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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 , , ,

Sons of the Day

October 10th, 2016

Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, NET)

Living as children of the light means to have a different orientation of life. We live from eternity’s perspective, not from an earthly one.

The earthly perspective is dominated by worldly concerns, the affairs of this world that is passing away. The worldly person is focused on material needs to the exclusion of spiritual ones. Fear, ambition, anger, lust, desires, and pride dominate his view of life. He may be a decent fellow in terms of his dealing with others (or he may not be), but beneath the facade of his appearance is a heart that has no eternal direction, that is subject to the whims and winds of this earthly culture.

The spiritual perspective is dominated by the eternal things of God, His holiness, His glory, His grace and mercy, and His final victory. This takes the fear out of human hearts and replaces it with confidence and love. Human life is seen for what it is and what it is not. All of the earthly glory of this world is passing away, the pomp and splendor, the power and prestige, and the ungodly desires and pride.

The spiritual perspective is not without some reference point in real world time. The Christian faith is not just a philosophy of life, rather it is founded upon the acts of God in history – among which is the redemptive history of Israel, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His people, and, in the future, the victorious return of Christ. In the text above the inspired author wrote of “times and seasons” speaking of God’s actions in this historical framework in which we live. The Christian does not know the precise times and seasons of the return of Christ, but the Bible does teach us the nature of His return, and it clearly proclaimed the inevitability of His return.

Paul used two illustrations in this passage for the coming of Christ: the thief in the night and a woman in labor pains.

A thief in the night illustrates how differently the Lord thinks from the way the world thinks. (It is not, by the way, commending thievery or comparing the character of Christ to the character of  thief.) A family may have a pleasant evening with friends, and they may speak about their future investments and even feel that they are safe, and so they lay down to sleep. But a thief is watching their house and, unknown by them, he will come unexpectedly and raid their belongings. This is the illustration, that God has a different perspective on these things than we have, and His coming will take most of the world unawares, unprepared for eternal matters.

A woman giving birth illustrates the certainty of His return. A woman should have an idea of when her baby will come, but even then the final delivery comes with a bit of surprise. Suddenly she has contractions and there is no stopping the birth at that point. And so it will be with the return of Christ, that in the timing of God His coming will happen and nothing can prevent this from happening.

As sons and daughters of the light of God we are called to live today from the vantage point of eternity, from the perspective of the final victory of God. This is how our faith is to shape our lives and our thoughts. Earthly things are placed in proper perspective when we first consider the eternal things of God. We live in the power and grace of God with confidence in our final redemption, where we are made completely holy and righteous.

We will either interpret our lives in light of our past failures, or we will understand ourselves in light of our final redemption in Christ. The spiritually minded dwell in their thoughts upon the final condition of the believer through God’s grace. We know of our failures and have confessed them, but we also believe that whereas sin abounded, God’s grace has super-abounded (Rom. 5:20).

Our sense of security comes chiefly from God and if He has acted through Christ in such a gracious matter to forgive us and redeem us, then surely we can trust Him in all areas of our lives. “Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32, NET)

1 Thessalonians, Second Coming of Christ , ,