Defeating Pride by Showing Honor

“Outdo one another showing honor…”
(Rom 12:10)

The attitude of pride and arrogance is like a cancer in the body of Christ.  A prideful spirit focuses all the attention on itself, sucks up all the body’s resources, and if unchecked will, ultimately, spread throughout the body bringing death in its wake. That is the power of pride.

Pride comes in all shapes and sizes.  It is the arrogant and boastful person who likes to be the center of attention; never really listening to what others have to say, only waiting for another opportunity to speak.  It is there in the unyielding, undisciplined spirit that refuses to submit to the authority of God’s Word, and certainly not to the authority of the elders.  Pride is at the heart of the disaffected member who clings to the bitterness of past offenses and refuses to forgive and be forgiven.  It is pride that keeps us from confessing our sins that we may be reconciled, sharing our sorrows that we may be comforted, revealing our needs that we may be supported, and withholding our gifts so that others may be built up.

To be honest, pride is the sin that I struggle with most.  I think this is one of the great hazards of the ministry.  It’s difficult to stand in front of a congregation Sunday after Sunday, preaching the Word, and not letting the appreciation and praise from the congregation go right to your head. When the congregation is growing, and people are responding to the gospel, the temptation for the pastor is to think that this is his work, and to revel in the glory.

Add to that my disposition toward those activities that highlight individual achievement.  I love to run, and when I cross the finish line, that’s one more thing to boast about.  I love the theater, to stand front and center in the spotlight, leading the show and hearing the applause of the crowd.

All of these things feed the prideful spirit.  And yet, when you feed pride, it’s a lot like eating Chinese food.  You get filled up quickly, but an hour later you’re hungry for more.  There’s never enough praise, never enough attention, and the successes of others is a threat to your achievement.

So how do we root out this pernicious and perilous pride?  I believe the apostle Paul is addressing this in Romans 12:10 when he tells the Christian, “Outdo one another showing honor.”  It almost sounds like a sport.  Make a competition of honoring one another.  If you are going to excel at something, if you want to show off, then show your mad skills in honoring those around you.  If you want to stand in the spotlight, use your time there to bring glory to God and to honor others.

In order to truly honor others, you have to begin by humbling yourself.  Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Humbling yourself simply means having a right understanding of your own situation in relation to God and to others.

Here’s the humbling truth: Standing in the presence of God apart from Christ you are a wretched and wicked sinner in desperate need of salvation. It doesn’t matter how eloquent you might be, or what achievements you’ve had in work or in play – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And the Good News is just as humbling, for it is 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.”  There is no place in the body of Christ for pride, and if we are to boast, let us boast only in the cross of Christ our savior (Gal 6:14).

Once we have a true measure of ourselves in the light of God’s Word, and when we come to trust in His sovereign work for our eternal security, then we can have the confidence and strength to seek the honor of others before ourselves.  Pride is really nothing more than a defense against a perceived threat. When we rest secure in the promises of God, then pride serves no purpose, and we can honor God and one another as we are commanded.

Let us then root out this pride that so easily disrupts the Christian life, the arrogance that keeps us from being reconciled and united in the Lord.  Trusting in God’s grace, let us confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and preach the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ for all eternity. Resting secure in His work, may we outdo one another in showing honor.

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Brotherly Affection

“Love One Another with Brotherly Affection…”

Romans 12:10

Romans 12:9-21 gives us a picture of what the Christian character, and the Christian community, ought to look like. As I’ve written here over the past few weeks, this Christian life begins with a genuine and sincere love for God and for one another. In loving God, we grow to hate that which is evil, and cling to that which is good and true. Today we see how we are to treat one another.

Paul writes that we are to love one another with brotherly affection. Now while I love the ESV translation of scripture, there are times when the Greek really has more to offer. This love to which we are called to have for one another in the Greek text is really a combination of two words, philos – meaning brotherly love – and stergo – which means “natural affection. Essentially the word, which is only found in this passage in Romans, calls for a devotion or loving-kindness that is naturally found in the family – in parents for their children, or the love that binds brothers. In other words, the Christian is reminded to love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood. Matthew Henry wrote, this “kind affection puts us on to express ourselves both in word and action with the greatest courtesy and obligingness that may be.”

But let’s be honest. I grew up with an older brother and younger sister, and I know we didn’t always get along. I am raising four kids of my own, and not a day goes by that there is not some skirmish or battle between the brothers. They wouldn’t fight like this with their friends, but their brothers are free game.

