Finding Peace

“I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Stressed? Anxious? Frustrated? Lost? Worried? Afraid? Chaotic? Busy? Tired?

In the past week have you used any of these words to describe your life?

What about the word “Peace”?  How often have you described your day, your week, your life, as “peaceful,” “calm,” “contented”?

We long for peace, we hunger for it, but nothing in this world can offer it.  We may know a momentary cessation of hostilities, but not an abiding peace. The vacation can only last so long, and you’re guaranteed to have a double load of work to do when you get back.  Just when you’ve paid all the bills and balanced the checkbook, you know they’ve already printed next months bills.  Don’t even try to turn the TV on; every five minutes there’s a new something to be afraid of.

Boy, aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?

Jesus, in His upper room discourse, reminds us all that in this life we will have tribulation.  We have been warned.  There will be sorrow (John 16:20).  There will be struggles (Heb 12:4).  If the world rejected Him, how will it treat those who follow Him (John 15:20)?  We are called to take up our cross (Matt 16:24).  When slapped, are are to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39).  As our hearts break for the lost, we will carry their burden before the Lord in prayer (Rom 9:1-3).  As we strive for faithfulness we will wrestle with temptation and battle to put to death the old man (Col 3:5-17).  We will suffer the fiery arrows of the enemy, we will face the opposition of the principalities and powers (Eph 6:10-18).  Yes, indeed, all this world has to offer is tribulation.

But we are not to take what the world gives.  We have a greater gift, the gift of Christ’s peace.

What is this peace?

The peace of Christ is this:

  • In Christ we have peace with God because we have been reconciled through His blood.
  • In Christ we have peace with one another, the dividing wall of hostility has been broken down.
  • In Christ we have peace through our Sovereign King who reigns over His people.
  • In Christ we have peace as our eternal security is guaranteed.

Jesus has come that we might have peace, a peace that endures, a peace that overcomes, a peace that does not waver.

Why then, do we seldom enjoy that peace? Why are we not filled with peace and joy in believing?  While by no means a complete list, here are some thoughts:

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are the cause of our own tribulation.  There are times when we don’t stumble into sin, we dive in headfirst.  We flirt with the flames of temptation, only to get burned by the fires of sin. We hold on to envy, anger, and our selfish desires and become the drama that we sought to avoid.  There can be no peace when we take hold of sin.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are slow to faith and do not believe His promises.  Doubts and despair are a disastrous combination, because they cause us to fix our eyes on the problems rather than the solution. When the waves are crashing around us, we look to the sea rather than Christ who has called us to walk with Him (Matt 14:30).  We become practical atheists, we say we believe that Jesus has promised us peace, but we act like we are on our own.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we don’t think His promise applies to our particular situation. When we tell ourselves that this thing we are facing is beyond Christ’s control, or too small for Christ to care about, what are we saying about our Savior?  We forget that He is One who can “sympathize with us in our weakness… [because He] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  How does the old hymn go?

Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

So how do we return to the peace of Christ?  His sermon in Mark 1:15 says it best, “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

Repent: Turn from your sin and to the Lord.  Remember, when our hearts condemn us, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19). To find peace we must turn from that which causes the strife, and rest in the grace of Christ.

And Believe: Christ has overcome all things. He has overcome, He is victorious. His victory is over every sin, every power, every dominion.  There is nothing that He has not conquered.  Abraham Kuyper once wrote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” He has indeed overcome all things, so believe and rest in His peace to strengthen and comfort you in all things.

May the grace, and peace, of Christ rule in your hearts!

SDG

On the Wrong Side of the Line

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
(Romans 3:23–24)

Here’s my confession for the day: I am a Stresser.

Maybe you already knew that.  Maybe you’ve seen me in one of my “moments,” when I’m harried, distracted, a little brusque in my greeting.  That’s me – stressing.

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been “stressing out” a lot more than I used to.  My fuse is shorter, my temper hotter; I found myself nodding in agreement with Bruce Banner, “That’s my secret, Captain, I’m always angry.”

My wife, and even the children, have noticed this too.  “What’s the matter with daddy?” they will ask.

What is the matter?  I could try to come up with some rationale to explain this: poor balance between work and life; unhealthy stress management; taking on too many obligations; it’s just the normal way of things with a job, a wife, and four kids…

Instead, I think I’ll just cut straight to the chase.  I don’t have the time, don’t need the extra stress, to try to explain away my Stressed Out behavior.  I just tell you – It’s Sin!

I know what they say, some stress is healthy – but my sinful stressing is destructive and deadly.  My stress is sin.  It is gratifying the desires of the flesh, reveling in the delight of the moment at the cost of the eternal.  Look – I’m stressed because my egotistic personality insists that if something going to be done, it’s got to be done right (and I will determine what’s right), and I’m probably the only one able to do it.  I’m stressed because I’m unwilling to ask for help, and cannot understand why no one will step up to help me out.  I stress out because, secretly, momentarily, it feels real good to blow a gasket and erupt with a Vesuvius-esque fury all over those closest to me, even though the damage is lasting and hard to undo.

I was reminded the other day of something an elder said to me, long ago, in the first church I was serving. We were discussing marriage, ordination, sexual immorality – you know all those things that Presbyterians have been debating since time immemorial.  The church was discussing taking a Biblical stand on the matters at hand, when the elder said, “I don’t like drawing a line in the sand, because eventually I’ll find myself on the wrong side of the line.”

Friends can we just learn to accept this one fact: we are all on the wrong side of the line.  We are all sinners, everyone of us.  “For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23).  When you stand in the light of God’s righteous judgment, all of us are on the wrong side of the line.  We can try to dress up our sins, call them by a different name – to paraphrase the Bard – but a sin by any other name would smell just as bad.

We call it “an affair,” when the Bible calls it adultery.

We call it “anger issues” when the Bible calls it hating your brother – which is murder.

We call it “embezzlement” when the Bible calls it stealing.

We call it “misrepresenting the truth,” when the Bible says it is a lie.

We call it “keeping up with the Jones’” when the Bible says it is covetousness.

We say “there’s just not enough time in the week to get everything done,” when in reality we are breaking the Sabbath.

We compromise on Biblical truth, because we do not honor Scripture as the very word of God.

We are anxious because we do not believe God’s promises.

We are short tempered and angry because of our self-importance and cold, unmoving hearts.

We are slow to forgive one another because we downplay our own sinfulness and underestimate the magnitude of God’s grace towards us in Jesus Christ.

The call of Christ is the same for each of us.  Whether you are caught in immorality, or disobedient toward your parents – the call of Christ is “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  In His grace, trusting in that Gospel, turn from your sin – for sin is what it is – turn from your sin and know his gift of forgiveness, peace, and life.

Don’t hold on to your sin, thinking that it is a crutch that will support you, for it will only bring you down.  Instead, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24).

They say confession is good for the soul.  These deeply ingrained “fits of rage” in my life will take some time to conquer, and only by the strength of the Holy Spirit working in me will they be ultimately defeated.  And yet, they will never be defeated as long as I deny their sinfulness and hold on to them.  I confess.  I repent.  And I believe the Good News, that by the grace of God I am forgiven and delivered.

In the words of John Newton, I will hold to these two truths: “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior!”

Sola Deo Gloria!