Peace, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5:22), is so basic to spiritual health (Ro 14:17) God consistently begins with it. (Ro 1:7, 1Co 1:3, 2Co 1:2, Ga 1:3, Ep 1:2, Php 1:2, Col 1:2, 1Th 1:1, 2Th 1:2, 1Ti 1:2, 2Ti 1:2, Tit 1:4, Phm 1:3, 1Pe 1:2, 2Pe 1:2, 2Jn 1:3, Jud 1:2, Re 1:4)
It’s evidently not a lesser form of joy, for then God filling us with both joy and peace would be redundant. (Ro 15:13) Neither is it the absence of conflict and trouble; we may lose peace simply in fearing discomfort. Yet in Christ we may have peace in the midst of suffering and trial. (Jn 16:33)
Peace is the state of being undisturbed, calm, tranquil, unafraid, untroubled. (Jn 14:27) The opposite is anxiety, worry, and fear. Peace is Jesus asleep in the midst of a violent storm, as His disciples are freaking out. (Mt 8:23-27) It’s Elisha surrounded by an entire army that’s come to take him, knowing they’re no match for God. (2Ki 6:15-17)
Peace is being able to see afar off, from God’s perspective (Ps 119:165), keeping the whole of the eternal plan in mind in the midst of conflict. (He 11:13) As we abide in Christ (1Jn 2:28), knowing He is infinitely sovereign, good and faithful, Christ offers us His perspective, and along with this His peace, the peace that passes all understanding. (Php 4:6-7)
Lately things have been rough at work; I’ve been cringing when my phone signals a new email, suspecting bad news or a political trap to sort through. I fight the sense of worry, anxiety, but emotions are hard to control. They reveal beliefs in the context of life; by observing our feelings we can tell what we really believe; they reveal our faith.
I’ve not been filled with joy; I’ve not been abounding in hope; so, I’ve been living in denial of God’s faithfulness, that whatever happens will turn out for my good and God’s glory. (Ro 8:28) I’ve had no peace, no rest in my spirit (Php 4:6-7), struggling with fear, not trusting. This isn’t where I’m supposed to live (He 13:5-6); it’s contrary to the gospel. (Ga 2:14)
But the God of hope calls me, to fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Ro 15:13) There is then a connection between abounding in hope, and believing God unto joy and peace.
It’s not that I will never suffer or be in trouble (2Co 1:8); I’m to believe the world is unable to harm me spiritually; nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ (Ro 8:38-39); no matter what comes I will always be more than a conqueror through the grace of God. (Ro 8:37)
I will overcome (1Jn 5:4), because Christ overcame (Jn 16:33), and He will do so again in me. (Col 1:27) This is all the hope I need: in the end, I will be found a good and faithful servant. (Mt 25:23)
I believe God will help me live for Him; He will work in me to seek His face until my dying day (Jud 24) … for this is what He’s always been about in me. It’s His work (1Co 1:30), and He will continue to perform it until the day of Christ. (Php 1:6)Of this I am confident … I believe … and the truth of His Word is producing hope in me, even as I write it out.
How about you? Are you abounding in hope? To continue building up our faith (Jud 1:20-21) is to find more and more hope, to the anchoring of our souls (He 6:19) … ’till we’re abounding in hope through the power of God.
One of these basic truths is that God loves each one of us enough to become our sin(2Co 5:21); He’s willing to lay down His life to rescue a single human soul. He thus places infinite value on each one of us.
In light of JEHOVAH’s valuing of us, for us to value the opinions of others above His, to be moved to feel more or less significant or treasured in how others treat us, is to effectively discount and dismiss God’s valuing of us, to trade in His estimation for Man’s … which must be immensely offensive and insulting to Him, our enmity towards the Godhead constantly bleeding through. (Ro 8:7)
We do this in countless ways as we react to the opinions of others; in being threatened and intimidated by their disapproval, and basking in their praise … we’re treating them as idols(1Jn 5:21), as if they’re God.
It isn’t that the discernment of others shouldn’t matter at all; their judgments, observations, complaints and encouragements are a rich source of wisdom in our pursuit of holiness — others can often see our faults, weaknesses and strengths much more easily than we can. It’s that we must keep this all in perspective; it’s a very small thing(1Co 4:3), incidental, trinkets among gems; all else is the fear of man. (Pr 29:25)
Even in something as small as winning or losing a game or contest, do we feel better or worse about ourselves either way? What does this really look like when we’reloving one anotheras ourselves, and God with all our hearts?
