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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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July 2015

“Standing Firm” How to not be shaken or troubled over Christ’s return. 2 Thessalonians 2

You may have heard the saying, ‘I’m never wrong. There was that one time I thought I was, but it turned out I was just mistaken.’

We don’t like to be wrong about anything, but it’s in our nature, and it’s in the nature of the world to not only be deceived, but to be deceptive.

Right throughout history, we see the devil planting seeds of doubt through deception. He did it to Adam and Eve, he has done it to every human being since about everything that God has given us instruction on, including of course, Christ and His second coming. Satan’s chief weapon is deception.This can lead us to be worried about what is true and what is not, thankfully for us, Paul speaks directly to this deception by telling the believers not to be alarmed or shaken (2:2) but to stand firm (2:15).
1 – False information leads to shaky faith v. 1-3a

There are a couple of responses we can have to being told that the end of the world is upon us. We can either be in denial, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace ( 1 Thess 5:3), or we could be panic-stricken thinking we have missed our ticket out, which is the message Paul was rebutting in chapter 2 of 2Thessalonians.

There is another option to dealing with the return of Christ, and that is to trust what God has already revealed, and know He has all things under control, and in knowing that, we will know when we are being presented with false information.

It can come in various ways – a spirit, a spoken word, or a letter forged in the apostle’s names, however this false information comes, Paul has the same response to it, “remember what I’ve told you before (v.5) and stand firm in those teachings (v.15)”.

The main deception being spread around was that Jesus had already come again ( 2:2b).He goes on to lay out a sequence of events that show that this cannot be true. Several things must happen first, and although Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night to those who aren’t walking in His light ( 1 Thess 5:2-6), for believers, we don’t need to be worried about opinions or interpretations that tell us this has all already happened or be startled when they see things happening we don’t understand.

2 – False gods lead to false pleasures v.3-12

The sequence ( same as Matthew 24) -the Day of the Lord cannot come until:

the rebellion/ falling away happens first ( 2:3)
the ‘restrainer/withholder’ is taken away (2:6-7)
the man of sin/lawlessness / son of perdition/destruction is revealed with clear satanic influence with false signs and wonders ( 2:3, 2:9)
this man of sin proclaims himself as God (2:4)

Only after all these things will Christ return, gathering us to Himself ( 2:1), and destroying the man of sin with His very appearing ( 2:8).

What the falling away is seems to be clear. A world that has no concern about God isn’t going to fall away it is already fallen. The rebellion is an apostasy – an acceptance of false belief about God and twisting of His Word. Paul echoes what most other end times prophecies say, including those from Christ Himself, that many will turn away from following after Christ in the last days. There will be false information, and it will be believed, not because it’s true, but because it’s popular. Stand firm in the truth of the apostle’s teaching, Paul says, and you will not be part of this – but you will see it happening.

One thing becomes obvious as we look at this text and others about Christ’s return, we don’t have all the information. The Thessalonians seemed to know who the ‘restrainer’ is ( 2:6), we can only assume or guess. Some say the restraining force is the Gospel, or the Holy Spirit, or God Himself, or spiritual beings, such as angels who figure strongly in apocalyptic scenes as fighting/holding/restraining ( Daniel 10, Jude 9, Revelation 12:7-9, Revelation 7:1, Revelation 9:13-15). For whatever reason, God has ordained a certain force to be in place, restricted the rise of the man of sin until just the right time. When God removes the buffer, it will be no holds barred. Satan will have the perfect puppet to work with.

The revealing of this man of sin who sets himself up as God and requires people to worship him as such will be seen by believers who see it happen as a very obvious and blatant act of blasphemy, which has been Satan’s main act of rebellion since he was cast out of heaven, wishing to be God.

Who is this man? We are left without a name or title or specific label, but we are given certain characteristics which are unmistakeable, and we are certainly given his end ( 2:8) which is something we must absolutely keep in mind when we consider the instruction to not be shaken or alarmed.

He will be powerful. He will perform many signs and wonders by supernatural means. ( 2:10) And by these signs, he will deceive those who love deception ( 2:10b).