Sadly, I see this in the church, too. I came to realize, very early in ministry, that often Christians will treat their brothers and sisters in Christ far worse than they would a total stranger. It’s in the slander and gossip that flows under the guise of a “prayer chain” and the cold and unforgiving glare in the “fellowship” time after worship. It’s in the dismissive attitude that one elder has for another, and in the deacon’s refusal to care for that member who’s always asking for help. The community of faith, which ought to be a witness to the forgiveness and transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, frequently clouds that witness in the way they treat one another.

How do we, then, maintain our witness as we love one another with brotherly affection?

Remember You are Brethren, Purchased by Christ.
I realize when I give bullet points like this, I usually start out with a “remember” point. There’s good reason for that. So much of what we’re supposed to do flows out of what’s already been done. What we do as the Christian community comes from who we are in Christ. It is because of what He has done, having purchased us by His blood (1 Pet 1:18-19), having broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us and made us one body in Him (Eph 2:14). Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are made the children of God, )with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph 4:5-6).

We are then, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Let us “therefore, by the mercies of God” live with love toward our brethren. When we address one another, let us remember that we are addressing one for whom Christ died, one in whom the grace of God is working, one in whom the Spirit of God is sanctifying. When we speak to other Christians, we are addressing the child of the King of Heaven, a fellow heir and saint by grace through faith, a new creation through the Spirit and the Word.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven
If you live with someone long enough, you are bound to need forgiveness. Disagreements and arguments are normal in any family, and the family of faith is not immune. You will not find in Scripture any congregation that is above correction, for on this side of eternity the Church and it’s members is being made holy – we have not arrived.

And so we are “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). This, of course, reminds us that each of us has been forgiven, and the grace we have been shown in Jesus Christ is the same grace we are to extend to one another. This means seeking out those whom we have harmed and asking for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24), and eagerly seeking to be reconciled with those who have brought us harm.

Rejoice in the Lord Always
In all things, as we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord our overriding theme should be joy in the Christ. While we may not always see eye to eyes as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can agree to let the joy of Christ be our theme.

What is this joy? It is the joy that Christ came to make complete in our lives (John 15:11). It is the joy of knowing that we are reconciled with God and at peace with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the joy of having full assurance of salvation in Christ alone. It is the joy of being one with kindred spirits as the body of Christ. It is the joy of belonging to a family whose foundations run deeper and truer than flesh and blood. It is the joy of being “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). It is quite simply that as we are one with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as Calvin once wrote, “come what may, believers, having the Lord standing on their side, have sufficient ground of joy.”

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hold Fast…

“Hold Fast to What is Good…”
(Rom 12:9)

There are days when we have more questions than answers; more doubts than assurances.

  • Wondering why the wicked prosper and the righteous struggle through the day.
  • Wondering how God will provide when there’s more month than money.
  • Wondering if that prayer for healing, for peace, for assurance will ever be answered.
  • Wondering what meaning could possibly be found in the midst of this trial and suffering.

Questions and doubts like these have the potential to rob us of our comfort and peace in believing.  We struggle in that “dark night of the soul,” grasping to something, anything, that will bring us through.

This is why the Spirit teaches us to “Hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9).  Like a survivor of a shipwreck who clings to the life preserver, we must hold fast to that which is certain to bring us through to salvation. This term “hold fast” is the same term that Scripture uses in describing marriage, “He shall leave his father and mother, and hold fast to his wife” (Gen 2:24).  It’s not simply a desperate grasping at straws, hoping to find something to hold on to, but rather it is coming back to the assurance that comes with God’s covenant promise.  Hold fast, rest in, the goodness of the promise.

So, briefly, what is this good to which we are to hold fast in the midst of our doubts and troubles?  Let me offer three “goods” that Scripture calls us to hold on to.

Hold fast to the truth.

One of my favorite passages from the preliminary statements of the Book of Church Order in the PCA (I know, that phrase scores high on the geek scale), is this:

“That truth is in order to goodness; and a great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness; according to our Savior’s rule, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.”

Can we not say that we live in a day when truth and falsehood are presented as equal? When we are unable to say which bathroom a person ought to use without being labeled a “hate-monger,” and a Harvard law professor tells his students that Evangelical Christians should be treated like Nazi criminals; I’d say its time for us to hold fast to the truth.

Where do we find that truth?  In the word of God.  Jesus said that those who are the good soil are those who, “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).  Paul says we are to “hold fast to the word of life (Philippians 2:16). 1 Thessalonians 5:21 teaches us to test everything and hold fast to the truth. When someone comes along claiming to know the truth, test it against the Word of God. When troubles come and cause you to doubt, test them against the Word of God.  Hold fast to the truth of God’s Word.

Hold fast to hope.

