Right, Not Wrong.

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. – 1 Corinthians 13:7-9 ESV

Paul was the consummate pastor. He had a pastor’s heart and cared deeply for the people under his care, whether they were part of church he helped start or members of a fellowship he had never had the pleasure of meeting. And as a result of his pastor’s heart, Paul prayed pastoral prayers. At one point, Paul had urged the elders of the church in Ephesus, “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock–his church, purchased with his own blood–over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders” (Acts 20:28 NLT). He wanted the elders to share his heart for the people of God. In Paul’s mind, the members of the local fellowship were far more important than he was. They took precedence over his own well-being, safety and reputation. Paul wasn’t in it for the glory or the gain. He didn’t do what he did for recognition or reward. He was a servant of God, serving the people of God – selflessly and sacrificially. And the great desire of his heart was that they do might do what was right. He wanted them to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. He wanted them to understand the full scope and benefit of the gospel message. It was that message that was the heart and soul of his ministry, and he would never have done anything to harm or alter that message in any way. Paul was willing to suffer persecution, misunderstanding, rejection, physical abuse, verbal threats, false accusations and assaults on his character – all in order that the people of God might live godly lives. If he had to appear weak in order for those whom he discipled to become strong, so be it. Paul knew that his calling by Christ was to a life of service and humility. So he put himself last and the people he served, first.

And as usual, Paul turned to God for help. He prayed. He prayed regularly and fervently. He prayed expectantly and hopefully. He asked His loving Father to provide the strength, wisdom, and guidance needed so that the flock might live according to His will. It is God’s desire that we do right, not wrong. When we pray for spiritual growth and godliness in the lives of others we can pray with assurance, because we are praying within God’s will. “God’s will is for you to be holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). God’s greatest desire for His children is their continual transformation into the likeness of His Son. And so that is what Paul prayed for. That is what he longed for and expected God to bring about, because he knew that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6 NLT). Ultimately, Paul’s prayer was for the perfection. He was longing for the day when they would be fully completed in Christ. He knew that God was in the process of perfecting them, sanctifying them, step by step, from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV). Christ-likeness is the objective. Godliness is the goal. And in the meantime, it should be our prayer that each believer live their lives, empowered by God’s Spirit, and doing that which is pleasing to God – that which is right, not wrong. Only God can give us new hearts. Only God can transform our behavior. But we can pray to that end – regularly, expectantly, passionately and thankfully.

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Permanent Peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV

We could all use a little peace. We live in the midst of turmoil. Our lives are inundated with all kinds of demands and surrounded with a thousand different distractions. Technology, designed to make our lives easier, has actually ended up being little more than a huge distraction and time-waster. Phone messages, emails, texts and Facebook requests constantly interrupt our days. Our calendars are jammed. Our schedules are crammed. And our peace disappears under the pressure of it all. And that doesn’t even include all that is going on around us in the world. The news is rarely good. The media provides nothing but a steady diet of stories that leave us either restless, dissatisfied, and fearful about the future. And we long for peace. Which is exactly what Paul prayed for – the peace of God – the Lord of peace. What we all need is peace and the kind of peace that only God can provide. This world can’t provide us with peace. The things of this world are incapable of bringing a sense of peace. Like everything else associated with the Christian life, peace must come from God.

Paul was a student of the Old Testament Scriptures and he was highly familiar with the Pentateuch. So he was well aware of what it says is Deuteronomy 6:26: “May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” God’s favor carries the idea of Him looking on His people favorably. Rather than looking away in anger at their sins, He looks on them with mercy, grace and love. And that should bring us peace, a sense of calm, tranquility, contentment and joy – even in the midst of all that is going on around us. The God of the universe, the creator of all things, loves us. When everything is falling apart around us, we can know that God loves us, because He sent His Son to die for us. He cares for us. He has His best in store for us. And that sense of His love, care, and compassion should bring us peace. But the peace Paul prayed for was more than just personal or individual peace. He also longed for peace between brothers and sisters in Christ. The Greek word is eirēnē, and it can mean, “peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord.” When we get under stress and find ourselves in turmoil, it is easy to get crossways with one another. We can begin to point fingers, pass blame, grow distrustful, resentful and angry with one another. But God’s desire is that we live together in unity. In fact, Jesus Himself prayed for that very thing on the night He would be betrayed: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21 ESV). Oneness, unity, peace – the state of corporate harmony experienced by God’s people as they learn to rely upon Him. The Psalmist reminds us, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1 NLT).

