PLEASING GOD INSTEAD OF MEN
1 THESS 2: 1-12
2 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 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 our hearts.5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 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. 7 Instead, we were like young children[a] among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
I honestly believe that we should not lower the expectations for following Christ because it’s costly…but we should expect…and encourage genuine followers of Christ to grow…reach new levels of maturity…
And those of us who are in leadership have the scary proposition of saying, “Follow me…Imitate Me as I follow Jesus” As I reach for those new levels.
The reason that’s so difficult for us in leadership is we feel like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 many times…”I do not understand what I do…for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate…I do” (v 15).
Maybe that’s why the two characteristics of humility and teach ability are so essential for those who would dare say.
“We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.”
How can the Apostle Paul make both those claims…first, “I struggle myself in this body I live in” and second “I am a man approved by God and entrusted with the gospel?”
There is a test…and it’s a spiritual heart cath…and God is the Cardiologist…
GOD REVEALS THE TRUE CONDITION OF OUR HEARTS
[Most of you know I had a heart attack when I was 34….they did angioplasty surgery….they used a balloon to open the blockage…then last year I blew out my knee…Again, went in for surgery on my knee, but before they would do the surgery I had a stress test on my heart…they injected me with Nuclear stuff..I was on the treadmill, got my heart rate up to 170 and thought I did O.K….Nope, they scheduled me for a cath…another time where they put a camera through the veins in your groin and snake it up to your heart…during this the doctor found the 3 major arteries were almost severed they were so blocked, the result…no knee surgery but 3 stints…they could not have made this decision to save my life without this test]
The apostle Paul says God has a test…especially for those who would be your leader. Paul’s opponents had accused him of several things…first
1) Having a criminal record…He’s been in jail…you can’t trust a crook!!! Paul says, you know that our visit with you was not a failure…we had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition (v12)
What happened in Philippi? Well Lydia, a business woman there accepted Christ and she and her entire household were baptized. And Paul stayed at her house with Silas and Timothy…
But real trouble erupted in Philippi when a slave girl, who was possessed by a spirit that enabled her to predict the future and make a ton of money for her master was released from this spirit through Paul’s ministry. And because her master knew that Paul had ended their money train they brought him up on charges…threw the crowd into a frenzy and had Paul and Silas severely beaten and thrown in jail…listen to what happens that night…
Acts 16: 23 – 34
23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Even Paul’s criminal record results in salvation for others…that is his motive…he answers the charges with this truth…
He’s accused of being greedy of having impure motives, and of trying to trick the Thessalonians to follow his message.
Read 1 Thess. 2: 3-6 (SEE ABOVE)
How can we know the motives of a leader’s heart…God will test it…He’ll put that heart under the microscope of a spiritual catheterization…God will reveal what springs from that heart according to the Apostle Paul.
Is the purpose of that heart to share the gospel no matter what, to help those who accept the message to grow, even under opposition or…
Is it to promote yourself and your agenda?
1) Do you tell people what they want to hear…or what they need to hear…”Flattery is the first test, for a godly leader’s heart…when you lead people the temptations always exists…to let their opinion become the guide instead of God’s word…If you do that you’ll treat the people with money and power different than you do others..
And the second test…
2) Do you hide behind a mask…to cover up greed, to cover up your real life, your real motives…?
[The word hypocrite… (and the world loves to label the church as a place full of them) comes from the Greek word” (Hypokrisis) it means “play acting”….”wearing a mask” …In the Greek theater when someone would perform a tragedy they would wear a giant crying mask…and when laughter was called for…a great laughing mask…you still see them and symbols for the theater in places…the actor, the hypocrite) was the man behind the mask)]
Why is that so tempting for all of us…but especially for those in leadership? Because if I take off the mask you’ll see my struggles, my failures, my sin….
And if my nature is to please you instead of the God who sees everything and “there is nothing in all creation hidden from His sight, but everything is naked and laid bare” (Heb 4:13)
I’ll create distance…I’ll make an occasional select appearance, but I’m going to wear a mask so you don’t see my pimples and flaws.
