2 Corinthians 6 contains Paul’s words about their ministry. He appeals to the church at Corinth “not to receive the grace of God in vain”. What does Paul mean here? That God’s grace – his forgiveness and salvation through Jesus – ought to change us. We should not remain the same. It should rock our world. Jesus did not go to the Cross as a small token – He gave Himself completely to totally transform our lives. He died that we could experience fullness of life and live victoriously. Sometimes Christ Followers miss that and act like they are still under the bondage of sin.
Paul goes on to explain the struggles he and his band of followers have dealt with by “great endurance”. Those words are important because it is something God wants from each of us as Christ Followers – to endure – be steadfast – keep on pursuing Him. Paul lists their struggles as:
– 5 beatings
– sleepless nights
Who said that serving God would be easy. Paul’s list certainly shows it is not – in fact anything but easy. But he also reveals the secret to how they were able to endure. He lists the key characteristics they clung to. Check out his list;
– the Holy Spirit
– genuine love
– truthful speech
– the power of God
– the weapons of righteousness”
Quite a contrast between those two lists. But Paul gives us yet another list – this time the contrast between the way they were treated. He shares the truth about how their ministry was viewed and responded to – and there are some difficult responses they had to deal with. Check out the list of how they were treated:
– “honor and dishonor
– slander and praise
– impostors, and yet are true
– as unknown, and yet well known
– as dying, and behold, we live
– as punished, and yet not killed
– as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
– as poor, yet making many rich
– as having nothing, yet possessing everything”
What dedication Paul and his ministry partners had to have – resolve to stand firm and stay focused in spite of the challenges that life brought. But Paul delivers some strong words as he wraps up the chapter that can be difficult for us to hear: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers….what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever….separate from them”. Often this section is used in light of marriage – that a Christian should not marry someone who is not a believer in Jesus. But I think it is more sweeping than that – we should consider it in all key relationships – business partnerships – close friendships – any relationship that is deep and ongoing. Does that mean a couple that has been married outside this guidance should be ended? Absolutely not. God never intended these words to be relationship or covenant ending words. But they are given for our consideration before we enter into relationships. It can keep us from some of the heartaches and struggles that will come if we become unequally yoked. We can’t serve two masters. Neither can our relationships. Ponder and keep this in mind before you enter your next one!
2 Thessalonians 3 ends Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica. He gives some pretty direct instruction to the folks there. But he begins reminding them of one very powerful truth: “the Lord is faithful”. He is always faithful. There is never a moment in time when that is not the case because He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is faithful. We can always depend on that. There are no other truths in this world that we can trust like this one – His faithfulness. So what does that mean? Paul says “He will establish you and guard you against the evil one”. God never leaves us. He will be with us and makes us His children and then protects us. Always. Forever. Want something to depend on? God is faithful. He does give us a few instructions on how we should live in response to that faithfulness: “direct your hearts to the love of God…..to steadfastness in Christ”. We need to let God have control of us inside and out so His love pours in us and through us. We need to walk in the same faithfulness that God has and continues to show us. We need to live as His children – heirs to the throne with Jesus because of the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross.
Paul warns us to “keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us”. Pretty strong words about who we hang out with. We need to be with folks who are walking in their faith – not those who are living idly as Christ Followers. Pauls says we “ought to imitate us” and work hard to “not be a burden” on those around us. Living for Jesus is not a once and done kind of thing. It is an ongoing never ending lifestyle where we are following God’s direction constantly as we strive to become more like Him. Who are you following and imitating? Is it Paul and ultimately Jesus? That is how we should live? As one who is focused on becoming just like Jesus in love and deed. The only way to get there is to know Jesus and study what scripture shows us about His life.
Paul is pretty strong that people need to be engaged in life. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat”. Seems a bit harsh in our world today doesn’t it? How is that fair? Scripture is never about fairness. It is about what God considers to be right. It is black and white without shades of gray. We want to tone it down and make different shades out of it. We want to make excuses that fit our situation and make scripture fit how we want to live. To give different levels to sin. To make excuses as to why people should be able to eat when they don’t work. Paul is addressing a problem of that day – “some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies”. He is not being mean here. He is making the statement that we all have to be working hard – not just idly putting in our time – certainly not being busybodies that disrupt the marketplace by our idle chat and undertow. We are told to “do their work quietly and to earn their own living”. Bottom line is we are to take care of ourselves and our families. It should not be dumped on the government or church to do that. It is our job. It is God’s expectation.
|Paul gets very personal as he ends this letter. “If anyone does not obey…..have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed….but warn him as a brother”. Obedience matters. Not just a little bit. Paul is telling us to avoid those who will pull us away from obeying God’s commands. He is telling us to avoid those who might lead us astray. Want to know who you should hang with? People who are walking in obedience to God, who are imitating what scripture has taught, so you are not pulled away. There is clarity here. We are to avoid any who are not obedient. Do you? Do you truly use that as the filter of who you spend time with? If not, you risk being gradually pulled away from obedience and anything less than obedience is sin!
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 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
– 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!