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Feb 13, 2022

The Proof of the Pudding

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: salvation, sanctification, genuine faith, our response, god's work in salvation


Paul is addressing the symptoms/signs of being a true believer...all things that we all need to be asking, "Have I slacked off on some of these critical character qualities of Christ in me?" He also looks at both divine and human signs of genuine salvation.


The Proof is in the Pudding

I Thessalonians 1:4-10

February 13, 2022


Review:  Testimonies from “spiritual sailing” this past week?


INTRO:  Ever heard the phrase I’m using as the message title today, “The proof is in the pudding”?  What does that mean? 

  • There is something hidden in the pudding? (No.)
  • It’s a shortened phrase for “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In other words, you have to taste it to prove its value/safety/edibility.
  • Just a little side-note: this was actually an old 14th century English saying in which “pudding” had nothing to do with the stuff we associate with Jell-O today.  “Pudding” was actually more like a risky stuffed sausage that you had to taste to prove it wouldn’t kill you!

You may have wondered the same thing about some people who claim to be followers of Jesus.  If you ask your neighbors today, “Are you a Christian,” about 3 of 5 will probably say, “Well, of course!” and maybe add indignantly, “Couldn’t you tell?”

            Perhaps you’ve wondered, “What are some of the signs of a true follower of Jesus?”  Maybe you’ve asked that of yourself, especially when you were a new believer in Jesus:  “Am I truly saved?”  “How am I supposed to know if I’ve really been born again?” 

            Those kinds of questions are normal, especially as we realize that putting our faith in Jesus hasn’t turned us into Mother Teressa or Billy Graham overnight. We still have bad habits.  We’re still tempted and sin. 

ILL:  My siblings teasing me as the youngest that I was adopted.  I never took it seriously, not because I looked a whole lot like my parents (which as I grew up became much more evident).  Why?  First, because my parents never disputed the fact, always had a bed and place at the table for me, always treated me equally as their child like my other siblings. 

            It’s not quite so easy in the family of God.  We’re all adopted.  Some of us or our spiritual brothers and sisters come and go like squirrels at a birdfeeder.  But at different times and to varying degrees, if you’ve truly been born again into God’s family, you begin to take on the “family characteristics”—not physically but spiritually, relationally and morally. The nature of Jesus becomes more and more our nature.  His way of treating people become ours.  His heart motivations and emotions replace our sinful selfishness.  Christ becomes our life. 

            In today’s passage of Scripture, we find Paul affirming the Thessalonian church about truly being “in the family.”  Just what are the signs and symptoms of someone genuinely born again and “in Christ.”  Let’s take a look.

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.

            The entire vs. 4 starts by pointing us to what GOD has done or does, not any proofs in what we have done.  In any family, this is always the right place to start, right?  Being sons or daughters of some parents is never about a vote of the siblings…or how much we do or don’t look like our parents.  It’s never about how well we’re behaving at any given moment (or year).  It’s not based on some merit system.  Being “in the family” is first and last about the people who created and birthed you—parents.  THEY define the family by who they are and what they’ve done. 

            Friends, it’s God’s love and God’s choosing that defines you in God’s family.  Paul’s conviction about that was what propelled him to city after city, through mob after mob, riot after riot, beating after beating.  He knew that God had chosen some of the people he was speaking to to be his brothers/sisters in Christ.  He just had to give the Gospel and discover who that was.  Once they responded to the Gospel, there would be changes that would demonstrate that they had actually be chosen and born of God.  But the love and choosing work of God was God’s work, not theirs. 

            You and I may be mystified by how God can choose us and, at the same time, how we can have genuine free will that chooses God.  I would just say, don’t get hung up on thinking you have to completely resolve that tension before you can rest in the loving heart and willing choice of you to be part of His family.  If you wonder if you are chosen, the simplest and quickest way to answer that question is to say “YES” to Jesus Christ—to admit you are a sinner needing salvation, that you can’t be ‘good enough’ for God, and by putting your faith in Jesus and surrendering your life to Him.  That is like saying “yes” to the judge’s offer to adopt you into His family regardless of what you’ve done or who you’ve been. 

            Proof of being a child of God always begins and ends with a work of God in your life. 

APP:  Have you experienced that work of God calling you into His family? 

