Saturday, September 15, 2012

Promise to the Persecuted

An audio overview of the lesson by Raul Diaz.

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 Below is the Audio Script:

Promise to the Persecuted

Promise to the Persecuted

To glorify God is to reveal God’s character.  Two questions come to mind: 1. What is the character of God; 2.  How is it revealed?

In Exodus 33 Moses asked God to show His glory? God replies that Moses will see the attributes of God’s character:

Exo 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
Exo 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
 Exo 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Exo 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Notice how God associates His name, with His character and Himself.  There is no distinction between them.  So, to glorify God is to reveal His character.  So, when Paul says to the Thessalonians that he wishes that the name of Christ be glorified in them (2 Thes. 1: 12), Paul is saying that he wishes that their character be like Christ’s. 

We can see that Paul’s prayers had been answered.  We see that the Thessalonians were in many ways already exhibiting the character of God.  How so?  Let us read 2 Thessalonians 1: 3 - 5,

2Th 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
2Th 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
2Th 1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

The faith of the Thessalonians was growing and this is revealed by how they treated each other with agape.  Recall that Christ told the disciples they shall know you by your love – agape.  The other way in which the Thessalonians revealed God’s character was by the patience and faith they exhibited in all the persecutions and tribulation they endured. 

The word endure in the greek is The word anechomai.  IT refers to a God given capacity to endure pain or hardship.   When assailed, you stand down; you know that God is in control.  The love of God, which is spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is not easily provoked, but bears all things (Romans 5:5; Corinthians 13: 7).  So, God makes you able to bear the attacks or tribulations.  And, they weigh heavy on you, because the person assailing you is not aware of what is at stake.    They either do not know who they are really hurting or do not know the extent of the pain inflicted.  You feel for them, wishing they knew what you know.  This could be the reason why Jesus was able to utter the words, “Father forgive them for they now not what to do” (Luke 23: 34).  When Peter drew his sword to attack the mob, Jesus answered,

 Mat 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Mat 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Mat 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

In other words, “Stand down; I must endure this to complete my mission.”  So, we can conclude that the Thessalonians were enduring as Christ did.  This meant that God was at work with them and that in spite of the persecution God had not forsaken them.  The persecution proved that the Thessalonians were doing something right.  And, Christ’s words were proven to be accurate: they shall persecute you, also. 

If the presence of the risen Christ in our lives is truly a foretaste of God’s kingdom that will ultimately supplant the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2: 44 – 45), then it should be no surprise that this world will feel threatened and seek to hinder God’s work and His followers.  The persecution that the Thessalonians were facing for their faith was evidence that a new day is coming.   So it is for us.  So, while persecution may not feel nice to those persecuted, it is good news. 

Is the judgment good news?  The judgment is a complex subject.  The judgment has many phases, so we would have to break it down further.  But, one thing should be clear, while the judgment does vindicate God’s people; it is not at the expense of those who wrong them.  Christ died for them, too.  And, He wants to save them.  He uses your patience, faith and love while enduring persecution, as a witness to those persecuting, so that they may repent. 

In reality, the judgment vindicates God.  In Revelation 14: 6, the Angel identifies the judgment as belonging to God.  Although, loved by God, We are mere witnesses; His witnesses.  When Christ was crucified many derided Christ for saying He was the Son of God.  But, such was the testimony that Christ gave to one of the Roman Centurion that he exclaimed what most Jews would not, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).  Christ glorified the Father on the cross.  The Thessalonians glorified Christ by enduring the persecution and tribulation.  Are we? Will we?