The Profile of Example
Text: 1 Thessalonians 2
Proposition: Your profile as a Christian is that it would resemble Christ and be used of God to be your glory in the salvation of others.
Introduction: Last week we looked at the power of example as we either follow an example or become the example for others to follow. Paul was trying to impress upon the young church in Thessalonica that they were becoming more and more effective in setting an example because they were people in Christ, directed by the Holy Spirit and empowered by God the Father. The power of example is all around us, it influences and shapes and directs others in their decisions and even in their faith. So Paul continues in his letter to this very young and still quite small church with a peculiar chapter. He outlines what his own example along with that of Timothy and Silas, had looked like to the Thessalonians. So as we read this portion of his letter this morning we have to ask ourselves why is he doing this? Is it because of the criticism that was building up by the Jews against this growing church? Was it just that he wanted them to have confidence in their leadership and not second guess themselves? Perhaps there is another reason that would not only shape the Thessalonians but had already shaped Paul, Timothy and Silas and you and I for that matter. Your profile, how the world and those that you seek to guide see you, ought to resemble the profile of Christ because it is one of the key things that God will use for your glory when you meet God. So this chapter is all about the profile of example, have a look at it in 1 Thessalonians 2.
I. The Profile of an Example Requires a God Conscious Integrity.
All I mean by that is that God is your primary audience, He’s the One whom you are most accountable to and He’s the One who sees your motives and actions for what they are. Paul begins by reminding the church that what they have seen and participated in has not been in vain, it hasn’t been a failure or without results. There’s an evidence that testifies that God has been the author behind their example. One of the evident acid tests to that is that they didn’t quit, “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.” Spitefully treated is a reference to being stripped of your clothing in the public square and then being whipped and stuck in wooden stocks in prison. The word ‘spiteful’ seems a little bit of an understatement. So what drove Paul and his companions forward, why did they risk such rejection and humiliation again? The answer Paul gives is that they were conscious of God being the One to make them bold, God being the One who assigned them to speak out this gospel of Christ and the cross and forgiveness and redemption. In fact the very motivation for what they did, they very backbone of their integrity was a God conscious motive that moved forward despite public opinion. Paul states in verse 3, “For our exhortation did not comefrom error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” Barclay in his commentary considers what people might have accused Paul of: ‘Paul has a police record and is therefore untrustworthy; Paul is delusional; Paul deliberately deceives others; Paul preaches to please others, not God; Paul is in the ministry as a mercenary, to get what he can out of it materially; Paul only wants personal glory; Paul is something of a dictator.’ His motive that was the backbone to his integrity as well as Timothy’s and Silas was second guessed so he states it clearly in verse 4, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” When I read that I’m thinking that there was this constant God consciousness that always rides within them, it goes higher than the poll of public opinion. Approved by God, entrusted by God with the gospel, tested by God in how they manage it, this is part of the profile of an example, a God consciousness that in some small measure must resemble the very God consciousness that Christ had as He led the 12, as He confronted the demonic, as He challenged the Pharisees, as He profiled the person of the Father. When you read verses 5 and 6 they describe Christ more than they describe Paul as One who speaks the truth in love constantly aware that God is the witness to their actions and motives.
II. The Profile of an Example Requires the Heart of a Parent for the Disciple.
In verse 7 Paul describes their affection for the people like that of a nursing mother who gives comfort for the care of the new born. In verse 11 Paul describes the way ‘we’, the team that was the example, was like a father who exhorts, comforts and yet commands his children. So again you ask yourself, ‘Is this what Jesus modeled to the disciples, is this how He treated them, was this His heart for them?’ Just listen to the way Paul fleshes this out in verse 8, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” That profile is of one who loves his people.
It was during the last supper that Jesus gave this instruction, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” What does that love look like? Paul profiles it in verses 9, 10, “ our labor and toil…that we might not be a burden to any of you… how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you.” Do these words describe Jesus? Do they therefore also describe our profile as an example? Is it easy, is it without mistakes on our part, it is sometimes misunderstood… definitely but this is the profile of Christ that we need to have and it’s like the heart of parent for those God gives you be the example for.
III. The Profile of an Example Sees Kingdom and Glory As Destination.
I realize that this sounds like spiritual fanaticism, language that is typical of someone more like Paul than you or I. I mean look what he says in verse 12, “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” Is this just spiritual jargon, ecclesiastical spin, exaggeration meant to stir up hearts or is this a very real possibility for the average Joe and Joan to have as their destination, God’s own kingdom and glory? Certainly there will be a lot of push back if this is really the case. People will think you are different. In some cases you will become a threat and experience persecution as the Thessalonians did. Certainly Satan will try to discourage or discredit such an aspiration that becomes a destination, God’s own kingdom and glory. But the resistance isn’t the issue, the question is can this be a very real destination for the average Christian, even the very new Christian? That is after all who these Thessalonians were, new Christians whom Paul said were called to take step after step into this very destination.
Do you remember that time when the disciples asked Jesus to teach to them how pray, how to speak to God, what they should seek from God? Jesus teaches them to pray by stating the obvious, “Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name…”. God’s name describes who He is, it represents His character… so Holy is what the name of God is characterized by. That absolute holy presence is what we would include in the term ‘glory’. Then Jesus says they should say, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”. The kingdom of God, the very possible destination for every Christian, presently exists in heaven and is now evident here on earth in the person of the Holy Spirit indwelling people making them God’s territory, the Temple of God. The kingdom of God has the chief characteristic of being the place where His holy glory filled will is done. It’s that way absolutely in heaven, it’s that way in people’s hearts on earth now and one day it will be absolutely on earth as it is in heaven. That’s our destination, it’s why Paul says what he does in verse 19, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” You see when kingdom is your destination it’s not what people look like here that either motivates or discourages you, it’s what they look like in the presence of Christ as He absolutely establishes God’s own kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Then comes this exclamation point of phrase, “ For you are our glory and joy.” Have you ever imagined in your wildest dreams that someone would ever say that about you? That you were their glory and joy? It’s more than a compliment, it’s truth! Your destination is God’s own kingdom and glory, those who are there with you reflect the very working of the Word of God and the Spirit of God and the Son of God, they whom you have reached are your glory and joy. The profile of an example requires a God consciousness, the heart of a parent for those whom you lead and a destination that is God’s own kingdom and glory.