Sunday – September 27, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 22:1-29 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – September 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 27, 2020

Acts 22:4-5
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

Have you ever wished that you had a more dramatic testimony? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who came to Christ from a life of terrible sin and you’ve thought, “If I just had a testimony like that, I could lead all sorts of people to Christ!” If you grew up in the church, your testimony may not be a dramatic or compelling story that leads people to Christ. But the Lord has shown me over the years that my heart is just as corrupt as the hearts of the most wicked people on earth. I’ve also learned that it takes the same mighty power of God to save an outwardly good person as it does to save an outwardly evil person. An outwardly good person needs salvation every bit as much as the notorious sinner does.

Everything about Paul’s conversion came from God. Nothing about his conversion stemmed from Paul. God didn’t look down and see some merit in Paul that qualified him to come to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Paul confesses that he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). There are many who say that the reason that God chose Paul, or that He chooses anyone, is that He foresees that the person will one day choose to follow Him. But to say this is to base God’s sovereign election on the fallen will of man, ignoring the plain biblical truth that unless God first does a work of grace in our hearts, no one would ever choose Him. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and no one is able to come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

In several places, Paul attributes the first cause of our salvation to God’s choice of us, not to our choice of Him. In Ephesians 1:4-6, he says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

If God’s grace and power are mighty to save a sinner such as Paul, then He is able to save any sinner, and to do it instantly and totally. His light can blind and knock down the most powerful persecutor of the church. You may have some terrible sins in your past. You may even be militantly opposed to Christianity, convinced by all of your arguments that it is just a myth. But the risen Lord Jesus is mighty to save even you. He can open your eyes to get a glimpse of His glory and grace, and you will never be the same.

Sunday – September 20, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 21:17-40 “I Will Never Do That Again”

Sunday – September 20, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 20, 2020

Acts 21:22-23
What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you…

Most of us are familiar with the term “armchair quarterback.” An armchair quarterback sits in his comfortable chair, favorite beverage in hand, munching potato chips and watching the quarterback on TV as a herd of 300-pound giants rushes furiously towards him. It’s easy to sit in your comfortable chair and give advice to the guy who is down on the field facing 300-pound gorillas. But it’s an altogether different matter to be the guy down on the field, making split-second decisions under incredible pressure. It’s easy in that situation to make mistakes. We need to be careful about judging someone who made a mistake in the midst of such pressure.

I don’t want to play armchair quarterback on the apostle Paul. It’s easy to second-guess what he did. We can all be instructed if we learn how prone we all are to make mistakes when we’re under pressure. We all err in our personal lives. Sometimes we err in discerning the will of God because it is at best an imperfect and tentative process. We err in our ministries, sometimes misjudging people or situations. We err in our marriages, in raising our children and make financial errors that we wish we could undo. We’ve made major decisions that turned out to be major mistakes. Yet we can be encouraged because if even the godliest of men, such as Paul, make mistakes. God is not thwarted by our mistakes.

Even though Paul erred, God graciously spared his life and will give him the opportunity to preach to the mob that had just attacked him (22:1-21). As a result of his imprisonment, he was able to present the gospel to governors and rulers with whom he otherwise would have had no contact. He eventually got an all-expenses paid trip to Rome and was able to witness to many in Caesar’s household. He had time to write his prison epistles, which are in our New Testament. All of these positive results illustrate the abundant grace of our God, who works all things together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

D. L. Moody said, “If you don’t go to work for the Lord because you’re afraid of making mistakes, you will probably make the greatest mistake of your life—that of doing nothing.” He’s right! We should get out of the armchair and into the game! We all should constantly be examining our lives to identify our sins and mistakes. When the Lord graciously opens our eyes to errors that we have made, we should learn from them and, if possible, try to correct them and ask forgiveness of those whom we have wronged. But in that recognition, we should not despair that we have somehow thwarted God’s plan for our lives. We should realize that in His grace, God works around and through our mistakes for His own glory and marvel that He can use bumbling sinners such as we are!

