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2 Thess. 2:13-17 (ESV)
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [15] So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
[16] Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, [17] comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

I Introduction

A) The last Sunday of the year and I wanted to take you to a piece of Scripture that will encourage your hearts while making you aware of the challenges of living the Christian life in a world that has no use for God. I want you to look ahead to 2009 with not just optimism, but faith in a great God who has made some very great promises and will beyond the shadow of a doubt, keep everyone of them. I want you to leave here this morning with zeal for serving God every day of 2009. I want you to find in this text this morning truth that will get you past January 12 in terms of keeping your resolutions. I want you to see in this text very practical, helpful, encouraging, strengthening things written that will empower you in your everyday living. I want you to see that the text before us, and a host of others, are not just about corporate worship for two hours on a Sunday morning, but that they are truths that you can imbibe and believe and put to work at work, at school, at home, when you are shopping, when you are studying, when you are tempted to sin, when you have problems to handle that seem insurmountable … … .

I want you to get out of the text we consider this morning, a sense of God, that leaves you with a sense of confidence and a firm unalterable commitment that says, from the heart “I am in the hands of a great God who has great things in store for me and in Him I can stand firm, live a life that pleases Him – no matter what.” (That “no matter what” needs to be taken seriously …)

B) II Thessalonians – Purpose of II Thessalonians
– to teach accurately about the return of Christ – 1:7-10; 2:1-12
– to encourage diligence because of idleness arising among some of the Thessalonians due to their convoluted understanding of Christ’s return. 3:6-15

The part of II Thessalonians we read this morning, Paul is responding to reports that some are saying that Jessu Christ has already come back. The second coming has happened – 2:1-3.

This leads him to a discussion regarding the “man of lawlessness” (verse 3) and what will happen to him and all those who do not know and obey Christ (verse 8, 11f).

II Thanks to God for Believers – 13

A) “But …”
What a word! See Eph. 2:4, Rom. 5:8, Gal. 4:4 (See also Rev. 2:4) What an
encouragement. What a hope .. … .
Dear ones, you simply must not be as everyone else. You do not have to be like everyone else. It is different for you. For all the horrors that we see happening in verses 8-12, it does not happen to everyone and it will not happen to you.
“we ought always to give thanks to God for you” is in contrast to the reprobates of verses 11f. They are condemned. They did not believe the truth. They had pleasure in unrighteousness. BUT we give thanks to God for you… .
Dear ones – never lose sight of this. Never lose sight of the fact that no matter what is going on in
the world , you are secure in Christ. This does not mean that you live a self centered life focussed only on the blessings you have in Christ. But it does mean that you are able to go into the kind of world described in the previous verses and not succumb to it, not be like it, not lose what you have for what it offers.
Go into 2009 with a real Spirit filled sense that you do not have to govern your life in an ungodly manner. You do not have to conform. You do not need to be like everyone else. You can, by the power of God, live a life that pleases God, no matter how unpopular that may be.
B) verse 13 – “beloved of the Lord” The use of the word “Lord” here is not incidental. It is intentional. The last
time Paul used it to refer to Christ was verse 8 – 2 Thess.. 2:8 – And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
The lawless one is going to be destroyed by the Lord with a breath. This is the Lord who loves you. Will this not bring a host of Scriptures to mind that bring us incredible hope and comfort and ability to persevere? It should. – Psalm 23, Romans 8:28-37, Jude 24f. The great and powerful Lord who will destroy all wickedness is the One who will redeem all the faithful. Do not doubt this. Rejoice in it. See in verse 8 what the Lord can do. And then see in verse 14 what He is going to do for you.

We need to bring in the sense of the church as a community of God’s people into this.
If this is true of you because of your relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is also true of all believers because of their relationship with Him. Do not see this just addressed to you. This is addressed to all the saints. This is addressed to all whom you worship with Sunday after Sunday. It is addressed to all those believers who choose to worship elsewhere.

