Teachers Good and Bad (Part 1)

     When I had my blood clot in my right calf, the first specialist I went to recommended immediate, life-threatening surgery.  The second specialist recommended blood thinners and no worries.  Hmmmm. Tough call.  (I took the blood thinners.)   Both doctors were highly qualified, but the second one was right. 

     That experience highlighted a key question in life: 
how do I know who to trust?

    From whom should I get my news? CNN? Fox? MSNBC? CBN? Washington Times or Washington Post?  Time or World Magazine? 
    What about theology and advice for kingdom living? Mark Driscoll? Rob Bell? Benny Hinn? Joyce Meyers? Andy Stanley? Beth Moore? Sojournours or Focus on the Family?  There are so many competing voices, and it is sometimes hard to know who to listen to.
     The church in Thessolonica had this problem.  At the beginning of Thessalonians, Paul spends some time defending himself and his message, as if the church was doubting both. He begins by telling them:
“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. “  (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6)

     Sounds perfect! But the next chapter takes a slightly different tone.  After giving them two thumbs up for their faith,  Paul takes a little time to help them understand why they could trust him and his message (almost as if there have been some rumors, or questions, or other teachers going against him and his message).  As he does this, he tells them the difference between good and bad teachers so they would now who to follow and who to leave.

"You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.  We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests (or refines) our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority (not looking for weightiness, or glory).  Instead, we were gentle among you, like a mother who tenderly cares for her children.

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil (weariness) and hardship (sadness); we worked night and day (labored) in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed (holy – worthy of reverence;  just – approved by God; and blameless – God’s actions manifesting into space and time). For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."

     The passage in chapter two is painting a sharp contrast between the imitation of Christ (which we should follow) and the imitation of something else – (which we should not).

    DON’T FOLLOW                                                                    FOLLOW           
Error                                                                                                 Truth
Bad Motivation                                                                   Good Motivation
Pleasing people                                                                        Pleasing God
Flattery                                                                                           Honesty
Greed                                                                                             Generosity
Abusive Authority                                                                     Gentleness
Entitlement                                                                                Engagement

     In the next post, I will use the standards Paul sets down to help us analyze words and deeds so we can better discern where to place our trust. 
      I am also going to broaden this principle to include all our speech, because I believe Paul clearly does this in his other letters and in his life (think of his speech on Mars Hill in Acts 17).