Who Are You Trying To Impress?

// November 19th, 2018 // Sermons

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

I have a rather strange interest…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Who Are You Trying To Impress– I like reading tombstones and then imaging what the person whose body was laid there…what that person would have been like.

I found one on google images that I thought was interesting…”I told you I was sick…”  A common one is “Gone, but not forgotten”.  Or, “Too well loved to be forgotten”, and “Finally at rest in Christ”.

I read of a man by the name of William Moore Jackson, who lived in the 1800’s down in Alabama – his tombstone had a simple five-word epitaph: “A man of unquestioned integrity.”  I don’t know if you could find a better tribute.

Integrity – the dictionary uses words such as “whole” and “complete” to describe what integrity means.  To borrow a modern expression, a man with integrity has his act together.  There are no things kicking around on the peripheral of his life that would threaten his reputation.

I like Warren Wiersbe’s definition:  “Integrity is to personal/corporate character what health is to the body or, what 20/20 vision is to the eyes.  A person with integrity is not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy).  He or she is “whole”; life is “put together,” and things are working harmoniously.  People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.  Their lives are open books.”

There is an integrity crisis in our world today.  The US is so polarized that the average American has no idea who to trust.  So many big name Christian leaders have fallen and so many pastors have been caught in scandals that this same dilemma also exists in the church.

Generally speaking, only ministries with integrity will stand the test of time.  Everything else fades away—fads come and go, showy things will attract people for a while, but it won’t hold them; good programs lose their appeal, new buildings grow old, pastors stay for a while and then leave.  But integrity never goes out of style.

1 Thessalonians 2 has sometimes been called “a minister’s manual.”  One commentator wrote, “Every pastor and spiritual leader would be well-advised to read and re-read this chapter – at least once a year to measure his ministry by this standard.” 

It is true…there is a shortage of godly leaders in our day!  Leadership is difficult and good leaders are hard to find.  So, how can we be effective?

Next Sunday, Lord willing, we will be looking at v. 7-12 – at what we can do today to increase our impact – so that the world we pass along to those that follow us, is in better shape than we found it.

In Acts 17:6 we read that Paul and Silas “turned the world upside down”.  How did they do it?  What was their secret?  Let’s look at 1 Thess. 2:1-6 – we find four answers in this passage.

#1: Strong Opposition Didn’t Stop Them from Preaching

Look at v. 1-2 – “You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure.  You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition.”

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. was often quoted as saying, “the door of opportunity swings on the hinges of opposition.”  Paul and the mission team in the book of Acts sure found how true that was in Thessalonica.  While they were ministering in the city of Philippi, Paul and Silas had been stripped, beaten, and jailed.  Only a midnight earthquake had freed them.

They left the city when the authorities begged them to go, because they feared civic unrest and perhaps another act of God.  And when they arrived in Thessalonica, things were not much better.  They were forced to leave the city much earlier than they had planned.

Back in 1990, Billy Graham had an itinerant evangelists’ conference in Amsterdam.  Singer Michael Card wrote this story about a Masai warrior who showed up at the conference.

One day Joseph, was walking along a hot, dirty African road when he met someone who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him.  Then and there, he accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  The power of the spirit began transforming his life, and he was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share the good news to the members of his own tribe.

Joseph began going from door to door telling everyone he met about Jesus, the cross, the suffering, and the salvation that God had offered – he expecting to see their faces light up the way his had.  But to his amazement, the villagers not only didn’t care, they became violent.  The men of the village seized him, held him to the ground while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire.  He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush.

Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a water hole and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, found the strength to get up.  He wondered about the hostile reception that he had received from people he had known all his life.  He decided he must have said something wrong or left something out from the story of Jesus.

So, after rehearsing the message, he decided to go back and share this message again.  Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began to proclaim Jesus.  “He died for you so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God,” he pleaded.

Again, he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him, reopening wounds that had just begun to heal.  Once more, they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die.  To have survived the first beating was truly remarkable.  To live through the second was a miracle.

A few days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness – bruised, scarred, but determined to go back.  He returned to the small village, and this time, they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth.  As they flogged him for the third and possibly the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was the women who were beating him begin to weep.  This time, he awoke in his own bed.  The ones who had so severely beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health.  And then, the entire village came to Christ.

