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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am Svc, 2014-12-07

Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

 

Question: Whenever you feel down, distressed or disappointed, what is your source of comfort? Some sources of comfort are good but not always dependable. E.g. Family and Friends – They can provide much needed comfort, but each of them may have their own problems to cope with when you need them, and even when they are available, they may not be able to empathise with you.

Other sources of comfort may add on stress to your distress later on. E.g. Some turn to food for comfort (‘comfort food’ – but overindulgence may result in costly health issues). Others find comfort in things that they already have at home. A recent survey revealed that many of us live in cramped conditions because we love to keep all our junk that have sentimental value – e.g. old photos, gifts, souvenirs, trophies, broken or outdated electrical items, and clothing that is out of fashion or too small. The stress caused by all the clutter is the price we pay for the comfort these things bring.

Is there any source of comfort that is absolutely dependable and will not add more stress to our distress? Many Christians have testified of finding great comfort through praying and reading God’s Word. Many have also found much comfort in counting their blessings – seeing what God has done for them. All these are able to bring comfort because they originate from the same thing: God’s love for us. This morning we will see that we are always loved by the Lord, and this matchless love is our greatest source of comfort! Let us turn to our passage in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.

You may remember that in the first part of this chapter the apostle Paul had been warning the Thessalonians about the signs of the End times. In particular, he told them about the coming of the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, when there will be great worldwide deception which will result in the widespread rejection of God’s truth. The result is that many will fall under the same condemnation as the Antichrist.

But now, as we come to our passage we see a very sharp contrast between these people and God’s people. According to vv.10,11, those who perish will be deceived and deluded – “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”.

But according to v.13 those who are loved by the Lord will be saved and sanctified – “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”

The huge contrast between these two groups is due to the special love that God has for His people. They are His ‘beloved’ and hence they enjoy all the benefits and blessings that come from His love for them. This does not mean that God has no love for the rest of humanity. God is very gracious to all people in all parts of the world at all times; and everyone – both good and bad – is able to enjoy His common grace. He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and He sends the rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But the only love of God that can bring real comfort to us is the love that is expounded here in this passage, the special redeeming love that God has for us who are His people. We are now going to see three great features of His love that should produce a good response in us.

1.  The Proof of His Love for Us

God not only says that He loves you. He has proven His love by doing many things for you. The very first proof is found in the choice He made from the beginning, as mentioned in in v.13 – “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” What beginning is this? Was Paul referring to the beginning of his ministry to the Thessalonians? No, this beginning actually goes all the way back into eternity past. Ephesians 1:4 tells us – “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him…”

Let us pause for a moment just to absorb the full glory of this proof of God’s love. Isn’t it marvellous that long before you ever knew God or heard about Him, and even before the entire universe was created, you were already in His thoughts? This truth should really warm your heart. Who are you, that you should be known by God, loved by God, and chosen by God right from the very beginning? Would the Lord God Almighty, the great Creator of the heavens and the earth have nothing better to do at the beginning than to be thinking about you? Who are you?

Perhaps you think that you must be quite special in God’s eyes. Perhaps you think that God had already foreseen your unique holiness and faith from the beginning. Perhaps He knew that unlike many others you would readily respond to His Gospel with faith, love and obedience. And this caused Him to choose you to be saved. But if that is the case, then this verse should read, “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world,because we would be holy and without blame…” But it says that God has chosen us… “that we should be holy and without blame before Him.”

The same thing is mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:9 – “[God] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesusbefore the world began.” Dearly beloved, God chose you deliberately in order to give you holiness and faith. He had planned to make you holy from the beginning, and that means washing all your sins away with the blood of Christ, and giving you a new nature that hates sin and loves holiness, so that you may gradually become like Him. This is the meaning of ‘sanctification of the Spirit’ in v.13 of our passage.

But perhaps you may then say, “But didn’t I have a part in my salvation? I believed in the truth and turned to Christ. Wasn’t that how I was saved?” Well, that’s what it looked like at the time when you were saved – you believed, and therefore you were saved. But now, looking back, you see that this was actually God’s doing, not yours, since this verse says that God had chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Now you know that the faith that you had to believe in Christ came from God. And this brings us to the next thing that proves His loves for you: His calling you to believe in Christ for salvation.

