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Share Your Life

July 15, 2018 Speaker: Daniel Nelms Series: Foundations of Christianity

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:1–2:8

Share Your Life

 

[1] For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. [2] But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. [3] For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, [4] but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. [5] For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (ESV)

 

 

Today’s sermon is going to be rather simple.  As a core group, we continually need to focus on the “why” of church planting.  This is a brand new church.  So what does it mean to be a brand new church? How do we see this grow?  Why do we want it to grow?  What are we about as a church plant?  This series we are in is going to last from now up until Christmas.  We are going to be examining all sorts of foundational things about the Church, Christianity, why we believe what we do, what we believe, and how we are to live it out.  Some of the basics of Christianity.  Today is going to answer: what message do we have as a church, how we are to validate it’s message, and how we are to live it out? 

We have the greatest news in the world, news that alters and changes lives, reverses addictions and brings hope to the hopeless, an ancient message that the world desperately needs to hear.  How can we be in the world and let everyone see that what we are talking about is real?  In other words, not just tell them, but show them with our lives?  This is so important for us to hear.  And I pray it’ll be meaning for you today. 
So very briefly, Paul is writing to the Thessalonians, a small port city in Greece on the Mediterranean.  He planted a church there, but had to abruptly leave after a short time.  So he sent back his friend and co-worker Timothy to spend time with them and see how they are doing as a new church.  Timothy brought back a report, and Paul sent them this letter.  His goal was to, by way of reminder, remind them exactly what happened when they believed the Gospel, how Paul and his companions brought it to them, and how they lived it out among them.  One day they were worshipping other gods, bowing before them, seeking deliverance and meaning in false gods that don’t deliver, and they turned from them to the living God. 
How Paul and his companions brought this message to them is going to serve us greatly in knowing how we are to bring the Gospel to our city and neighborhoods and community around us as we examine his motives, why he did it, and how they did it.  It’s broken down into four motivations for his ministry, and two specific ways they lived it out among this church.  So let’s dig into number 1. 

How do we know Paul and his companions were genuine and his motives pure in the message he brought them, the message of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead? 


1)  He was willing to be persecuted and to suffer in order to get the message to them

 

[1] For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. [2] But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. [3] For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,

Paul is reminding them of a few things that are important for their trust in Paul and the message he brought them.  Just prior to being in Thessalonica, Paul had been in Philippi, another Roman city in the region, and he had been thrown in jail due to his preaching of Jesus.  He was treated roughly, but ultimately released due to miraculous circumstances - an earthquake shook the jailhouse, his bonds were released and the doors flew wide open.  And more happened, great story, read Acts 16 to learn all about it.
Anyhow, Paul is reminding them of this:  You guys know what happened to us in Philippi.  Here is what he is trying to say - this Gospel, this message of Christianity, has been very expensive for me.  It has been very costly.  I’ve greatly suffered because of this.  And I have not gained much in terms of possessions, reputation or material goods while I’ve been doing this.  Rather in most places I go I am persecuted and thrown in jail.  Therefore, remember this.  What motive could I have had other than telling you the truth? 
Indeed there was no other motive for Paul.  Before his conversion in Christianity, Paul had every chance to succeed well in the world of Judaism.  He was of good stock, was brilliant, was trained by one of the most revered and respected Rabbis of the day, and was already being respected himself for his zeal towards Judaism.  He could have been rather influential and famous in his circles, and would have been well off from it all.
Nevertheless, he turned his back on it all.  And instead, he denied his former judaism, and spent all his life preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a man who died on the cross but was actually raised from the dead - an offensive message to most everyone who heard.  He had little money, he moved from city to city, living off of other people and their support and living periodically in their homes, he often times had to make tents to sell in order that he could eat and live.  His life was far from glamorous or desirable in terms of what he was getting out of it.
So in summary he was reminding them - I’m being persecuted for the Gospel that I told you about.  Therefore, even in the midst of conflict, even in the midst of being persecuted for speaking the Gospel, I did not withhold this Gospel from you.
And he says, “our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”  He throws all his cards out on the table.  He says, “look, I hope that my track record shows that I’m not trying to deceive you or trick you.”  Honestly, part of this is difficult news to hear if you were a Thessalonian living in that city as a part of this new church plant.  Paul, if you were shamefully treated because of this Gospel, and you still told it to us and we believed you, what will happen to us?  These are some of the questions Paul is intending to draw out here.  His motive is simple:  tell the truth of the Gospel to them.  Whatever happens, happens.  But those things are secondary to accepting the truth of Jesus Christ and the salvation he gives, and that they must see and understand:  there isn’t any worldly gain to be had by Christianity.

