Evidences of Salvation

May 14, 2023 Speaker: Josh DeGroote Series: First Thessalonians

Topic: Salvation Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10

One of the things we will see in this 1 Thessalonians is the passion of Paul for people.  In a fundamental way there is nothing more important about you than what you love!  What you love is what you value, it’s what matters to you, what makes your heart sing, what fires you up.  What fired Paul up was seeing God at work in people. Paul loved the men and women who came to Christ.   He valued them, and cared about them. 

In this letter, he told them, “YOU are my joy! -and my crown!”  “We cared for you like a nursing mother... We loved you so much, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” He begins his letter, “We give thanks to God ALWAYS, for ALL of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers”.We constantly remember you before God.” These people were dear to him!  

What is dear to us, what we love and care about DRIVES what we pray for and what we give thanks for! Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also!”  What you treasure moves your world, it runs your life. And what we love and treasure shows up in our prayers!

If we pray for and give thanks only for good jobs, good grades, good health, good weather and a safe trip, success for us or our kids, then those are the things that matter most to us.  Of course we should pray and give thanks for those things.  BUT there MAY be something missing from your prayers, that reveal a great need in your heart. That need is to care MOST about people and God’s work in people.  These were the things that stirred Paul’s prayers and his thanksgiving!

David Guzik said, “This great passion for souls gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men.”  Spurgeon, “Get love for the souls of men – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the complaints of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries if you are concerned about the souls of men… Get your soul full of a great grief (for souls), and your little griefs will be driven out.

Spurgeon wrote that about Paul saying I have deep and unceasing sorrow in my heart for my Jewish brothers and sisters.  In that case Paul’s GRIEF showed his love for his fellow Jews who largely rejected Christ. In Thessalonians we Paul’s joy and thanksgiving over those who did believe.  Both what he grieved, AND what he rejoiced in, showed Paul’s love for people and his passion for their souls.  

I did the funeral for my uncle Merwin years ago. Before the service, I asked my cousin Candice if there was any memory of Merwin she wanted me to share.  All she said was “Well, I always felt like Merwin was someone who cared for my soul.”  At the end of YOUR life, wouldn’t you want people to say, “I always felt Cindy or Carmen or David, or Chase cared for my soul.” 

People and their spiritual well-being were Paul’s joy and his sorrow because he loved people! Because that’s what mattered to Paul, his prayers are mainly about people and God’s work in their lives! And when Paul saw evidences of God at work in people he overflowed with thankfulness!  

Paul told these believers, 3:8 “We really live if you stand firm in the Lord!  How can we adequately THANK God for you in return for our great joy over you in His presence?”  Paul’s main source of thanksgiving was people, and the JOY he experienced when he saw them standing firm in the Lord! 

3 John 2 John said the same thing, “I was overjoyed when the brothers came and testified about your devotion to the truth, in which you continue to walk.  I have NO GREATER joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  

Are you tuned-in to this remarkable source of joy?

If people and God’s work in people doesn’t really matter to us  then we will miss out on one of the main wellsprings of joy and thankfulness in life. If we miss this, we will find ourselves grumbling about things that don’t really matter and failing to find joy in things in things that matter most and should make our heart sing. 

Lack of joy or thanksgiving, in your life, COULD mean that loving people and valuing God’s work in them is not clearly the thing that matters most.  Ironically, the more we try to pull happiness out of our own comfort, ease, success, personal peace, the less happy we are!  And we miss out on the joy of celebrating the activity of God in someone else. 

Real love for people passionately desires to see the work of God taking place in people.  Loving people is not merely being nice to people.  It is NOT affirming people in their present condition whatever that is.  It is not mainly making people feel good about themselves, building their self esteem.  This is not just a celebrate people kind of thing.  Loving people is seeking to advance the work of God in people. Love is caring about people’s souls, their relationship with God, their salvation and spiritual progress.  

All of chapter 1 is just Paul overflowing with thankfulness to God because of the evidences of God’s salvation he saw in the Thessalonians. Their well-being in the Lord is what poured himself out for. That was what mattered to him, that’s what he valued, so he overflowed with gratitude when he saw that! 

Verse 3 NIV “I am always “remembering before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Faith affects how you live.  Love affects how you live.  Hope affects how you live.  You can’t see faith, love or hope but you CAN see the results.  Faith moves us to action, to work.  Love moves us to labor for others.  Hope makes us steadfast, It makes us people who endure hard things and hard times.  Paul saw the evidences of faith, love and hope in them and it mattered to him!  It made his heart sing.

If our value system is right, it will create deep joy and thanksgiving when we see evidence of faith, love and hope in someone’s life. We give thanks because these are solid evidences of God’s saving power at work in a person.  Verse 4 “We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”

Paul saw the authenticating evidence of salvation in them, and he said, “Brothers and sisters we KNOW you are loved by God AND that He has chosen you. There is nothing that matters MORE than that!  There is no higher honor, no greater dignity! To be loved by God and chosen for salvation is the greatest privilege in life.  In the end it the ONLY thing that matters about you, or anyone else.  

God loves the world but there is a unique and precious sense in which God loves his own children! John said, “See how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God!”  

