By Bobby Blakey on November 5, 2023
1 Thessalonians 1:9
By Bobby Blakey on November 5, 2023
1 Thessalonians 1:9
idols. That's what we want to talk about today. If we are going to come here and worship God, then we need to turn from our idols.
Now I grew up going to church. My dad read me the Bible; I heard about idols. And I saw pictures of people bowing down on their knees to worship statues made out of things like silver, and gold and stone, and I thought people who worshiped idols were stupid. That's what I thought when I was growing up. Very proud kid, apparently going to church, thinking, why that thing is not even alive. Has eyes, but it can't see. It has ears but it can't hear. It's got a mouth, it doesn't even speak. Why would anybody go and worship idols? And I thought worshipping idols was things people did a long time ago in ancient cultures or in foreign lands. I wasn't worshiping any idols. That's what I thought, and I was wrong. And I want to show you that if we're going to be a church that gathers together and worships God, we must turn from our idols. And we're going to see the example in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1. So I invite everybody, open your Bible with me, and turn to 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10. We're going back to the original passage of scripture that we studied at the beginning of our church, because this is a new beginning for our church.
We're all here now from the first day in the new auditorium. And we want to start with this foundation. The example of the Thessalonian church in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10. Today, we're going to zero in specifically on verse 9. And out of respect for God's word, I invite everyone to stand for the public reading of Scripture, I invite you to give this your full and undivided attention because this is the Word of God. And this is held up as an exemplary church, in Thessalonica, that we should want to be like here in Huntington Beach. So please follow along, as I read 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
That's the reading of God's word, please go ahead and have your seat. And this idea that Paul is going around preaching the gospel, planting churches, and when he came to Thessalonica… Now I happen to have a map here, everybody, let me show you where it is. All right, first of all, can you see the map on the screen? Anybody? All right. Now, let me just show you that that's where Thessalonica is right there. So, we're at a time where the whole Mediterranean Sea is kind of the map of the Bible. We're at the later part of the book of Acts, Paul's going around on what we call his missionary journeys. Right? And he's preaching the gospel. And when he came to this town, and he gave them the Word of the Lord, the good news, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the prophesied one of God. And Jesus, he died on the cross to pay the penalty of your sin. And Jesus rose from the dead to give you a new life. And when he goes around, and he preaches in Thessalonica, it's like it echoed. It's like there was such a powerful response, the Gospel rang up.
And not only did these people believe in the gospel, but their lives were transformed by the gospel. In fact, they were sharing the gospel with other people. People were like, wow, Jesus really did something in Thessalonica. And so, Paul, he's continuing to go from city to city, but as he travels, people are saying to him, wow, what Jesus did in Thessalonica. That was amazing. That was awesome. And they're telling Paul, what happened. He was there. He saw it, but other people are coming and giving a report. Specifically, he writes 1 Thessalonians when he sends Timothy back to Thessalonica, because he got torn away from them, he had to flee out of town because the Jews in town were trying to kill him. So, he had to go on the run. So, he didn't get to like build them up and then say goodbye. He just had to go one day. And so, he sends Timothy back to find out how this church is doing. And when Timothy comes and gives him the report, these people, they've got a strong faith. These people are really spreading the word. Paul is so encouraged! That's when he writes 1 Thessalonians. And so, he's talking about the gospel ringing out, the building of this church. But look at verse 9, when he describes what people are saying to him. Look at verse 9, “They themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you.” So, he says, here's what other people are telling me that happened when I came to preach the gospel to you. And the people aren't just saying it was good, or it was awesome, or kind of these general things. People are saying to Paul, very specific reports. And here's one of the things that we want to focus in on here in verse nine, where it says how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God. So, what people are saying happened in Thessalonica is there was a radical change in these people's lives. That's what they're talking about: The U turn, the turnaround. You guys used to be idol worshipers, you were idolaters. You guys were living your lives this way. And when the gospel came, you turned from the way you were living, you turned to a whole new way, we call that repentance, we call that this radical change of mind, this 180-degree turnaround. That's what the Thessalonians were known for. It's like, not just that they believed, not just that in their hearts, they asked Jesus to come in. That's not what it says. That's what happens in Southern California churches in Southern California Christians. That's not what happens in the Bible. In the Bible, when you believe in Jesus, everybody can see there's been a change in your life. People are like, you're not the same person you used to be. There's a brand new you walking around. And that's the report about the Thessalonians, how they turned.
And whenever there's this turning of repentance, you always turn from something and you always turn to something. And so, we want to look at this phrase, how you “turn to” God. And we're going to see that turn. What is that from idols? We'll talk about that. And then where to serve the living and true God. So, we can throw 1 Thessalonians now up on the screen, and we can point out a word. Can you see that in the back row now? Okay, now, please keep bringing your bibles everybody. I know now we can all just read it on the screen together. Right? Please keep bringing your Bibles. But just in case, we don't always get can't always turn everywhere. But now we can just throw it up here. So what is this word to “turn”. Let's put it up here in the Greek language. It's this word at the “epistropho”. If you're taking notes, and there's a handout there, in your bulletin, I would encourage you, we're going to learn some things from the Bible here today. If you want to jot some things down. the Greek word here “epistrepho” is this word, “to turn.” And it is often associated with repentance. And this turn that is described in the Thessalonians was so visible that other people could see it. So today, you might have somebody say, well, I believe in Jesus. And it feels like when somebody says I believe in Jesus, that means no one can question me, no one can ask me about it. You may not see anything in my life. But how do you know what happens in my heart? I believe in Jesus. That's not the example we're seeing here. Everybody could see that they believed in Jesus, because of the turn that happened in their life.
