Wary but not Paranoid

Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 2.3-4; 9-10
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Reflection: Wary but not Paranoid
By John Tillman

In Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sauron’s physical form is twisted and horrific, matching the darkness of his motives and methods.

As fans discussed early episodes of the Rings of Power series, they speculated about which character was Sauron. When this was finally revealed, fans of Tolkien’s work were not surprised that the character is very attractive.

Sauron was one of a group of immortal beings called the “Ainur.” He came in the disguise of a “fair man,” tricking the elves into helping him make the rings of power.

Tolkien reflected on two things as he molded the mythology of his Lord of the Rings universe: The Bible and World War II. It is no accident that there are similarities in Sauron’s path to power and downfall that mirror Satan and the Axis powers.

Paul reassured the Thessalonians about “End Times” anxieties. Some unidentified leaders had given some false information. Paul corrects them saying that before the end, “the rebellion” must occur and the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. We have no shortage of rebellions and insurrections today. We have no shortage of lawless men. Is one of them THE man of lawlessness?

Jesus warned the disciples not to believe those claiming he had appeared, saying, “He’s over there! He’s in here!” (Luke 17.23; Matthew 24.26) We should have similar doubts about those claiming this leader or that one is the Antichrist.

Most of those pointing fingers at Antichrists are pointing at people they already hate or dislike. More than anything else, this indicates they are probably wrong. An unbelieving friend of mine says that the Antichrist is probably Ryan Seacrest, or someone equally as attractive and appealing. He’s probably right—not about the individual, but about the method. 

The Antichrist will come, according to Paul, “in accordance with how Satan works.” (v. 9) If this is true, the outer package will be appealing. So what should we do? Only trust non-attractive people? Follow people we dislike? What do we do to prevent being deceived? Paul says, “love the truth and be saved.” (v. 10)

Like Sauron, even after the success of Satan’s deceptions, dark lords and men of lawlessness will fall before Jesus. We should be wary but not paranoid. Cautious but not in crisis. If we hold fast to Christ and love the truth more than human leaders no “man of lawlessness” will fool us for long.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
You are my helper and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my God. — Psalm 40.19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 25 (Listen 2:20)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen 2:32)

Read more about Things Even Angels Question
End times prophecies are one of those areas in which well meaning believers can start missing the forest for the trees.

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The Crux of Repentance

Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Crux of Repentance

By John Tillman

We acknowledge that Jesus said “It is finished.” But still we often want to “do our part.” We are like a patron in a five star restaurant being served a dish prepared by a master chef which we then we drown in ketchup.

The unmerited favor of Christ is an acquired taste. Most of us are gauche enough to like our grace flavored with a little bit of earning it.

But, don’t we have to do… something? What about repentance? What about sanctification? What about growing more like Christ?

Where the call of the gospel, the work of Christ, our belief in him, and the first steps of our sanctification meet is the crux of repentance.

“If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross, your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up.” — Thomas Wilcox

We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

If only our repentance looked more like that of the thief on the cross. His hands are open, holding nothing. He is naked, hiding nothing. He is humble, asking nothing. He simply believes.

Our hands are full of work and achievements. Our sins we dress in the finest of intentions. Our demands are not only for Heaven in the future, but tangible blessing now. We want one pie in the sky and one on earth too.

It is important to distinguish that acts of repentance are not a precursor or a down payment that secures our forgiveness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit—no longer behind the veil of the temple but living in us—is our down payment from Christ.

Just as Christ completed his work on the cross for us, his Holy Spirit will complete a transforming work in us, if we let him.

May we repent as the thief and allow Christ to do his work. The man lived mere hours as a believer, but look what God has done with those hours.

“If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What may the Holy Spirit do in you?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Show me you ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusteed all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 2 (Listen – 4:26)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen -2:32)

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