Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1 - Comfort

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was written a few months after his first letter.  They had misunderstood Paul and thought Jesus had already come back and had stopped working and were just waiting for Him.  He describes the second coming and reminds them to keep working until He comes and not be idle.  They were confused and life was very hard.  We lose sight of God and His plan for us when we’re confused.   Being in submission to Christ helps you not live deceived and fearful.  When in hard times and you decide that God is not here and doesn’t care, you have vulnerability. 

What afflictions have you suffered?  Maybe you don’t think you have, but evil forces are working against you and your commitment to Christ impacts others.  You will be judged by others by your religious principles.

Paul thanked God for the faith of the Thessalonians that was growing more and more.  He also thanked God for the increasing love they had for each other – (2 Thess. 1:3).

Is your faith growing stronger?

God is just.  There are 2 kinds of judgments:
(1) Punitive Judgment is for the unbelievers.  It will be dreadful and to be endured in a conscious state.  It results in everlasting life away from the power and love of God.
 (2) Evaluative Judgment is for believers.  It is based on how well we have served Christ as believers.  It’s also known as Rewards.  When God judges sin, it’s a rest and relief for believers.  Romans 8:1 - “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  

Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels.  He will punish those who don’t know God and don’t obey the gospel – (2 Thess. 1:7-8).
The saints (believers) will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God – (2 Thess. 1:5).  He will give relief to those who are troubled – (2 Thess. 1:7).
He will be glorified in His holy people and be marveled at among all those who have believed – (2 Thess. 1:10).
Jesus will punish those who don’t know God and don’t obey the gospel.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from His glory – (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

Principle:
Christ’s return means comfort for believers and judgment for unbelievers.

Paul prays constantly for the Thessalonians that God may make them worthy of His calling and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of theirs and every act prompted by their faith.  He prays the name of the Lord Jesus be glorified in them – (2 Thess. 1:11-12).

Do you have opposition to your faith?  If not, examine your life.
How is God’s character being revealed to you?
How are others seeing you live your faith?

The Day of the Lord is in the future and Paul wanted them to know that.  They thought they missed the rapture.  We need to know what the Bible says so we are not deceived.

2 Thessalonians 2 - Confusion

Paul tells them that 3 things must happen before Christ’s return –
(1) the rebellion occurs - a "falling away" or "a departure from faith".
(2) the revealing of the man of lawlessness -  the Anti-Christ will come to power
(3) the restraint of lawlessness is removed - refers to governmental authority.

There will be a rebellion and the revealing of the man of lawlessness (which is the Anti-Christ) – (2 Thess. 2:3). In Matthew 24 we learn that many false teachers and false prophets would come claiming to be the Messiah, you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, nations will rise against nations, there will be famines and earthquakes.  All of these are beginning of birth pains.  Christians will be persecuted and hated because of their belief in Jesus.  The abomination that causes desolation would be revealed – (Matthew 24 and Revelation 13:3-6).

The man of lawlessness will be revealed and doomed to destruction.  He will exalt himself over everything and will set himself up in the temple as God.  The man of lawlessness will be overthrown by Jesus with His breath and be destroyed by the splendor of His coming.  The man of lawlessness will work in accordance with Satan displaying all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.  – (2 Thess. 2:1-12).  He is the Anti-Christ, the beast coming out of the sea – (Revelation 13:1-8).

God will send a powerful delusion to cause unbelievers to believe the lie of the man of lawlessness, because they have not believed the truth and have delighted in wickedness –
(2 Thess. 2:11-12).  People today refuse to open their eyes and accept God’s truth.  They don’t think knowing God is worthwhile.  They are full of pride, envy, murder, strife, all kinds of wickedness, faithless, ruthless and the list in Romans 1 goes on.  If you refuse to listen to the truth, you will be deceived by Satan and won’t even know you are deceived. 

