Archive for October, 2010

2 Thessalonians 2

2 Thessalonians 2 continues Paul’s discussion on the second coming of Jesus.  Paul warns us that there will be lots of people who will be claiming to have a spirit or spoken word claiming “to the effect that the day of the Lord has come”.  But it hasn’t and we must learn how to discern truth.  How do we do that?  By knowing God’s Word – the only place truth exists.  “Let no one deceive you in any way”.  We can only do that by studying the truth daily.  We have to be in God’s Word and know what He says about the second coming.

The circumstances leading up to Jesus’ coming again will not be easy.  “Rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness….opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship”.  Someone will raise up and be “proclaiming himself to be God”.  Can you believe it?  You better because that is what scripture tells us will happen.  Bottom line is that a man will attempt to set himself up as God.  And where does this come from?  “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan”.  He is dead set on still attempting the coupe that got him thrown out of heaven in the first place.  Satan wants to be in control.  And unfortunately for him, the results will be the same as his first attempt.  He will lose because Jesus has already won the victory.  This self proclaimed God – a man who believes totally in self – will fail but there will be plenty of confusion and destruction along the way to defeat.

So what are we to do as Christ Followers?  Paul tells us straight up: “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter”.  We are to stand firm and know the truth.  We have to hang on to the things we have been taught.  Now that assumes we actually have been taught – that we have put ourselves in a place where we can learn the truth – be it a Bible teaching church – strong small group – Sunday school or personal study – but somehow we have to know the truth.  Do you?  Have you got an understanding of the second coming of Jesus?  If not – now is the time to dig in and understand it so you don’t fall prey to the coming deception of the enemy!

2 Thessalonians 1

2 Thessalonians 1 is Paul’s second letter to the church and this chapter deals with the way the church was dealing with one another.  Paul and his ministry team were thankful for the example being set, and he calls out the characteristics of the church.  Check these out:

–       “your faith is growing abundantly

–       The love of everyone of you for one another is increasing

–       Steadfastness

–       Faith in all your persecutions

–       Afflictions that you are enduring

–       Evidence of the righteous judgment of God

–       Worthy of the kingdom

 This church was tracking where God intends the church to live.  Faith, love, steadfastness, endurance – they were together and focused on one another.  It wasn’t about programs or activities – it was about life and living it God’s way – together.  How is that going in your life?  Is your faith growing? Abundantly?  My answer was ok til I got to that last part.  How about loving others?  Increasing?  Same issue there – I would say loving others is part of my daily life – but doing it increasingly for each one in my patch?  It is those multiplier kind of words that has my head spinning.  He didn’t just say faith in persecution – but faith in ALL your persecution. 

Being a Christ Follower means we are growing and changing and moving closer to God.  Daily – not just on occasion.  It means we are learning to be like Jesus every step of our walk.  Abundantly, increasing, all – those are the evidence that we truly are God’s children.  Paul writes later in the chapter the things he was praying for in this church.  “That God may make you worthy of His calling…..fulfill every resolve for good…..every work of faith by His power…..so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you”.  There are some more of those words – primarily “every”.  Living as a Christ Follower means that Jesus is in control of the whole enchilada.  Not just parts and pieces when we want Him at the helm, but each and every step of the journey.  Is He in your life?  In every situation?

Paul paints a picture of what happens for “those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus”.  It is not a pretty picture.  This is serious stuff and the crux of the gospel.  If we don’t get our relationship with Jesus right – if we fail to accept God’s gift of grace to receive salvation through Him – things are not going to go well.  Paul writes that there will be “flaming fire….inflicting vengeance on those who do not know…..suffer the punishment of eternal destruction…..away from the presence of the Lord”.  This is rather strong and long – if we fail to get right with God through the blood of Jesus – we will be apart from Him for eternity and our future will not be good.  Are you ready to stand before God at the day of judgment?  Have you got things right through Jesus?  You can’t do it then.  The time to make things right is now.  Today may be the day He comes again!

1 Thessalonians 5

Paul wraps up his first letter to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5.  This is a little further clarification on the things to come, and then a list of directions on how we need to live as we await Jesus coming again.  He begins by reminding us that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”.  We will not know the date and time.  We won’t have a calendar appointment in Outlook reminding us Jesus is coming.  It will happen without warning (well not exactly as scripture is full of the details on God’s plan for His return), but it won’t be broadcast with lots of time to prepare.  That time is now.  We need to be getting ready for Christ’s return today.  We don’t know when it will happen.  Are you ready?  Paul reminds us “you are not in darkness….for that day to surprise you…..you are all children of light”.  We have the plan in our fingers if we are reading the Bible.  We need to study and be prepared.  As Paul puts it: “let us keep awake and be sober”.  We need to wake up and pay attention to what God had given us in preparation for Jesus coming again.  We have direction.  “Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”.  Sound familiar?  Some of the same terminology we find in how we are to handle spiritual warfare as found in Ephesians 6.  We need to be ready.