Let us look at v.14 –  “Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You may remember that we had Gospel Sunday here last week, and in his preaching Pastor Colin urged those who were present to prepare to meet their God, by turning to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Well, as this was preached, God may have called someone and saved Him. This calling is the unseen supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts a person of his sins, enlightens his mind to understand and love the truth, and draws him to trust in Jesus Christ to save him. God has been calling people like that since OT times. Listen to what He said in Jeremiah 31:3 – “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

God also did this to those in Thessalonica whom He loved with an everlasting love when Paul, Silas and Timothy came and preached the Gospel to them. This is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” As a result of this, the Thessalonians were gloriously saved, and they instantly became heirs of glory with Christ! Paul mentioned this in Romans 8:16,17 – “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…” This glory will be ours when Christ returns, but it is already reserved for us and it is as good as ours!

Doesn’t all this provide overwhelming proof of God’s love for you? Because God loved you from the beginning, He chose you to be saved. Then at a certain point in your life, God sent the Gospel to you and called you through the Holy Spirit to believe in Christ. Since then He has been sanctifying you, and one day He will bring you into the full glory that is found in Christ! All these events are linked together in sequence forming a solid unbreakable chain from beginning to end. This shows that God’s love for you never fails. His sovereignty works in every part of the process to ensure your salvation. And that means that: Once saved, always saved!

One common question that is often asked is, “If this is the case, then how about our human responsibility? Isn’t it removed by God’s sovereignty? Aren’t we just being carried along without any will of our own to exercise in salvation?” Actually the very opposite is true. Without God working in us, we would not have the will to believe in Christ at all, because we were all dead in sin. It is only through the Spirit’s work of renewing our wills that we were able to choose freely to obey God as we ought. And the truth of the Gospel then became so clear and so dear to us that we loved it and we willingly trusted in Christ alone for our salvation.

Perhaps there may be someone here who has not done this yet. You have heard the Gospel before but you have not responded to it with faith in Christ. But somehow the Word of God that you heard recently has had some impact you, and you are becoming convinced that it is true. This may be the Holy Spirit calling you to believe in Christ for salvation. Please do not wait any longer. You must come right now to Jesus, and make Him your Lord and Saviour. Do this and then you will receive assurance from God’s Word that you truly belong to Him and that you have been loved and chosen by Him from the beginning.  Only those who have truly believed in Christ for salvation are able to have this assurance, conviction and confidence. Because it comes through…

2. The Power of His Love Working in Us

This is the second feature of God’s love that we can learn from our passage. It is given in v.15 – “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”Notice that it begins with the word ‘therefore’ and this shows that this ought to be the result of all that God has done for us, as described in the two preceding verses. There are two things that we are able to do, and should be doing. Firstly we have the courage to stand fast amid the end-time apostasy.

Remember that the Thessalonians were under great pressure at that time to depart from the faith because of intense persecution. Now that they know that things may get even worse if the Man of sin is revealed in their time, Paul exhorts them to stand fast. This exhortation is very meaningful to us who we are living in the End-times. And thus we must take it seriously and be resolved to stand fast.

Our crisis of faith may come very subtly. We live in an increasingly globalized world today. Increased globalization will bring increased desire for peaceful coexistence. This will probably result in stronger and stronger calls for tolerance – the idea that all beliefs and religions are valid and lead to the same God. But in the name of tolerance those with moral values and spiritual values that are very different from ours will expect us to keep silent about our biblical values because it is offensive to them. Evangelism will be considered to be very disrespectful. If we say anything that seems to criticise their sinful lifestyle or to imply that their beliefs are false we will be accused of hate speech. When this happens, we will have to make a choice: Shrink back and keep silence, or Compromise our convictions and join them, or Stand fast on our convictions.

We must choose to stand fast. But how do we find the courage to stand fast? We can find it by the power of God’s love working in us. God will not leave us to struggle alone against the world. His love for us will ensure that we have the courage and strength to do what is required of us. In Ephesians 6:13 we are told that God has lovingly provided us with His own armour for this very purpose: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore…”

Besides standing fast, the other thing that we are able to do with God’s enablement is to hold the Truth we have received. This is mentioned in the latter part of v.15 – “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle” The term ‘traditions’ here refer to God’s truth which Paul had given to the Thessalonians both during the time he was with them, as well as in the first epistle he had written to them.

Another verse where the same exhortation is given is Hebrews 2:1 – “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” The extraordinary effort that is required to stand fast and hold the Truth is something like participating in a tug-of-war. This is not an easy sport. It requires strong legs that can stand the strain and strong hands to grip the rope tightly. It also requires mental concentration to last through the storm until the victory is won. If you succumb to tiredness, you will lose your grip and foothold and be dragged away.

Living the Christian life is like a tug of war. We are up against formidable opponents – the Devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. If we are not vigilant enough, we may fall in an unguarded moment, and then we will be dragged all the way down into sin. God wants us to stand our ground well – that’s His command to us, but He also gives us the loving assurance that we are not doing this alone. He stands with us all the way, and it is only with His enablement and strong support that we can stand our ground against opponents that are too strong for us.