Paul says, “There was trouble everywhere!”  What was Paul’s response?  “We dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition” – v. 2.  Gospel ministry is rarely popular.  For every person who receives us, there are many who want nothing to do with us.

What are we to do in the face of opposition or indifference?

  1. Refuse to be intimidated.
  2. Keep on praying.
  3. Keep on keeping on.

Paul just kept on preaching.  If they listened, that was good.  If they didn’t, that was too bad.  If they opposed him, he didn’t stop.  If they attacked him, he kept on going.

Someone has said that the real measure of a person is what it takes to make you stop doing what you are doing.  The people who make a real difference depend so much on God that they aren’t fazed by opposition.  Secondly…

2:  They Spoke the Truth with Integrity

  1. 3-4 – “So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.  For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

Notice what Paul says in these verses:

  1. Our message istrue“not from deceit, impure motives or trickery”
  2. Our message is pure—”not from impure motives.”
  3. Our message ishonest”not trying to trick you.”
  4. Our message is trustworthy—they had been “entrusted with the gospel.”

We need to remember the spiritual climate of that day.  Leon Morris wrote:  

There has probably never been such a variety of religious cults and philosophic systems as in Paul’s day.  East and west had united and intermingled to produce a mixture of real piety, high moral principles, crude superstition and gross license.  Oriental mysteries, Greek philosophy, and local gods/idols all competed for favor under the tolerant mindset of Roman indifference. “Holy men” of all stripes and nationalities, popular philosophers, magicians, astrologers, crackpots, and weirdos; the sincere and the ridiculous, the righteous and the troublemaker, swindlers and saints….all were clamoring for the attention of the serious seeker and the skeptic. 

In light of those conditions, Paul stresses his moral integrity.  When he says his message does not come from error, he emphasizes the truth reality of the Christian faith.  He is not spreading lies or speculations – he wants to make clear that he is not using the gospel for impure motives.

The word for “trickery” comes from the idea of fishing – the word used means to “bait the hook.”  Paul emphasizes that he didn’t use preaching as a “bait-and-switch” to entice the Thessalonians into following him or giving him money.  He was not running some kind of religious sideshow like a carnival trickster. 

When he says that he has been entrusted with the gospel, he is stating the fact that God has given him the high honor of preaching the gospel. As a sacred trust, this task required the highest moral and ethical standards.

I think we would all agree, Canada is in serious trouble.  Several provinces have already headed down the slippery slope of calling evil good and calling good, evil.  The plan to change the whole of our Canadian landscape to embrace the depravity of lost sinners is well underway.  If you can shape the minds of children and youth to your way of thinking you have re-shaped the national identity.  Folks, we have lost our way as a nation.  Our Federal government is working on a bill that removes the protection we used to have as churches and pastors.

We have lost our way morally and spiritually.  No wonder we don’t trust our leaders.  No wonder crime has increased as anger and frustrations mount.  No wonder we can’t agree on what marriage means or what it means to be male and female.  When you turn away from God, you end up with moral anarchy.  Canada is not far from that now.  Romans chapter 1 is coming true right before our eyes.

In times like these, it’s not enough to speak the truth.  We need to back it up with a godly life.  Unbelievers understand this.  That’s why the cause of Christ is hurt so badly when Pastors and Christian leaders turn out to be hypocrites.  People expect more from those who claim to represent God.  They hold us to a higher standard whether we like it or not.

Paul says that God has “approved” him to preach the gospel.  Could God say the same thing about you and me?  Could God place His stamp of approval on your life?  #3…

3: They Didn’t Need to use Tricks

  1. 5 reads – “Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!” Paul discusses the methods he used to reach people.
  • We never used flattery.
  • We didn’t put on a mask to cover up greed.

The word “flattery” means to make a favorable impression for a selfish purpose.  Things like insincere compliments, praise we don’t mean, emotional manipulation, and insincerity.

Paul said what he meant and meant what he said!  You didn’t have to ask, “What did he really mean by that?”  You could say, he was a straight shooter!

People put on a mask to cover up their real intentions.  Like an actor wearing a mask, many people appear to be one thing while in fact they are something else.  They appear to be generous so as to gain a personal advantage.

