Sunday, November 2, 2008

In Search Of Truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-17


According to the Bible, there are times when God honors our choices, even when they are not in our best interest. An example of that is here in verse 11. In verses 9 and 10, Paul is explaining what the Man Of Lawlessness will do and how he will mislead people. Those who don't "love the truth" (v.10) will, as a result, never choose to trust in Jesus and be saved. In response to this, God gives them the alternative they are looking for, allowing them to follow through on their desire to do what they want, instead of seeking what is true. However the consequences for those who don't embrace the truth, are beyond terrifying. (v.11-12)

In verse 12, we see an implication about truth. Paul contrasts believing truth with taking pleasure in wickedness. He might have said "believing a lie" instead, but I believe he decided to express the RESULT of believing lies. If we do not pursue truth, we will base our life decisions on ideas and philosophies that are not true and that lead us away from God. We will actually begin to take pleasure in evil things. Notice that Paul doesn't say that believing truth means we will not have pleasure. He says that not believing truth results in taking pleasure in the wrong things.

Although the picture painted here is one of those who never believe in Jesus, we can also see how neglecting truth can effect Christians. When we are mad at someone and secretly enjoy seeing them in pain or "getting what they deserve", we've forgotten that God loves that person more than we can imagine, and that we have offended God many times in the same way they have offended us. In that scenario, we've forgotten truth and as a result, are enjoying the wrong things.

In verse 13, we get a few bits of information about this mysterious cosmic transaction called "salvation". We know that we are saved from eternal punishment as a result of our trust in Jesus. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10) But here we also see that those who are saved were "chosen" by God to be saved. This mystery of "choice" is one that theologians are still scratching their heads over. The Bible clearly teaches personal responsibility for our actions. (Why give commands if we have no choice to obey or disobey?) So choice, as we understand it, clearly exists.

And yet we have to compare that thought to verses like:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 20:24 A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

This is a great mind-bender to study, but for now we have to move on.

Verse 13 also says that our salvation happens through the process of sanctification and through having faith(or trust) in the truth. Salvation is a broad term in the New Testament. Depending on context, it can mean freedom from eternal punishment, freedom from the power that sin has in our lives today, or ultimate freedom from all presence of sin, which believers in Christ will experience in eternity. In verse 13, Paul is emphasizing the freedom from the power of sin in our lives today, which happens as the result of the Holy Spirit's sanctification (setting apart for God) of our lives. This is a process that begins and continues in our lives. It is something we have to allow the Holy Spirit to do. As a result, some will experience more sanctification than others. Eventually, however, all those who trust in Christ will be completely sanctified when they are in the presence of God.

This end result of being perfected by God, is the reason God called those who believe in him. (v. 14) But as we just saw, sanctification is a process that begins now, which is why Paul tells them in verse 15 to remain committed to what they've learned from him. Sanctification will usually mean some discomfort on our part as we learn and grow. And so Paul ends this chapter by praying that God will give comfort and strength to their hearts(our weakest part, according to Jeremiah 17:9) as they work to obey God and share the truth. (v. 17)

Next Week: Chapter 3!

Coffee House Question

Why do you think the Bible's emphasis on "Truth" is ignored or even considered offensive by some people?

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