In every tug-of-war match the key player is the one who stands right at the end of the rope – he is called the anchor man. He is usually the biggest and strongest member of the team. His heavy weight gives him the advantage of digging his feet firmly into the ground, and being at the end of the rope enables him to wrap the rope around his body so that it will never slip from his grasp.

Let us look at the last two verses of our passage to see who our anchor man is – “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” Our anchor man is the Lord Himself who puts His whole weight behind us. This gives us all the confidence that we need to stand fast and hold the truth we have received.

Let us see what Paul wrote about this confidence just a few verses later in 2 Thessalonians 3:4 – “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.” Paul was confident that God would enable His people to do all that is required of them. Here we see the power of God’s love working in us. This love is our grounds for confidence. There is actually no greater comfort for us than this, as we face all the challenges of living for Christ in a world full of sin and uncertainty!

3. The Perfect Security from His Love for Us

This is found in verse 16 – “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace…” You will notice that two persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned here. The first is our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, He is not just ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ but ‘our Lord Jesus Christ Himself’. This brings out the truth of the intimate relationship He has with us. Our Lord is joined to us in such a strong union, that nothing can ever separate us from Him.

This comforting truth is expanded in Romans 8:38,39 – “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But that’s not all. Our security comes with a double lock, for we are kept by God the Father as well. Here, He is not referred to only as ‘the Father’ but “even our Father which hath loved us and hath given us…” Every child of God will naturally cry out to Him, Abba Father! What an intimate term of endearment this is!

As our loving Father, God always takes delight in giving good gifts to us who are His children. Here in v.16 we are told that He has given us two precious gifts: everlasting consolation and good hope. Everlasting consolation is probably the comfort we can have at all times to help us to cope with our present trials. This comes through the Holy Spirit. He is the divine Comforter who resides within the heart of every believer.

The other gift which the Father has bestowed upon us is good hope. In the context of Thessalonians this must be understood as the hope of Christ’s second coming, the hope that keeps us going as we looking forward to seeing Christ face to face. You will notice that v.16 ends with the words ‘through grace’. This is an important detail that we must not miss, because it really shows what kind of love our Father has for us – It is a gracious love, a love that is unconditional, a love that is bestowed on unworthy sinners like you and me. We stand amazed that God should love us when we do not deserve His love at all. This glorious truth is expressed so well in Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Dearly beloved, aren’t you glad that God has loved you with a love that is as great as this? This morning you have seen the proof of God’s love in your salvation and your sanctification. You have seen the power of God’s love working in you to strengthen you so that you may stand fast. You have seen the perfect security that comes from God’s love for you, secured by a strong double lock.

From all this I trust that you can see that the Love of God is the ever-flowing spring and fountain of all the good you have and hope for – your salvation, your sanctification, your strength and your security! The question before you now is: How should you respond to such great love?

Firstly, you must be very thankful for it This is what Paul was moved to do as He thought about God’s love for the Thessalonians. He said in v.13, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord…” (v.13) I suggest that you spend time alone with God today just to bow down in grateful reverence at His feet, worshipping and adoring the greatness if His infinite love. If your heart has been cold, let God’s love warm it until it throbs with renewed love for Him.

Secondly, you should respond to God’s love by being comforted by it (v.17) as it is so much better than the comfort you have in family and friends, in food and in anything we have. Why should you turn to these weak sources for comfort when you have one as great as this? God’s love will bring better comfort and encouragement to you in any distress, loss, disappointment or bereavement.

Your third response to knowing God’s love is to be steadfast in upholding it. God’s redeeming love is one of the greatest biblical truths that we should hold fast and must never compromise. (v.15). This relates especially to the doctrines of grace (e.g. the article in today’s weekly) which emphasise that salvation is of the Lord.

Our fourth response is to be faithful through the love of God. Paul said, “For the love of Christ constraineth us...” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Knowing how much God loves you should constrain you to be faithful and established in every good word and work, as mentioned in v.17. Perhaps it is time for you to examine your areas of service. Have you always been giving the excuse that you are too busy whenever you are approached to serve? Are you too busy to do your best for One who was not too busy to do His best for you? Please think about it carefully.

 

And finally you must respond to God’s love by being ready to share it with others. God’s love is one of the key truths of the Gospel by which sinners are called to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Paul brought the Gospel to the Thessalonians (v.14) and according to 1 Thessalonians 1:8, they shared it with many others. If you have truly tasted and seen that God’s love is so good how can you just keep it all to yourself? As Christmas is now just around the corner, please use this opportunity to declare His great love as widely as you can while you still can!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25