How can you avoid being deluded?  You can prevent believing the lies of Satan, if you will just know the truth.  Study the scriptures and stay close to God.  By knowing the truth we get to know God more and we’re equipped to discern good from evil.  We should stand firm and hold to the teaching of Jesus and remember that God loves us and is always there to give us eternal encouragement, hope, and strength – (2 Thess. 2:15-17). 

God chose you through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called us to this through the gospel that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our responsibility is to believe the truth, stand firm and hold on to the teachings of Jesus – 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.  Jesus has already done all the work.  All we have to do is believe.  “Share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 14 means we will be raised to eternal life with Him and share His inheritance in heaven and we will see God.  We are secure in Him because He chose us to be saved from the beginning. 

Principle:
Be focused on truth and surrender to God’s Spirit and live in hope rather than fear of Christ’s return.

Believers are exempt from the Anti-Christ.  What gives you comfort and security?  Have you been taught something that makes you afraid?  If so, examine that against scripture for truth.  Deception manifests fear.  Pray that you be responsible with truth that God gives you.

2 Thessalonians 3 - Correction

Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for him that the message may spread rapidly and be honored and that they may be delivered from wicked and evil men.  Paul is confident that God will do what He says.  Are you?

Who will you pray for? 
Who will you ask to pray for you?

Paul warns them against idleness and that idleness make them busybodies.  When he says they should not associate with people who do not live according to the teachings they have received, he is saying don’t engage in their wrong doings.  They should work for a living or not eat.  They chose not to work, which is a matter of willingness not ability.  We should admonish our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when needed, but remember everyone should be treated with love and respect.  Be firm, but loving.  If your heart is not in the right place, it could be damning. 

Is your heart right to admonish someone? 
Are you open to being admonished?

Principle:
A believer’s lifestyle should help, not hinder the spread of the gospel.

Are you living as a busybody?
How are you spending your time? You should be living with urgency and commitment and with confidence.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1 Thessalonians 1-5, Acts 17:1-10

Acts 17:1-10 tells of Paul, Silas and Timothy’s visit to Thessalonica where they taught and proved to them Jesus’ death and resurrection, but with opposition they had to leave.  Later Paul heard about the conditions there since he left and wrote this letter to the Thessalonians to encourage them and to teach them more about Christianity.  In his letter he teaches them about Jesus’ second coming and tells them that they should continue working hard until he comes.  Each chapter refers to the return of Christ – 1 Thess. 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:14-16, 5:2, 4, 8, 23. 

I.  1 Thessalonians 1 – Faith That Works

The Thessalonians’ work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope gave the Thessalonians the power to live strong Christian lives.  They became models to other believers.  They turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.  Paul tells them to wait for Jesus to return from heaven.

Effective evangelism = one disciple making another disciple

Principle:
The Holy Spirit empowers a life of faith, love, and hope to make Jesus Christ known.

How is your life making Jesus known to another?
Is your quality of faith and lifestyle a good model for other believers? 
Would you feel good if others became like you?

II.  1 Thessalonians 2 – 3 – Love That Labors

Paul, Silas and Timothy’s work took root and grew there because:
   They spoke as approved men of god and were not trying to please men, but
   God. – 1 Thess. 2:4
   They never used flattery or cover up a mask of greed. – 1 Thess. 2:5
   They did not look for praise from men. – 1 Thess. 2:6
   They were gentle. – 1 Thess. 2:7
   They worked hard so as to not be a burden. – 1 Thess. 2:9
   They dealt with the Thessalonians as a father deals with his children,
   encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God. –
   1 Thess. 2:11-12

When you speak the gospel, how do people know you are doing so out of pure motives?

Paul’s heart was to train the Thessalonians spiritually.  He wanted to meet their God-given potential.  His intense love and concern for those he helped to Christ is evident in chapters 2 and 3:
   He longed to see them. – 1 Thess. 2:17
   He was concerned about their faith and didn’t want them to be unsettled by
   their trials. – Thess. 3:1-5
   He prayed for them day and night. – 1 Thess. 3:10
   He prayed for them saying, “May the Lord make your love increase and
   overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 
   May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in
   the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all
   his holy ones.” – 1 Thess. 3:12-13
   (This is a wonderful prayer to pray for yourself and for others.)