The pride of life(1Jn 2:16) is valuing, or even disvaluing ourselves, apart from God (Ja 4:10); thinking we can judge human worth or significance in any way on our own. (Mt 7:1) It’s an abomination to God (Lk 16:15), and seems as natural as breathing. (Job 15:16)
If the king is a personal friend, whom I can call and chat with on a whim, and is pleased with me, what does it matter if others are, or aren’t? How much more so with the King of glory, ought we to focus solely on hearing Him say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)
When God tells us to love others as ourselves (Le 19:18), there’s an implicit command to love ourselves, to treat ourselves and each other with honor and respect as children of JEHOVAH; the command is empty otherwise.
Unless we love ourselves, how can we love others? And if we don’t love others, how can we love God? (1Jn 4:20)
This isn’t about putting ourselves first (2Ti 3:2); self-focus can be strangely twisted, fearing success, prosperity, blessing, and envying those who find it. It isn’t even about liking ourselves, or thinking we’re better than others; that’s pride.
At it’s root, love is benevolence: desiring the best, for ourselves and others (1Co 10:24), seeking the well-being of all, the harm of none. (Php 2:15) It’s rejoicing in another’s prosperity and grieving in their loss. (Ro 12:15) It’s being aware of others, of what they’re perceiving and valuing, ever seeking to help them become their very best selves. (Php 2:4)
Loving God is loving what He loves, hating what He hates. (Ps 97:10) If God so loveseach one of us that He’ll become our sin and die in our place, placing infinite value on every single human soul, we certainly ought to seek each other’s welfare, including our own. (1Jn 4:11) Seeking God, cleaving to JEHOVAH with all our heart and encouraging others to do the same, is the beginning of love (2Jn 1:6); there is no welfare outside Him. (Re 22:15)
Growing in God is growing in benevolence (1Th 3:12), becoming more like Him. (Mt 5:44-45) When I find myself disinterested in the welfare of another, or neglecting my own, Father, remind me of Your heart; Your arms are always open, inviting us all to come, and always will be. (Re 22:17)
God tells us to receive with meekness the engrafted word, that it’s able to save our souls. (Ja 1:21) He tells us this after affirming He’s chosen to conceive us by His own will, not our own, with the word of truth (Ja 1:18); so, this salvation can’t be justification (Ro 4:25); it must be an ongoing process, something He’s performing in us now (Php 1:6) through His word. (Ep 5:26)
This word engrafted appears only here in our bible; it means grafted, implanted, transplanted, moved from some place beyond ourselves and permanently seeded and rooted within us. It’s the living expression of God (He 4:12) that becomes a part of our very being (Col 3:16), two distinct living things becoming a single, unique life, God’s words themselves being spirit and life (Jn 6:63), bringing healing within – salvation, deliverance, freedom.
Perhaps this is just another way of God telling us what He’s been saying all along: commanding us to hide His words in our hearts(De 6:6), to meditate in them all the time (Jos 1:8), that we might not sin against Him (Ps 119:11), and prosper in all that we do. (Ps 1:2-3) As we obey Him here He writes His laws into us (He 10:16), enabling us to free ourselves from the lies and bondage of the enemy (2Ti 2:26) so that we might live for Him. (He 9:14)
In seeking all of God, as He is through His Word, obeying all we’re able to obey, He works His words into the fabric of our being, planting them deeply within our minds and hearts, progressively freeing us to obey Him, abounding more and more in us in love for Him and others (Php 1:9), that we might approve what’s excellent, being sincere and without offence until Judgement Day (Php 1:10), filling us with righteousness by and through Christ unto His glory. (Php 1:11)
God is honorable, worthy of great respect and esteem. (Re 4:11). All in heaven honor Him (Re 19:7); how might we do so here on Earth?
A primary way we honor God is by believing Him, taking Him at His word, acting as if everything He says is true, trusting Him. We call it faith. Anything else is calling Him a liar (1Jn 5:10); certainly not honoring to Him.
Obeying God honors Him by acknowledging His right to order our lives, to require right behavior of us, which is itself honorable. (Ro 2:10) Disobeying Him flaunts His authority and majesty, rejects His lordship and moves Him to wrath and indignation towards us. (Rom 2:8)
Treating our own selves with dignity, honoring all as God’s children, also honors Him, for we’re made in His image. (1Th 4:4-5) Purging all dishonorable activity and influences from our lives suits us for His service. (2Ti 2:21)
It is also honoring to God to suffer in hope(Ro 5:3), knowing He’s working all things for our good (Ro 8:28), and that He will be glorified in the end. (1Pe 1:7)
A more subtle way in which we might honor our God is by acknowledging His goodness, giving Him the benefit of the doubt, as we’re laying the practical foundations of spiritual life. For example, the Bible says God inspired scripture (2Ti 3:16); in accepting this we know the autographs, the original Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, were inspired by God.