 Peace. It’s what we all need. But it seems so illusive and impossible to find. But we tend to look in the wrong places. We seek it from the wrong sources. We must never forget that when sin entered into the world, God’s peace, His shalom, was shattered. The garden, once a place of uninterrupted communion with God, became marred by the rebelliousness of Adam and Eve. Their desire to be like God brought a disruption to the tranquility of their environment and permanently damaged their relationship with God. Peace was quickly replaced with chaos. Joy was replaced with sorrow. Intimacy with God was replaced by enmity with God. But the prophet Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah came, all of this would change. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). Long before Jesus appeared on the scene, Isaiah predicted His sacrificial death on the cross and the amazing reality of restored peace with God made available to us through His death and resurrection. Paul tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 ESV). We are at peace with God. He looks on us favorably and lovingly. All because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. But we need to be constantly reminded of our new status with Him. We are no longer enemies of God. We are no longer alienated from Him because of our sin. We are His children and He loves us. And that very fact should bring us peace – even in the midst of the storms of life. Paul reminds us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

Never Forget.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ESV

Living life on this planet can be difficult at times. As followers of Christ, it can be especially so, because we have been called to live lives worthy of God in the midst of a culture that is diametrically opposed to us. It can be easy to lose our focus, grow impatient, feel scared, or become angry. Paul knew that. That is why he prayed this short little prayer on behalf of the believers in Thessalonica. For the most part, they were former pagans who had come to know Christ and were now struggling with everything from persecution to the influence of false teaching. Paul referred to these false teachers as “perverse and evil people” (2 Thessalonians 3:2 NET). The believers to whom Paul wrote and for whom he prayed were struggling with trying to love the Christian life while constantly having to deal with the attacks of the enemy and the daily reality of their own sin natures. So what was Paul’s prayer for them? That God would direct their hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. Notice that he does not pray that God would remove them from their difficulties. He doesn’t ask God to remove the false teachers or stop the persecution. His request of God isn’t that He give them joy. No, he asks God to direct their hearts. He wants God to gently, kindly guide their hearts into a better understanding of just how much they are loved by God. Not only that, Paul’s request includes that they fully comprehend the degree to which Jesus suffered in order that they might have a right relationship with God. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes the suffering of Jesus and our need to fully comprehend what He endured in order that we might have eternal life – “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin” ( Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT). Those two things – the love of God and the endurance of Christ – should provide us with the motivation we need to keep on keeping on. But our natural tendency will be to take them both for granted. It is so easy for us to forget just how amazing it is that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place. And that He expressed that love “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 ESV). When we deserved the worst, He gave us His best. And we also tend to overlook the incredible reality that Jesus willingly and humbly took on human flesh, lived life as a man, was tortured and hung on a cross, and died so that we might be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. Paul puts it this way: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV).

When we find ourselves suffering and struggling in this life, we need to be reminded of the love of God as expressed in the suffering and death of His Son. God’s love for us is directly tied to the gift of His Son for us. God sent His Son because He loved us. Jesus came and died because He loved us. Jesus was willing to suffer humiliation, persecution, rejection, false accusations, and a death He didn’t deserve – all out of love for us. With all that that in mind, Peter tells us, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT). We need to keep life in perspective. Along with Paul, we need to constantly remember that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18 NLT). We are loved by God. He gave us His greatest gift – His own Son – as proof of that love. And His Son suffered in ways that we will never be able to comprehend, as proof of His love for us. We must never lose sight of those two realities. But because Paul knew that the tendency of all believers would be to do just that, he prayed that God would guide their hearts back to those two incredible truths: the love of God and the faithful, loving endurance of Jesus. I can’t think of a better way to wrap this up than with the words of Paul found in his letter to the believers in Rome.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39 ESV

Glory According to Grace.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV

Paul was a brilliant man. He was well-verses in the Scriptures and highly knowledgeable. But at the core, his theology was quite simple. It all centered on God. God was at the center of Paul’s life and the central focus of his teachings. He knew that nothing was possible apart from God. Salvation was unachievable. Sanctification was impossible. A right relationship with God was unattainable. He knew from first-hand experience that it was God who had pursued and captured him. He had been living his life in a well-intentioned, but misinformed attempt to earn favor with God. “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin–a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault” (Philippians 3:5-6 NLT). But he had been miraculously transformed from a self-righteous, self-focused spiritual over-achiever into a selfless servant of God, and it was all the work of God.

