Written by Garner Fritts
Stop and think about all the things in life that affect one another all over the world each and every day. For example, think about when the temperature drops below the freezing mark; water turns into ice. It cannot remain in either a gaseous or liquid form under these conditions. The Great Lakes and part of the Niagara Falls can turn solid for several days or even weeks if the air is frigid enough. We traverse across such a surface differently than we would if it were unfrozen. We shiver in the icy winds and put on heavy layers of clothing to keep warm. It is cause and effect on display in the natural world. This is also observed in supernatural matters. When God regenerates someone, it affects their way of living and how others interact with them. I call this the “elect effect,” and Paul describes it beautifully in the introduction to his first epistle to the Thessalonians.
Paul probably recalled his visit to Thessalonica as he attested to the validity of these believers’ heavenly calling. The back-story can be found in Acts 17:1-9. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he remained there at least three weeks, going to the Jewish synagogue every Sabbath and arguing that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah. Many Jews and prominent Gentiles in the city believed the gospel. The Jews became jealous of Paul’s success among them, and they stirred up rioters who accused the Thessalonian believers of making Jesus king in place of Caesar. Though Paul and his companions had escaped, the saints there had to pay fines because of the incident.
Paul lists several things proving that the Thessalonian saints’ born again experience was the real thing. He mentioned three aspects of their identity: their “work of faith”, their “labor of love”, and their “steadfastness of hope” (v.3). In each case, these virtues were connected with how they conducted themselves. As the apostle shared the Word of God, they responded in a manner, which demonstrated the Holy Spirit had opened their hearts (v. 5). Their joy and steadfastness in the midst of persecution gave credence to that fact (v.6). The Thessalonian saints turning from their idols and anxiously awaiting Christ’s return was further proof of inner transformation (v.9, 10). It was having a positive influence on other saints in places such as Macedonia and Achaia (v.7).
Like the Thessalonians, we who have been regenerated by the Spirit will manifest signs that demonstrate we have truly been born from above. We will have a genuine love for the brethren and the things of God (1 John 3:14). Though we will not reach sinless perfection this side of eternity, we will not habitually practice sin (1 John 3:8; 5:18). In spite of our temporary setbacks and buckling under pressure at times, we will ultimately persevere through trials (Romans 8:38, 39). These are but a few of the many Biblical evidences of the “elect effect”. If these proofs are missing from our lives, we should examine ourselves to see if we are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Our spiritual metamorphisms will also affect others in our sphere of influence. People will have mixed reactions as did the residents of Thessalonica and beyond. Some will be encouraged and brought to the Lord through our life and testimony (1 Peter 3:1, 2). Others will mock and persecute us as our Christ-inspired actions expose their evil hearts for what it is (Matthew 5:10-12). There is nothing wrong with adorning Christian paraphernalia, but we won’t have to advertise. People will know as they observe our daily speech and actions. When we cooperate with what God birthed within us, our light will shine before men. They may see our good works and glorify the Father in one-way or another (Matthew 5:16).
Deciphering who is a true believer doesn’t have to be guesswork. We can know we belong to the King of kings, and we can know if others do as well (Matthew 7:20). We don’t have to wait until we die to find out. The “elect effect” will always wed the Spirit’s inward working and outward expression. Those who claim to have one without the other have an empty religion devoid of true redemption (James 2:20-26). As surely as the cold weather signals the onset of the winter season, so will those born of God impact their generation with the marvelous gospel in a powerful way. Miracles and much more will follow (Mark 16:17, 18). It will tell the whole world God is alive and well, accomplishing his eternal purposes for the glory that is his and his alone.