Have you responded to that work of God in your heart? 

If not, why not? 

If so, never doubt it.  Remember it.  Be thankful for it.  Take refuge in His work, not your feelings or even your ability to honor that work. 

            Paul continues to point to other things that GOD does that evidences genuine salvation.  Vs. 5—4 things:  5 “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

  1. The truth/word of the Gospel settles in.
  2. The power of God impacts us.
  3. The life of the Holy Spirit affects us.
  4. The conviction/assurance of our soul changes.

             If you’re a follower of Jesus, every one of these works of God in your life will be evidenced to some degree.  How so?

  1. The truth/word of the Gospel settles in.  If the Good News of the Gospel doesn’t settle into your soul, you don’t want to respond to God.  But when it does, our hearts cry out, “YES, I want forgiveness of sin.  YES, I need God to save me!  YES, my need for Jesus makes sense.  YES, I accept His love and respond by faith!” 

If the simple word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, isn’t at the core of your relationship with God, you most likely aren’t really part of His family.  You don’t have to understand it perfectly but you do have to understand it enough to embrace it, let it sink into your soul and shape your relationship with God.  This is why churches and religious people who claim to know more than God and say you don’t need the truth of God’s word about Jesus and the Gospel in order to be in God’s family are at best confused and more likely simply rejecting God they claim to accept.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Romans 10:17). 

  1. The power of God impacts you. Have you experienced the power of God? Maybe you did this morning already.  Maybe you are right now as God is calling to you.  Maybe you made a deal with God that if He’d rescue you from some calamity, you would follow Him…and He did!  Maybe you’ve seen God’s power to rescue your marriage or your life from addiction or you from yourself.  God’s power is at work everywhere.  But it isn’t there to entertain us; it’s there to move us towards Him. And when that power is linked to the Gospel, you know you are touching God’s work of making you His child.
  2. The life of the Holy Spirit affects us. One of the Holy Spirit’s favorite places to reveal Himself is around the proclamation of the Gospel.  When the true Gospel comes to us and when it is accepted, the Holy Spirit invades that event.  For some people it’s pretty dramatic.  For others it’s very quiet.  But for everyone, the coming, presence and work of the Holy Spirit happens at that moment.  I’d call it the foundational gift of God himself to everyone of His adopted children.  It's what the Bible refers to as being ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ 

What effects of the Holy Spirit’s work did you experience when you met Christ? 

  1. Quiet, possibly things unseen to anyone else but you like peace of soul, clarity of meaning or purpose in life, freedom from guilt and shame, joy?
  2. More dramatic things like a rush of some physical feeling (warmth, presence of God, awe, etc.), a miraculous gift of some kind, clearly hearing the voice of God, a vision or dream, etc.?
  1. “Conviction/full assurance”—While this doesn’t mean we won’t have any doubts about the work of God in us at times, we should be able to see that the Gospel brings to us an assurance we never had before about what God is doing in this world.  Before the Gospel invades a human soul, there is confusion, questions, doubts, fears and more.  But where the light of Christ shines, that is replaced by a clear sense that God is at work, that He is saving us, that He is working in us now.  It's a “fullness of assurance” about God doing something in us. 

To these works of God in the Gospel, Paul now turns to the others side of the coin of the things that begin to be ‘worked out’ in us who believe.  Paul will first point to how true believers actually begin to mirror those who have shared the Lord with them and, more importantly, the Lord Jesus himself.  We pick it up in vs. 5:

“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord….”

ILL:  There is something in the human condition that just tends to gravitate towards mannerisms, behaviors and even looks of the people we admire…or the pets we adopt.  The same tends to be true of our spiritual roots. 

  • See it when you walk into some churches and everyone dresses alike…like the pastor. (Thankfully that’s not the case at Mosaic!)
  • But at a much more fundamental, soul-level, we all want to pick up the traits of our Lord Jesus. To the degree that another believer’s character or habits or behavior matches that of Jesus, we should want to emulate that. 

ILL:  All of us benefit from seeing living examples of people who do something better than we do. 

EX:  When I’m skiing, while I’m riding up the chairlift, I look for someone with better form than I have.  I watch how they shift their weight, move their skis, plant their polls, etc. 

