Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1: 4-5
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. (NIV)
One of the fun things that I do on Sunday is to try to outguess what the pastor is going to preach about that morning. I have never succeeded. The reason is that I do not know the congregation as well as the pastor does. While I am a licensed minister on staff at the church, I am not involved in the day-to-day activities. My powers of observation are limited to how people behave, act, their needs, desires, and so on. All that I know about them is what I have personally seen, heard, and know from interactions with them.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica twice. Thessalonica was a seaport town, one of the biggest in the period of time that Paul was writing (about 60-80 CE). As most seaport towns it was rough, rowdy, dirty, and full of markets by the ships selling their daily goods. There was a church established there that Paul wrote to twice. Paul starts out in his greeting by explaining to the church there that the gospel of Christ was not an advertisement for the goods to be sold, nor was it a book to read, nor a story just to be told.
Instead, the word of God, or the gospel, contained power because the Holy Spirit gave it the power, but that power resulted in a deep conviction. Literalists would like to state that the conviction is the convicting power (as for a criminal) to punishment if the believers did not believe as Paul did, or have a fear of punishment, as a lot of people do today. Fear to serve God is no service at all to Christ or to Christianity. God, instead, wants people to serve God because of the love, the deep conviction in what Christianity entails.
More than going to church every Sunday, Christianity is summed up in the end of the verse: “You know how we lived among you…” It is the life of our lives exemplified daily in how we walk, talk, and speak the good news to our families first, then our neighbors, our church communities, and the local areas in which we live.
The other day new neighbors moved into the house next door to us. I was out in the yard putting away the garbage cans and saw the neighbor putting her garbage can away, too. As I always do when we get new neighbors, I introduced myself. I found that she and her husband were Christians, her husband being a pastor at another local church in the city. However, we were able to talk about our lives in Christ, prayed for a few moments, and were glad that we had some good neighbors.
I cannot guess what anyone who studies the Scripture is thinking about or how that Scripture applies to their own individual life, just as I cannot guess what the pastor is going to preach on Sunday. However, I can see by their life of action in Christ, their word, the power of the Holy Spirit residing in them, and the deep conviction with which they live their lives. And that, I believe, is what Christianity is all about.
The Mercury 7 astronauts had a public event for the press before the first launch of the Mercury capsule. One of the astronauts said that it was with deep conviction that they believed in this program as a benefit for the entire United States. I believed our deep conviction of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives is the witness we need to show those without Christ in their life how a Christian is supposed to live.