Paul prayed that their faith would increase, that they would build one another up in love, and dwell on the hope of Jesus’ return (knowing He could come at any moment).

Who are you concerned about and long to see?
Who are you praying for?

Principle:
God’s love should prompt Christians to labor on behalf of others in preparation of Christ’s return.

III.  1 Thessalonians 4 -5 – Hope That Endures

Intentionally reach out and encourage some, love someone who is hurting, call someone, send them a note, pray for them.

How are you encouraging someone else to live a life worthy of God?

Paul tells them (and us) how to live in order to please God – They should avoid sexual immorality, learn to control their own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable, and that no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. – 1 Thess. 4:3-6

Sexual immorality does not please God.  It’s outside of God’s will.  Statistics from a recent poll show - 50% of men polled were addicted to pornography and 20% of women polled were addicted to pornography.  Pornography also hurts innocent people.  When we reject God’s instruction, we are rejecting God.

How does this conflict with our present day culture? 
How is your behavior to be different than that of the world?

In 1 Thess. 4:13-18 Paul reminds them there is hope because of the second coming of Jesus.  In verse 13 the word asleep is used to describe Christians who have died and the word awake is used to describe Christians who will be resurrected.  In verse 17 the words caught up is another word used for rapture.  The Lord will come down from heaven with the sound of the trumpet call of God and the dead will rise.  Those of us who are left will be caught up together with the dead and in the clouds and meet Jesus in the air and we will be with the Lord forever!  So the Thessalonians should encourage one another with these words.

God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ and we are to live together with Him. – 1 Thess. 5:9-10

This encourages me, because I will not get what I deserve.  He has saved me from that.  Praise God!  We are destined to face trials as believers.  We need spiritually-sound people around us when we face those trials.

We don’t know when He will return, but we need to be ready. Paul gives them (and us) final instructions:
   They should respect those over them who are in the Lord and hold them in
   highest regard in love because of their work. – 1 Thess. 5:12-13
   They should warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak,
   be patient with everyone, don’t pay backs wrongs, always try to be kind,
   be joyful, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, don’t put out
   the Spirits fire, don’t treat prophecies with contempt, test everything, hold
   on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. – 1 Thess. 5:14-22

We can do these things, because God is the God of peace and He sanctifies us.  He is faithful and He will help us do it. 

How much do you pray? 
Are you thankful in all circumstances?
What instructions is God giving you today? 
Will you be ready when Jesus returns?
How does Christ’s return someday affect your behavior?

Principle:
God is pleased when believers live according to His Word, surrenders to His spirit, and expecting Christ’s return.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Acts 15:36 -18:22

Acts 15:36 – 16:10 – Ministry Changes

Paul had the heart of evanglism.  He not only shared the gospel with the people, but wanted to go back to visit the towns and lead the people to be disciples.  He knew shallow faith would not sustain them.  There was a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over Mark.  Paul felt Mark was unreliable since he had deserted them in the past and didn’t want to take him with them on the journey.  Barnabas wanted to take him, because he believed in giving second chances.  It’s a good thing God give us second chances – even third and fourth chances.  The actions of both men ultimately moved God’s work forward spreading the gospel twice as fast to more people.  Later Mark proved himself to Paul by his ministry.  Note: He also wrote the Book of Mark.

Paul took Silas, Timothy and Luke with him on his second missionary journey.  We know Luke went because he wrote the book of Acts and in 16:10 he says “… we got ready…” indicating he was with them.  How did the missionaries know where to go?  The Holy Spirit led them (Acts 16:6-10).  We learn God’s guidance when we listen to Him.  (Proverbs 3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” 

One way God leads is by opening and closing doors.  Paul was confident in his calling and he didn’t stop his journey just because the Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter Bithynia.  He surrendered to God’s Spirit.  Are you surrendering to God’s Spirit?  Sometimes God says “No”.  Paul had that experience and was obedient.

