‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9 NKJV).
This season of the virus can be a productive season for the church. We must not waste this time when busyness and routine schedules have been removed from our lives. This global phenomenon can be used by the church at large to go beyond waiting for ‘opening up’ to waiting upon and engaging with the Holy Spirit to bring personal inner transformation. Cultural viruses have invaded the church in America and have subtly and slowly formed a church that is passive prophetically, tolerant of evil internally, and dull in discernment spiritually. For many have left their first love, love has grown cold, and distractions of the culture have captured their time and attention. Our children’s and grandchildren’s sports and school activities have become the parental alternative to spiritual engagement and local church participation. Entertainment is supreme for many.
A survey just published (4.24.20) by George Barna on the state of the church in America found that only 6% of Americans have a Biblical worldview. About 1 in 5 born-again believers have a Biblical worldview. A Biblical worldview does not come by simply believing in Jesus as savior. It comes from immersion in the Word of God, being taught from scriptures rather than from cultural paradigms, being led by the Holy Spirit in the context of the Word, and having eyes to see and a heart to perceive from that foundation.
Barna discovered that American values are not inherently Biblical. He lists several things that Americans value, with the first five on the list being acceptance, comfort, control, entertainment, and entitlement. These have certainly invaded the church in this nation. These five values in America are primarily derived from external sources rather than from Jesus. Such values, along with many others, reflect the dramatic decline in spiritual engagement and Biblical perception of events, culture, and the Kingdom of God. Much has changed since the founders embarked on and established this place called the United States of America. But much has also changed globally as the clash of kingdoms creates sounds of spiritual and cultural warfare among the nations.
When the Hebrew people returned from exile in Babylon back to Judah and Jerusalem they faced a daunting task. They were called by God to rebuild the temple and the walls of the city. It would require almost 100 years of pushing back opposition, obstruction, and distraction before completing of the task. When they stood before the new temple it did not look like the old, grander, more opulent one. Older people wept. Younger ones wondered why the weeping. But the prophet Haggai declared ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9 NKJV).
It is time to rethink and reform some personal and corporate spiritual territory as we move forward. We must dig a little deeper, so following scripture becomes a greater reality. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).The words ‘test’ and ‘approve’ imply the concept of discerning or perceiving to reveal things from a heavenly perspective. What is God’s will as we walk through this season of the virus, lockdowns, restrictions, church buildings closed, etc.? As we use this time to engage with Him for personal transformation, we will free ourselves from that which captured our minds and hearts over time. We can cast off old values of the culture and embrace values of the Kingdom of God. We are on the precipice of a ‘reset’ for the church. Perhaps only a remnant of the church will recognize the ‘greater glory’ as they cross over to this reset. I believe that a remnant can rise up in spiritual strength, internally and externally, to become a church where the glory of the latter is greater than the glory of the former.
And no wonder for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, that his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15a NIV
In today’s world of instant information, many voices, overload of data, and conflicting opinions it is easy to be deceived by what appears good or truthful. Discernment is a powerful, yet seldom taught aspect, of the Spirit-filled life in Christ that can help the believer cut through deception and discover truth.
There are four Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as, or relate directly to, the concept of discernment. Each of those words puts forth the concept of discerning as a way to ‘distinguish between things, perceive that which is not visible, make a determination, decision or judgement about something that requires scrutiny.’ In the various scriptural contexts of discernment, there is an implied deeper understanding leading to a judgement or decision about something that is not clear on the surface.
The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to the leaders in Corinth about disputes among believers and he said in 1 Corinthians 6:5, ‘Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?’ In this context the word ‘judge’ means to ‘separate thoroughly, to discriminate and to decide’. This is a key aspect of discernment. Anytime there is dispute over opinions, data, or conclusions, whether in the church or in the world, we must separate thoroughly, i.e. judge that which is presented and discern what may lie hidden. Then we can more accurately decide what is true and what is righteous.
