Sunday October 6th
2nd Thessalonians 2-3
I read a story the other day about a photographer who went to this haunted castle, hoping to get photographic evidence of this supposed ghost who haunted the place.
He didn’t want to frighten off the ghostly spirit, so he set up all of his camera equipment during the day, and then sat there, perfectly still, as the sun went down.
Finally, at around two o’clock in the morning, he saw an apparition drifting down the stairwell.
He quietly picked up his camera and slowly pointed in the direction of the ghostly figure.
To his surprise, the spirit actually stopped and struck a pose for him.
He could hardly believe his luck, so he gently squeezed his finger onto the camera button.
And nothing happened. His batteries were too low.
You see, the spirit was willing but the flash was weak!
Speaking of darkness and light, I want to review with you what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning the battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light in 2nd Thessalonians Chapter 2:
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
We can see from these opening two verses that the church in Thessalonica was waiting for the return of Jesus. They were so eager for Jesus to return, that the apostle Paul was worried that they might believe false rumors stating that Jesus had already returned.
Remember that Paul had left town a while back, so he warns them not to believe these false rumors, even if they come in the form of “a message or a letter as if from us.”
Paul then goes on to give us very specific information about what will have to happen before Jesus does return.
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
So there are two distinct events that Paul identifies which must occur before Jesus returns:
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
What about this “man of lawlessness” where have we heard of him before? Some people equate him with the anti-Christ or the “beast” from the book of Revelations.
Here is a description of him from a commentary:
“This is an individual embodiment of wickedness. He will draw away by deception those already inclined against the true God and will ultimately commit the sacrilege of thrusting himself upon humanity as its object of worship.”
Paul does not use the term “antichrist” here, but it is a fitting designation.
In reality, the Holy Spirit has been keeping this evil in check throughout all of history.
Paul explains it in verses 6-12
6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
Paul tells the Thessalonians in verse 6 that “you know what restrains him now.” But that restraining wasn’t going to last forever, because in verse 7 Paul says that the “mystery of lawlessness” is already at work.
John warned about the same thing in 1 John 2:18
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
When verse 8 says that “Lord will slay (the man of lawlessness) with the breath of His mouth” that is a fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 11:4
“But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”
That prophecy finds its final fulfillment in Revelation 19:15
“From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”
Notice that according to verse 10, not only will the man of lawlessness be judged, but also all those who followed him and his deceiving signs and false wonders, because “they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”
What’s even more fascinating to me is what verses 11 and 12 say:
“For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Do you see that? If people choose to believe lies over the truth, God is going to say “Go for it! Believe the lies if that’s what you want to do! But don’t be surprised when I hold you accountable for rejecting the truth!”
And what is the truth? The truth is what we call the Gospel. It’s that God came to earth physically in the form of a man, Jesus of Nazareth. And that man lived a sinless life but then suffered a cruel punishing death on a cross, not for what He had done wrong, but for what all of mankind has done wrong. And to prove that He was no ordinary man – to prove that He had the power over life and death – He came back from the grave on the third day after the buried Him! That’s the truth. You can either accept it or reject it.
But remember, either choice has consequences.
Paul finishes this chapter by rejoicing with those who have accepted the truth:
13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
Can I tell you something very important today? God chose you. He has called you to find Him and to follow Him.
This is what Paul emphasizes as he closes out his letter in chapter 3:
Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.
As he closes out his letter, Paul requests prayer for the success of his ministry and for the protection of all those who spread the gospel, especially amidst persecution. Remember that Paul faced continual physical danger throughout his ministry.
That is absolutely true today well. Nothing can be accomplished in the ministry of this church without the faithful support of your prayers. We NEED you to be praying for us and with us in order to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for our lives and for this church.
And Paul is very confident that their prayers will continue and that God will use those prayers in his ministry:
3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
So what is Paul saying? “God has been faithful to me and He will be faithful to YOU as well. Let’s be faithful to God.”
Starting in verse 6, he moves from prayer to instruction:
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
Paul obviously see these “unruly” individuals as a serious concern, but he still refers to them as “brothers”.
One of the major issues with these troublesome individuals was their unwillingness to work. Paul points out that HE always worked when he was in Thessalonica. HE always did his share to contribute to the needs of the church, even though he really didn’t have to.
He says, “7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.”
He reminds them that he had the “right” not to work, because his main job was to preach the gospel, but he CHOSE to work in order to set an example of what daily Christian life should look like. And in Paul’s mind it doesn’t look like sitting around on your duff all day expecting others to take care of you. He puts it very bluntly in verse 10:
“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
Why is this such a big deal? Is it really such a problem for someone not to pull their weight by contributing to the church community?
The problem isn’t simply what these people AREN’T doing, it’s what they’re doing INSTEAD of working!
Verse 11 says that they are “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.”
THAT was the real problem! With too much time on their hands, these folks were minding everyone else’s business instead of minding their own business!
