Have you ever had the sensation that you were being watched? How does this make you feel? If you have nothing to hide, you assume that the observers will soon tire of their scrutiny of you. If you are wrestling with guilt over some misdemeanor fear may well creep in that you have been found out, that soon everyone will know exactly what you’ve done.
As Paul, Silas and Timothy lived and taught among the Thessalonians, these spiritual ‘fathers’ were being watched–watched by their ‘children’ these young believers, and observed by God. What did these witnesses see? How were these missionaries conducting themselves in this community in which they hoped to have gospel impact?
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thess. 2:10)
Holy? – set apart, consecrated, distinctly different from those around them.
Righteous? – upright in conduct, manifesting purity in thought, word and deed.
Blameless? – conduct which was marked by integrity and grace.
How was this possible? Would anyone describe your conduct or would you describe your own conduct as holy, righteous and blameless? Reading these words may provide a staggering indictment of our lives. Are the lives we live really different from those around us? Is there evidence that the Holy Spirit is changing us to become more and more like Jesus Christ?
We certainly can’t crank this conduct out in my own strength. Naturally we are unholy, unrighteous, easily blamed for saying and doing things that offend God and others. Some days we grow discouraged as to how little a difference we’ve allowed God to make in my life. But, our sense of need is a good thing. It makes us ‘hunger and thirst’ for a righteousness which we do not naturally possess and God promises us a filling which we have never known before. Let’s sing desperately with this generation, “O how I need you, O how I need you, O how I need you…” or with a previous generation, “I need Thee every hour most gracious Lord…”
Those who are self-righteous have no desire to change. They feel themselves to be fine just as they are, following the desires of their own heart and marching to their own drumbeat. How little do they sense any stirring of God’s Spirit! How seldom does the ‘pursuit of holiness’ grip them at the core of their being?
Paul goes on to indicate not only his own desire for holiness, but the core objectives of his ministry as he and the other members of the team (Silas & Timothy) served as spiritual ‘fathers’ to these newborn spiritual babes.
“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.”
Godly fathers follow this modus operandi. They blend encouragement, comfort and an urging as they train their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The standard for the family is God. Lives ‘worthy of God’ are the driving objective individually and collectively. The process may be lengthy, but as these young children cooperate with the Spirit of God, they are drawn into the holiness, righteousness and blamelessness which they have seen modeled in the lives of those who are more mature.
So how important are examples? In recent days I have shared sad conversations with those who are burdened for sons and daughters who have turned their backs on the way of truth because of the hypocrisy they saw firsthand in a supposedly ‘Christian’ setting. Today they justify their distance from God and any who might profess to follow Christ as they prefer their own standards for daily living. I’ve spoken with other Christ followers whose confidence in their ‘mentors’ has been shattered by sinful choices with far reaching ramifications.
May God enable us, by his grace, through his Spirit, to walk in obedience, to walk in holiness, to walk in truth. And when we sin, may we quickly confess and seek restoration with God and those we have offended. Like it or not, we’re being watched!