Great Peace

Peace is the tranquility of order in the midst of turmoil and chaos; it’s the very nature of Christ in us (Jn 14:27): an implicit, thankful trust in the eternal purposes of God, enabling us to walk in unspeakable joy in every circumstance. (1Pe 1:7-8) Christ is always at peace in Himself, and He offers Himself to us as peace; His yoke for us is easy, and His burden is light. (Mt 11:29)

Even so, peace seems elusive since our old nature resists the prescription, though it’s elegantly straightforward: Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. (Ps 119:165)

The life of Christ in us loves Torah (Ro 7:22), and those who love Torah not only find peace, we find great peace.

The goal of Torah is to equip us for the godly life (1Ti 1:5), enabling us to understand that God has a plan, a purpose in all He allows, that His plan is good, and that He’s carrying out His plan according to His pleasure; nothing can stop Him. (Da 4:35)

In this knowledge, it’s impossible to be offended, to lose confidence in God, or to lose our hope in Him; with our eyes in eternal focus, nothing can happen to us or about us that will cause us to stumble in pursuing Him, or in seeking to please Him. (2Co 4:16-18) Torah defines moral reality; nothing else can, so being aligned with moral reality inoculates us against being offended, and maintains our internal order in the midst of conflict.

Peace isn’t the absence of conflict, it’s understanding that God’s in control in the midst of trouble, working out His glorious purpose. Peace is glorying in and rejoicing in His purpose, knowing He will glorify Himself in everything He allows. (Ro 5:3) The Father isn’t worried, anxious or afraid, and the Son is always doing what He sees the Father doing. Abiding in the Father and the Son (Jn 14:23), this is where we find life and peace. (Jn  17:3)

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Nothing Shall Offend Them

To be offended is to be resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult, injustice or impropriety. It often happens when we’re in denial about our own sin or unworthiness and someone exposes us. At it’s core, it’s an inability to reconcile ourselves with a moral demand, an unwillingness to accept it, an insistence that a moral standard be different than it is.

For example, when Christ came to His hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue, revealing Himself to be the Messiah and providing evidence through His wisdom and miracles, His neighbors were astonished (Mt 13:54) and upset, as if it were somehow inappropriate for one they knew so well to be the Messiah.

When Christ explained how such a mentality had kept people from being healed and blessed in the days of the prophets (Lk 4:24-27), rather than admitting their error, they became so enraged they tried to murder Him. (28-29) They were offended in Him (Mt 13:57), as if they couldn’t bear the thought of having been so clueless that they’d missed their own Messiah while He grew up among them.

In a similar instance, as Christ explained to those He’d just miraculously fed that they were seeking the wrong kind of nourishment (Jn 6:26-27), and that He had come down from Heaven as their spiritual food (51), but that they couldn’t be fed because they didn’t believe in Him (36), the Jews complained (42) that His claim was absurd. (52) Even many of Christ’s own disciples found this so unreasonable they didn’t see how anyone could accept it. (60) Christ noted they were allowing themselves to become offended and He challenged them (61); they wouldn’t believe even if they saw Him ascend into Heaven (62) – only those God enables can follow Him. (65) As Christ exposed this hardness and unbelief, rather than repenting, many of His disciples abandoned Him. (66)

Similarly, when we try to live for God and do the right thing, and it doesn’t go our way, when trouble and persecution come instead of blessing and comfort, if we’re seeking God’s blessings instead of God Himself we’ll be offended, as if He’s not properly honoring our service, and turn back from following Him. (Mt 13:21) It’s a refusal to acknowledge the goodness of God when He doesn’t personally bless us in the moment.

When we aren’t being treated as we think we ought to be, we’re either right about it or we aren’t. If we’re right, and a broken person is treating us wrongly, we can only be offended if we contend with them as if they’re treating us rightly, rather than dismissing their behavior as deluded and pitying them (Ps 119:158), knowing it has nothing to do with us and that God’s our Shield and Defender. (Ps 119:114)

And if we actually are being treating rightly, then we should acknowledge this, repent, and not be offended. (2Ti 2:25) So, offences don’t come because of circumstances themselves, but due to our failure to properly interpret them, to align with reality as it actually is.

So, an offense is a kind of stumbling block that turns us away from the truth because we’re unwilling to receive the truth as we perceive it to be. It should come as no surprise then that God attributes the root cause of offenses to a lack of love for His Law: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps 119:165) When we love God’s Law and choose to align with it we can’t be misaligned with moral reality, because His Law defines this reality; we choose to love this expression reality, regardless what it looks like at first.

