I thought for this morning I wanted to talk about the Thessalonian church. This is maybe not so much like a sermon as it is a bit of a Bible study, so get your Bible open to those two chapters I read earlier; and I want to address this issue of the church from the inspired book of 1 Thessalonians. I know that many of you are new. We had 1,100 kids here last week. One-third of them had never been to Grace Church. They were hearing the gospel, many of them, for the first time. We have a lot of new people. I want you to understand what the Bible says the church is to be. I know you have been blessed and encouraged, and you’ve kept coming back to our church, but I want you to know what the pattern of Scripture is and why Grace Church is what it is.
Let me go back to the close of the New Testament era. The last decade of the first century, 90 AD and beyond. Churches had been established since the apostolic era. Churches were established fifty years before that—forty years before that, really—and they had been around for forty years by the time it comes to 90 AD. The Lord writes seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor, and those letters are personal letters that address each church in each of those seven cities in a very specific way.
In that time that was the area known as Asia Minor, which is today modern Turkey. Seven churches—they had been around for decades. They had been influenced by the apostle Paul. They had been most lately influenced by the apostle John. They had been pastored by apostles and the associates of apostles. They had been led by elders who were chosen by the apostles. They were born, those seven churches, in the freshness of the eyewitness accounts of the Lord’s life and teaching and miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension. They were churches under the instruction of the apostles, who along with their associates were used by the Holy Spirit to write the New Testament. So they had the most prolific exposure to the highest level of spiritual leadership possible: apostolic leadership. They were born not only under apostolic teaching and leadership and doctrine; they were born in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the first century, five of those seven churches are fatally flawed—so fatally flawed that they basically are condemned by our Lord, for one sin or another or a combination of many. They are threatened by our Lord, threatened with non-existence if they don’t change. Only two of those seven churches have no condemnation, they’re only commended; and that is the church in Smyrna and the church in Philadelphia. Still in the first century, five of the seven churches have fallen victim to the influence of the culture around them so that they have defected from the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. I tell you that to let you know that it shouldn’t be any surprise to you that that is still happening. It shouldn’t be any surprise.
Here we are, two thousand years since, and spiritually healthy, biblically sound, faithfully loving and serving churches are in the minority. Today they seem more common than even in earlier decades of this last couple of centuries. Many pastors are struggling to discern what they should be doing. Congregations express carnality, superficiality, shallowness; leaders fall into sin, people in the congregation follow patterns of sin; and there seems to be a scarcity of faithful churches marked by truth and love and joy.
There are many faithful pastors whose churches are reluctant to follow their faithful leadership. That is why we read in Hebrews 13:17 a word to congregations: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief.” There’s a lot of grief in the ministry because of unfaithful congregations. There’s a lot of grief in congregations because of unfaithful pastors.
Paul is the author of 1 Thessalonians, so we’re backing up about forty years. Paul had established a number of churches. He had, you could say, pastored a number of churches that had some very serious problems. Even though he gave them life initially through the preaching of the Word of God, even though his leadership was everything that they could have ever hoped or expected, there were churches that he himself planted that broke his heart. There was the church at Corinth: fleshly, worldly, divided, proud, lacking love. And he points these things out in the two letters that he wrote to them which are in the New Testament; and there were two additional letters that he wrote to them trying to correct their iniquities. And then there was the church at Galatia, which had fallen prey to a defective gospel that was no gospel at all, that had fallen into fleshly behavior: legalism, disloyalty to the truth and the Lord.
Then there was the church at Ephesus: proud, impatient, still holding onto sins from the past, lacking forgiveness, and spiritually weak. Then there was the church at Colossae, drawn toward legalism, carnality, sensuality, the worship of angels and mystical things, contentious, lacking love. Then there was the church at Philippi: complaining, worrying, proud, marked by discord. And all of that shows up in Paul’s letters.
But there was one church that brought Paul joy and only joy; this was the rare church. That’s the church at Thessalonica. He was blessed to shepherd them, free from the troubles that plagued the others. I don’t know how he could endure all that. He expresses his difficulty with it when he writes to the Corinthians and says, “On top of all the physical suffering I’ve gone through, the worst pain comes from the care of all the churches.” He says, “Who sins, and I don’t feel the pain?”
Ministry can be hard. Ministry can be heart-crushing; and it was so often for Paul. He said to the Corinthians, “Am I to be loved the less when I love you the more?” He must have rejoiced regularly in the Thessalonians.
