Embracing God’s Word

"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." - 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Do you know what makes your missionaries really joyful in the field? It's not the monthly or quarterly financial support that you send them, though that is very important. It's not the regular letter or email of encouragement that you write them, though that is also very helpful. No. What brings real gladness to every missionary, and even to every minister, is when they see the people they are serving believe and embrace the Word of God.

Tremendous joy can overwhelm every pastor's and missionary's heart when they witness the Word of God working effectively in the lives of the people they minister. It's that kind of delight parents feel when they see their children promptly and wholeheartedly obey their word. Acceptance of God's Word manifested in the faithful and obedient lifestyle of every church member would bring pleasure in every pastor's and missionary's heart.

We turn to our text to meditate on how the Apostle Paul expresses thanks for the effective work of God’s Word. We see in this verse Paul's thanksgiving for the work of God's Word in effecting change in the life of God's people.The first thing we can notice here is the content of his thanksgiving. What is that thing or occasion that made Paul offer thanks to God?

The Thessalonians received the Word of God, which Paul and his co-workers preached to them. They heard it from Paul in the synagogue, where he reasoned with them from Scriptures (Acts 17:2). For three Sabbaths, Paul patiently explained and proved to them from the Old Testament that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.

This Christ that Paul was telling them was no other than our Lord Jesus, the One whom the Jews rejected and put to death. He came from heaven to do His Father’s will. His mission was to save God's people from their sin. He who is God took the form of a servant and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

He did this to fulfill all the righteousness that the law of God requires so that anyone who believes in Him will receive the righteousness that He achieved in His perfect obedience. Do you believe that Christ lived obediently to earn righteousness for you and me? Are you convinced that His death paid for the penalty of your sins?

The Thessalonians were confronted with similar questions when they first heard Paul. And they believed. They acknowledged that they were sinners in need of God's pardon. They believed that Jesus has suffered and died on their behalf so that in His suffering and death they might be spared from the coming wrath of God. They were so convicted by Paul's preaching that they turned from their idols to serve the living and true God (1:9). They were so convinced that Christ's death and resurrection brought life and hope for them who were dead in sin and enslaved by despair.

This is the Christ whom Paul proclaimed to them from the Scriptures. Is this the same Christ that you believe in? Is the Jesus that Paul proclaimed to the Thessalonians the same Jesus that you confess as your Lord and Savior?

Every time Paul remembers how the Thessalonians accepted and treasured every gospel truth he shared to them, he can't help thanking God for such a response. Of course, we are aware that Paul's evangelistic sermons were done by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who opened the hearts of the Thessalonians, both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, to believe and appropriate the Word of God. And that's the occasion for Paul to say, “For this reason we also constantly thank God...” (v.13). God, through His Word and Spirit is at work in them.

Through Paul's bold gospel proclamation and by the power of the Holy Spirit, coupled by their exemplary lives, the Thessalonians eagerly embraced the Word of God. They were persuaded by it (Acts 17:4), believed its truth claims, appropriated its wonderful promises, and recognized what it really is, the “word that comes from the mouth of God” and not mere words of men. That Word, I tell you, has changed them and their lifestyle.

This is very important to us as 21st century believers. The Word of God in this passage in one sense can mean the whole Bible in its written form handed down to us. It can also mean the body of doctrines that summarizes the whole Biblical teachings on God, Christ, sin, salvation, second coming and other important truths of the Christian faith which we received from our forefathers in the faith. The faithful preaching of God's Word every Lord's Day can also be denominated as the Word of God as the Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 1, declares, “Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful.”

We who are deeply convinced of the power of God's Word ought to be involved in getting that Word out to the world, one way or another. We are not just talking about sending missionaries overseas, though that's part of it.

We are talking about that sense of burden and faithfulness to witness both in word and in deed to our neighbors and friends. These neighbors may have been struggling for years in life and they do not have the same hope and comfort that you have in Christ. They may have never heard about the power of God’s kingdom and the rule of King Jesus. If you go out as a friend and share the good news of Christ, both in your word and action, they might be able to taste God’s goodness, which you have been enjoying.

As one with Christ, we have the ability and resources to make that Word visible to our friends and neighbors. It may start by becoming really acquainted with them and showing genuine interest in asking and listening to them. Before you know it, God may have been working in the heart of that neighbor-friend and he might just hold on to every word of God you share to him. Another soul will enter God’s kingdom as that friend of yours accepts and believes the Word of God.

It is a sad situation to behold when churches that bear the name of Christ reject the Word of God and regard it as mere words of men. An equally distressing phenomenon is the disinterest of the Bible and its doctrines by many professing Christians. Instead of listening and learning from the Word of God, they lean their ears and set their minds on various ideologies and philosophies to satisfy their curiosity. Pulpits and airwaves in this county and all over the world have become venues for selling watered-down gospel and management techniques of how to grow a church.

Of course, you don't want that to happen to yourself and to your church, do you? But once you start neglecting the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word you are heading for that direction, too. Once you do not diligently guard what you hear from the pulpit and church classrooms, seeds of falsehood or different gospel, which is not a gospel at all, will creep in.
Disregard of God’s Word may also manifest in your failure to find regular time for Bible reading and meditation. It even shows in your lack of interest in going to a Bible study. It could also be seen in your casual and frivolous attitude toward sin.

The way to accept and embrace the Word of God the way the Thessalonians did is by, first of all, longing and thirsting for the pure preaching of God's Word every Lord's Day. Preaching of God’s Word is of primary importance for God’s people. As you let that preached Word saturate your mind you will be constrained by the Holy Spirit to act in obedience to that Word. As you patiently read and study that Word and let it regulate your heart and mind, God will show how great your sins and miseries are.

Maybe He will lead you to confess and repent from certain sins that you've been committing over and over. That Word of God gives you the grace to abstain from doing something immoral and destructive, like hurting your spouse, slandering your brother, abusing your freedom in Christ or even blowing your top.

Parents, how many times have we committed foolish mistakes by flaring up in front of our children, which could have been prevented if we hide the Word of God in our heart? Or how many young boys and girls could have obeyed mom and dad promptly and nicely if they just let God's word that says, “Honor your father and your mother” or “Do all things without grumbling” dwell in their heart.

Acceptance of God's Word would be evident in our lives when we start memorizing and meditating that Word daily that it becomes part of our daily thought and conversation with others. As we let those verses ring in our mind that Word will come out in our praying, in our encouraging and even in correcting in love of our fellow believer.

By filling our minds with Scriptures, praying with Scriptures and singing the Scriptures, we will be faithful recipients of the Word of God. That Word will come out naturally in our behavior and lifestyle. How serious have you been taking the Word of God?

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