“Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” 2 Thessalonians 2:5
Most everyone has received a second chance at something in life. When we bruise relationships loving people are often willing to forgive us for a second chance. Our children are often the most willing to overlook the times we exacerbate them or disappoint them and give us scores of second chances, even though we may not deserve them.
In Second Thessalonians Paul repeats major themes he taught the Thessalonians in his first letter. We can all benefit from the lessons Brother Gearl taught us from this letter. The Thessalonian Christians were suffering from chronic persecution at the hands of the Romans and Jews, as often was the case in the early church. They had apparently heard (and some had started to believe) false teachings or partial truths. Brother Gearl reminded us that often people hear what they want to hear. They filter out the things that might upset them, or ignore the parts of the story they don’t agree with.
That’s true in our culture today, just as it was for the Thessalonians. Some folks love to take Scripture out of context when they discuss God’s Word. Some can make a case for about any belief they want to promote by picking and choosing Scripture out of its context to support their claims. False teachers deceived the Thessalonians to believe the day of the Lord had already come. Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians to give them a second chance to remember and believe the Truth Paul taught them and correct their thinking.
The best defense we can muster against false and deceptive teaching, Brother Gearl taught us, is to know the whole story, know God’s story and His truth. We can’t get that from one verse, or one chapter, or one book of the Bible. We must remain in God’s word daily and read consistently what God has to say to us in His word. The first line of Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” You wouldn’t ask a high school student to write a book report on the whole book based on one line from the book. Nor can we know what God is saying to us by occasionally quoting some scripture or reading a verse here and there. Knowing God’s story requires total immersion in His Word. As we immerse ourselves in God’s Word we begin to hear the lessons and principles God intends for us, Brother Gearl said.
There’s plenty of false teaching out there today. Plenty of pastors and churches teach things contrary to God’s truth. And the only way we will ever know God’s truth is to remain in His Word. “So then, brethren,” Paul said to them, “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught (the first time) whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” 3:15.
Paul’s teachings are very appropriate for us today. As we immerse ourselves in the Truth of God’s Word, as we listen to the whole story, as Brother Gearl taught, we can avoid deception, understand delusion and accept God’s direction for our lives.