So, let's get this down for point number one, if you are taking notes: “Your U-turn is visible.” Your U-turn is visible. When you turn from whatever you were living for, to the Lord, people will see the change in your life. And you may not be able to identify a specific moment in time or a specific place that you turned, but everybody here should be able to say, yeah, around that time in my life, the summer of that year, I learned something about who I was, I saw who Jesus was. And God granted me repentance. God turned my life around. And I'm no longer who I used to be. I am a new creation in Christ. Look at me. Now the old is gone. And there's a whole new direction, a whole new trajectory that I'm going on, because I have turned.
Turn with me to Acts chapter 26. If you've got your Bible, go to Acts 26. And let's study epistrepho. Look at this turnaround that Paul went around telling everybody to repent. Paul said that God commanded all people everywhere to repent, to change their mind, and to turn. What did he mean by that? We'll take a trip with me to Acts 26:18 and let's go to the beautiful spot of Caesarea, everybody. So, Caesarea is right here on the Mediterranean coast. This is footage that we took when we were there this summer. It is a beautiful place. Right there. That's the ruins of King Herod seaside palace. And under the palace, there was a prison where the apostle Paul was kept for over two years. And we go into this amphitheater every time we're there. And we read Paul's defense of his faith that he gives here in Acts 26, before King Agrippa. So, Paul has been a prisoner at this place for over two years, and now they bring him out. And Paul, that's like, what are you all about? And when Paul gets put on defense, what does he do? He shares his testimony. Paul had one of the greatest testimonies of all time, because the turn in his life was so clear, he went from Saul, a persecutor of the church. And then he met Jesus on the road one day, and then he became Paul, an apostle of the church, a missionary. And so, you could see he was living one way; he meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, wow, he is a different man, he has turned around. And so, he's sharing with them how he met Jesus. And here in Acts 26, verse 18, Paul says, what Jesus said to him, that Jesus was going to send him out, and he was going to spread a message to the Gentiles, to the nations, to many people. And here's what Jesus said, Paul was going to do. This is Acts 26:18, that I'm sending you out, Paul, here it is to open their eyes. So that they may turn; there's our word right there, I'm going to have you open their eyes. So, they may turn from darkness, to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. When you give that good news that Jesus died to pay for sin, and Jesus rose again, to give a new life, as you spread that, people's eyes will be open, and they will see I'm living in the dark things. They used to value things, they used to find worth in, they're going to be like, that looks like it's from Satan, I don't want to keep living this way. I want to turn, and I want to turn to God, I want to walk in the light as he is in the light. People are going to see that the way they were living was not the right way. And they're going to turn to a new way of life. That's what Jesus is sending Paul to do, to create a real change. This idea that we have in America, that you can be a Christian, and you can keep your faith private is not the idea that the scripture is giving us. If you really turn from sin, to God, people will see it and see this idea that your U-turn is visible. It's not just that other people can see it. What other people are going to see is that you are now seeing things differently, your eyes have been open.
So, under point number one, just put down, your U-turn is visible, your eyes are open to see differently. The change starts with your change of mind. It starts with you thinking like wow, things I used to really find pleasure and things I used to think were really important. I now kind of feel guilty about those things. I don't like those things anymore. I don't want those things. And now I'm turning to new things, things I would have never done before. Things I don't think people would have ever seen me doing. I'm now turning to those things. And that's God opening your eyes, taking the blinders off. So, you can see the gospel of Jesus and you can see your sin for what it is. And you can see Jesus for who he is. And you can see to turn, don't keep going this way. I’ve got to go in a whole new way. That's the idea. Look what Paul says about what Jesus said to him in the next verse, Acts 26:19, he's talking straight to King Agrippa. Here, he says, “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” But I went and I told everybody, I declared first for those in Damascus, where I was, then I went back to Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, like the country of Israel, and to the Gentiles go into the ends of the earth. And here's what I was declaring to everyone that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. I'm saying, hey, you got to repent. You’ve got to change your mind. You’ve got to turn your ways. And when you do repent, people will see the turnaround in your life, because you will make a U-turn. And you know what, you'll start doing things and people will be like, look at the fruit of their repentance. Look at the deeds in keeping with the repentance. Look at the good works they're doing not to get saved, but because Jesus has done something in them; Jesus has turned them around. Has Jesus turned you around? That's the question. This idea that you can be a Christian and keep living the same life that you've always lived, that might be popular in America, but it's foreign in the pages of Scripture. Anybody who really meets Jesus on the road of their life, they're going to have a radical change from the inside out. and people who know you will be like, wow, you're not who you used to be. You're not the same person anymore. I know a lot of people here at this church, and I met him and they were this way. And I see him today. And they're completely different. And it's because God has turned them around. And so, we are trying to spread this message of repentance. And this should be spread from everybody who's preaching the gospel, every church, they should. I mean, John the Baptist, he came preaching repentance. He said, bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Jesus told everybody to repent and believe in the gospel, the first sermon of the church, Peter, he said, Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Now we're looking at Paul, he's going around, Jesus sent him to open people's eyes so that they could turn and he's saying, I told everybody to repent, and turn to God; and show me you've repented by your new life. That's what Paul was saying. So, I don't know how it went from all those guys preaching on repentance to nobody preaching repentance today. But we want to be one of the people consistent with the Scripture, calling you to repent. And what's exciting for me over the years of our church, is there are a lot of people now who know what repentance is. And a lot of you even now have repented. If you've already heard a sermon before about repentance, will you raise your hand right now? This is not new information to you. You already know that praise God, the word is spreading. We want it to keep spreading. But if you're just joining us here for service new auditorium, today could be your day to turn to God from the idols that you have been living for, everybody. It is expected whether you're a church kid like me, pastor's kid like me who grew up going to church from day one, or whether this is the first church you've ever been to in your life, all of us need to have a U-turn in our lives. Everybody needs to turn from their idols to serve the living and true God. Can I get an amen from anybody on this, guys?
