June 1, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (NRSV)
For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
The gospel of Jesus Christ comes to us in words. But not only in words. It also comes through the powerful works of God and the gospel-shaped lives of Christians. You may want to ask yourself today: Am I living the gospel I believe? Is the good news of Jesus evident in the way I treat others? In my words and deeds? Whether I’m at home, at work, or on the soccer field?
Today’s devotion is part of the series Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
The gospel of Jesus Christ comes to us in words. Whether we’re hearing a preacher, watching a video online, listening to a friend, scanning a pamphlet, or reading the Bible, the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is communicated in words. In the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, he summarizes the gospel in words that formed the core of the earliest Christian message. He writes, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
But in their letter to the Thessalonians, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy point out that the gospel does not come only in words: “For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5). When the gospel was preached in Thessalonica, God demonstrated its truth through works of power. We don’t know exactly what these were, but we can imagine that the preaching of the good news was accompanied by miracles as we see throughout the Acts of the Apostles. We do know for sure, however, that one of the main demonstrations of power to which Paul and his colleagues refer had to do with the response of the Thessalonians to the gospel. Even though it was so foreign to their pagan experience, and even though their conversion got them in trouble with their neighbors, many in Thessalonica chose to believe the good news about Jesus. They didn’t just believe in a small way, either. They accepted the good news with “full conviction” (1:5).
Paul and Co. point to another way in which the gospel came among the Thessalonians in more than just words. In addition to signs and wonders, the good news of Jesus was demonstrated by the lives of those who delivered this news. As the letter writers say, “[Y]ou know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Paul and his colleagues believe that they lived in such a way that the gospel of God’s love and grace in Christ was seen and experienced by the Thessalonians. Now that might seem like rather a boastful claim. It would be unusual, for example, for a pastor to stand up in front of their congregation and say, “If you want to see proof of the gospel, look at me.” But, in a way, those of us who follow Jesus should be able to say something like this, even if humility keeps us from doing it. People around us who do not know Christ should be able to look at us and see evidence of Christ’s presence in our lives. This isn’t true just for apostles and pastors. All of us who have put our faith in Christ should live as examples of the gospel.
Now, I’ll admit this is a tall order. Though God is in the process of making us more like Christ, what theologians call sanctification, that process is far from over. All of us are still weighed down in life with the implications of our sin. But the witness of our lives needn’t be perfect to be a reflection of the gospel.
In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we learn that this encouragement to live the gospel isn’t just for individual Christians. Rather, the church, as the body of Christ, is to live in such a way that the whole universe can see the reality of the gospel (Ephesians 3:10). If we exemplify in our corporate life the grace and reconciliation that comes through the cross, then all who observe us, including cosmic powers, will catch a glimpse of the wisdom of the gospel.
Living the gospel isn’t something we do only in private or religious settings. Yes, we should certainly live the gospel among our family, friends, and fellow believers at church. But we need also to live it in public, in our workplaces and shopping malls, in our neighborhoods and civic groups, in our exercise of citizenship, and in our communication on social media. Living the gospel in public, I would suggest, is something for which we surely need God’s help and power because the pull of our culture is strong. Only the stronger pull of the Holy Spirit will enable us to be people who are signposts for the gospel “out there” where people need to see it.
So, borrowing language from Paul and his coworkers, I’d close with this thought. May the gospel be for you more than just words. May it be joined by God‘s power in your life. And may that power help you to live each day in such a way that the world sees the good news of Christ in you.
When you think of living the gospel, does a person from your life come to mind? Have you known somebody whose way of being in the world points to the reality and power of the gospel?
When you think about your own life, are there ways that the good news of God’s grace in Christ has been transforming you? Can you honestly say that there are ways you are more like Christ today than you were a year ago? Or 10 years ago?
As you think about your life context, how might you be a demonstration of the gospel in the way you act and speak?
Talk with the Lord about your answer to that last question. See if you can identify some specific behavior that you can do in the next few days as a reflection of the gospel. It’s not necessary that you talk about the gospel. That depends on your context. But see if you can do something intentionally that reflects God’s grace in Christ.
Gracious God, first of all we thank you for the gospel and its truth. We thank you for your love and grace. We thank you for how you have communicated that love and grace to us through Jesus Christ. We thank you for the good news that we belong to you, not because of our own works, but because of your grace given to us in Christ. Thank you.
Today, I ask for your help, Lord. Help me not only to believe the gospel but also to live it. Show me what this means in every part of my life. May the way I treat others at work be a reflection of your grace. May the way I am at home imitate Christ. Help me, I pray, to be a faithful reflection to the world of who you are and what you have done for us in Christ. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Be Imitators of Me?
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.