Sunday – September 13, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 21:1-16 “Giving Advice and the Will of God”

Sunday – September 13, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 13, 2020

Acts 21:12-14
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

All Christians want to know God’s will for their lives. We want to know His will concerning major decisions, such as the career that we should pursue, the person that we should marry, and the place where we should live. We need His guidance on dozens of other daily decisions affecting our money, our time, and our relationships. If you know Christ as Savior and Lord, you want to please Him in every aspect of life by making wise decisions in line with His will.

There are many texts in the Bible which warn us about the company we keep. We are to avoid association with evil men, who seek to turn us from the path of righteousness (Proverbs 1:8-19). There are numerous examples of bad counsel coming from bad people. But our text reminds us that bad counsel can come from our most intimate and trusted friends, those who greatly love us and care about our well-being. We see examples of this in the Bible. For example, Nathan’s initial response was to encourage David to build the temple he aspired to construct (1 Chronicles 17:1-4). Job’s friends’ counsel was intended to end his suffering and to restore him to blessing, but they were all wrong (Job 42:7-9).

Why is it that those who love us deeply, who want our best are sometimes the very ones who give us bad counsel? It may be the same reason that we pray the surgery of a good friend will go “smoothly” and without complications. It may be the same reason that we ask God to completely heal a fellow believer of cancer, rather than use them powerfully in death. I feel this tension when I pray for missionaries who are serving God in very dangerous places. Should I pray that God would enable them to be evacuated from their place of service? Or should I pray that God would supernaturally deliver them from all harm? Or must I also leave room for God to glorify Himself and promote the gospel by their faithfulness even unto death?

I believe it all boils down to one’s attitude toward suffering in the Christian life. Paul understood that his best friends did not want him to suffer. It was prophesied that in Jerusalem he would suffer. If Paul’s goal is to avoid suffering, Paul will avoid going to Jerusalem. If your desire for one you love is to escape suffering, then you will counsel accordingly. Many times, I have seen this same counsel repeated today by well-meaning Christian friends. Some “Christian friend” will give counsel such as, “I wouldn’t put up with that; you’re entitled to be happy.” It assumes that the primary goal in life is to be happy and to be free from pain. God’s Word makes it plain that we live in a fallen world, one in which all creation suffers and groans (Romans 8:18-25). Such counsel assumes that God is not in control of our circumstances, or that He never sends suffering our way.

Sunday – September 6, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 20:1-38 “Passing the Torch”

Sunday – September 6, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 6, 2020

Acts 20:1-3
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months.

The apostle Paul changed the world as few other men have ever done. He lived in a day before jet airplanes or cars and paved highways. He had to go everywhere by foot, on donkeys, or by sailing vessel, none of which were very speedy. He did not have a telephone to call and talk with the leaders of churches that he had founded around the Roman Empire. He didn’t have computers, email, copy machines, or other modern tools that make communication easier. He spent many years of his ministry in prison, unable to move about freely. He contended with fierce opposition both from outside and inside the church. And yet, after 25-30 years of ministry, he left a lasting impact on the world, not only in his time, but also for all times.

Jesus promised to build His church on Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Paul traveled about preaching the gospel and helping the new converts begin to meet as local churches. Those churches in turn could evangelize their own areas, as well as train and send out new missionaries to evangelize and plant new churches in other areas, so that the process is multiplied many times over. He did this in Ephesus, so that after two years, all of Asia (western Turkey) heard the word of the Lord. Paul was unrelenting in his commitment to the church.. He called the Philippian church his joy and his crown. He told the Colossians of his great struggle on their behalf and for those in Laodicea, that they would be knit together in love and attain to all that wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he goes through a long list of all of the labors and trials that he had gone through on behalf of Christ. The last thing he mentions is, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

At first glance, our text shows us a slice of Paul’s life describing his travels. Some things are skimmed over, and we can fill in many details from 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans, which he wrote during this time period. Other things, such as his meeting with the church in Troas, are described in more detail. We might at first read these verses and think, “That’s interesting, but it doesn’t relate to my life.” But I think that just below the surface of Luke’s description of Paul’s travels lies Paul’s unswerving commitment to Christ’s church. It was that commitment that was at the heart of how God used Paul to change the world for Jesus Christ. No matter what our individual gifts or calling, we need to be committed to the church of Jesus Christ if we want to see God use us to change our world for Him.

