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God Still Speaks
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16
Track 41 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 27 minutes, 56 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, October 12, 2003
"God Still Speaks"
(1 Thessalonians 2:1-16)
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

It's actually pretty predictable what's going to happen at this point because it happens every Sunday at this point. We come to worship and we spend some time worshiping through song, we greet one another, we worship as we fellowship, we come back knowing that at some point in the service there's going to be a sermon. Not the most popular sort of thing in American culture, but at least reasonably expected in church. It's interesting, isn't it, how we use the concept of preaching out in the world? It sounds like this-- don't preach to me--its just got a ring to it, ya know?? Yet, right at the heart of every service that we have here--three services a morning, 52 weeks a year there is going to be a sermon. There used to be lots more of them and they used to be lots longer. Churches used to preach multiple times during the week. There used to be sermons in the morning and in the evening, usually on Wednesday and sometimes all week long. Sermons usually went anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. In fact, when you go to eastern Europe, you should probably take two and put them together because they'll never be satisfied with only one. At least not one that lasts only twenty or thirty minutes. They want a good 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Optimum word--GOOD--45 minutes.

Well, what do you expect when you come to the sermon? I guess it's an odd thing to preach about preaching, and yet, one of the core values we have settled on for this congregation is that we value relevant biblical preaching and teaching. That it seems to us that somewhere down in the core of God's system, he has established that what we do up here is important. In fact, if you read your scriptures you'll discover that he has a lot of important things to say about what we expect from preaching--what he expects from preaching. It was through the foolishness of preaching, for example, that he chose to save those who believed. It seems like an odd thing to do, to me, to have a monologue go on and then have people respond to that and somehow God act. But I feel its weight every Sunday. I'm sure that every person who stands in a pulpit, all 330,000 of them this morning, that will happen across the United States, I'm absolutely certain that the vast majority of preachers sense that burden.

Last week I took the time to re-listen to a lectureship by James Earl Massey, the Anderson, Indiana Church of God lecturer, Homiletics teacher/preacher for the past 50 plus years. His lectures were entitled "The Burdensome Joy of Preaching" and I don't know if anybody sitting in the pew feels the burden, other than the burden of having to listen, any more than the person standing trying to say something that God is trying to say because there is a burdensome to it. There is a weight, because there is this enormous expectation and every place that the apostle Paul talks about preaching, it seems like he puts the weight of responsibility on that person who is standing there to represent him well.

One of my most challenging texts was referred to last week 1Thessolonians Chapter 2, Verse 13. I want to go back to that chapter today and see if we can talk about the chapter as a whole. This first 16 verses where the apostle Paul lays out his relationship to the church as it particularly has to do with the concept of preaching and bringing a message from God.

He says in Verse 1 of 1Thessolonians Chapter 2, You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

Let me stop there and we'll pick that paragraph up in the middle of that verse in just a few minutes. Ah, what do you expect when you come to church at Madison Park?--a place where we claim to value biblical preaching and teaching. Here's the promise that we're making to you. You can expect preachers and teachers who seek to please God and not to trick men. That's our goal--that's our (I'm hesitant to say it) promise to you, because it puts the burden of responsibility on the person who stands here or in any of our classrooms, whether they be teaching our little children or our adults, that they will, in fact, be there to please God and not to please men. Not to keep the class happy, nor the church happy, but to keep God happy.

You notice the situation that Paul is in. He's been in trouble for preaching before. It's not new news to him to be in trouble because he happened to preach. He left the area around Philippi, having been thrown in jail because he was a preacher and now he's come to Thessalonica. He only lasts in Thessalonica three and a half weeks and he's thrown out of town there for preaching, but he writes back to them in verse 1 and says you know, that the visit we had with you was not without success. Why? Because the truth was preached and because people believed it and responded. And so he says, here's the expectation, if we value biblical preaching and teaching, preaching that is both relevant and biblical, we're gonna speak the truth. In fact, he's going to use his favorite word here, for what we preach. Three times in this text he's going to refer to the gospel, that good news that God has given to humanity that Jesus died and was raised from the dead for our sake. That's his message! That's what he came to preach. That's, in fact, what you can expect us to preach. THE TRUTH--Hopefully preached in Love.