2)  He isn’t laboring for man, but for God

[4] but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Paul in his dramatic story heard from God to go and preach.  He was a Jewish leader on the way to arrest Christians throw them in jail when Jesus literally physically showed up to him, blinded him, and introduced himself to him.  So by the time Paul reached his destination, he wasn’t arresting Christians but he was worshipping alongside of them.  Very dramatic story.  Ever since, his single motive has been what God had asked him to do.  His biggest care in life lies in what God wants for him.  And he is thus released from the bonds of what other people think about him and his calling.
What freedom is to be found!  But to get to this place is a values-approach, and it reveals the inward depths of our hearts.  Who we consider important to be accepted by is determined by what makes us valuable.  This is what I mean:  if you need a certain group of people to think highly of you, then your value in life is wrapped up in those people.  Or, if it lies in a certain trade or area, then getting the affection of masters in that trade or leaders in that area makes you feel as though you now have value. 
The problem with this?  It’s a snare.  “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25).  Your work in life will become aligned to essentially become more like them if you are to gain their affection.  The cost of this is always the same:  you loose who you are in order to gain what they are, and you are enslaved to it.  And it’ll never end, and never leave you satisfied or content. 
But when you discover the call of God in your life, something similar happens, but far superior and fulfilling.  You indeed still loose who you are, or who you think you are.  The call of God is a call to die, to be a “living sacrifice” to him.  But in doing so, you actually discover who you really are. 

Matthew 16:25 [25] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (ESV)

 

Paul is expressing this very thing:  God spoke to me, thus I obey, and I’m not laboring for the affection of others but only for the affection of God.  His desire to be valued and have a meaningful life is utterly satisfied in knowing Jesus, and thus he now experiences the freedom of not needing anything else.  How do we know this is the case?

3)  He isn’t concerned about dressing up the message of the Gospel flattery and using it for greedy-gain

[5] For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.

 

