Serving Christ with a pure heart

1 Thessalonians 2:1-6 SCC 3/23/14


If you wish to effectively serve the purposes of God then take note of at least five long-lasting virtues that motivate someone to determine to stay devoted to Christ and the long lasting dividends they can count on as God works through them in His marvelous ways.

Verse 1: Here is a general statement about the effectiveness of ministry. Here are the marks of a true work of God. So he says remember how it was, you don't need anybody to give you second-hand information, you saw, you experienced. The ministry was not in vain in its quality, not in vain in its content, not in vain in its results. Notice the Thessalonians had first hand knowledge of the impact of this missionary teams ministry: (v 1 you know; v 2 as you know; v 5 as you know; v 9-11; 3:3-4; 4:2; 5:2). So why was Paul's ministry so dynamic in Thessalonica? He had a powerfully effective ministry:


We are confident in God's power giving us tenacity to persevere

Verse 2: The man had such tremendous confidence in the power of God to energize his ministry and to protect him from anything that might come against him to harm him that he had a sense of invincibility. That translated immediately into boldness and courage. Because we knew the power of our God and we were confident that our God was more powerful than our opposition. That's what gives strength to our ministry, tenacity. Being publicly humiliated and physically abused for preaching the gospel. Because the terrible reaction indicates we were preaching the truth. If you ever confront an ungodly culture with a godly message, you should have that kind of reaction. Confident bold biblical proclamation leads to conflict, which requires courage and boldness. The word "opposition," means struggle, conflict, fight. The term refers to a life/death struggle, an agonizing.


We are committed to God's truth giving us integrity to serve

Verse 3: exhortation means an urgent appeal with a view toward judgment and it speaks of the urgency, and the directness of his message.

First he says our exhortation doesn't come from error. The word error means to wander, to roam. That's where the word ‘planet’ came from. Error is roaming from the truth, wandering as it were without any standard, without anything to contain or control you. Paul says our exhortation does not come from error but from God's truth. It was accurate. He was not deceived but neither was he a deceiver. There was no false teaching here. There was only the Word of God.

Second his exhortation doesn't come from impurity. I speak truth out of a pure life. The word can be used of a physical uncleanness, dirty, it can be used of some kind of social stigma, social uncleanness, but primarily refers to sexual uncleanness.

Third he does not come from deceit. He was motivated truly, genuinely and not in a false way like others who were motivated purely for their own personal gain, either sexually or in terms of money. So there was no attempt to be crafty.


We are commissioned by God's will giving us authority to speak

Verse 4a: it was the truth that God entrusted to him. God entrusted us with the good news. We have been and continue to be approved by God. God tested us, we passed and we are the authorized ministers of the gospel. Paul is saying...I'm not self-appointed; I'm not doing this on my own. God called me. We have authority in our ministry that when we speak we speak as those who have been chosen, approved, and placed by God in this world to preach His truth. We speak with the authority of God who approved us for that ministry and calling. So we all have a god-given authority behind the teaching and proclamation of the Word of God. The authority belongs to God no to me.


We are compelled by the knowledge of God giving us accountability to God

Verse 4b-5: I am compelled by the knowledge of God. What do you mean by that? I mean God knows everything. What motivates me is His omniscience. He examines my heart. He witnesses everything about me. The word heart refers to the inner self, the real you, where thought and feeling and will and motive all meet. He says God scrutinizes my deepest self. God scrutinizes my motives. God scrutinizes my intentions. God knows those deep things and He knows so much that I am very aware that He will know whether I am seeking to please men or Him. I am compelled by that knowledge. Under the realization that some day I'm going to stand at the Bema Seat Judgment and the Lord is going to reward me for what He knows about me. So an effective ministry is motivated by the knowledge of God and His evaluation of my life and times. But what should we be concerned that God knows about us?

Verse 5: (1) First, God knows we didn't come and serve and teach and disciple to please men cause God knows everything about us. You might be used to people who flatter you and you might be used to people who are greedy and they come with a pretext to procure gain. They want physical sexual favors. They want money. They want power. They want prestige. We didn't come that way. God is witness. We live under the scrutiny of God. So you say something good to someone as a ploy to win him or her to yourself for self-interest and personal gain. You set them up for your own deceptive purposes.

(2) Secondly, God knows we didn't come with a pretext for greed. The pretext means they hide their real intent. The word pretext is cloak. It’s an over cloak which is covering the real intent. We didn't come putting a coat over our greed. So there are no ulterior motives or even blatant ones.


We are consumed with God's glory giving us humility to shun praise

Verse 6: We didn't look for esteem. We didn't look for honor. We didn't want praise. Even though as Apostles we could have asserted our authority, we were too preoccupied with all the glory going to Him. We were specially called messengers. Our purpose was not to seek glory from men. Can we ever be free of the desire to be recognized by others? Consider the ‘litany of humility’ by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val:

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

What makes an effective ministry?

Tenacity, because you trust totally in the power of God.

Integrity, because you're fully committed to the truth of God.

Authority because you know you have on your life the commission of God.

Accountability, because of the knowledge of God, He knows everything.

Humility, because you are consumed with the glory of God.


So What?

1. The Bible condemns pride but promotes confidence. Proud people may attack us for our stand but confidence in God’s Word gives us boldness to teach the truth. The difference is that pride is value independent from God. Confidence is assurance of the message from God. This makes our confidence is in God not in ourselves apart from God.

2. The outcome of our lives and ministry is eternal. With eternity in mind we must be compelled to have an effective ministry centered on outcomes that have eternal value attached to them. Attributes such as tenacity, integrity, and humility pay off forever when they are applied to our lives today. Spend your time, resources, and energy in virtues that have eternal significance.

3. Everyone one of us can be more effective with the ministry in the lives of others that God has entrusted to us. We should be able to make the same claims that the apostle is making about his ministry in Thessalonica.