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Monday, July 4, 2011

Jesus Promises Peace, But Do We Have It?

Jesus Promises Peace, But Do We Have It?

God has promised many good things to His children. And one of those things is peace. Shortly before Jesus went back to heaven he gave His peace to His disciples and also promised it to all who believe in Him. This is His promise to His disciples and to us:

“My peace I leave with you, My peace I give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:2)

Everywhere in Scripture the believer is promised peace and is told not to worry. This special peace is part of our inheritance as Gods’ children. It’s a wonderful gift we have been given – a life free from anxiety and fighting and fear. But have we all received it? And if we have received it, do we know how to hold on to it? I love the peace and joy I have in Jesus, but I don’t always hang onto it. When trouble comes around, my heart often pounds with fear? Jesus has promised that He will overcome our troubles for us. But I so quickly forget. Jesus reminds us:

“…In Me you have peace. In the world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) Scripture tells us that Jesus will over come every evil and through Jesus we will be over comers too!

We don’t understand how, but God can take our biggest troubles and our nastiest problems and work them around for good. “All things work together for good to those who believe, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God promises to be with us and get us through our troubles. “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, and I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalms 91:15) and “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not afraid for I am thy God, I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, yes I will uphold you with the right hand of My Righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

With God promising to take care of us, we can relax and be at peace. We never need to be afraid when troubles come. We may not understand how this promised victory will be accomplished. Sometimes we may not see it until after we die. But we are promised victory through Jesus and we can be sure that He will deliver. Since God has us covered we can practice trusting Him through our hassles and continue resting in our peace.

Along with our gift of supernatural peace, Jesus has also given us a new commandment. “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

It looks like we don’t just passively receive Jesus’ gift of peace, but we are commanded to actively live out our lives keeping that peace by loving others. In order to keep the peace gift, we have to live the life! Wouldn’t you know it? We can’t gossip and criticize and hate folks in our church and expect to hang onto our gift of peace! Forgiveness and love and peace all go together.

Along with this commandment, there are many Scripture passages showing us the part we can play in order to keep this peace from slipping away. We are commanded to forgive the people that hurt us and to love and live in peace as much as we can. Let’s listen to just a few of these commands from the Bible. “Pursue peace with all people, …looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:14a-15) This passage tells us that we can’t allow bitterness into our lives and hang onto our peace. Peace and bitterness won’t stay in the same room together. So you will have to decide which one you want to keep around.

Another Bible passage tells us: “When angry, do not sin: do not let your anger last until the sun goes down.” (Ephesians 4:26) This passage is telling us not to hang onto our anger but to move on and forgive quickly. We can’t hold on to our anger and hang on to our peace at the same time. If we want to keep Gods’ peace we will have to obey Gods’ commands to love and forgive.

Another passage tells us to make up with any person that you are having an argument with before coming into church with your gift. “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you. Leave your gift on the altar, and go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) It is more important to God that first we keep the peace with our brother before we give our gift to Him.

It sounds like we have to try to get along with everyone doesn’t it? And if the other person refuses to get along with us we are told to forgive them and pray for them and love them anyway! There is one person who presently hates me that I am trying not to hate back– but instead to pray for and love this one. I make it and love them sometimes and unfortunately sometimes I don’t. It’s a challenge. But if I return the bad feelings I will lose the peace God gave me!

Every time we pray the Lords’ prayer, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12) Guess we better start learning to forgive others if we are going to pray the Lords’ prayer in church and mean it! Since God has forgiven us for all of our sins, He expects us to forgive other people when they sin against us. Refusing to forgive will cost us our peace. So even though Gods’ peace is a free gift, there is a price we have to pay to keep it.

Along this same line, Jesus tells the parable of the king who forgives one of his servants of an enormous debt he owes, only to find the same servant turning around and throwing another person in prison for owing him a small debt. The king hears about this and gets angry. He calls his servant back and makes him pay his huge debt after all. (Matthew 18:23-25) Jesus’ point in this story is that we are expected to forgive others since God has forgiven us. It isn’t an option. Christians are commanded to forgive and to try to live in peace. It’s all tied together.

Scripture tells believers not to go to court and sue one another. Let’s listen: “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:6-7) You see, sometimes we may have to be cheated in order to follow Jesus and keep the peace.

We read in Scripture about how powerfully the Holy Spirit worked through the early Christian church. The early Christian church was blessed constantly with healings and miracles and thousands of people came to Christ through their witness. Don’t we sometimes wonder why we don’t have the same dramatic conversions and healings today in our churches that they had? Scripture also records that they were all united and in agreement with one another and constantly cared for one another. They always kept the peace. (Acts 2:44-47) Could it be that Gods’ powerful anointing was with the early church because they were united and demonstrated love? They kept the peace and were all of one accord. Was that their secret?

The Lord not only commands peace to be our inheritance but He also commands us to keep that peace by forgiving those who hurt us and by loving and serving others. Many of us don’t hold onto our peace because we don’t obey His commands to forgive and love others. We are tempted to get angry and hold grudges. We become critical and unforgiving and tell ourselves that we have that right. But as Christians we don’t have that right. Love isn’t just a feeling, it is a decision. Forgiving and loving is a way of behaving.

As we travel through life we will have many opportunities to practice Jesus’ command to love and forgive. We can consider each offensive situation we encounter where we feel like responding with anger, as a challenge instead to respond with love and forgiveness. We are not really fighting against irritating people but we are fighting against the powers and principalities of the devil. The Bible says that we will be tested by God (1 Thessalonians 2:4), so we can use each test as a learning experience in this school of life. Life is sometimes described in Scripture as a battle and God has given us armor to put on to fight in the battle. (Ephesians 6:11) And the armor God has given us to put on our feet are the shoes of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)

So let’s walk through this life wearing our shoes of peace ---the ones God has given us. Let’s not ever take those walking peace shoes off - even for a minute. Not let hate the person who hates us. Surprise them with love and keep our peace. Might not be so bad after all –a life resting in Jesus’ peace - a life free from resentment and hate and anxiety! Jesus has left us this gift of peace, so let’s enjoy it – hang on to it. Do whatever it takes!

1 comment:

  1. A well constructed piece. Thank you for your thoughtful message. To be honest, it truly amazes me; the peace our Lord left for us. When I was an atheist a few years ago, I would have laughed at such a thing. Thank God that he found me. That he found us...

    Jeremiah Leathart