If you have heard this message before, I'm going to ask you a question. No, I'm not going to ask you to raise your hand and accept salvation yet again, (I must have prayed the 'salvation prayer' a dozen times or so as a child), but I'm going to ask you 'What comes after?' Does hearing this gospel message become irrelevant to you once you have accepted Christ's free gift of salvation?
I know I am guilty of tuning out of the basic gospel message when it is presented, thinking that I've already been redeemed, so that part of the message is for someone else who hasn't made that decision yet. But does the gospel message really stop or cease to be relevant at redemption? To find out, let's take a peek back in history at my favourite New Testament church, the church in Thessalonica!
Arguably the greatest messenger of the Gospel message apart from Christ himself was Paul. Paul was used powerfully by God to establish communities of new believers all over the known world in the first century, and the church in Thessalonica was one such community.
Paul only visited the Thessalonians for a short time before leaving to the next city, but something powerful happened during that short time. Many people responded to the gospel message and accepted Christ as their Saviour. While that in itself is amazing, it's not the powerful part. The powerful part is that only two-three years later, the Thessalonians were renowned all over Greece for their faith! Somehow, wherever Paul was at the time, he also heard about their powerful faith, and he wrote a letter to them, encouraging them to keep it up!
Didn't stop at Redemption
The Gospel message certainly didn't stop at redemption for these people, so what was the activating factor here? How did this community in Thessalonica grow such a bright, powerful, neon faith in such a short space of time? Well luckily, that is what Paul addresses first in his letter.
Paul says to the Thessalonians, 'For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true…So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.' (1 Thessalonians 1 verses 5a-6).
So when the gospel message came to the Thessalonians, it wasn't merely words, thus their salvation was not merely a response to words. Their salvation was an encounter - the start of a transforming work by the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, it was the Holy Spirit that confirmed the truth of the gospel message, and it was the Holy Spirit whom the Thessalonians received the message from. The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Triune God, was the activating factor in the salvation of the Thessalonians.
This activation was so powerful and authentic that in a few short years, this community of believers were famous all over Greece for their faith in God. Salvation is an invitation from the Father who provides redemption by Christ. This is the gospel message, and it is activated, sustained, and ignited by the power of the Holy Spirit; 'the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true,' (v. 5).
When I read about this transformed community, I ask myself, 'Is the Holy Spirit activating, sustaining and igniting the gospel message in my life? And what would that look like?' Well, the most concrete evidence of the Holy Spirit transforming our lives are the growth of our spiritual fruit. Paul describes this fruit in another book, Galatians.
The fruit of the Spirit looks like this: an active love for God and one's fellowman; a rejoicing in all kinds of circumstances; peacefulness and serenity of character and peacemaking among people; patience and longsuffering with people, some of whom may not be easy to get along with; kindness toward others; goodness that seeks to help others; faithfulness and dependability in one's relationships with God and other people; gentleness and meekness in accepting God's will and in dealing with others; and the ability to keep oneself in check and under control in all kinds of circumstances.
I know I'm challenged by this transformational faith, and I hope that you are too. Can you imagine what a powerful impact communities of believers could have if we allowed the Holy Spirit to ignite that bright, conspicuous, neon faith in our lives?
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html