Monday, April 2, 2012

real change... real hope.

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.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

This is a report of mass conversion. The Christians at the city of Thessalonica were believers who noticeably changed as a result of coming to Christ. And the cites around them took notice. Their conversion had regional impact. In Paul's remarks we see the unique fingerprints of genuine conversion.

The first mark was a visible turn to God. They heard the gospel message and responded to it. The necessary second mark of their conversion involved turning from their idolatrous past. There was a clean break from pagan idolatry and a clear turn to authentic Christianity. There was no messy syncretism. It was a "truth vs. falsehood" moment of distinction. And the truth was found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The third mark of their conversion is found in what they turned to God to do: they turned to serve the living and true God. Their conversion was a new allegiance that was backed up by a lifestyle that was eager to serve the Lord. They were saved to serve, and that naturally showed up in their actions. They were unmistakably visibly Christian in their outward service to God.

The final mark of their conversion showed up in a patient faith. They put their hope in "waiting for His Son". It seems unusual to us today to make a new eschatological hope essential to the mark of a Christian testimony. And that is a sign of our own doctrinal laziness! Real hope is an outcome of real faith. And the hope of the second coming of Jesus ought to follow in the hearts of those who are genuinely converted. It makes sense. Jesus takes care of my past sin, He sent His Spirit to help me in my present to serve Him, and He is my hope for the future. He thus fills my every concept of time as I come to Him by faith. That is the gospel hope in all of its fullness! And I am happy to be reminded of it as I spend time in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian church. May that kind of hope and change be really what the gospel brings to me and to all those that I know!

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