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.
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
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Pleasing God Instead of Men
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (pg. 824) August 9, 2015
Opposition can come in many forms…It can be an outright attack, violent and physical…and it can also come more subtly…through conversations that gather support from someone who disagrees with you or your purposes. Neither are fun! And both are hard to deal with…especially for the Christ follower who is trying to guard their witness, accomplish their mission, and “be at peace with all people as much as they are able.” (Romans 12:18)
But what happens when as a leader you can’t be at peace with everyone? What happens when you are firmly convinced that for the “good news” of Jesus to be presented effectively and for the health of the body of Christ you must deal with opposition?
Paul gives an answer in our text.
“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 our hearts.”
(1 Thess. 2:3-4)
How can you know if someone is approved by God and entrusted with the gospel? How can you be sure the leader who says follow me as I follow Jesus is worth following?
There is a test for all of us…and especially for those who would dare to lead.
I. GOD TESTS OUR HEARTS
[In 1994 I weighed 185 pounds…I’m 6 feet tall…I was playing ball several times a week. Had done 3 or 4 hundred miles hiking on the Appalachian Trail…walked when I played golf…for being 34 years old I appeared to be in pretty good shape…and I felt pretty good…but appearances can be deceiving huh?
Because on a sunny beautiful day, Friday my day off, I was playing golf at Bob-O-Link, just across the road from our house…I began to feel some pressure in my chest, and my left arm and neck started to go numb…I ignored it at first…after all I’m 34, in pretty good shape, and do a lot of physical stuff…But on the 4th hole I had a frightening realization…I’m having a heart attack…I called Kari…we went to St. Joe hospital where Dr. Joe Richardson did a stress test…which I failed…He kept me there for a heart catheterization in the morning, but before they could do it…at 4 am I had a myocardial infarction ( heart attack). They kept asking me about my pain level…from 1 to 10…Being burned was a 10 so I said 8 or so…They gave me morphine….Asked again…6 or 7…they gave me heparin an more morphine…How is it now 3 or 4…more heparin…more heparin…more morphine…How’s it now…“Uhhhh…what pain?” LOL
A heart catheterization done immediately revealed 100% blockage in one of my arteries which was treated with angioplasty surgery…a balloon inserted in my femoral artery and expanded to deal with the blockage.
Without this test the true condition of my heart would never have been revealed or fixed.]
The Apostle Paul says God has a test to reveal the true spiritual condition of our hearts…regardless of how they might appear by outside evaluations…
The test of our hearts, especially there in leadership involves internal probing as well…Does your heart’s message spring from error, impure motives, are you trying to trick people….and maybe the most revealing…“Are you trying to please God…or people?”
How can we know the motives of somene’s heart? God will test it…He’ll put our hearts under the microscope of a spiritual catheterization and reveal what flows from it…or sin that blocks it…He’ll reveal over time whether your message promotes His agenda or yours…whether your mission is to please others or please Him.
The first blockage His test reveals to effective leadership is…
1. We tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear…Why? Verse 6 tells us “We’re looking for praise from people.” Flattery is different than encouragement. Encouragement recognizes and lifts up the value of someone else…it’s positive and never uses comparisons with someone else or the negatives of another to make someone feel better…it’s something we are encouraged to do. “All the more daily as we see the Lord’s return approaching.” (Heb. 3:13, 10:25)
Flattery has another goal that’s much more selfish…you tell something to someone that you believe will make them like you…Your motive is to “butter them up” so you can get them on your side…or they’ll give you what you want.
When you lead people the temptation always exists to let their opinions be your guide instead of God’s Word. Opinions are where error and impure motives can be cultivated like germs in a Petri dish. God’s Word, scripture on the other hand…is God breathed…profitable…His commandments are sure…It’s rock solid in its truth.
Flatter will make you treat people with money and power differently than you would treat others.
You make non-kingdom judgments about who you’ll love and who you won’t. Your nice to certain people, but let a straggler…someone whose life is in rags, come in and “the blockage of your heart is clearly revealed.” James puts it this way in a very powerful Church story.
JAMES 2:1-4 (p. 847)
Discriminators…Judges with evil thoughts…evil motives…a specific revealer of our heart’s condition.
And the 2nd blockage God will reveal through His testing:
2. Those who hide behind a mask.
Why do you wear a mask? To cover up your true identity…just ask Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, or a bank robber. You don’t want people to see who you really are.
