2 Thessalonians was really challenging. I had been thinking a lot about the Spirit; how do we know when the Spirit is speaking, in what ways should we expect to see him work. Why do there seem to be miraculous events occurring at the hands of people and churches who seem to be soft on the gospel? It can seem like God is endorsing ministries that are not committed to good doctrine.
Amongst other things, 2 Thess. was extremely helpful for me in this tussle, particularly chapter 2. Have a read over here.
Firstly, it speaks of the “Man of Lawlessness”, who works with Satan’s power. He will set himself up as God, and will use “secret power” to delude and deceive. He tries to distract people from the reality of God, by setting himself up as God.
This caused me to think. The power he uses is “secret”. That is, we can’t see it, it won’t be easy to spot, it is deceptive. Satan is old, and Satan is powerful, and he is a serious threat.
Paul warns the Thessalonians not just to believe letters they thought came from him. Whilst a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, contextually specific situation, this is still a sobering warning. Satan works in this world; he is real, he is powerful, and he will masquerade under the banner of Good, to deceive people.
This will come in form of the “signs and wonders that serve the lie”.
Over and over, this passage was hitting home to me; Satan works by pretending he is God, he deceives people with false miracles, he masquerades as good to turn people away from God.
Being deceived by Satan is put down to delighting in Wickedness. Being strung along by the secret powers of Satan is delighting in evil. Jesus will overthrow this evil, and destroy those who partake in it. So there’s a lot at stake.
So what do we do? Signs could be Satan, they could be God. Satan will do things that look like they are God at work, in order to trick us.
In 2 Thess 2, we see that the elect cannot be deceived. But that can seem like it is not much help; how do you know if those people who think they are Christian are legitimate, or just being deceived?
The solution is simple. In Verse 10, I was struck by the fact that those who perish (due to falling victim to the delusion) are perishing because THEY REFUSE TO LOVE THE TRUTH.
The thing that really jumps out from 2Thessalonians 2 is that it is holding to the Truth that saves us from falling prey to the scheming of Satanic powers. The truth? In John 14:6, Jesus says he is the truth. So holding fast to the reality of Jesus, and not letting go. Locking our eyes on Jesus above all else is what will ward off the power of Satan.
Allowing ANYTHING to distract us from the truth of the Gospel is delighting in Wickedness. If this is putting an emphasis on miracles or spiritual experience, at the cost of a focus on the gospel, maybe the alarm bells should start to ring. If we are allowing false teaching, contradiction, or divergence from the word of God, even if it seems to be from Godly places, then we are being distracted, and we may be refusing to love the truth.
The Holy Spirit does work in believers today; He allows us to understand God’s will, and he speaks to us through the WORD. The Spirit will be at work if we look to find him in the truth, that is, in God’s word, in the truth of the gospel of Jesus.
So if you want to be saved, if you want to see the Spirit at work, and if you want to ensure that you do not fall prey to the evil and very real secret power of Satan, love the truth.