I’m preaching to real people for the first time next sunday, so here’s where most of my writing’s been going for the last couple of weeks:
When Kate Middleton married Prince William, there was a massive ceremony, I’m sure many of you watched it. Maybe, like me, you waved a flag and felt very English…which is ironic, given that I’m Scottish… anyway, I’m sure Kate didn’t mind.
But much more happened that day, for Kate, didn’t it, than just a ceremony? She didn’tjust get to wear a beautiful, white dress and have her photograph taken. She got to marry the man she loves. And when she did that, two other things changed for her, as well: she was no longer just ‘Kate Middleton’, she became Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor, Duchess of Cambridge and a member of the royal family – her identity changed. …She also became the future queen of England – her destiny changed.
Well, in this passage Paul is saying something similar is true of us as Christians. He’s writing to the baby church at Thessalonica, who were feeling insecure in both their identity and their destiny, and perhaps understandably so. They’d been converted by the preaching of Paul’s ministry team, but then the team were forced to flee after only 3 weeks with them because of riots, and the church was left to fend for itself. So Paul writes 1 Thessalonians to encourage these young Christians who had been wonderfully converted, then left feeling abandoned in the midst of persecution and suffering, that they really are Christians, and that their salvation is secure.
To make his point, Paul spends quite a lot of time in this passage telling the Thessalonians what they’re not, or rather, what they’re not anymore – their Kate Middleton days they’ve left far behind. As Christians, we no longer ‘belong to the darkness or to the night’ (v.5) Before we were saved by God we were blind to His beauty, deaf to His loving call, living entirely at odds with Him and with our neighbours. And we were like that because our very essence was darkness. Verse 3 tells us what our old destiny was, then: the day of the Lord would have meant ‘sudden destruction’ when we least expected it. So we were darkness, and we were destined for destruction.
But, Paul says, that’s no longer the case, because like Kate Middleton when she married Prince William, when God opened our eyes to the truth of the gospel, when we became part of the church, the bride of Christ, we got a new identity and a new destiny.
Let’s look first at our new identity. Can you see it? In verses 4-5, the reason Paul says that Christians no longer need to fear the day of the Lord is that we are ‘no longer in darkness’ (v4) because we are ‘all children of light, children of the day’ (v5). It’s a change of essence. In a transformation as absolute as the difference between midnight and noonday, God has re-made our very identities: we are ‘children of the light’, so we can live in open, joyful relationship with God.
And, like Kate Middleton, our new identity brings with it a new destiny. The day of the Lord will bring sudden destruction on those who are unprepared, but, Paul says, “that’s not your fate, Thessalonians” – that’s not your fate, here today, if you know Jesus. Verses 9-10: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation’! Amazing. And who is the One doing the destining? It’s God. ‘God has not destined you for wrath…’ If you’re a Christian here today, your salvation is assured by God’s decision, not your own effort. And like Kate Middleton, the Church’s new destiny – your new destiny, my new destiny – is completely down to the identity of our husband: look at the end of v9 and into verse 10: the salvation we’re promised comes ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us… that we might live with Him’.
So, as Christians we have a new identity as children of light, and a new destiny: living in relationship with our loving Lord Jesus forever. So what should we do about it? Well, what would you think if, next week, you met Kate Middleton begging on Oxford Street? …You’d think it was bit weird, wouldn’t you, because princesses don’t act that way: theiridentity means that their lives are completely different. In the same way, Paul says that ‘we are not of the night’ (v5), ‘so then’ verse 6, we shouldn’t act as if we are!
So just as begging on the streets isn’t appropriate for a princess, so, as Christians, we’re meant to be living the heavenly life of light today, not going back to the old ways of darkness that we’ve left behind. It just doesn’t make sense for us, if we’re Christians, to be living “in darkness” getting drunk or lacking self-control. We are children of light, so we can live in the day-time, living out our relationship with the God of the light, in faith, love and the hope of Heaven.
I don’t know where you’re at this morning. Maybe you’re a Christian but you know you’re not living like one – you’re a princess out begging on Oxford Street. …Remember who you are and remember where you’re going…and repent.
Or maybe you’re feeling discouraged: you’re trying hard to be faithful, but life is hard and your problems don’t seem to be going away, and you can no longer see God at work in your life. …Again, remember who you are and remember where you’re going…and persevere.
You’ve got a new identity: in Christ God has made you a new creation, your very essenceis now light. And you’ve got a new destiny: the Lord who loved you and died for you iscoming back for you, to take you to be with Him where He is. Let’s take a moment to ask God to remind us of these truths.