So you should be able to say, hey, I've had a turnaround in my life, and other people should even be able to see the visible change that has happened in your life, because that's what the power of the gospel of Jesus really produces in a saved person. Is there a new creation in Christ? The old is gone. Look at you. Now, the new has come. And if you're the same person you've always been, today is your day.
Go back to 1 Colossians 1:9 with me. And it's so awesome. When we turn to God, God turns to us and we have this great relationship with him where we worship him. That's what really satisfies is knowing your Creator and being one of his people. But if you're going to turn to God, notice what it says there's always something you’ve got to turn from. And there's always something you’ve got to turn to. And here, let's pull up now verse 9, again 1 Colossians 1:9. You turn to God, awesome. We've seen a lot of people do that. We want more people to do that. But you've turned. This is what we want to zero in on. You've turned from idol. So, let's circle that word right there. Let's really think, do you have idols in your lives? Or are you like me thinking, we don't have any idols here in America, we don't light incense and bow down and build statues. We don't have those customs in our culture. We don't have any idols. That's what I grew up thinking. And I used to read stories about the Israelites given into the idols of all the polytheistic nations around them, and I used to think the Israelites were stupid. Did anybody else used to think that? There was anybody else wants to be honest, besides me here? Right. I thank you. I appreciate that hand. I can see your hands. It's awesome. Okay. I appreciate your honesty. Oh, and if you didn't think other people were stupid, that's probably good that you didn't think that way. Because that's how I thought. Right? I was just like these Israelites, man, they keep doing this over and over, look at that statue. Why would you bow down to a statue? And so, I had this very proud view of myself, like, I don't have idol. And see, that just shows I didn't really understand what idolatry was about. I didn't really get it.
And so, I want to make sure that we all see the idolatry that is rampant in the United States of America in our lifetime. And really, I want to share with you what I learned about myself is those people weren't the stupid ones. I was the one being foolish because here I am seeing that clearly, people have been idol worshipers throughout history, and people are worshipping idols in foreign countries. And then here I am thinking I'm somehow the exception to the rule. And people throughout all of human history have idols but not me that I was the one being stupid. I was the one being proud and foolish to think that I didn't have other things that my heart wanted, besides God, other things that I thought were worthy besides God.
So, let me show you how the idolatry was rampant in the Greco Roman culture, and then we'll see how it's still happening today. Go with me here to Acts chapter 14, let's go to another place where he's planting a church in Acts 14. And we can see a specific example of idolatry. And I'll put the Greek word up here on the screen for “idol”. “Eidolo” is the Greek word; you can literally see idol in the middle of the word there. And if you don't think you have ever been a worshipper of idols, I'm going to try to convince you to think differently here. And I would encourage you go home and look up idolatry in the Bible, go home and look up idols. Check out all the different verses. And let's really try to have a biblical perspective of what it means to worship an idol. Because it's not… it's more than bowing down to a statue. Look at what happens here and Acts 14, they come into this city of Lystra, we can show it to you here on the map. This was a different city, this was actually a city they went to before Thessalonica, over here, kind of in the area of Turkey. So, before they got over towards Greece and Thessalonica, they went to Lystra. And there was a man who had never walked; his feet did not work. And there's a miracle where Paul sees that this guy, he's got the faith to believe, and the guy starts walking around town, a miracle takes place here in Lystra. And so, look what happens in Acts 14:11. “And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’” And Barnabas, they called Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker and the priest of Zeus, whose Temple was at the entrance to the city. They brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. Wow, can you believe it? Zeus and Hermes are here, they're healing people. And they just happen to have a temple right there, where there's a priest of Zeus, and he's like, quick, buy an oxen buy a garland. Let's offer sacrifices to Zeus and Hermes, so all these towns, all these cities that Paul's going to preach the gospel, they've got temples to idols, and people go, and they do business at these temples. This is a regular part of life in the Greco Roman world. Look what happens here, in Acts 14:14, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.’” So, this was the message, you’ve got to turn from those idols. Those idols are vain. You think those idols are doing something for you, you think there's blessing, their satisfaction, there's something good that you're going to get from those idols. Those idols are vain, they are giving you nothing, those idols aren't even alive. You need to turn to the living God; he will bless you, he will satisfy the meaning, the purpose you're looking for in your life. You're going to find it in God, not these vain things. That was the message that Paul was spreading from city to city, you’ve got to turn from your idols. It's not that the idols went away, everybody, we need to turn from our idols today.