So when Paul prayed for others, he never lost sight of the fact that anything good that needed to happen was going to have to happen because of God. Only God could make them worthy of His calling. He had saved them and He was going to have to be the one to sanctify and progressively transform them into the likeness of His Son. Our best efforts on our best day will never measure up to God’s standard for righteousness – which is His own sinless Son. Which is why Paul prayed that God would make them worthy. He knew that it was God who would have to empower them to live their lives in keeping with their status as His children. It was also God who would make it possible to change their resolve to live godly lives into reality. It was the power of God that would give intentionality possibility. He alone can fulfill every work of faith by His power. And Paul never forgot that all of this was due to the unbelievable, inexhaustible grace of God. God would do all of this, not because anyone deserved it, but for His own glory. When God accomplishes something in our lives, He gets the recognition and glory. When we attempt to do it, or take credit for it, we rob Him of glory. As children of God, we live in order that God might be glorified through our lives as we live in dependence upon Him. Our continuing transformation into Christlikeness points to Him. It is the result of His power and grace. Our good deeds, when done by His power and according to His grace, point people to Him. He gets the glory. Paul’s prayer was “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.” That is an amazing thought. When we live dependently upon God, the name of Jesus is glorified in us and through us. Everything He died to accomplish is made evident and proved true in our lives. We become living proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be: The Savior of the world and the Son of God. Our new lives prove that His sacrificial death was more than sufficient to redeem hopeless men and women from condemnation and captivity to sin and death. But here is the other amazing thing Paul realized: We are also glorified in Him. When God works in us, according to His grace and power, we are glorified in Christ. Our lives lived according to God’s power bring glory to Christ. But we are also glorified in Christ. Paul describes it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). We are gradually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Himself – from one degree of glory to another. And God gets the glory.

The Christian life is not about self-effort. It is about dying to self and living for Christ. It is about abiding in Christ and trusting in God for all that you need. It is about reliance on His power, not our own. It is about submission to His will, instead of our own. It is about seeking His glory, rather than our own. And when we do, we get the extra-added benefit of being transformed into the glorious image of Christ – a process that will find its ultimate fulfillment and completion when we go to be with Him. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). All because of God.



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2 Chronicles 7-8, 2 Thessalonians 3

No One Said It Would Be Easy.

2 Chronicles 7-8, 2 Thessalonians 3

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. – 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ESV

God had chosen to dwell among His people. That is the significance of the events recorded in chapter seven as Solomon and the people dedicated the newly completed temple. God even told Solomon, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice” (2 Chronicles 7:12 ESV). The temple was going to be a place in which the people of God could come to find forgiveness for their sins and receive cleansing from God so that they might continue to enjoy His presence among them. The people recognized the incredible fact that God had chosen to bless them and grant them the unique privilege of having Him dwell among them. But God’s presence was not guaranteed. There were conditions involved. His continued presence among them was going to require certain attitudes and actions on their part. Solomon would enjoy the blessings of God as long as he remained faithful to God. The people would experience the power and presence of God as long as they made Him their sole object of worship and adoration. But it wasn’t going to be easy. In the words God spoke to Solomon, He made it perfectly clear what His expectations would be regarding the king and his subjects. He knew there would be times of sin and unfaithfulness. He knew there would be periods of time when He would be forced to punish His people – “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people” (2 Chronicles 7:13 ESV). And then those times came, God told Solomon exactly what the people were supposed to do. “…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God didn’t say, “IF my people sin.” He said “WHEN my people sin.” The existence of the temple and the reality of the sacrificial system was ample evidence that God knew His people would sin. He had provided the means by which they could seek and find forgiveness and restoration. But there was more to the sacrificial system than mere ritual and religious rule keeping. God gave them four requirements for experiencing His forgiveness and healing: First, he required that they humble themselves. They must come to Him with an attitude of humility, not pride. Coming to God requires that we admit our weakness and acknowledge His power. God hates pride. James reminds us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). An attitude of humility expresses our understanding of who we are in comparison to God. When we come before Him humbly, we are letting Him know that He is God and we are not. Secondly, God said that if they want to experience His forgiveness and healing, they must come before Him prayerfully. Prayer is an act that expresses dependence. When we pray, we are telling God that we love Him, but also that we need Him. When we pray to God, we are coming to Him with our hands out, having let go of all else we had been clinging to and asking Him to meet our needs. Prayer is a way of expressing our dependence upon and need for God. But then, God told Solomon that they must also seek His face. This expression conveys the idea of seeking to please God. To seek God’s face is to desire His favor. When we sin, it is as if we force God to turn His face from us, because God is holy and cannot abide by or tolerate sin in His presence. But when we humbly admit our sins and prayerfully bring them before God in confession, seeking to do what is right in His eyes, He turns His face toward us. We must desperately desire God’s favor more than anything else in the world. We must seek to please Him, not just seek His forgiveness. Finally, God told Solomon that there must be change. The people must turn from their wicked ways.” In other words, they must repent. Seeking God’s forgiveness for sin must be accompanied by an acknowledgement that our sin was wrong. Repentance is not just a remorse of regret for having gotten got with our hands in the cookie jar. We must admit that what we have done was wrong and turn from it.

