I grew up on a small farm, less than a hundred acres. My dad had small orchards of cherries, apples, and some peaches and plums. Although we were never wealthy, I was very happy. Well, for the most part!
My neighbor Pat and I (Ted Smith) played together a lot, especially riding bicycles in the neighborhood. We’d pretend that our bikes were cars, and we’d identify them according to what our dad’s drove. My dad, being a small-scale farmer, drove a rather plain Oldsmobile.
So --- my two-wheeler became an Oldsmobile. I was o.k. with that…..at first! Pat’s father was an Orthodontist, and he drove a Chrysler Imperial (the word “Imperial” even sounds impressive, doesn’t it?) So there we went, riding around the neighborhood: Pat on his IMPERIAL, and me with a plain Oldsmobile.
There is a streak in us from the get-go that seeks to identify and quantify our existence, and more often than not to exaggerate our importance. Sometimes, when we become educated and enter the employment realm, we seek to define ourselves by our careers and the importance that comes with that job title. I guess you could call it “positioning.”
There’s a new television ad that I’ve seen several times recently – it features a few laborers who work for an electric utility company. They’re in a bar bragging about what they do as workman. In the conversation they imply their daily labor somehow involves the very beer that they’re all enjoying, so one of the other guys says, “Do you MAKE the beer?” To which another guys says, “No, We make the POWER that makes the beer!”
If we can’t get recognition one way, we’ll get it another. We want so desperately to be “large and in charge!” And then, operating out of that exaggerated importance, we set out to rule the world. Well, at least our portion of the world. And this arrogance has gotten us in trouble since the beginning of time. Long before Frank Sinatra sang, “I’ll Do It My Way,” we’ve been doing in our way! Sinatra just gave it a theme song.
Look at what scripture says about this:
• Judges 17:6 (NLT) In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
• Psalms 10:4 (NIV) In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
• 1 Samuel 2:3 (NIV) “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.
Like I said, this has always been a serious problem for mankind, but today it’s causing us pain and heartache like never before. And I don’t think people realize the source of the pain. There is hardly anything we haven’t changed to suit our wants and wishes and whims.
- We’ve seen the legalization of abortion --- the taking of life of a human being before birth --- and now we’re dangerously close to decisions that will withhold life-sustaining services for the elderly on the grounds of viability or practicality. I remember when life was precious.
- Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is no longer considered a bad idea --- in fact, it’s nearly a given that couples will live together while they contemplate marriage, if they marry at all. The Bible still calls this sin, because it is still outside God's design and plan for our holiness.
- Marriage itself was once an untouchable institution. Just a decade ago, no one would have assumed that something other than “one man and one woman” would be said to constitute a marriage in America, but as you know, state after state is challenging that standard.
Individuals are being encouraged to accept moral lifestyles of any kind as normal, and perhaps even God-given. Unfortunately, what is touted as a right and good for them will only prove to make their already pained lives worse, as both biblical revelation and societal analysis makes clear.
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) says: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." The result of all sin is destruction -- unless we humble ourselves and repent and turn from our wicked ways!"
Rather than elaborating on all that we’re doing wrong, I want to take a look at a group that got it right! I want to look at the written record, left us by Paul as he writes to this church in Thessalonica, a church that he helped to establish on an earlier trip.
Paul writes a tremendously encouraging report about this young church, and I hope it becomes instructional for us today. 1st Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB) begins:
"And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it ..."
Two words are extremely crucial if we wish to learn and grow by this verse.
Received (Greek: paralambano, par-al-am-ban´-o). It means simply to receive something from another. In this case it’s not the whole story of benefitting from divine wisdom, but it’s the starting point.
In some of the these early churches (Iconium, Lystra, Corinth and Jerusalem) the crowds did not even do this; they didn’t receive, nor examine nor inquire into the word of God that Paul and others delivered; rather, they drove them out of town or imprisoned them. They failed even the first level of receiving! So, the first noble thing we’re told about the folks in Thessalonica is that they “received” the word.
But let’s look at more of the verse:
“…when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it….”
Accepted (Greek: dechomai, dekh´-om-ahee) This word means to welcome; to receive favorably; to give ear to; to embrace; to make one's own; to approve.
The Thessalonian believers not only heard and intellectually understood the message, but also welcomed it into their hearts and made it a part of their lives. And I still haven't finished verse 13. 1st Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 13 (NASB) --- again, from the start, with a little more this time:
"And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us
the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for
what it really is, the word of God..."
Not as the word of men, but as THE WORD OF GOD.
(Stay tuned for Part Two: "A Christian's Achilles Heel")