A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on November 14, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether The Doctrine of Election  II Thessalonians 2:13-3:5Children, when you’re playing basketball, and you’re aiming, are you absolutely sure you’re going to make the shot, or do you just kind of put it up there and hope?  People that get really good at basketball, know that they’re going to get a swisher, the second the ball leaves their hands – they can just feel it.  On the other hand when a person lacks confidence he can make the shot, he usually won’t, and he might give up trying.  You parents, how confident are you in sharing your faith with someone who’s in danger of straying away?  Could you say like Paul did?  “I thank God that He loved you in eternity.  I know that God will guard your faith no matter what, and He is equipping you to serve Him until we’re all safe in heaven.”  The doctrine of election, or predestination as it’s sometimes called, is the most comforting and encouraging teaching in all the Bible.  Two weeks ago we sang a hymn that summarizes election beautifully.  The hymn is called Not Unto Us.  As I read several of the verses, listen for the comfort and encouragement it gives.  Amazing grace – that choose us ere the worlds were made;  Amazing grace – that sent your Son to save; Amazing grace – that robed us your righteousness and taught us to sing glory and praise.  Our salvation and our coming to faith is 100% God’s doing, and this is why we can have confidence in our relationship with God.  But there’s even more to election than God bringing us to faith.  Let’s look at the next verse.  O faithful love – that shephered through faithless years; looking back, do you have any faithless years in your past?  Forgiving love – that led us to your truth; were there times when the world almost had you convinced that sin is good and good is sin?  But God didn’t give up on you.  Continuing on: Unyielding love – that would not let us turn from you but sent us forth to speak pardon and peace.  What an amazing miracle – that God should call us to faith; that He should preserve us in faith; and now that He should use us to lead others to him.   This is the doctrine of election; it’s powerful stuff!  With election in our sails there is nothing we can’t get through.  Think for example what Paul said in Romans 8.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 8:38-39.   Now, while all this is very comforting for us, what about a family member or friend who’s going through a rough time spiritually and has all kinds of bad things going on in his life?  Using Paul’s example in our text this morning, let’s learn how we can use the doctrine of election to build one another up our faith, and to do this joy and confidence in the Lord.   We read, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth – II Thessalonians 2:13.”  First off, how could Paul be so sure that the believers in Thessalonica were the elect?  Certainly he couldn’t look into anyone’s heart; nor could He see into the mind of God before the creation of the world or into the future to find out if any would fall away or turn out to be hypocrites.  Yet Paul was confident they were the elect.   Here’s why.  It was an absolute miracle they were believers.  For one thing they had a sinful just like Paul had.  This sinful nature is hostile to God’s Law and willfully blind toward the Gospel.  Only God the Holy Spirit can overcome that kind of resistance.  Another reason their faith was a miracle was their background.  They did not have believing parents, and Roman culture was many times worse than ours is.  For example in Corinth 20% of the population earned their living in the sex business.  Could you imagine what it would be like for children growing up in that environment?  Also, Roman culture put a lot of pressure on believers to join in.  It’s called persecution.  Yet these people confessed Christ in that setting – what a miracle!   Still another reason why Paul knew their faith had to be from God, was he knew the power of Satan.  Paul no doubt would have seen this many times, that just when a new Christian was getting his feet on the ground spiritually, Satan would hit him with one tragedy or another.  Or maybe Satan would send this new Christian a friend, who was no friend at all, but would be trying to fill his head all kinds of ungodly nonsense.  Again, what a miracle that these Thessalonians were believers!  But this miracle could only have one cause – it was that God had elected or choose them for faith in eternity.   It’s the same for us.  Our faith is too is a miracle and a gift from God.  But suppose we have a loved one whose faith is flickering.  Maybe he’s even saying things like he’s not sure anymore if he ever truly believed.  Here’s how we can use the doctrine election to comfort him in his faith.  We can say that because of the sinful nature’s opposition, even wanting to believe shows that God is at work, otherwise the person could not want it.  Another indication that God wants him for faith, God has made sure that he’s hearing the Word.  And so we can confidently say that God has loved him before the creation of the world, and He will never stop pursing him and forgiving his sins, until you’re all safe in heaven.     