Gospel Fruit, 1 Thessalonians 1:3
July 14, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Turned Upside Down by the Gospel, Part 2
Gospel Fruit, 1 Thessalonians 1:3
I have always come back to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians as an example and inspiration of faithful gospel ministry. One of my first sermons I preached at Oak Hills as pastor was a prayer for our church based upon 1 Thessalonians. Over the next few weeks, let’s look again at this personal, pastoral letter, and reaffirm our focus on the gospel and the ministry of the gospel.
Paul’s opening thanksgiving of 1 Thessalonians reveals that his primary concern for the church at Thessalonica was their spiritual well-being. He praises God for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:3). I invited you last week to pray with me that the gospel would bear this kind of fruit among us and through us at Oak Hills. Let’s take a closer look at these three fruits Paul celebrates.
1. The Work of Faith is the Growth of Delight in God Over-Against Idols. Faith is receiving and resting upon Jesus alone for salvation. That resting is a delight and satisfaction in all that God has done for us through Jesus. It quiets the longings of our souls. This is a life-long process. It begins at the first moment of conversion when the Holy Spirit awakens a delight in Christ in us. By the Holy Spirit, this delight grows as we are weaned from loving the lesser delights of idols and as we understand more and more the delightfulness of Christ. This is the work of faith. Paul celebrates this work in the Thessalonians when he speaks about how they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1:9).
The work of faith is not a single moment experience. For a Christian, it is the daily task. Identify the idols. Turn away from the idols. See Jesus more clearly. Delight in Jesus more and more. Our emotions and our various emotional responses to present circumstances can serve as indicators of what idols currently hold sway in our hearts. Anxiety. Anger. Lust. Impatience. Bitterness. And more. They all point to something other than Christ that is an object of delight. Join the Thessalonians in doing the “work of faith.” Turn from idols to serve God.
2. The Labor of Love is the Sacrificial Giving of Oneself for the Good of Others. Love for others only grows when we do not need to use others to meet our emptiness. That’s why love is a fruit of the gospel. Christ is sufficient for everything we have ever needed. As we do the “work of faith” we are freed to love others out of being filled in Christ. The Thessalonians demonstrated that they were resting in Christ by working hard to love others in need. Paul challenges them to love “more and more” (4:10). Why? Not only is love the natural product of the “work of faith,” but it also is the fulfillment of the law, God’s will for our lives (Gal. 5:14).
Do you labor in love for others? What hinders your love for others? Allow the sufficiency of Christ satisfy you and free you and empower you to love others.
3. The Steadfastness of Hope is Not Being Shaken by Earthly Circumstances. The Thessalonians faced open physical threats for their faith in Christ. Their spiritual leader was chased out of town. And yet they did not waver in their commitment (1 Thes. 3:6). Why? In Paul’s brief ministry with the Thessalonians, he taught them the full scope of God’s plan for redemption in Christ. God’s justice will prevail and there will be everlasting peace with Christ. Therefore the Thessalonians already were waiting “for his Son from heaven” (1:10). The return of Christ is the foundation of Christian hope, the confidence that everything will be okay in Christ.
In this tumultuous and uncertain world we live, we need confidence that everything will be okay. The confidence centers on Christ. As we do the “work of faith” our confidence in Christ grows and we will become more and more steadfast, stable no matter what circumstances we face.
Faith. Love. Hope. Gospel fruit. Pray with me that God would cultivate this fruit as we see Christ all the more clearly and grow in our delight in him.