God gives the unbelievers exactly what they have chosen for themselves. They refuse truth, so they can have a false god. They have pleasure in unrighteousness, so they are condemned to an eternity of destruction that that lifestyle brings. Hell is a monument to human freedom. Unbelievers have rejected the truth, loved unrighteousness, and God will act in the end to confirm their stubbornness. This is a dire warning – do not harden yourself to the truth of God and His Word. Do not love unrighteousness or promote it, if you do, God will give you what you have chosen.

All of this information Paul gives is not so we can figure out who this man of sin is, but is so we can be aware of Satan’s schemes and activity.

A thought worth pondering is that the devil, even though he is powerful, he is not all-powerful. He isn’t omniscient, omnipresent.If the Jesus Himself did not know while He was on earth the day or hour of His Second Coming ( Mark 13:32), and the angels don’t know, the Thessalonians don’t know, Paul doesn’t know – then we should remind ourselves of the fact that the devil doesn’t know either!

He is constantly working towards his evil ends, setting up many various ‘men of sin’ throughout history, banking on one of them being his man, destroying as many of God’s people as he can. The mystery of sin is already at work ( 2:7a). It is an underground force, restrained, sometimes unseen,but still inherently evil.There will be one, though, that has his full backing, and this is his end game, all bets will be off. Evil will be unmasked in human form, and he will destroy, deceive, pillage and blaspheme. Not a single person on earth will be left in the dark as to what Satan’s schemes are, and everyone will know which side they are on and will at the end, face either destruction for having following the son of destruction, or salvation, having followed the Saviour, the Son of God.

3 – True comfort leads to firm faith v. 13-17

While all this is daunting and fearful to contemplate what awaits us in this world, knowing things will get worse before we see Jesus in the flesh, this doesn’t mean that we live introverted, inwardly focussed lives, only worried about our own lives, and just being sure we ride out the worst until Jesus rescues us. Whether or not we think the gathering to Christ happens before or after the great tribulation is beside the point that we should not view this doctrine as our salvation. Christ Himself is our salvation.That we will be caught up to meet The Lord in the air and escape destruction and trouble is very appealing, but this was not Paul’s main message. His message was for believers to stand firm, even if they see all these things coming to pass. It is the Person and Presence of Christ that we are to be desiring, not just escape from an evil world.

Paul’s tells the believers that they should only obey the apostle’s instructions on these issues ( 2:15) and we would do very well to stick to that also.

Within evangelical circles, there is no lack of end-time calculators and speculators who hope to brag of their ‘new’ information about the end times…we might be tempted to laugh these people off, but there is danger in that. We need to protect the church from this sort of peril. Whenever believers wander off after some new eschatological fad, somebody will sustain permanent spiritual damage when those predictions fail to come to pass…The healthy Christian must develop an aversion to the “X-Files” type of logic… Christ taught that many false prophets would appear and deceive many( Matthew 24:11).It doesn’t matter whether ‘inside information’ comes through some charismatic utterance or through some private decoding of the Bible. Such people are alive today and are by definition ‘false prophets’. – Gary Shogren

The end result of holding to what we do know, instead of obsessing over what we cannot know, is an assurance of hope that Christ is surely coming again, and in the mean time, we can be comforted as we establish ourselves in every good work and word. ( 2:16-17).

This means practically that we trust more in what God has revealed in His Word than trusting in opinions or assumptions of men. The best way to know is something is false is know the truth better than you do the lie. When you only study what might be false, or you’re always on a witch hunt for apostasy, not only will you be exhausted, you won’t establish yourself in good works, you will grow more and more isolated and more and more exclusive in your own standards. Know and love the truth, and you will see false teaching, signs and wonders a mile off.

Don’t be alarmed or shaken. We have faith in a Deliverer Who can destroy our worst opponent with a single breath. His appearance will be our salvation and the world’s judgement. We stand on firm ground when we stand in Christ.

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The Problem of Pleasure – Mark 10:17-27

What make you feel comfortable? What brings you pleasure?