King Solomon was known for his wisdom, not only in knowledge, but in the ability to discern or judge underlying motives. In 1 Kings 3:16-28 he ‘judged’ a dispute between two women over who was the mother of a baby. He needed to distinguish between two views presented. He discerned that the real mother, who had carried the baby in the womb for 9 months, would be bonded to and motivated for that baby to live at all costs. He proposed to cut the baby in half giving each woman half, therefore both would have half but the baby would be dead. In this example the deceptive heart of one was exposed and the truthful heart of the other was revealed. The baby lived and was given to the birth mother thereby rendering justice and truth to reign.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we find the teaching on the gifts of the Spirit given to people in the church. The Holy Spirit reveals one key gift that is particularly applicable in this day and hour; 1 Corinthian 12:10 KJV ‘to another discerning of spirits.’ In this scripture ‘discerning’ is also translated as ‘distinguishing between’. Theologians may have slightly different opinions about how this gift works and for what purpose, but most see it is a supernatural ability to discriminate or distinguish between holy and unholy spirits, and associated motives. Certainly in our post-Christian culture we can agree that demonic spirits are active and are influencing many voices and decisions today.
We must understand there is an unseen realm that is spiritual. There is a Holy Spirit and there are unholy spirits (demons) and we need to distinguish, discern, and judge what spirit is operating. Scripture says that Satan (and by implication his demonic forces) can present himself as something good, as an angel of light. And no wonder for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, that his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15a NIV). Light is most often associated with Christ, righteousness, and safe places. The context for this scripture is false apostles, teachers, and those who bring a ‘different spirit’ (vs. 4) to the church. The church must be discerning, not only within the walls, but also outside the walls of our buildings. There are many voices today offering the good, the safe, and the right way to live in this season of the virus. The gift of the discerning of spirits is greatly needed in this context.
What is right? What is true safety? What opinions can be trusted? Where do we go for Truth? The church needs supernatural insight to distinguish and discern disputed information, underlying motives, and global contexts of this season. There are majority voices declaring that adhering to all governmental restriction on society and the church is righteous. They say that those who disagree are selfish. There are majority voices declaring safety is only found in masks and social distancing. Does a majority voice heard through governmental restrictions become the default setting for being ‘right’? Do voices instilling fear and panic reflect the ‘light’ or the ‘angel of light’?
We must be spiritually attuned to make judgements in the context of ever changing medical advice and governmental decisions. Such decisions emanate from ‘experts’ and voices of fear. If we are to accurately determine the role of the church in the coming months and years, we must become a discerning church.
For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake. ~ 2 Kings 19:34 NKJV
We are in the Hebrew year of 5780. This number in Hebrew interpretation means the year of the ‘mouth’ or the ‘voice’. Since this is the first year of a decade, we consider 2020 as the beginning of an era of voices in the culture being very important. What the enemy is saying and what we are speaking become more critical in the outcome of personal and corporate life.
We see in 2 Kings 18 and 19 a profound example of how the people of God can respond to the voice of Satan that desires to steal, kill and destroy God’s people and take nations captive. In this account, the Assyrian empire is coming against Judah and King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a reformer that turned the people towards God and away from pagan worship. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been defeated by Assyria and been led captive. Only a remnant of God’s people, represented by the people in Judah, remained.
The account begins with the voice of intimidation speaking against the reformer. 19 Then the Rabshakeh (Head of all princes) said to them (Judah), “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust? 20 You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?" 2 Kings 18:19, 20 NKJV.
The authority of Rabshakeh came from the King of Assyria, the enemy of God’s people. He begins by questioning in whom Judah is trusting that they should resist his demand for submission and surrender. He goes on to intimidate and attempt to sow doubt about King Hezekiah’s truthfulness and leadership.
28 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out with a loud voice in Hebrew, and spoke, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he shall not be able to deliver you from his hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” ’ 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah… 2Kings 18:28-31.
Rabshakeh goes on in 2 Kings 18 to reference ‘facts’ and the power of the ‘great king’ of Assyria. The ‘facts’ were that Assyria had defeated several nations; therefore how could anyone oppose them (vs 33-35)? Rabshakeh also used his voice to entice Judah to surrender (vs. 31, 32) by promising a new land with abundance.
The example shows us how the enemy sows doubt about ‘in whom you trust’ and questions your wisdom in your resisting the evil voice. He will use ‘facts’, enticement, intimidation, and any deceptive weapon to get you to submit. He will invoke the authority of the false gods of science, medical professionals, psychology, and other ‘kings’ we are to trust to keep us safe. How you respond to the demonic voice of deception and confusion is key to overcoming. What you speak decrees the outcome of the battle. Are your words birthed in the Kingdom of God? Are they consistent with the New Covenant resurrection power of Jesus Christ? Do they bring life and strength to the battle?