The question for this heart exam is “who are you trying to please…God? Or People?
The fish bowl is a difficult place to swim, because people stand on the outside and look in… My contention is…we’re all fish swimming together…and God is the only one who looks in.
If you want to judge me or my family that’s fine…I’ll let you see my heart…wide open and under the Great Cardiologists hands.
..but it’s funny that people who judge so severely usually wear a mask so that you can’t judge them…
My son would never do that? Really—my daughter would never do that? Yeah…and when they do, and when your family struggles because you’ve judged…you get to hide behind a mask and pretend it didn’t happen…that’s a horrible place to be…listen to the Apostle Paul’s transparency…He says, “As Apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, (An apostle…A witness of the resurrected Lord, and sent with His authority.
1 Thess. 2: 7-12 (SEE ABOVE)
Man I love that scripture…it makes my heart glad…filled with joy…Because it lets me see what a real minister looks like, what real leadership in the church resembles…it’s a reminder….
THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY NOT A BUSINESS.
How does the Apostle Paul shepherd and lead…
1) Gently like a mother caring for her little children…
[When I watch Cyndi with Kanaan or Lori with Landon…there is a tenderness and joy beyond description…
Whether its discipline or playing ball…love is the overriding characteristic…this is my child…my son…my daughter…I’ve got to lead them in the right way.
2) Sharing not only the gospel, but sharing life
“We love you so much that we were delighted to share with you, not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you had become so dear to us”
Does anyone remember how long Paul had to make this happen for him, Silas and Timothy?
That’s right 3 weeks.
But during those three weeks they shared life…they worked alongside the Thessalonians…they showed integrity and honesty and love in the fishbowl…Paul says….We’re family, “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children..
Encouraging you….comforting you…and encouraging you to keep growing up.
I was blessed to have a Dad that did that for me….He cheered me on from the stands…and comforted me when I got hurt or my heart was broken, and he wanted me to do better, so he urged me on, helped pay for my college…sacrificed his wants so he could help me be better…His job was to help me grow up.
Spiritually speaking the Apostle Paul regards himself as the Thessalonians Dad…
The opposition Paul speaks about treated people like possession and thought of the bottom line before he cared about the broken heart. Remember the slave girl I mentioned to you earlier.
She was possessed by a Spirit that led her to places she didn’t want to go…and used her in ways she didn’t want to be used…Her Master didn’t give a “Hoot” about the girl…but they loved the money her fortune talking brought in…listen
Acts 16: 16-22
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
This is the story that proceeded Paul, Silas and Timothy’s entrance into Thessalonians…A story his opposition and his enemies twisted but the truth would be revealed to the Thessalonians, not from the 3 times at the pulpit…but the 3 weeks lived among them.
This girl was still a slave to her owners…but she was set free from the evil that resided in her…”In the Name of Jesus Christ”
Those that abused Paul, insulted him…beat him severely did so because e they’d lost their money maker…Paul says,
“But with the help of God we dared to tell you his gospel, in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives nor on the contrary are we trying to trick you” (v2, 3)
In verse 10 he says “You are witnesses, and so is God of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believe…verse 11 says: We treated you like a Dad treats his children.”
[If you’re a Boss…even a good one that likes his employees…and treats them fairly…they’re still your employees…you might have some get together, but after the whistle blows at 5:00 you go home and so do they…and your accountable to your Board..your stockholders…so if one or even several have to go…even if you like them…they’ll go.
But it’s impossible for a Father to stop loving his child, or maybe even more impossible for the mother who gave him life…that cannot be severed if their child chooses horrible things, rejects them, rebels against their teachings…
Every Apostle, even Paul the least of the apostles in his own words…has one mission…”Go an make disciples…baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit teach them everything I’ve taught you…and Jesus said, “I’ll be with you to the end of the world.”
Making disciples is much more like giving birth to a child than adding an employee to the business. Ask Paul, Ask anyone who’s ever really done it…God always reveals the true condition of our heart…especially when we are part of His forever family!