What does this passage reveal about man?

IF the people of Israel will do these things, God says, “then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV). Humility, prayer, seeking to do what pleases God and turning away from displeases Him brings forgiveness and healing. But God knew that man was predisposed to pride, independence, seeking to please himself and an unwillingness to turn back to God. So He gave them the consequences associated with disobedience and a refusal to humbly, prayerfully repent. “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20 ESV). Their refusal to come to Him in humility, prayer, seeking His face, and turning from their wickedness, would result in a removal of His favor, the destruction of His temple and their removal from the land He had so graciously given them. And when that day comes and the nations marvel at why this has happened, God gives the reason: “Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them” (2 Chronicles 7:22 ESV). 

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I enjoy forgiveness for my sins – past, present and future. Because of my relationship with Christ, I stand before God as righteous. But I must never take that relationship for granted. John tells me, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). There is still a need for me to come to God, humbly seeking His face in prayer, confessing my sins, admitting my need for Him, and willingly turning away from my open rebellion to Him. I cannot arrogantly expect God to bring me healing and forgiveness when I am living in sin and openly disobeying His will for my life. As Paul told the Thessalonian believers, I must not grow weary in doing good. As the New International Version translates that verse, I must “never tire of doing what is right” (2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV). Living the Christian life is not easy. God never said it would be. Sin will always be a constant reality in my life. Pride will be a constant companion. Seeking independence from God will always be a temptation. Turning from sin will prove difficult to do. But I must not grow weary in doing good. To do good is to seek God’s face and desire His favor. I don’t do it to earn brownie points and work my way into His good graces. Jesus Christ has already restored me to a right relationship with God once and for all. But as a child of God, I should desire to live for Him and to conduct my life in such a way that it expresses my love and appreciation for Him. Humility, prayer, seeking God, and turning from sin are expressions of my love for Him. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is an encouraging reminder to me. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV). I must never forget God’s love and Christ’s example of faithful, unwavering obedience to His Father. I must not grow weary in doing good.

Father, help me to never lose sight of Your incredible love or Your Son’s marvelous example of humility, prayerfulness, obedience and righteousness. He lived His life to please You. May I continually learn to do the same thing. Not to earn Your favor, but to express my gratitude and love. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 5-6, 2 Thessalonians 2

A Timely Reminder.

2 Chronicles 5-6, 2 Thessalonians 2

O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. – 2 Chronicles 6:14 ESV

Most scholars believe the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are post-exhilic in nature. In other words, they were written some time after the people of Judah had returned from captivity in Babylon and after Jerusalem had been restored and the temple rebuilt. In spite of their rebellion against God, He had miraculously arranged for them to be restored to the land. He had made it possible for them to rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and reconstruct the temple, both of which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. But things were not like they had been. The city of Jerusalem was a shadow of its former self. The temple was smaller and much less grand than the one Solomon had built. The people were poor, defenseless, with no standing army and no king to lead them. So in recounting this story to his readers, the chronicler is reminding them of their heritage, their nation’s former glory, and their unique relationship with God. Solomon’s prayer of dedication contains a series of if…then statements, asking God to intervene in certain cases involving the sins of the people and their ultimate repentance.

This entire section would have been a sobering reminder of just how wonderful things had been for the people of God before their sins had led to God’s discipline and their deportation. But it would have also reminded them of what was required of them to enjoy God’s forgiveness and restoration.

What does this passage reveal about God?

