Those who have no significant purpose in their lives do not have definition to what they do. They wander through life without goals. We accomplish very little without goals. Many Christians today live passionless, feckless, muted lives.
We live in a day when Christians do not have a passion to see people come to Christ. There are many things that deflect their interest from this cause. However, eternity is too long and time too short to not put priority on the things of greatest value.
It is as if believers do not believe that they hold exclusive truth anymore. The idea of a mutually exclusive gospel is politically incorrect today. To question the validity of another person’s religion is viewed as narrow. That belief for the average evangelical today causes him to act in a mousy way with the gospel.
A message with the idea that Jesus is the “only way” requires boldness, a willingness to risk rejection, a will to put the importance of presenting the gospel above self-image. It takes a determination of the kind Paul had. When he came to a different culture and people than his own, he said,
1 Co 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers [when Paul first came to them they were not brothers], did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
We might think that Paul had no fears but he suffered many apprehensions about sharing the gospel:
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration [certainty] of the Spirit and of power,
Paul set aside his fear by trusting “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Do we truly believe that God gives us power of certainty to share the gospel? God does not require sophistication of speech, but only trust in the power of the gospel message itself.
The power of God is in the gospel message, not in the messenger:
Ro 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The gospel is like a lion—it can defend itself. We don’t have to justify it but simply present it. It is a wonderful thing to see ourselves used by God as we set forth the gospel. There is nothing like seeing someone pass from eternal hell to eternal life.
What sets fire to passionate conviction about something? There is very little intense desire about things today. Where is the drive of conviction, the passionate enthusiasm for the cause of Christ? People willingness to deny self and to spend for the cause of “Christ are people of “one thing,” uncompromising and wholeheartedly given to the Lord and his gospel.
Yet we are people of many things. People of one thing have the idea of whether they live or die, they are the Lord’s. The idea of one thing is what made men such as Alexander the Great, Sir Isaac Newton, James Watt, and Henry Ford great men. This is true in the realm of finance and business. They threw themselves entirely into the “one thing.” They did not divide their objective. They were not people of a half-mind, divided minds.
When Paul moved into Thessalonica with his light and heavy gospel artillery of unshakable certainty, he came with “full conviction.”
because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The word “because” expresses the basis for his assurance of the salvation of the Thessalonians. The word “gospel” is emphatic in the Greek. It is the message itself and not the act of preaching that changes lives. The word “gospel” means good news. It is the good news of eternal salvation.
Again, the power of our message is in the message, not the messenger. The nature of the gospel is one of the greatest treasures God ever gave his creatures. It is a gospel of unadulterated grace (Acts 20:24). God did everything necessary so that we can live with Him in eternity.
24But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Ac 20:24
The gospel team came to the Thessalonians in supernatural power. This is indicated by the phrase “did not come to you in word only.” Their ready reception of God’s message shows the reality of God in their midst.
The word “not” in the Greek implies that this is a downright fact. The following statements about how the gospel came into Thessalonica are facts.
The gospel came to the Thessalonians first through verbal communication—“in word only.” Verbal communication is an essential element in gospel presentation. Saying “I am living the life before them” is not enough. We can live the life from now to doomsday, but that would not be enough to win people to Christ. We must declare the facts of the gospel.
Any further content to the gospel message is irrelevant, secondary and inconsequential. We spend so much time approaching people with the gospel that we never get to the gospel message. We spend too much time on means, rather than on ends. Consequently, people do not catch the opportunity to make a decision for Christ. The means is not the end!
We must communicate the gospel with more than Christian life; we must do it with our lips as well, if we are going to significantly advance the cause of Christ. True biblical communication requires both life and lips.
However, the gospel involves more than communication of its content. The spoken word is necessary, but it is not enough if it stands alone. It might be possible to teach a parrot to speak the words of the gospel. Anyone can mechanically give out the facts of the gospel. There is more to the gospel than presenting unadulterated facts.
