What happens when pressure is put on you to remain in the non-productive and depressing life style that you have always experienced? How do you react to suggestions for change? What effect does peer pressure have on your acceptance of a new behavior or a way of life?
Paul praises the Thessalonian church for radically altering their life style to conform to Jesus Christ and His way of life rather than maintaining the idolatrous habits that had characterized their experience. They were tired of that which was neither satisfying nor fulfilling.
They “welcomed” the message of Jesus as Messiah and the new lifestyle that was authentically lived in front of them. Paul says it this way in 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” Note four things:
1.) They “became imitators of us and of the Lord” – They had a model of godly behavior that was radically different from their own experience. They followed that model to a “tee” because they found it to be fulfilling, authentic and powerful. Are you a model of Jesus to someone and do you have a godly model to imitate?
2.) They “welcomed the message" instead of criticizing or trashing it. To “welcome” means “to greet happily and enthusiastically as you would greet a favored guest into your home.”
3.) They encountered "severe pressure” from themselves and others to remain like they were, instead of being like Jesus. “Pressure” here refers to "squeezing a grape until it bursts.” They resisted that kind of pressure. Sound familiar?
4.) They were "given" a gift from the Holy Spirit – “joy” – a portion of the fruit of the Spirit, which includes a deep inner sense of fulfillment and peace. This is the “prize” for experiencing transformation.
The Thessalonian’s experience of deep inner joy and fulfillment can be yours as you resist ungodly peer pressure, welcome the freeing message of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and then imitate the life style of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Experiencing transformation ~ Bob