Yet the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us whether any copies or translations of the autographs also contain this inspired property, so we must make an assumption about that: either God did preserve His Word for us in an inspired form, so that we can access a modern version of the scriptures today, in a common language, one that’s equivalent to the originals for all practical purposes, or He didn’t.
Which assumption honors Him? Gives Him the benefit of the doubt? Shall we assume God inspired His word for no practical reason, such that no one has ever actually benefited from this special quality? Shall we act as if no one has ever held a perfectly trustworthy Bible in their hands, one they could call the authentic word of God? Or shall we assume that God inspired His word for a purpose (2Ti 3:17), and that He is fulfilling that purpose, and act accordingly?
Most of us assume He didn’t, and assume inspiration is confined to the autographs, in a perfectly useless place. We’re encouraged to depend on pastors, teachers and theologians to reveal scripture to us. We don’t think we have access to the Word of God today, so we don’t tend to hide scripture in our heartsand meditate on it day and night, like God tells us to. (De 6:6) It’s hard enough to do this with a text we trust, so most of us have given up before we even start. But is this honoring to God?
Wouldn’t it honor God more if we expected Him to act with integrity, with intention? Being Who He is, faithful and true (Re 19:11), wouldn’t He enable our journey with an inspired version of His word in a modern language, a book we can read and understand for ourselves, to feed and guide us safely home, seeing that’s why He gave us the scripture in the first place? If we acted like He did, would we expect this to please Him, or disappoint Him?
In 1859 Charles Darwin published his claim that life evolved from a single original life form, without the aid of intelligence. Evolution in itself was not a novel idea, but Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection explained how species might have arisen by random chance, without a god. Since that time, atheists have managed to redefine science itself, asserting that intelligence may not be considered in any scientific explanation, no matter what the data implies.
But the actual scientific evidence available to Darwin troubled him; he never could explain the Cambrian Explosion: the sudden appearance of all known life forms (phyla), all at once in the fossil record, with no evidence of evolutionary history.
Darwin hoped subsequent discoveries would vindicate him, but after 150 years of intense research, they haven’t; the problem is worse than Darwin suspected. His theory is therefore presently in crisis. In other words, hardened atheists are finally being forced to concede that Darwin’s theory is inconsistent with the fossil record, and they’ve nothing to replace it with.
Scientifically speaking, trying to explain the origins of life without intelligence is a dead end: life does not come from non-life, and it’s inconceivable that any part of the complex biological mechanism comprising the building blocks of life formed by chance: it’s much easier to randomly select, on our very first attempt, a single marked atom from among all the atoms in our galaxy.
When it comes to spiritual things, expecting anyone to concede a position based merely on reason and evidence is also a dead end; unless God mercifully intervenes, we continue to hope in the hopeless, even in the face of such mathematical improbability. This is scientific evidence that Man is desperately wicked, driven by a freely chosen disdain for God, and that atheism itself is especially foolish. (Ro 1:21)
God says He created all living things to reproduce after their kind. (Ge 1:25) This is exactly what the scientific record reveals, and we now know this conclusively.
We ought not to be intimidated by irrational, unscientific claims, even when very smart people make them: there can be no real contradiction between science and metaphysical reality. (1Ti 6:20)
Being in the presence of Almighty God is amazing, and we’re all continually in His presence (He 13:7); there is no place or time where God’s not fully present (Ps 139:7) or His glory hidden. (Is 6:3)
We’re instinctively aware of His presence: we know He hears us as we pray, any time, anywhere. So, if we aren’t enjoying God it isn’t because He’s far away, it’s that we’re ignorant (Ep 4:18) and blind. (2Ki 6:17)
It’s impossible to be physically separated from God, to create any space between Him and anyone else. Anyone who desires the infinite God is invited to continually enjoy His glory (2Co 3:18), basking in His immediate presence and feeding in His majesty, in unbroken fellowship with Him. (Ps 16:11) The question isn’t, “Where is God?” but “Where are we.” (Ge 3:9) Do we want Him?
We may think we do, that we’d simply love for Him to reveal Himself to us … but if we aren’t already enjoying Him all the time, cleaving to Him, delighting in His Law and rejoicing in Him every hour of the day, when He’s right beside us, in and through us (Ac 17:28) … if we aren’t avidly internalizing the written revelation in which He’s already revealing Himself (Col 3:16), continually hiding it in our hearts so we won’t offend Him (Ps 119:11), and systematically meditating on it so we’ll know Him (Ps 119:99), it should be obvious that we’re not after God Himself.