And then I compare him to my life. I’ve only pastored one church, and God in His mercy—understanding my limits, no doubt, and understanding my weaknesses—put me in the 1 Thessalonian church of Southern California. This is obviously not a perfect church; but it’s a faithful church, it’s a loving church, it’s a sacrificial church, it’s a worshiping church, it’s a generous church, it’s an exemplary church, it’s an evangelistic church, it’s a gifted church. And I don’t say this in any way out of any personal pride; the Lord has done an amazing thing here, and we give Him glory for that. Our parallels to the Thessalonian church are what I want to have you take a look at with me.
But a little bit of background. Somebody might say, “Well maybe the Thessalonian church was basically seated in less challenging circumstances, less difficult culture. Maybe they were as good as they were, as faithful as they were, as loyal and loving and joy-producing as they were because their external environment was better than those other churches, which suffered from the massive power of paganism. But that wouldn’t be true. The Thessalonian church was in the very same world that all the other churches were in. It was a world of idolatry and only idolatry. It was a Gentile world where there was no knowledge of God, no knowledge of the Old Testament.
Thessalonica was a large city, about two hundred thousand. It was a trade center. It was on what’s called the Via Egnatia, which was a trade route. The pagan world flowed through Thessalonica; it was a commercial center. It had been founded in about 316 BC by Cassander. Cassander was the king of Macedonia, and he named it for his wife; Thessalonica was her name, and she was the half-sister of Alexander the Great. That’s 316 BC.
Three hundred and fifty years later Paul arrives there, and he arrives there with his companions. At the time Claudius was emperor. Now it’s important to understand that. His uncle, Gaius, who had been the Roman emperor, the Caesar, had been murdered; and Claudius stepped into that, and some historians define him this way: “He was an insane, stuttering, slobbering man.” Just the kind you’d like for your leader.
Thessalonica had become the capital of Macedonia. The largest city in Macedonia, it was called the mother of Macedonia; significant city, strategic port on the Aegean Sea; the language was Greek, it was very cosmopolitan. Historians note that crime was rampant there. Very few houses had windows because the population had fortified itself by the elimination of windows because of the massive crime.
It was controlled by an idolatrous, pagan group of wealthy elites. There was no middle class. And the rest of the people, the majority, were slaves. There was conflict between the slaves and the elites. Immorality was common. Prostitution was both legal and highly organized. Archaeologists found in some of the digs around Thessalonica that obscene, pornographic images had been painted on the outside of the houses, the outside of the homes. Babies were commonly abandoned, left for dead. Divorce was rampant, and murders happened all the time. This was a full-blown pagan city.
Into this city came the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey, probably around the year 49 AD; and he brought the gospel. Let’s go to acts 17 for a moment and see what happened. Acts 17: “When they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul’s custom”—this is on his second missionary journey—“he went to [the synagogue], for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ,” the Messiah, “had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus who I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’” the Messiah. That’s what he was telling the Jews in the synagogue over those three weeks.
“Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks”—that would be Greeks who had become proselytes to Judaism—“and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the marketplace”—the Jews actually went out into the marketplace and hired some thugs—to form “a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. When they didn’t find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them’”—he had welcomed Paul and his companion—“‘and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.’ They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason”—that is a kind of a bond, a guarantee that these troublemakers would be gone—“they released them”; and they immediately went “to Berea.” I just want you to get a little bit of a feeling for what was going on in Thessalonica: tremendously negative response to the gospel.
A year later—after Paul had founded the church in those three Sabbaths, about a year later he writes this letter. He’s in Corinth, and he’s writing back to the Thessalonians. In chapter 3, if you look at it, 1 Thessalonians chapter 3, you will notice that he says, “When we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith.” He can’t stand any longer not knowing how this baby church is doing in this hostile environment, so he sends Timothy. Timothy goes; Timothy comes back.
Verse 5 he says, “When I could endure it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.” Now remember, this is three Sabbaths, and this is a baby church in a sea of paganism. And in verse 6 he says, “Now that Timothy has come to us from you”—so Timothy is back, and Paul is now at Corinth—“and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” Really good news, isn’t it? “You’re standing firm in the Lord in that pagan place. We really live when we hear that.”
Then verse 9, “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?” This is a church to make an apostle glad.