You should use such texts as this to encourage other believers – see I Thess. 4:13-18; I Thess. 5:9-11

C) Note why Paul is thankful for them
God chose them
From the beginning – aparxēn versus ap arxēs
Through sanctification of the Spirit
Through belief in the truth
The Trinitarian salvation is stated here.

Isn’t it odd that Paul does not say that he is thankful for them and then list a bunch of their good qualities that he is thankful for? Why, when he is saying thanks to them does he not say “we give thanks to God for you … because you have not given in yet/have kept the faith/still love God … There are a host of things that Paul could have mentioned about them that he was thankful for in them. But Paul does a strange thing here. He is thanking God for them but he does not refer to something they have done. He refers to what God has done in them. We are so prone to view the Christian life as being about us. It is not. We live for the praise of His glory. We are here so that the world might see Him.

Note a few things regarding this note of thanks:

“Always” – Paul is always thankful to God for them because of what He has done for them. Now then dear ones – you know Christians of whom you can be thankful – but not always. No one is so holy that they never do anything that you can’t be thankful for. I am not thankful to God for your sin … But even when I am concerned for your sin, I can still be thankful to God for your election … . See in this that there is never a time when you cannot be thankful for all true believers and thankful for those you worship with week after week. That Christian who votes for the mentally incompetent, the morally bankrupt or the spiritually bereft. That believer who just doesn’t seem to get it. That Christian who panics, worries, swears, … … … … is chosen by God, just like you and ought to be a cause of rejoicing and thanksgiving in your heart concerning them.

The only reason you are not numbered with the people being described in verses 8-12 is the grace of God. Consider it well dear ones. This world is going to hell in a handbasket and the reason you are not is not you – it is Him. It is grace. Grace, grace, grace. If God had not chosen you from the beginning; if the Spirit had not sanctified you through belief in the truth, if Jesus Christ had not come to win you to Himself – you would be no different form any lost person at all. We give assent to this but this needs to take root in the marrow of our being. Ephesians 2:3 needs to be understood by us in all its stark truthfulness – “we were, like all the rest, objects of wrath…”. What makes us different from anyone else? Grace, dear ones, it is all of grace. Romans 3:10-18, then verse 21… .

But the grace of God has come to you and this should cause you to rejoice!! Why do you not join in with the rest of the world in its sin and debauchery? Why are you not going to be destroyed with the breath of His mouth when He comes? Because He has chosen you, the Spirit has sanctified you and He who is the way the truth and the life has purchased you.

D) verse 14 – Through the Gospel
He called you to this – to what? To election, sanctification and faith in Christ – through the preaching of the Gospel.

1) See here the greatest incentive to giving the Gospel that there can possibly be. God chose people from before the creation of the world and He wins them to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel. Dear ones – Go Preach Christ!! God is going to save people through the Gospel preached. Dear ones, do you believe that the giving of the Gospel is not wasted effort? Do you not try to give the Gospel because you don’t believe that it will do any good? Do you not give it because you believe that the times are just too bad. Do you not bother because nothing is going to change? Such thinking and reasoning is contrary to the Scriptures.

We believe in the providence of God. He is in charge of the details.

Ah, some say, if we believed as you do that God chose people in eternity past we could never preach the Gospel for people to repent and …. But this text says that these truths (of verse 13) are what gives people the confidence to preach the Gospel. God IS going to save His chosen ones and He is going to save them through preaching.
Why is TBC still sitting on this corner? Because God is going to save people here. Why do you live where you live? Because God is going to save people there through the preaching of the Gospel.

Why do we have the ministries we have …

Why do you meet the people that pop into your lives on a daily basis? …

Dear ones do you see it? God is going to use you to bring to pass a plan that was hatched in heaven before the world was made!! How can that cause you to do nothing? This is the greatest reason possible to be a people who never stop giving the truth with passion, excitement, …. And then when we see people come to faith we should stop and stand in awe that God has brought to pass this eternal plan through our halting, error filled …. attempts.

