(Second in a Series of Three)
II Thessalonians 2
Dear Friends in Christ,
In last week’s sermon, Pastor Muther ended our study of II Thessalonians with three takeaways:
Once again, we fix our eyes on the ultimate warrior who has gone on before us all the way to the cross, then to the open tomb and beyond so that our sorry souls could be saved, so that a multitude of our sins could be covered, so that we could live our lives as the bought and paid for people of God. In our sermon today, the Spirit of God would teach us to stand firm in the Christian faith doing these two things – holding on and looking forward. Can you say that with me – holding on and looking forward.
First of all today, Paul would teach us to be (Holding on) to that teachings handed down to us in the past. Paul had already warned the Thessalonians that the days were coming when the Antichrist would be revealed and many would fall away. The Antichrist was going to be a man of lawlessness. He would exalt himself in God’s temple, which is another way of saying that he would become the equal of God in the hearts of man. The Antichrist was going to be a religious teacher who would be claiming to be doing the work of Christ, when in fact he would be one of the worst opponents ever.
Paul was warning the Thessalonians and he is warning us today that in the end times, Christians are going to be in for a ride rougher than they could imagine. Satan would be pulling out all the stops, he would be trying every conceivable trick, he would be telling every possible half truth and outright lie that he and his nasty minions could think of, and that many many Christians would be falling away.
Research seems to agree with this prediction of many falling away. Recent surveys suggests that while 92% of Americans believe Jesus was a real person, only 56% believe that Jesus was God, 56% say Jesus was a sinner, and less than a third of Americans believe that there even is such a thing as absolute moral truth. Two teachings in our readings for today we want to be holding onto.
First, we want to be holding onto the teaching that the forces of evil are already (being restrained). Verse 5 – Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time……As often as the preaching and teaching of God’s Word goes forward, as often as churches are planted and supported, as often as Christian schools are built and funded, as often as the Lord’s Supper is administered and celebrated, as often as the Spirit of God is given a chance to do what He does, that often Satan is getting shut down, that often the Antichrist is getting revealed, that often the sinful flesh is getting crucified, that often the forces of evil are being restrained.
Secondly, we want to hold onto the teaching that we have been chosen as (firstfruits). Paul writes in v. 13,But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Jesus made it clear that He came first of all for the Jewish people, and then for the Gentiles. In Acts 1:8, early Christians are sent first of all into Jerusalem, then into the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria, and finally to the four corners of this world.
At our 10:30 service, we will be receiving as many as 25 new members into membership. They are folks of all ages, from all walks of life, and with all kinds of stories to tell. Two teachings we want them and all members to hold onto and never let go – the first teaching is the Holy Spirit is in the calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying business, and the second is that the Holy Spirit is in the sending business. He calls us to come out of the world into the Church and then He sends us back out with a message to deliver. Week in and week out, called by the Gospel, enlightened with his gifts, sanctified and kept in the one true faith, then sent out as part of this world wide effort to restrain the forces of evil.
Lesson #1 was to be holding onto truths we have learned in the past. Lesson # 2 is to be (Looking forward) to that day when Jesus will destroy the forces of evil. Just yesterday, on your behalf, your pastors were able to proclaim the Gospel at not one but two funerals. One for the family of a 33 year old man cut down in the prime of life, one for the family of our oldest member who was ever so ready to be done with this life and onto the next. We invited both families and so many friends to stand firm in the Christian faith in all the chapters of life, and to look forward to that day when, as Paul says it, Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth every force of evil. We invited all who were hearing to stand firm in the faith into which they were baptized and to be looking forward to that glorious day when they will see Jesus face to face, that glorious day when there will be no more hunger, no more unclean water, no more poverty, no more suffering, no more freak accidents, no more nursing homes and hospitals, no more elections, no more losers, only that which is pure and clean and beautiful. On that day, all questions will be answered, all mysteries will be solved, and all of God’s purposes will be made crystal clear.
Two of God’s purposes in particular become clear to us in II Thessalonians chapter 2. First, we have been Created in order that we might be (redeemed). And secondly, we have been Redeemed in order that we might (be glorified). Romans 8 says it this way, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. We stand firm today in knowing that even though there is so much about life we don’t understand, God has a perfect understanding. We stand firm in the certainty that our sins have been washed away in the blood of the Lamb, we stand firm in the Good News that our names have been written in the book of life, we stand firm as often as we fix our eyes on the author and the finisher of our faith, we stand firm as often as we live one day at a time staying close to the one who is holding our future. We stand firm, but that doesn’t mean we just spend our days standing around.
(Story of working for Mike’s Car Wash as an assistant manager in Ft. Wayne Seminary Days. My bosses named Ed and Joe Dahm had built up this business from the ground floor, they had worked hard and the car wash at which I worked was on a busy intersection, lots of folks driving by, they told me again and again,I don’t want to see anybody standing around! Even if there were no cars to wash, even if there was a lull in the action, they did not want to see these high school kids leaning, gathered in little groups just talking to each other and standing around idle. They told me if I had to have the same kid wash the same window a hundred times in a row, that’s what he wanted, no standing around!
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of people standing firm in their faith, but not standing around idle. They have learned on the one hand how to sit still and know that God is God and on the other hand that there is plenty to do. They are learning on the one hand the importance of staying calm and not being alarmed by all the signs of the end times, but on the other hand how it is their great privilege to spend their days thanking and praising, serving and obeying. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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