It wasn’t that their circumstances were any different. In fact they were not any different; they were as bad as the rest of the pagan world. After all the sorrows over Galatia he had written the Galatian letter, and this is the second letter that the apostle Paul writes to these churches. And he’s writing now very differently than he was writing to Galatia, indicting them for tolerating a false gospel. This is also a time when he’s in Corinth, and so he’s in touch with the horrors of that place—and he’s overwhelmed by joy. He writes this letter from a heart of joy to a faithful church. Again, not perfect, because you’ll notice I just read verse 10 of chapter 3: he wants to come and “complete what is lacking in your faith.” Obviously they’re just new in the Lord, and there’s much spiritual growth.
But look at chapter 4, verse 1: “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” The worst that he can say to them is, “You’re good; get better.”
And then down in verse 9 of chapter 4, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.” All he can say to this church is, “Just keep doing what you’re doing. Get better.”
The end of chapter 3 he gives this wonderful benediction, a kind of a doxology: “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you.” He can’t wait to get there. He was reluctant to go to some churches. He was afraid to go to some churches, for what he would face. He couldn’t wait to get there. “And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” He just says, “Just keep getting better until you see Jesus.”
Now if you back up to chapter 2 and the end of chapter 2, Paul sums up his attitude toward this church: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” I don’t know how many pastors can say that. I can say that, by God’s mercy. This kind of church is rare. It was rare to the apostle Paul. It was rare to the apostle John.
I’ve only pastored one church, and in divine mercy and kindness the Lord has given me a lifetime of joy. The national average for pastors is three years; I’m at fifty-two. And I can’t help but wonder why God has been so kind to me. Similarities between the Thessalonian church and Grace are unmistakable, unmistakable. And there are two categories of reality that have to be considered, and that shows us why Grace Church and the Thessalonian church is what it is.
First of all, it’s leadership. I just want to talk about this for a moment. A church will become what it’s led to become, right? Leadership is everything. So what were the marks of the leadership of this church? Just follow me for a bit. Go back to the beginning of the book, verse 2. The first thing that strikes me is prayer: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly,” constantly, constantly. The apostles said in Acts 6 at the founding of the first church, “We have to give ourselves to prayer”; leadership devoted to prayer.
And secondly, to proclamation. Look at verse 5: “Our gospel didn’t come to you in word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Chapter 2, “You yourselves”—verse 1—“know, brethren, our coming to you was not in vain. After we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation doesn’t come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” There is the mark of faithful leadership in a church: someone who speaks the Word of God without compromise—not trying to please men, but pleasing God, approved by God to be entrusted with the message.
That same chapter, down in verse 9, he says, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Down to verse 13: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” Did you get that? It’s the Word of God that does the work. It’s the Word of God that does the work. That’s all you will ever hear from this pulpit, is the Word of God.
The leadership in Thessalonica was devoted to prayer and preaching—also to purity. Chapter 2, verse 3, “Our exhortation doesn’t come from error or impurity or by way of deceit.” There was nothing hypocritical about him. In verse 10, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers.” Do you see how basic this is? Prayer, preaching, purity.
And there was something else. Let’s just, for the sake of alliteration, call it parenting. Verse 7 of chapter 2: “We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” And then verse 10: “You’re witnesses . . . how . . . we behaved.” “And how did we behave?” Verse 11: “We were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.” Spiritual leadership has both a soft side—a motherly side which is described in verse 7 as gentleness, tender care—and a fatherly side, which is “exhorting, encouraging, and imploring as a father would his own children.” This church was what God wanted it to be because these people were cared for by parental, spiritual love that has a soft, comforting, encouraging, tender side, and a strong, imploring, fatherly side.
There’s something else: boldness. You could call it perseverance. Chapter 2, verse 2: “After we had suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.” There are all kinds of things that want to get in the way, that want to interrupt the process. I could do a historical timeline of all of the things that have come up in the evangelical world in the last half century that have pushed people back from boldness, back from courage. But where leadership is faithful in prayer, preaching, purity, parenting, and persevering against all opposition and all persecution, you’re going down the path that produces a healthy church.
And I would just add one other thing: The leadership was propitious. I know that’s a big word; it simply means sacrificial. Chapter 2, verse 9: “You recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Sacrifice. Where you have leadership committed to prayer and preaching and purity and parenting and persevering against all opposition, and willing to make a sacrifice, you have a healthy church.