EX:  I do it in the church too.  I watch people who are more natural at sharing the Gospel.  I watch how someone shows compassion to people I may not be as compassionate towards.  I learn from someone how to handle suffering as I watch them suffer and endure hardship patiently. 

One of the sure signs that we are a part of a family is when we consciously try to imitate the healthier, more mature members of the family.  When you feel that draw, that’s a good sign that the Gospel has truly taken root in your life. 



  1. Joyful love of the Word of God

Vs. 6—“…for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.…” 

ILL:  Story of Gary S.’s conversion—world as a Navy fighter pilot imploded when developed double vision; drugs and world-wandering; demonic darkness overtaking him; told to read the Bible.  In Thailand he surrendered to Jesus…and developed a life-long love for the word of God.  Has his devotions in the Greek.  Has taught adult S.S. the rest of his life. 

            “Affliction” doesn’t have to drive us from God; it can just as easily drive us TO Him.  And it certainly should drive us to the Word of God for comfort, encouragement and wisdom in the midst of it all. 

  1. Expanding Witness to the Gospel of Christ

Vs. 7—“…so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

            How many of you remember how bold…and maybe obnoxious…you were about your faith when you first met Jesus?  New believers are often like newly-engaged or newly-wed couples. 

ILL:  The day I proposed to Sandy, it was all we could do to keep it quiet for 24 hours.  It felt like we had a tattoo on our faces that read, “WE’RE ENGAGED!”  Everything had changed in just 60 seconds…and we wanted everyone to know. 

            When we fall in love with Jesus, it’s going to be impossible to keep the secret to ourselves.  Many will notice the change.  Many will hear about the change.  And if we’re giving the Holy Spirit free rein in our lives, it’s not news that is going to stay hidden. And it’s not Good News we’re going to be content being silent about.

ILL:  Camp challenge while in H.S. to trust God to use me to share the Gospel and bring “X”-amount of people to faith in Jesus over the next 52 weeks.  As a result, I was praying every week for opportunities to share Jesus and lead people to Him.  I started teaching the Children’s Church where I got to share Jesus with 30 kids every week.  I joined a summer outreach team where I got to share the Gospel in backyard Bible clubs, DVBS in small communities, evangelistic services and street witnessing. 

The Greek verb translated “sounded forth” occurs only here in the New Testament. It is a strengthened form of a weaker verb from which we get our word echo. In other literature, it was used of a clap of thunder, the loud cry of a multitude, a rumor that runs everywhere, or the sound of a loud trumpet (Green, p. 101). It means that the Thessalonians were not mealy-mouthed milquetoasts when it came to telling people about Jesus.

            One of the “pudding-proofs” of salvation is a desire to see the Gospel extend beyond us…and the reality that it does. 


  • Support a missionary here at Mosaic that is taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • Develop a prayer list that you pray for regularly of pre-Christians who you want to share the Lord with.
  • Take a step of faith and ask God to use you to bring the Gospel of Jesus to “X-#” of people this year.
  • Ask God every week for a clear opportunity to speak of Jesus and show Him off in action.


REVIEW:  Life-Proofs of Soul-Salvation

  1. Joyful love of Word of God
  2. Expanding Witness to the Gospel of Christ
  3. Replacing competing gods with God-Serving

1:9-10--For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 

             When it comes to our capacity for marital love and devotion, God tells us we’re wired to love only one spouse…not 2 or 5 or 15.  The kind of love God calls for from a husband to a wife is so all-consuming that it can’t be split up among several competitors. 

            That’s not the case when it comes to love of, say, children or friends.  God grants us a broader capacity to love children and friends than he does to love marital partners.  It’s because the nature of marital love is different from that of friendship or even family kinship.  Marital love is meant to be exclusive

            People have been trying to break this “law of marriage” for centuries.  They tried it even in the Bible with polygamy in the O.T. or serial divorces and marriages.  But in every case you can point to in and outside the Bible, I’m not aware of a single one where someone was able to love in equal measure and with uncompromising love multiple spouses at the same time.  God simply didn’t make the human being to function that way…so we don’t. 

            The same is true of worship of God.  God says that if we’re going to experience Him/God in the way we were created to enjoy Him, it has to be exclusive.  ‘Polyamorous worship’ doesn’t work any better than ‘polygamous marriage’.  They’re both oxymorons. 

