“But we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning 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.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)
As we take the time to reflect over the past year, and make resolutions we will inevitably break in the next, this New Year gives opportunity for us to freshly grasp old truth. To be “resolute” means to stand firm or be particularly determined about something. Instead of using our feeble resolute-ness on the shaky ground of P90x and Hollywood diets, maybe we need to stand firm on some truth that will build up our souls for an eternity
The early Thessalonica church was in a dungeon of doubt concerning their salvation and the second coming of Christ. As Paul gives this fragile church encouragement regarding their salvation, there are also are some ancient gems for us to unearth. If we are to stand firm on anything this New Year, let it be on the undying promise of God that we are loved, chosen and set apart for His glory:
- We are loved by the Lord Jesus. Paul calls us the “beloved” (agapao) in verse 13. Agape love is the deepest most costly love one could express, and it is given to us in the Son’s self-sacrificial life and death on the cross. In the Christian faith, we can never get past the love of Christ and on to deeper things. It is our privilege and honor to spend eternity plumbing the depths of His love (Eph 3:18-20). The Son has accomplished our salvation with His wrath bearing sacrifice for our sins. This may not be the same type of general love He has for the whole world (jhn 3:16). This is a particular love for a particular people, His “beloved.” Like a husband loves his wife.
- We are chosen by the Father. Because of grace God selected us to be saved “from the beginning” (v.13), or from foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). The Father has appointed for us to experience this love even though He knew we were undeserving and unlovable enemies to Him (Romans 5:8-10). If our destiny is in the hands of the all Loving all Powerful Creator of the universe, then any fears regarding our salvation are a foolish wasted exercise. Christ came to die for us 2000 years ago, because the Father had already chosen us in eternity past. This is an alarming mystery. The implications that come with this are not something to be intellectually grasped by us, rather the particular love of God is to be adored by us in joyful trembling fear.
- We are set apart by the Holy Spirit. Our election has real results in real-time for us. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of the Son and Father to our lives by making us born again (Titus 3:5-6) and giving us a new heart to love, fear, and follow after God in righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26-36). That is what “sanctification” is. It is something that has happened and is happening until we die. This “setting apart” has lasting lifestyle implications as the Holy Spirit continues to convict, encourage, illuminate and make us progressively more like Christ (Romans 8:29). Notice, the primary result of us being set apart by the Holy Spirit is that we would have an unwavering “belief in the truth”, the word of God (v. 13).
In the light of all this, why should we never doubt our salvation? Because the total Triune God has a vested interest in it: The Father appointed it, the Son accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to us. No wonder Paul asks rhetorically elsewhere: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33) The obvious answer is a resounding “NO ONE!”
In conclusion, I hope any newfound New Year’s resolve we may have this time of year will direct itself towards knowing this: The Father has sovereignly chosen you, Jesus has agape loved you, and the Holy Spirit is setting you apart to “obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus” (v. 14).
If we are resolute to hold these truths, this holiday season could bear fruit to eternity for our lives…and others.
Happy Holidays peeps!