Not only are we to hold on to the truth, but we must remain in that truth with hopefulness.  Holding fast to truth without hope can result in a rather dour and pessimistic outlook on life.  But faith is both truth and hopefulness.  I remember reading somewhere that Biblical hope is not an uncertain desire, it is a confident expectation.  When we are established in the truth of God’s Word, and rest in His promises, we have a confident expectation that His Word and His promise are true and will be fulfilled.

This is what Hebrews 10:23 teaches, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  So hold fast to the hopeful expectation of God’s goodness and mercy, for this hope “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Hold fast to Christ.

Ultimately, the truth and the hope to which we must hold fast is found in Jesus Christ.  In Him alone is the truth, and in Him alone is the fulfillment of every promise of God. Christ is the Word of God incarnate, the living embodiment of God’s truth. He is God’s “Yes” and “Amen,” the faithful and true witness.  He is the “hope of the world” (Matt. 12:21), and in Him “will the Gentiles put their hope” (Rom 5:12).

In the midst of the doubts and questions, the troubles and the fears, hold fast to that which is good; hold fast to Christ.

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abhorring Evil

“Abhor Evil…”
Rom 12:9

We are living in evil days.  There is boldface murder of the unborn under the guise of “reproductive freedom,” and the profiteering and politicizing of this atrocity.  Around the world Christians are persecuted for their faith with little to no repercussion.   Politicians pander in deception, misdirection, and lies, and advance their careers upon their falsehood with impunity.  In our culture wickedness and godlessness are not just tolerated but encouraged, and those who are most provocative are set forward as “role models” for our young men and women.

And so when the Spirit teaches us to “abhor evil” in Romans 12:9, we find this something we are ready and willing to do.  It is easy to identify the evil and wickedness of the age.  The filthy and lurid putrescence of the day stands out like soiled garments to those who are even tangentially familiar with godliness.  We are quick to decry the offending evil around us and to pronounce our condemnation upon the evil in the lives of others.

But what about the evil in our own hearts? We certainly may have routed out the more visible sins in our lives – immorality, licentiousness, drunkenness, and the like – but we gladly turn a blind eye to the gossip, the bitterness, the envy, and the judgmentalism in our own hearts. It is easy to hate the evil of others and to dismiss our own.

The Westminster Confession reminds us that repentance, which is a gift of grace, leads a sinner to realize the “filthiness and odiousness of his sins” that he might grieve for and hate his sins, “to turn from them all unto God.”  (Notice that the direction of repentance is inward, not dealing with the sins of others, but with our own.) We don’t come to abhor our sins by the power of our will or a determination to better ourselves.  This conviction of our sinfulness and repulsion for our sin, is the working of God’s Holy Spirit within us. As the Spirit leads us to know and understand the greatness of the glory of God, the depth of our depravity, and the extent to which Christ has gone to purchase our salvation, we will come more and more to hate our own sinfulness and to turn from it.  Charles Spurgeon once said, “I hate sin not because it damns me, but because it has done God wrong. To have grieved my God is the worst grief to me.”

And therein lies the key to hating sin and evil. It is not enough to simply stop doing evil and picking up a few good habits. Doing this will only replace the wickedness of our hearts with some rigid morality and legalism – which may be an even more pernicious evil.

This was the fault of the pharisees. They practiced outwardly the habits of ceremonial cleanliness, while their hearts were far from God.  Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt 23:27–28).

What we need is  what Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” The only way to truly abhor the evil of our hearts and of the world is to find a new love.  As we turn our eyes to Christ, and find in Him the deeply satisfying glory of purity and holiness, we will see more and more the emptiness and futility of evil.  As we come to know the sweet and refreshing fragrance of the joy of Christ, the foul offense of evil will become detestable to our senses.  As we behold more and more the beauty of our ascended Lord, the hideousness of evil will cause us to fly from this world into His everlasting arms.

So let us learn in the Spirit to abhor sin, the sin of the world, and the sin in our hearts. But let our hatred of sin come only as we gaze upon the goodness and loveliness of Christ our Savior!

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Genuine Love

“Let love be genuine…”
(Rom 12:9)

The song “Elijah” by Rich Mullins has been coming up frequently as of late on my Running Playlist, and this particular line has stuck in my head:

There’s people been friendly, but they’d never be your friends
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground

Sadly, I think we all know too well what this verse means.  There are those who will be nice to your face, but would never be your friend. You’ve got hundreds of “Friends” on Facebook, but not one person who calls to check in, or stops by for a visit. There is no pain quite like that of a betrayal of someone once considered a friend.  The more “connected” we try to get with Social-Media, or throwing ourselves into our kid’s school and extracurricular activities, the more isolated and alone we feel.  We hear “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24), and we ask, “Where is that brother for me?” We long for genuine friendship, for connection, for belonging.

