Devotional # 187. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Devotional # 187. 4/25/16. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

v. 11. “Therefore” always refers to what was just talked about. So just prior to this, in verses 4-10, Paul was talking about God’s righteous judgment (see Devotional # 186). He said that the “persecutions and tribulations” (v. 4) that the Thessalonians went through were “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God” (v. 5). He went on to explain what God’s Final Judgement will look like and how we can be confident that it will be righteous justice. This is very important for us to understand here in today’s section but also for next week’s Devotional # 188.

So with that in mind Paul, Silas and Timothy pray for the Thessalonians all the time (see Devotional # 179 for more on praying continually). What do they pray for the Thessalonians? They pray “that (1) our God would count [them] worthy of this calling and (2) fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and (3) the work of faith with power.”

Regarding the first part of their prayer which is “that our God would count you worthy of this calling”: our first question probably is ‘what have we done to be worthy?’ and second, ‘what is our calling?’ Well, it should be no surprise that neither of these have much to do with something that we’ve come up with on our own. In fact the last thing should be our first focus: “our calling.” A person’s “calling” in the Bible “usually refers to God’s initial call to salvation, but the idea here probably includes the culmination of that initial act (1 Thessalonians 2:12)” (Devotional # 178) (Source 1). So our “calling” here is talking about everything from when we are first called by God to accept Jesus and be saved from our sin through when we are taken to heaven, which at that moment will show God faithful in His “calling” of you. Now that we have “our calling” well defined we can understand that God will only “count us worthy” by our response to “our calling.” As usual, we haven’t created something that is worthy of God and we also haven’t in and of ourselves done anything to be praised, we simply have been humbled and obedient to His call.

The second part of the prayer is to “fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness.” I was reminded by a friend today about the goodness of God (Source 2). It was because of a book I had given him to read titled, The Great Evangelical Recession by John S. Dickerson. I highly encourage you to buy it, read it and then give it to someone else! I think the following quote is impactful for many reasons but I am surprised at how well it applies to what we’re learning here. Earlier in the book the author told us about a young woman who was enslaved in prostitution named Steph…

“Goodness can’t be claimed from a distance. It has to be demonstrated in person. Steph put it this way: ‘how important it is to go into these dark places, because that’s where the victims are comfortable… The reality is that these victims want us to come to them in the jails and alleyways, in the pimps apartments… There’s no way they’re going to be drawn out of those dark places without going into those places ourselves.’ … And isn’t this exactly what Jesus did?… We must go into their place of darkness, while maintaining our personal integrity and purity. Even after conversion, we can expect someone from a foreign tribe and culture to take months or years to fully embrace new life in Christ. Their full freedom from slavery will be a long process” (Source 3).

Of all the great things summarized in this quote (personal evangelism, personal application, the tragedy of sin) I think the most applicable to this Scripture is that God’s goodness was shown in the God-Man Jesus and how He reached every one of us. Beyond that it points us towards our “calling”, that we just talked about, which involves us sharing the good news of Jesus with others until we go to heaven.

Lastly, “the work of faith with power” is the third part of their prayer. The “faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, Devotional # 174) that we possess in Jesus is used by God to answer the first two parts of this prayer “with [His] power.” This should be the reason that we pray, not just because it’s a habit, not just because the Bible tells us to, not just because God asks us to, not just because it’s good for us, but because it truly is “power.”  This is the most direct way to see God work and also for us to live within God’s will!

v. 12. And what is the result of these constant prayers? (Actually, in my mind this is partly a result but also a final petition of the prayer of Paul, Silas and Timothy.) The result of prayers like this is that the name of Jesus will be glorified. That is the paraphrased version but we can learn even more if we look at it verbatim: “that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” Notice: our (we belong to Him and He to us) Lord (Master) Jesus (His proper name) Christ (Savior) may be glorified (magnified and lifted up) in you (in us…can you believe it? It’s in “us” that He is glorified!). We are fortunate to be used by the Lord to glorify Him. But how do we glorify Him? Why don’t you try to “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:1-9 condensed)? In fact in Philippians 1:9 I asked you what was the meaning of life? The answer was “to glorify God” and how you answer that question determines where you spend eternity (Devotional # 121). Again, what a blessing to know Jesus is being glorified in us!

And not only that but “you in Him.” We are actually glorified in Jesus too. This is not because of anything we’ve done or how pure we inherently think we are. In fact, it’s purely because of the “grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the shared and same “grace” given by the Father in the Trinity and the Son in the Trinity.

Conclusion. We have learned several things today.  We have seen how God’s future righteous justice is important in leading up to the Rapture but also in our day to day lives. Knowing that God will set things right is a big comfort. When we consider those things and couple that with Paul, Silas and Timothy’s constant prayer for the Thessalonians we find some very interesting things. They pray “that (1) our God would count you worthy of this calling and (2) fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and (3) the work of faith with power.” And finally, that the precious name of Jesus gets to be glorified and magnified in each one of us. It is a comfort that I am not “worthy of this calling” because of anything more than my response of obedience to Him, since it’s only possible through the “grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Aren’t you thankful that God has chosen us to glorify His name? And it gives me a future hope, like we read last week, that He will one Day “be glorified in His saints and to be admired” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).  Next week we will be returning to a specific discussion of the end times and a deep and heartfelt study of the “hope” we have in the Lord.

