2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 ESV
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
When I began to read this passage of scripture this morning, the first thing that stood out to me was “The church in God” and “churches of God,” as though “church” may or may not necessarily be “in” or “of” God, which we do find particularly true in our culture in America today, and in much (or some) of the rest of the world, too, I would suspect.
For example, God no longer dwells in buildings built by human hands. The temple of God, thus, is not a physical building, but a spiritual building (house) made up of living stones, not of brick and mortar, i.e. we the people of God are the church. So, even though we may attend a building called “church,” it doesn’t mean it is of/in God. In fact, physical buildings are not of God, nor are corporations under the federal government of the USA or businesses of human-making called “church.”
This seems a very difficult concept for most Christians in America to truly wrap their minds around (an idiomatic phrase). Although they know that the church is not a building, still in their hearts it is. And, so they equate these man-made structures (buildings, denominations, businesses) with the church of God, but they are not one and the same.
In fact, if they are being run by, under the authority of, and directed by humans rather than by God and by his Holy Spirit, then they are not of God. For, God/Jesus is not their head, but the government is. And God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit is not directing their path, but the world is. And, they are not building the church spiritually by the Spirit (Rom. 12; 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4) but by human marketing schemes. And, their customers are the world.
So, we must not confuse the two. For, the church of God (in God) is spiritual, and it is people. But, it is people who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, who have died with Christ to sin and who are living with Christ to righteousness; who are walking not according to the flesh, but who are walking according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-17).
The People of God
Now, this is not to say that the church is perfect and sinless. For, as long as we live in flesh bodies we will be subject to temptation and we have the propensity to still sin against God. And, this is also not to say that the true church cannot at any time fall away from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, for the letters to the churches in Revelation make it clear that we can.
But, what this is saying is the church, the church of God, is made up of people who have truly given their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, who have walked in his ways and in his truth, even if right now they are drifting away from their pure devotion to Christ.
For, we don’t become the body of Christ by mere outward professions of faith or by saying words after someone in a prayer. There must be death to sin. We must be reborn of the Spirit of God. And, there must be evidence of regeneration in our lives, i.e. that truly we have been born again and we are no longer living to satisfy the sinful cravings of our flesh.
If we are truly in God, then we should be growing in our walks of faith and obedience to our Lord. Our love for God and for our fellow humans should be increasing, but here I am speaking of divine love, not human love. For, our love for God and for others should be based in what is pure, holy, righteous, just, merciful, compassionate, honest, upright, moral and faithful.
And, we should be steadfast in our faith and in our love for God and others and in our commitments to walk with our Lord and to do what he says, and to go where he sends us, and to say whatever he commands us to say. And, we should be doing this despite being persecuted, hated, mistreated, misjudged, falsely accused, lambasted, gossiped about and mocked. For, we should be determined to follow our Lord even to the death, if need be, in order to see others come to faith in Jesus Christ, too.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 ESV
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Jesus said that if we follow him, and we give up our lives for him and for his gospel that we will be hated and persecuted. But, we have to remember here who Jesus’ greatest persecutors and opponents were. They were not the people outside the Jewish faith, for the most part. They were primarily those who professed faith in Almighty God, the God of Abraham. And, they were members of his own family and his neighbors. And, they were the religious leaders and teachers within the temple of God, too.
So, we should not be surprised if our greatest persecution comes not from outside the institutional church, but from within. And, some of this may come from Christians who are well-meaning in what they say, too, because they truly believe that we have left the church if we depart from the institution of church, which is not of God (the institution is not). For, remember that Paul was a great persecutor of Christians before his conversion, but he did so truly believing he was following God.
Yet, there are many liars, deceivers, manipulators, hypocrites, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and thieves and robbers within the institutional church who persecute true believers in Jesus, but not innocently. For, they are of Satan, and of his church, and so it is their goal to come after us, to persecute us, to try to trip us up, and to try to bring us down in hopes that they can stop the spreading of the gospel of our salvation, and in hopes that Satan can capture our hearts once more for his kingdom.
These fakers of Christianity, who are in it for the purpose to destroy the church will one day meet their doom, though. In fact, all who fake their relationships with God, or who have superficial faith, or who have bought into the cheap grace gospel will one day suffer punishment for what they did in this life. For, if we want to have eternal life with God, we must die with him to sin that we might live with him to righteousness.
[See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-21; Gal. 6:7-8; 1 Pet. 2:24.]
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We live in very troubled times. The beast is rising and he/it is conquering peoples, nations and Christians. Deception abounds in the world, in our governments, and within our institutional churches. The gospel of our salvation has been diluted to make it more appealing to the flesh. So, many people have bought into the cheap grace gospel, and they are headed straight for hell, not for heaven.
And, those who are truly following Jesus Christ with their lives, who are teaching the truth with regard to our salvation, are being persecuted, even here in America, and even within our institutional churches. Our government here in the USA, in combination (partnership) with the church, has a campaign going on presently targeted against those of us who are following Jesus Christ with our lives.
Their message is one of unity, but not unity with God, but truly with Satan and with the world. And, so they are forcing compliance, cooperation and compromise of all people with this unity government and with this united one-world religion, too.
So, we need to be in prayer for one another that we may remain strong in our faith, and that we may grow in our Lord, and that God may be glorified in our lives, so that we will shine as lights in this dark world, so that many more may come to faith in Jesus before he returns.
For Our Nation
An Original Work / September 11, 2012
Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.
Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Men deceiving: we’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.
Saturday, February 9, 2019