Summary: The truth is, sometimes committed Christians stumble and fall into sin. The Bible reads like a Who’s Who of spiritual failures. Abraham was a liar; Moses was a murderer; David committed adultery and murder; Peter denied the Lord three times.
This is the 28th message in this series called “Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.” As we come to the end of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, let’s review what we’ve learned. The main theme of these two letters is that Jesus Christ is coming soon, and we need to stay ready to meet Him. Some troublemakers had stirred up the church by claiming Jesus had already come. Paul refuted that, and in the process introduced us to Satan’s Superman, the Antichrist. Paul stressed that because Jesus is coming, you don’t quit your job and wait on a hill. Instead, you need to roll up your sleeves and work hard. He said if a man won’t work he wouldn’t eat.
We sometimes think these churches that received letters from Paul were perfect congregations. No. In fact, the reason Paul usually wrote to churches was to correct some problems. All churches have problems. I used to quote a little poem about a perfect church that says, “I think that I shall never see; A church that’s all it ought to be; A Church that has no empty pews; Whose Pastor never has the blues; A church whose deacons always deke; and none is proud, but all are meek. Where gossips never peddle lies or make complaints or criticize; Where all are always sweet and kind; And all to other’s faults are blind. Such perfect churches there may be; But none of them are known to me. But still we’ll work, and pray and plan; and ask God to make His church the best He can.”
Paul concluded his second letter with some strong advice about the need to warn certain Christians. I’m calling it “God’s Early Warning System.”
The day after Christmas in 2004 began normally for thousands of villagers and vacationers on the Indian Ocean. But deep beneath ocean off the coast Sumatra, a 9.1 earthquake occurred. That’s the third largest earthquake ever recorded by a seismograph. The massive shift of the seabed triggered a series of tsunamis. These tsunamis raced toward the shores of fourteen nations. In deep water, they could barely be detected. But when the tsunamis arrived on shallow beaches, they rose to a height of 100 feet and flattened much of the seashore in their path.
Sadly, 230,000 people died from these deadly tsunamis. Most of them had no warning. The earthquake occurred 90 minutes to two hours before the waves hit the shores. What if they could have been warned in time to flee to higher ground?
Since that time the global maritime community has installed thousands of early warning sensors in the most earthquake prone areas of the globe. If the same scenario occurred to today, the seabed sensor would notify a nearby buoy, which would send the signal to a satellite. From the satellite, the info is sent to the officials who post the warning to news outlets and on the internet. This early warning system is designed to save lives.
We’re all familiar with weather warning systems. When a hurricane or tornado appears to be approaching a community, the National Weather Service will issue a warning for residents to evacuate or to take cover. Early warning systems save lives.
God has an early warning system as well. Sometimes a believer gets involved in dangerous behavior or starts down a spiritually unhealthy pathway. At that point God activates His early warning system. Guess who that is? According to the Bible we are to be the early warning system to help a Christian veering off track from God’s will.
In these final verses in 2 Thessalonians, there are two powerful truths we can take away and apply to our lives.
I. GOD CALLS US TO WARN DISOBEDIENT BELIEVERS
Paul wrote, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
Like every church, there were members at Thessalonica who were unruly and rebellious about following the instructions Paul had given. He said you should identify the person, but he never said you should kick the troublemaker out of the church. He wrote that once the troublemaker has been identified, then the members of the church were not to associate with him. That means he doesn’t receive an invitation to the dinner party you may be hosting. That kind of peer pressure should cause the troublemaker to be ashamed, and hopefully, he’ll get the point and start behaving better.
Paul made it clear that this brother or sister in the church isn’t your enemy; they are a member of God’s family. Our job is to warn them. Now most of us try to avoid confrontational situations and confrontational conversations. We try to avoid them at all times. We think confronting a person about a problem they have is rude and unkind. But sometimes confronting a brother or sister can be the kindest thing you can do.