And though we must choose to believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord, we find that behind all that it was God who chose us.  And so we are loved by God and chosen by God. These are blessings that we can wake up to with great joy every morning.  They give us joy even at times when it feels like we’ve lost everything else.  It has GOT to matter to you that God loved you and chose you!  And when we see the evidences of authentic faith in other people we need to tell them, “I know brother or sister that God loves you! And that He has chosen you!”   

Paul moves on to further evidence of authentic salvation in the Thessalonian people. And that is the power and work of the Holy Spirit. Verse 5 We know... “FOR our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  The Holy Spirit gave you a deep powerful sense in your soul that the gospel words were true. You felt the power of it.  MLJ said “The test of authenticity for anything that claims to be Christian is the test of power.”  There is a power in Christianity that produces real effects in people!!

-The word of God must be preached and taught.  But there is a difference between just hearing the word, or the message coming in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It takes more than words alone. The Spirit must act upon you!  Acts 10 says while Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell on all those who were listening to the message.  Something like that has to happen. 

The Holy Spirit gives this experiential confirmation of the message to those who are being saved.  I read about a man who said when I got saved the gospel message buckled my knees.  Paul said, the proof of being chosen by God was the power they experienced under the preaching of the gospel. 

We can sense the Holy Spirit and we can sense other spirits. When I was in Syria several years ago, I could feel the presence of another spirit!  If you’ve ever been around a statue of Budda or a Muslim Mosque or someone dabbling in  New Age spiritual healing, you just have an awareness of a different spirit.  

In the same way, when the word of God comes to you, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you can feel His presence and power. And there is a deep inner conviction with it. The Holy Spirit communicates with your spirit, and you know that God is at work.  Romans 8 This is ultimately how we know we are saved. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”  Paul saw evidence of the Spirit’s power and assurance in these people it proved they were chosen by God and it drove Paul’s overflowing thanksgiving! 

*The next evidence of salvation Paul saw in them was their joy in the Holy Spirit DESPITE their suffering.  6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit”. Paul came to Thessalonica shortly after he had been beaten and jailed at Philippi. You know the story.  He and Silas were singing hymns of praise to God at midnight IN the jail.  No doubt the Thessalonians heard about that! They knew Paul suffered with joy! And they imitated him!

When Paul was with the Thessalonians, he was chased out of town by an angry mob. They SAW that!  They obviously heard about the Lord’s suffering!  They already knew the high cost of being a Christian. Yet they received the Word with the joy of the Holy Spirit.  

The Christian life is a fight, it’s an encounter with God that will put you at odds with the world. It’s a life full of fiery trials. Yet, the joy of the Holy Spirit is real and compensates for ALL our afflictions.  And we welcome the word of God, with JOY, in spite of the cost. 

When you see people doing that, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, in spite of their afflictions, THAT IS GOD at work in them! Paul saw this as validation of genuine faith, so he knew they were beloved children of God, and he overflowed with thanksgiving for them.

Next Paul celebrates their pure allegiance to God alone.  They didn’t add God on to other things in their lives!  God truly became their God!  They replaced their old idols with God alone.  Verse 9 “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.”  They were attached to these idols. These idols were their gods!  They turned their back on things they once loved and worshiped and trusted in. It was a complete change of allegiance. And that has to happen in your life.  And that’s the evidence of true salvation!  

50 years ago Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It might be the devil, it might be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” Everybody serves somebody or some thing.  Genuine salvation always means changing who you serve, and what you serve. That clearly happened in these people.  Paul rejoiced over this mark of authentic salvation and he gave thanks for it. 

The last confirming evidence of salvation, Paul saw in them, is that they eagerly anticipated the return of Jesus.  Verse 10 “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  The cry of their heart was “Come Lord Jesus!”  God is at work in a person when they begin to love the Lord’s appearing. 

Joel Richardson said, “I love Jesus.  I love scouring the gospels that I might know Him better. I love studying what Bible says about his return. I love nothing more than meditating on this glorious future reality.  Yes, Jesus has come, but He’s also coming back.  My relationship with Jesus is not merely one of studying who He was, but joyfully looking forward to seeing Him with my own eyes and meeting Him face to face. 

From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom is the primary focal point of ALL EXPECTATION, LONGING AND HOPE. That is why Peter said, fix your hope completely on the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  This is also why the cry of the early church was not only Hallelujah, praise the Lord, but Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!”

When Jesus returns, this present wicked world system will come to an end. Wrath and judgment WILL be poured out. But we will be delivered from the wrath to come. Our great hope for the future is Christs second coming. No matter how terrible things look or how much trouble we experience Christ is coming back in power and glory. This is a comfort that overcomes any adversity we face now in this fallen world.  This anticipation for Christ to come again, is evidence of genuine salvation.  

These are the kind of changes in people’s lives that ultimately matter! These are the things Paul prayed for and labored for gave thanks for.  May God move our hearts this morning in a deep and powerful way so that these become the things we pray for and work for in others and the things that move us to deep gratitude to God.

*I don’t want to question anyone’s salvation.  But God could use this scripture to alert some here or listening that you may not be saved. If you do not have these evidences of salvation.  

Come today and ask God to save you!

*This should also stir all of us to clearly have people and God’s work in people at the top of what matters to us. If that really is not what we value and care about, you correct that with repentance.  Humbly pray for God to open your heart more to His value system, to love what He loves, to treasure what He treasures, to care about people’s souls, their relationship with God, their salvation and spiritual progress.   

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