Show Me What You Love

This past week I was in Clayton, OK speaking at a youth camp. One afternoon I went with a youth group that I had gotten to know to a lake not far from the camp’s grounds. The electric guitarist from the band, my friend Mason, was partnering with me to destroy young men in several rounds of chicken fights out in the murky water. Our final round was an awe-inspiring come from behind victory, as I as the base was fully submerged under water but stood strong in the sand. After my almost drowning (not to be dramatic), we retired on top of the world. Our conversation turned to working out, something Mason does a lot of and is really good at. I shared about the one time in the year 2021 that I went to the gym to lift. Mason mentioned in passing that my body type was one in which if I got committed to working out that I could see a lot of growth. Without skipping a beat I informed him that I don’t care enough to work out. Or in other words, I don’t love it enough to pursue growing in it.

We act upon what we love.

We labor towards what it is that we love.

It’s how we’re wired. And according to 1 Thessalonians 1, our love for God and others should lead to laboring alongside God and for others.

Paul gives thanks for three characteristics that the church in Thessalonica was known for.

We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Labor motivated by love.

The Christians in Thessalonica were known for this. What about you? When people look to you and your community of faith, do they see us laboring for one another?

I can’t claim to love my wife Jamie and then never show it via my actions.

In much the same way I can’t claim to love Jesus and His bride if I never show it via my actions.

If we love sports, we’re going to spend time watching them whether in person or via the media.Our kid’s participation in practices or games will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love earthly pleasures, we’re going to spend time and money preparing for vacations and going on vacations. These things of earth will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If we love money, we’re going to spend time working as hard as we can to earn more money and the love of money will trump other commitments we have in our life.

If Paul was to look at the modern church, he’d likely see a lot of labor motivated by love for vacations, sports, and excess.

Gone are the days where the commitment to one’s local body of believers trumped any other commitment. In a modern church context worried about the deceptive and destructive throes of legalism, the thought of deep commitment to a church body is seen as just a legalistic tendency of a bygone era. I would argue however that a deep commitment to a local church isn’t being legalistic, it’s being obedient.

Obviously, love for God and neighbor isn’t relegated to just attendance in a church on a Sunday morning. No, it’s much deeper than that. It shows itself in acts of service, evangelism, and intentional discipleship.

At Camp Minnetonka this week I saw so many adults who had given up a week of work not to go on vacation but to come intentionally invest in students by partnering alongside the pastors and youth pastors of their church. And it made my heart swell with joy.

Do you want this labor motivated by love for God and others?

I do.

And thankfully 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us the answer as to how to get it.

Not by working hard. But through receiving it via the Spirit.

our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit – 1 Thessalonians 1:5b

The Holy Spirit brings the power.

Chuck Swindoll says “these qualities could only come from the work of the Spirit in the lives of genuine believers.

We all have room to grow in this. But that growth comes from the Spirit. The growth comes through communing with God.

And once we catch the fire of love, we share it with those around us. We model it.

My parents taught me to love God and others via the local church. That meant getting up at 7 AM for Sunday School after getting home from a Rangers game at 1 AM. That meant opening up our home for staff members, Sunday school classes, and students. That meant discipling younger believers. I watched and watched and watched. The fire was lit in me. And I want Gracie to grow up in a home where our commitment to the Lord and His people is shown by our wallets, schedules, conversations, and relationships.

I want her to see a labor of love.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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A Model Church

1 Thessalonians is a book of the Bible that sometimes goes unnoticed, unless you’re talking about end times and the like. But embedded in the book of 1 Thessalonians is a picture of what a model church should look like (a church that is being talked about all throughout the region [vv. 7-10]). Taking a cursory glance at the first chapter of this book will show us three truths that I pray are present in the church that I am a part of. My intention is not to tease out every theological truth present in this passage. Rather I pray that through reading this short synopsis, your heart would be stirred and that you would commit to laboring after Jesus over the coming days. I’d encourage you to have your Bible open as we dive in together. fbc

BE COMMITTED TO CHRIST. 

In verse three, Paul praises the church at Thessalonica for their work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is praising this church for their commitment to Christ. The lie we can so often fall into is that the Christian’s walk is one of ease, slumber, and natural growth in godliness.

This is simply not the case. Becoming more like Christ takes work. Discipleship is labor, it is work, and it takes endurance. In a previous blog on Psalm 1, I acknowledged the fact that I am prone to drifting away from the Lord when I’m not being intentional in my spiritual disciplines. Yes, there are seasons of my life where I’m walking closely with Jesus and am naturally desiring to come into His presence. But what normally happens is that when I don’t start my day in His Word with focus and drive, I’m going to neglect His Word, I’m going to neglect prayer.

The church at Thessalonica was known for the way that they were committed to Christ, even in the midst of severe suffering (v. 6). As we move ever closer to the return of Jesus, suffering will continue to rise for our faith. I’m not naive and I don’t have a persecution complex. We in America have it easy in regards to how we’re treated for our faith in Jesus. But should suffering come to Vernon, Texas, my prayer is that we would be a body of believers joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ, because we are just that committed to Him.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR CONGREGATION. 

You are going to disagree with people in the church you attend. I disagree with people in the church where I serve as a youth pastor. Here’s what I know to be true though, I am called to love, support, and equip every single person who is a member of my local congregation of Christ-followers.

The church at Thessalonica was known for its commitment to one another. Not only that, but Paul and Silas and Timothy set an example for how to serve the church, as verse five will tell us 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. The rest of this book will tease out just how Paul and his companions lived among the church of Thessalonica, but we do know that they lived with fatherly discipline, motherly nurturing and care, and brotherly love.

Not only that, but the Thessalonians would become imitators of them and thus of the Lord.

In a world that is fractured by divisions, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ that we could paint as the body of Christ is one of unity, love, of outdoing one another in honor and respect and service. We are not called to agree on how we worship, how we vote, how we parent, etc. We are called to love one another. So be committed to your congregation. Every member.

My prayer is that FBC Vernon would become a place known for its unity and its commitment to one another.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY.

The Thessalonians church was also committed to its community. It was well known for the way that they were turning from idols and serving the living and true God (v. 10). They were not silent about their faith. They definitely had struggles and fears, as they worried that the Lord had already come back and had simply left them in need. But they still served their community to the point where their church became well known all throughout Macedonia and Achaia.

This is hard to do sometimes. But the church should not be outside the community it finds itself in. Rather, the church should mirror the community. By no means are we to sacrifice truth or the gospel message in order to reach our neighborhoods for Jesus. Instead, we should be bodies of believers that are more focused on serving the people outside of it’s walls than it is hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to make all things new at the end of time.

Paul is writing this letter in hopes of stirring up the hearts of the Thessalonian church to  be focused in their present purpose, even as they place their faith in the future hope of Christ’s return.

May we fight the desire to hunker down and wait out the rest of our days. May we be men and women of Jesus Christ who charge forward into our communities, meeting needs and ministering to people who are messy, just as Jesus did.

The church at Thessalonica was a model church. They were committed to Christ. They were committed to their congregation. Lastly, they were committed to their community.

It is my daily prayer that FBC Vernon becomes a place known for these three distinctives as well.

For my followers who do not live here in Vernon, may your church become known for these three distinctives as well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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