Principle:  God’s way of leading is step by step.

Have you experienced God opening and closing doors?  How alert are you with the Holy Spirit’s leading?  Where do you need God’s direction today?  If Jesus is your Lord, all He asks is for you to do the next right thing. 

Acts 16:11-17 – 17:15 – Ministry in Macedonia

 
When they reached Philippi, they found Lydia and other women gathered there to listen to their teachings.  Lydia and her household believed and were baptized. 

Also at Philippi, Paul and Silas met a slave girl who was possessed by evil spirits and predicted the future and began stirring up trouble for them.   Paul knew this was a danger to the word of God and commanded the evil spirit leave her.   Where God is at work the enemy is on a mission.  Satan can appear as an ally or with attacks.  Is there an evil influence you need to get away from?

Then they found themselves in opposition to authorities and were beaten and put in prison.  In prison they prayed and sang hymns to God as the other prisoners listened.   I can just picture Satan in a panic, because he knew God was at work.  Suddenly a miracle happened.  A violent earthquake shook the prison and the doors were opened and all the chains became loose.  The jailer awoke and was going to kill himself thinking the prisoners had escaped.  When he turned on the lights, he saw Paul and Barnabas still there and asked what to do to be saved.  Acts 16:31 “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.”   This doesn’t mean if you believe, your household will be saved.  It means if you and you household believe, all will be saved.  The jailer was filled with joy because he now believed in God.  This is an example of how God uses good out of evil and how blessings can come through troubles.

The jailor took them to his house, fed them and cleaned their wounds.  When morning came, the magistrates released them and they were told to go in peace.  Paul reminded them he was a Roman citizen and they had no right to treat him that way and they had broken the law.

Paul and Barnabas left Philippi and went to Thessalonica then to Berea.  In Berea they met with some of the same similarities as in previous places.  They always went to preach in the synagogue, some people believed and some agitated the crowns and stirred up people.

There were some difference though.  There the people received the message with great eagerness and even examined the scriptures to see if what Paul said was the truth.  That’s a great lesson for us all.  We should examine God’s word for ourselves and not just take the word of others as truth.

Principle:  God will lead you where He will grow you in trusting Him.

Acts 17:16-18:22 – Ministry in Athens and Corinth

Paul then went to Athens alone and while he was waiting for the others, he was tired and greatly distressed.  His heart was probably crushed, because the city was full of idols.  This was the greatest city in the world, but the people were lost.  They were atheists and materialistic.  They were probably like the New Age movement today.  The people spent all their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.  There was an altar with an inscription:  TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  The Athenian people were intellectuals and refused to accept the doctrine of the resurrection.  When they heard about the resurrection, some sneered, some refused the good news about Jesus and the resurrection; however some wanted to hear more and some became followers. 

Paul was prepared and gave them a brilliant message that God was sovereign and in control and that God commands they should repent. 
In Acts 16:24-31 Paul gives the message of the foundations of Christianity:
God is a living person – verse 25.
God is not live in temples built by hands, but He created everything – verse 24.
God is not distant from His creation, but near to each person – verse 27
God controls the universe – verse 24.
God controls geographical boundaries – verse 26.
God overrules historical events – verse 26.
God can never be worshiped through statues or images – verse 29.
God commands sinners to repent – verse 30.
God will judge the world through Jesus Christ – verse 31.

Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.  Many of the women were prostitutes and the city was considered “sin city”.  There the Jews opposed him and became abusive.  Paul said “…. Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clear of my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).  God encouraged Paul while he was in Corinth by telling him “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).  God encourages us, too - through scripture and through our Christian friends with support, their prayers, and their encouraging words.  How prepared and willing are you to speak to those around you?  How has His word encouraged you?

Principle:  God leads those committed to His truth to places His truth is needed.

Where God leads is not easy, but God will meet you there personally.