12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Despite the problems that they are creating Paul still treats the offenders as fellow believers who need to be dealt with firmly but in love.
The last few verses of this letter are a final prayer and goodbye from Paul, with an interesting insight included.
16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Paul’s prayer is for peace “in every circumstance”, which is only possible by fully trusting God with our lives.
In verse 17 Paul points out that he is signing off on the letter in his own handwriting, which was apparently pretty distinguishable.
According to bible scholars, Paul often had the help of scribes, or secretaries in writing his letters, but he typically signed the final greeting in his own handwriting. He calls attention to this as a mark of the letter’s authenticity.
Why did this matter? Because if you remember back in chapter 2, Paul had warned the Thessalonians not to be “quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
In closing this letter with his signature, Paul is assuring the church that this was indeed the “real deal”, a letter truly written by Paul, and not someone claiming to be Paul.
Now consider this – in 2nd Corinthians 3:2-3 Paul says:
“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
We are living letters, living messages, sent by God to carry HIS words to the world around us! Just as Paul’s letters were proven to be real because his signature was on them, so our authenticity as “letters from God” is proven by the “signature” of Jesus in our lives.
What does that look like to you this morning? In what ways would you says that the signature of Jesus is clearly written upon your life?
And how can we be open to an even greater signature of Jesus in every area of our lives?
Don’t you want the final words over your life to be signed:
“With love, from Jesus”?
Growing in love for others is the result of deepening one's relationship with God. God is love so the closer we get to Him the more of His love penetrates our heart. It is the love we receive from God that creates the desire to love Him back. John 14:15 says to love God is to obey His commandments.
There are many ways we can appear spiritual, healing the sick, raising the dead, serving as a deacon/elder, worshipping with our hands up, falling down in the Spirit. Yet, our religious works are dead if not motivated by love (1 Cor. 13). Jealousy, envy, control, pride are often rampant amongst church leadership, true Kingdom leaders are known for one main character and that is love. Being Apostolic, Prophetic, performing miracles is nothing but clanging symbols without love.
Paul was most impressed with the Thessalonians because their faith was flourishing and their love for one another was growing. One of the most frustrating parts of the ministry is the lack of volunteers. Love is the motivating factor behind faith increasing. Faith and love are verbs meaning action words. So if we want to see more action by those we lead, we need to display to them God's love more. Churches can be full of people doing all sorts of religious things and yet really not connected to each other. Ministries need to scale back and keep things simple where growing in relationship with God and each other is the main emphasis.
As it says in verses 11 and 12 in order to live worthy lives where God is honored by the choices we make and the words we speak as leaders we need to provide the right environment. Ephesians 4:16 says each part of the body supplies grace to the other parts, so therefore to be enabled we need to be growing in God's love together as His body. If we want more of God we need to connect closer with other growing believers. Our issues will never be resolved isolated it is the body of Christ operating together that frees each member from the iniquities that can so easily beset them.
Sunday September 8th
1st Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:28
I had a conversation recently with Linda Hart, because she is the head of our prophetic team.
I told her that I had these two dreams on back to back nights, and I wondered what they meant.
In the first dream I was a teepee, waiting for the pow-wow to begin. In the second dream I was the big top, waiting for the circus to start.
I wondered if there was a reason why I was waiting for something to start in both of my dreams.
Linda told me, “You just need to relax, God is obviously showing you that you are two tense!”
In chapter 4 we find that the Thessalonians were also waiting, waiting for Jesus to return, and the Apostle Paul has to remind them that they shouldn’t lose hope while they are waiting.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Those verse are often read at funerals, to remind us to have hope in the resurrection, when we will be reunited with our loved ones for all of eternity, and the fact that Jesus would someday return and draw all believers to be with Him,
But, just like people today, it’s possible that the Thessalonians were wondering “when” that was going to happen. So in chapter 5, Paul starts off by addressing that question:
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day.
“Just like a thief in the night”
“Destruction will come upon them suddenly!”
Jesus gives a similar warning in Matthew 24:44
“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him."
That’s part of the great tragedy of our world today- so many people are completely unprepared to meet the Lord. Not only are they unprepared - they are actually proclaiming that there is "Peace and Safety" all around – Nothing to worry about! No judgment to face! You can just live any way that you want to. You won’t have to answer for it!
That’s why Paul says in verses 6 and7
“So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep; sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.”
That’s not just a warning about drinking. Paul is also warning that we can’t allow anything in our lives that will diminish our alertness. Alcohol is just one example.
Just like alcohol will inhibit a person’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions, we need to avoid any form of sin or distraction that affects our ability to make proper moral and spiritual decisions.
That’s why in verse 8 Paul again encourages sobriety:
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Does that language remind you of anything? It’s very similar to the “full armor of God” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. (the breastplate and the helmet)
Verses 9 and 10 remind us that as believers our ultimate destiny is to be with Jesus forever:
“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.”
