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Engaging the Enemy Together

November 7th, 2016

Finally, pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil people. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. And we are confident about you in the Lord that you are both doing – and will do – what we are commanding. Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ. (2 Thes. 3:1-5 NET)

I am listening to the local German morning show on television in the background as I write, and the weather announcer did what happens in every local weather broadcast around the world. He spoke about the weather in Europe, then in all of Germany, and then in particular what was going to happen in Stuttgart today (probably). We will probably have more sunshine and less snow than other places in Germany today. Everyone experiences some form of weather, but not everybody gets rain or snow, or sunshine, on the same day.

This was similar to what Paul was writing to the church in Thessalonica. It is not raining persecution on every Christian all the time, but our hearts shjould always be sensitive to those who are in “inclement spiritual situations.” Paul and his companions (Silvanus and Timothy, 1:1), then serving in Corinth (most likely), were facing challenging circumstances – challenging not only because of the opposition they were facing but also because of the great potential Corinth held for the expansion of the gospel. The main events that happened in Corinth are recorded in Acts 18:1-18. If we were to guess about the time line, since both 1 & 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth, we would say that 2 Thessalonians was written about half way through his eighteen months that he stayed there and ministered (Acts 18:11).

He did not hesitate to admit his need for prayer. The example Paul gave for us was to clearly and humbly admit to his Christian family that he needed prayer (see also Rom. 15:30, Eph. 6:19-20, and Col. 4:2-4). He could do all things through Christ who gave him strength (Phil. 4:13), but he knew that he would only receive that strength as he submitted his heart to Christ and humbly admitted before others his need of their support through prayer.

He did not hesitate to engage new Christians in this ministry of prayer. We should also take note that the people he was asking to pray for him had only been Christians themselves for a short time – probably less than two years. God hears a new Christian’s prayer just as surely as He hears a mature Christian pray, and the new Christians should be encouraged to pray from the beginning of their Christian life.

All Christians face the enemy together. We really have three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3). The world is the fallen world system that is opposed to God and to His reign and rule (1 John 2:15-17). The flesh is our sinful nature that even after our salvation still lives within our hearts (Eph. 4:20-24). The devil is Satan and his spiritual kingdom that seeks to deceive, tempt, and enslave us (Rev. 12:9-12).

We we Christians shoot our own wounded? Someone likened Christians to an army that shoots its wounded soldiers. We should realize that we all will have our “moral slip-ups” or sins – some bigger than others, but all of the same nature. So the call of Christ to pray for him also meant for them, and means for us, that we should pray that people not fall into temptation. Protection from the evil one (mentioned in the text above) meant physical protection from attacks but also spiritual protection from temptations.

He affirmed his confidence in the new believers because of his confidence in Christ. Though he humbly asked for prayer, there is no spirit of resignation or of defeat. He believed that Christ would conquer all His foes, and that every Christian would come through to the day of victory, to the “love and endurance of Christ.”

So we are to humbly admit our need for prayer. We should pray not just for ourselves but for others who serve (please pray for me if you are reading this). We should engage all true believers in the ministry – through personal involvement for some, but also through prayer for all. We should remain confident in one another and in the final victory of Christ. And we should do so in a spirit of love.

Corinth became a great church and we have more written in the New Testament to and about the church there than any other church outside of Jerusalem. But all around us are churches and Christians with great potential for whom we should pray. Who will you pray for right now?

2 Thessalonians , ,

Thanking God in Hard Times

November 4th, 2016

But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2:13-14 NET)

We are in an incredibly tense American presidential race. Many have commented that it is the worst that we have seen during our lifetimes, and I would echo these thoughts. Also, as America is the most powerful nation on earth the whole populace of the world is caught up in the drama and nastiness of it.

Much of this I believe to be no more than political hype – both sides threatening that if the other candidate is elected the world will [practically, in their words] come to an end. Yet it has upset people around the world.

We can learn something from what Paul wrote in these verses of 2 Thessalonians. After describing the rise and ultimate downfall of the Antichrist, which will happen during the worst days on planet earth, Paul gives reasons why we can be grateful. He began to section with an intent to comfort us, not to upset us (2 Thes. 2:1-2) and he returns in these verses to accomplish that goal.

My friends, do not miss the peace and joy of Christ in dark and tense times. Jesus spoke of peace and joy that no one could take from a Christian (John 16:22) and this is the peace and joy we need to have.

Why can we be grateful in dark times? What does this passage teach us?

We can be grateful because we are assured by the love of God. He called us “brothers and sisters loved by the Lord” (2:13). Let us not despair because God loves us and His faithful love will secure our forgiveness and our salvation. No matter what happens on this earth, we should always remember that the Father affectionately remembers us. Sometimes we can see the trace of prophecy in current historical or political developments, but not always. When we cannot clearly see how God’s program of redemption is working out, we still trust in His love.

We can be grateful because God is at work in our lives. This is another cause of gratitude, that God’s love is experienced through the sanctifying work in our hearts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit takes the truth of God’s Word and matures us and works in us to make us better people. During tumultuous times we can measure how mature we are by how our hearts are reacting. Are we afraid? Then we need to trust God more. Are we angry and vindictive? Then we need to embrace and share grace more.

We can be grateful because we are promised glory. Our citizenship is not in this world. We are just passing through this life. Our eternal home is with God in heaven where we shall share in His glory through the redemption we have in Christ. We should be responsible to do our duty here on earth, to make this world a better place. But our affections and expectations are ultimately invested in the eternal kingdom of God. “Conducting out lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the day of God,” as Peter wrote:

Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. (2 Peter 3:8-13)

Christians do not panic like the rest of the world. We live confidently, boldly, and at peace.

2 Thessalonians, Dealing with Difficulties, Second Coming of Christ , , ,