June 2, 2019

Sunday after Ascension, Sunday June 2, 2019 — 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 — We should thank God…on your behalf

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Passage: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
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Bible Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 | Preacher: Andrew Schaller | Sermon for Sunday after Ascension – Sunday June 2, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
The Grace, mercy and peace of God are yours; a gift planned before time began by God the Father, a gift carried out in time by God the Son, a gift made your possession by the work of God the Spirit.  Let God alone be glorified for this gift. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 2:13–17 (NIV84)
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
 
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
  In whom we trust because of the Holy Spirit,
      Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
It was a real problem for him, even if he wasn’t a ‘real boy.’ Whenever Pinocchio, the fictional boy carved from wood by Geppetto, told a lie, his nose grew longer.  It was embarrassing for him, but I would guess extremely helpful for those who listened to him.  Wouldn’t it be useful if that really happened to politicians and journalists every time they told a half-truth or a whole lie?
We can have a similar problem, but not with our noses.  It’s said that when we become conceited our ‘heads get bigger.’  Now, of course, our hat size doesn’t really get bigger with the increase of pride, but we understand the expression.  Whether we like to admit it or not, pride is a problem for every one of us, because we naturally think self-first. “Well Pastor, you don’t know me well enough to say that!”
Well, allow me to illustrate…
 
Let’s suppose that I say – “I thank God for you.”  What do I mean?  Well, obviously, I must mean that I praise God for some quality you possess, right? “Thank God you have such good sense in choosing a pastor, and kindness and good looks!”  Maybe I’m just thankful that you…are you.
Notice how we naturally place all the emphasis on the word ‘you’ instead of on the word ‘God’?  We also like to understand the word ‘for’ to mean ‘because of’, as in, “I thank God because of you.”
Well, I do thank God for you…and while I could thank God for some quality He has given you…I thank God for you – that is on your behalf, for what He has done for you. Let me say it a little different, “I thank God for you, that is, on your behalf.” If you’ll notice, that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul did for the Thessalonian Christians here in his second letter.  In the first chapter, he gave thanks to God because He had granted them faith to trust in Christ and had kept them in faith. In the second chapter, after speaking of the Antichrist and his future destruction, the Apostle thanked God again for the Thessalonians – not for what they were doing, but for what God had already done for them.
This morning we study the words given to Paul by the Holy Spirit because we know that they were also given for us, to cause us to grow in faith and to thank God for His kindness to us.  We should thank God for you, that is on your behalf, for four good reasons: 1. God chose you from the beginning. 2. God chose you to be saved through the work of The Spirit. 3. God called you to faith through the Gospel of Christ. 4. God has given you the means to stand firm and to hang on to this gift.
May God the Holy Spirit lead us to praise God that He has in mercy done these things for us and for all who in their hearts trust in Christ.  Amen.
 
+++++++
 
Do we owe God anything?  Well, there are some Christians today who say that we owe God 10% of our possessions.  While God did direct the Old Testament Israelites to give back 10% of their possessions, He has not made the same command to New Testament Believers.
Still, when the Apostle Paul was directed to write his second letter to the Thessalonian Christians, he said that He and Silas and Timothy were obligated to thank God for them, on their behalf.  It wasn’t something that they begrudgingly did, but happily gave thanks to God that He had chosen them, determined to make them his own from the beginning, that is, from eternity.
 
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you…
 
It’s not God’s fault, it’s our own.  Even though God’s Word says it simply, we just want some credit for ourselves.  Jesus told his disciples that they did not choose Him, He chose them (John 15:16).  Salvation through faith in Christ is God’s gift, not our choice.  It isn’t just that God’s Word declares that He chose us, salvation is described as a gift, an inheritance freely given by our gracious heavenly father, on the basis of what Christ did.
For example, in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us what will happen when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.  On that day, Christ the King will divide His Sheep (Believers) from the Goats (Unbelievers). He will then say to those who by grace have trusted in Him (Matthew 25:34-36, NKJV):
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”
Notice that Jesus describes our eternal salvation as ‘an inheritance’ What is an inheritance? An inheritance is something given and handed down from a father to his children.  Do we earn an inheritance?  NO, it comes freely from the heart of a gracious father.
In addition, Jesus says our inheritance was prepared for us from the foundation of the world.  Let’s recap, our eternal salvation, our place in heaven is a gift freely given by our father, a gift He planned and prepared from the foundation of the world.
Yet, when Jesus goes on to speak of the evidence of faith, the fruits of faith, some read these verses and conclude that they will go to heaven because they helped people with food or clothing.  This after Jesus says heaven is an inheritance, a gift prepared by God from eternity.  Jesus does not say we earn it in any way, because, frankly, He did all the earning.
So also, here you are called upon to thank God  because He chose you the beginning, before you were ever a glint in your father’s eye, before you were ever born, before you did a single thing that might be considered good, God chose you for a purpose – that purpose was to save you.
 
