10 Steps to Healthy Christian Living
1 Thessalonians 1:9 – For they themselves report concerning what kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned from serving idols to serve the living and true God.
It is easy to get caught up in thinking that the Christian life is a complicated combination of competing tasks. If I were to write a book entitled, “10 Steps to Healthy Christian Living” I have no doubt it would sell well. It would not matter if my 10 steps were contradictory with all the other step-books on Christian living, people would still buy my book? Why? It is because, generally speaking, Christians find the Bible daunting and are too lazy to study it for what it has to say about healthy Christian living. If one did sit down and attempt to build a summary definition of the Christian life, it would not be difficult to stop off at a few different sections that would bring helpful instruction on what is to be the life and work of a servant of Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 just happens to be one of those verses.
What would be a summary of a person’s conversion to Christianity? What does it look like for your average Joe, to change from serving himself to serving Jesus? Paul saw an example of it in the Thessalonian church and summarized it this way, “how you turned from serving idols to serve the living and true God.” There are actually two steps hidden in this quote.
First, there comes the recognition of what an idol is in comparison to the living and true God. An idol is anything that claims a person’s affections. It could be entertainment, money, sexual intimacy, power, work, and a host of other things. You can be pretty well assured that if something exists it has at one time or another been made an idol. In contrast to all of these affection-thieves is the living and true God. Living and true are profoundly rich words to use of God. God is living, so you can have a real and vital relationship with him now, today. God is true, the true Lord of our affections, in contradistinction from all of the idols, affection-thieves.
Second, in addition to the ability to distinguish between an idol and God, is the the actual turning from one to the other. What is conversion to Christianity? It is turning. Not an endless turning like a top but a decided turning from one thing to another. Men know this process all too well in their attempts to pursue and win the affections of a woman. The most devastating thing a woman can do to a man in conversation is to turn her back on him. It is a sign that says, “I’ve turned my back on you. You don’t exist. Now go away.” But then there are the moments of romantic joy when the woman turns her gaze from a crowded room to focus on a particluar man who has caught her eye. That is the gaze of affection. The Christian performs both of these simultaneously in conversion. He turns his eyes his affections from the empty gaze upon idols towards the smiling face of God. It is a turning from idols to the living and true God.
This is conversion. And to be honest, this a good bit of Christian living as well. Christians are constantly looking to discern and effectively snub their idols. Christians are constantly looking to discern the glory of God and cast all their affections upon him. This ability comes from the power of the cross, the power of the gospel. It is only on the calculator of Jesus Christ that idol-value and God-value calculations can be accurately accounted. Could it be that healthy Christian living is as easy as turning toward what is best and most satisfying? Paul seemed to think so, as he considered the church at Thessalonica.