God’s Plan; Our Part

God is working out a plan to redeem His elect people from all the nations of the earth. We can be confident of His ultimate success and we must play our part in this grand plan.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3

15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.                                                                                           Jeremiah 3:15-17

1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.                                                                               2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

Jeremiah paints a sad picture of the spiritual adultery of Israel and Judah, but, against that backdrop, he superimposes the triumph of God’s plan to gather to Himself all nations, redeemed and righteous, before Him. Again and again, the prophets assure us that God will win and His plan will succeed.

When we turn to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, we find him diligently laboring to instruct them in the gospel of Jesus Christ and to exhort them to live holy lives. He asks for prayer “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored…” As zealous, disciplined, and knowledgeable as Paul was, the work he did would fail, but for God’s working in the hearts of the hearers.  Prayer is needed because God’s power is needed.

God’s purposes cannot fail for He is sovereign. At the same time, you and I have a part to play. It may be to pray. It may be to heed the call to go proclaim the good news of life in Christ to some unreached group or even to your neighbor or coworker. God raises up shepherds to feed His people (Jeremiah 3:15) and He gifts each one in His Church to serve (1 Corinthians 14; Romans 12:3-8). If you have not done so, find your calling and do your part.

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

In God, we find that our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are the result of His eternal decrees. We have meaning and purpose that transcends this world and results in glory.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-7

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits 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. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in. God told Jeremiah that he formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose). What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability. God answered his excuses promising to send him. Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view. He lacked maturity and experience. But he needed neither because God was sending him. Secondly, God would tell him what to say. Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiques to the people. He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians. Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit. When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved. God had called them through the gospel and they responded. The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process. There is no accountability and no limitation, but then there is no purpose and no meaning. If you know you have been called by God, set apart by Him as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love, forgiven, and adopted as His child to serve Him, rejoice. Give yourself fully to Him. Glory awaits us.

What God Wants

God needs nothing from us, but there is something He wants from us. Do you have it?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 65-66; 2 Thessalonians 1

1Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.          Isaiah 66:1-2

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.                                                                                                                                                                               2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

In the closing chapters of his prophecy, Isaiah describes the coming new heavens and new earth. Every pain, every disappointment, every sorrow of this world will be eliminated and forgotten (65:17). Who will enjoy this new creation? Who will have God’s favor? Surprisingly for those who don’t know God well, it is not those who have pompously tried to impress God. God doesn’t need our works. He doesn’t need a “house.” He inhabits the universe. There is nothing we can build for Him that would adequately reflect His glory.

But there is something in humans that gets God’s attention: a humble and contrite spirit that shows itself in trembling at His word. God is glorified properly by all who bow before Him and who take His word seriously. They may also be used by Him to do great things, but the key element of their lives is a heart that bows in worship before Him.

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, puts his call to holiness in the context of the return of Jesus Christ in judgment. Believers suffer at the hands of those who neither know God nor obey the gospel of Christ. Paul wants his readers to focus on living in a way that is worthy of the kingdom of God, worthy of His calling. He prays to God to work in them to this end, and he charges them to make every effort in this direction, too.

God looks for the contrite, humble heart, one that fears no one but God. Does He find that in you?

Escape from Delusion

Today’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Thessalonians 3:18

My selection:  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

My reflections: I once heard Pastor Joe Novensen ask, “If you were deceived, would you know it?”  The answer is, of course, “No.”  The nature of deception is that the one deceived is unaware of his state.

In this passage we can see that there are several factors working to create a deceived person: Satan, God, and the person himself or herself.

What are the characteristics of the person who is deceived?  They refuse to love the truth or believe what would bring them to salvation.  Often this takes the form of complacency, that is, they see no need to be “saved.”  They are not buying this idea that they are sinners, justly deserving the wrath of God.  They are not buying that there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself the sins of His people.  The deluded are characterized by taking pleasure in unrighteousness.  They break God’s law and find pleasure in it.

The function of Satan is to make this deluded position seem totally reasonable by offering power, false signs, and wonders.  He appeals to the person who is easily impressed with success, prestige, wealth, and apparent miraculous signs.  Once Satan establishes his position, he can tell any lie and it becomes believable.

God confirms the state of the deluded by strengthening the delusion.  God can save the most deluded, if He chooses to do so.  He is free.  But when He chooses not to save, the deluded one is further confirmed in his state and senses no urgency or danger. He is quite content to remain deluded.

My challenge:  How can you tell you are deluded?  If you thought you were deluded, you would, presumably, turn away from your erroneous beliefs and seek the truth.  But you would be in a “Catch 22.”  You don’t believe because you can’t believe.  You can’t believe because you don’t believe.

Is there no way out?  Yes, the first step is to recognize your delusion.  But how?

The hint is found in the observable characteristics of the deluded:  they refuse to love the truth and they have pleasure in unrighteousness.  The only possible way out for the deluded is to begin to seek to know the truth and to know what God calls unrighteousness.  Listen to the preaching of the gospel.  Read the Word of God and ask for grace to repent and believe.  As my friend, Steve Slater, prayed in his youth before he believed: “God, show me the truth, and give me the courage to follow it.” God answered that prayer for Steve.  May He answer it for you, too.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 Timothy 1:1-6:2

A Quick Guide on How to Do Everything

Today’s reading: Colossians 3:1-1 Thessalonians 3:13

My selection:  Colossians 3:17

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My reflections: All of life is to be lived in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  This implies that all of life is service to the Lord.  Nothing we do that is good and true falls outside of our Christian life.  This obviously includes our worship, but no less it includes our health, our eating, our work, our play, our relationships, our finances, everything.  All of life is lived before Him.  All of life is important.  Many tasks are routine and commonplace, but nothing is meaningless or useless.  “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:18) .

My challenge: I once heard Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic, express longing to be able to plant vegetables or wash her own hair.  It is easy for me to complain about tasks that she might find exhilarating if she could do them even once.

How about you? Do you consciously live before the Lord, giving thanks to God for the every day, repetitive activities of your life?  Live life fully as an act of perpetual worship and thanksgiving to God.  That is your privilege if you are a Christian.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Thessalonians 3:15