And what’s the goal of this kind of leadership? It’s in Verse 12 of chapter 2: “So that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” What is the goal of pastoral ministry? It is that people would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls them, worthy to bear the name of God, to bear the name of Christ. Where you have that kind of faithful leadership, you will see a church that is faithful as well. And that will bring joy to all who participate.
I guess you could say it this way: The Lord took the temperature of the Thessalonian church, and it was 98.6o; it was normal, it was what it should be. There’s no references to numbers, no dramatic outbreaks of spiritual realities, nothing about any programs. All spiritual realities. Timothy had come back and said, “This is a church to rejoice over,” and Paul rejoiced.
And as I speak to you today, I have to say I feel exactly the same way. In the language of chapter 1, verse 6, “You have become imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” Chapter 2, verse 14, “You, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus in Judea.” And over in 2 Thessalonians, if I can borrow from that, chapter 3, verse 9, “Not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.”
“Imitate” is used twice there: once in chapter 1 and once in chapter 2. It’s the word mimētēs, mimic. It’s basically also what Paul is saying in his letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be followers of me, as I am of Christ.” What does that mean? Both accepting the teaching and following the example. Following in the truth, in holiness, in prayer, in perseverance, in love, in humility, in sacrifice. But it has to start with leadership. And where you have that kind of leadership, you have that kind of church.
Now let’s go back to chapter 1, and I want to look a little more closely at the characteristics of a faithful church. First of all it is a saved church; that should be obvious. But let’s look at the beginning: “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians”—and here’s the key—“in God the Father and”—implied—“in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace [belongs] to you, and peace [belongs to you]. And we give thanks to God always for all of you.”
This is a completely redeemed church: They’re in God, they’re in Christ, the recipients of divine grace and divine peace. And Paul’s prayers are nothing but thanksgivings because he bears in mind the evidence of their true salvation, the work of faith, the labor of love, the steadfastness of hope. And again he says, “In our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” And by all these things—the “work of faith, the labor of love, the steadfastness of hope”—we know, “brethren beloved by God, His choice of you”—“we know you’re elect.” Sylvanus is Silas, who took John Mark’s place on the second missionary journey. So Paul, Silas, and Timothy brought them the gospel—we read that in Acts 17. And he identifies all of them as a cause for thanksgiving, because they are all in Christ.
I mean this is so basic. A church is made up of true believers. A church is not a spectator event for nonbelievers; it is the gathering of the redeemed for service and worship, prayer, and the hearing of the Word of God. True believers are in Christ. I don’t need to say much about that because we have covered that many, many times in studying the life of the apostle Paul. This is a real church. These people are in God; they’re in Christ. They’re even, verse 5, “in the Holy Spirit” as the apostles were. They’re connected to the Trinity. They share the life of God. This is a true church. This is a true church. And of course where they are truly in God, in Christ, what will declare that unmistakably is their works: the “work of faith, the labor of love, steadfastness of hope.” This is what proves their election; truly saved.
And not only—and this is something to think about—not only are they ordained to salvation, but even their sanctification is ordained. Can I show you that for just a moment? Look at Ephesians 2:10. We all know Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast.” You’ve been saved by grace through faith; that’s a gift from God, God sovereignly gives it. But look at verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”—then this amazing statement—“which God before ordained that we would walk in them.”
Now listen to this. We talk about the sovereignty of God in justification, but I want you to know the sovereignty of God operates in sanctification. God not only ordained your salvation, He ordained your sanctification. Your sanctification is a sovereign work of God along with your justification. God ordained that when you received salvation by His sovereign grace, it would manifest itself in the work of faith, the labor of love, and the steadfastness of hope. Those three most glorious of all virtues—faith, hope, and love—would mark the reality of your spiritual transformation.
So it is a saved church. But secondly it’s a sanctified church. It’s a sanctified church. Down in verse 6, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” “You look a lot like Christ. You follow Christ. The things that are characteristic of Him are characteristic of you because that’s the work of the Word and the Spirit.”
First John 2:6, “The one who says he abides in Him”—abides in Christ—“ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Obviously we are not going to be divine, and we’re not going to be perfect, but the same virtues that characterize Christ would characterize us to a lesser degree. That’s why they called the believers Christians, “little Christs,” because they manifested the characteristics of their Lord. So when you have the right kind of leadership, the church becomes the assembly, the gathering of those who are in Christ; and it’s not only marked by that transforming salvation, but it’s marked by sanctification so that their election is manifest in the works which God before ordained that they would walk in.
