Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's

The Third Prayer of 2 Thessalonians

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.  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 (ESV)

The third prayer I find in 2 Thessalonians is another prayer of thanksgiving.  Paul thanks God for his divine election of the Thessalonian Christians.  What is "divine election"?  Divine election is a Calvinist or "Reformed" doctrinal persuasion that God chooses those who come to salvation; men do not choose God.  Many terms are used to describe this choice; calling, election, predestination, and drawing are some of the more common terms.

I believe that the Biblical basis for divine election is sure.  In addition to "God chose us as the firstfruits to be saved" in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Ephesians 1:4 says, "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Emphasis added in all verses).  In John 6:44, Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him".  Romans 8:30 states, "and those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified".  It is important to realize that the doctrine of divine election does not deny the free will of man--rather, it states that without God's calling, no one would believe on Jesus Christ.  Charles Spurgeon wrote, "A man is not saved against his will, but he is made willing by the operation of the Holy Ghost.  A mighty grace which he does not wish to resist enters into the man, disarms him, makes a new creature of him, and he is saved."

Why do we thank God for his election?  Because, without it, we would not see life.  The Lord justifies only those whom he calls.  Why?  Because, without his regenerating work, we would not come to faith.  We are at heart opposed to God.  Our sinful nature, which permeates to the very deepest core of our heart, rebels against God at every point.  Without a divine implantation of a new nature (the "second birth" of John 3), we would reject Jesus Christ.  So, we thank God for his gracious decision to save sinners who, without His calling, would have been perfectly content to remain in their shame and defiance of God.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Recommendation

A few months ago, I posted a link to The Rebelution, an excellent website aimed at Christian teens.  Alex and Brett Harris, the leaders of The Rebelution, have finished writing a book, Do Hard Things.  They are currently in the editing phase and have opened up several chapters of their manuscript for perusal.  I encourage you to read these chapters--they are easy to read, not too long, and highly inspiring.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Danger of Sin

Recently, I've been rereading John Owen's The Mortification of Sin.  John Owen (1616-1683) was a masterful Puritan theologian who wrote many books that not only exegete Scripture, but also provide valuable insights into the human heart.  Yesterday, this passage on the danger of allowing a sin to remain in your heart jumped out at me.

"Sin will grow a light thing to thee; thou wilt pass by it as a thing of nought: this it will grow to, and what will be the end of such a condition?  Can a sadder thing befall thee?  Is it not enough to make any heart to tremble, to think of being brought into that state wherein slight thoughts of sin, slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven and hell, should come all in at the same season?  Take heed; this is that thy lusting is working towards; even to the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupefying of the affections and deceiving of the whole soul."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How I Am Applying the Second Prayer

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10

The Lord's Prayer contains a tremendous request:  "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  In heaven, the angels always do God's will obediently and joyfully, honoring God through their obedience.  God's saints are called to the same obedience.

Actually, the prayer that we call "The Lord's Prayer" could also be called "The Disciples' Prayer."  Jesus is teaching his disciples how they should pray--what they should pray for.  So, it is our duty to pray that God's will be obeyed.  
This is a very similar prayer to the second prayer of 2 Thessalonians.  I generally pray an expanded version of the Lord's Prayer twice during my prayer times.  I use the requests of the Lord's Prayer to sort my requests into categories.  I do this simply to keep my brain and my prayers focused.  Prayer for sanctification fits very well into the category of God's will being done.

I found it easier to pray for sanctification than thank God for the work He has already done.  For one thing, my friends and I discuss our requests more often than our praises.  I was more equipped to pray this prayer than the first prayer.  

While I was praying this morning, I remembered a word picture about prayer that I read online once.  It described God as being like a sprinter, ready to run at the start line but waiting for the gunshot before he begins.  In the same way, God, who delights in blessing His children, waits for our prayer before he will bless us.  May we never fail to pray that God's will be done and that He sanctify us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Second Prayer of Second Thessalonians

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 Thess. 1:11-12, ESV)

The second prayer of 2 Thessalonians is related to the first prayer.  Just to review, the first prayer was thanksgiving for sanctification.  The second prayer is related: supplication for sanctification."