A long drive along a coastline? A walk on the beach? A good book in front of the fire? A game of footy? Baking a cake? Or is it more deeper things – working hard and seeing results? Or more sentimental moments – a romantic dinner? A birthday party? Catching up with friends?

There are many various things that we would say we find pleasurable.Pleasure for pleasure’s sake seems the pursuit of many in our culture, and it’s a barrier for some to believing in God. Some see having faith in God as missing out on what life has to offer. They like their comfort, and they think God is just a prohibitionist.Others though, as much as they enjoy pleasure, all that life offers, and seek to have all the experiences they possibly can, still know there is something missing. Pleasure can be a problem.

Jesus encountered a young man once who thought he had everything he needed, and he wanted to be sure he had it all forever, so he asked Jesus a question. It was an excellent question, but he didn’t get the response he was looking for.

1 – The Question of Goodness v. 17-20

We call him the ‘rich young ruler’ ( Matthew 19:16ff, Luke 18:18ff) and he was rich in two ways. He had moral wealth and financial wealth.

He had it together, so together, he knew there was something missing, one final missing piece.

So he comes to Jesus and asks a very legitimate question, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’.

We would think of all the people qualified to give the appropriate answer to that question, Jesus would be the best by far and He responded with the even deeper question – ‘Why do you call me Good? No one is good but God.’

If Christ is truly GOOD, than He is truly God. No man born is good enough. Goodness personified knows the answer to the eternal question.

Goodness was relative for the young man – with Christ it’s absolute.

Goodness isn’t a matter of knowing what is good either, as Jesus goes on to point out. You can keep the law, know the law, but still not be good enough to enter into eternal life.

All our goodness is usually based on comparison with others, and that is not the standard we are meant to measure up to. The law wasn’t given to us to reveal our goodness. It was given to reveal God’s and reveal how much we need Him!

Your problem is not that you need a little more goodness. Your problem is that you’re not good.You might be good compared to others, but when you come to Christ, He knows your heart. – Tim Keller

2 – The Challenge of Greed v.21-23

The young man had a couple of assumptions that Jesus obliterates. He thought there was information he was missing, something he lacked, and Jesus agrees with him.( v21), but not in the way he expects.

He assumes that Christ is someone he can just add to his life, the missing rung, the last step to complete his perfect life.

He also thinks that being a Christian is just something you do.

But Jesus smashes these assumptions. You can’t add Him – He’s revolutionary, He wants you to be born again. He’s not a missing step, you’ve been on the wrong ladder this whole time! And it’s not something you do, it’s something receive that has been done for you.

Besides that, Jesus has a challenge for him, ‘You think you keep the law? Let’s try the first one…!’ .

Jesus, when we ask Him to, will reveal our heart’s allegiances. This young man loved his wealth more than he loved the poor, more than he hungered for eternal treasure, and more than Christ.

A counterfeit god (idol) is anything so central and essential to your life that should you lose it, your life would be hardly worth living. – Tim Keller

Greed will do more than blind you, it will devastate you. It will destroy you. Your pursuit of more will leave you with nothing in the end. The challenge is, will you look at Jesus when He exposes your heart, and see what He has lost on your behalf, or will you look at your own life and consider it not worth losing?

3 – The Astonishing Impossibility v.23-26

Jesus didn’t take this approach as a template for how all people should be given a chance to respond to Him and His message. This also isn’t a call for all believers to sell all they have, but it is a call to make sure that Christ is first.

The disciples though, like us, were a little slow to get it.

If this guy can’t get in, who can?!

The Gospel of Mark speaks a lot of people being amazed at Jesus – 15 times in 16 chapters it’s mentioned. People didn’t understand who He was, and when He revealed truth or His power, they were left amazed and in awe. This is just one of the draw-dropping moments in Mark for the disciples!

Camels getting through needle eyes is a ridiculous image to imagine, and Jesus says there is the same possibility of a person who trusts in riches getting into heaven.