When Paul addressed the Church in Rome about their life together as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1), he began with this notion of genuine love.  The word “genuine” here is “anypokritos” in the Greek, literally meaning, “without hypocrisy.” Historically, the word “hypocrite” is a theatrical term, referring to those who wore a mask in order to assume or pretend to be someone or something which they are not. So Paul is saying, “Don’t be a false friend, don’t be a poser!”  Donald Barnhouse once wrote, “True love must leave the stage and walk the paths of real life.”  There is no room in the Christian life for pretend love, because that is an empty love, it isn’t really love at all.

This is demonstrated throughout the New Testament:

  • When Peter was forgiven and restored, the question was not, “Do you believe in me?” but “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-19).
  • The parable of the Good Samaritan was told as an illustration of what loving your neighbor looks like (Luke 10:27-37).
  • Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another, even as he has love us, in laying down our lives for one another (John 13:34).
  • There is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
  • Love for Christ is demonstrated in obedience to His commands (John 14:23-24).
  • And perhaps hitting the nail directly on its head: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17–18).

The love that is characteristic of the Christian life and community is not an empty sentimentality; it is not a mere profession of love without an affection to support it. No, it is a genuine love that is modeled on the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus our Lord. You cannot say you love God and the church unless you are willing to back it up with genuine love. Get real, because the world doesn’t need another pretender, another false friend and empty demonstration of love.

  • The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that is slow to anger and quick to forgive the offenses of others, even before they seek forgiveness.
  • The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that puts other’s needs before your own, and cares for and visits those in need.
  • The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that bears the burdens of others and earnestly prays for each other.
  • The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that puts in overtime at work in order to help pay your neighbor’s electric bill.
  • The love that marks the Christian’s life is a love that turns from sin and wickedness and cherishes godliness in the practice of righteousness.

This love is not a façade or an act. There are no “5 Easy Steps” to having Genuine Christian Love. No, this love is born from a new heart, a heart that is filled with and by the love of God for us in Jesus Christ – “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  This love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working righteousness in us. It is the outward demonstration of the inward working of God’s love for us.

The greatest commandment, the highest calling, is to love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).  So let your love be genuine and sincere.

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hold Fast to the Truth

We live in a strange time of absolute relativism.

In this brave new world there is no meaning except that which you give to something. Your experience is what determines and defines your reality, and outside of that experience there is no such thing as Truth or Right and Wrong. You can’t tell someone they are wrong today, just that their opinion of reality is different than your own. To insist upon one perceived truth over another is an aggression against a person’s individuality and is not allowed. To claim to be right is the only thing that is wrong.

This all started small. I remember when math teachers were proposing that 2+2 might not always equal 5. Now you can’t make judgements about someone’s life choices without being labeled close minded and bigoted. This video from the Family Policy Institute of Washington is revealing:

We are so confused today that we can’t even tell someone today which bathroom they are supposed to use.

As much as people consider this as avant-guard thinking, the reality is, as Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Durning Jesus’ trial, Pilate asks him, “What is truth?” Paul warned young Timothy that there would come a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Timothy dealt with this in the Church, as we still do today.

Today, if you preach that God is loving and gracious and forgiving, well that’s fine. But don’t tell me that I might be sinning in my dating relationships, or that my career and bank account have become idols, or that I have profaned the sabbath under the excuse of “quality family time at the lake”. That’s going too far. We are all too ready and eager to go shopping for a Church and a Preacher that will love the things we love, hate the things we hate, and never criticize our personal choices.

So how are we supposed to live in the midst of all of this? God’s Word to us from 2 Timothy is a strong foundation in this world of shifting sand. Here are a few points of application:

Recognize our own Tendency to Compromise
When reading 2 Timothy 4, it is easy to say that this applies only to those who are on the other end of the political/moral pendulum than me. They’re the ones who have itching ears, who wander from the truth, who find teachers who tickle their ears. In truth, we all gravitate toward likeminded people, and we resist those who will challenge and confront us. If we love the truth, then we must continue to put ourselves in the position where we will be corrected and reproofed by the truth. We must come to the realization that when the Scriptures address sin and call us to repentance, when the Preacher rebukes and exhorts, its not always about the other person; often times, its about you.

Be sober minded
I think a modern interpretation of this phrase might read, “Don’t flip out,” or “Don’t lose your head.” Being sober minded is being grounded in the truth. Yes, we live in a world of lies, and people love and and accept the lie more than they love the truth. There is a veil over their eyes, and they have been blinded to the truth. This is the state of affairs in a broken and sinful world.