Go with me to Colossians chapter 3. And here's a verse that really exposes the rampant idolatry of us here in America. And Colossians 3:5, Colossians three, verse five. If you're still thinking, I don't know if I relate to idolatry, well, idolatry is often associated with immorality. One of the things that's going on at these temples. Or if you go and study the history of the nation of Israel and their interactions with all the other nations around them; when the people worshipped idols. The reason they worshipped idols, the reason you went to that temple to worship that that idol was because that idol let you do whatever you wanted to do with your body. That's what idolatry often came down to. People had an understanding of a God. And God, he had an expectation when he created us, male and female, and God created us that the man would leave his father and mother be joined to his wife and the two of them in marriage would become one flesh. God had a very specific context for sex. From the beginning, it was marriage. But see people have always wanted meaning and purpose in sexuality outside of marriage. And God doesn't allow for that. But guess what has been associated with idols throughout human history is with idols, I can do whatever I want. That's what it's about. And it says that here in Colossians 3:5, when it says, You’ve got to “put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you.” And then it gives us this list. Sexual immorality, that's the idea of pornography there. sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” And then it says, covetousness, wanting something that's not yours. Or you could translate that, greed, wanting more than what you have. So, this kind of lust, this kind of sexual morality, what does it say here at the end of verse 5, “put to death, therefore,” all that list of sexual immorality and covetousness. What's the word there, everybody? I’ve got to tell you, I've read Colossians 3 for a long time. And I skipped over that part about idolatry for most of my life. Like I thought, yeah, we're supposed to stop lusting. And that's what this is describing. And thank God in Jesus Christ, we can put that sin to death. But really seeing that the reason I want that kind of sin, the reason anybody here in this room would be tempted to have this evil desire for sex outside of marriage. The reason you want that is because you don't really want God. And you don't really think God is worthy. And you're not really thinking that God is going to give you meaning and purpose as you seek him. And as you pursue life, the way he created it, you want something more than that, you want something that you're not supposed to want. And that is idolatry for you.
We know that a part of idolatry throughout human history has been child sacrifice to the idols that let people do whatever they want with their bodies. Look at America today, look at all the babies that are being killed. You don't think we have an idolatry problem in America? We have this same exact problem, that people don't want to live the way God created them to live. People want something more than that, they want something that doesn't belong to them. And out of that covetousness, that greed in our heart, if you get down to the root of that you know what that is, you want a god different than the living and true God. You want a God that lets you do whatever you want to do. You'll even hear people say that regularly in our American culture. Well, my God would never be like this, hey, guess what, everybody, you don't get to decide who God is. God has created you in his image. You don't get to make up a god in your own image. That is the definition of idolatry. And we're very good at that in America we are living in. And for many of us, this has become like a downward spiral. During our lifetime, we have watched the fall of a once great nation, we have watched the abandonment of any kind of morality attached to sexuality. And we are now living in a rampantly sexual immoral age. And it's because we have idols in America. And we want what we want, and who is God to tell us that's not for us. We are covetous, we are greedy, we are sexually immoral, which is idolatry. This is a big moment because there are people in this room who are often tempted with sexual immorality. And there are people in this room who are not just tempted with sexual immorality, but regularly give in to sex outside of marriage, looking at things, thinking things, wanting things that God has not given you to enjoy. God has not said that it is good, but you're looking at it, like you want it, and you think it's going to be good. And maybe you're trying really hard to stop looking and to stop lusting. And maybe you're trying to taper off and get further in between the times that you do it. But this isn't just about you trying to stop a bad thing in your life. This is about you admitting you have an idol. And you want something in your heart besides God. So, the problem is actually way deeper than just how your body's feeling or just what you're looking at with your eyes. The problem gets into the core of your identity, that you're not all about worshiping God and finding your meaning and purpose in knowing him and enjoying him forever. You're trying to find purpose in something God has not given you; you have an idol. And this problem, you may never really be able to see victory over sexual morality in your life until you turn from your idols to the living and true God.
Now, I've got good news in that, look what it's saying here. Let's get the context of Colossians 3. Go back to Colossians 3:1. Look at how this whole chapter begins here in Colossians 3. It says, “if then you have been raised with Christ,” or you could translate it since you've been raised with Christ. So this is talking about the new you in Jesus, and you have a whole new life in Christ, and Christ is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God, and your life is now in Christ. And because you've turned from your idols to God, and you've got that new life in Jesus, look what it says in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” It's saying that you can be done with it, that you can kill it, that you can put it to death. Look what it goes on to say in Colossians 3:6, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” And these you too once walked, you used to be all about that sexual immorality when you were living in them. But now that you've turned around now that you're in Christ, now, you must put them all the way. And then it gives more sense here, anger, wrath, malice, go down to Colossians 3:9-10. It says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” See, there's hope here. You don't have to be defined by sexual morality. You don't have to keep bowing down to worship that idol anymore. You could be done with it today. You could put it to death, you could put it all away, that could be the old you and the new you is now worshiping your Creator and really knowing him. See, there's victory to be found here in Jesus Christ over the temptation of sexual immorality.
Point number two, let's get it down like this: “Your idols are destructible.” Your idols are destructible; they can be torn down, they can be broken to pieces. These idols can be destroyed. To see if you have read the history of Israel, if you've ever read a book, like Kings, or Chronicles in the Scripture, you know, you'll know that it says, and this guy became a king and then it'll say he was either a good king, or he was an evil king. And the evil kings are always building what they're always building idols. Right. And then, what do the good kings do. And then he was a good king. And what does he do? He tears down the idols. Idols, you can build them up and worship them, or you can destroy them.
