Focus: With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15
When Paul is exhorting the Thessalonians (and all believers including us) to stand firm, he tells us to keep “all these things in mind”. That’s an important part of this verse because the things he tells us to keep in mind are to be our anchors to help us stand firm against life’s storms. When know that life will have its challenges. Being a Christian doesn’t remove the challenges; instead, it provides us with safe harbor during storms… a hope that stands outside and above anything this life will throw at us. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
The anchor or hope that Paul is telling us to keep in mind so we stand firm is our salvation bought by the blood of Jesus on the cross. As Paul puts it in verse 14: “a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.”
Paul also tells us to keep a strong grip on the teaching of the Gospel. Does anyone else find that wording curious? Why the need for a strong grip? I believe Paul covers this in the subsequent verses in Chapter 3 when he talks about the Lord strengthening us against evil people. This is also covered throughout many of the books in the New Testament when we are warned again and again to be on guard against false teachings, false teachers, and wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to confuse us, deceive us, and lead us away from the truth of the Gospel and God’s glory (for example: Matthew 7:15, Romans 16: 17 – 18, 1 Timothy 4: 1 – 2, 2 Peter 2, 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 15, 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 4, 1 John 4:1, etc).
I firmly believe that once we’ve been saved, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God and we belong to God for eternity; I believe that Scripture tells us that we can’t be unsaved. Scripture tells us there are no powers in existence capable of pulling us away from the love of God (see Romans 8:31-39). Paul writes in Ephesians 1: 13 – 14: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
I’ll close with a quote John Piper wrote in a sermon available on his blog Desiring God: ‘So then, what is God saying to us when he gives us his Holy Spirit and calls him a guarantee or a down-payment? He is saying, “My great desire for those who believe in Me is that you feel secure in My love. I have chosen you before the foundation of the world. I have predestined you to be my children forever. I have redeemed you by the blood of My Son. And I have put My Spirit in you as a seal and a guarantee. Therefore, you will receive the inheritance and praise the glory of My grace forever and ever. And I tell you this here in Ephesians chapter 1 because I want you to feel secure in My love and My power. I don’t promise you an easy life. In fact, through many tribulations you must enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22). I don’t promise always to speak in soft tones of approval, but to warn you in love whenever you begin to seek security in anything but Me.”‘
Prayer: Lord, I know that I will faces trials, sorrows, and challenges in this life. Thank You that you have sealed me with Your Holy Spirit. I know that no matter what I face, You empower me to stand firm in my faith and the truth of the Gospel. Please strengthen my grip on Your truth, help me to discern those who would deceive me, please warn me in a way that gets my attention when I seek security other than You or try to place something above You, help me to feel secure in Your love and power, and help me to keep my eye on the prize – my inheritance and the glory of Your grace. In Jesus’ name… Amen