During this current virus ‘crisis’ we hear loud voices crying ‘keep me safe’, ‘shut everything down’. We are experiencing a dimension of this principle of the power of the voice to determine an outcome. In late March our governor in Colorado had a live on-line event communicating his latest restrictions in our state. The primary messaging coming from the online audience was ‘shut it all down’, ‘keep me safe at all costs, we don’t care about what it costs’. If someone in the audience would dissent with a message about the need for ‘freedom’, ‘restrictions being too severe’, or that the ‘cure will be worse than the disease’, multiple messages opposed any dissenting opinions. It was a mob mentality. Shortly after that he shut it all down in this state. This is the day in which we live, a kind of mob mentality reflecting both medical and cultural voices of fear and intimidation… 'if you don’t do what I say you will die.’ The voice demands submission to the ‘kings’ to save lives.
We are hearing two distinct voices in 2020 as we walk through this national/global crisis. One voice sows doubt in God, mocks prayer, speaks in deceptively extreme outcomes of worldwide disaster, worships the false god of ‘science’, and clouds minds with words of fear. The other voice speaks calmly, words of hope, words of life, words of faith, and words of concern but without fear and panic. I am consistently reminded of Jesus’ warnings to the Jewish leaders when he said they knew how to interpret the weather, but they couldn’t discern the signs of the times (Matt. 16:1-4). The church must discern the voice of God that speaks truth, for application in the church and outside the church. ‘Facts’ of what happened elsewhere do not determine what will happen here, in my house, my city, my nation. The remnant that is rising today does not rely upon facts but upon Yahweh Adonai, the ‘I am your Lord”.
In the account of Hezekiah we see our righteous example. As leader he inquires of the prophet Isaiah as to how to respond to the voice of intimidation. He is intentional and patient before responding. 6 And Isaiah said to them (Hezekiah’s leaders), “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. 7 Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” ’ ” 2 Kings 19:2-7
The word of the Lord assures Hezekiah not to doubt God or quiver and quake in fear. It is God that has been mocked by questioning the authority and power of Yahweh. Isaiah’s spirit-led words became the response for Hezekiah and all of Judah. Isaiah spoke God’s word to the situation. The words the Spirit of the Lord brought life to Judah and would bring death to the enemy of God’s people.
Many Christians today open themselves to fear and intimidation by listening to and embracing words that are not from the Kingdom of God. The result is doubt, deception, and confusion, the central narratives of the Satanic kingdom. As of early April we are now hearing that the science behind the catastrophic predictions of massive deaths due to the virus were horribly wrong. Much of the data and the underlying assumptions the ‘experts’ used were incorrect or, at best, a guessing game. Yet these projections have been communicated as ‘science’ to shut down nations, churches and businesses.
Be careful what we embrace as ‘truth’. We overcome the Rabshakeh voice of this day by listening to and responding with the voice of the Lord, that which the Spirit of God is releasing today. And the prophet Isaiah speaks the outcome of the verbal and situational battle by declaring: Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it.33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city,’ says the Lord.34 ‘For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ” 2 Kings 19:32-34
The Word of the Lord coming through many experienced prophets today can bring life and strength, truth and hope, faith and victory to this battle. The Voice of the Lord trumps the voices of the culture. Choose this day the voice you will embrace and the words you will speak. Judah was small in military strength compared to Assyria. They were a remnant that chose to listen and respond with the Voice of God. It only takes a remnant of the church to overcome the majority voices of ‘great kings’ in the culture. Let us be that voice! Then… we will crossover at Passover!
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. Luke 6:46-48 NKJV
There is a whole lot of shaking going on in the world right now! The coronavirus, the global stock markets, the political shifts in Europe, etc. have released a ‘shaking’ in people and in governments.
The coronavirus, in particular, has the media fueling the fire of human emotion by reporting each and every new global case. I read a headline on Sunday published in a major media outlet that in bold print said; ’One new case of Coronavirus in Chicago!’ Not really news worthy information, but trying to be so. The response of many people is to embrace a frenzy of fear, blame and paranoia. I can understand the frenzy in the political and non-Christian world. There is no rock upon which their corporate security and safety is constructed. They're not responding, ‘like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built' (Luke 6:48 NIV). But I also see irrational fear and frenzy in some Christian circles. So I wonder…how much of their house, their life, and their worldview are built upon the Rock of Christ. Or, how much of their life is built upon the shifting sands of cultural currents? Jesus said, "But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation (the sand Matt. 7:26). The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:49
We live in times that demand a level of discernment and prophetic perception to hear and see through the clutter and chaos of voices. The voices come like a flood to your natural senses attempting to overwhelm. There is now, and will continue to be, global shakings. Will you be shakeable or unshakeable? The writer of Hebrews says, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. If we have received an unshakeable kingdom by believing completely in Jesus Christ, then let us live in, reside, and take up residency in that Kingdom. We must perceive events from the perspective of that unshakeable kingdom!