I recently found out that I have the spiritual gift of idol vandalism, I don't know if anybody else has this spiritual gift. I would love to go on a missions trip where we tear down idols. Right? And I mean that doesn't sound fun to anybody else? Right. Just tearing these things down, destroying them, they have no worth. They have no value. They're not even alive. Like why are we giving this thing a place in our hearts and our lives and our souls, when it doesn't even mean anything? Let's put it to death. Let's destroy it. Let's tear it down. Let's be free from it once and for all. That's what we're learning can happen in Jesus Christ, that the idols that define people, we can turn away from the sins that can take over our lives; we can put them to death, we can put them all the way by the power of Jesus Christ. So, if you don't think that you have any idols that need to be torn down in your life, then you probably are still an idolator. All of us have things that want to compete in our heart for God's place, and God will suffer no rivals. God is not doing competition. God doesn't want to be the first among equals. God wants all of your heart, or you’re in idolatry. Those are the only two options. And see what happened a lot of times to God's people, the Israelites, is they got into this thing syncretism. Syncretism is when you try to take this and this and synch them up. So, the people of Israel, they were never like God's not real. God is not true. We don't believe in YHWH anymore. No, YHWH is always there. But guess what we want your way. And this God, we want your way and that sexual immorality, oh, we still believe God's true. But we want some of this, too. And the call today is God doesn't compromise. If you want God, you must turn from your idols. That's the only way. And so, we’ve got to look at our hearts.
This is a time for our church. As we have a new place to gather together to worship God, we will be hypocrites coming in here, unless we turn from our idols to the living and true God. Let me just throw up Exodus 20 here on the screen. This is from our Bible reading, if you're reading Exodus with the rest of us, we're going to get to Exodus 20, this week, and that's famously known as the 10 commandments. And I just want to draw your attention to Exodus 20:2-3 right there. “I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” And then this is known as the First Commandment. But really, this is setting the tone for everything that's about to follow, “You shall have no other gods before me.” And see, if you've never really taken that word from God to heart and realize that there are things inside of you in your soul that compete with God, if you've never really thought that through, now is your chance to realize there is something I could try to worship along with God. There is something I could try to find meaning and blessing, and purpose from this thing that really only my Creator can give me that meaning and blessing. And I’ve got to stop looking for it in this. I’ve got a turn from that to God. Do you have other gods before God in your life? That's something we need to really examine here today.
And so go back to 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, because well, my concern here is some people are going to do the ninety-degree turn. The ninety-degree turn is when you go home, and you try really hard to stop drinking, or stop lusting or stop whatever it is. And it's like, I'm going to do better this week, because I felt convicted when we were talking about that idol in my life. And so, I'm going to try really hard not to do that. Trying really hard has never turned anybody around. You can't just turn from something, you have to turn to someone say, if you're trying to get something out of your life out of your heart, what are you replacing it with? What are you putting on instead? So, we could put to death sexual immorality, but that means we need to put on our new life in Jesus Christ. So, we did the turnaround here in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Let's just go through it again. This is the report about them how you turned to God and you turned from idols. But then notice it gets back to more description now to serve the living and true God. Okay, so this is a radical redirection. This is what we would say like a wholeheartedness, an all-in kind of a thing. When we say here, and let's get to our third word here that we want to zero in on: Serve, because this is what we're turning to, to serve. What does it mean here when it says that the Thessalonians were serving the living and true God, because what it means here in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 in the pages of Scripture is different than what it means here, when we say it at our church.
Every week, I have people saying to me something along the lines of how can I serve at the church? And what they mean by that is, is there something I can do Sunday at 11 o'clock to help make church happen? In fact, that is the main way that I hear people use the word “serve,” when they’re talking about a specific task that they could sign up for. Usually, the commitment is like once a week for a couple of hours. And it's like, well, I'm not serving because I'm not doing donuts at the 11 o'clock service, or I'm not doing parking at the 11 o'clock service. So therefore, I'm not serving. And so, is there a way that I can serve? That's not what it's talking about here. Serving is not like something you would sign up for once a week. Serving is a complete reinterred, reorientation of your entire life so that I no longer live for myself, but I now live to serve God. God is now my boss, my master, Jesus is my Lord and I'm not living to please myself anymore. I'm living for the Lord Jesus Christ. And it's not like I live for him on Sunday mornings, or I meet with some people and try to serve them on Tuesday nights. It's like this. My entire heart, soul mind, strength is now about loving Jesus, because I live to serve him. I'm here to serve Him. This is what you're turning to here. You're turning to serve.
Now the Greek word here is “doulueo,” which is the verb form which comes from the noun doulos, which is a slave. And there were a lot of slaves in the Greco Roman world of the first century at this time. Paul is writing, slaves were the opposite of part time jobs, they were the opposite of clocking in and clocking out, they were the opposite of Monday to Friday, nine to five. If you were a slave, your master owned you, and you were ready to do the bidding of your master, no matter what it may be, or when it was. It was like a relationship where the other person was able to tell you what to do, and you were eager and ready to do it. It wasn't an option only; it wasn't extra credit. It wasn't something you sprinkled on the top of your life or mixed into your already determined schedule. It took over everything. There was nothing else going on, besides serving. See? So, we’ve got to get back into the mindset of what it meant. When someone, like if somebody comes to you, and they're like, well, I need to serve at the church. Is there something I can do Sunday morning? You should look at your brother or sister and you should say, you mean you're not serving already? Like your life hasn't already been reoriented to be for God. Like, are you saying you need to repent? Is that what you're still saying? Like the idea is not you serve by meeting a practical task? Yes, we love it when people are willing to help make church happen. We need a lot of help to get this many people together and to do church like this. That's not what it's talking about here when it says to serve. It's talking about I have given the keys of my life to Jesus Christ, and he now is in the driver's seat; he now calls the shots, and whatever Jesus tells me to do, I don't care when it is or what it is. If Jesus tells me to go, I will go. If Jesus says, follow, I will follow. If Jesus says, Leave everything, then everything is getting dropped, because I'm going to follow my Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is alive. Jesus is true. And I'm finding real meaning and purpose in Jesus. And I don't find that anywhere else, and what this world affords today. And so, my entire life is now defined by the fact that I am a slave of the Master Jesus and I have given complete trust to Jesus. I think there's nobody better to have my life in his hands than the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that you? Am I talking about you right now?