When we feel an offense coming on, if we properly understand Torah and are submitting ourselves to it, we can check ourselves and realign with reality, and let the offense go rather than being overcome by it. In such a state, nothing offends us, and we can enjoy the amazing peace of God regardless of our circumstances. (Php 4:7)

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Be Content

The key to living in contentment, free of covetousness (Ep 5:3) and lust, lies in a promise: God has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (He 13:5)

This promise is found in multiple places, as a promise to His people as an holy nation (De 31:6) comprising all of God’s children (1Pe 2:9), and to individuals (Jos 1:5) called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28) How does this great and precious promise enable us to partake of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4), curing us of covetousness?

Covetousness is an unholy wanting, seeking after that which is forbidden us in Torah (Ro 7:7), pursuing what is contrary to God’s purpose and will for us. (Ro 12:2) It’s ultimately a form of idolatry (Col 3:5), creating a god of our own liking, a fundamental denial of the infinitude of God, an attack upon His goodness and faithfulness, rooted in that primal lie that God’s Law is keeping something good from us. (Ge 3:5) Lust is the desperate heart cry of one who fails of the grace of God (He 12:15), who’s forgotten the power and wisdom of God. (1Co 1:24)

Knowing that God is with us, that He is sufficient to supply all our need (Php 4:19), frees us from all unholy desire: if God has forbidden it we don’t need it, and it would ultimately harm us and dishonor Him. Trusting God is knowing His pleasure is ultimately for our welfare and His glory, that He’s sovereign, and that He’s perfectly good.

Being content with such things as we have, in having our basic physical needs met (1Ti 6:8), is not merely a reference to the material things of life; it extends beyond to all that we need. By His Word through His Spirit, God is equipping us with everything we need to live for Him. (2Ti 3:16-17) We aren’t perfect, for sure, and while we should ever be striving to add more virtue and knowledge to our faith (2Pe 1:5), we can be content that God is our sufficiency (2Co 3:5), that He has designed us with the gifts, experiences and temperaments that are perfectly suited to His unique and glorious purpose in each of us. (1Co 12:18).

Grasping the infinite treasure that is ours in God leaves no room for unholy passion; the cure for our covetousness is found in His promises. Contentment is an enabling grace that’s learned (Php 4:11), a soul discipline, a pillar of spiritual health.

Let’s ask God to incline our hearts away from covetousness towards His testimonies (Ps 119:36), and then apply ourselves to root out every trace of lust with the very nature of God, by letting the truth of His Way penetrate every crevasse of our mind and soul. Every step toward godliness and contentment is great gain. (1Ti 6:6)

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Christ Lives in Me

I have been observing that I don’t live in perfect peace as I ought; there’s definitely room to grow. I often tense up and experience anxiety over incidental things, worrying about what people might be thinking, or potential trouble that might cause me grief. How do I combat this?

One thought I’ve had recently relates to “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Jesus Christ lives within me (Ga 2:20), thinking and feeling as a real person. The real incarnate Christ, Who lived, breathed and walked this earth 2000 years ago, Who created the universe (Col 1:16), lives within my spirit and will as a whole person, as a divine intellect, emotion and will; not a separate person from me, but not entirely the same either. I cannot quite explain this to my own satisfaction, but it is still very, very real.

So, along the lines of the famous question, “What would Jesus do?”, I’ve started asking myself, “What is Jesus doing? What is He thinking and believing and feeling in me, right now?”

In a sense, I think this may be described as a kind of putting on of Christ, a way of emulating Him, but it seems to me a bit deeper than this. It is acknowledging that Christ Himself is already in me living and doing according to His will, as a very part of me. As I acknowledge this and align with Him, He lives ever more freely and fully and undiluted in me, delivering me from fear, anxiety and worry.

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The End of All Things

God says to us, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” (1Pe 4:7) If God was exhorting saints to prepare for the end of the world two millennia ago, then we are at a loss; the world didn’t end then and it hasn’t since. Immediate context provides precious little help in interpreting, so we turn to the broader context of Scripture for insight.

BarnInStormThe fact that God pleads with us to not expect Messiah’s return before the time (2Th 2:1-2), suggests God isn’t warning us that the end of the world is upon us; there must first come a falling away, which we still have not seen. (2Th 2:3)

The key here appears to lie in the word end, which may convey the idea of a goal, purpose or final result. (Ja 5:11) If we understand it this way, God is telling us that the goal or purpose of all things, the reason everything happens, is at hand, or obvious, or readily perceived. This divine purpose is repeated in many places, as in the immediate context, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 4:11)

God is evidently telling us that we should be sober, prayerful, thoughtful, deliberate in our actions because He intends to glorify His Son Jesus Christ in and through everything. Though sin should grieve us (Php 3:18-19), we need not fret and worry and stew over rebellion, blindness and brokenness all around us, or try in any way to control any of it; God will glorify Himself in and through it all. (Ro 11:36)

Rather than letting corruption steal our joy, we should be thankful in and for all things (Ep 5:20), knowing that our God works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and allows all for a perfect purpose: to glorify Himself. (Ps 46:10)

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