Convinced and Convicted by the Love of God (Session 2)

1 Thessalonians 1:3-4

(Session 2)

Many men come to a turning point in life in which they realize something is missing and they are searching for meaning. These men may have plenty of money and have accomplished enough goals but find that even still, something is missing.

Some men have made a mess of things. Maybe the marriage is shaky. Perhaps they are suffering the consequences of poor choices. Whatever the reason, they know that something needs to change.

Either path brings men to a similar point. These men get involved in church. They sense that they need to do something for God. Initially they find the experience refreshing and fulfilling. It’s a welcome change. But be careful if this describes you, because there is a danger of eventually flaming out.

Through my years of ministry I’ve seen men excited and energetic about the Lord as they involve themselves in church only to end up as empty as they were before they started. 

Why does this happen? 

The basis of faith is important. Guilt motivates change but it is gratitude that sustains it. 

The basis for faith isn’t a man convinced that he needs to do something for God. The basis for faith is a man convicted by what God has done for him. 

The gospel is the act of God demonstrating His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). 

Notice how Paul describes the motives and responses of the Thessalonians’s faith and how it compels them to worship and serve God.

“… remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thess. 1:3-5)

The Thessalonians didn’t make a change because they were dissatisfied with their life. They did not seek to get involved in Christianity or the church because they were looking for ways to improve their lives or increase happiness. They began under conviction that they were sinners who deserved the wrath of God. Yet they were also convinced that God loved them and gave His Son’s life for their salvation. Hence Paul describes them as “loved by God” and chosen.

Do you believe God loves you? Do you believe God has chosen you? 

The proper starting place for faith is conviction over sin (guilt) while also being convinced of God’s overwhelming, sacrificial love for sinners (gratitude). 

Because the Thessalonians were loved by God and chosen Paul characterizes their response with three phrases in verse 3:

  • Work of Faith
  • Labor of Love
  • Steadfastness of Hope

A man may have good reasons he wants to change and improve his life. He may see church as good for his family. It may help his marriage. The morals taught in church may help him clean up the messes he made and prevent him from making more mess in the future, but if that man isn’t convicted by the gospel and convinced of the love of God his motivations are not in the proper place and he will eventually disconnect and flame out. Why? Because unlike the Thessalonians that man:

  • Works for God’s favor rather than working from faith.
  • Labors out of legalism rather than love.
  • He is destabilized by doubt rather than being strengthened with steadfast hope.

The right starting point of being both convicted by the gospel and convinced of God’s love is critical to connecting to God and others from the right place. The right starting point will sustain you and keep you from flaming out. Based on how Paul describes what he sees in the Thessalonians, ask yourself 3 questions:

Question #1: Do I work from faith or work for favor?

The the word “of” is the smallest of the sentence but it makes all the difference. The little word “of” means that it is a work that springs forth from the sustaining waters at the fountainhead of faith. 

The work of faith describes what a man does from His relationship with the Lord as opposed to simply doing a work for the Lord. The work of faith is sustained by being daily in the Word of God and in prayer. It is concerned with obedience. The work of faith describes a concern for daily doing God’s will.

The work of faith is enjoyable as one sees God working. For a man, the work of faith is his greatest adventure as he is pressed into that place where He knows that if the Lord does not intervene that it is a work doomed to fail.

A work of faith can only be done by a man who is convinced of God’s love for him. He knows that he has been chosen for faith. He is overwhelmed with the gratitude that we see in Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:2. There is not one thing God would require of him that a man who works from faith would not do or could not do because he knows that God’s love for him does not depend on his success or failure. He is not compared to others. He is convinced that he is loved by God and he is ever grateful. 

We will look at this principle more in the next session, but a man who knows he is loved by God can obey God’s command to love others. He can and will by faith extend to others the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love that God has extended to him.

A man who is not convinced of God’s love for him will flame out as he works for God’s favor. He is doomed to fail to make his good works outweigh his sinful deeds in a futile attempt to convince God to love him. 

