Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A Thessalonian Reputation
In the Bible we see this point vividly in the story of the conversion of Saul in Acts 9. After Jesus appears to Saul, blinds him and sends him to find Ananias the Lord then speaks to Ananias. He tells him that he is to go to the house of Judas on a street called Straight where he will find Saul praying. Listen to Ananias' response;
"Lord, I have heard from many about his man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name " (Acts 9:13-14).
Saul had a bad reputation among the believers because he had been persecuting them heavily and they had no reason to believe anything was going to change. We see later on in the chapter that after Saul began preaching people were still in a state of shock. To use the old adage, his reputation had preceded him and it wasn't good. We do know from reading the rest of the New Testament that Saul's reputation came around and many churches were planted and watered through his ministry. One of the those churches was the church in Thessolonica to whom he wrote at least two letters. This church had such a powerful reputation that it spread on its own.
For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1 Thess. 1:8-9).
What Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are saying here is that they got to other places and would start to tell about what God was doing in Thessonica and the people would say, "Oh yeah, we heard all about the great things going on there." Their reputation preceded them. In verse 7 Paul tells them that they became an example to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Why? How? The answer lies in verse 5;
for our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;
Just like Christ stepped in and made a radical difference in the life of Saul, so He did in the life of the church in Thessonica. God got a hold of them and released His power through the Holy Spirit into them and word of what He had done there spread like wildfire throughout the surrounding regions. This is no small feat considering that Achaia is far south and east of Thessonica beyond Athens. This became the ultimate example of "lifestyle evangelism." I mean Paul plainly says, "Hey, we didn't even have to say anything, they already knew what God was doing."
I think the challenge for us today is to have a Thessalonian reputation. There are so many ways...easy ways for us to ruin our reputation with the world. It takes a split second, depending on your internet connection of course, to train-wreck your life on something like Facebook or YouTube. As soon as you click "submit" or "upload" or "post" its out there and many times there is no taking it back. The thing is, when we call ourselves Christians we are not only hurting our own reputation when our sultry video goes viral, we are bringing shame on Christ and our brothers and sisters. Our goal in this life should not be to have as many Facebook friends as possible or a million followers on Twitter. Our goal should always be to honor God, glorify His name and spread His fame. This is what we see happening in the Thessalonian church; the Word came to them, they received it and then they spread it.
What are we spreading today? Is our reputation one that honors God, or are we known for a bad one? Remember this though, your reputation is not the end goal. Mine and your reputation is only important as it relates to how people see Christ. It isn't important what people think of Christian Herring. What is important is what people think about Jesus because of Christian Herring. Do you see the subtle difference there? If not, let me put it plainly, IT IS NOT ABOUT US! It is about King Jesus. The Thessalonians knew this...do we?