There are some folk who like the truth. They just like it preached a little more strongly than others.

I was invited to a church that was in the midst of some great difficulty. In fact, here was the invitation from the elders of that congregation. We'd like you to come along and bring a 2 X 4. Well, I thought I did, but apparently some of them didn't think so, because the first question asked after church was, "Well, where's the 2 X 4?" I thought, well then I missed somebody, though I tried. I don't know that good preaching is necessarily marked out by having a supply of steel-toed boots at the back door so that everybody can come in prepared. Because the truth needs to be preached, but it needs to be preached with Love for people. Certainly you have to preach the hard things of scripture, but the hard things of scripture must first break your heart before they can break anybody else's. If you've never seen hell preached about, with a man smiling, you'll probably never quite understand the incongruity that occurs in that place. And I've seen it. I've heard it preached. But it made it sound like he was really glad we were all going there. That's not Paul. I trust that will not be us in this place. We will preach to you the truth, the hard truth of scripture. That without Jesus Christ, you're in trouble, but we'll do it with tears because we don't want it to happen to you. We want you to walk with God. We want to say the truth. We want to say it relevantly, but we want to give you the freedom to make that choice knowing what the consequences are going to be. See, when you preach the truth biblically and relevantly, and you preach it faithfully as Paul was talking about in this text, you'll notice in verse 3 he says, this is not coming from error. We're not going to lie to you. We're not gonna tell you something that isn't true. It doesn't come from impure motives. We're not here to try to trick you into something. We're here to simply tell you the truth. Why? Well, frankly, it has nothing to do with you. No offense! Ah! Your opinion matters, it just doesn't matter much!

Do you notice this text? Verse 4? On the contrary, we speak as men approved by god to be entrusted with the gospel. That's the word of stewardship. God has put the gospel in the hands of preachers and teachers with a trust involved. And then he says, God, tests our hearts. What you like and don't like about the preaching and teaching around here matters but what God thinks is far more important than that. And ultimately, whoever stands in this pulpit isn't going to answer to you. He's going to answer to God and so, there's a burdensome joy in telling the truth--a truth that matters. Now we're not out to trick anybody. That's Paul's language in this particular text.

We never used flattery. We didn't put on a mask. We didn't try to trick anybody. Nobody is speaking, as he says in 2Corinthians, from a means of trying somehow to convince you of our sincerity and therefore get you to do something. In fact, the difference between persuasive preaching, which is what we hope will happen here and manipulation is your right to say NO. It's the fundamental difference between persuasion and manipulation to leave a person the ability to say NO. Now that can happen anywhere, whether you're a vacuum cleaner salesman or a preacher. Have you given people enough information so they know how to make the decision, which you still left them the privilege of saying NOT TODAY - it's not for me.

Now, that's an awful thing. Because nobody who understands the truth of the gospel wants anybody to walk out of a room having said NO to God and as a temptation to try to do anything we can to get you to say YES. But legitimate preaching is the privilege of looking you in the face and saying, It's your choice! You decide! And if you choose to say NO, honoring that, what I always prefer you to say Yes--Yes. Will it break the teachers heart if you say No? It certainly will, but it's your choice.

Well, what can you expect? Let's move on. Middle of verse 6 he says, As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

You can expect the preachers and teachers in this place to seek to speak for God (excuse me, to seek to represent God) never to burden man. I love the imagery in this particular text. God is both a mother and a father in this text and imparts that to the preacher and teacher among us, that we would treat our people, the folk to whom we teach and preach, that we would love you like a mother and like a father. I'm partly attracted to this text because of the way that it unfolds. Have you noticed this? . . .we were gentle among you, like a mother and he says, Surely, verse 9, . . .you remember, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day. . . . . . . Paul apparently understood that mothers worked really, really hard. He must have understood those late night hours of getting up when the children wake up in the middle of the night. He must have understood that it is almost always (I will give some of you a little credit, men). . .it's almost always the mother who's in with the child at those inopportune moments when they want to relieve everything in their stomach. It's a polite way of saying--well, never mind!! Have you ever noticed that motherly instinct that just draws you to the hurting person? Just as preachers and teachers are drawn to hurting people, because they know that they have what those people need. And so he says, we will never seek to avoid the hard work of ministry.