Paul and his companions (the we in verse 11) asked God to give power to the Thessalonians--power to be holy.  By doing this, they modeled for all Christians the attitude of a godly Christian.  Paul does not explicitly command the Thessalonians to pray this prayer, but I believe this prayer is a Christian duty.  As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."  If we are to be imitators of Paul, for one thing, we should pray the same prayers that he prayed--including this one.

Why are to we pray for sanctification?  Well, verse 12 says that this prayer glorifies God and those whom are sanctified by God's gracious giving of the Holy Spirit.  This prayer honors the great Sanctifier, who gives power to be holy.  It also, when the Lord answers this prayer, allows us to "become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (2 Peter 1:4).  This is an important prayer!  Let's not miss out on God's sanctifying power because of our laziness in prayer!

Let me conclude with an exhortation.  (Note: I am not a pastor nor am I an expert in biblical exegesis, but I believe this is a correct application of what God is saying in these verses.)

Let us, as often as we can, pray for ourselves and our brothers: that the Lord would give us His power to be holy and worthy of His calling.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Psalm 94 and Abortion

I read Psalm 94 today, and had an unshakable thought that, "This psalm was written about abortion."  
Verse 6 reads, 

They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless.
Verses 20-21 say, 

Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?
They band together against the life of the righteous
 and condemn the innocent to death.
Abortion is condemning the innocent to death.  It is taking the life of the righteous.  The United States government has "framed injustice by statute" by legalizing abortion.  But this psalm does not end without hope.  Psalm 94 does not end with unjust rulers trampling over the lives of the innocent; it ends with the LORD restoring justice and taking vengeance on the wicked.  
Verses 22-23 read,

But the LORD has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will wipe them out."
Let us pray for the end of abortion.  Only God can wipe out this evil from the land.  If we pray, I believe that the rock of our refuge will answer our prayers and end abortion.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Applying the First Prayer

In the last post, I said that Christians are commanded by 2 Thessalonians to thank God for their brothers' sanctification.  So on Wednesday, I attempted to do this for 15 minutes (though I think I'm going to aim for 5 minutes a day most of the time).  I have to be honest--it was the most humbling prayer time I have ever had.  Thirty seconds into my prayers, I realized that I couldn't see God working in my brothers' lives.  Not that He's not changing their hearts, but I have pridefully focused on myself.  In doing so, I have deprived myself of the joy of rejoicing with my brothers and sisters.

So, I have decided to make two adjustments to how I spend time with my friends.  First, I will focus on them.  This seems obvious, but I've found that this is harder than it sounds.  Second, I am going to flat-out ask my friends this question: "What has God been doing in your life?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Prayers of 2 Thessalonians (Part 1)

I have been studying 2 Thessalonians for a few days now, and the theme that has struck me the most is prayer.  Four times, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (and all Christians) to specific prayers.  Twice he urges Christians to thanksgiving and twice to supplication.  In the next four posts, I will cover each of these prayers.

(1)  Thanksgiving for Sanctification
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your stead fastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  (2 Thess. 1:3-4)

The first prayer of 2 Thessalonians is thanksgiving for sanctification.  We learn in verse 4 that the Thessalonian church is enduring persecutions and afflictions.  But in the midst of their trials (and perhaps because of them), their faith is growing and their love for one another is increasing.  Paul sees this not as a work of the Thessalonians, but of God .  He says, "We ought always to give thanks to God."  What I take from this is that when a Christian sees his brother growing in Christ, he should thank the Lord for His sanctifying work.  And this prayer is not meant to be prayed every so often, but always.  So, the first application I get from 2 Thessalonians is: 

Christians should, in their daily prayers, thank God for His work in their brothers' lives.  

Why I Haven't Blogged in Quite Some Time

Over the past few months, God has been growing me up into the image of Christ, but I came to the realization a few months ago that, frankly, I wasn't qualified to preach to other people because (1) my knowledge of God's Word was not sufficient and (2) I was not applying God's Word to my life and really fighting my sin.  I am slowly achieving greater success over my sin, but there is still a long way to go.  I've decided to begin posting again, however, and the first post should be coming up soon.  I'm studying 2 Thessalonians right now, and I'll be covering the four prayers Paul exhorts us to.