When I was younger and I meditated on the birth and life of Jesus and then contemplated his death, it made me extremely sad that an innocent man would be executed. It was emotional for me as if I was watching a sad movie.
But now I see it a little different. While what I was seeing was true I also understand the plan that God was fulfilling. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
As our Lord hung on the cross, the crowd saw only one man on the center cross. But the Father saw not just Christ but you and me and all others who would put their faith in Christ. When we come to Jesus, God takes our old life from us (“I have been crucified with Christ”) and puts a new life in us (“Christ lives in me”). The Christian life is not a changed life; it is an EXCHANGED life. You give Christ your old life, and He puts it away in a sea of forgetfulness. And He gives you a brand new life, a new life in Christ. It is an awesome and joyous thought: “Christ lives in me!”
God’s word, the Bible, is essential to our spiritual growth and to our understanding of our identity in Christ.
Psalm 119 gives many examples how we can use the Bible.
- sing the word (172)
- speak the word (13, 46, 79)
- study the word (15, 48, 97, 148)
- store up the word (11, 93, 141)
- obey the word (8, 44, 57, 129, 145, 167)
- praise God for the word (7, 62, 164, 171)
- pray that God would act according to his word (58, 121-23, 147, 149-52, 153-60)
How many of these are you doing? How often? These are the best indicators of what we really believe and feel about the Word.
And those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
The day is coming when God will no longer need the ministry of pain. But that day cannot come until all the causes of pain have been removed. Christ came not to cleanse the leper’s scab, nor to make every lame man walk, nor to call the dead back to life. He would not have skipped his own hours of weeping. He came to deliver us from pain by quenching the bitter sources from which its streams issued. He came to redeem the world from that curse, of which pain is only one consequence. He came to vanquish the wrong and to cancel the long inheritance of evil which lies behind all pain.
Isaiah 11:1 says,
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Salvation comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.
That gives me hope. I keep expecting big and loud events to convince me and others of God’s saving power. But that’s only what the world offers on cable news and social media. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the “shoot that shall sprout from the stump.”
When I don’t see the small signs of God’s presence–the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the encouraging hug of a friend–I will always remain tempted to despair.
The baby of Bethlehem, the carpenter of Nazareth, the naked man on the cross asks for my full attention. The work of salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continue to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hiding in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.
Jesus said in John 16:33,
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Jesus was right. We have all dealt with trouble in different sizes and sources in work, family, church, and body. No one is immune. This is the absence of peace.
The Bible talks about three kinds of peace:
- Peace with others. Romans 12:18. It’s EXTERNAL and necessary for relationships.
- Peace with yourself. Colossians 3:15. It’s INTERNAL and this is our state of mind and the part that probably gives us most trouble.
- Peace with God. Romans 5:1. This is the ETERNAL peace, the most important, and comes from knowing God and being in right relationship with Him.
When you’re at peace with God you’ll be at peace with yourself and when you’re at peace with yourself you’ll be at peace with others.
That’s the direction it flows. So if you’re having “trouble,” start with God and let Him bring the peace that passes all human understanding.