River Corner Church

To the Church: I'm a Model You Know What I Mean? (1 Thessalonians 1:1-12)

September 10, 2023 Jeff McLain
River Corner Church
To the Church: I'm a Model You Know What I Mean? (1 Thessalonians 1:1-12)
Show Notes Transcript

This week, Pastor Jeff McLain continued ourTo the Church series through Thessalonians, as he looked at 1 Thessalonians 1:1-23 and the way the Thessalonian church became a model for all the churches in this era. We look at what we can takeaway from their example.

We started this series by looking at Acts 17 and getting an overview of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian followers of Jesus.  Though Paul was only with them for three weeks, that church grows up to bring a strong outpost of the Kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Despite the persecution, cultural problems, and societal polarization they were facing around them, they were able to hold on to their faith in remarkable ways.
 
Along with Silas and Timothy, Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonian churches to encourage them to stay focused and true to what God was doing in their midst. Paul also wrote the letter to equip them with mindsets and postures that will help to liberate them from the entrapping of their mourning, grief, and suffering. This letter calls empowers them with principles and priorities to live by as individuals and as a church that will help them to know “how to live in order to please God.” 

Who we are together.
River Corner Church is a growing church community of everyday people who gather to worship God, follow Jesus, and journey through life together.

What we practice together.
Our small church community is uniquely caring, simple, laid-back and intergenerational. As a church we want to be a welcoming, safe and healing community for those who are seeking, hurting, or need a place to belong. Our practices are contemplative (reflective) and charismatic (Spirit-driven), conversational and informative. The times we share together are intentional and intimate, and a mix between modern and traditional. We want to be a place in which love and honor are lived out, where humility is central, and where hospitality is woven into the threads of our community. There is room at the table.

When we gather together.
River Corner Church gathers weekly on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM to worship and experience God, study the scriptures, journey through life together and to partner with the Holy Spirit. We meet in a a simple worship meeting house at 524 River Corner Road in Conestoga, Pennsylvania. You are welcome as you are, just be yourself. There are other times that we hold small groups, events and more.

Our Pastoral Leader.
Jeff McLain has served as our pastoral leader since April 2022. He is currently a doctoral student at Fuller Seminary, where he also has earned two masters degrees - one in Theology and Ministry and another in Leadership. Jeff also holds a Graduate Certificate in Non-profit Management from City Vision University. In addition to serving River Corner Church, Jeff serves full-time as the Director of Pastoral Ministries at Water Street Mission. In addition to over 13 years of pastoral ministry, Jeff has enjoyed event promotion, leadership coaching, blogging and podcasting. For over 17 years, Jeff has been happily married to Katie. Jeff, Katie and their three wander-filled daughters, are avid fans of road trips, baseball, boardwalks, beaches and books.

Learn more about us at rivercornerchurch.com.

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Jeff McLain
To the Church
Week 2
1 Thessalonians 1:1-12

