3 Kinds of Peace

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:

  1. Peace with others. Romans 12:18. It’s EXTERNAL and necessary for relationships.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Your Identity comes from where you place your Security

Isaiah 28:16,

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.”

Identity is so important. What are you first and foremost? Is it defined by a role or a relationship? I think our identity (whether we can admit to it or not) is found in where we place our ultimate security.

How can you identify where you put your security? The answer lies in knowing what you fear. A job loss, death of a family member, loss of independence? Each of those can chip away at your “God security” when it is perceived to be vulnerable. Begin to place your hopes and dreams in Christ by orienting your life more towards your relationship with Him. Let Him be your all in all.

What the Scriptures are

Romans 15:4,

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

  1. The Scriptures are entirely applicable to today. “The past was written to teach us….”
  2. The Scriptures are centered in Christ. Paul’s ability to quote Psalm 69 and apply it to Christ reminds us that basically all of Scripture is ultimately about Jesus. See Luke 24:27.
  3. If used properly, the Scriptures will increase “hope” in us. This happens through endurance (hard work and discipline) and encouragement (incredible and precious promises).

Two Things which are central to Following Jesus

Paul gives us a springboard for the Christian life in the simple phrase: “Therefore…in view of God’s mercy.” And then he urges us to do two things which are central to following Jesus.

#1) (vs. 1) In view of God’s mercy…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is temple terminology. The confusion is that there were several different kinds of offerings.

  • Sin offering: But Jesus is our sin offering.
  • whole burnt offering: It had to be without defect (holy and without blemish). Why? Such an animal was expensive. It showed that all you had was at God’s disposal, not leftovers. To be a “living sacrifice” is to be fully at God’s disposal.

In mentioning our physical bodies Paul is saying that God does not want a purely inward and abstract worship, but a practical and total one. He wants us to give him everything we do.

#2) (vs. 2) In view of God’s mercy…Renew your mind. That’s how the Christian life occurs. It is the way we are to be transformed into Christ-likeness. He doesn’t define this but probably means more than just thinking true thoughts, but that the governing influence of our mind is reoriented. We could say that our imagination is captured by Christ. Who he is and what he did fires the imagination and controls our minds.

Seven Privileges that Christ Followers Possess as Adopted Children of God

Romans 8:15-17,

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  1. Security: We are not to fear but enjoy our status as a child of the King (15a). A child-parent relationship is not characterized by fear of losing the relationship.
  2. Authority: Status of “sonship” not “slave” (15a). Slaves have no authority. They only do what they are told. Children are not mere servants and have authority. The children of God are given authority over sin and the devil. They are move about the world knowing that it belongs to the Father. There should be a confidence about them. They have the honor of the family name.
  3. Intimacy: “By him we cry, ‘Abba'” (15b). “Abba” is an Aramaic term best translated “daddy.” A child doesn’t often address their father as “father.” More often they use a term that shows loving, trusting familiarity. This is how we Christians can approach the all-powerful Creator of the universe.
  4. Assurance: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (16). When we cry out to God as “Abba,” the Spirit of God somehow comes alongside us (“with our spirit”) and gives us assurance that we truly are in God’s family.
  5. Inheritance:”Now if we are children then we are heirs” (17). This means we have an incredible future. Normally the first born would get a much larger share but he calls all Christian “heirs of God.” Paul is saying that what is in store for us so is grand and glorious that it will be as though we each had along gotten most of the glory of God.
  6. Discipline: “…If indeed we share in his sufferings.” When parents discipline a child they allow or introduce a milder form of pain in order to teach or mature the child away from behavior that will lead to far greater pain later. Hebrews 12:9-10 explains.
  7. Family likeness: Christians will suffer precisely because they are brothers and sisters of Christ. We get to be like Him! Though we are adopted, God actually implants Christ’s nature in us. As children of God, we actually come to resemble the Son of God. As we bear the family likeness of suffering, we become more and more like the Son and our Father in our character and attitudes.

How the Difficult Can Be Our Friend

Sometimes as much as we hate to think about it, our past can catch up to us. We may be totally different people but you never know what the consequences of previous actions may bring years later.

Enter Jacob. 20 years had passed since he deceived his dying father and cheated his brother Esau out of the blessing that belonged to the first-born. In those 2 decades Jacob had found love, a home, and prosperity. But then the shadow of his old transgressions fell across his path. Esau is on the march to meet him with 400 armed men. Esau the cheated had sworn an oath that he would kill his brother.