So we know that we’re going to live with Jesus for all of eternity, but how are we supposed to live with each other in the meantime? Paul starts to answer that in verse 11:
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
That’s definitely a good place to start – build each other up instead of tearing each other down!
Paul also encourages the members of the Thessalonian church to respect their leaders, saying in verses 12 and 13:
“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
Anyone who is in leadership can tell you what a blessing it is to feel love and appreciation from fellow church members.
And then notice in verse 14 that Paul adds this:
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Paul obviously knew that certain members of the church weren’t going to be as loving and supportive as others, and he felt that the responsibility for ministering to the weaker members should be shared by the entire church, not just the leaders. He says “brethren”, help each other to grow, and work out your struggles together.
He continues that teaching in verses 15-18:
15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s advice when it comes to dealing with less mature brothers and sisters is to be patient, to always look for the good in each other, and to pray for each other without ceasing. Those are very good suggestions for all of us to follow, because ultimately the church is a family, and families need to take care of each other.
It follows naturally then that Paul reminds the church family at Thessalonica in verse 19:
“Do not quench the Spirit.”
Why do I say that it follows naturally? Because if we aren’t flowing together in love as a church family, then it means that the Holy Spirit is being “quenched” or limited in our church.
In scripture, the Holy Spirit is often likened to a fire, and we know that fires can be extinguished or snuffed out.
We certainly don’t want the lack of love for one another to become a hindrance to the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church, do we?
The next “family matter” that Paul addresses with the Thessalonians is not to despise prophecy within the church.
20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good
Why do you think Paul had to warn the church against “despising” prophecy? Isn’t prophecy a good thing?
I personally think that something bad had happened in that realm with the Thessalonian church, because in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Paul says,
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
Do you see what might have happened there? Somebody had come into the Thessalonian church and “prophesied” to the people that the Day of the Lord had already come and gone! And these people claimed to have a letter from Paul backing up their false prophecy.
That’s a problem for sure. Wouldn’t you agree?
So we have to ask ourselves, what would cause people to despise prophecy? Bad prophecies, false prophecies, fleshly prophecies, unscriptural prophecies – those kinds of errors can cause people to doubt true prophecies.
That’s why Paul says in verse 21 “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”
Which is similar to what John says in 1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Here at Praise we are careful to follow all of the scriptural guidelines regarding prophecy so that you can have confidence in the prophetic words that you hear. And on top of that, we encourage each of you to judge the prophetic words for yourself, to see if God wants you to receive and respond to them.
And regardless of whether or not you consider yourself to be a prophetic person, verses 22 and 23 are for the entire church family:
“Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When Paul uses the word sanctify, he’s saying that we all need to “clean up our act”! Because sanctification is a process of purification that allows us to be fit for use by our King.
And he says that we need to let God “sanctify you entirely”. How entirely? Spirit, soul, and body – does that leave anything out? I don’t think so.
Compare what Paul is saying here to these other verses from 2nd Timothy 2:20-21
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
Our goal should be to conduct ourselves as a “vessel of honor” so that we can be useful to our Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. And in order to be a vessel of honor we need to be sanctified. Think of it this way, you don’t use a dish until it’s been washed first!
Sanctification of our human imperfections is not only possible, it’s a promise. God is faithful and will accomplish it, as we are promised in verse 24,
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
In the final verses of his letter, Paul prays for these believers and asks the church to pray for him as well:
25 Brethren, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
There is a song that was released in 2019 that became popular probably because people can relate so well with it. Here is the chorus:
'Cause I got issues
But you got 'em too
So give 'em all to me
And I'll give mine to you
Bask in the glory
Of all our problems
'Cause we got the kind of love
It takes to solve 'em
This is written between two people in love but it can speak to us as believers that we all have issues, and we need to not judge but support each other, trusting that God will work them all out through His love in time.
We just finished the Advance series from the book of Acts. It was a real charge to move forward, but easier said than done, because of our issues.
This next series is entitled Issues and the journey will take us through the Pauline Epistles in Chronological order. In Paul's missionary journey's he would spend time in a particular city, raise leaders, and then continue on, normally because he was forced out by persecution. With humans follows problems, and since travel was not like it is today, Paul had to rely on writing to address these issues as they arose.
My hope is as we journey with Paul through his epistles we will discover our own issues and gain the wisdom on how to move through them so we can truly advance ahead and take greater ground for the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Here in 1 Thessalonians, Paul, as we will see in all his letters, starts off with encouragement. Focusing on what is good before dealing with what is not so good. This is a wise leadership tool, always start positive, building up first, before dealing with the issues that need to be resolved. A good leader is not just one that can point out problems but one who can lead people towards solving them without feeling discouraged.
Paul spent this first chapter reminding the Thessalonians what the Lord has done and how they have been an example to others through their faithful witness. One of my mentors would turn people's issues into humor so that the listeners would be laughing first and then realize, 'ouch,' he is talking about me, I need to repent and change my way of thinking. It is a highly effective correctional model. Get people to laugh, agree, and then take ownership of their own problems.