One particular part of Solomon’s prayer would have struck a chord with those reading this book in their post-exhilic environment. Solomon had pleaded with God, saying, “If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their fathers” (2 Chronicles 6:24-25 ESV). There is no indication that the people of Israel, while in exile in Babylon, had ever really repented of their sins and turned back to God. Yet God had been faithful and returned them to the land – in spite of them. Earlier in his prayer, Solomon had stated, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart” (2 Chronicles 6:14 ESV). But those who were reading this historical narrative after having been returned from exile in Babylon, this was a sobering reminder that God had been faithful even though they had never really repented. God was keeping His promises made to Abraham and David. He would continue to make of Israel a great nation. He would keep His promise to place a descendant of David on the throne of Israel – forever. The real emphasis of this passage seems to be on God’s faithfulness and man’s inherent unfaithfulness. It recounts God’s decision to dwell among the people of Israel, displaying His shekinah glory, in the form of a pillar of cloud, within the Holy of Holies – “the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:14 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

The temple and the Ark of the Covenant were symbols of God’s abiding presence, but also of His holiness and willingness to forgive the sins of those who rebel against His righteous commands. The temple without the Ark would have been just another building. The Ark without the Mercy Seat, would have been nothing more than a constant reminder of God’s Law and man’s inability to live up to it. The Ark contained the two tablets of stone on which were written the ten commandments, provided to Moses by God Himself. These tablets represented God’s righteous, unwavering expectations regarding man’s conduct. But because of man’s sin nature, living up to God’s righteous requirements was impossible. Which is why God had provided the sacrificial system and the Mercy Seat, which covered the Ark of the Covenant. It was on this Mercy Seat that blood was sprinkled once a year on the Day of Atonement, in order to provide forgiveness for the sins the people had committed that previous year. Solomon knew that he and the people of Israel were nothing without God’s presence. But he also knew that they were nothing without God’s forgiveness. “…listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive” (2 Chronicles 6:21 ESV). Solomon fully understood that forgiveness was going to be non-negotiable necessity in order for the people of God to retain a right standing before God. Even though Solomon repeatedly said, “If a man sins…”, “If your people are defeated…because they have sinned”, and “when heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned…”, he knew that these were not potential scenarios, but inevitable ones. They were going to sin and they were going to need God’s forgiveness. But forgiveness required repentance. And while the original readers of this book found themselves restored to the land and worshiping once again in the temple, they were going to need to repent if they wanted to enjoy the presence and power of God in their lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It’s interesting to note that while the temple had been restored and the sacrificial system had been reinstated, the Ark of the Covenant was missing. It had likely been destroyed during the fall of Jerusalem. The audience reading this passage in a post-exhilic Jerusalem would have recognized that the Ark of the Covenant was no longer sitting within the Holy of Holies. And without the Ark, there was no Mercy Seat. Without the Mercy Seat, there was not place to atone for the sins of the people. And yet, I am reminded that God has provided mercifully, graciously provided a means of atonement through His own Son, Jesus Christ. Christ was offered as the perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice for the sins of mankind. “… he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11 ESV). Paul goes on to remind us, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV). In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul warned them of the “coming of the lawless one” – the Antichrist – who in the time of the tribulation, will deceive “those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10 ESV). There will be those who believe his lies and suffer condemnation, because they “did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12 ESV). But God had made known to me the truth regarding His Son. He has made it clear to me that my salvation is based solely on His Son’s work on the cross, not any good works on my part. The Israelites were the undeserving recipients of God’s grace and mercy. So am I. God has chosen me, along with all other believers, “as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV). We are to live in the wonder of His grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Father, nothing we receive from You is deserved, except perhaps, Your loving discipline. But Your grace is always a free gift, provided out of Your abundant love and mercy. Thank You for making it possible for me to be restored to a right relationship with You through the death of Your Son. Thank You for providing mercy and grace, when what I deserved was death. I am reminded that I owe to You a great debt, which I could never repay. But I can give You my worship, praise, love and life. May I live in such a way that the world around me knows I belong to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 1

Something Missing.

