2 Thessalonians 2:7 | Lawless Truth

The phrase that drives me crazy is “this is my truth”. It drives me crazy because truth is true independent of what people believe. When I grew up someone might say “this is what I believe to be true”. Which leaves room to say I could be wrong about what is true because truth is truth independent of me or what I believe. Fast forward to today when someone say “this is my truth” they are in effect saying truth is created and defined by me. Even if reality and facts prove me wrong it does not matter because whatever I believe is in fact true. I think this is one of the reasons for the rampant increase in depression and anxiety because when an individual’s version of what they manufacture to be truth collides with the raw actual truth of reality their personal truth fails and leaves them vulnerable and lost.

And this is what I want to focus on today. When we say that this is our truth and we manufacture our own set of facts and rules for how things should be we are in effect saying that we are lawmakers. I am defining a set of laws for how the world will be governed in my presence. However, if my truth violates actual real unchanging truths then I am in effect working in a lawless state of being in regards to my relationship with reality.

This idea of lawlessness where we live based on a lie and call it true is how Satan operates and this lawless state of saying that I will have my own truth is in direct opposition to God from whom all real actual laws and truth flow.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 ESV

The antichrist is described by Paul is called the lawless one. Imagine for a moment Satan who is created the most beautiful and powerful of all God’s angels. God when he creates this angel tells him that he is created and what his purpose will be as an angel. But Satan sees the glory of himself and thinks… Who is this God to tell me what is true? I am his equal and this will be my truth. So, Satan spins up a story of his own truth that he is God’s equal the yin and yang the good and bad who will be at war fighting for power. This is lawlessness at work. But Satan has a problem with his lawless truth. Satan is not equal to God and Satan is only permitted the freedom and power that God allows. To be Satan in this situation is quite depressing as well as fundamentally evil.

Paul tells us that Satan is at work with his lawless truth and Satan’s example enters our heart as we follow the same lie about ourselves. You be you. Go get what is yours. You can be or do whatever you want. Thankfully Paul tells us that this lawless lie is restrained to keep us from going full crazy. God is keeping a lid on the craziness for now but it seems to me that we have entered a new season where maybe God is removing the restraint as we see more and more people claiming their own truth and eventually as the restraining hand is removed all this lawlessness will be dashed on the rocks of reality.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV

We don’t need to make up our own truth to claim something to make us happy. Joy and peace in this short life come from God. Truth comes from God. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, came to die and be raised to life to forgive us of our lawlessness. Humbly come before God and his real truth ask him for his saving grace and he will “lavish” on you wisdom and insight. You will understand his purpose to make us whole and bring us into a relationship with him our Creator.

2 Thessalonians 1:6 | Affliction Repaid?

Here is a truth that is universal. Anyone that is serious about following Jesus will face push back. It will come in all kinds of forms. Some passive and some aggressive. Following Christ in truth and deed will get one into trouble. When Paul first visited the Thessalonian city to establish a church the effort was so successful that he caused a riot.

4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:4-7 ESV

Paul was forced to flee the city but the new believers who lived in the city had nowhere to go. This was their home and their submission to and acceptance of Christ cost them dearly. When I was a young man, I was surprised to find that my enthusiasm for Jesus was not well received. People looked at me strange. Family pushed back on my excitement. And others would ask if I was going to be a preacher. All of this was frustrating to me because these interactions were with Christians in a mostly Christian culture. What was mild push back for me must have been overwhelming for the new Thessalonian Christians in a culture that was not Christian. The push back for me was when someone would ask if was going to be one of those crazy religious church people but the push back for this new church was that the leaders were hauled before the local government on charges of treason.

Even in a mostly Christian culture many Christians keep their faith conversations quiet and go about their lives trying to avoid awkwardness let alone causing a riot. I learned from my initial interactions to be more strategic in my conversations but my excitement in sharing the good news of Christ has never diminished. If I got more aggressive, and maybe I should, I have no doubt that that there would be opposition. It is almost like I have learned to live right on the safe side of the line that should not be crossed when being public about my faith in Christ.

The reality is that many Christians do not live in a “safe” country and do face insults and hardships for following Jesus. Paul told those persecuted that while God would not stop that persecution in the immediate, he would repay their tormentors.

6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 2 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV

In America we have religious freedom and persecution is mostly just awkwardness so we are shocked by this idea that God will afflict those who push back against Jesus. We like to view God as loving and tolerant but what we really need to understand is that God does hold people accountable for the evil in their heart. It is shocking to hear “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you”. Let me clarify something important here. The Bible never gives individuals or individual Christians the right to seek revenge on those who attack, bully, or otherwise torment. God has given the right for government to punish on this earth. This means law and order is a function of government. In America law and order allows for the freedom of religion. Again, to be clear no individual ever has that right to take law and order into their own hands and that is why this promise from Paul that God is just and he will take up the case is intended as encouragement to those who are actually tormented. In the mean time we as Christians should be praying for the salvation of our tormentors not hoping they be punished in hell forever. While God is promising to make things right, Paul is not telling the church that God will repay with affliction their tormentors in this life. Paul is talking about the end of times when God settles everything once and for all. Jesus came and died that people might be saved. This life right now is the moment of grace to accept that. That grace in this life falls on the saved and those who will live eternally separated from God. Once Christ returns that grace is gone and judgment comes.

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV

9/11 and the Truth of Lawlessness

Today is the anniversary of 9/11 a terrorist attack, an act of war, on a scale unknown to the modern American society. Looking over the history of America it is not difficult to find murderous tragedies and barbarous acts of war on this soil but 9/11 is unique in modern enlightened law and order 1st world society. On this somber day today, I also see a Hurricane carving up the state of Florida. The world has changed or I should rightly say my perception of the world has changed. The world is temporary. Evil abounds. Spiritual forces are at work overturning right and wrong. As I reflect on the clashes in the streets over “hate speech”, wars the world over, and the unfriendly seas spewing storms on me hundreds of miles from shore I remember that this is not my home.

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 ESV

My heart is in something greater. Jesus told Peter that the church would be the foundation, a rock, to preserve society. Jesus told Peter that hell would not break through, or overcome the church. I take heart in knowing that God is present because the church, the body of Jesus Christ, is here.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 ESV

On Sunday, my pastor preached the body of Christ is salt and light from Matthew 5. He reminds the congregation that we are a preservative that holds society together. Without Salt without light society becomes worthless and the gates of hell would overcome. Hell has not victory. Hell will not win. Hell does not own this world because the Church is still here. The Holy Spirit is still here. Paul writing to the Thessalonian Church tells them what the return of Christ in bodily form will look like. Paul tells them to not worry. The restrainer, the spirit of God, holds back the destruction of lawlessness. And when that day comes the King, Jesus, will “bring to nothing” all this evil.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 ESV

Now here is what I need to know, what the contemporary Christian needs to know. First God’s plans are perfect and sovereign. The current wars, the acts of nature, none of the current ails of this world are a surprise to him. Second lawlessness is in check. Thank God that he is restraining the evil that lives in all of us. Lawlessness is restrained because the Church by way of the Holy Sprit living through Christians is salt and light in this dark world. Jesus has promised that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” while the Church, the Holy Spirit are still active.

Because of this we know there is still time. The moment of grace is still available. This is the good news of the gospel.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39 ESV