A survey done some years ago found that the # 1 complaint that unchurched people have about the church is that we are just after their money.  This isn’t new – they made the same complaint against Paul 2000 years ago.

We should be able to say – check us out.  Look at the way we live.  Watch our lifestyle.  Consider our missionaries – they could be making more money by not being a missionaryYet they go to the ends of the earth, learn a new language, enter a new culture, and live among people who aren’t always happy to see them.  They do it gladly and without complaint.  Paul says he didn’t use any tricks.  #4…

4: They Only Wanted Praise from God

  1. 6 – “As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.” What made them act this way? Paul uses a word that means to eagerly seek.  It’s not wrong to receive praise from men when a job is well done.  Good work should be praised.  But, it’s wrong to do your work for the purpose of the praise of men.  Our main desire should be to seek the praise of our Almighty God!

When you compare pleasing man with pleasing God you end up with:

  • Man-PleaserAvoids truth; God-PleaserWilling to speak the truth
  • Man-Pleaser: Says what people want to hear; God-Pleaser: Says what people need to hear
  • Man-Pleaser: Waffles on issues; God-Pleaser: Consistent at all times
  • Man-Pleaser: Obeys when convenient; God-Pleaser: Obeys even when it hurts
  • Man-Pleaser: Tells the truth as long as it’s convenient; God-Pleaser: Tells the truth all the time

Imagine going to the doctor because you have been feeling poorly.  He calls for some tests.  The results are not good.  What do you want the doctor to do?  If he tells you the truth, you’ll be devastated.  If he doesn’t, you could soon be dead.  Would you rather have him sugar-coat the truth/lie to you?  Or, do you want to know the truth about your condition?  Most of us want to know the truth even if it hurts.

When life and death issues are at stake, only the truth will do!  When it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the stakes are much higher.  For that reason, Christians must be people who hold to the highest possible standards of truth and integrity.

We are entering a period in history where more and more we will find that hard times are coming on us, as Christians.  Christians around the world are under attack for their faith.  Using various smoke-screens to divert the attention the anti-Christ agenda has been at work behind the scenes.  Western culture is growing more and more hostile to the Christian faith.

This shouldn’t surprise us – Jesus said this would happen.  Every day we are being sent out like sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16).  And for this reason, many people think it’s better to keep your head down and say nothing about your faith.  But we don’t have that option as Christians.

Sooner or later we’re all going to have to take a stand.  What I find most encouraging about Paul’s defense of his ministry is what he didn’t say.  After suffering so much persecution, he doesn’t say, “I’m going to dilute my message to be more effective.  I need to do a better job of including and tolerating the felt needs of the Thessalonian people.  I need to stop telling them that idol worship is sin.  People will think I’m just a negative troublemaker.”

No, Paul stood his ground.  He didn’t back down.  He kept on preaching the gospel.

That’s a great example for us – Don’t back down!  Stand firm on what you believe!

Remember that tombstone – those five simple words:  “A man of unquestioned integrity.”  You could say that about Paul.  He preached the gospel in spite of strong opposition.  He spoke the truth with integrity.  He refused all trickery.  He sought praise from God alone.

One verse of the familiar hymn – Be Thou My Vision – says it well:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,

Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,

High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

No wonder in Acts 17:6 it was said of Paul and Silas, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

Paul enemies questioned every move he made, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was a man of unquestioned integrity.  You see, people can say whatever they want.  We can’t stop others from lying about us.  If we stand for Christ in troubled times, we are bound to be criticized by someone.

Paul doesn’t try to silence his critics.  He simply said, “Look at my life. That’s all the answer you need.”  Integrity means living with nothing hidden because you have nothing to hide.

Don’t worry about your critics.  Focus on pleasing the Lord.  Simply keep doing the right thing.

Abraham Lincoln said:  “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.  I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end.  If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten thousand angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

There is one little phrase I want to go back to – in v. 2 – “we had boldness in our God”.  When you have a firm grip on God and he has a firm grip on you, you can be bold.  Why would one be afraid when God is on your side?  Walk close to the Lord.  Rest in him.  Don’t just try to add God to what you are doing…build what you are doing on the solid Rock!

When you start with God, no one will have to tell you to be bold. You’ll be bold and the world will wonder where your courage comes from.

Let’s pray…

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