How do we know Paul’s motive is pure?  Well, he avoided unnecessary flattery.  He didn’t show up asking for unnecessary money, trying to use his “Hey I’m an apostle, Christ showed up to me, thus I need your money” - no pretext or reason to be greedy. 
Plato, in his Republic, said that if you want to be a true philosopher, be willing to be poor for the sake of the truth you think you are expounding. Not that it is required, but he says the moment you begin to make money off of your trade, you are in danger of having your motives corrupted - are you doing it for the money or for your conviction of truth?  Now we know this is idealistic to a large degree - people have to eat and survive.  Philosophers are well known for being idealistic, nevertheless, he makes a great point.   
Jesus was a poor, itinerant preacher.  He was homeless and ate off of other people’s donations.  The bible is not against people being supported and freed up to preach the Gospel (1 Timothy 5:18, a worker is worthy of his wages).  Paul had his supporters as well.  But the idea of motive must always be examined, especially when money is involved.  The church planting network we are a part of makes it a principle to say that generally speaking, the pastor’s salary should match the average salary of the area.  Their salary shouldn’t exceed the area average, but if you don’t have to, they shouldn’t be struggling to have food on their table or clothing on their backs if possible.  This is a healthy parameter to go by to determine pastor’s salaries and such.  The idea behind all of this is only to make sure that you are doing your work for the right reasons - not for any personal gain in Gospel ministry since the Gospel is not something you can purchase or sell - that work has already been done in Christ. 
Verses like this should shine lights on various churches and ministries that loose sight of this.  We are such a wealthy nation, the wealthiest in human history.  And thus it is easy for churches to think they need certain things in order to do ministry, and indeed they do, but often they get wrapped up in unnecessary monetary needs that bring nothing but distraction to the ministry.  Here is the truth:  if we’re trying to understand how we are to see this church plant began and how we are to see it grow, the truth is that if just about anyone with a charismatic personality that with the right amount of flattery can convince anyone to join a church.  They can proceed to shake out their pockets for money and spend it on unnecessary things, maybe being greedy without realizing it, and thus, you have a “growing church plant.” 
There is one important principle to be said here, and it is this:  growth in a church plant is not always a sign of health.  I can flatter you, smile, shine my teeth white, wear a nice suit, grease my hair up, and start telling you “God wants you to have a nice life now.  He wants you to prosper in whatever you want to do.  He wants to make you happy and make your life flourish.  Whatever you put your hand to he will bless, you will succeed, and he wants you to get that promotion, to make more money, to strike that good deal for your business - he just wants you to be happy.”
I could say stuff like this, stuff that has slight glimmers of biblical wisdom but is wrapped up in modern day self-guru help language and people would eat it up.  I really bet we could see this thing grow very quickly.  But that’s not what it’s about.  If you think the Gospel message will be accepted if we flatter you a bit, then we are in essence saying the Gospel isn’t enough by itself.  It’s rather black and white and we need to dress it up a bit to make it more palatable.
No, I want ministry here at this church to be purely about the Gospel and Jesus Christ, for our ministries to be utterly reliant on the Gospel if we believe the Christian message to be true and comprehensive in and of itself.  Often times you can hear modern day sermons where if you removed the Gospel, the sermon is rather unchanged.  I want to help lead this church to look back at the simple Gospel message that has been preached for 2,000 years all over the world, craft all the ministries here to be reliant on it, and say, if you remove the Gospel from this church you actually remove this church.  We can’t dress it up to make it a more powerful message.  And how dare if we ever think there is anything by greed to be gained from it!  The Good News of Jesus Christ dying for our sins and giving us new life by his Spirit is a message with supernatural power to change and alter the course of our lives.  It’s most powerful by itself.  We can’t add to it, and there is no greedy gain to be had.  Our fingerprints only dilute the message.  This is exactly what Paul has labored to do among them. 
And he brings one final thing up in his defense of his ministry among them:

4)  He’s not trying to get famous, even though he could have

“ [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

 

Paul was numbered among the twelve original disciples in their ministry, even though he wasn’t there with Christ for his three years of earthly ministry.  Consider how easily, if you were Paul, you could leverage your story to get the attention from others:

“Hey guys so of all the people in the world, and all the people around here, Jesus decided to show up to me.  He has called me to something so special and unique that he thought it worth his time to physically and literally show up, blind me, and call me to tell others about him and his resurrection.  I’m Paul, and Jesus showed up to me.” 
Think of the modern day book deals and movies that could be made.  Seriously though, if you consider some of these recent Christian-themed movies of people having supernatural experiences, their first response always seems to be “Book deal, and hopefully movie deal.”
Really?  You know what Paul did after his experience?  He disappeared into the desert for a while, went and told the a few of the original Apostles what happened, then left for another 14 years just living as an average joe laboring for Jesus before he went back to the Apostles and began his famous church planting ministries across Asia and Europe.  He missed out on his potential book deals! 
You know where I’m going with this.  Josh and I were talking yesterday about the silliness in church ministry of church planting and church planters and this next-tier kind of culture of “regular pastor” and “church-planting pastor.”  “Church planting is so hard” they say.  “It’s one of the most difficult things you can ever do, it is so stressful, probably much harder than any other jobs that your people in your church have” and on and so forth.  And so if a church planter finds success in a church plant, it’s growing and people are meeting Jesus, well, wow.  It’s time to write some books and preach at other people’s churches around the country because you are special and have something to say.  And these church planters get puffed up and bloated with pride, they think they are someone special, and sooner than later the ship comes crashing down after the soared into atmospheric levels of pride and arrogance. 
The reality is that, to begin with, it’s not a flexing contest.  It’s not about whose job is harder, it’s all silliness (I’m convinced that my job isn’t any harder than yours, and some of you have much more demanding jobs than myself for the record).  In our celebrity culture we seem to always find reasons to put others on pedestals or to put ourselves on pedestals compared to others. 
How about we just drop that stuff at this church, and worry about making Jesus as famous as we can?  I’ll be honest - one of the worst things you can do for me is come up and say things like “You are the best preacher I’ve ever heard” or “wow this church plant is taking off, you’re doing awesome!”  People often say stuff like that completely innocently, and I don’t hold it against them, they are only trying to encourage me. 