So keep your head about you. At times it will seem as though the Truth is advancing, other times its seems as though the inmates are running the asylum. But this is not the end. Christ our Redeemer has overcome all things, including the lies and deception of the evil one. Love and hold fast to the truth, suffering for it, as you certainly will, with patience and compassion for those who are sadly deceived.

Do the Work of the Evangelist
The evangelist is one who proclaims good news in troubled times. In the midst of the lies, Christ came as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; He is the light in the midst of darkness, He is the truth that sets us free. In Him there is a resounding “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, but there is also a glorious “Yes!” godly living (Titus 2:11-14).

As followers of Christ, we are called to proclaim, to those who do not know the truth, and to those who are being swayed by the lies, to live out the truth in word and deed. With truth and love we are to proclaim Christ, calling all to repent and believe. We are to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).

So as I say each week at then end of worship, “Go out into the world in peace, be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, return no one evil for evil, but help the suffering, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, honor and serve all people, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit!”

Grace and peace,
SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Finding Peace

“I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Stressed? Anxious? Frustrated? Lost? Worried? Afraid? Chaotic? Busy? Tired?

In the past week have you used any of these words to describe your life?

What about the word “Peace”?  How often have you described your day, your week, your life, as “peaceful,” “calm,” “contented”?

We long for peace, we hunger for it, but nothing in this world can offer it.  We may know a momentary cessation of hostilities, but not an abiding peace. The vacation can only last so long, and you’re guaranteed to have a double load of work to do when you get back.  Just when you’ve paid all the bills and balanced the checkbook, you know they’ve already printed next months bills.  Don’t even try to turn the TV on; every five minutes there’s a new something to be afraid of.

Boy, aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?

Jesus, in His upper room discourse, reminds us all that in this life we will have tribulation.  We have been warned.  There will be sorrow (John 16:20).  There will be struggles (Heb 12:4).  If the world rejected Him, how will it treat those who follow Him (John 15:20)?  We are called to take up our cross (Matt 16:24).  When slapped, are are to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:39).  As our hearts break for the lost, we will carry their burden before the Lord in prayer (Rom 9:1-3).  As we strive for faithfulness we will wrestle with temptation and battle to put to death the old man (Col 3:5-17).  We will suffer the fiery arrows of the enemy, we will face the opposition of the principalities and powers (Eph 6:10-18).  Yes, indeed, all this world has to offer is tribulation.

But we are not to take what the world gives.  We have a greater gift, the gift of Christ’s peace.

What is this peace?

The peace of Christ is this:

  • In Christ we have peace with God because we have been reconciled through His blood.
  • In Christ we have peace with one another, the dividing wall of hostility has been broken down.
  • In Christ we have peace through our Sovereign King who reigns over His people.
  • In Christ we have peace as our eternal security is guaranteed.

Jesus has come that we might have peace, a peace that endures, a peace that overcomes, a peace that does not waver.

Why then, do we seldom enjoy that peace? Why are we not filled with peace and joy in believing?  While by no means a complete list, here are some thoughts:

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are the cause of our own tribulation.  There are times when we don’t stumble into sin, we dive in headfirst.  We flirt with the flames of temptation, only to get burned by the fires of sin. We hold on to envy, anger, and our selfish desires and become the drama that we sought to avoid.  There can be no peace when we take hold of sin.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we are slow to faith and do not believe His promises.  Doubts and despair are a disastrous combination, because they cause us to fix our eyes on the problems rather than the solution. When the waves are crashing around us, we look to the sea rather than Christ who has called us to walk with Him (Matt 14:30).  We become practical atheists, we say we believe that Jesus has promised us peace, but we act like we are on our own.

Sometimes we don’t experience the peace of Christ because we don’t think His promise applies to our particular situation. When we tell ourselves that this thing we are facing is beyond Christ’s control, or too small for Christ to care about, what are we saying about our Savior?  We forget that He is One who can “sympathize with us in our weakness… [because He] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  How does the old hymn go?

Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

So how do we return to the peace of Christ?  His sermon in Mark 1:15 says it best, “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

Repent: Turn from your sin and to the Lord.  Remember, when our hearts condemn us, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19). To find peace we must turn from that which causes the strife, and rest in the grace of Christ.

And Believe: Christ has overcome all things. He has overcome, He is victorious. His victory is over every sin, every power, every dominion.  There is nothing that He has not conquered.  Abraham Kuyper once wrote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” He has indeed overcome all things, so believe and rest in His peace to strengthen and comfort you in all things.

May the grace, and peace, of Christ rule in your hearts!

SDG

Posted in Faith and Practice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment