December 28, 2010

To Live is Christ — seeking His peace

We approached a restaurant with a sign on the door. The words were vague. I could not discern if the door was broken or the place was closed. One of our friends made a similar comment. His wife said, “You two are alike when it comes to being particular about using the right word in the right place.” She laughed.

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” I could not agree more. Confusion reigns when a word is interpreted to mean something other than what the speaker or writer intended. Consider this verse:

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
My devotional guide says that God is the author of peace, not complacency, and never confuse the two!

Inappropriate words can give uncertain messages. For example, do you call a determined child stubborn? Could an outgoing girl be called a flirt? Does a person who thinks before he talks get unfairly dubbed shy, or an introvert? Precise words convey precise meaning. When it comes to interpreting Scripture, nothing could be more important than word definitions, at least in many cases.

As used in the Bible, “peace” is sometimes about the absence of conflict and war. However, peace can also be an inner calm when outer circumstances are far from it. This is sometimes called the peace of God and is described as “beyond understanding” because it makes no sense to be calm on the inside when all else is in turmoil.

Biblical peace is sometimes more like a legal term when it is used to describe what happens when a person becomes a Christian. While atonement was made for my sin at the cross when Jesus died, that forgiveness did not become personal until I made a personal commitment of faith in Christ and repentance from sin. As that happened, the wrath of God on my sin was replaced by grace, mercy and adoption into His family. My peace with God was secured. I may have had those new Christian problems with doubt, contrary emotions, and negative thoughts, but nothing changed the reality of this peace. It isn’t about emotions.

In contrast, complacency is about being smug. The dictionary says that a complacent person is marked by self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. That is, anyone who thinks that whatever they do is fine will be “at peace” because they see no reason to be otherwise. This could describe a sinner who thinks they do not sin, or a troublemaker who has no idea of the turmoil they cause others.

Complacency is being oblivious and having a false sense of “all is well” rather than being at peace because things are well, or because God has given an inner peace in circumstances recognized to be difficult. Complacency is not the same as peace.

The spiritual opposite of this smug satisfaction is first a conviction of sin. Those who are aware of eternal danger and are fearful of God’s wrath have moved from complacency to discontent and humility. In God’s dictionary, these are not bad words. Instead, these attitudes are vital. They move sinners toward discovering what is wrong with complacency and what is wonderful about the peace that comes from God. 

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. . . . The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 25:8–9 and Psalm 29:11)

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