 

Paul goes on to remind us of God’s plan for each of us.  “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  If you were wondering what God’s plan is for your life, Paul wrote it well.  God wants us to be saved from eternal wrath through Jesus.  How can that happen?  Paul goes on to say He “died for us…..so that…..we might live with Him”.  Did you catch that?  Jesus went to the Cross and sacrificed His life so we might live and have eternal life with God.  It is really that simple.  He died….so we might live.  What a blessing.  What grace.  We didn’t deserve it, but He chose to die for us anyway.  The only question that remains is what we do with that offer of grace.

 

Paul concludes this first letter to the church with a list of things we ought to do as we live in preparation for Jesus to come again.  Check them out:

      encourage one another and build one another up

      respect those who labor among you

      esteem them very highly in love

      be at peace

      admonish the idle

      encourage the fainthearted

      help the weak

      be patient with them all

      no one repays anyone evil for evil

      do good to one another

      rejoice always

      pray without ceasing

      give thanks in all circumstances

      do not quench the Spirit

      do not despise prophecies

      test everything

      hold fast what is good

      abstain from every form of evil

      greet all the brothers with a holy kiss

What a list of how we should live.  There is much to be done as we await God’s coming again.  We should not just sit back and wait.  We have work to do.  This list tells us what that is!  Get after it.

1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4 contains several key instructions for how we are to live and then Paul closes with a glimpse of the things to come.  He begins by telling the brethren in Thessalonica to keep on doing what they are doing.  And then he throws these words on – twice in fact in this chapter alone – “do so more and more”.  Living God’s way should never just stay where it is.  We should continue to do so more and more.  We should never become complacent that we have it right or have made it.  Our goal is always out there ahead of us and we need to continue to strive for it more and more.

The first area Paul focuses on is that we must “abstain from sexual immorality”.  He makes it pretty simple when he says “you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor…..not in the passion of lust…..that no one transgress and wrong his brother”.  We need to get the area of our sexuality under control.  This is a never ending battle for all of us – God created us as sexual beings – but He also put some very strict guidelines around how we are to live in that regard.  And the key is that “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness”.  Sexuality is not given to keep us from being pure and holy.  It must be dealt with God’s intended way – not the way the world has totally messed it up.

Paul goes on to give a list of ways for us to “love one another….do this more and more”.  We are to truly love as God has loved us.  He lists some things to demonstrate what that looks like:

–       “Aspire to live quietly

–       Mind your own affairs

–       Work with your hands

–       Live properly before outsiders

–       Be dependent on no one

–       Encourage one another

We are to live and love as God has loved us.  That means putting others in the middle of our lives.  It means loving them with true love like Jesus demonstrated for us on the Cross.  It is the opportunity to make a difference.

The chapter ends with a picture of what will come based on the truth that “Jesus died and rose again”.  Sometimes we tend to lose sight of that big message and truth – we don’t keep it front and center of our minds.  But Jesus did go to the Cross.  He was crucified and on the third day He arose and conquered death and will do the same in our lives as Christ Followers as well.  Here is what God writes through Paul.  “God will bring with Him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep”.  Those who were dead and believers will be the first to join God – “the dead in Christ will rise first”.  Those who are “left until the coming of the Lord” will be joined with Him as He “will descend from heaven….caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”.  Jesus is coming again to gather His own to Himself.   Do you believe it?  Today may be the day.  Are you ready?  Have you made Jesus your Savior and accepted His gift of grace?  Don’t miss the meeting with the Lord that will take us to eternity in heaven.  There is no second chance on this one.  Get right with Him today!

1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 3 gives us perspective on Paul’s deep desire to see the folks at Thessalonica.  We learned at the close of the last chapter that “Satan hindered us” and kept Paul from making the trip.  So he sent Timothy to go and check out what was going on in order to “establish and exhort you in your faith”.   Paul was worried that the local church was being pulled away by their affliction even though he had warned them that it would come.  How do you respond to affliction in your life?  We will face life struggles and challenges?  Where to you turn when those things happen?  Do you face them alone, or do you run to Jesus?  The world would tell us to pull up our bootstraps and just deal with it.  Scripture tells us to bring them all, big or small, to the throne of our Father.  Paul tells the church “I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain”.  He didn’t want their work to fail – he wanted to see continue growth and victory.

