1 Thessalonians 1:9 “They report how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
I recently was at a conference in a popular city. I went with a colleague who was not coming from the same place spiritually as I am, so her goals were different for the trip. She was after the night life, the bands, drinking and dancing. Not my scene. I went to the downtown with her one night, perhaps not thinking it through well enough. There was a ten block strip of bars, filled with thousands of people lining the strip in nearly 100 degree heat.
I was not prepared for the overload of my senses. It included burned out people sitting in bar windows smoking pot, young women scantily clothed tipping back shots using only their mouths (on top of the bar counter), loud bands inviting people in from every direction, and many other sights and sounds that accompany people chasing after the lusts of the flesh. Some looked happy, but others looked used up and strung out.
I’m happy to be home. Studying in the book of 1 Thessalonians, I was hit with the same picture. Here are people worshiping their idols openly. I don’t know exactly what idol worship looked like in Greece in 50 A.D., but it could have included wild drinking and dancing, chasing after money and the lusts of the flesh–just like now.
This guy Paul arrives and says “there’s a new God in town.” Boom. He went to the synagogues first, as was his habit, reasoning with them from the Scriptures and proclaiming Jesus. Not only did some of the Jews believe, but a great many devout Greeks and “not a few” leading women. Jesus caught on fast, and in the middle of persecution, a church was born.
What encourages me as I think of the church at Thessalonica is that God is still in the business of getting a hold of people who look far from Him and those who quietly worship other idols. He changes hearts and lives and takes the used up and strung out, sexually immoral, hedonistic, money loving and self seeking people to a life of serving the living God.
It has caused me to look at people differently and with a new hope. It makes me yearn for the same appearing of Jesus in my town and in the lives of people around me.
Jesus still changes lives and still turns people from idols to a relationship with the true and living God!