There comes a point in every Christian’s life when they must prove God to be true. Paradoxically, we do this by proving
ourselves to be true. In this we find peace with God, a peace above all understanding; a peace most seek but few find, because it is sought in a direction opposite to its source. If we rest in Christ, we find His freedom. Then, we will understand, and have, peace. Christ’s freedom is from self, and a devotion to Christ, which is the proper order of things.
We Already Have Peace!
Because we have faith, we already have the peace we think is so elusive:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
So, what, then, is the problem? Why do we think we do not have peace? It seems we mistake human ideas of ‘peace’ with the divine meaning of ‘peace’. Also, increasingly, many Christians have faith for salvation, but then appear to ‘lose’ it, later.
The ‘Messiah’s peace’ is the ‘way that leads to salvation’, therefore it is not pertinent to this study. On a personal level (that is, omitting certain other meanings), ‘peace’ with God is harmony or agreement with Him, together with the security we have as saved men and women, which leads to prosperity and safety. This state of soul means we should not fear God, because we live by His laws and commands, and we live tranquil lives because we know He is with us and protects us.
This ‘peace’ is effected “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is not the same as human ideas of peace, and cannot be brought about by psychological or physical means. Only Jesus can give us this peace. What then is going on today? Why do so many Christians have a numbing feeling or high anxiety when it comes to knowing peace?
The text is clear – because we are saved by Jesus Christ, we already have peace with God. What, then, is the real problem?
Lost Hope? Ever Had It?
I perceive that few who call themselves ‘Christian’ have ever been saved at all. I say this because their claim to salvation seems to be very casual and without any kind of vitality. Were they saved? If they were only acting on psychological lines it would explain the rather fast decline into spiritual obscurity. These are the folks who are seeds thrown into the wayside, who grow for a short while and then die.
Another possibility is that their lack of just about everything is caused by bad teaching by equally bad pastors and teachers, or, their slide into sin and ignorance. Such a Christian will enter a doldrum of despair and lack of hope. Any true Christian, and any Christian who is in a right frame of mind brought about by a right spiritual life, will know this hope.
“Now the hope of God fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)
We will “abound in hope” if we believe, for belief is the basis for “all joy and peace”. It is brought about in our spirits by the Holy Ghost. As I have already said, WE ALREADY HAVE PEACE IF WE ARE SAVED.
If you have a problem with that, it is either because you were not saved in the first place, or, you are badly taught, or, you have willingly slipped into a sinful state of mind. If you genuinely are saved, then you are in the position of a man dying of thirst when he has a barrel of clean water alongside. The barrel has a tap, but you cannot be bothered to open it. So you die of thirst. The man who has been badly taught, does not recognise what the tap is for. The man who slides into sin willingly, does not want to know about the tap, so ignores it. Either way, the man dies. To get the life-giving water, he must open the tap and drink! So, where are YOU going wrong?
Open that tap and you WILL be filled with “joy and peace”. Though we already have salvation and peace with God, we deny the effects of that peace by our inward reliance on self, or our preference for sin. The peace is there within, but we refuse to open the tap and allow the water of life to refresh our souls. God is the “God of peace” Who is “with you all” (Romans 15:33)… so why kick against it? Why claim you have no peace? The barrel of water is next to you. Open the tap! This is not some mysterious thing, nor is it charismatic nonsense. It is what you already have, if you are saved!
Live in Peace, and God Will Be With You
2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us that whilst we have this peace inside us, there are conditions attached to realising its reality in our lives. The barrel of water is there, right next to us, but there is a key to unlock before we realise its effects. We must “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace”. If we comply with those things then the “God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Again, in Philippians 4:9, this counsel is reinforced:
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
It is very clear, then, that before we know the effects of the peace we already have through salvation, we must apply what God says to our lives. Only then will He be with us. In practical terms it means that we must live out what we read in scripture. Thus, to live in peace means to live as God wants us to live. Do not think this is the instant answer to all your problems. The text says we must learn… and receive… and hear… and do. We must ‘internalise’ God’s word, so that we really do mean it when we think, say, and do, what God says. It is futile to pretend, because God already knows our hearts. It just will not work! And do not ‘give it a go’ just because you feel desperate for an answer. There is no short cut to realising God’s peace.
What ‘Peace’ Is Not
It is not human happiness alone. We can feel happy for any number of reasons: we are given a promotion at work, we get married, we have children, we buy something special, we get a new car, we like the smile of the person across the road… all of this is just human pleasure generated in just about everyone on this earth.
Feeling happy is not the best yardstick by which to measure ‘peace’. We can even feel happy if we sin, or if what makes us happy is not good for us! Human happiness, more often than not, depends on our own perception of what is good or nice or pleasurable.
So, ‘peace’ is not necessarily happiness. Indeed, we may not feel happy at all, and yet we can have peace with God. This is because the peace of God is a confirmation of our faith and our relationship to God, not a mere ‘happy sticker’ stuck on the surface of our lives. You know, like those useless and quite round, yellow, awful smiling stickers people insist on putting all over their Bibles! Rarely do those people really feel happy inside.
Having peace can, though, make us genuinely happy, because what pleases God should please us.
Christ Did Not Come to Give Peace
Does that shock you? Why? Doe this contradict what I said earlier? No. After all, this fact is found in a very easy to find text – Matthew 10:34!
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
So much for those good folks who think that my ministry is too blunt, or does not offer an olive-branch to those who wish to sin! If Jesus did not do so, why should I? This is not about being accepted by God; it is about Jesus not coming to maintain the status quo. So, there is no contradiction.