Paul tells the Thessalonians “We never put on a mask to cover up greed. (selfish motives) God is our witness.” (He always is!) (v. 5)
The Word Hypocrite literally means “one who wears a mask…it comes from theatrical presentations from ancient Greece where actors would wear huge laughing masks during comedic performances and huge crying marks during tragedies.
SHOW MASK PIC
You still see them as symbols in many theaters to this day…The actor that wore the mask during the performance was called “hypocrotis” (Hypocrite).
Why is it so tempting for all of us to wear a mask? Well some of it has to do with those with spiritual heart blockages and evil motives. We’ve experienced the harshness and judgment and we think the mask protects us from their venom. If I take my mask off people will see my struggles, my failures, my sin…And if my motive is to please people instead of God I wear this mask so they’ll like me.
Paul knew as a minister and leader…The fishpond is a difficult place to swim, because people stand on the outside looking in. My belief…and I think Paul’s…is “we’re all fish swimming together in the bowl…and God is the only one who looks in. “There is nothing in all creation hidden from His sight, everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)
If you want to judge me or my family, that’s your prerogative. I’ll try to let you see my heart wide open, but even more clearly my Savior who died for my unrighteousness…and I’ll clearly tell you I need His grace just as badly today as a 55 year old minister as I did as a 17 year old pothead.
What do we as leaders, who live in the same fishbowl as everyone else, do when we encounter opposition from people, like Paul did in Thessalonica?
II. PROTECT AND GUIDE THE CHURCH LIKE THE FAMILY OF GOD
When I watch Jessica with “Caleb,” or Lori with “Landon,” or even Laura with “Evie” or Desiree with “Adeline” I get a glimpse of something more powerful than I can imagine… “a mother caring for her children.” (v. 8)
Leaders don’t protect their territory or their investment. They protect and care for God’s family like a mother does her child.
Paul says “we weren’t looking for people’s praises, yours or anyone else’s…even though as an Apostle of Christ I could have asserted that authority…I didn’t. We were like young children among you.”
And in verse 11 he says “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live a life worthy of God.”
Mother, children…fathers…sounds like a leader who wants to protect and guide the church like a family huh?
“We loved you so much we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” (v. 8)
Paul, Silas and Timothy made this happen in 3 weeks…They shared their lives, they worked in other jobs to earn money so they didn’t have to take a paycheck…They showed integrity, honesty and love…All of this said, “We’re family!”
I’m going to end this message with the protecting aspect of Dad’s for their families. It’s one of the things that fathers take most seriously…as they should. It’s why we clean guns as boys show up to date our daughters. It’s why we’re the ones that get up in the middle of the night when our wives wake us up and ask “Did you hear that?!”
As the end of Paul’s live, as he was about to sail back to Jerusalem and face the anger of the Sanhedrin and eventually his death. The last groups he spoke to were the Elders…the leaders of Thessalonica and Ephesus. Listen to one of the most powerful goodbyes that a family will ever experience:
ACTS 20:17-38 (p. 775)
This is my dad saying goodbye to Sam, Barby, me and our children on that couch in March of 2004…Time is short…words are important…love is powerfully evident.
And in the midst of this Paul is still trying to protect his family…Guard the flock…protect God’s family. “Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock…Even from your own number people will arise and distort the truth in order to gain a following.” (Acts 20:30)
How fervently does he express this truth? “Remember that for 3 years I never stopped warning you about this with tears.” (v. 31)
“Among you” and “your own” is different than the attacks that come from the jealous Jewish leadership or outside factions…It’s scarier and harder when the wolf has on a sheep’s disguise.
Paul’s not talking about minor disagreements…He’s warning these leaders with a broken heart about people who devour and attack other sheep. Sheep now under their care that ultimately belong to God.
[Suppose you had thirty 4 & 5 year olds on a playground…You and 2 or 3 other adults were supervising them…and all of a sudden a pit bull ran into their midst. He’s growling and trying to attack…Would you run away? Would you ignore the dog? Or would you do whatever it takes to protect them from being attacked and hurt…even at your own expense? This is the picture the Apostle Paul shares…This is what Paul says leaders must have a heart for…protect your family…guide them to safety.]
This is hard work…sometimes dangerous work. That’s why it must be something a person desires to do…and is gifted by God to do. We’ll examine this section of scripture in more depth towards the end of the series…but I’ll close with Paul’s final instructions in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-15 (p. 826)
Love your leaders. Love each other. Live like Jesus. Do what’s right, even when it’s hard.