Idolatry of Systems

Message:  2 Thessalonians gives us a picture of what things will be like in the end times.  There were no descriptions of beasts here, but Paul was reassuring the church not to become anxious or upset by his description of “the day of the Lord” in his last letter. He wanted them to know that there were specific things that would happen before that time would come. Specifically, he spoke of two things that would happen first. The first thing was “the apostacy” also known as “the great falling away” of people from the faith. The second thing is that the “man of lawlessness” who is currently being restrained would be revealed and be so brazen as to sit in the temple and demand worship of himself as God. Paul also explained that the “lawless one” would perform false signs, wonders and miracles that would deceive people and that those who rejected the truth of God and enjoyed unrighteousness would be in a strong delusion of their unbelief and continue to believe what is false. Paul concludes this warning by telling them to stand strong and hold onto God’s truth. This is probably the most important part of the letter because although the warnings in this letter can be pretty overwhelming to read, the truth is the one thing that will protect us from being swept up into the confusion. We are literally watching our world act out a lawlessness that is different from anything we have ever seen before and I hear people calling out that we are in the end times. What concerns me about this is that instead of drawing near to God in response, I see people fighting against authorities and government as if a rebellion of those things will indicate their stand for Christ. People are upset by government mandates and are fighting for the government to recognize and respect our rights as Christians. They are in fear of other religions being imposed on us by our government. In my opinion, this gives the government entirely too much authority and power because it implies that the government has the power to take from me what only God can give or take. My salvation and my worship is not contingent upon what the government recognizes or allows because the government does not have the power or the authority to restrain or control my heart. The heart is where salvation begins and this is where our worship comes from.  Although we enjoy our freedom to worship, pray and assemble publicly, we don’t need the government to honor, respect or facilitate our freedom to worship God in order to validate it. As Christians we always say that we as people are the church authentically, and that the church is not a building or public location. So why does the idea of the government stripping away those freedoms make us feel threatened unless we ourselves have made an idol out of our man-made system? What if this stripping away is being done by God himself to free us of our idolatry of government power? I recognize a parallel pattern here where we want to work with our government to facilitate and protect our religious system just like the Jews were doing with the Roman government. When Jesus came as the Messiah, the Jews were trying to get him to fight their battle with the government and Jesus refused because his kingdom is not of this world and he had much bigger plans in mind. They were so focused on their man-made system of religion that they completely missed the promised Messiah right in their midst and they fought against and even killed the very one they were looking for and waiting for. We are doing the same thing today and we are trying to get God on board with our rebellion against the government. But God’s kingdom is still not of this world and our rebellion against the manmade government system does not secure our salvation or protect our worship. This is something that can only be done inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit and it requires our heart and obedience to the truth of God being lived out in our lives. The result of this is worship. When Paul was imprisoned he worshipped and he wrote most of the new testament. He didn’t do this out of an attitude of rebellion towards government, he did it in spite of the government because he answered to a higher authority. He did it because his heart was on fire to continue the work of God and because of it the church grew and thrived under persecution. My challenge as I read this is to not get caught up in the signs of the times as a distraction. The terrible things happening in the world are indicators like road signs on a map to show us where we are in the process. They are reminders to press into God more than ever before and be led by truth and by the Holy Spirit. The only way to do this is to be in the word and in prayer every day.

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