Christ is referring to harmony between people. It was not His aim to bring harmony, as we see today amongst so many ecumenical groups. No, Jesus came to bring a sword. That is, He ensured that there was no harmony between disparate peoples, who have no genuine harmony anyway. Rather, Christ’s word came to destroy false relationships, thrusting sharply into the conscience, highlighting sin, and removing every vestige of comfort men usually employ to hide their true intentions and thoughts. If some think I am too blunt, perhaps they ought to have walked with Jesus whilst He was on this earth!
I hope you can see that this kind of peace is very different from the first examples I gave you. The truth shall make us free. But pretending to be loving and joyful get us nowhere and prevents us from reaching the goal of real peace.
Go to another text in Matthew (20:31) and you will find yet another meaning for ‘peace’ – that of staying silent; or shutting up. Again, this is not thes ame as the meaning for the ‘peace of God’ within us. To ‘hold one’s peace’ then, means to be silent. Jesus told demons to be silent and not to argue with Him when He cast them out. Pharisees held their peace for different reasons – they realised when they were beaten in argument and truth.
When Jesus spoke to people He healed, He told them to “go in peace”, (e.g. Mark 5:34) meaning, that He had given them a cause for joy. Remember that not all were saved at the time, so they experienced human happiness. Those who were also saved had reason for heartfelt spiritual joy as well as human happiness.
In Mark 9:50, we see another meaning for ‘peace’: harmony with each other. In Luke 2:14 we have the intriguing statement by the angel:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Think carefully, for the majority view is that here God showed compassion to everyone on earth. This cannot be the case, given the truth of election, predestination, and God’s view of mankind in general.
Glory to God – this is straightforward.
On earth peace – yes, but to, or for, whom?
Good will towards men – which men?
God is evidently showing benevolence towards men. It cannot be towards all men, for God does not countenance men who are not His. Therefore, there can be no peace towards them, only towards those who belong, or will belong, to Him. By applying truth and doctrine to the text we can see God is giving hope and peace to all whom He has chosen. This is why the best construction of the statement is “on earth peace toward men of good will”, or “on earth peace for men who show goodwill toward God.”
The spiritual meaning of ‘peace’ is shown in John 14:27.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you…”
This supports my previous statements, that we are not talking about human happiness alone, nor about psychological acceptances of what God says. As always, the meaning depends on the text and its context. In this text He gives individual joy and assurance of both salvation and His presence in their lives. In Romans 2:10, ‘peace’ is only for those Christians who do good.
Others (Romans 3:17) do not know the “way of peace” because they live bitter and violent lives, and they do not fear God. The “spiritually minded” (Romans 8:6) however, know life as “peace”… a deep assurance that all is well with their souls. A Christian who fears life’s conditions and woes, however, is displaying lack of faith and thus does not have peace within. It is, then, a form of unbelief. This is because their lives are based on the life of the world and not on spiritual life:
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)
Can you see a pattern emerging? Happiness is wonderful, if it is genuine. So is joy. But not if it is only concentrating on this world (signified by ‘food and drink’). It is only when we give ourselves over to righteousness that we come to know true peace and joy. This is because peace is part of the ‘parcel’ of benefits given to all who obey and have faith.
Having faith means to trust God in everything, no matter what happens (or does not happen) to us. Whether we have many human riches and privileges, or none at all, we must give the same trust, because what he gives is not of this world. Yes, He might give is worldly riches, too, for the use of us all. But, the main source of peace is from heaven, not earth. Our prayers must be towards spiritual ends, not worldly ones. We may ask for help on this earth, but divine benefits come first. Seek this first and God will give us everything else as a gift!
In 1 Corinthians 14:33, we find that the confusion amongst the churches is not from God, because He sends us peace (harmony as believers). He cannot initiate confusion, because His order of things is firm and fixed. It is only when we go against His will that we experience trouble in our churches and in our lives. That is why we are told peace is found in “al the churches of the saints”. Obviously, confusion reigns in churches filled with those who are not ‘saints’ (the saved).
The “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22). Anything that is not of peace must, therefore, NOT be of the Spirit. And whatever is not of the Spirit is, by definition, of Satan! So, if we do not have love, peace, joy, etc., where does this lack come from?
Look within, Christian, for your answers, for it is marked on your conscience. Look then to God, where you will find the answer to your lack – obedience and faith. We must walk according to His rule (Galatians 6:16) before we can know peace and experience God’s mercy This is because He IS our peace (Ephesians 2:14), which brings us full circle back to the start of this brief study.
As I said at the start of the study, “Paradoxically, we do this by proving
ourselves to be true.” That is, we prove God by proving ourselves. As we mature as believers we discover that our faith is lacking. We become almost desperate to know God’s truth for ourselves; we want to see Him working in our lives’ we want to see His response to our prayers, and not just make statements of faith without proofs. But, we can see none of these things if we are not right with God ourselves.
Being ‘right’ does not necessarily mean getting rid of sins. This is something we ought to be doing constantly. No, it means getting right in the sense of trusting Him without question, without doubt. This is when we will see answers to our prayers. This is when we are “sanctified wholly” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) It is when Lord of peace gibes us “peace always by all means.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Do Not Just Say It – Do it!
So, you desire the peace of God, the kind of life you have dreamt of, because God has moved you to experience far better things in your life. That is fine. If you truly want these spiritual benefits there is only one answer – trust in God. Not only in word, but in thought and deed! Prove your desire by obedience and trust. Trust, when it is shown, brings forth gifts and wondrous things from God the Father. Do you trust? Really? Then why do you fear? Why do you look to the world for your answers?
Seek the things of God first, and He will make sure all things are given to you that are good for your soul and life on earth. Doubt it? Then you are not yet ready to receive the blessings God promises to those who believe.
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