Loving Truth (2 Thess 2:9-12)

The following is an unedited sermon manuscript; for an explanation of my sermon manuscripts, click here.
*Originally preached August 21st, 2022*

Digory was scared. But not quite nearly as scared as his Uncle Andrew. Andrew was a cruel, small man. His wickedness was blunted by his cowardice, so he was never as bad as he could have been, but he was nasty nonetheless. He never intended to put himself in harm’s way during his experiments, planning instead to trick his young nephew Digory and his friend, Polly, into putting on the magical rings and transporting into another world. But something terrible happened. Suddenly he found himself yanked into that other world with the children right at the moment of its founding, at the very dawn of its creation. Before the sun, moon, and stars had yet to shine, the Lord of that world, an enormous Lion named Aslan, paced back and forth singing the world into existence. Uncle Andrew could see nothing, but he could hear:

“When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion,” as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing — only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. “Of course it can’t really have been singing,” he thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautiful the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl.” (The Magician’s Nephew)

Uncle Andrew didn’t like what the song did to him, and so didn’t want to believe that a Lion could sing. His mind was too small and heart too proud. And the louder and sweeter the song, the more Uncle Andrew’s heart hardened and ears deafened. So that when the noble Aslan finally speaks, the children fall down in awe and wonder and love while Uncle Andrew flees in terror. C.S. Lewis here has captured imaginatively what is said more simply by the Puritans: The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. It was the beauty of the song that drew the children in, and it was the beauty of the song that repelled their uncle. Why is it that some people, upon hearing the truth of God recoil at it and others are drawn in? If you are not a Christian here today, I wonder what you think of the teachings of our faith? Surely, by being here today you are either interested or at least are here on the invitation of another Christian. I wonder if you find something strangely attractive about Christianity or perhaps you find it boring or bizarre? In our text today we will find what characterizes those who receive truth rightly and those who reject it.  

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. – 2 Thess 2:9-12


There are a number of things in this text that may seem strange or interesting that we aren’t going to be able to investigate. We are told that at some point in time there is coming a “lawless one” who has power to perform “false signs and wonders” that will deceive those who are perishing. Why? “Because they refused to…” what? What did they refuse to do? Know the truth? Believe the truth? Understand the truth? No—it says because they refused to love the truth. Now, of course, love implies knowledge—you cannot love something if you do not know what it is, if you do not understand it. Love simply means more than knowledge, but certainly not less. You can know something and not love it. In fact, there may be some people in your life whom the more you get to know them the less you love them. But here, this truth must not only be known but loved. And people perish without it. 

Because they do not love the truth, God responds, “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (2 Thess 2:11). This is similar to what Paul writes in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened,” (Rom 1:21). God has revealed Himself to all of mankind who has ever lived, but mankind suppresses this truth (Rom 1:18-20), they don’t want to see it. So, in their rebellion and rejection of what is clear, God responds by letting them have exactly what they want—they want darkness? They want futility? Fine, God says, have it. And here in Thessalonians, similarly, unbelievers yawn at truth, turn from truth, maybe even hate the truth, and so God responds by letting them have what they want. You want to turn from light to darkness? Fine, here is deception that you will love. 

And it results in their condemnation, “in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” (2 Thess 2:12). So the unbelievers at first are described in verse 10 as those who do not love the truth, but here in verse 12 we see what they do love: unrighteousness. They do not believe the truth but take pleasure in unrighteousness. What you love controls your life. Tim Keller often says, “What your heart finds desirable, your mind finds reasonable, and your will finds doable.” So the great dilemma of unbelief is not merely a problem of facts or information, but love. We love unrighteousness, and so we do not love the truth. This is what Jesus teaches in the gospel of John: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed,” (John 3:19-20). 

Now, let’s ask a couple of questions of this text:

What truth is Paul referring to here?

Here, those who are perishing are deceived because they refuse to love the truth. What truth? If we move our eyes down to verse 13-14 we find out: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel,” (2 Thess 2:13-14a). So, Paul is contrasting those who perish through their deception with those whom are saved because they believe the truth that comes through the gospel. 

So if you are not a Christian here today, the truth that God summons you to not only know but love is this truth: God made you and owns you, yet you live as if you are the king of your life, so you turn from Him in sin and live however you want to. Yet, Jesus died in your place for your sins and your only hope of escaping judgment is to turn in faith and repentance and plead for the free and full mercy that God has for you. That is all, simply admit your need, relinquish the reigns of your life over to Christ, and receive the life He offers. 

How do you love truth?

This tells us something significant that Paul assumes about the nature of saving faith: it requires love. We must love the truth. And love of truth is not a love of mere propositions, as if real faith is only found in bookish Christians who just love learning, or the buzz of being the smartest person in the room. Remember Paul’s great reflection on love:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing,” (1 Cor 13:1-3). It does not matter if you understand everything and have all knowledge and have the strength of faith to upheave mountains—if it is void of love it is all fake, it doesn’t matter. So, the love of truth in Thessalonians cannot refer to merely a pursuit of information or knowledge—people can pursue those things because they love their vanity, they love being right, they love their own self-righteousness. 

No, we must remember Jesus’ words in response to questioning Thomas, wondering how he may know the way to where the Father is, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” (John 14:6). The way to the Father is not an abstraction, but a person. So too, the truth we are to love is not bits of information, but a person to know and love: Jesus Christ. To love the truth of the gospel is an invitation to love our Lord. Jesus is truth. He is the consummation and essence of all truth claims—all of creation exists for Him and through Him and in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

This is a great boon to those who struggle with doubts—maybe there are aspects about Christianity’s teachings, history, or systems that puzzle you, maybe there are things that have happened in your own life that leave you feeling uncertain about whether or not God is there. 

