Be who you say you are

1 Thessalonians 2

Paul made clear in this chapter that the gospel is entrusted to us, not for our reputations, but for His glory and pleasure. Entrusting the most important news ever to fallible, mistake-prone people delights the Father; almost like handing down a family heirloom from one generation to another. Treating the gospel as a trust from the Father has ramifications in our current culture. Those who offer lip service to Christians for personal gain are not doing the work of Jesus, and in fact, are part of the reason so many in Western culture revile the Church, Christianity, and anything related to Jesus.

When people treat the gospel as a trust, rather than a get-out-of-hell-free card or a way to influence others, they act out what they believe. It’s not hard to pick out the people who use the name of Jesus for personal gain. It happens in politics, advertising, on social media, and in some churches. These people talk about faith, but their actions reveal they don’t know what the gospel means. They often speak words of flattery as a pretext for greed, and whether they are greedy for acclaim, influence, or material gain, they do more harm than good. Paul wrote to Timothy in another letter,

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

( 1 Timothy 1:5-7).

We must be careful to speak clearly the work of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. We ought to speak boldly, and at the same time work out what we believe and know to be accurate. This requires that we be always learning more. No one can ever claim to know everything they need to know about the word of God. God tests the hearts of those who claim to speak of Him.

One key to keeping accurate and accountable is by being in community and forming relationships with other believers. When we share ourselves, we learn from each other. God gives each of us a gift, a perspective, and a story. These three things become foundational to sharing life together with other believers. Paul said that he, along with Silvanus and Timothy, shared their own selves with the people in Thessalonica. God created humans for relationship both with Him and with each other. When we live in community, we can avoid the traps of false teaching by being authentic, honest, and humble. Those traits, then, give us credibility when we share the gospel with others.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy held jobs that allowed them to support themselves so they would not be a drain on the resources of the local church or the people to whom they were ministering. Their motives were clear: they remained holy, righteous, and blameless in all their actions in Thessalonica. They took nothing from the people, but gave of themselves. They demonstrated the work of faith, labor of love, and steadfastness of hope so that the church had a model for Christian living. And when the church responded by following that model, Paul knew that they had embraced the gospel with which they were now entrusted.

Speaking the gospel must be backed up with actions and integrity. Explanation of the gospel must be paired with demonstration of how to live it out. Because Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy lived and spoke with integrity, they had the credibility to exhort, encourage, and charge others to walk in a manner worthy of God. If we practice the same level of integrity, we are working out the word of God at work in us. We are able then to form relationships outside the church that honor the Father above anything or anyone else. Through those relationships, we draw people to Jesus in ways that idle words for self-glorification never will. We become faithful and active caretakers of the gospel entrusted to us.

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