But please remember this verse, and be reminded of our human nature:  we all enjoy that flattery.  We all enjoy when other people think highly of you.  It gives us that false sense of meeting.  Be aware of some of the weaknesses in American Christian church culture with church planting the role I now find myself in here. 
The best encouragement you can give to me or any pastor?  “Jesus is working in this church. I felt God speak to me today in the service.  I feel like Jesus is changing me and growing me.  This church is really healthy and I’m learning so much about Jesus”  And so forth.  Just be careful in your language.  Don’t abandon encouragement and things like that to me, because it’s so very helpful, but just be careful with your words.  If you understand the point of why we do ministry, which is to be continually pointing you to Jesus by the help of his Spirit, then in all that goes on here, make sure your eyes are set on Christ and not on other people, and I pray that you are getting Jesus out our meetings here, regardless of who is standing in front of you telling you about him.  He is the reason why we plant churches.   
So now we’ve examined the four defensive-reasons why Paul’s message to them was genuine, that his labor among them as pure as he could make it, we know he wasn’t trying to trick them or deceive them because he lost so much in his labor and was actually persecuted because of it, he isn’t laboring primarily for their affection but for God’s, he tried to preach to them the simple and powerful message of the Gospel and not one dressed up in flattery or with hidden greedy motives, and he never laid down his “I’m the Apostle Paul” card in order to leverage himself to grow the church and make himself famous. 

So how did the church grow?  We know that Paul is the “real deal” and his message is worth listening to.  This is so great and I’m excited to share this with you. 

First Church Planting Growth Strategy:  Care for others like a nursing mother.

Check out his words:

7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.

 

