June 18, 2010
Building Strong Friendships in Christ
Serving the Living and True God Today
“For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,”
1 Thessalonians 1:9
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Friendship means that people have formed a positive relationship with each other. Jesus told His disciples that they were His friends, because all the things He had heard from His Father He had made known to them (John 15:15). In 1 Thessalonians, Paul has been praying for the Thessalonians, and he had many positive memories of them. He first complements the Thessalonians on their faith and their joy in the Holy Spirit. Then he complements their faith and testimony, which has spread everywhere. Now, Paul turns to their conversion.
Paul commends the Thessalonians because they turned from idols to serving the living and true God. Let me break this sentence into several parts.
First, Paul talks about the complete turn the Thessalonians have made in their lives. In order to form tight friendships and strong bonds in Christ with other believers, you must first have a strong relationship with God. Until you are willing to turn your life to God, you will only have superficial relationships with people. I have seen many wealthy fathers lose all contact with children they love because those kids want nothing to do with their parents. Not one of the children had faith in Christ, and neither did their parents. I often remind fathers of Deuteronomy 6:7. Fathers must teach their sons diligently and talk with them when you sit and when you lie down and when you rise up. The point is constant instruction to fear God and love God with all your heart. In that context of loving God, people form strong bonds of divine love that keep them together for a lifetime. Those relationships start with turning your life to God.
Second, Paul mentions that the Thessalonians turned away from idols. Popular idols today include the love of money, the love of power, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. All the things you put in front of God constitute an idol in your life. For many people, their work defines their existence. If they have done well at work, they have a good day. If they lose their job, then they lose their entire identity. We should all be very careful about idols in our lives. We should be especially careful to turn away from our idols and leave them behind. In order to have a strong relationship God, you must first forsake your idols. Turn away from them and you will find your relationship with your spouse, your children, and your spiritual friends to be much stronger. Turn off your television and spend more time with brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend less overtime at work, and more time with the people around you who need to form a strong bond with you that will encourage both of you to walk with Jesus Christ.
Third, Paul talked about service. When you leave your idols behind, then you spend more time with Jesus. You will want to serve Christ with your life. Serving Christ means you no longer serve idols or demons, but rather look to live in the love of Jesus.
Fourth, notice that Paul describes God as living and true. The God we serve lives within us, and remains forever true. Jesus described Himself as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). In order to have strong relationships in Christ, then we must serve the living and true God. He must be the central feature of our lives, and His love must control us. We will be the kind of people who have our friends’ best interest at heart.
Finally, we see that the Thessalonians received the Gospel and formed a strong friendship with Paul and the other believers who share Christ with them. Each of us needs to develop the qualities in this passage so that we can be better friends with the people around us.
Application for Today
Today, I will be turning away from idols, and turning to serve the living and true God. I want to encourage every believer I see today to do the same thing. Will you turn and serve the living and true God today and encourage your friends to do likewise?