Part 1 – The Issues
Like I said previously, Paul begins the letter very positive (1:4 “we boast about your perseverance and faith”). After the thanksgiving he moves into an extended discussion about the man of lawlessness and Christ’s return. This discussion, found in chapter 2, is at the heart of Paul’s letter – everything else he writes revolves around this central idea. In order to understand why we are going to look at the two things which come after this discussion.
Shaky and Lazy (READ 2:13-17)
The two issues at hand are shakiness and laziness. Where do I get those from? The first issue is found in 2:13-17, the tone of the letter shifts a bit, and Paul goes from explaining the lawless time and person, to encouraging his church to stand firm.
Two important points stand out in this section. First, it is God’s gift and work and promise to save us whom he has chosen (13-14). What we are, because of Christ is only because of Christ and God and the Holy Spirit. Who we are becoming, by the power of God, is more than anything else a gift given us. God keeps us, holds us, grows us. If you ever feel like you are drifting or your spiritual life is drying up, its usually a poor idea to try harder – that is almost guaranteed to push you further in the wrong direction.
John 15:4 Our duty is to abide in him and he will take care of the rest. This is a topic for a whole other day but the two ways we can abide which Paul addresses are by remembering and praying.
V15 hold fast to the teaching we passed on to. Knowing that God is unchanging is pretty much useless until you understand that his unchanging nature is there to encourage your trust. He doesn’t change his mind about his promises, he is consistently more merciful than we deserve and more patient than we can understand.
V16-17 I do not know how you can be encouraged by someone you never see. Encouragement requires some sort of meeting and relationship for it to be effective. In the same way, for v17 to happen we have to spend some time in prayer asking for it to happen – and expecting it to. James 1:6 – do not doubt that if you pray for something God has promised according to his word that he will bless you with it. I know this idea can and has been taken wrongly, but I would rather err on the side of saying too much of God’s bounty than too little.
There is some shakiness. Paul addressed it with a few encouragements as we have seen – but you will see his main plan of attack once we head back to chapter 2.
The first issue shakiness, not just doubting the foundations but having a tendency to search out different ones. This is where the second issue comes to light.
(READ 3:6, 11-13)
Summer is a great time to be lazy. No school, maybe a part time job – you can sleep in, play video games, hit up a concert or two – and just hang out. But I know every person in this room knows, or lives with someone, who is lazy all year round. They’re late for school, they turn in their assignment late, forget to do their chores, stay up late eating Cheetos and playing Xbox. And that’s great for sometimes, everyone needs a lazy day.
What Paul is addressing here is not just a lazy day but a lazy lifestyle. They are in the habit of being idle, of depending upon others for everything they need – even food they eat. And this is not because there are no opportunities for them. On the contrary, Paul affirms that he and those with him set the example – they came, worked hard, provided what they needed, and set up a church to do the same. But some in the church have grown lazy. Why is this such an issue?
Laziness is contagious (v6). You know how it is when your over a friend’s house and you ask them what they want to do, they just shrug “nothing,” you want to go somewhere “not really,” are you hungry “ehh.” It doesn’t take long before you just prop down on the floor too and veg out. That is fine if it’s a sleepover, not fine if it’s the church and you have been given the mission to make Christ known.
Laziness does not mean you are not moving – it means you are not moving forward (v11).They are not busy, they are busy bodies. Everyone knows if they are being given busy-work. It is tedious, tiring and does not really matter. There are some people who go go go, but they never really make any progress towards anything.
Shakiness and laziness. These are the two problems Paul is going to address. Just like math, now that we know what the problem is we can observe what formula/idea Paul uses to address it.
Part 2 – The remedy – Jesus is coming
2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him.
Paul knows this church. He was there since the beginning and he has walked with them through trials, through the ups and downs of life and ministry. He was there when the all the craziness happened at the beginning. The excitement, the emotions, the newness of it all. But now some problems have arisen. 2:2-3 states that some have come in and have taught them wrongly. They are being deceived, namely, about this one vital truth – that Christ is returning. And as a result of that teaching issues have arisen – members have become shaky and lazy. Shaky because they are unsure of what is to come, and lazy because they have lost sight of their mission.
This is the theology or idea which Paul invokes as his formula to counter what he sees as possible problems. Christ’s return – knowing the truth about it and holding to the expectation of it are essential to a church acting as the church.
How does this truth counter shakiness?
We are in an even better position than they were – because our New Testament is completed and we have many faithful teachers reminding us of these truths. Christ’s return is Biblical (Matt 24:23-31; 36-44; Matt 25:1-13; 31-46; Mark 13:32-37; Acts 1:10-11; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 2 Thess 2:1-8; 1 John 3:2)
God does not abandon his people. If something appears once in the Bible we are to regard it as holy and true. How much more so for the things that are repeated. Over and over again, Jesus said “I am coming back, I am coming back – get ready and trust me.”
How does this truth counter laziness?
God’s coming is imminent. What do you do before relatives come over – such as for the holidays – you clean the house. You do the laundry, vacuum, do the dishes, all this stuff to get ready – because you know they are coming. What happens if your parents tell you they are coming but do not tell you on what day? “Well they’re probably not coming tomorrow so I’ll just wait to clean.” Instead of being even more ready and expectant, we become less so. That is what they did, that is still what we do. However, Paul writes to them and for us so that attitude may change. He wants us to be ready. Matthew 25 is the parable of the ten virgins waiting. Five were prepared, five thought they had more time and were lazy. “Therefore keep watch” – its coming, He’s coming, so our idleness has to die.
2 reasons why we want Christ to come soon
1:6-7 Justice and relief. Everything that is wrong in the world, all the innocent who are killed. The hungry and the sick, the heartbroken – all things will be made new, there will finally be justice, there will finally be relief and peace and life will be good. Not just for us, but for everyone who has put their faith in Christ – things will be as they ought.
2:8 The end of lawlessness. The deceiver will be overthrown. Sin, every thing it has destroyed, every lie it has tried to make you believe, every curse it is responsible for, will end. Christ wins. There will be no question who reigns, and there will be no question about who we are
1 reason why we struggle to believe that Christ is coming
2:10-12 At this moment, there are more people on earth who are going to hell than heaven. Think about that. On the one hand that should break our hearts, to know that so many our dying without Christ every single day. And on the other hand that should make you very aware. We live in a world with no concept that Christ will be returning, and so they live without any regard to that truth. They live in a delusion, unaware. We must be careful not to buy into that delusion also. That means for us, who are now made aware because God has opened our eyes – that our lives must look different.
Part 3 – So what do we do
- Activity – What are you waiting for/What are you looking forward to?
- – It could be college, a job, a relationship, a trip
- How does that shape your behavior now?
The destination shapes the journey.
So what do we do – Matt 25:13, keep watch, have the mindset that today you might see Jesus
Read and remind yourself of the truths of His coming. The Biblical series of events that must occur. This will keep you from being shaky.
Hope. Be excited about his coming, about what it means for the world, for your family, and for you. And be excited for the mission you have been called to – to make Christ known. This will keep you from being lazy.
You are to have a Confident Expectation.
Confident expectation, I love that phrase so much. It means IT is going to happen! This good thing, this thing you’ve put your hope in and trust in and have been waiting for – for days, months, years, lifetimes – it is going to happen. And it is so good. Confident expectation – the joy of waiting for a promise. A promise you don’t deserve to have come true, and yet it is – as true as Christ is alive. As true as God’s ridiculous love. As true as our unworthiness to receive it. Confident expectation, He is coming.