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In 1 Thess. 1.3, Paul speaks first about faith, love and hope “their work of faith, labour of love and steadfastness of hope,” and in the closing verses of Chapter 1 he speaks about true repentance. Here we have one of the clearest definitions of true repentance in the New Testament: “turning to God from idols” (1 Thess.1:9).
Repentance is turning away from all our idols and facing God. When you live in sin, you face your idols and your back is toward God. Your idol could be money, your job, your ambition, some sinful pleasure, your girlfriend, or yourself. It could be visible idols too. There are many types of idols. Repentance is turning away from all those idols and turning 180 degrees around to God, so that your idols are now all behind your back. If you have not turned your back to such idols, you have not really repented.
Many Christians try to face God while still having idols in their lives. Their ambitions and interests are all in the world, but they also imagine that they are born-again Christians! Such “Christians” are the most unhappy people in the world. People who live totally for their idols of pleasure and money are happier than such “Christians“! But the people who live totally for God alone are supremely happy. The most miserable people in the world are those who try to live for God and the world. It’s like keeping your feet in two boats that are going in different directions. You fall into the river in the middle. Many problems that “Christians” face are because they have not laid a proper foundation of repentance in their lives.
An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. It could even be a Christian leader whom you admire so much that he replaces God in your life; or it could be a particular Biblical doctrine that you love. Once we have turned to God, we are to spend the rest of our life serving the Living and True God, and waiting for His Son to return from heaven (1 Thess.1:9, 10). Here we have a perfect description of what true repentance and faith are. A Christian who has been converted like this alone has got a good foundation. He has put money, comfort, food, sleep, the opinion of people and everything else on earth in their proper place, and he has turned totally to God. His primary aim in life thereafter is to serve God. He may be in a secular job, but his primary aim is to serve God. He serves God expectantly waiting for the return of Christ from heaven. When Jesus returns, He will ” deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess.1:10).
It is good for every Christian to check whether his experience corresponds to 1 Thess.1:9, 10. Paul’s Example in Serving the Lord
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