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In South Africa, we are faced with an embarrassment of choices. Most of those choices are relatively insignificant. Whether you choose Yankee Candle’s Clean Cotton or Lemon Lavender, your vehicle interior will be infused with a pleasant scent. Whether you choose Sasko or Albany, you will be able to make sandwiches for your children. You will be able to wash your skin clean regardless of the scent of the soap you select, and probably no one will notice if you used “men’s” or “women’s” shower gel. Indeed, it seems that the more choices multiply, the less significance they take on. As Michael Holmes observes, a “characteristic of a modern consumer culture is its tendency to trivialize choices even as it multiplies them.”

At the same time, much of our culture minimises the significance of our own choices by shifting blame to others. In certain segments of society, bad behaviour can be blamed on overbearing or absent parents, the environment in which you were raised, or a number of things beyond your control. Scapegoats abound as accountability fades into insignificance.

Of course, not all choices are inconsequential. And you cannot always avoid the consequences of, or blame others for, your wrong choices. This is particularly true in light of the choice that the gospel places before you: life or death. We see something of the eternal significance of this choice in the text before us this morning (2 Thessalonians 1:1–12).

Paul writes of the judgement that will arrive with Christ’s return. At that judgement, everyone will face consequences. When he returns as Judge, Christ will “repay with affliction those who afflict” his people and will “grant relief to you who are afflicted.” The judgement for those who afflict his people will be in the form of “flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” On the contrary, he will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed.”

We see, then, that the choice before us is simple: Will we obey the gospel? That is a choice with profound and eternal implications. Those who choose to disobey the gospel will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. Those who choose to obey will be glorified when Christ comes and will inherit eternal life.

Many choices in life are of little consequence. Others—the choice of a spouse, a career choice, the choice to give into drug use, etc.—are of far greater significance. But there is one choice that is of eternal significance, and that is the choice of how you will respond to the gospel. John Stott referred to this choice as “the solemn alternative.” Quoting the Westminster Shorter Catechism, he says that we can choose to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” or we can make the alternate choice—the choice that will leave us “alienated from [our] own true identity as human beings. Instead of being fulfilled or ‘glorified,’ [our] humanity will shrink and shrivel…. Instead of shining with the glory of Christ, [our] light will be extinguished in outer darkness.”

Understanding this choice, and the consequences thereof, should change the way we live in the present. Having placed this choice before them, Paul writes, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Having reflected on the choices and their consequences, the Thessalonians were now faced with the challenge to walk faithfully in the calling to which God had called them. They would certainly face affliction and persecution, but they must not allow opposition to derail their faithfulness.

As you meditate on 2 Thessalonians 1:1–12 this morning, ask yourself whether you have made the right choice. And, having made it, allow the knowledge that you have done so to enable your faithfulness even in the face of opposition.