 

References.

Source 1: The New Testament and Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 831.

Source 2: Personal conversation with G. R. on 4/23/16.

Source 3: John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, pp. 139-140.

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Devotional # 103. Ephesians 4:1-6

Devotional # 103. 9/22/14. Ephesians 4:1-6.

Intro. When we first started Ephesians (Devotional 96) I said that the book was naturally divided in the middle. We are now at the point where we start the second half, with chapter 4. Stott said, chapters 1-3 are “theological, emphasizing New Testament doctrine” and chapter 4-6 are “practical and focus on Christian behavior” (Source 1, p. 1801). Basically if we read chapters 4-6 without reading chapters 1-3 then we can become legalistic. Chapters 4-6 will teach us how to walk as Christians.

vv. 1-3. Paul’s use of “therefore” always reminds us to refer back to what we’ve read prior: the theme of Jesus’ love for us and our response of love for our family of other Christians. With that in mind, Paul says he is “a prisoner of the Lord.” As we talked about in Ephesians 3:1 (Devotional 100) Paul knows what it literally means to be a prisoner but he chooses to be a bondservant of Christ due to his gratitude for what Christ has done.

That said, Paul “beseeches” the Ephesians (and us today!) to “walk worthy of the calling” that God called us with. First, we need to know what “beseech” means. It means to “forcefully demand” or (in nicer terms) “strongly encourage”. So what does he strongly encourage us to do? In our Christian walk to be worthy of the things that Jesus did for us. See how right away if we hadn’t understood chapters 1-3 we could turn this into some sort of work that we could do on our own? But instead we understand that it is Jesus who gives us the power to walk “worthily” of the great gifts we have been given.

How do we “walk worthy”? Paul gives us a list of things the Holy Spirit will help us with: being “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (NIV). I like how that the NKJV has “humble” as “lowliness.” That gives the idea that the Lord Jesus is higher and we’re lower. I have been reading the daily devotional from the book My Utmost for His Highest. We’ll actually read from this devotional shortly but specifically for here let’s think of the “height” of God. As evidenced by the title, God’s Highest, His “preeminence”, His honor, His glory being “lifted up”, is most important. I encourage you to check it out (the devotional is available for free on the free app “YouVersion”). As we’ll see in verse 5, God is “above all, and through all, and in you all.” Back to verses 2-3: the focus on love that we’ve been talking about makes “bearing with one another in love” stand out. Also the unity of believers is emphasized with “the unity of the Spirit.” But we should note that Paul puts the responsibility on us. He exhorts us to “make every effort.” This means we don’t say, “I’ll forgive them once they apologize” or “I’m really busy and it would take extra time from my day to make peace with that person.” We make every reasonable effort to be a “peacemaker” since we’re called “sons [and daughters] of God” (Matthew 5:9).

vv. 4-6. Paul tells us that “there is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…” John Stott gives us some great thoughts on this. Notice “Paul’s repetition of the word ‘one’; in fact, it occurs seven times. A more careful reading discloses that three of these seven unities allude to the three Persons of the Trinity (one Spirit, verse 4; one Lord, verse 5, i.e. the Lord Jesus; and one God and Father of us all, verse 6), while the remaining four allude to our Christian experience in relation to the three Persons of the Trinity. This truth can be expressed in three simple affirmations. First, there is one body because there is only one Spirit (verse 4). …secondly, there is one hope belonging to our Christian calling (verse 4), one faith and one baptism (verse 5) because there is only one Lord. …thirdly, there is one Christian family, embracing us all (verse 6) because there is one God and Father…” (Source 3, p. 150).

The idea of God calling us is awesome! Have you ever thought about it for 5 minutes? The Creator of worlds, being outside of time and space, who calls Himself “I AM that I AM” made you and calls to you. The book My Utmost for His Highest was written in 1924 by Oswald Chambers but is still so applicable to today:

“When we talk about the call of God, we often forget the most important thing, namely, the nature of Him who calls. There are many things calling each of us today. Some of these calls will be answered, and others will not even be heard. The call is the expression of the nature of the One who calls, and we can only recognize the call if that same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. It is the threading of God’s voice directly to us over a certain concern, and it is useless to seek another person’s opinion of it. Our dealings over the call of God should be kept exclusively between ourselves and Him.

The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God. But when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I will be in the same condition Isaiah was. Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.

Let me hear Your voice”—that is my prayer. I am willing beyond all my expression to hear You, to perceive You, to be thrilled with Your presence’” (Source 2).

Conclusion. Paul has given us a lot to meditate on. The running themes of the gratitude we owe Jesus for saving us and the unity of believers along with the responsibility of “walking worthy” is a serious duty for the believer. But we have our one True God, made of three True Persons, who will guide us and protect us. If we reverence God as “Highest” then this is not an impossible task. We have hope in our Father who has called us since we are His children.

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997.

Source 2: Oswald Chambers, ‘My Utmost for His Highest Devotional”, Day 2, YouVersion Bible app.

Source 3: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979.