Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

PatternLast week we saw how Paul and Silas travelled through Asia picking up Timothy in Lystra and Luke in Troas. We discovered the church was planted through the Gospel and why Paul and his companions were thankful for them. We saw the Thessalonians were chosen by God to have a, “work of faith, a labor of love, and a steadfastness of hope.” Today let’s look at what changed these people of Thessalonica.

Grab your Bible and read 1 Thes. 1:5-10.

The Gospel was not delivered to the Thessalonians by itself. It was delivered with words. There is an increasing trend in the instructions that accompany products requiring assembly. It seems manufacturers are eliminating the words in favor of pictures only. It is sometimes extraordinarily difficult to complete the assembly without the words that accompany the pictures. That’s what Paul is talking about here. A picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean don’t use words.  You need words to interpret the picture. Sir Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” People love that statement, but it’s inconsistent with Scripture. Paul said the Gospel did not come in word only. It was delivered with power. Power is the Greek word dunamis meaning inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. There is power in the Gospel simply because it is the Gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. You don’t have to make the Gospel something it’s not; you don’t have to have flowery or eloquent words. The power is inherent to the Gospel.

The Gospel was delivered in full conviction. I switched up conviction and Spirit because power and conviction go hand in hand. Power is in the message, but conviction is in the heart of the messenger. There is power inherent in the Gospel, but if I didn’t deliver the message with the deep belief that what I was saying was real, true, and relevant, the effectiveness would be reduced. I proclaim the Gospel boldly and with confidence because I really believe that, “it is the power of God unto salvation.”

The Gospel was delivered in the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives us clarity of speech. It is the Spirit that illuminates our minds. Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)

The Gospel was delivered by example. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians, “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1Cor. 2:4) Paul didn’t just say a bunch of good stuff. He demonstrated what the Gospel can do for someone. He had been a persecutor of the church until Jesus got a hold of him and changed him. The proof of the truth of the Gospel was in the real life demonstration of the lives of Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke. They didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walk. I think that’s why there is so much opposition to the Gospel today. We have too many so called Christians living lives that do not reflect the life changing power of the Gospel. You cannot say that Jesus is the Lord of your life and continue to live in sin. When you are confronted with the truth of the Scriptures, you cannot continue living the same life. We often are confronted with unbelievers that believe there are hypocrites in the church and unfortunately that’s true. The reason for the hypocrisy?  I think many “professing” Christians are not saved. There’s no demonstration in their lives, no example to follow and that is disturbing because it is inconsistent with the Word.

Look at how the Thessalonians welcomed the Gospel in vs. 6-7. Life wasn’t all rosy for the Thessalonians. There was a lot of confrontation and opposition to the Gospel. Remember how the Word got there. Read Acts 17:5-8. No matter how lovingly we present the Gospel, it is confrontational. Rom. 3:19 says, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” That’s what all the opposition was about.  The religious leaders in Thessalonica didn’t like being told that their religion wouldn’t save them. Even though there was lots of opposition, the Thessalonians received the Word with joy. Maybe Paul described them as being “in Christ” in v. 3 to encourage them in the face of the persecution and adversity they faced. Received gives us the idea of possession and acceptance. They didn’t just hear the Word, they took hold of it and it changed them. They received it in joy.

We’ve looked at joy in our Community Groups this past week. John Piper defines joy and happiness as synonymous. The only way you can have joy among trials, affliction, and suffering is to have the fruit of the Spirit which, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23) In fact, the Thessalonians took hold of the Gospel in such a way that Paul told them, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord.” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.    For Mountain Dew, we have Green Lightning. For the Toyota Corolla – the Honda Civic.  Chevy Silverado – GMC Sierra. For Cheerios – there is the ever popular Toasty – O’s.

Imitator comes from the Greek word mimetes [mim-ay-tace’] where we get our English word mimic. God so dramatically changed their lives that after they mimicked Paul and the others they, “Became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Paul mimicked Christ, the Thessalonians mimicked Paul, and the Thessalonians, “Became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” Example here is the word pattern. The pattern was established and they followed it.

The spreading of the Gospel is recorded in 1 Thes. 1:8-10. Here’s evidence of their work of faith and labor of love. The Thessalonians were not content to keep the Gospel secret. They were so zealous to spread the Word of God that Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and Luke didn’t have to do say anything about what the Lord was doing in Thessalonica because their reputation preceded Paul and the others. The church went out and proclaimed the truth. They didn’t wait for people to come to the church.  They went to where the people were. Here’s more proof of their true conversion. The people of Macedonia and Achaia reported to Paul that the Thessalonians had, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven.” This is a great phrase and I don’t want you to miss its significance. They turned to God from idols. Paul called idols dumb in Galatians.  Idols don’t speak. Idols are dead, God is living. Idols are many, God is one. Idols are made by human hands, God just is. True conversion involves a decisive break from idols. True conversion involves serving the living God. True conversion involves a patient waiting for Christ. If there is no turning – there is no conversion.

How are you living out your faith? Do people associate you with Christ? Who are you imitating? Who is imitating you?


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