I - I won't speak for me because that would be just out of line but I will speak for the rest of the staff and the teachers, the Sunday school workers around here, they work really hard. They put in enormous amounts of effort to be able to speak the truth to you because they care and they treat you a bit like a father - encouraging is a great word for that. That's what he says. There are other words that fathers might use. . . .maybe not comfort. Fathers are not always good at that, although we confess that we do have a soft side occasionally, that you can lay your shoulder against. Urging--now that sounds a little more like it. Prodding, encouraging! My children would say it this way. Come on get with it! They've heard that before. In fact, if I were where I thought I was gonna be this morning, that's probably what I would be saying--although it's a little early to be saying it right now. Ah, they started at eight o'clock in Chicago with 40,000 other people in the marathon. Ah, two of my girls did at least and oh by now, let's see, there forty minutes in. With a crowd that size they may have made four miles. There's no sense urging them yet. They're not even tired. Haven't even had a chance to stop and get their first drink yet. Oh, but twenty miles from now they'll need some urging--Come on, you can do this! I know you can do this. Yes, I know it hurts. I've been there. Yeah, I know your feet are cramping up. Come on, get with it!

We didn't come here to--you know what we didn't come here to do. We didn't come here to quit. We came here to finish. In fact, the phone call I had this morning when I was driving over here, about 5:20, as they were driving in to downtown Chicago was, our motto for the day is Fun and Finish. Listen, if you're in the back of the pack like their going to be and you're not running two hours and five minutes, you might as well have fun. You're not going to get anything but a metal for it and a couple of blisters.

Do you hear it? The prompter and the preacher and the teacher who says "come on". We didn't say quit. We started this thing in order to finish. And so the motto is not quit is it? Fun and Finish. Enjoy it! Christianity, your faith ought to just cause your life to be good, but we're here to finish and so, if once in awhile we come along side you and say, get with it, it doesn't mean we're aggravated, it's because we want you to experience the joy of crossing the line. It's what I'm missing this morning, by the way. I'm not missing the 26.2 miles. I've done that before. It really isn't all that much fun.

Before ________ my second oldest daughter, who is doing this with her younger sister today. She is doing my job today cause I'm not there, and the most significant moment that I think I will probably remember my whole life is going hand-in-hand across the finish line together. That's what this is about. This is about you and me standing together at the finish line, having made it. That's what preaching and teaching are supposed to do. Preaching and teaching are supposed to, like a mother or a father urge you along, never to be a burden to you, but always to simply try to bring God in your presence the best way we know how. And that's the part of this verse that frightens me the most that frankly, makes Sunday mornings just a bit intimidating.

Did you hear it as it was going through? He talks about the fact, that in verse 10 we are holy, righteous and blameless among you. He might say that for himself. I'm not sure I would say it for me but I would make you this promise for me. We will be fellow pilgrims on the way trying to get to those places, cause I don't think the person standing in your pulpit is any more holy or blameless than you are, but I'm hoping he has no less desire to be so than you do.

Well, what can you expect? Look at verse 13. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. For you brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

You can expect this. Preachers and teachers who seek to speak for God--never to hide the truth from men. It's the struggle that this verse gives that I talked about last week. . .that when we speak, we speak and you hear what God desires to be heard.