There’s a third characteristic of this church: suffering. Down in verse 6, “You received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” We read about that in Acts 17; they received the word with much tribulation.
Look, they were coming out of the ungodly paganism that was all there was in their world. When the church becomes righteous, when the church becomes holy, when the church begins to behave like Christ, the world will attack, persecution will come; some of it subtle, some of it overt. Reading a little background on Thessalonica, some historians said that what happened to the Christians there was chronicled in ancient times. Their property was often seized. Their jobs were lost because of their commitment to Christ. Their families shunned them. They were insulted. Some were beaten, and some were killed. The persecution was Jewish—as we read in Acts 17—and also Gentile.
So you can expect that a faithful church, a church that brings joy to its pastors, is going to be a redeemed and saved church, a sanctified church, and, necessarily, a suffering church—maybe insulted or worse. But fourthly this was a strategic church. Verse 7, “You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” That’s the first thing: “Your work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness of hope is exemplary. You became the strategic model—your example.”
“But it wasn’t just your example”; there’s a second aspect here. Verse 8, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia”—the immediate region—“but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.” That little congregation in that pagan city had such sanctification and such zeal for proclamation that the apostles didn’t have to say anything to commend the church because everybody knew. And I think that’s true here. I think when people talk about Grace Church around the world, if they are lovers of Christ, they’re thankful for how this church has circled the globe.
We had a missionary conference this week, Zoom every day of the week. Many of the leaders and teachers up at 4:00 a.m. because of the time changes, all our missionaries around the world gathered together. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God, from this church and this pulpit, goes out all over the world every hour of every day. And when the world comes here for conferences or when they tune in for livestream, they see the character and quality of this people. This is a church that is strategic, by virtue of its witness in terms of life, and its witness in terms of message.
There’s one final thing I would say. This church in Thessalonica, and ours, is a second-coming church. Verse 9 says, “Everybody knows.” “They report to us what kind of a reception we had with you,” Paul says. “How you responded to the apostles”—“how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God”—that’s salvation, sanctification—“and then to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” It’s a second-coming church. They wanted to know everything about it.
Over in chapter 4, verse 13, Paul says, “I don’t want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as the rest who have no hope.” Those believers who had died, what about them? If they had already died and the Lord hadn’t come, what would happen to them? He says, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. This we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
When the Lord comes, the dead in Christ rise first. Their spirits already with the Lord, their bodies rise. Verse 16, “The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we always be with the Lord. Comfort one another with these words.”
We preach strongly the second coming of Christ. He is our hope. He is our hope. And because we know He’s coming, it gives impetus to our desire to pray and to proclaim the gospel around the world while we still have time.
So what is a church to make a pastor’s heart glad? It’s saved people; it’s sanctified people. Their election is manifest in their lives, and their lives are literally [imitable], as they imitate Christ. It’s a church full of examples. It’s a strategic church in that its example is manifest, and its message is proclaimed. And it’s a second-coming church, waiting for Christ.
We’re not trying to fix the world; we’re waiting for Jesus to do that. And that has a lot to do with our fidelity to Scripture. Churches today all caught up in the nonsense of trying to fix the world, which is like going down to the beach and trying to sweep the ocean away with a broom.
I’m not trying to say we are what we should be. What I am saying is what Paul said: “Excel still more,” right? You give me endless joy; you always have. Does that mean we never have any problems? No. It means that we’ve had the problems, and we’ve seen the Lord triumph, which increases the joy.
Father, we thank You again for laying out the truth as clearly as You have. Seems so simple, as You defined what a church should be by virtue of its leadership and its congregation. How it must sadden Your heart, even as it did when You wrote the seven letters, or when You carried the pain of the apostle Paul as he saw so many churches defect. We know it breaks Your heart when pastors and leaders are unfaithful or immoral or speak lies. It’s equally heartbreaking to You when congregations are rebellious and hard-hearted. So Lord, we thank You for the grace that has been extended to us here, and we thank You that You’ve allowed us to spread this wonderful grace around the world. And may we never, ever see this as anything other than Your sovereign goodness to us and Your lovingkindness. Help us to excel even more in every way, for Your glory. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.