Restraint (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains [will do so] until he is taken out of the way.

2 Thessalonians 2:7

There is a Rolling Stones song called “Sympathy for the Devil” that includes the words”As heads is tails / Just call me Lucifer / ‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint.” This verse is a reminder that he has exactly that: restraint. That restraint is the Holy Spirit.

The American news media has this morbid obsession with all things negative. And why should they do otherwise when the American populace is morbidly curious about these things? The trouble, for me, with all that negativity is that I can lose sight of the important thing: It would be much worse if not for the Holy Spirit. I know this to be true in my own life. I have seen some of the desires that live in my flesh and I am quite glad that the Holy Spirit restrains those desires and is even willing to kill them out in me if I will let Him.

As with the lesser — my own life — so with the greater — the course of society. One life is not emblematic of history’s arc, except insofar as the general principles hold true in both. In an individual’s life, it is the Holy Spirit Who restrains and quashes the evil desires unless He is pushed aside. He does not force His work on anyone, but politely steps out of our way if we insist on things. Likewise, He will not — as it was put in the story of Noah — strive with mankind forever. At some point, He will step aside and let humanity have what it wants. As with the individual, who finds that what he thought he wanted was not at all what he really wanted, so, too, will mankind learn that what they think they want is not what they have been led to believe it is. The principles hold true at both the individual and societal level.

There are two bits of application for me this morning. First, I need to apply this to my own life and cooperate with the Holy Spirit when He is restraining things in me. Rather than fight with Him, let me cooperate and allow Him to put to death in me those things which are not pleasing to God. Second, I need to pray that as many as possible will see the Truth. The Holy Spirit will not strive with mankind forever and He will, eventually, be taken away. When He is, things will get exceedingly bad. Bad enough that I would no wish that time on anyone. Let me pray that people will see the Truth and be ready to speak Truth when the opportunity arises.

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