That doesn’t change anything (November 10, 2019)
That doesn’t change anything
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
There’s a podcaster that talks on a variety of different topics, and gets into a lot of “what ifs”. I don’t listen to this podcaster, specifically, but it was brought up recently on one that I do listen to. The “what if” topic of the day was, “What if aliens came to visit Earth?” His own thought was that it would be pretty cool! Obviously he thought there would be a peaceful exchange of ideas. But he also assumed that for certain religious groups – he didn’t give any specifics, but I think he’d lump Christians in – for certain religious groups he wondered, “What would the religious people do. Because I think,” he continued, “that would affect religious thought the most.” He assumed that the appearance of aliens would throw a big wrench in this whole Christian thing, forcing us to rewrite or at least reconsider everything the Bible says.
But would it? Now, let’s be clear, I’m not at all saying that I think aliens exist. What I am saying, though, is if I was proven wrong and one day alien motherships were hovering over the major cities of the world, what of it? Does that change the message of Christ my Savior in some way? Does that change the fact that Christ died? No. The executioners verified that he was dead dead. Really dead. Drove a spear into his side. Does that change the fact that he rose from the dead? No! There were eyewitnesses. He appeared to hundreds of people, alive, so that even those who were forcefully against Jesus had to reconsider their beliefs because there he stood. Risen from the dead. Does that change the fact that Jesus will come again? No. He’s kept every promise he’s ever made. He will keep that one too.
Now the appearance of aliens is a really extreme example. But there are plenty of things in this world – in this life – that can potentially rock your faith – shake you to the core. Look around at the divisiveness and decay of society as we are constantly pushing the edge of morality until it finally becomes the norm. Then we go to the edge once again and push some more. How far will they go? Or go to a park, like the one I was at recently and I saw a plaque that said “In loving memory of Jax.” Then it gave some dates, and the math wasn’t hard to do. He was only 2 and half years old. How could this happen? Or you see people just going mad and beating each other up over a chicken sandwich and you think, “What is this world coming to?”
For the Thessalonians, it was persecution. Persecution, not just in the sense of arguing against the faith like you and I might face. But persecution with the aim of just making life difficult for Christians in any way they could. When Paul made his mission rounds through Thessalonica, he was driven out from town after town. The success of his mission team in Thessalonica made the Jews jealous. They instigated a riot in the city. And they were strategic about it. They didn’t oppose Christianity head on. They accused the Christians of treason. The charge claimed that these men, Paul and Silas, proclaimed Jesus as king in opposition to Caesar. It was an accusation carefully crafted to make Christians enemies of the state. A point easy to make in the Roman world of power and politics. Therefore, they turned all of society against Christians, thinking it was their civic duty to oppose anyone who exalted another king.
Does any of this change anything? Does persecution, or death, or the madness of the world change the fact that Jesus died, Jesus rose, and Jesus will come again? No! In fact, even getting the short end of all the injustices the world has to throw at you doesn’t change anything. “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pt 4:12). “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pt 4:16). Paul even boasted about the Thessalonians, that despite all the persecutions and trials they endured, they persevere in the faith because trouble doesn’t change anything they believe. In fact, Paul goes on to say that, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and will give relief to you who are troubled” (2 Thes 1:5-6). All of this will come out and be set right in the end. And the outcome will be especially good for those who trust in the Lord – for those who put their hope in Jesus. “On [that] day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed [Paul’s] testimony to you” – testimony that the same Jesus who died, also rose. And the same Jesus who died and rose will come again to bring healing and relief.
Do you suffer persecution for your faith? What of it? That doesn’t change the fact that Christ died, rose, and will come again. Sure, they might try to persuade you with clever arguments. They may do logical loops and throw out scientific data, but that still doesn’t change the fact that there lived a man named Jesus, who said some really profound things – things that sounded so crazy that he would either have to be crazy, or… he would have to be exactly who he said he was – God in the flesh. It doesn’t change the fact, then, that this Jesus died and proved the latter to be true by rising again – true God in the flesh. It doesn’t change the fact that he appeared to hundreds of people who all testified to that same fact – Jesus is risen. And therefore, if Jesus is God, and God is real, then whatever they think they are proving against God, well… it just isn’t true. God created all things. Yes, he created the laws of nature and every scientific detail that we are still discovering – but that still doesn’t change the fact that it all started with him, and it will all end with him. And if he wants to go beyond the laws of nature to, say, rise from the dead, then he certainly can do it.
Are you suffering? Is life so hard, or going so wrong that you ask yourself some days just what is God up to? Is he up to anything at all? Is he even there? In those times when you are asking, “Why God are you forsaking me?” In those times, remember a man who uttered a very similar thing, only he was accurate when he said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Because the Father had forsaken him, turned his face away from him, and laid on him the sins of us all, so that you would not have to suffer what your sins truly deserve. So that the most you ever have to suffer is the lingering effect of sin in the world. And even that, God can use to shape you, and help you grow. Like a mother eagle stirs up the nest, exposing sharp branches and rock that lie underneath so that her eaglets spread their wings and soar, God also, at times, does the same thing so that his children grow and mature in the faith.
Are you faced with death? The death of a loved one, or the lingering thoughts, perhaps fears, of your own impending death? Even a force as powerfully consuming as death doesn’t change the fact that Jesus died, Jesus rose, and Jesus will come again – to either raise you from the dead or glorify your mortal flesh so you will never have to die.
Persecution, suffering, death itself, as vicious and terrifying as these monsters are, they are utterly demolished by the Word of God – Jesus Christ, the man. Died, risen, never to die again. Having believed in Jesus Christ, the risen one – having received in him, a resurrection already come (the first resurrection… the one to faith). Through faith having the confidence to stand firm, to not be dissuaded. To believe that the very armor you wear is that of the Son of God. So that you wade into this darkness with confidence, knowing that no matter what it looks like, you are surrounded by wards of eternal life and hosts of fiery beings. So equipped are you by the mighty fortress that is your God, that all I’m talking about here is as chaff fluttering in the wind. It looks so big when we talk about it. It feels so heavy when we see that there’s just no way to get our flesh out of it. But the beauty of Christianity is that you are already out of it. You’re ascended. You’re seated at the right hand of God with Christ who is smashing his enemies with his iron scepter, making them a footstool for his feet. And doing so by this Word of God – that is himself, and is also the bare and simple repetition of the fact that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
So, you see, how in every way, you are perfectly safe in God’s house. The world, there’s nothing truly safe out there. The world is tainted by sin, making it dangerous. For that reason, Creation will be destroyed. Even our own homes, where we do feel safest, is nothing compared to the safety and security you get from God’s house, and his Word. Within God’s Church you are safe from everything, including condemnation for sin and the fires of Judgement Day. Wait patiently for the Lord. In his time everything will be set right. Until that time, he has everything under control. He will be with you. Whether you are brought low, or whether you abound. Whether you are in need or have all. Whether you have plenty of time or are growing hungry for it. You are safe in God’s house, and secured for all eternity by Christ Jesus. Nothing changes that fact for you who believe.