And if you are not a Christian here today, maybe I cannot provide for you an answer to every question you have, but I can introduce you to a trustworthy Person who deserves your affection and worship. The patient in desperate need of surgery may not be able to understand everything the surgeon will do, but if she knows the doctor, she can lay down and say, “Okay, I trust you.” Jesus has demonstrated His trustworthiness supremely through His work on the cross—He threw Himself down on the grenade of your sin so you would be spared, absorbing the punishments that were slotted for you so that you can be saved. You can trust Him. 

So, here is the argument: what separates those who believe and those who do not is what they love most. Those who are perishing love unrighteousness and those who believe love Jesus and so can trust Him.

How Do I Grow in My Love of Truth? How Can We Help Each Other?

1 Pray

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. – Eph 1:16-18

We can pray for ourselves and for each other that God would open the eyes of our heart so that we may see Him and know the truth. We must be born again to be delivered from our love of sin, and only God can do this great work, so we must plead with Him to intervene and to save. We pray for ourselves, for each other, for those who don’t know Christ, for our children.

2 Look to Christ

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Eph 3:14, 17-19

Consider the holiness of God, and ponder what response from this good, faithful, righteous Creator a sinner like yourself deserves. And then be stunned that this God would desire to not only commune with you, not only to dwell in you with His divine fullness, but would direct towards you an ever flowing stream of mercy and grace because of His incomprehensible love toward you. David Clarkson, a friend of John Owen, summarizes this posture well in his prayer:

Lord, I have nothing to move you to show me mercy—nothing that would convince you to be gracious to me. All I have would only engage you against me, or shut me out from mercy. If sin and unworthiness exclude a sinner from faith and mercy, I could lie down in sorrow and despair forever. But it is the glory of mercy to run freely, to flow out upon those that are most unworthy. Such am I, Lord, the unworthiest of any who ever sought faith in you, or that ever found mercy with you. But the more unworthy, the more will it be for the glory of your mercy that I not perish. The riches of your grace appear even greater by your given me faith. Glorify your mercy on someone like me. Have mercy on me, Lord, that I not perish. – David Clarkson

3 Read the Word

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Rom 10:17

If you are not a Christian, read the four gospel accounts we have in the Bible and introduce yourself with the Person of Jesus; see His love, see His courage, see His tenderness for the weak, see His zeal for justice in opposing wickedness, see His patience with His stubborn disciples, see His grace revealed in giving Himself at the cross for the life of the world.

And if you are a Christian, then commit yourself to regularly read the whole Bible. The whole Bible is the very Word of Jesus, so we cannot come to Jesus and say: I like you, but I don’t like your words, I don’t like your teaching. Our words reveal our person. The four gospels represent the clearest teaching of who Jesus is, but it is the entire Bible that provides the revelation of God in His totality.

Perhaps you have come across truths in the Bible that you do not love. You struggle to see the character of God in it or struggle to see how this makes God good. A good first step when this happens is to ask yourself: perhaps I have misunderstood something, and then seek out help. Interpret less clear passages in light of clearer ones, and seek out good teachers to help provide insight. But if after going to the church and finding help, you still find yourself struggling to see how this truth can be good, then assume that there is something in you that needs to be repaired. We should never walk around thinking: Man, I wish this wasn’t in the Bible, but it is, so I guess I have to believe it. No! Are we more moral than God? Are we more humble than He is? Are we wiser than Him? Are we more moral than He is? No, God’s Word brings life. The pattern of Isaiah 55 demonstrates that man left to himself is cut off from life, and God’s Word refurbishes mankind so that he may live.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

–       Isa 55:1-3, 6-11

This is why doing devotions together as a family is so critical. We need to put the faith-giving Word before our children so that they may receive faith and so love the truth.

4. Fellowship with the Church

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Heb 10:24-25

The church is the place where we can be honest where we are at, confess our sin, have mercy on one another, and encourage each other in truth.

5. Kill Sin and Resist Worldliness

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Rom 12:2

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. – Rom 8:5-7

Perhaps truth is hard for you to love because your mind is held captive to the world and is set on the flesh. The tastebuds of your soul are attuned to sin so holiness tastes sour. If your mind is saturated with the ideologies, definitions, and categories of the world, then when you approach the Bible you will find parts of you recoiling at it. Perhaps you need to take an inventory of what is influencing you most and see if there isn’t a problem upstream that needs to be corrected to clear this blockage.

6. Stir Your Imagination Every day

6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

–       Ps 18:6-12

Nowhere in the life of David are we ever given a description of what happens above. There are plenty of times that God intervenes and provides help to David, but nothing like the fantastical description of what Psalm 18 describes. Why is that? Because David knows that unless he conveys the deliverance of God in this evocative and imaginative manner we will not understand the gravity of how great God’s salvation is. It is worth considering that God has revealed Himself in His Word primarily through the medium of story, not like a naked instruction manual. God knows that we are holistic beings, body, mind, and heart, and so need to receive truth in holistic ways that illuminate the mind and stir the heart. So, you should read stories, poetry, sing songs, go on hikes, open your eyes to the glory of the world around you. Find things that stir your affections for the Lord and regularly build those into your life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s