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Materialism and Idolatry

We live in world of covetousness and idolatry. Money, self-indulgence, hedonism, materialism, agnosticism and atheism reign. I am regularly asked about why my god is god. What about other gods?

So here is some elementary theology for atheists and agnostics. What is the difference between gods (1000s) and God (only one)? God is a single, non-physical, all-powerful, creative Being from outside space & time. All the gods are human-like manifestations of human imagination with some magical powers.

Therefore, we don’t need to say anything, for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: 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 rescues us from the coming wrath. | 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

The Thessalonians work of faith made them an elect people, for they turned to God from their idols and trusted Jesus the Messiah. Their labor of love made them an exemplary and enthusiastic people as they lived the Word of God and shared the good news of Jesus. Their patience of hope made them an expectant people, looking for their Master’s return.

Paul related the second coming of the Messiah to their salvation. Because they had trusted Jesus, they looked for His return with joyful expectancy and knew that they would be delivered “from the wrath to come”.

When they worshiped idols, the Thessalonians had no hope. But when they trusted “the living God,” they had a living hope. Those of us who have been brought up as disciples of Jesus cannot understand the bondage of pagan idolatry. Before Paul came to them with the good news, these people were without hope and “without God in the world”.

Disciples are “children of the living God”. Their bodies are the “temples of the living God”, indwelt by the “Spirit of the living God”. The assembly of disciples is “the church of the living God”; and for His church, God is preparing “the city of the living God”. The living God has given us a living hope by raising His Son Jesus the Messiah from the dead.

Two aspects of the Master’s return must be distinguished. First, Jesus the Messiah will come in the air for His assembly of disciples. This will usher in a period of Tribulation on the earth. At the close of this period, He will return to the earth with His assembly of disciples, defeat His enemies, and then set up His kingdom on earth.

The word translated “wait” in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 means “to await someone with patience and confidence, expectantly.” Waiting involves activity and endurance. Some of the Thessalonian believers quit their work and became idle busybodies, arguing that the Master was coming soon. But if we really believe the Master is coming, we will prove our faith by keeping busy and obeying His Word..

Disciples are waiting for Jesus the Messiah, and He may return at any time. We are not waiting for any “signs”; we are waiting for the Master. We are waiting for the redemption of the body and the hope of righteousness. When Jesus returns, we will receive new bodies, and we will be like Him. He will take us to the home He has prepared, and He will reward us for the service we have given in His name.

A local assembly of disciples that truly lives in the expectation of seeing Jesus the Messiah at any time will be a vibrant and victorious group of people. Expecting the Master’s return is a great motivation for soul-winning and discipleship stability. It is a wonderful comfort in sorrow and a great encouragement for godly living. It is tragic when we forget this wonderful doctrine. It is even more tragic when disiples believe it and preach it — but do not practice it.

Paul remembered how this church was born, and he gave thanks for their spiritual characteristics: they were

  • elect
  • exemplary
  • enthusiastic
  • expectant

But gatherings of disciples are made up of individuals. When you and I speak of the assembly, we must never say “they.” We should say “we.” We are the assembly! This means that if you and I have these spiritual characteristics, our gatherings will become what God wants them to become. The result will be the winning of the lost and the glorifying of the Master.

What every assembly of disciples should be is what every disciple should be: elect (born again), exemplary (imitating the right people), enthusiastic (sharing the good news with others), and expectant (daily looking for Jesus the Messiah to return).

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9 —For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
  • 1 Timothy 1:2 —To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and the Messiah Jesus our Master.
  • 1 Timothy 6:19 —storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
  • Titus 1:2 —in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
  • Titus 3:2 —to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
  • Hebrews 8:2 —a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Master pitched, not man.

Sources:

Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (1 Th 1:8–10). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 162–163). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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