So Timothy goes and now has returned with “good news of your faith and love”.  What would the report be if Timothy came and visited your church?  How about spending a week or two in your home?  Would he have a strong report of faith and love?  Would he report that you were walking with Jesus in spite of the affliction of the day?  The reality is that God is watching and sees what is happening in our lives.  He knows how we live.  Paul lets the church that they were continually thinking of these folks – “we pray most earnestly night and day”.  He didn’t just go teach them and then forget about them.  He continued to lift them before the Father.  He wanted to know how they were progressing.  He was invested in their life success.  And he prayed that they would “increase and abound in love for one another…..establish your hearts blameless in holiness”.  Paul prayed for them inside and outside – for their hearts and for their relationships.  We need God’s touch on both – on our lives individually and on our relationships collectively. God has a plan for us.  Are you walking in it?

1 Thessalonians 2

Paul continues his letter to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 2.  He reminds the people there that his little ministry team “had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel”.  They were not silent or ashamed – they just preached God’s truth.  They were God’s messengers and beyond that were “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”.  God has entrusted us in the same with – with the same story and truth – to share with those around us.  We are God’s messengers.  So have you shared the message?  Have you proclaimed the gospel?  Do people know that you have the truth?  It is not just for pastors to share – it is our job.  Paul says it this way: “so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts”.  Do you consider the fact that God is paying attention to the words we speak and the story we tell.  We are not here to please man – God has us here to do a job – to live life for Him and share His truth with everyone we come into contact with. We are here to live for an audience of One.  Far too often we are concerned about what people will think and say and we shy away from speaking truth.   Paul and his team set the example – “nor did we seek glory from people” – they weren’t about getting kudos and pats on the back because they were making people comfortable.  They were focused on speaking truth.

He goes on to give us the formula that works.  “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but our own selves”.  Here it is – we are to speak truth and also show how that truth has impacted us personally – our personal testimony of what the truth has done in us.  That is the secret to sharing successfully with others.  God’s Word and our life which has been touched.  When we put the two together – there is great power in the message.  Paul tells us clearly that his team “worked day and night that we might not be a burden to any…..you are witnesses…..how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct”.  The ministry team didn’t impose on people – they carried their own weight and in fact supported themselves.  But they did live openly and set forth a witness that glorified God.  They made sure to “walk in a manner worthy of God” – as God’s representatives of His truth.  That is the way we help others find Jesus.  We live Him personally in our own life and share that openly with those in our patch.  Are you living that way?  Don’t forget – we have a real enemy who doesn’t want that to happen – and Paul mentions “but Satan hindered us”.  We have to stay the course and walk with our Lord to live victoriously.  But we can and when we do God is pleased and people around us see Him!

1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians 1 is our next stop on our walk through the New Testament chronologically.  Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica with Silvanus and Timothy and begins by letting them know that they are prayed for.  Paul writes “we give thanks to God always for you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers”.  So how many folks are on your daily prayer list?  How many do you thank God for daily, and intercede for as you come before God?  That is one of our jobs as a Christ Follower.  To lift one another up and encourage each other through prayer.  Paul calls out three areas they are impressed with about this church:

–       “your work of faith

–       Labor of love

–       Steadfastness of hope

Ever heard those three things before?  Faith, hope and love?  The three things that endure according to 1 Corinthians 13.  Paul is grateful for this body living life in a way that endures.  He and his partners in ministry had spent time here modeling how to live.  “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you…..you became imitators of us and of the Lord”.  What would happen if someone imitated your life?  If they followed you and did what you do each day?  Would they get to Jesus?  That is what we are called to do.  To live life so others get to the Cross.  We are to become an “example to all the believers”.  We need to live life openly so others can see how we live and follow us to the point of imitation.  That is what Paul did.  That is how we need to live.

Paul goes on to compliment this church because “the word of the Lord sounded forth from you….your faith in God has gone forth everywhere”.  They were leaking God’s Word and their faith all over the place.  It was contagious to those around them.  They were living large and making folks turn their heads to see what God had done in their lives.  It wasn’t always that way.  Paul reminds us of “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”.  They had been in the weeds living in sin.  They weren’t always the picture of a perfect Christ Follower.  But they had observed and learned from Paul and his men, and imitated them.  They became like their mentors and teachers and were now ready to do the same.  That is how the faith needs to grow today as well.  We need to live publicly God’s way so others can follow us to Jesus!

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