But what if he responds, “I just can’t feel it, I just can’t make myself believe.”?  Then point out that that it’s good when we realize we can’t, but God gives faith through the Word.  And so keep reminding what Jesus has done, and say like Paul did, “God is faithful; he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”  So, does pointing to God’s everlasting love really work to build others up in their faith?  Well, it works on our faith.  And if it can work on our faith, it can work on anyone’s faith.   However, why do we even have to say anything?  If a person is the elect, why doesn’t God just zap him with faith when and how He chooses?  Because you can’t separate the doctrine of election from the Word.  We read in our text.  “He called you to this through our gospel that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter – II Thessalonians 2:24-15.”  The doctrine of election is like a chain.  Link one – He chose us in eternity.  Link 2 – He sent Jesus to die for us.  Link 3 He called us to faith through our Baptism and the Word.  Link 4 – He keeps us in faith through Word and Sacrament.  Link 5 – He glorifies us in heaven.  We need to encourage each other in links 3 and 4, because if we remove the Word and Sacrament from this chain, you have no election.  You have nothing.  Or, let me put it another way.  Our example is worth a lot.  And sometimes God will bring a remembered word to mind– a word you or another believer had spoken at one time.  In this way God kindles or rekindles faith in a person.  But God is still working through the Word.  On the other hand if a person doesn’t have the Word, God doesn’t just zap people with the Holy Spirit while he’s on a golf course or sitting in a boat.  That’s not God’s plan.  But since we are included in God’s plans, let’s continue reading and hearing the Word for ourselves.  And then we will know that the last link in the doctrine of election is ours too.  We will be glorified in heaven.  But until then as part of God’s plan let’s keep sharing links 3 and 4 with as many as we are able!   Let’s also pray.  We read on in our text, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith – II Thessalonians 3:2-3.”  The believers in Thessalonica were facing the persecutions.  Some of them would have their homes or business burned out.  Others would be savagely beaten or even murdered.  How could Paul encourage these elect to translate their faith into love, so that they would stand together and help each other out?  He tells them to pray for the clear preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and that people listen!  Ultimately that’s what would end the persecutions.  In these last days of the world, we need to pray too!  Yet we may pray with joyful confidence, because more preaching and more listening and more praying for those things – it’s all part of God’s eternal plan.   We read on, “We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command – II Thessalonians 3:4.” Here’s another way of encouraging the elect.  Speak positively – not you have to, but you can, because you are.  When people speak positively to us, how does that affect us?  It moves us, doesn’t it.  Also, when we’re speaking positively to God’s people, we’re not saying things that are baseless.  This is real!  They are really saints in Christ called by Him speak His pardon and praise, and so when they are reminded of that, they will do it.   However, I don’t want to give the impression that the elect are going to make it to perfection in this life.  Every day we still need to repent.  Every day we still need forgiveness.  Every day we still need to rededicate ourselves to doing what God commands.  And so here is one more way of encouraging the elect.  We read, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance – II Thessalonians 3:5.”  God’s power is at work in His words of blessing.  For example in our text the Thessalonians would have struggling with: do I visit my friend in prison, who was arrested for being a Christian and make myself a target too, or do I lay low?  Can you imagine how this blessing would have influenced his decision?  So it is with all of God’s words of blessings, they strengthen God’s elect.  With this in mind, why not after reading the Bible together in your family, say to each other, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you!”  Consider how speaking words of blessing can affect each person’s day, not to mention your relationship with each other?  Also, doing this is not weird.  God has loved us in eternity; He’s working in us through His word; He hears our prayers; and whenever we speak His blessing, He stands behind it.   So, now, how confident are you in building one another up the faith?  Do will you just through some words out there like a child throwing a basketball and hope for the best – not that that’s wrong.  But the doctrine of election means we can do better.  May the Lord give us all clarity of speech and bless what we say in the hearts of all who hear.  And may He give us joy in the work and confidence as we look forward to the joy of success!  Amen.   

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