Sabbaths before they were forced to leave by jealous Jews (Acts 17:1-9).

Afraid that the Thessalonians might have gone on to ruin their lives with poisonous junk, they sent Timothy to check in on them and encourage them to keep feeding on the good stuff (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:10).

Fruit Tart

Paul, Silas and Tim were now writing to provide (further) assurance that they did really have the gospel of God and were on track.

1 Thessalonians 1

The gospel of Paul/Silas/Timothy/God had objective content. The Thessalonians had neither been persuaded by Paul/Silas' eloquence nor their cutting illustrations nor confident speech. Rather, they had been convinced (1) by proof from scripture (Acts 17:2-3) that Jesus was the Christ who had to suffer and rise from the dead; (2) by proof from the lives of Paul/Silas/Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:5) that they were really convinced about their message - suffering for the proclamation of the gospel and leading holy, righteous and blamesless lives (Acts, 1 Thessalonians).

The Thessalonians then came to trust in objective realities: they had faith that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died on cross as an atoning sacrifice for sins, that he was raised from dead and that he would come to save them from God's coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Knowing the love of God (1 Thessalonians 1:4), they loved others (1 Thessalonians 3:12, 4:9-10). They had a sure and certain hope of the future when God's Son would come from heaven and deliver them from the wrath to come.

Therefore, there was two-fold (or perhaps just one-fold) proof that they were alright by God: (1) that they were intellectually persuaded and had accepted the gospel; and (2) evidence that they had really accepted the gospel was that their lives had been changed and shaped by these doctrines (their faith worked, their love laboured and their hope was steadfast) because they had come into a relationship with God who was now their Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3). So the three letterwriters observe that the gospel had come to them not only in words but, as evidence that they had been chosen by God in power, in the Holy Spirit and in full conviction and so they received it with joy.

Tower of Double Chocolate Cookies - Remember Babel
Remembering Babel

If this is so, then:
- one cannot claim to be on a "mission trip" or be serving God if one is merely building houses in a developing country or being hospitable to all and patient to the longwinded and, by common consensus, irritating. These were certainly not the things Paul/Silas/Tim/the Thessies were concerned about and persecuted for. If it is the word (1 Thessalonians 1:5,6,8), and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5,6) through that word (and the choice of God ultimately), that transforms lives, then any work of God must include the proclaiming of the good news. After all, this was also why Jesus came to earth (Mark 1). And after all, this shows that one's own life has been transformed so to the service of the living and true God who wants all to be saved and not perish.

- while there is a place for bridge-building to, eg. the yet-unnamed post-cyberspace generations, it is the pure gospel that must be preached, not adulterated in the desperate but baseless hope that leaving out sin or Jesus might make "Christianity" much more attractive to unsubscribers. The God who is to be worshipped must be proclaimed in his full justice and glory so that he can be worshipped, and in so doing show that the preacher does actually worship this God. His Spirit will work in those who are his.

- we know we are alright by God and really believe the gospel not because we are in the right (Bible-believing) church or that the church leadership demonstrates their approval of us by appointing us to positions in the church hierarchy or because our friends so assure us, but by the proof in our lives that we have turned from idols to serve the living God, with love for all, while clinging steadily to the hope of Jesus' coming.

- elders, pastors, overseers, leaders and the like who have to account for their flock and who see their sheep wandering off cliffs and taking candy from wolves, need, themselves not to lose sight of the way God has designed lives to be turned back and transformed - by the Spirit, through the word - in both the sheep's lives and their own. Therefore, better music with emotional song leaders, a more persuasive and/or emotive preaching style, church-wide programmes for unity, love and service, a push to missions, more rules on what should or should not be done, accountability groups, topical comments on the latest scandal or political hot potato etc will, of themselves and despite the best of intentions, never bring anyone into a living relationship with God because they point to man rather than God. Better to be preoccupied with God and concentrate on teaching faithfully from the Bible the Christ to be worshipped (or rather, not to obfuscate God's word in proclaiming what God says about the his own glory) and praying, and also (and simultaneously by so doing) demonstrating the conviction of one's faith in one's life, setting the example of living according to the center of one's faith, love and hope. The gospel must first convict the undershepherds before they can so speak and so live in a way that, with the power of the Holy Spirit, generate conviction in the sheep.


Fruit tart recipe from Keiko Ishida's Okashi.
Double chocolate cookie recipe from Donna Hay.

Animal Pasta! Mac & Cheese (or rather Animal Pasta & Cheese!)
Blood sugar high and failure to make much sense not completely attributable to Mark Bittman's macaroni animal pasta and cheese recipe (accidentally left for too long while Rabbids invaded the Phone).

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