2 Chronciles 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 1

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. – 2 Chronicles 3:1 ESV

Four years into his reign as king, Solomon finally began the building of the long-awaited house of the Lord – the temple. Construction commenced on top of Mount Moriah, at the site of the former threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, purchased by David for this very purpose. Chapters three and four give us details concerning the construction of various aspects of the temple and its contents. We are given specifics concerning the two massive cherubim that occupied the Most Holy Place. We have descriptions of the altar of bronze, the sea of cast metal, the wash basins, tables golden lampstands and the court of the priests. But there is one thing missing, and it’s absence is significant. In spite of all the painstaking planning and meticulous care that went into the construction of the temple, there was one item that would ensure that this structure would be the dwelling place of God and not just another beautiful man-made building. The missing element was the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon had not forgotten about it. He had every intention of bringing the Ark into the temple upon completion of the construction process, and that significant event is covered in chapter five. But it is important to notice that the building alone, adorned with all its gold, silver, bronze, and cypress; filled with all its handcrafted basins, lampstands and tables; would be nothing without Ark. The Ark of the Covenant was a symbol of God’s presence. It contained the stone tablets given to Moses and on which were written the Law of God. It was into the Most Holy Place that the High Priest would enter one time per year on the Day of Atonement, “and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people” (Hebrews 9:7 ESV). It was there that the high priest offered sacrificial blood to atone for (cover) the sins of the Israelites as a nation. This offering made propitiation (satisfaction) for their sins for one year. But each year, this same process had to be repeated. It was a sacrifice that had limitations and could never completely satisfy the just demands of a holy God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The Ark of the Covenant was central to the worship of Yahweh. Without it, the people could not have their sins atoned for. A temple without the ark would be just another building, no matter how beautiful it was. A temple without the presence of God would be nothing more than an expensive warehouse, devoid of power and worthless as a place of worship. The Ark of the Covenant was to be a reminder of God’s holiness as revealed in His Law. It was to provide atonement for sin and a means by which to enjoy God’s mercy and forgiveness, so that men might experience His ongoing presence. The temple, while built by the hands of ordinary men, could never provide atonement. It could never forgive sin. The Ark was essential to the ongoing health and well-being of the people of God. Men could construct buildings, but only God can forgive sins. Men can build a temple intended as a dwelling place for God, but only God can provide a means by which sinful men can dwell in His holy presence. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

One of the things that is easy to overlook in reading about the beautiful trappings of the temple is that its existence would reveal two aspects regarding God. First, it was a visible reminder of God’s presence and power. It would be a constant physical symbol of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. But there is a second, sometimes overlooked aspect of the temple that the Israelites would sometimes forget. It was a symbol of God’s judgment. Inside the Ark were the tablets of stone on which were written the Law of God – His holy commands outlining the non-negotiable code of conduct for His people. Those laws were to be obeyed. Not to do so would carry dire consequences. To break God’s laws would bring God’s judgment. Which is why God provided the Mercy Seat. He knew that men would sin. He was fully aware that His people could not keep His holy laws. So He provided a means by which they could have their sins atoned for and His righteous judgment satisfied. The judgment lies at the heart of it all. If there was no pending judgment, there would be no need for mercy or atonement. If there were no sins, there would be no need for forgiveness. The judgment of God is a reality. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV) and “ the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Man stands condemned. He is under the judgment of a holy God and is deserving of His sentence of death. 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV). God, in His mercy, provides salvation. But it does not negate His judgment. Paul made it clear to the Thessalonian believers that God’s judgment was still a reality. While they were suffering for their faith and enduring abuse at the hands of their non-believing peers, Paul made it clear that their suffering was “evidence of the righteous judgment of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:5 ESV). They were suffering for the present time, but they were not to lose sight of the fact that a day was coming when God would right all wrongs and set straight all injustices. “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV). Paul went on to tell them, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The temple without the Ark was worthless. The people of Israel, without a means of receiving the mercy and forgiveness of God, would find themselves standing under the judgment of God. My life without the atoning work of Jesus Christ would be just as worthless and my fate, just as hopeless. Had the Ark only contained the copies of the Law, but no mercy seat, the people of God would have been under judgment and worthy of death. But God provided a means of atonement. He made possible forgiveness for sins that was undeserved and unmerited. He has done the same thing for me. And when I find myself suffering in this life and enduring difficulties and trials as a follower of Jesus Christ, I must remind myself that my reward is out ahead of me. There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and the righteous judgment of God will be fully enacted once and for all, “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV). How grateful I should be that I will not have to undergo that judgment. How thankful I should be that I will be spared God’s wrath and be able to enjoy His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. May I never take for granted the incredible gift I have received. May I never neglect the reality of God’s judgment and the unbelievable gift of His mercy made possible through Jesus Christ.

Father, Your judgment is real and just. Your anger against man is justified. And I know that I was fully deserving of your condemnation and punishment. But You extended to me mercy. You made possible my forgiveness. You did for me what I could have never done for myself. Help me to never forget the reality of Your judgment, so that I never take for granted the wonder of Your grace. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Choose Your Friends Wisely.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister. – 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NLT

Not every fellow believer in Christ is someone you necessarily want to associate with. Some are more serious about their faith than others. Some refuse make the pursuit of Christ-likeness a high priority in their lives. There are those who, while professing faith in Christ, live much more like the world. In the city of Thessalonica, living among the believers there, were a group of individuals who were living undisciplined lives. They refused to work. They were mooching off of others and ignoring the clear command given by Paul when he was with them: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10b NLT). Rather than pull their weight, they were becoming a burden and a nuisance to others in the fellowship. Even Paul used himself as an example of someone who modeled a life of diligence when he was with them. Rather than allow them to take care of his daily needs, he worked. He did his part.