Sunday – August 30, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 19:8-41 “Do You Believe in Magic”

Sunday – August 30, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 30, 2020

Acts 19:11-12
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

If there was a time for miraculous healing being needed, it must be now. We are continually bombarded with news about sickness from COVID 19, riots in the streets from social unrest and devastated communities from economic shutdown. And this is just relating to the events of 2020. We still see people stricken with terrible disease, famine from natural and manmade causes and broken families from any number of causes. Where is God’s miraculous power in the hurt and where are His people to bring healing to the afflicted?

The hope of miraculous healing attracts many people to churches that claim to see such miracles happening, because there are many who are afflicted with serious, incurable illnesses. Even here at Sunrise, we have many (including myself) suffering from such diseases. I often pray for healing, and I would rejoice if God miraculously intervenes heals. Sometimes God does heal miraculously, and we should pray for it, if it is His will. But the problem is, these verses do not seem to be true in my experience. So far in my life, God has never used me to perform a miracle. And I can’t say that whatever I ask Him to do, He does it every time.

Luke notes that these miracles in Ephesus were extraordinary, even for the apostle Paul (19:11). They seem to parallel the extraordinary miracles that Peter performed for a brief period in his ministry (5:15-16). It is significant that apart from Stephen and Philip, there are no miracles recorded as performed by anyone other than the apostles. The purpose of these apostolic miracles (according to Heb. 2:3-4), was to confirm the message of salvation that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed. In fact, throughout the entire Bible, miracles are not uniformly sprinkled as everyday occurrences. Rather, they are clustered at key moments, such as the exodus, where God was working on behalf of His people. Those who lived after are often reminded of these former miracles to call them back to God.

Can God heal miraculously today? Of course! Does He heal miraculously today? Sometimes, but not nearly as often as television evangelists claim or we want to see ourselves. If God chooses in His will to use us to heal someone through our prayers or to deliver someone from demonic power, we should be available for Him to do it. But to try to use such powers for our own purposes is to be lord of our lives. We must be people who live out our salvation in humility and repentance, which requires we be subject to God’s will.  God’s will often contains suffering to achieve His purpose in our lives. Rather than trying to use God, we should let God use us!

Sunday – August 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 17:16-34 “Preaching to Philosophers”

Sunday – Sunday – August 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – Sunday – August 9, 2020

Acts 17:22-23
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

The story of the UNKNOWN GOD begins sometime in the sixth century before Christ, with the city of Athens was being devastated and decimated by a mysterious plague. When no explanation for the plague could be found, and no cure was in sight, the approach was to assume that one of the city’s many gods had been offended. The leaders of the city sought to determine which of the gods it was and then determine a way of appeasing that god. This was no easy task, since the city of Athens was the “god capital of the world,” a place so full of gods that the Athenians must have needed something equivalent to the Yellow Pages just to keep tabs on the many deities already represented in their city.

When all efforts failed to discern which god had been offended, and which had brought the plague upon the city, an outside “consultant” was brought in from the Island of Cyprus, whose name was Epimenides. Epimenides concluded that it was none of the known gods of Athens which had been offended, but some, as yet, unknown god. He proposed a course of action which, if it worked, would at least provide a possible remedy for the plague. He had a flock of choice sheep, of various colors, kept from food until they were hungry. On the given day, he had these sheep turned loose on Mars Hill, on what was a very succulent pasture. For any sheep not to have eaten his fill would have been unexplainable. He had the sheep turned loose and watched carefully, to see if any sheep would lie down and not eat, even though hungry and in prime grazing. Several sheep, to the amazement of those watching, did lie down. Altars were erected at each spot where a sheep lay down, dedicated to an “unknown god.” On those altars, the sheep which lay in that spot was sacrificed. Almost immediately, according to the legend, the plague began to subside.

Over a period of time, history became myth and the altars were forgotten and began to deteriorate. One altar, it seems, was restored and preserved, in commemoration of the removal of the plague by calling upon the “unknown god.” Who would have thought that centuries later, a foreigner named Paul would refer to this altar as the starting point for his sermon on Mars Hill? And who would have known that it may have been this very poet, Epimenides, whom Paul would later quote in his sermon?