I think we’ve got a lot of part-timers in Southern California churches in American Christianity. It seems to me like there's a lot of part-time service going on. Not a lot of slaves. Just a lot of people making themselves feel better about doing some good things. That's not what Jesus wants. Jesus wants your life, your soul. He wants you to serve Him. In fact, let me give you a good example of this. Go to what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 6. If you could turn with me to the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:24. If you could really turn there, Jesus has a way of teaching. I mean, he, Jesus is a teacher beyond anyone else I've ever studied. I mean, Jesus, because he is the God-man, he teaches with an authority that no other man can speak with. And Jesus can say things in such a clear way that just a quick statement from Jesus can cut you straight to your heart and change your entire life. And here in Matthew 6:24, you know, Jesus has a lot to say about money. In Matthew chapter 6, and he's talking about, you know, where is your treasure? Is your treasure in heaven? Is your treasure on Earth? Where are you really living for in your heart? And then he says in Matthew 6:24, this is what we mean by serve here in Matthew 6:24. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” You cannot serve God and what is it? Say there everybody? “Money”. Okay, so what are you serving? What are you living for? What is driving what you do? Now, it says here very clearly, no one can serve God and money. No one includes you. So, if you think you're loving money, and you're greedy for more and getting more money is a major motivation in your life, and you're also serving God, Jesus just said, that's not true. You're fooling yourself. You're like me thinking, I don't have any idols. Let's talk about one of the biggest idols that people have in America today is money. And that is what is driving what they do. The reason they go to work, it's not the Lord Jesus Christ that they're serving. They're not working heartily as unto the Lord. They're not trying to do a good job to bring glory to God in their workplace because God's provided for them and all that they need. know they're doing this job because I need more of that. And when I get more of that, then I'll be satisfied, then I'll find meaning, then I'll find purpose. When I get that amount, and I can buy that house, and I can get this thing. And then when I have that, then obviously you're living to serve money. And if you are living to serve money, you can still believe in God. And you can still say, I love Jesus. But if you are living to serve money, you are not living to serve God. That's what Jesus said, you're an idolater. You're finding your worth, your value. You're thinking that meaning in life is going to be found in the material possessions that I have, rather than my meaning and life is found in my relationship with my Creator.
And so, there are people here today that need to really take a look inside of yourself. And you need to really ask yourself, and I've seen people convicted after every one of these services so far. I mean, this is exciting. People are turning from idols to God right here at our church this weekend. And maybe you need to be one of them. Maybe today is the day that you realize I'm an idolater because I want money. And I think to myself, I want money. And God, well, Jesus just said, take your pick. Because you either go after the idol of money, or you serve God, you can't do both. Now, D. A. Carson, he gave a commentary on this verse. And when I read it, I literally out loud said, whoa. When I read this, because I've heard this verse a lot, and I've thought, yeah, I need to crank up my commitment to Jesus, I need to be more committed as a disciple of Jesus. Maybe I'm too attached to worldly possessions, and I'm too into how much money I have. So, I need to ramp up Jesus and tone down money. That's not what D. A. Carson said. He said, attempts at divided loyalty, that when your loyalty is divided between God and money, here's what that really says about you. It betrays not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry. The problem is not you need to get more into Jesus. The problem is, you're more into money than you think you are. You're not calling that an idol. You're not tearing it down; you're not turning from it. Because you can't even see that it's there. You think because there's no statue, you don't have an idol, when you're living in your idol. When you're driving in your idol. When you're sailing in your idol. You can't even see that it's there. It's not that you need to ramp up some Jesus in your life, you need to get to the bottom of your heart, and you need to admit, I have a competition in my soul between God and money. And God's not okay with that. God's not going to suffer any rivals. And I need to turn from the idol of material possessions, and I need to turn to God. That's what we want to be known for as a church. That's the kind of people God is calling us to be.
Turn with me to Genesis 35. I want to give you an example of a specific man who turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and his name was Jacob here in Genesis 35. We're going to look at now we've looked at a church that turned from idols to God. Now we want to look at a specific man, this is the Jacob of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And when we talk about Jacob, we just read Genesis together as a church, people are like, wow, I learned more about Genesis than ever before. One of the things I don't hear enough about from Genesis is what happens here in Genesis 35. When I bring up Jacob, people know, he's the twin of Esau, and he and his brother had a big problem, because he deceived his dad and got the blessing. That's something people know about Jacob. When I bring up Jacob, people know that he loved Rachel, but he got tricked by Laban. And he married Leah. And so, he ended up with two wives and even had two concubines, and he had twelve sons, and people all know all of that about Jacob. But this chapter, I don't hear about enough. This is how Jacob really was. Look at what it says here in Genesis 35:1. “God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there, make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” Hey, remember that place where you were on the run for your life. And there was that staircase of the angels ascending and descending? Remember how God was there with you? Go back there and build an altar to God. Now look, what Jacob does everybody. Look at verse Genesis 35:2. “So Jacob said to his household,” he had multiple wives, all kinds of kids, he gets them all together. “Jacob said to his household, and to all who are with him, put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Now God didn't say that whole part where we had a family meeting. And Jacob looked in the eyes of his wife, and he looked in the eyes of his kids. And he said, hey, we're going to put away the idols. We're going to put away the household gods. And I would love to hear about this happening after this weekend here at church. Dad goes home, husband goes home, calls a family meeting, and says to his family, hey, we've been living for things besides God here at this house. Maybe you know how Rachel actually stole the household gods from Laban. And she was laying on them when Laban was looking for them. And so, here's now Jacob, looking at his wife, Rachel, and saying, hey, we're done with the idols around here. We need to clean our hands; we need to make sure that our hearts are pure. Have you ever heard the song, give us clean hands? Give us pure hearts. Oh, God, let us be a generation that seeks your face. Oh, God of who? The guy who had the original statement about. You need to get your act together, you need to clean up your hands. You need to purify your hearts. It's all going back to this moment with Jacob and his family right here. Can you imagine if Dad, husband sat down at the dinner table later today and said, hey, everybody, I just want to say we've been living from money too much at this house. We’re too much into our possessions and what we can get? What if Dad went home today and he said, hey, everybody, we spent way too much time on our individual devices around here. And honestly, I don't even know what everybody's looking at. So, we're going to have all our screens be out in public, we're going to have everybody having each other's passwords. And we're going to make sure that we're not caught up in any sexual immorality at this household. That's what happens in Genesis 35. Dad looks at his family and he says clean your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you double minded. You're either all in for God or you're not at all and for God. Which one are we? We need to be the people who go and worship God. So, here's a guy realizing if God wants me to go to Bethel, and worship him, then I've got to turn from my household idols. And I've got to clean up my hands and put on my new garments.