God’s choice is based upon His amazing grace and love, not in any way upon our goodness.  The Bible’s teaching about election, that God chose or elected us in eternity to be saved in time, reminds us that our Salvation depends upon God’s grace and power, and never rests in our own feeble hands.
 
God didn’t only chose us, He chose us to be saved through the work of the Spirit —
 
13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
 
When we plant a garden, we don’t just push the seeds under the dirt and walk away – if we actually want the garden to produce fruit.  We also carefully water (when it doesn’t rain) and pull weeds and fertilize and watch for bugs or bunnies that might eat the young plants.
Likewise, God didn’t just plan to save us in eternity.  When the time was right, He through the sanctifying work of the Spirit brought us to faith and caused us to trust in Christ.  These verses look at the entire work of the Holy Spirit as a unit, bringing us to faith and keeping us in faith. Once more, this wasn’t our doing, we didn’t choose to believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit did the work.  For most of us, we entered into a new relationship with God, He became our father and we His Child when we were baptized (cf. Galatians 3:26).
The Holy Spirit directed Paul to write to Titus about this very thing, saying (cf. also Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-6, NKJV):
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”
 
It’s a truly humbling thought.  God didn’t only choose you, He then also used the Word taught to you by your parents, by different pastors and Sunday School Teachers to both establish and maintain your faith in Jesus.  Think back on your childhood, and take a moment today to thank God that He was merciful to you and used parents and pastors, and Sunday School teachers to point you to Jesus and His Cross. Thank God that He loved you from eternity and called you to faith through the Gospel of Christ.
God did the same for the Thessalonians, as it is also here written:
14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Thessalonians had heard the Good News of what Christ had done for them through Paul, Silas and Timothy. They had traveled through Macedonia along the Roman Road and told them how Jesus had lived a sinless life as their substitute, perfectly keeping and fulfilling God’s Law.  They told the Thessalonians how God had laid the sins of the world upon Jesus, who suffered and died to atone for every human sin.  They told them, how God raised up Jesus on the third day, to confirm that the debt was paid in full.
God the Holy Spirit then called them to faith, led them to believe.  God did this so that they might share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We look forward to future glory because of Christ (cf. Romans 8:17).  When we are raised to life, our bodies will be remade like His glorious resurrected body (cf. Philippians 3:21).  We will also see His glory with our own eyes, as Jesus once prayed (John 17:24-26, NKJV):
 
24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
 
Now, all these things which God has done for us, for which we ought to thank God, can be lost and forfeited. We can at any time renounce our inheritance, reject it and turn from Christ.  We’ve all seen it happen for a variety of reasons, the chief of which is that many Christians to not take the danger seriously and do not use what God has given to keep faith centered in and strong in Christ.
After calling upon the Thessalonians, fellow believers and family in Christ, to join him in giving thanks to God for His mercy, the Holy Spirit directed Paul to encourage them with these words: 
15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
 
Do you know what a fidgety spinner is?  I guess it’s the latest craze, a hand spinner.  Everyone has to have one, but before long it will be forgotten.  Isn’t that the way it is with fads?  People are always looking for something new.
It seems at times that people do the same thing with religion.  Instead of sticking with God’s Word, they are always looking for the newest thing, the newest and most charismatic preacher, instead of sticking to the solid, the unchanging, the true.
We might be tempted to do the same.  The Spirit here urges both the Thessalonians and us to hang onto the teachings passed on to us in the Scriptures.   The Thessalonians received them directly from Paul, and by means of his letters, inspired by the Holy Spirit. If we hold onto the teachings that have been passed on to us, then we will be enabled by them to stand up while others fall away from the Truth.  We will remain strong against the assaults of the Devil on what Scripture declares and we, therefore, believe.
God has given you the means to stand firm and to hang on to this gift. Success in this vital matter depends not upon our grip but upon our God, which is why the Spirit moved Paul to offer up this final prayer on their behalf:
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
This ought to be our prayer for one another – that the Lord Jesus Himself, along with our Heavenly Father, might encourage and strengthen our hearts, to serve Him in both word and deed.
 

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