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“For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13
As we read the first couple of chapters in 1 Thessalonians we see the heart of Paul laid bare for the believers there. He was constantly thanking God for the power of the Word of God in their lives that had transformed those who believed. They believed, because they recognized Paul wasn’t preaching the word of man, but truly the Word of God. The reason Paul had such authority as he taught the Word is he had experienced it first hand in his own life. His passion came from his own transformation. Here is Paul describing what he used to be like in Philippians 3:4b-6:
“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh I far more: circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
Obviously Paul was a very religious, self righteous man, living zealously to please other men who were religious leaders of his time. He was very sincere, but sincerely wrong. He helped crucify the promised Messiah, the Son of God! He was persecuting and murdering the true followers of Christ. No wonder the transformed Paul declares to us in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6:
“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything, as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
I am so thankful God sees the heart. Paul truly believed he was serving the God of Israel as He persecuted the true church of Jesus Christ. Paul was not a lukewarm kind of person. He was all the way in. Tragically, he was going in the wrong direction. Everything he had been formally trained in from the Law produced legalism and self righteousness missing the mark. We have no righteousness of our own. The Bible tells us so in Isaiah 64:6:
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Jesus told us in John 4:23-24:
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
No one knew better than Paul the letter alone kills; it is the Spirit that gives life. You cannot academically study the Word without the help of the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. You have to have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit allowing Him to reveal the hidden mysteries of God’s Word that has the power to transform our lives as Paul’s life was. I know from personal experience only the pure Word of God bathed in the Presence of the Holy Spirit has the power to change me. This is true for all of us. There are no exceptions. Paul confirms this in the first and second chapters in Galatians. Please read it slowly. He states in Galatians 1:10-12:
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel that was preached by me is not according to man. For I never received it from man or was taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps you, like Paul, are a religious zealot, and do not have a relationship with the One true God and His Word. You can’t really have an intimate relationship without allowing Him to reveal Himself to you through His Word. When you allow anyone else to define God to you rather than Himself, it is like a husband allowing His wife’s best friend to reveal who she is to him, rather than spending time with her, and allowing her to express her love to him. That is a ridiculous idea, and yet it is exactly what we do to God who desires each one of His children intimately. His purpose in sending Jesus was to rip the veil in the temple into that separated us from His Presence. Only the priests were allowed in behind the veil of the Holy of Holies, and it was once a year on Yom Kippur to offer the blood of sacrifice and incense. God the Father asked His Son to be the blood sacrifice, so each one of His children could come into His Presence by faith being washed in Jesus blood. He gave us His Word and His Spirit to come and dwell inside of us after the resurrection of Jesus, and seating Him on His throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is no greater power. He is above all else. He conquered death. In Revelation 1:18 He tells us, “I have the keys of death and hades.”
May I challenge you today to seek the truth of God’s Word with all your heart. I want to close with Jesus’ words to Jews who had believed in John 8:31-32:
“If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
My prayer for you dear reader, is for you to become one who finds the truth in His Word and becomes a believer, so His Word may perform its work in your life as it did in Paul’s and millions of others including myself.
In His love.
Treasures from home this week: A beautiful evening sky, and a spring now flowing in my back yard, and a bowl full of wild Japanese Olive berries I made a delicious cobbler with. I am blessed!