Dear ones, take this into 2009. God uses the delivery of the Gospel to bring about His eternal purposes and you can be a part of bringing those eternal purposes into being. That is where you need to get your head. This is what you need to be thinking about when it comes time to share something of spiritual good with people. God may use this to bring into being a plan for this person that He created before there was a planet.

2) So that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”
We know this cannot mean that we are going to be as glorious as Christ is.
You will receive the glory that comes from Jesus Christ
You will be a reflection of the supreme glory of Christ
You are going to be magnificently glorified. – Rom. 8:30

That is what you got from the Gospel that was delivered to you and that you believed. Think about this when you are tempted to do that which oyu should not do. Can the pleasures of sin accomplish this?

That is what others will get from the Gospel if they believe it when they hear it from you. Think, dear ones. Think n about this when you think about giving the Gospel.

III The Results of the Gospel in those who Believe

1) verse 15 – “so then” This “so then” is based on everything that Paul says in verses 13 and 14.
The doctrine of election, the doctrine of regeneration, the doctrine of the Gospel has practical worth. Do not think that this is impractical. Take the teachings of verses 13f and put them to work. In 2009, work them out. Live them. Demonstrate the choosing of God, the sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the Truth.
2) verse 15 – “stand firm”
The call to stand firm has nothing to do with your personality, your past record, your outlook on life. We try to excuse our disobedience with an appeal to the type of people we are.

3) verses 15 – “And hold fast to the traditions that you were taught…”
traditions – This word can have some negative connotations in the Christian community. Some people see “tradition” as anything that does not have biblical support. But all Paul is referring to here is truth that has been handed down to them.

– others could, and probably do, see this verse as giving validity to the traditions that have grown up over the many years in a church or Christian community, that have no basis in the Word of God at all. Eg. – the tradition that says that to throw out water on Good Friday was to throw it in the face of Jesus; the tradition that says that the account of Jesus allowing a host of demons to go into a herd of pigs means that we should not eat pork because pigs are demon possessed and to eat such meat would put us under the influence of demons.

Paul is not talking about giving validity to that kind of nonsense. He explains what he means by traditions – “that you were taught by us either by our spoken word or by our letter” “Tradition” here means – what Paul has taught them. “Letter” is probably I Thessalonians. So what is Paul saying? Hold fast to the Scriptures. Hold on to the teachings of the Apostles, and make no mistake – all the Apostles are dead and all that we have now are their writings. Hold fast to the Word of God.

IV Strength and Comfort from This

verse 17 “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

“Comfort” = “strengthen”

We tend not to put much practical worth to such doctrines that are taught in the Scriptures. And that is wrong. It may be a large reason why so many believers find so few resources in their day to day living. They believe what the Bible says, but they do not tap into it to find hope and comfort and sustenance … They do not see it as a practical thing – but look at verse 17 … “…in every good work and word…” Dear ones, do you believe that when you go to work tomorrow you are doing something that is worthwhile? Do you think that driving kids to and from school is a good thing, a valuable thing in their lives and the lives of their parents? Do you think that your work of caring for the infirmed, making auto parts so that people can get around, teaching children, sitting on community committees, doing people’s hair … … … have value? Do you think that bringing home money so that your family can pay its bills is a good thing?

V Conclusion

As we approach 2009 dear ones, go into it with a Christian attitude.

1) Joy because verse 13 is true
2) A commitment to the Gospel because verse 14 is true
A commitment to know it and rejoice in it
A commitment to live it out and to give it, as God, in His providence gives you opportunity
Give it with confidence knowing that this is part of an eternal plan that He is allowing you in on. He could do it without you but He chooses to do it through you!!
3) Commitment to the Scriptures because verse 15 is true
4) Perseverance/Steadfastness
5) Strength/comfort because verse 17 is true.
6) Commitment to do good because of the Gospel and its accomplishments.