We don’t know why these people weren’t working. Paul doesn’t tell us. Perhaps they were lazy. Or it could have been that they saw no reason to work, because they believed the Lord would be returning any day. They could have also spent more of their time pursuing “spiritual” things. But as the old saying goes, we can sometimes be too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. Cloistering ourselves away in our room studying Scripture may sound pious and a worthy ambition to pursue, but in the body of Christ, each must do his or her part. That’s why Paul was very clear when he wrote, “We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:12 NLT). He told those who were doing their part and working hard to keep up the good work – to not grow weary of doing the right thing. Sometimes in the Christian life, it is the little things that end up making a big difference. A Christian employee who is lazy and unreliable ends up giving the cause of Christ a bad reputation. Those who earn for themselves a reputation for being undependable and lacking in diligence, do not leave a good impression about Christians among the unsaved. So how are we to react to these kinds of people? Paul pulls no punches. He simply says, “Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NLT). Stay away from them. Don’t associate with them. Don’t validate their behavior by spending time with them. Instead, warn them. Do as Paul did and point out their fault – in love. Don’t overreact and treat them like they’re unsaved or an enemy of the faith. But make sure they understand that you see their behavior and disapprove. They will be better off in the long run and the body of Christ will be stronger as a result.

Father, sometimes it is way too easy for us to tolerate the lack of discipline among ourselves. We compromise our convictions and give in far too easily to a spirit of laziness and apathy. Help us to take our faith seriously, both individually and corporately. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Spiritual Maturity.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NLT

Have you ever wondered why Paul took the time to write so many letters? What was he trying to accomplish? What was his purpose? He wrote 13 letters in all. Some of them were personal letters written to individuals, like Timothy and Titus. But most were written to the early churches in places like Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica and Rome. But virtually all these letters were intended to be shared. They were circulated around the regions in which these churches existed, and shared with other fledgling congregations. And Paul’s purpose was simple. He wanted to encourage and sometimes admonish these new believers in their walk with Christ. He wanted to provide them with sound teaching, refute false doctrine, encourage them to remain faithful and do whatever he could do to make sure these young believers matured in their faith. Paul was not just content to see people come to salvation, he wanted them to experience sanctification – ongoing spiritual maturity and growth in Christ-likeness.

Paul was grateful to God that the Thessalonians to whom he was writing were among the first to experience salvation. This was a work of God “through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13b NET). Their salvation had taken place as a result of the Gospel message proclaimed by Paul and Silas on their first visit to Thessalonica. And as a result of their having accepted God’s call, they were assured of getting to share in Christ’s glory. For Paul, there was salvation and, ultimately, our glorification – the future time in which we will be fully transformed into the likeness of Christ when we go to be with Him. But in the meantime, there is our sanctification. That was the basic gist of all of Paul’s letters. He wanted to see these new believers grow up in their salvation. Peter had a similar desire and expressed it in his letter. “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT).

Paul wanted to see all believers grow in their faith, and he knew that it was essential that they be taught sound doctrine and truth based on the Word of God. If left to themselves, they would be easily deceived. Without sound teaching, they would have remained immature and unspiritual – saved, but unsanctified. Paul expressed this concern to the believers living in Corinth. “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to fee you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready to anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NLT). Pretty harsh words, but they reflect Paul’s passion for and belief in the non-negotiable nature of spiritual growth and maturity. For Paul, it was non-optional. So he wrote these letters with the full expectation that those who read them would take the truth written in them and grow. He told them to “stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15 NLT). They were to hang on to the words of Paul. They were to apply them to their lives. Those things he had taught them in person and expressed through his letters were essential to their growth from gullible spiritual infants to maturing believers. But Paul also knew that it was ultimately up to God to bring about their sanctification, just as He had their salvation. So he prayed, “may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT). Ultimately, it is God who brings about our spiritual new birth and our spiritual growth. But He does it through sound teaching and the indwelling presence of His Spirit, who uses the truth to convict, encourage, and direct our lives to reflect the nature of Christ Himself.