            The same is true of genuine salvation.  When we’re genuinely saved, we will choose to abandon lesser and false gods that we’ve tried worshiping before and we will chose to embrace only one God—The Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son & H.S. 

            That isn’t to say that our worship and love for God will be without competition…or always perfect…or even always faithful.  God may reveal to us at different times how our hearts and lives are still playing games with false gods.  He may show us how we’re ‘having an affair’ with some god of this world and how that is damaging the love/worship relationship we were created to have exclusively with Jesus.

            When we share the Lord with people and ask them to surrender their lives to Jesus, they will sometimes ask, “Do I have to give up X, Y or Z in order to come to Jesus?”  That’s like someone asking as their being proposed to, “Do I have to give up running around with all those other guys I’ve been with lately in order to marry you?”  The answer is…YES!  The 1st Commandment is, “You shall have NO other gods before me.”  To want to hang onto other gods while claiming to want the only True God is simply the greatest of self-deceptions.  It’s not true worship just as the previous illustration would not be true marriage. 

Q:  What are some of the more common ‘gods’ we often serve before meeting the True God…the truest Lover of our Souls…Jesus?  (Self, wealth, personal comfort, sex, numbing substances, success, fame, personal achievement, independence…)

            But when we truly embrace the Living God in soul-changing salvation, we will experience a radical reorientation from false gods TO the ‘living and true God.’  Sure, we may be tempted to wander away from God at times.  We sadly may even do so at times.  But the nature of genuine salvation is such that our hearts will never escape the reality we know:  all other ‘gods’ will be false idols compared to serving the One living and true God.  Just as we can only have one ‘first-spouse’ no matter how we may try to rationalize or create others, so there will always and ever be only ONE true and living God for whom our hearts were made. 

            One last point about the characteristic of an “abandoning embrace of God”—it manifests itself by a longing to SERVE Him. That serving may look very different from person to person.  But it will always be present and evident.

ILL:  My parents conversion >> rearranged their lies dramatically in terms of serving. 

  • Both began to give untold hours and dollars to the church, to Christian ministries, to sharing the Gospel, to building Christ’s kingdom rather than their own (which they had spent the first ½ of their life doing).
  • Mom’s was more public; Dad’s more private or behind the scenes.
  • They still kept a home, took care of their work life, built up our family and their marriage. But all of that now was about serving Christ…while at the same time they developed whole new arenas of service to the Kingdom of Christ that had never been a part of their life before…ever.

Q:  How about us?  Noticed a longing to SERVE God?  Seen a refocusing of your life to accomplish that?  It doesn’t come at the expense of other God-ordained responsibilities and calls; it comes in addition to (while other self-oriented, self-serving patterns begin to wither and die). 


SUMMARY: True salvation and true participation in the family of God is a two-way street that involves works of God on our behalf AND works from us on God’s behalf.  The “proof of the pudding [of salvation] is in the eating” of both God’s gifts to us and our gifts to God.  Don’t starve yourself of God and don’t kill yourself by consuming the false gods. 


NOTE:  about Family/Household Devotional Guide





Household Follow-Up Questions for Devotional Discussion

  1. How do you know you are actually a true member of your own family? What different proofs or indicators can you come up with for your family?
  2. How does someone join the family of God (become ‘saved’ spiritually)? [See John 3:16; Romans 6:23; John 1:12]  Have you experienced that?  When and how?
  3. What are biblical indicators that you are part of God’s family? [See 1 Thess. 1 and the notes of this message at www.mosaicspokane.com/messages] What has God done to show us He has included us in His family?  [Chosen us; loved us; settled the truth/word of the Gospel in us; the power of God impacts us; the life of the Holy Spirit affects us; the conviction/assurance of our soul changes.]
  4. What will we be doing if we are actually living as part of His family? [Answers from 1 Thess 1:4-10 include ) Joyful love of the Word of God; B.) Expanding Witness to the Gospel of Christ through Us; C.) Abandoning God-competitions for God-Serving.]
  5. How can we grow our love of God’s Word as individuals and a family?
  6. What can you/your family do to witness of Jesus more, more frequently and more effectively?
  7. What are your favorite ways of serving God? How are you serving God regularly now?  How might you serve God together as a family?