“Our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.” ~1 Thessalonians 1:5
A group of disciples, a church, is called out by God, chosen, separated from the world by God for God’s purposes. But how did Paul know these Thessalonians were chosen (1:4)? Because he saw a great change in their lives. He witnessed their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope. Those whom God chooses, he changes.
Scripture tells us we must not be conformed to the pattern of the world; we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We’re changed by the way we see things and process things, by the way we think. And that’s difficult because we are all drinking the same water. We’re all breathing the same polluted air of our Western culture.
Society says we have to assert our independence. We have to emphasize individuality. We have to worry about safety and security. We have to fight for our rights. As Christians, though, we know that living that way leads to broken relationships. It values ideas and positions over people. It forces us to label and exclude those who are different. And it makes me more important than you and our needs more important than theirs. We become increasingly inward-focused. We’re certainly not acting out of faith, love, and hope.
But we’re all called out of the world! Set apart. Chosen and changed by God. If anyone is in Christ — new creation! The old has gone! The new has come! Everything’s brand new! Everything’s changed! The Thessalonians turn away from the idols of the age to serve the true and living God (1:9). Their faith, hope, and love — these three Christian virtues wrapped up in a package that comes only from the Creator — are the evidence of their divine chosenness.