Verse five sets forth four indispensable factors that make the gospel a tour de force. Each of these four factors is crucial for effective evangelism. Each feature begins by the word “in.” The four uses of “in” in this verse show what makes the gospel effective.
Paul uses the words “but also” to help us see that presentation of the gospel is more than clarification of the fact.
The word “but” is emphatic in the Greek. The presentation of the gospel requires three more divine features: “power,” “the Holy Spirit” and “much assurance.” There is a spiritual vibrancy to the gospel.
The word “also” indicates that there is something more than just explaining the gospel when we share our faith. The impact of gospel presentation is not solely in words. There are three further spiritual dynamics to the gospel. God uses certain spiritual forces to shape us. When all four divine factors in this verse are in operation, the gospel moves out with great power.
A gospel presentation will not be effective unless all four spheres are integrated: articulating the gospel in words, relying on its power, depending on the Holy Spirit to convict people, and delivering it with great confidence. We restrict the dynamics of the gospel if we employ only two of these spheres. Three are better but we need all four dynamic spheres if we want to make a full impact.
If we dial only three numbers on a safe whose combination has four, it will not open. We need to dial all four numbers to open the safe. Similarly we need to execute all four spheres mentioned in this verse to make the greatest impact with the gospel. We do not need to blast open the safe when we use the combination. We gently pull open the door.
The Word without the Spirit is dead orthodoxy. The Spirit without the Word is fanaticism. We must come with a trust in God’s “power” to effectively present the gospel. We have the word “in” a second of four times in this phrase. Each mention is an advance on the previous “in.”
The manner in which the Thessalonians received the gospel was in the sphere of “power.” The gospel team delivered their message in a powerful manner – in the sphere of the power of God. The word “power” is the word for inherent power. The gospel message came in God’s inherent power, power that is inherent to God. It has a power in itself; it is not something that we have to do to get it or help it along. Power latent in God is real and compelling. This power goes beyond human capacity because it influences men supernaturally.
When we present the gospel in power, it compels and grips those without Christ. The reason the gospel compels the lost is because it is real. It transforms hundreds of thousands of lives. Jesus lives today in Heaven and he lives in the hearts of people today. The gospel changed the Thessalonians too. They were different for having exposed themselves to the gospel.
Since the gospel carries the inherent power of God with it, the gospel is not drab, dull or ineffective if we engage its intrinsic power. God will use the unique power of the gospel to cause those without Christ to embrace the Son of God.
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God‘” (Matthew 22:29).
”But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
The third occurrence of the word “in” is “in the Holy Spirit.” The gospel team came in the sphere of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled the gospel communicators, who operated under His influence. They clothed themselves with the Holy Spirit when they communicated the gospel.
The gospel coming to Thessalonica was a supernatural work by God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8). We attribute salvation ultimately to the Holy Spirit. The dynamic impact of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is necessary to win people to Christ. We cannot engage his dynamic power with allowing him to fill or control us.
Not only did the gospel come in the power of its message but also it came in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can reach into the hearts of people where the mere dead words of man cannot reach. He touches the need of man and links that need to the gospel. The evangelist cannot manipulate this domain. This goes beyond human ability, human gimmick, or human manipulation.
The Holy Spirit can touch the human spirit when no human can do it. He is in charge of operations in the soul. We speak to the ears; the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart. He carries the message to the will.
“And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).
The Holy Spirit performs his supernatural work in the heart of those without Christ where the mere dead words of evangelists cannot touch. He is in charge of all operations of the gospel. We speak to the ears of people but the Holy Spirit takes what we speak to the heart.
Confidence comes from the Holy Spirit. We know He is working through us. Because of this, doubt does not paralyze a person who has faith in the Christian message. We carry unfaltering confidence and personal conviction in the power of the Holy Spirit to do his work through us.
The word “in”occurs for the fourth time in this verse (the “in” is implied here)—“and in much assurance.” The gospel communicators came with conviction when they came to Thessalonica.