I think what most of us are really after is an image we’ve constructed of God in our own minds, an idol in every sense: we’re making a god up as we wish him to be, like ourselves: aloof, uncaring, capricious, unjust, hard to reach and connect with. But God isn’t like that: He’s anything but that.
Let’s face it: the problem isn’t God … it’s us. The problem isn’t findingGod, it’s wantingHim. Being with God isn’t an option; no one will ever be separated from God, not now, not ever, not even in Hell. What makes Hell unbearable isn’t the absence of God, but His holy, terrifying, indignant presence, as He unveils His infinitely holy nature to the desperately wicked, who genuinely hate and despise Him, which is, evidently, almost everyone. (Ro 3:11)
We can choose to seek God(He 11:6) until He transformsus into beings who enjoy Him, drinking Him into our innermost being, or we can continue trying to hide, lurking in make-believe shadows, hating the light (Jn 3:19-20), as we did in the Garden in our primal father, Adam. (Ge 3:8) Either way, we’re all going to spend eternity with Him, and He’s spending eternity with each and every one of us, right now.
The shield of faith enables us to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ep 6:16) These fiery darts aren’t physical, but they’re very real. What are they? How do we quench them?
The wicked shoot fiery darts and arrows at us with their words: sharp, biting, cutting remarks designed to wound and scar us. (Pr 12:18) The poison and fire they carry are lies intended to make us feel unimportant and inferior, ashamed, rejected and unloved, isolated and vulnerable.
The wicked are prompted to speak these words by their father (Jn 8:44) the enemy, who works in them (Ep 2:2) to steal our joy, kill our passion and zeal, and destroy our witness. (Jn 10:10) As we receive these words, the enemy injects the emotions of fear, rejection and shame into our minds and hearts, lending supernatural, debilitating force to the jabs. It is an all-out, frontal assault on our spiritual life, from which we must be quick to defend ourselves.
When our faith shields are down, and we aren’t being mindful of the precious promises and faithfulness of God, we let these darts through to wound us. They continue to afflict and harm us until we engage our faith, lifting our shields to heal our minds and hearts, by reminding ourselves of the three basic truths:
We’re loved infinitely by God (1Jn 3:1), Whose love is all we’ll ever need; we’re totally accepted by Him in Christ (Ep 1:6), and for Christ’s sake. (Ep 4:32)
God is in control of all things at all times (Da 4:35), and He has a glorious purpose in all our suffering (Ro 5:3-5); nothing is out of order or amiss in His plan (Ep 1:11), and
We each have a unique purpose in God’s eternal plan (2Ti 1:9), and He’s working everything out for our good and for His glory, all the time. (Ro 8:28)
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31) We thus dismiss these fiery darts as the nothings that they really are, ignoring them as lies with no substance, and continue rejoicing in God.
In understanding that those delivering the enemy’s darts are lost, or perhaps that the enemy’s exploiting the elect as they walk out the mystery of faith, as they reach out to us in love and good conscience as best they can, we’re free to look for and receive any constructive criticism or wisdom to strengthen our walk with God, without any threat to our souls, and be the better for it.
Without God, the human heart is totally depraved, unable to do anything good. (Je 13:23) Even the best of men are like this, in and of themselves. (Jn 15:5) In our natural state we’re prone to wander away from God, away from the light, from all that’s wholesome and good, and grope about in the darkness for security, fulfillment, and purpose.
We wander away from God by neglecting and forgetting His commands, Torah, and as we do we deceive ourselves (Jas 1:22) into thinking that we aren’t actually wandering off, that we’re following God and doing the right thing. We ignore God’s definition of sin(1Jn 3:4) and light (Pr 6:23), thinking we can decide what’s good and evil on our own, just making it up as we go.
It’s not just that we’re blind without God, that we can’t see, it’s that in our natural state we lovedarkness; we hate light. (Jn 3:19) This mindset can’t be reasoned with; it isn’t rational, and it’s our default state, as natural as breathing. We can’t escape it because we won’t, ever, not unless He quickens us. (Ep 2:1)
Knowing this, yet finding within ourselves that our hearts actually are going fully after God, cleaving to Him and keeping His Law, we pray with the psalmist, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (Ps 119:10) We acknowledge that this in itself is the work of God, that we are going after Him, and we ask God to maintain this Godward state in us, to keep us from wandering away from His Law, away from Him. We ask Him to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before Himself, knowing He’s able and willing to do this. (Jud 1:24)
Yes, God works in His own to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13) He opens our eyes and gives us delight in His law(Ro 7:22) and in Himself, in His way, sanctifying us and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. We can’t explain our love for Him in and through Torah any other way. (Ro 8:7)
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart LORD, take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.” (R. Robinson)