At first glance you may think “wow that sounds a little weak or something, right?”  And I would argue, actually these are some of the strongest and most difficult words that Paul uttered in the New Testament. Let’s actually examine what he is saying so you understand why I would say such a thing, because although I’ve never nursed a baby before, I’ve seen a woman do this for now five children first hand.
Alexandra has rarely slept a full, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep in almost nine years.  A few months here or there she gets it.  But you know why she hasn’t slept for eight years?  Because of the demands of taking care of a little infant.  Even all throughout the day, she must drop what she wants to do when the baby gets hungry and feed him or her.  Nursing a child is by nature one of the most self-less things you can do.  It requires true feminine gentleness, care, concern, deep love, and requires you dropping your agenda in order to serve this child to literally keep him alive in his helpless-state.  Did you know that of all mammals born, human beings (I think) are born the most helpless and the most needy?  For us to survive absolutely requires not just a mother’s care but actually, physically, the mother’s very body, if a child is to survive.  There is much that men have to learn from this beautiful design of women, and this is why naturally women tend to be much more self-less than men.  They are used to expending themselves for others. 
This is what Paul is saying:  guys, we came and served you.  We were gentle, not harsh.  He’s not saying this arrogantly, he is simply saying “you know we labored among you, cared for you, and tried our best to leave behind any personal agenda.”  In doing so they continually validated the message they brought by their gentle, self-less actions.  This is his motive for bringing this up.
So the second thing of how to see a church plant grow is this:  just serve one another.  Care for others, and drop concern of yourself.  He’s not saying “You guys are a bunch of helpless infants and you need me to come and gently care about you because if I don’t, you’d die.”  That’s not what he is saying.  He is simply saying “We cared about you, served you, and came alongside of you with a deep concern for you, like a nursing mother does with her children.”
Care about each other.  This is a quality of Jesus Christ himself, who, elsewhere in Philippians 2, he says that Christ “considered others as more important than himself.”  He was the God-man in the flesh!  If anyone had a card to drop, it was Jesus.  “Hey I’m God! Listen to me!”  But he never did.  The bible says that even he considered others as more important than himself.
Guys when you are loving and caring for others like this, this prevents you from treating others as if you are more important than them.  When people receive care from you like this, people will be drawn to be around you.  This kind of treatment of others is rather supernatural!  It is completely against human nature, and when you get it, because we’re new Jerseyians, we would naturally ask “Why are they caring about me like this?  What is their motive?”  Paul’s already established his with them:  we just wanted you guys to meet Jesus, plain and simple.  I’m not trying to gain anything from you.  I just want you to know Jesus, and you know how we treated you when we were among you.” 
If you guys care for one another like this, and if you extend this kind of pure love towards others because you want to shine the light of Christ in this community, it is almost guaranteed that people will be drawn to you and to this church because they are being drawn to a love that finds it’s original source in Christ Jesus.  So church planting strategy #1?  Love others and live among them like a nursing mother.  This is how Jesus treated people when he was here, and we are to thus do the same. Grow this church by your humility and love for others.

The second church planting strategy?  Share your life with others. 

[8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (ESV)

 

Frank and I went walking around Point Pleasant a few days ago and prayed for about a hour and a half, and it was fantastic.  And one of the things we talked and prayed about continually was this:  authentic Christian ministry asks that we don’t only share the Gospel and the Good news of Jesus’ life and and death and resurrection with our words, but we open up our lives to others and live out these truths.  The Greek word here is “soo-kay” [pyche], which simply means all of you.  Various translations show it’s comprehensive nature:  life, soul, etc. - all of you.
Here is the deal:  being a part of a church plant core team isn’t something that can be done passively.  When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he wasn’t alone.  He brought a few with him.  And he labored among the people with this crew around him.  They were all in with him.  Even Jesus wasn’t alone in his ministry, but gathered the twelve around him, and even in other places many more dozens, and sent them out for ministry.

If I could ask something of you to help see this church grow, it would be this:  share your life with others.  I want to continually point you to Jesus, over and over and over again that he may be the highest love and concern of your life, above all things.  And as you are doing that, I want you to open up your schedules, your wallets, your dining room table, your time - for others.  Share your life with them. I’m not asking you to start some new dynamic ministry or to go and do something crazy.  I’m simply reading you this verse, of Paul and his companions sharing their life with others, and I’m saying 1) Love Jesus with all of your heart and 2) share your life with others.
As we end here, I want to ask a few questions:

  1. What does it look like for you to share your life with others? 
  2. What would keep you from doing so?
  3. If you did, would your life actually look Christian and would it draw others to Jesus?  Does you or your family’s pattern and habits in life look like Jesus? 
  4. Why are you a part this core group?  I hope you are a part of this in order to be a part of a new movement on the shore to tell people about Jesus and to tell others what Christianity is really about and to live it in front of them, caring for them and loving them.  If you are here to be a butt in a seat and passively soak in this church, and forget about it six days a week, I’d ask that you consider being a part of another established church before you stay here, because in the coming months I’m going to continually push you to give up more and more for Jesus to see this church grow to make him more famous.  And it’s not as if the call we’re talking about here is is specific for a new church - what I’m pushing you guys towards by reading and walking through this text with you this morning should be normal Christianity.  I pray we can learn how to do this together.  So let’s pray. 



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