The Thessalonians came to full conviction, certain that the gospel was truly from God, because the communicators were true to the Word, came in the power of the message and in the dynamic of the Holy Spirit. They did not waver with doubt. They came with clear convictions. They willingly committed their eternal future to this message.
The gospel moved the will of the Thessalonians and it can move the will of the lost in our day. Not only will it touch the choice but also it will move the person to a point of “much assurance,” or full conviction. The gospel will put solid conviction into the souls of those who believe it. Since the Thessalonians knew the power of the gospel by what it had done for them, they had full confidence in it. Since were sold on their product, they shared the gospel with authority.
People who powerfully advance the gospel in the world are people of strong conviction. Do you know what the gospel did for you, to you and in you? Are you sold on what you believe? Sales people who believe in their product make great communicators. Christians who believe in their message become very effective at advancing the cause of Christ in the world.
Even shy wallflowers and timid mice can be confident in witnessing because of their confidence in the gospel. Once a person meets Jesus Christ, he or she is no longer Mr. or Ms. Ordinary Person. A believer is an ambassador who represents the Lord Jesus Christ and should never share Christ with an apologetic attitude.
How is it possible to apologize for the Son of God? We can communicate with utmost confidence because of what we know about the gospel and its power.
If we are uncertain about what we believe, we will not convince others of our message. If we change our position with every fad or opinion poll, we do not have any message but the communication of uncertainty. It is crucial to clarify our personal convictions. If we are unsure about what we believe, non-Christians will not accept our message.
We need to put our lives to a test to see if they stand approved before God: Philippians 1:10 “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
The word “approve” means to test for approval. This is spiritual discernment. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between the chaff and wheat, the dross and the gold, the genuine and the superficial.
Automobiles need to be tested on a torture track before they are sold to the public. If a car’s brakes do not meet the test, they are sent back for redesign. You do not put a car with faulty brakes on the market. Lives are at stake. In order to test those brakes, some standard for testing needs to be applied. A standard or measure for good brakes is needed. God wants us to test for approval, to have a criterion for whatever comes into our lives. That criterion is “excellence.”
If we have this criterion, we can resolve the priorities of our life. Any problem or set of alternatives that is set before us should be measured by this standard. If we operate by this standard, we should be able to resolve any priority.
In the phrase “approve what is excellent,” “excellence” carries with it the sense of what is vital. In the Greek, excellence means to bear apart or to differ between; as with metals, you learn to tell one from another, the greater from the lesser. So things of excellence are things of greater value.
We should be able to test for approval the things which are the most valuable in life. None of us operates in life without some scale of values. The question is not whether we have a scale of values; the question is more which scale of values we choose. Do we choose God’s highest values or some set of values we may prefer?
Where there is no scale of values, utter confusion follows. If you want to live a flustered life, then live life without an adequate set of ultimate values. In this situation nothing is of value, nothing of importance. To live life with everything of equal importance is to live life at a trivial level. Lesser things are as important as greater things.
If we choose as our ultimate value to make and save as much money as possible, then we have chosen a lesser value in God’s economy. If we choose to put God’s glory first no matter how much money we make, then we live by God’s scale of values. It is a matter of what comes first. If our main objective is to make money, then we are number one in our values and God is number two. We need to decide what is important.
Christians need to test for approval the things of greatest value in God’s economy. Do we have God’s scale of values? What is the highest item on our scale of values? What is first or most important to us? A good way to measure these questions is to ask ourselves how we use our time. Our answers will reveal what is important in our lives. Then we will have a sense of what is vital.
An online missionary is someone who has a scale of values—he or she puts priority on the things of greatest value—such as sharing the gospel message.
People with a scale of values
- Are not afraid to stand alone
- Do not care if their motives were misinterpreted.
- Consider everything a loss for the sake of the truth.
- A person of one thing: and that one thing was to advance the glory of God, and to declare His truth in the world.
- They were all on fire, and so they lighted others.
- They were wide awake, and so awakened others.
I highly recommend Global Media Outreach as a way to become an Online Missionary: http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/online_missionary.html