2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 – Stand firm in Christ! Saints Triumphant Nov. 17, 2019
By Pastor Ken Mellon, Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Pleasant Valley Rd., West Bend, WI
Grace and peace to you from God our heavenly Father who has a plan to have us stand in Christ. Amen
Our sermon text is from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
These are your words, heavenly Father. Please use them to help us stand in Christ in your truth. Amen.
Dear Christians standing in Christ,
If you have ever driven in the mountains, you can see an odd sight. There are trees growing out of rocks. Near the tops of mountains, winds blow violently and snow may pile high, but trees continue to grow. As Christians, our spiritual lives are like those trees. God has planted the Word of Christ inside our hearts and, despite the evil that surrounds us and our spiritually stony hearts, we believe. God helps us:
Stand firm in Christ!
First, in Christ what must we stand against? If you’ve ever stood in high waves in Lake Michigan, you either take a firm stand when the wave comes or hold on to someone bigger or get knocked over. So, Paul wrote that we should “stand firm and hold to [God’s] teachings.” (v.15). In life, there are many things that the devil and the sinful world use to get us to lose our faith. The fear of death was one of those things. False teachers had taught the Thessalonians that if they died before Jesus returned, their bodies would not be in heaven. How terrible for the believers who died despairing with such teachings! But, Paul made the truth clear in his first letter that the bodies of believers who died would be the first to rise from death and join Jesus with glorified bodies like His. Then, those who were alive would follow. So, God’s Word helped the believers stand against the lie of the false teachers about death.
The believers also needed to stand against teachers who replaced the Gospel with the law to assure Christians of salvation. Paul described this earlier in the chapter as the spirit of anti-Christ. The word “anti” in the Greek means “in place of.” By nature people are self-centered. They don’t want hear that they can’t help earn their salvation. They don’t think that they need the Holy Spirit to keep their faith alive. That is one temptation that keeps people from worshiping regularly. They don’t see the need of God’s powerful Word to help them. But, we can’t stop the devil on our own and more than David could have stopped Goliath on his own. We can’t control the power of our sinful nature any more than King David who fell to temptation. It’s only a matter of time without God’s Word before people’s faith will be lost. Paul warned: “Let him who thinks he stands be careful that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
There are more dangers to watch out for. People in our country are moving further away from Christ and His truth and want to take us along. Whether it’s having sexual relations outside of marriage or following other sinful desires, we’ll be tempted to do what the crowd does and not speak against ungodly living. The Bible states, “Therefore, dear friends… be on your guard so that you do not fall from your own firm position by being led astray through the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17). Keep coming to church to know and live by the truth to stand against any errors which will harm your faith.
Secondly, what are we to stand for? Christians shouldn’t only be known as “the people who are against things.” We are to be positive and to offer Christ as an alternative. Paul wrote, “Hold on to the teachings that were passed along to you, either by word of mouth or by a letter from us” (v.15). Did you ever try to carry too many things at once? Before you know it, you’ve dropped everything. Paul told the Thessalonians to take a firm hold of God’s Word and not let go. They were to listen to it and remember it so that it filled their minds so that nothing else would crowd it out. Often when I visit older members in nursing homes who have poor eyesight or other problems thinking and I’ve sung hymns to them, many times they sing along because they have sung those hymns so often they know them by heart. That same thing is happening today with songs and Bible readings as we regularly join in worship. The time to learn His promises is now, so that when a difficulty happens, God has prepared us for it. Not only will His Word help us, but it will be a blessing that we can share with other people who need encouragement!
We want more people to know the blessings of Christ as their Savior. How can we let others know more about Jesus? Football season is here and fans let you know who they follow. When you see people with team logos on flags and clothing you have no doubt what team they like. We Christians, at work or at school or among our families or friends, will show that we are on Christ, our Savior’s side. It may be by the clothes we wear or in how Christ influences our lives. When we worship together or pray at a meal or read a Bible devotion, we are not only getting strength for our day, we are telling the world: our God and His Word are important to us! We believe God’s Word that we are His children in Christ, and who we are reflects how we live! Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father … encourage your hearts and establish you in every good work and word” (v.16-17). We are the people of God in Christ who live, love, and forgive by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, third, how do we firmly stand? God does several things. The first is what He did in the past: “God chose you from the beginning for salvation by the sanctifying work of the Spirit and faith in the truth” (v.13). God chose you before creation. He loved you. In Christ, He saw you as His own dear child, as sinful as you may be! He did this purely by His unmerited love for you. His love didn’t stop with His thoughts of you. He sent His Son to rescue you. From the time Jesus was born, He was constantly taking His stand against evil and speaking the truth about God. He was willing to talk to all people. Everyone knew where He stood. And Jesus let people know where God stood regarding sin and the coming judgment for sinners if they did not repent.
Jesus didn’t stop with talk. He loved people so much He laid down His life for them. The Bible states, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:18). If Jesus sacrificed His life while we were against Him, how much more will He help us now since He has made us His own by forgiving our sins! We are blessed to have such a personal relationship with Jesus as our Savior. Most religions of the world are ruled by laws and fear of punishment. But, Christ has fulfilled God’s law and has fully taken our punishment for every sin so that we may freely live with Him now. And, the best is yet to come!
Paul wrote, “[God] called you through our gospel so that you would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v14) God did not call us to experience glory in this world. Now we live by faith in His promises. But at death or at Jesus’ return, we will get to see God’s plan as He sees it. Heaven will be opened before us and we will enter with the sounds of the heavenly chorus and we will be completely at home in that perfect place through Christ. This is what Paul called the “eternal encouragement and good hope” in Christ.
If we are to stand, we will not only have God’s truths, we will make use of them so that our loving God can build up our faith in Jesus. We don’t need to see trees growing in rocks or swim in Lake Michigan to think of God’s power that helps us stand. The Holy Spirit has worked through the Gospel and the sacraments so that we trust in Christ as our only Savior. And by God’s grace alone, when our faith is challenged by problems we will stand firm in the faith and hold firmly to God’s teachings, no matter what powers may be against us. By faith, we have the victory that Christ has won! Let’s celebrate now and forever! Amen.