Paul's statement is an overwhelming statement about the power of preaching, not about the power of the preacher, about the power of preaching. . . that when his word goes forth. . . it goes forth as HIS word, not mine, not Brian's, not Mike's in the classroom, not Lindy's in the class. . . . Not yours in the classroom. It goes forth as God's word to be heard. In fact, he says it this way through the prophet Isaiah. . . .I will never send forth my word without _________ do it's job. It will always come back _________ for which it was intended to be spoken. It's a frightening ___________________________ enough to stand where I stand. I'll give account for what I say. You'll give account for what you do with it. And that's up to you. Our promise is simply that we will do our best to be biblical and to be relevant. We will listen to hear what God is saying and we will try to say back to you what we understand God to have said in his word for this particular moment in time.

We will do our best to listen to the world, to the culture, to understand it so when we come to this text we can bring you a word that is, in fact, relevant to where we live, that addresses the issues with which we have to deal. And we warn you, and if we're going to speak the truth to you, we warn you that some people will not like the fact that you respond.

Notice what happened to the apostle Paul? There were a whole group of people out there trying to stop his preaching because they did not want other people to believe. Maybe you've had that experience as you've tried to teach or preach to your family and people have tried to stop you. Maybe you've had that happen to you at work where people said, WE DON'T WANT THAT HERE! Do that on your own time. They've certainly made it impossible to do in our public school setting when it used to be that was one of the places where scripture was more profoundly taught than anyplace else. But we want to encourage you to obey it anyway. In spite of the fact that there are going to be people who do not want you to listen, we're encouraging you to listen. That's our job! And we know that what we're asking you could be incredibly painful. We understand that. And, I suppose it may be that mother/father language earlier in this text that makes that sometimes so very difficult, because you know, it's really hard to ask somebody to buy something that is gonna be painful.

It's happened both times that I've tried to get my children through a marathon training. In fact, the odd thing is it has happened both times on the same route. I think I'm gonna change routes. It has happened, in fact, both times at approximately the same place on the same route, about eighteen miles in when they have reached their limit, their body has finally said what the body eventually says, I'm not gonna do this! And you know that the only way that they're going to get to the marathon finish line is to get through that, because if you quit after 18 today, you'll quite at 18 tomorrow and the next day and the next. And so, lest I sound like a weepy father, I have cried my way through 18 miles with both of my children. I just make sure they don't see it. They think it's sweat! It is the tears of a father who hates to see his children hurt. . . . . . . . . . . . . .thing is worth doing because they want it. And, I'll invite you to be a believer and I may do it through tears because I understand it may cost you your whole family. It may cost you your job. In our country, eventually, it may cost you your life, but it's worth it.

So what can you expect? You can expect this. God still speaks. That's what this text teaches us. And he speaks through those who speak in his name. We value biblical relevant preaching and teaching in this place and we will continue to do it for as long as the doors of this church are open, you can expect somebody to stand up and speak for God. But, we'll give you this promise as well. Nobody will ever try to get you to do something that you ultimately don't want to do because it will be your choice. It is always your choice. We will make it as persuasive as we know how. We will give you every reason we can think of to get you to believe. We will do the things that the bible promises you, the joy of being believer and the pain of being a believer, but it's your choice. You heard it didn't you? We thank God, because when you receive the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it. He says it really is the word of God and it is at work in you who believe. It's your choice. If it works in you, it's because you chose to believe it, to respond to it, to allow it to work. But if you're sitting back waiting for this word to do something to you without your permission, it's going to be like a lifeless book on a library shelf, it doesn't do a thing, it's just more words until you choose to believe it and to respond to it, to accept it as a word from God. And when you do that, this word, what is taught and what is preached and this place will change your life forever.

We're inviting you to believe that word. Maybe you're at the point where you're ready to do that very thing. You have listened long enough. You're ready to respond in obedience to Jesus, then we invite you to come. ___________ over the last several months with your own life and you've decided today, I am going to, in fact, begin to listen to God, like I've never listened to him before. . . . . . . make that decision. . . . . . .this song gives you that opportunity to say to God, I want to make you my one and only passion in life. I want to believe your word and I want to give myself to you completely. And that my friends, we invite you to in every message. Let's stand.