This is what we're supposed to know Jacob for. In fact, this is amazing to me, Genesis 35:4, “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.” It's like they buried their idols. And then look at this verse Genesis 35:5, “And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.” Remember, when Abraham and Isaac were always so worried that the other cities, the other kings around them would come and take their wives and take their kids and kill them. And so, they lied? Well, now because Jacob has turned from idols to serve God, and he's going to replace to worship God, God is so with Jacob that God is causing a terror. So, the other people are afraid of Jacob and his sons as they go to the place because when God is with you, who can stand against you. And then in verse Genesis 35:9-12, “God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” After you think God went up from him, and the place where he had spoken with him. You see, I grew up going to church, but I was thinking wrong the entire time, because I thought the Israelites were stupid people who worship statues, when really Israel was the name that God gave to a man who turned his whole family away from my idols.
See, when you hear the name Israel before, it was a place before it was a nation. It was a man who said, I'm going to go and worship God. And he said it to his family, and he said, if we're going to really worship God, then we're going to be done with this. And we're going to get our act together, and we're going to give God our whole hearts, our whole lives. We're really going to be God's people. We can't just go to a place once a week and worship God, we're going to worship God with all that we are. That man was named Israel by God because God was pleased with that man. That's the story that's supposed to come to your mind when you hear Israel. You're supposed to think , wow, a man who really turned from idols to serve the living and true God, is that where I'm at? And then look at what he does when they get there, when they get to Bethel, “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him a pillar of stone. And he poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel, which means house of God.” And so, I find this to be a very appropriate story, because God has now given us a place to come and to worship. And we could call this a house of God, where we have gathered to worship. But let me just make this very clear worship doesn't work if you only do it once a week. That's not worship. That's not what anybody in the scripture would have understood going to a place once a week, like it's some kind of place you’ve got to go to check it off the list in your life. That's not worship. And if you come here with that kind of mentality, where you're serving God, one morning out of your week, you will not be really worshipping. Yeah, I don't even know when I say worship. You know what I think people think these days when I say worship, I think the word that comes to their mind is music. When I say praise, I think people think, sing songs. And somebody will be like, oh, I worshipped God the other day. Oh, what do you mean? Well, when I was driving from this place to this place, I put on some worship songs, and I was singing along with them. Therefore, I worshipped. This is not worship. Yes, you can express worship in music, but that's not the main thing that should be coming to our mind when we hear the word worship. Worship is us saying God is worthy of my whole life. I'm not going to find meaning and purpose in sexual immorality, I'm not going to find meaning and purpose in money and what it can buy, the only place that I'm going to really find life, soul, satisfying, joy, love, and peace is when I know God and enjoy him forever. And I believe that God is worthy. That's what worship is. When you have forsaken all rivals to have a love that belongs to God alone, and you give him all of your heart, all that you are, here's my life, God, you can do whatever you want with it. Because the one thing I want out of this life is, from my life to please you, and matter to you. I want to be one of your people, because you are my God, I want to worship you. It's like your whole passion your whole life. You come in here and say you're worshiping God, and then you go and do whatever you want the rest of the week. That's not worship. That's hypocrisy. And that's what we've got going on plenty. We don't need another place where a bunch of hypocrites go through the motions. We need people who say I'm done with the idols. And I'm all in for the Lord. I want my house to be like the house of Jacob. I want God to think I'm like that guy Israel. I want to laud my God.
