The above verse is not one that is commonly pulled out and memorized. This is probably because it requires some context to understand its full implication. This text is written by Paul to the Church of the Thessalonians. Prior to writing this letter, Paul had brought the Gospel to them and many had people believed and put their trust in Jesus Christ. After Paul proclaimed the Gospel to them, he was run out of town by a jealous mob. After leaving, he sent Timothy back to check on the Church. While there, Timothy saw some very encouraging things in the lives of the believers. Paul states in verse 4 that these things reported by Timothy prove that they are real Christians, and not phonies. One of the things that Paul mentions that he sees as evidence of their salvation is that they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Now, here is the stinging question that flows from this verse. If someone were to write a report about your life, would the main conclusion be that you serve the living and true God? When they opened up your bank account would they see a love of stuff or a love of God (Luke 16:13)? If they tracked your Facebook posts, would they see a self-love or a Christ-love (2 Timothy 3:2)? If they peaked into your calendar would they see an attempt to gain the World or gain Christ (Luke 9:23-25)? If they counted the times you shared the Gospel message in the last year, would it be 50 times or none (Romans 1:16)? If they looked at your life before Christ, would it be the same or different than your life after Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
Paul, at times, would begin his letters using the word “doulos” to describe his relationship to Christ. This word is best translated as “slave.” A lot of our translations soften the word to “servant.” I believe it does us a disservice to do so. When we trust Christ we not only trust Him as our Savior but we trust Him as our Lord. This means we choose to give Him complete control. He is our King. He is our Master. Upon being born again, there should be a visible turning in our lives from the World and to God.
When Christ began his ministry he would commonly tell people to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Repent means to change your mind, or to turn away. I worry that today in America, we have failed to turn. Instead we treat Christ as an “add on.” We just pile Christ onto our self-indulgent lives, never setting down our idols. We continue to worship ourselves, stuff, money, etc. and maybe if God is lucky we will give him a Sunday morning for an hour. Is this what the Bible means by serving the Lord? Is this what the Bible means by “doulos?” Is an hour a week evidence of salvation?
Today, conduct an inventory of your life, ask some hard questions, and examine yourself to find out if you are in the faith. If you find that you don’t like the report of your life, it is not too late. Today make a costly, but wonderful choice to “turn to God from idols and serve the living and true God.”