I AM A MODEL; YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was the Republican candidate for president. He was also clean-shaven, a look in stark contrast to the images and portrayals of a fully-bearded president that would endure well past his presidency. Growing a beard was a suggestion famously put forth by an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell, who offered some unsolicited campaign advice. In her letter to Lincoln that year, she stated that his face, which she described as “so thin,” would benefit from a beard because “all the ladies like whiskers.”
Lincoln wrote her back just days later and wondered if a beard wouldn’t seem like a “piece of silly affectation” since he had never grown one before. Despite the apprehension, Lincoln did grow a beard—perhaps the most famous one in American history. On the way to his 1861 inauguration, he arranged to make a stop in Bedell’s hometown of Westfield, New York, to let her know he had taken her advice to heart.
Many comment that the beard is what differentiated him apart from the rest of the candidates and what ultimately won the election for him.
Last week we started a new series, “To the Church.” We started this series by looking at Acts 17 and getting an overview of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian followers of Jesus. This letter changes everything for them. I think this small letter affected the church heavily. (Mention record keepers). As part of the start of our series, we followed the story of this church community that Paul planted in the prosperous town of Thess-a-lon-ki. Though Paul was only with them for three weeks, that church grows up to bring a strong outpost of the Kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Despite the persecution, cultural problems, and societal polarization they were facing around them, they were able to hold on to their faith in remarkable ways. 
Along with Silas and Timothy, Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonian churches to encourage them to stay focused and true to what God was doing in their midst. Paul also wrote the letter to equip them with mindsets and postures that will help to liberate them from the entrapping of their mourning, grief, and suffering. This letter calls empowers them with principles and priorities to live by as individuals and as a church that will help them to know “how to live in order to please God.” 
Our series, To the Church, will dissect Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian Church to explore the ways Paul encouraged, equipped, and empowered them. It is my hope that as we explore these encouragements, mindsets, postures, and principles and priorities, that we too can be more intentional with our faith, community, and our relationships. That we too can live individually, but even more communally, into the ways that please God and bring a powerful and fruitful, Spirit-empowered influence and legacy, for our church community, so that we may experience “God himself, the God of peace, sanctiy[ing] us through and through…[keeping our] whole spirit, soul and body…blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” .
This morning we will be looking at 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12. In the start of Paul’s letter, we will encounter the words of encouragement from Paul. These encouragements are celebratory, and they are done in a way that makes them feel seen, valued, and understood during some super trying times. Paul does this also to keep them committed and focused to what God was doing in their midst. Follow along as I read from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12. Also, as I read from this first chapter of Thessalonians, I invite you to pay attention to what word, phrase, image, or idea stands out to you in this passage. We will have a chance to share our reflections after I read this introduction to the Thessalonian letter. I encourage you to not discredit this chapter as just fluff or an introduction to Paul’s letter, but rather I encourage you to look for something that stands out to you – encourages you or makes you uncomfortable. Paul’s introduction to his letter, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-12, in the New International Version reads:
Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember 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.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
As I read from this letter, what stood out to you? What words, phrases, images, or ideas captivated you, challenged you or encouraged you? Just shout out.
Here is another question, if Paul was writing to a church in the United States, a place equally prosperous, polarized and with problems – what do you think he would include in his introduction or what do you think the tone would be?
What about this, if Paul was writing a letter specifically to us as the church at River Corner Church, what in this letter do you think he would also say to us. What else might he include?
Last question, if you would pick one verse from this passage that would sum up Paul’s intent in his introduction, which would you chose? Why?
I don’t think there is easily one identified verse that captures all Paul’s intent was. In fact, this introduction to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church is really an introduction to many of the themes that Paul will unpack in the rest of the letter. However, as I was sitting with this passage over the last two weeks, it was 1 Thessalonians 1:7 that really stood out to me as a key verse to this introduction of Paul’s letter. 
In 1 Thessalonians 1:7, Paul writes “And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”  Paul shares throughout this introduction how excited he is to find them thriving despite their circumstances. He shares that he is encouraged by the way they have lived as disciples, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in a way that has differentiated them.  This faith that Paul is celebrating to them has become evident and known throughout what Modern day Greece would now be. In fact, Paul says in verse 8, that it is not only through Greece they are known, but that “your faith in God has become known everywhere.”  Apparently it has become so known that Paul, a follower of Jesus who is known for having a lot to say, says that their faith is so known that “we do not need to say anything about it.” 
I think most of you are aware that our family is a huge fan of baseball. I grew up sharing a deep love for the Philadelphia Phillies with my uncles and grandparents on my maternal side. In the sport of baseball, batters pick a song that plays as they step up to bat. These walk-up songs are meant to relax them, get them pumped up, and get the crowd involved in the game. The other day we were exploring some of the songs that Philadelphia Phillies’ batters have chosen as their walk-up song, when we got into a conversation on what our walk-up songs would be if we were professional baseball players. When it came to my turn to answer, I shared that I would find something completely outlandish, shocking, and borderline scandalous, just to get the crowd laughing. It would be the ultimate prank. After a little thought I decided that my song would be a song from 1991 that to date is still the most outlandish song I know. 
This song, sung by two brothers who formed a band called Right Said Fred, were exploring a neighborhood in London, where it seemed everyone was full of themselves. They shared that there was a bunch of individuals standing around, posing, showing off their physique and trying to get attention. It was there that the brothers penned the first lines to their song in jest, spoofing sass, and sarcasm of a society that was beginning to become enthralled with themselves and their own looks. That has only gotten worse in a selfie-culture.
I first encountered this song in the early 90’s when it was the soundtrack to a commercial on TV, where a man who was easily 600lbs started to dance on TV, to advertise what I believe was the Verizon Phone Book at the time. That man came out to the lyrics that said, “I'm a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk.”  That song that is done with a European dance beat, weird vocals, and outlandish sarcasm, I announced, would be my walk-up song if I were a professional baseball player.
Though not many of us are built to be supermodels, nor do many of us in this room want to be supermodels, which is why I love the sarcasm of this song, but the truth is most of us want to be seen, valued, and understood. Modeling is just being differentiated in a way to puts something on display. Most of us want to model a way of life that others take notice of. Sometimes we are willing to put on masks and stoic faces to hide what we are really dealing with, because we want to model something better than what we are feeling. However, most of us do want to put our faith, our convictions, our values, our skills, and capacities on display. We wanted to be differentiated from everyone around us. Modeling is also an act or activity of making small copies of things like cars and planes. Sometimes we even model our life after people that have been influential in our lives – whether they be friends, heroes of the faith, celebrities, or mentors. As followers of Jesus, we have been called to model our lives after Jesus, after the things of the Kingdom of God. 
My hope, at the end of this first part of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonians is that we too can say, “I am a model, you know what I mean.” That we realize we as individuals, but even more as a church, have been called to be differentiated in a way that puts something on display, the goodness and good news of God. That we as individuals, and as a church, have been called to make a copy of Jesus in our lives and church communities. No, we aren’t to live a life of a supermodel, but we are to model some super important priorities and principles that cause us to have a powerful witness individually, but even more together as a community.
As we saw last week, there is some realities that show us that the Thessalonian church is a church in a context similar to our own. Despite the changing culture around them, and the consumeristic culture around them, they are able to model a faith that is fruitful and leaves a legacy. That Thessalonian church isn’t around anymore, all churches come to an end (even the original ones), and whatever lies ahead for our small church community, I hope we can discover, develop and then model a fruitful faith that leaves a legacy and powerful witness of the goodness and good news of God to our region.
Paul, Silas and Timothy,
This letter is written from Paul and Silas, those who planted the church community. It is also from Timothy, the young man who Paul and Silas sent from their time in Athens, to invest and encourage their church community.
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
Paul uses a normal introduction to his letter here. There are lots of letters from this era that start this way, but mention a different Greek or Roman God that the author is praying to for the blessing of another. Though, Paul uses the word peace, a Greek derritive of the idea of Shalom. We tend to think of peace as an absence of war or violence. For Paul and the Jewish faith, peace carried with it the idea of wholeness and God’s presence with you despite the struggle.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember 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.
Paul spends ink and time to encourage them. He shares that the three of them are often thinking of them, praying for them, and celebrating their faith.  Paul is trying to keep them focused and prioritizing what really matters, despite the hardships that make them want to give up. Notice what he celebrates and prioritizes. Their work – the investments they are making in the places they each live, work, and play – where all done by faith. The word for faith implies the firm dependence they had on God. Paul then says that their work was a labor of love. The word he uses for labor is a word, as I understand it, to explain a troublesome childbirth. Paul is saying that he has seen them produce results of faith because of the way their love forced it to be born in their midst. Their love for others was unignorable. He also celebrates their endurance that is driven to survive in their circumstances with patience. The word for hope implies that they have an excitement for what lies ahead. When I was a kid, I could not sleep on the nights before the beach, or Knoebels, or some big family vacation trip which were rare in my family. That sense of excitement is this kind of hope Paul mentions.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to be a people that our praying for each other, having others pray for us; but also encouraging and celebrating each other.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to live by firm dependence on what God can do with us as individuals and as a church community.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to live by examining our lives to make sure our inner intentions are motivated by love.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to live with a contagious expectancy of heaven.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 
Paul continues to speak life over them. He recalls that when he was planting their church, when Silas and he were among them for three weeks, that their faith wasn’t just a logical ascent. It came with words, or the scriptures, but it also came with power. When Paul and Silas were among them, the Holy Spirit showed up with power. The power for Power there is Doo-nam-is. This word implies miraculous power. It was a mighty act of God. The NIV adds, and deep conviction to the work of the Holy Spirit. The KJV does better, I believe, to this passage, when it says “and in assurance or with assurance.” The idea is that the Holy Spirit showed up and showed off in such a way that it was undeniable that God was with this new church community. It was a community of miracles from the start. Paul had no doubt God was doing something special with this church community. Paul also then reminds them that they know the witness he and Silas left in their church, and he remembers how they surrendered into discipleship. Most evangelical churches today do not have a discipleship pattern, but a discipleship problem. Most of us have not been discipled, and therefore we don’t know how to disciple. We know how to attend, to pray, to study, but not to move in things like the Holy Spirit, because it hasn’t been modeled for us. Paul celebrates that despite all the problems they are facing, all of the hardships, the persecution, they received his message with joy, because of what they experienced in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made all the difference.
What miracles have you seen undeniably show up in your life?
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to know the scriptures and the power of God’s Spirit.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to focus on life-on-life discipleship.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is not lose sight in our difficulties. 