The word “chosen” in 1:4 mans that God selects us out of His love and mercy, not out of a merit of our own doing. But the man who is not convinced by the gospel that God has lovingly chosen him, is left only to attempt by his own talent and good works to try to get God’s attention like a silly kid in a kickball game who feels like he’s about to be the last pick.

And that man will soon be drained and lose his motivation. He will compare himself to others and feel that God favors others more than him. That man will have a hard time connecting to others if he is jealous of them. Not matter how false or misguided the feelings, he will resent others if he thinks that God loves them more than him. 

A man who works for God’s favor will be a frontrunner. He can easily love others when he feels like life is going well and he is more fortunate. But when life gets difficult he will disconnect. He pities himself. He is envious of others and he will become angry at God. Do I work from faith or work for favor? 

Question #2: Do I labor out of love or out of legalism?

 Labor is hard. Work requires a lot of energy, sacrifice, and commitment. But there is a saying that describes how doing something you love empowers you instead of drains you. It’s the idea that if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life.

When it comes to faith, if you know that God loves you and has chosen you to serve Him, then you will keep your hand to the plow no matter how difficult the labor.

But a man who starts out wanting to do something for the Lord, not convinced of God’s love, will labor out of legalism. He will try to live up to an endless set of rules.

Guilt has it’s place. It is the pain of guilt that convinces a man something needs to change. Guilt will get you in the game but it won’t keep you there.

Legalism will choke the life out of a man. He’ll serve the Lord dutifully for a time, but he will soon realize that if he’s trying to earn the favor of a Holy God that what he does will never be enough. 

But those who realize that Jesus loves them and died for them don’t labor out of guilt, but gratitude. So what is your starting point? What is your motivation? Do you labor out of love? If so, the love of God will energize you? Or do you labor out of legalism? Legalism will drain you and you will disconnect from God. You’ll stop serving Him and you’ll stop serving others.

Labor because God loves you and you will love your labor! You will love the God who loves you and you will love those God calls you to serve and love.

Question #3: Am I characterized by steadfast hope or am I destabilized by doubt?

To fully appreciate how the love of God has transformed the Thessalonians people you have to understand the historical context. 1 Thessalonians is one of Paul’s first letters. It is written about 10-15 years after the resurrection. Heresy is increasing in the church. As you can see by 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 there were more questions than answers. Persecution is also on the rise. The Roman Empire is hostile to the fledgling church and this new version of Judaism called Christianity. Turning to Christ comes at a cost. 

Despite the instability the Thessalonians were characterized by steadfast hope. They are steady. Why? Because the starting point of their faith was that they were convicted by the gospel but they were convinced of God’s love for them.

Does the stability of your faith, your service for the Lord, your commitment and passion in worship depend on how it’s going or where it’s going? 

A man who isn’t convinced of God’s love is emotionally destabilized by “how it’s going.” If things are going well, he feels like God loves him. If life is hard, he feels like God’ has for some reason grown cold towards him. 

The Thessalonians had questions. There were a lot of blanks that they still needed to be filled in when it comes to Biblical faith. Their situation was unsteady but they had steadfast hope. Why? Because they were convicted by the gospel and convinced of God’s love for them.


Let’s revisit the initial question. Did your faith begin because you were convinced you needed to change and do something for God or was it because you were convicted of sin but overwhelmed by His love for you?

If you are uncertain of God’s love for you, you will disconnect. You will not work from faith but you will work for favor. You will labor under the crushing weight of legalism and never measure up to the standard. But if you understand how much God loves you then you will labor out of love. You will love God and love your labor! Doubt is crippling. If the determining factor for whether or not God loves you is based on how it’s going instead of where it’s going you’ll never enjoy steadfast hope.

Because you are a sinner Jesus had to die for you. Because God loves you, Jesus did die for you. You are loved and chosen by God so work from faith, labor out of love, and be stabilized by hope. The starting point for faith makes all the difference in how and why you connect with God and others. Guilt will get you in the game but it is gratitude that will keep you there. 


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