Father, You want me to grow. While I might be content with salvation alone, Your desire is that I grow up. You saved me so that I might become increasingly more like Your Son. Your obsession is my holiness. You want me to go from spiritual infancy to adulthood. You have given me Your Word and placed Your Spirit within me. You have surrounded me with other believers. There is no place for complacency in my spiritual life. Keep me growing Father. Never let me become satisfied or complacent when it comes to my spiritual growth. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

The Man of Lawlessness.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed – the one who brings destruction. – 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NLT

Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking that simpler is better. Especially when it comes to teaching new believers the doctrines of the faith. As a result, we can end up dumbing down our theology to the point that it is virtually useless. Yes, the Gospel message is beautiful in its simplicity, but it is essential that we take new believers from the threshold of their faith and help them “grow up in their salvation,” to use a phrase of Paul’s. In fact, Paul had a passion for teaching new believers deeper truths in order to deepen and strengthen their faith. But he wasn’t the only one. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, who many believe was Paul himself, wrote, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

Here in his letter to the Thessalonians believers, who were still relative babies in Christ, Paul is not afraid to deal with the difficult and deeper truths. His audience has had questions regarding the coming of Christ. They have received some erroneous teaching that has left them confused. So Paul takes the time to give them the kind of teaching they will need to not only survive in this world, but to better understand the overall plan of their God. Otherwise, they would continue to misinterpret the events taking place around them. The absence of good theology can lead to all kinds of confusion and faulty views of God. The people to whom Paul was writing were thoroughly confused about the second coming of Christ. They had been led to believe that it was going to happen any day. They had begun their faith with the belief that Jesus had died, but had rose again and was some day going to come again. And in the simplicity of their faith, they just assumed that was going to happen immediately. Essentially, their view of the end times or future events concerning Christ’s return were totally skewed. So Paul taught them the truth. And his letter was not the first time he had talked about these things. He wrote, “Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you?” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NLT). When Paul had been with them, he had taken the time to teach these people what some of us would consider to be pretty deep doctrine. But to Paul, it was simply the truth of God. It was all part of God’s redemptive plan, just as much as the birth and death of Christ was. For us to understand God, we must understand His plan for mankind. Knowing that God had sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins must be understood alongside the fact that God is some day going to send His Son back to earth. The first time He came as a baby in a manger. The second time He will come as a conquering King. But it was important that the people understand that there were some key events that had to take place before Christ returned. One of those was the coming of the “man of lawlessness” – a reference to the Antichrist. Paul refers to “a great rebellion against God” that must take place. This whole passage is a reference to the Great Tribulation – a seven year period of time that will take place after Christ removes all the believers from the earth – an event Paul referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). One of the things that will happen as a result of the removal of the Church is that the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, will be removed as well. Paul refers to that fact in verse 7: “For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it backs steps out of the way.” The Holy Spirit, who acts as a restraining force against evil in the world, will be removed, leaving a spiritual vacuum and the perfect environment in which the Antichrist might thrive. The presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Church are all that holds back evil. When they are both removed, chaos will reign. This is what sets up the Great Tribulation.

Paul wants the Thessalonians to know about all of this – even though they will not live to experience it. He wants them to know how things are going to end, because it speaks volumes about their God. He tells them that this man of lawlessness will come, but that he will also ultimately destroyed by Christ Himself. The Antichrist will be under the power and control of Satan, performing miracles and signs and exhibiting Christ-like powers. He will deceive and manipulate, with a plan to destroy those who are living at that time. And they will believe his lies and enjoy evil rather than the truth, leading to their destruction. And Paul wants the Thessalonians to know all this. He wants them informed and educated regarding these future events. Why? Because it is all part of God’s overall redemptive plan for mankind. It is as important as the virgin birth of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ second coming is as important as His first. With His return, the plan of God would be incomplete. Satan must be defeated. Christ must come as the conquering King, fulfilling all the Old Testament Scriptures that predicted it. He must set up His Kingdom on earth, ruling from Jerusalem, fulfilling God’s promise to David that a descendant of his would sit on a throne, ruling from the city of Jerusalem forever. Every story has an ending. And if we don’t understand it, we will always be confused about what we see taking place around us. God’s redemptive story has an ending and it is essential that every believer understand not only what God has done, but what He is going to do.

Father, You have a plan and You are working it to perfection, but for so many of us don’t have a clue what You are doing Some of us don’t even seem to care. We don’t think it’s important. And it leaves us with an incomplete understanding of what it is You are doing and an unclear view of who You really are. May we never be afraid to teach the deeper, more difficult truths of Your Word. Help us to understand that the end is just as important as the beginning. Help us to teach the entirety of Scripture, revealing Your complete plan so that we might know and understand You better. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org