July 18, 2017

He is our peace

In a New Testament story, a jailer was dismayed when an earthquake happened and all the cell doors were open. He knew that any escaped prisoners would mean his death so was about to kill himself. However, the Apostle Paul stopped him; no one had run out of the prison. At that, the jailed asked, “What must I do to be saved?” and Paul told him about Jesus. The man believed and his fear was replaced by joy.

This passage does not say exactly what Paul told the jailer. However, the simple gospel message is that Jesus died for our sin, was buried, and rose again to offer us forgiveness and eternal life. Another way of saying it is in these two verses:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

For the jailer, being safe motivated him to ask the question about his salvation. Others are motivated by fear of death, or guilt over sin, or a sense of failure and falling short. Some are drawn by the beauty of Jesus Christ, or the way Christians love one another, or for a desire to have inner peace.

The question Christians ask is: “Have you made peace with God?” However, that isn’t quite how it works. We do very little; it is God who has offered us peace with Himself through the saving work of Jesus Christ. This peace is a major part of the gospel package. It is given to all who believe.

These days, people are agitated by fearful events and happenings. I made the mistake last night of looking at the news, then reading several chapters in a well-written murder mystery. I felt wired, mostly by the news. I could dismiss the story as fiction, but the news is real. Praying about it didn’t help. I wanted to ‘do something’ and could not sleep soundly until my thoughts rested on Jesus. As Ephesians 2:14 says, He Himself is my peace.

With many thoughts swirling around in my head, the rest of Ephesians 2 calms my heart. This world is fractured and disjointed. True Christians clash with false teachers. Children are caught in the middle of not only false teaching but the folly of parents who cannot tell them the truth because they are also trapped in the enemies lies. When I read the news, lack of peace is the negative image that highlights every news story. The book I am reading will likely end well, but even fiction can throw a darkness over God’s good news.
Those immersed in falsehood and lies feel the effects, even act out fears and frustrations in terrible ways. Yet, whenever my focus is on the Prince of Peace, I am lifted from that pit, my feet firmly planted on the Rock. God puts me in the company and support of many others who have also been lifted to new life by His good news.

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:17–22)

The difference is that peace. It starts as a gift along with faith and new life. This is the grace of God — not from good works. Peace with God is a position, a standing with God, a reality for those who believe. Nothing can take away that reality, yet negative circumstances will threaten our feelings of peace. When that happens, God says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7)

This ‘peace with God’ is a state of being, a reality regardless of my feelings. However, God also gives me this ‘peace of God’ — an emotion, a sense of well-being that fills and guards my heart, even when it makes no sense at all to be at peace. By grace, I know that God is in control; His seal on my faith is His peace.

Jesus, my citizenship is built on the peace I have with You. This peace also enhances my joyous fellowship with other Christians and creates a unity that goes beyond our differences. Your peace goes well beyond the realities of the news, the mess in the world from political situations, conflict, and tragedies. While those things drive me to prayer, the peace of God allows me to praise You and rest in You. Jesus, You are my peace. Amen!

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