Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

"We ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring" (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)

When we talk about the true church, we will discuss what a community of genuine believers looks like. Reflect upon your own lives and your church communities. Are you a genuine believer? Have you truly surrendered your life under the lordship of Christ? What does your church community look like? As a community, do you bear the fruit of genuine Christ-followers?

Beginning with the ending, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy pray, "To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

This should always be our prayer for ourselves and our church community. Pray continually that by God's power, we may be made worthy to stand before God in Christ, to be made renewed into a new being that can serve and glorify God. 

Now, what are the fruits of a community of true believers? 

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy praise God for the brothers in the church of Thessalonica. First of all, their faith was growing abundantly. If we took a look at ourselves and our church community a year ago, has there been any change? Has there been real spiritual growth? No matter how fast or how slow, true believers will surely grow in faith through obedience and submission to God's Word. On the contrary, false believers put on a front of obedience and godliness in their community, However, in their hearts, they do not want to obey, and they are satisfied with their sinful self. God's flaming vengeance awaits such people (v. 8). 

Second, love for one another continues to increase in communities of true believers. Love here is not a sentimental feeling, nor does it have a romantic nuance. Love for one another in the church follows Jesus' command for His disciples noted in John 15:12-13. This love talks about sacrificial acting love. It is the love of Christ who gave up all to die on the cross for sinful men. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends".

Although we are not always called to die in a friend's place, we are called to sacrificially love one another within the church community. We love not because we want to gain the respect of others. Nor do we love because we want to be accepted or seen right. However, true believers will grow in love naturally because they have experienced the overflowing source of love, Christ Himself. 

On another note, love is desiring the best for someone. The best anyone could ever have is a growing relationship with Christ. And so, sacrificial love in a church looks like giving up our time, effort, and energy so that others in the community can grow spiritually and come to know God more. Of course, this is not the work of any man since only God can grant true spiritual growth and knowledge of Him. However, we are called to serve one another this way and build up one another's faith. 

Lastly, a community of genuine believers will stay steadfast in faith through persecution and affliction. Your community might look holy and godly as of today. However, the test of time will tell those who are genuine from those who are not. Persecution and affliction are bound to come in one form or another, the Bible tells us. The true church of God endures because their hope and trust are in Christ.

Where are you, and where is your church? If your church is bearing apparent fruits like the church in Thessalonica, we ought to thank God. If your church or yourself is not, the answer is not to try and work on these fruits. The fruits will come when our hearts are changed. Put your faith in Christ. Surrender your life to His rule in obedience. This is where it all starts. Pray as Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy did for yourself and your church that none may be lost in this race. 

Lord, we ask You for Your mercy and for genuine repentance to all those who read this. We ask the working of Your mighty power who can change lives in Christ. Change us and use us so that we may serve you and live for Your glory. Lift those who have fallen and humble the proud. Teach us to become a true community that grows in Your grace. In Jesus' name, amen.