After splitting his company in 2, Jacob prayed that God would deliver him. He also sent presents to his brother. Then Jacob remained alone to wait. It turned out to be his life’s greatest experience. Do not fear your solitary moments. God will come closer to you than at any time.

What happened? He wrestled with some unknown assailant from midnight to dawn. In awful solitude they fought. Jacob seemed to have an advantage when his mysterious opponent somehow got his hip or thigh out of joint. Yet Jacob fought on.

As the morning dawned, Jacob found out this wasn’t an enemy but an angel. Jacob gripped him close and cried, “I will not let go until you bless me.” The angel blessed him and departed.

What opposes us in life, even our past, or what makes us struggle is, after all, not an enemy but a friend in disguise. Do not mourn over the hard and difficult experiences of life that have thrown your thigh out of joint, for in ways that you know not they have made you strong. Make sure that you utter the prayer of struggling Jacob, “I will not let go until you bless me!”

The Message of Hell

Is it possible to love someone in healthy ways after they threaten, “Love me or I will do you harm?” No. But isn’t that what God does to us with the threat of hell? Isn’t the point of hell to scare us to salvation?

Jesus taught that whoever is forgiven much, loves much; and whoever is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7:47). Truly loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind requires that we understand He has forgiven us much. Our love treasures God, not simply a means to avoid His wrath. So threatening people harm if they don’t love you can’t produce biblical love. At best it can create a parody of obedience.

This means we (and God) can’t scare anyone into heaven. Our walk with Christ is not simply a self-serving choice to live in heaven rather than suffer in hell. In order for us to experience the joys of heaven, we must love Him.

To motivate genuine holiness, hell must first be perceived as a just destiny of those who have broken the righteous standards of God. Those standards must be seen as rooted in the holiness of God, and their transgression as deserving an eternal penalty. When this is properly understood, then the MERCY of God that saves us from the just penalty of hell, more than hell itself, is what generates love for Him.

But this is the problem: this mature understanding of God’s holiness, justice, and mercy is not where most people begin their Christian walk. Most people turn to Christ because of the despairs of this life, not because they are dodging the despairs of the afterlife.

Most people love Christ initially because of His rescue from the present hell of earthly existence, the falleness of our humanity as seen in loneliness, emptiness, guilt, shame, depression, addiction, sickness, relational fractures. This is why Jesus was being true to the human experience as well as the spiritual task when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He understood the pains of this life could be as compelling as the threats of the next.

Early in their Christian experience most people have no concept of what they have done that would deserve eternity in hell.

Theologians defend the doctrine of hell with the rationale that people deserve infinite and eternal punishments of hell because sin is against an infinitely holy and eternal God. It makes sense to a theologian but not for almost everyone else.

If even Hitler or Stalin were to scream in agony for thousands of years, most people would be ready to end these monsters’ pain. And arguing that an unending hell  awaits if my neighbor or my aunt whose greatest earthly crime appears to be an unkind grouch, seems outside any standard of of justice that we associate with Christ’s nature.

So how do we explain that Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible? Part of the answer lies in the fact that Jesus reserved his harshest words for those who were relying on their self-righteousness to get them to heaven. They needed to know that separation from the blessings of God was the future of all who do not seek God through His Son.

Jesus’ greatest expressions of mercy and grace were poured on those who believed they had no hope of heaven due to their failings and sin. Their despair in this life and the provision of security for the next life made Christ’s grace welcome and powerful. His love for the outcast and despicable is what drew hearts to him. He usually reserved comments about hell with the intention of making the proud understand how desperate they were apart from Him.

One reason that hell is eternal is that no one there says to God, “Let me out–I want to honor and serve you now!” Hell is total, conscious, eternal separation from the blessings of God because those there get exactly what they want: total and continual autonomy from God’s influence and care.

For believers, such freedom FROM their Savior would be agony. Christ’s warning them of hell and offering to save them from its just consequences is a grace that makes want Him forever.

Though the sinful suffer in hell, they prefer its agonies to honoring Christ’s glory.

Christ speaks so much about hell because His grace requires that He warn all about the consequences of their choices. Because God is holy and just, He will punish wickedness and purify His kingdom. Grace requires that He do each of these. Grace also compels Him to offer peace to those alarmed by the realities of hell.