The disciple’s question to Jesus, ‘Who then can be saved?’ was one of incredulity. Jesus was making it impossible for anyone. But they had missed what the young man had missed. If you don’t have Jesus first in your life, you don’t have anything. Also, the point remains true for all – you cannot save yourself. This is a work that only God can do.

It is impossible to be part of God’s eternal kingdom while you’re too busy setting up your earthly one where you can reign as sovereign. Selfishness has no place in the kingdom of God.

Superficial interest in eternal life must be confronted. Proud, selfish ( greedy) people, no matter how much they say they want eternal life, won’t receive it when they see what it means for them in this life, unless they understand who Jesus really is, not just their perception of Him.

You can have everything you want and still be left with nothing in the end. The riches of this world, and all the pleasure you crave may well be seasonal happiness now, but it’ll be hell later.
If your personal comfort & pleasure is your ultimate goal in this life, you are a very dangerous person…if you are not willing to bear a cross of self-sacrifice & denial, thought of a life following Christ will be grievous to you…

4 – The Way to True Joy v.27

The only possible way for us to enter the kingdom of God is by humbly accepting the fact we can’t get in by our own will or strength. It’s impossible when you’re trusting your own goodness, or your riches, or your heritage, or your reputation. It’s only possible through God.

That should be incredibly liberating for us. Should be. Unless we too, trust in our own efforts to save our selves, or would rather have what this world offers than eternal life.

Everyone is looking for a more fulfilling life. More love, more health, more happiness, more wealth. A good reputation, a great legacy. And if you can have all these with heaven thrown in as well, all the better! But Jesus as an appendix never works. He has to be author and finisher of your faith. It’s the only way to real life, and to true joy.

The young man went away sad, how long he remained sad, we can’t know. Maybe he spent the rest of his life miserably wealthy, wishing he could have what he wanted while having everything he wanted. Knowing the way to eternal life, knowing the truth, knowing the life, but choosing his own agenda instead.

If you come to Him, despite fact that He grieves you, you will see that He really loves you( v21a). That He wants to give you a treasure and joy that will last. He wants to give you Himself. (v 21b).

The way to joy is to rejoice that your name is written in heaven, not in being proud of what you have accomplished in this life. ( Luke 10:20).

Be rich towards God, not men. Lay up your treasure where it can’t corrupted. ( Matthew 6:19-24).

You can’t have Jesus on your own terms. If you want Him on your terms, you won’t have Him, all you’ll have is an idol of your own making.

The young man left the same way he came. Lost. Jesus exposed his heart, and he couldn’t handle what it revealed.

Underneath all of our objections and complaints about God and faith in Christ is a power struggle you are having with God, and it’s over your dreams. Your ambitions. You ideal of how your life should work out.

Anything you have decided will give you a life of pleasure, comfort and power that isn’t God, will eventually become a monster – it will devour you.

We think what we are missing in life is superficial, academic, behavioural ( usually someone else’s!), or circumstances. If we could could just change that one thing. If we could just get that person to do this or that. If we could just kick that habit. If we could just have our way on this. If my spouse could just let me…If my kids would just…If my church would only…Then everything will fall into place. If only I could have that one last thing.

Obviously it is the love of money that is the issue. It’s love of sex, power, control. When you make an idol of these things you will respond very negatively and destructively if you feel them being taken away or at risk.

What makes you anxious? Fearful? Envious? Angry? Spiteful?

Jesus says there is a monster in our hearts. He tells us we need to surrender our dreams, our idols. Repent of them…

There is one thing you lack.You lack treasure in heaven.

Give up your pursuit of more wealth that leads you to messed up priorities.

Give up your control of people around you that leads you to manipulate by harsh criticism or personal attack and gossip.

Give up your idolatry of marriage, or perfection in relationships that comes on your terms.

Give up your dream of success.

Give up your most deepest and fondest of dreams.

Give up on your pursuit of temporary happiness and comfort. Christ wants so much more for you. He wants to give you joy. He wants to give you life.

Wouldn’t you rather have Him? He has done the impossible for you…don’t meet Him & leave sad….

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