Sunday – July 19, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 16:1-10 “The Sovereign Spirit”

Sunday – July 19, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 19, 2020

A Parable:

The week began and progressed as normal for the majority of Christendom. Oh, it was quite a different week, but only a few Christians would notice—far too few. One pastor reviewed the sermon that he had prepared. He would begin his message with a funny story, include a few Bible verses, the quote from Time magazine, and a story about a dramatic conversion. And, of course, he would conclude with an emotional appeal. “Yes,” he thought, “this one has been planned perfectly.” As he reread the sermon for the last time, it was obvious that he didn’t notice the difference.

The week continued on flawlessly. The church raised enough pledges for the down payment on the new sanctuary. The Wednesday evening prayer meeting also went on as usual, the few who came prayed that God would bless all of the missionaries. But no one noticed the difference. A few church members even got to witness at work that week. They pulled out their pocket Bibles and read to co-workers. Although no one seem very interested, they plowed through the entire presentation and encouraged them to pray the prayer at the end to invite Christ into their heart. But they didn’t notice. In fact, few Christians would have noticed, even in an entire year.

But there were a few Christians that had a most frustrating week. One pastor sat and stared at his Bible, but couldn’t get anything out of it. He knew the Bible and he knew how to prepare biblical sermons. But the Bible had become a dead book to him. He was frustrated and perplexed. But he noticed the difference! Some other believers also noticed. One man kept succumbing to lusting and couldn’t get the victory, no matter how hard he tried. A small group that normally was overflowing with joy in the Lord and love for one another found themselves depressed and bickering. Several other Christians found themselves doubting their salvation, and even wondering if God existed. These believers were defeated, frustrated, and confused. But, they definitely noticed the difference!

What was there to notice as different about this week? God decided to see which Christians were living in dependence on His Holy Spirit, and which ones were just depending on their own intellect and human plans to live the Christian life. So, He withdrew His Holy Spirit from the earth for the week! Think about it—would you notice the difference?

It is easy to fall into routine Christianity, where we function in the flesh instead of walk in vital dependence upon God’s Spirit. One of the main lessons of the Book of Acts is the expansion of the early church was due to the working of the Holy Spirit. He was directing, moving, and empowering the apostles as they responded to His leading. If we want to see God working today in a similar fashion, we need to fight routine Christianity and rather, seek daily to submit to and follow the sovereign Spirit.

Sunday – June 28, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 14:1-28 “Mission Accomplished”

Sunday – June 28, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 28, 2020

Acts 14:11-12
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

It seems like we Christians have been schooled in the Gospel Americana. One of its main features is an obsession with meeting the minimal entrance requirements for admission to Heaven. Every time I have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (as my wife is fond of telling you, if you only knew what your Pastor watches…) I recall the scene when Arthur and his band are trying to cross a giant abyss in order to enter the castle. There is a bridge keeper, and he asks each of them three questions to see if they can cross the bridge and enter the castle. If they get any of the questions wrong, they will be cast into the abyss.

Absurd, right? Most people think the big question is, “How do you know you will get into heaven?” but the real question is, “If you went to heaven, would you like it and would you stay?” Dallas Willard was an expert at forcing us to wrestle with a different viewpoint. People think they can simply decide to turn to God whenever they get the desire, but Willard challenges this idea. The “them” he refers to are those who have thus far rejected Christ, but think Christ is always at the ready. Christ may be always at the ready, but what makes us sure that we would be. Willard describes them as…” Who cannot want God to be God? Multitudes of such people pass by every day, and pass into eternity. The reason they do not find God is that they do not want him or, at least, do not want him to be God. Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

During a crisis, many people turn toward the transcendent. They seek high and low for God, or a god, to help them cope with something unpleasant. When I hear that someone has turned to Christ, I automatically rejoice, but I do wonder “to which Christ did they turn?” Was it the one who claimed to be God, who challenged the religious institutions and the hubris that is inherent in the human race? The one who says, “Repent of your sins, and follow me?” [Mark 1:12-18] Or was it some selective Christ figure or principle that would accommodate one’s lifestyle and world view? Willard states it well in his last sentence: “Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

Hell is real; a place where all those who insist on their will being done and have rejected God’s will being done reside. Hell is God’s best for those who don’t like him, oppose him, or have put him on trial and found God to have failed. It is for all those who don’t want the peace and tranquility that come with submission, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Is entrance to heaven answered by three random questions from God? Or is the truth closer to you don’t want God to be God, so you can be your own god?