Let's get that down for number three. I want to bring back a word here, everybody: “Your Lord is laudable.” That's right. It's a real word. You can look it up, laudable. It means to laud because we're bringing all the words down. Right? Oh, that's some great worship. We mean music. Oh, I love praise. We mean a song. No, we need to get this thought of like the way I think about God and how he is in a unique place all by himself, and nothing else compares to him. And so that idea of God's name being hallowed, we're in your heart. You see God high and lifted up. God is holy. God is sacred. And when you see God that way, one of the words they used to use is I laud God, I exalt God, I want to say great things about God. That's the idea of God is to me beyond anything else beyond any comparison. That's what it is. We’ve got to stop bringing God down to be like one of the things we're mixing into our regularly scheduled life, and we need to reorient our entire life for the purpose of lauding God. So, your homework assignment is try to use laud in a way that doesn't sound awkward. You know what I mean? Like what did you do this weekend? Well, I went to church so we could laud our God. Right? Now it sounds weird. But we’ve got it. We’ve got to try to what is that to laud God? Well, when we go to church, we don't just go there. Because that's what we do. We go there because we think God is worth it. And God has a place in my life, where I'm ready to lose everything, as long as I've got him. And so, I want to exalt him, I want to hallow him. I mean, we're going to have to start using words that we don't use maybe to try to say what we're really doing here because we're not just here to sing a few songs and grab a doughnut on the way to our regularly scheduled life. We're here to stop everything and say, God, you are worthy. God, you are worth it. And I've given my whole life to you, and I'm all in to serve you. And this is just an expression of that. So, when you see Jacob here, and he builds this altar, and he's got this pillar of stone, and look what he does, in verse 14, he poured out a drink offering on it. And he poured oil on it. Does everybody understand? Like nobody drank that drink, he just poured it out, this oil would have had some value, would have had some worth to it. And we're just pouring this oil out. Why are we giving an offering like that? Why isn't somebody drinking that drink? Why isn't somebody using that oil for its purpose? Why are we just pouring it out? Because what are we trying to say? God, you are worthy. God, you have value, and I want to lift you up to the highest place in my life.
See, that's why we want to take an offering here in our first worship service, because we want to get back to what it really means that you and I are here for God and his glory. And see these days, we don't even think about offerings or giving money in the right way. Because people think we're taking an offering today, because our construction project went over budget. And if you think that you're hundred percent correct. Okay, that did happen. But that's not what giving an offering has been about today. We're like this GoFundMe charity. Giving is kind of how we think. Like, do you think compass HP is cool? Are you down with the compensate should be vibes, then why don't you get them some cash to support their cause? That's not how people think about an offering to God. Throughout the history of faith, throughout the history of worship, people have thought that God was worth it. And they have tried to express the worthiness of God that God has provided everything they have, and they trust God, they have faith that he's going to provide more. And because they're all into worshipping God. They want to give not to some cause, not to some building, that to some church, they are giving to God. And when God sees those people who cheerfully give to him, he is pleased with them. He delights in it, because he's the creator. And they're his creation. And they're finding the meaning and purpose of life, to know the value and worthiness of our God. Offerings were something that wasn't about supporting a church, it was something where you were expressing your worship to God. That's what we want to do. And if you were raised in a herd of sheep, or a herd of goats, we'd say bring one of your sheep or your goats, if you had this beautiful crop. We'd say, bring the first fruits of your crop. But that's not how we roll these days. We ascribe value based on a monetary amount and we swipe the card, we've got the chip, we just scan it beep, and it was worth this much to us. And so, we're giving an offering today to say, God, you are worthy to me. And I want to worship you. And so, this is something between you and God, this is yeah, well, we'll use this to help things here at the church. But that's not really what it's about. This is about you giving to the Lord and showing him his worth and his value in your heart. And so, I want you to consider giving even if you're not prepared to do this right now. I want you to really think about what would I give to God that would show him his worth and his value to me. And we're going to have the ushers pass an offering. We haven't done this for a long time, we're going to do it. There's also if you look there, in your bulletin, there's also a QR code there you can scan. There's even an envelope there in your bulletin you can put the money in. So, if you're like, well, I’ve got to think more about what I would want to give, well, you could scan this QR code later. But this is a chance for you to respond to God. And to express when that widow Does anybody remember the story of that lady who gave those two little coins? And Jesus saw this lady, this widow, she just gave a little amount to little coins? And what did Jesus say? Hey, everybody, look at that lady and what she's given more than anybody else here today. Because Jesus could see her worship, that she was giving her all because she thought God was worthy. She had turned from idols to serve the living and true God. And so, I'm going to pray. We're going to take the offering. Ryan's going to sing a song that is our prayer for this place. God, show us your glory here. We want to worship you. We want to see you; we want to know you. So let me pray for us right now.
Father, I thank you. I thank you that today, we were able to come in here and worship you and I pray that we would get to what that really means God, not what we've made it to me. But what it really originally meant in your Word, where the Thessalonians turned from their idols to serve you, where Jacob got his family together, and he said, we’ve got to put away all these gods. We’ve got to clean our hands. We’ve got to purify our hearts. We’ve got to stop going back and forth between God out in something else. We’ve got to stop having this divided heart. And today we're going to turn away from our idols. And we're going to serve God with all that we have. Father, I pray that that would be what happens here at our little church in Huntington Beach. This wouldn't be people who go through the cultural norm of Sunday morning church services. But this would be a group of people who do something radically unAmerican to say we're going to stop living for sexual immorality, and we're going to stop living for money, and what it can buy, and we're going to turn from those idols. And we're going to give our whole life to the worship and glory of God and God alone. And I pray that all the songs that we sing all the money that we give, all the things that we do to serve that would just be the overflow of our hearts because we have decided that you are worthy. And if it takes our whole life if it takes everything we've got, God we would gladly give it to you because we find value in you, we want to laud you, we want to exalt you, we want your name to be lifted high, so people could see that you are worth losing this world, if we can just gain the life of Jesus Christ. So, Father, please make this a house of God, make this a place of worship. Make this a place where your glory can be seen because you've opened the eyes of our hearts to turn from idols to serve you, the living and the true God. We thank you for your Son Jesus that you raised from the dead to give us a new life. We thank you that Jesus is alive. We thank you that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and we thank you for all of us who have turned to Jesus, that we can now see you for who you really are. And Father, we ask, please show us your glory. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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