6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power

When you read that God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), does that strike you as a positive or a negative motivation for choosing worship over idolatry? And what about these verses Paul wrote to the Thessalonians? Does the picture of Jesus with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who choose idolatry seem more like God at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19) or Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1-5)? The answer is important, because why we worship God determines how we relate to Him—whether out of love and awe or duty and fear. Only the former endures.

Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, but one day He will return. The God who first came to us as a Baby returns to us as a warrior King flanked by raging fire and angels. Jesus has unique power and authority, and He is worthy of worship.

God is the God of both Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, but we come to Him at Mount Zion. There we find that the fire of God will be destruction, not deliverance, for those who reject Jesus and choose instead to trust in the shaky kingdom of this world. If you trust Him as the warrior King who will one day return to right the injustices at the center of your sorrow, the fire of God refines you, not in fear but in hope. When you are oppressed, Jesus sees and cares. When you see Jesus this way, you are empowered to face every trial and to worship Him as you do.

• How would you answer someone who asks you why you worship God?

• What might be some signs you’re relating to God out of fear or duty rather than love and awe?

• Praise Jesus for His all-consuming power. Ask Him to help you see Him with wonder and amazement, not in fear but with the certain hope that He is your deliverance.