Sunday – June 21, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 13:42 14:7 “Good News Divides”

Sunday – June 21, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 21, 2020

Acts 13:44-45
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.”

Rare are the people who really enjoy conflict and division, most of us do not. We like peace and often go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Most of us put off any kind of confrontational encounter as long as we possibly can. Maybe that’s one reason that most of us are afraid to tell others about Jesus Christ. We know that the other person may not respond favorably, and we’d rather not create conflict. And we know that Satan will oppose the one who tells others about Christ. After all, who wants to engage in combat with the prince of darkness?

If we take a stand for Jesus Christ, we will encounter opposition, sometimes even from our own families. While we should always be sensitive and gracious to each person, and be careful not to be personally offensive, there is an inherently divisive quality about the gospel. We see this in our text. Everywhere that Paul and Barnabas went, they caused division. In 13:42-52, we see the reaction to Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch: Some believed and followed Paul and Barnabas; others rejected their message and created such strong opposition that they drove the evangelists out of the region. The same thing will happen at the next town, Iconium (14:1-7). The gospel is good news that divides.

The gospel caused the entire city to be polarized into those for Paul and Barnabas and those against them. In Luke’s words, the whole city was divided – some siding with the Jews, the rest siding with Paul and Barnabas. This is familiar to those who have studied the Gospels. In the Gospels – particularly John’s Gospel – we find the crowds often divided in their response to the teaching and ministry of Jesus: There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He is a good man,” but others, “He deceives the common people” (John 7:12).

It seems to me that we are in danger in our day of taking the offense out of the gospel. We’ve made it a safe, palatable message that would offend no one. “If you’re unhappy in life, try Jesus. He will make you happy. You don’t have to worry about your sin—no repentance required. Just believe and live as you’ve always lived!” That is not the gospel. The gospel confronts every sinner with his sin. It shows that no sinner can save himself, but that God will save everyone who casts himself on Jesus alone. If we are saved, it is because God chose to save us, and all the glory goes to Him. If we are lost, it is because of our stubborn pride and disobedience. That message is divisive because it confronts human pride and glorifies God alone.

Sunday – June 14, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 13:14:41 “Past Perspective”

Sunday – June 14, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 14, 2020

Acts 13:32
We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

In October, 1940, Presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt promised, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” In October, 1964, candidate Lyndon Johnson promised, “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”. We’re so used to politicians not keeping their campaign promises that those outrageous quotes hardly bother us.

If you’re going to entrust your soul for eternity to God, it is important to know that He keeps His promises. Most of us have had the experience of being disappointed with God. We trusted Him for something that we thought He had promised, but it did not work out as we had hoped. Whenever that happens, it is we, not God, who were mistaken. We somehow failed to understand or properly apply His promises. But on the matter of our eternal destiny, it is crucial that we properly understand and apply God’s promise of salvation. To be mistaken here would be eternally fatal!

We live in a day that scoffs at the thought of God’s judgment. Even many who profess to know Christ say, “My God is a God of love, not a God of judgment.” But what matters is not how you speculate God to be, but rather, how He has in fact revealed Himself in His Word. Some who claim to be evangelical theologians argue that hell will not be eternal punishment. Rather, they say that God will annihilate the wicked after they have served an appropriate sentence. While appealing to the flesh, that view contradicts the very words of Jesus, who quoted Isaiah, that hell will be a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (see Mark 9:42-48). Just as eternal life is forever, so eternal punishment is forever.

The God who keeps His promises is also the God who carries through with His warnings! Paul’s sermon gives abundant evidence that God faithfully kept His gracious promise to send Jesus as the Savior of all who will believe in Him. The word of this salvation is sent to you (13:26). Through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you (13:38). Through Him everyone who believes is justified in God’s sight (13:39). But also, all who scoff at Him or ignore Him “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:9). Remember, Paul was speaking here to a religious audience. Everyone present believed in God. But they needed personally to put their trust in His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ so that the words of His warning did not come upon them.