Saturday, December 01, 2007

II Thessalonians 3:1-18


1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it.

On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "Anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat."

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 14 Take special note of those who do not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as fellow believers.

There were two issues this second letter to the Thessalonians addresses. The first is the issue of when the end of the world was to be. There was much confusion about this and it has been addressed earlier.

The second issue is that there were certain Thessalonians who were looking for the end of the world to come and therefore moved into a pose that took away any motivation to live in the here and now, so they didn't work.

It's interesting to note the instruction here is to mark those who refuse to work, because they have a tendency to be busybodies when they are not busy. The Thessalonians were told not to associate with this kind of person in order that they might feel ashamed. Then the caveat is given to treat them as fellow believers and not as enemies.

The primary example here is how the trio acted among the Thessalonians. They worked with their hands so that no one had to be burdened with supporting them. Wow, if more of this attitude were inculcated into the thinking of the followers of Jesus today, maybe the masses wouldn't be as turned off with the "money-raising" issue that seems to be always present within each church service.

The trio ends with a blessing: 16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

The GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS. This is the message. This is the command. This is the instruction. And this is what is resisted by evil people and even good people, for that matter. It's grace! Grace is unmerited favor. You can't do anything to deserve it. That's what is so offensive about it. Most of us want to perform for God's favor. Yet, the attractiveness of the grace of God is that we don't have to do anything to be accepted into the family and acceptance of God. In fact, we can't do anything. Jesus has already done it! We continually want to DO, DO, DO, but Jesus sets the theme of DONE, DONE, DONE. That's the grace of Jesus that must be embraced by us all.

II Thessalonians 2:13-17


13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

I keep hearing from you who read and listen everyday and I am learning what it means to always thank God for you. And as I enter into this thankfulness in a purposeful way, I am enjoying our relationship even more.

Here the trio is thankful for what has happened in the lives of the Thessalonians. NOTE there are 5 specifics.

1. They are loved by the Lord and therefore enjoy being brothers and sisters in the family of God.

2. They were chosen as firstfruits to come into salvation through the work of the Spirit. These Thessalonians who believed were some of the first to come to Christ in their non-religious world.

3. Their faith in the truth. They believed the truth as it was presented to them.

4. They were called through the gospel. These Thessalonians are not just "church-members" who joined a club, but are following a calling on their lives.

5. They were to share in the glory of the Lord--the reflection of Jesus in their lives.

Therefore, they were urged to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings they were given.

Now for a final blessing in this mid-section of this letter: 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

NOTE this prayerful blessing is for Jesus Himself to do two things for the Thessalonians and not only for them, but the same for us today: FIRST--To encourage your hearts. SECOND--To strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Your encouragement and strength must come from Jesus, Himself. Maybe we have spent too much time looking for encouragement and strength from too many other things. Let's pray for Jesus Himself to do this work for us. When Jesus touches us, we are marked forever. When we try to pump up the encouragement and strength from any other source, it has a built-in fizzle to it. Let's go with Jesus!

II Thessalonians 2:1-12


1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us-whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter-asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for [that day will not come] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

5 Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

This is the passage that is taken by many to speak of three things prophetically. FIRST--There will be a great apostacy--a massive departure from the faith, the truth. Although this kind of departure seems to happen in every generation, I do believe some day there will be a final apostacy from the faith--a final turning against the truth--against God. I believe the seeds are being planted today for this great apostacy. This is all tied together with the the teaching of the spirit of the anti-Christ...those who are following all that is "instead of" Christ and therefore against Him. The evidence for the spirit of anti-Christ not only exists in the world today, but also within the churches.

SECOND--The world-wide leader that will arise--the lawless one. There has been all sorts of teachings about a one-world leader that will arise at the end of time. Here this leader is called the lawless one. In other places this lawless one is referred to as the Anti-Christ. And this leader will raise himself up to be viewed as equal with God and will have some great powers--even miracles.

THIRD--The one who holds back this lawless one. What or who is it that is holding back this world-wide leader, the lawless one. It says that once this "holding back" is released, then the lawless one will be revealed to the world. For most of my life I've believed that the one who holds back the lawless one from being revealed and free to do his work against Jesus is called "the restrainer". It seems to make good sense to see the restrainer as the Spirit of God who indwells all believers in Jesus. This is what leads many to believe that the church of Jesus--all believers in Jesus--will some day be raptured up into heaven to be with the Lord. All those who have not yet believed in Jesus will remain here on planet earth. This is the under-girding of the "Left Behind" series. Some will be raptured and disappear while others will be left behind.

Whatever you believe about the rapture and the appearing of the Anti-Christ, there is one underlying message given here by the trio to the Thessalonians. DON'T BE SHAKEN OR MISLED BY ALL THE TALK ABOUT THIS BEING THE END. Not even Jesus knows the day or the hour. But what we are to do is to reject the false and hold on to the genuine one--Jesus, Himself. Another way of saying this is, "You will know the counterfeit of world events by only one thing--get to know the genuine very well. His name is Jesus.