“Heather, who are you fooling?” I asked myself. “You’re no green-thumb.”
As I surveyed the dead plant behind our fake Christmas tree, I knew the truth. Somehow, despite my previous plant experiences, this crazy plant had survived me – for a year. That’s a record. Most houseplants that are gifted to me don’t make it that long. I forget about them. You’d think that a caring, sensitive, and others-oriented person like myself who comes from a long line of plant-whisperers, would have a heart for houseplants. I don’t.
However, for almost a year, this hardy plant fooled me into thinking that I wasn’t going to kill it. This plant was thriving and growing strong. I actually contemplated purchasing a larger pot to transplant it. I didn’t. Good thing. This plant has gone the way of every house plant before it. It’s dead.
The truth of the matter is that I cannot pretend to be something I am not. My siblings, my parents, and my grandmothers and other previous generations all have had the will and the heart to cultivate plant life. Somehow, this desire was never embedded in me. I came up short in the green-thumb department.
Like I said, I cannot pretend to be something I am not.
This thought resonated with me as I read these words from 1 Thessalonians:
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our hope and glory.
New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 2: 18-19
You may be wondering how my pitiful plant workings have anything to do with these verses. Yet, they do!
You see, someday you and I will be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of us who are genuine believers and followers of Jesus, there are crowns in heaven waiting for us. These crowns serve as the mark of royalty for the saints of Christ. They represent the genuine and true recognition of those who love God, love others, and walk with an abiding humility in Christ on earth. These crowns are symbols of resolute joy, divine grace, sustaining hope, and enduring love. And the truth of the matter is that these crowns will only be awarded to the real believers of Jesus Christ – those who will enter the Kingdom of God and stand before the Son of God because of how well we loved.
When in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not be able to pretend to be something we are not.
So, who are the real-deal believers – when it comes to living a life in Christ?
Who are the genuine and true?
The Thessalonians were.
Paul said of them:
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you…your faith in God has become known everywhere.
New International Version, 1 Thessalonians 1: 6-8a
The Thessalonians lived for Christ and everyone knew they did.
What set them apart from others?
First, when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, their hearts changed – forever. They turned away from an idolatrous life to serve the living and true God.
Second, the Thessalonians were known for their love of others – even those who did not believe in Christ. Their lives were so affected by the love of Jesus Christ and the love of Paul, Silas and Timothy, their mentors, that they in turn loved others well – seeking to meet tangible needs.
Third, the Thessalonians kept their eyes on Christ. Jesus Christ was their sole desire. They sought the Kingdom of Christ above all else.
Fourth, the Thessalonians submitted to Jesus Christ and walked in obedience to Him. He was their leader and they sought His leadership for their everyday decisions and needs.
Fifth, the Thessalonians surrendered their souls to Jesus and He emptied them of their self-righteousness, their greed, their pride, and their self-interest.
Sixth, the Thessalonians followed and were obedient to Jesus Christ despite suffering and persecution. They counted the cost of their faith and still chose to walk forward despite any personal consequence.
Last of all, the Thessalonians lived out this call:
He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
New International Version, Micah 6:8
Friends, we cannot pretend to live this kind of life on earth. We’re either doing it or we are not.
Just like a plant that needs love, care, and cultivation to thrive, our life in Christ needs this kind of attention and more.
We cannot fake it.
Do people know us to be loving and respectful of others – no matter who they are or what they believe?
Do people observe that our eyes remain fixed upon our Savior Jesus Christ and that we honor Him as our sole desire?
Do people note a difference in us – perceiving a permanent heart change in terms of how we interact with them and others?
Are people aware of our submission and obedience to Christ – do they understand that we seek the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our day to day lives?
Do people identify the lack of pride, greed, self-righteousness and self-absorption in our words and behavior?
Do people witness us acting with justice, offering mercy, and walking humbly with our Lord and Savior because of our love for Him and others?
If we can answer in the affirmative, then we can be like the Thessalonians whose faith in God was known everywhere. We are the true Believers. We are the ones who shall receive crowns of glory which represent how well we loved people on this earth and sought to invite them into the Kingdom of God.
Let me shoot straight.
We are going to be judged by how well we loved others – especially those who may be different from us in any way. Because if we are evaluating others by their morality, political choices, gender, socioeconomic status, career choice, intelligence, criminal offense, or any other difference, and denying our love, then, we are not living as true and genuine Believers in Christ. We may love and believe in Christ as Lord and Savior and love others who are like us, but is that what Jesus asks of us?
Friends, we can’t be pretenders.
We’ve got to really, really, really love others as Jesus asks us to love.
Okay, so here we go: who comes to mind who may be different than you?
Who do you have trouble liking – for any reason?
Who springs to the forefront of your thoughts for how they bother or irritate you?
Who can’t you stand? Even for a minute?
This is the person that Jesus Christ loved and died for on the cross at Calvary to save.
Just like you.
I’m not going to tell you what to do or not do regarding this individual. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. What I am hoping for, however, is that you’ll begin the conversation in prayer with Jesus and ask for His leadership and guidance on the matter.
There are a lot of people in this world who call themselves Believers of Jesus. Jesus is asking us to act like it – like the Thessalonians.
Like I said, we can’t pretend.
We’ve got to show this world that living a life in Jesus Christ means something special and something eternal.
Because one day, when we are standing before Christ, those that we loved in His name will serve as a genuine testimony to our faith and be part of our crowns of life in the Kingdom of God. They will be our hope and our glory!
So, what do you think?
Who is Jesus asking you to love?
And not just for a bit, like my pitiful plant that suffered from my neglect, who is Jesus asking you to love, to pray for, and to bless in His name?
Image retrieved from DeeperStillMinistries.Com