Paul continues;
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
There faithfulness is what becomes known. It spreads out. Paul doesn’t say they did anything super powerful or famous. They were just faithful to what God did in them, with them, and through them. Though the Thessalonian region would have had Jews, and enough to have their own synagogue, the majority of those converted as we saw in acts 17, were gentiles – non jews. These individuals welcomed Paul and Silas into their lives and homes with incredible reception and hospitality. They opened their lives and their homes to them. These individuals would have been people from the consumeristic culture around them. They would have been those who made idols out of everything, and worshipped other Gods, and they were willing to leave it all behind.
The way for a church to leave a legacy is to be open to those God brings in our lives and to extend hospitality to them. They left it all for this Jesus Paul and Silas were proclaiming. That is the power of the Holy Spirit, it makes people leave all they know for something else.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to be faithful with what God did in, with, and through us.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to be open to what God wants to do in, with, and through us – and extend hospitality and reception to those the journey brings.
• The way for a church to leave a legacy is to leave our idols for a greater vision of what is to come. 
We don’t have idols like they had, but in a consumeristic culture we can get idols...
I can’t help but hear the words of Jesus as Paul writes to the church.

1. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:35

2. "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven." - Matthew 10:32

3. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches." - Matthew 13:31-32

4. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." - Matthew 7:24



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