When Jesus was speaking to the Jewish people he said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times" (Matt. 16:2, 3 NKJV). Jesus the Rock chastised them for leaning upon the natural world view and the natural senses, but unable to discern or interpret the signs of the times. They were spiritually calloused thus hardened in their ability to discern, perceive, and understand beyond the natural.
The times demand a continual connection with the Holy Spirit to resist and overcome the volume and deception of media voices. The Coronavirus frenzy is an indicator event for us to self-check our building construction. We cannot walk in the discernment and prophetic perception demanded in these times unless we have built our house on the Rock and continually live from the stability, firmness, and assurance provided by the Rock. Where have you built your house?
For doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:19
This is my third and final post in this series on peace and division.
We see Biblical peace failing to take hold amidst the global mix of secular worldviews and religious systems that simply do not accept the truth of Jesus Christ as reflected in Biblical text. There is conflict rather than commonality. For example, we find in Islamic countries that the very name and claim of Jesus as Messiah and King is not only rejected but often brings great persecution and even death to those who offer the peace of Jesus. In such cases, Jesus is the sharp sword of truth that creates division. He serves as the sword of clarity between truth and falsehood. It is the sword that serves as a spiritual weapon found in the Word of God that brings understanding to some and rejection from others. It is sharp enough to distinguish between things of the soul and things of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12)
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he admonishes the believers to watch out for those who cause divisions. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them (Romans 16:17). While Jesus himself will cause division, this scripture has a different context. We note that such divisions result from teaching that opposes the truth that has been received. So Paul’s concern was division caused by those who brought teaching that was opposed to that which the apostles brought to the churches.
Some time ago, Deborah and I were in a certain town in Uganda ministering the gospel. What we were teaching over several days was initially received with excitement and embraced. Yet the enemy used a couple people in the town to bring confusion to some of the people. The gospel was a sword of clarity that distinguished truth from lies. Just as in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:1-15), the enemy plucked up the word we had sown before it could take root. Some of the people accepted the gospel in its clarity, but others rejected it. We offered peace but it was rejected. The result was division. We still go back to that town to minister to those with the ‘good and noble heart’ where the word goes into good soil and produces fruit.
Currently, there are significant divergences from scripture occurring in denominations and local churches. There comes a dividing point, a fork in the road for individuals, churches, and denominations to adhere to the apostolic teaching of scripture or separate. The dividing point is the way of the secular world system; the culture then shifts towards ‘everyone does as he sees fit’. The other way follows the way of Christ, the offer of peace through Christ, the Biblical worldview based upon scripture where we believe and do as ‘Christ sees fit’.
Paul revealed there were divisions in the church in Corinth because some were coming to the church gatherings only to eat and drink and not to worship. For in the first place, when you assemble as a congregation, I hear that there are cliques (divisions and factions) among you; and I in part believe it, For doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you. So when you gather for your meetings, it is not the supper instituted by the Lord that you eat…1 Corinthians 11:18-20. Paul spoke to division caused by wrong motives and the evidentiary ‘fitness’ of the believers present! In other words…some people had wrong motives and beliefs for gathering that was leading to division in the church. Some came to worship in spirit and in truth. Others came to eat, drink and be merry.
We live in a time of chaotic global events, divided hearts, conflicting worldviews and, I believe, the beginning of separating the sheep from the goat nations. As we move into 2020 there will become an even greater separation in the church across the global sphere. However, a new level of clarity will result for those who can discern and perceive with spiritual insight and understand with a Biblical worldview versus those grounded in the secular and intellectual worldview. The times will be very divisive in both the political and spiritual realms. It must be so. But be encouraged! Jesus would say to you, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27NIV). Cling to the inner peace Jesus gives you. Walk through the external conflicts without inner conflict. Persevere through the external battles and chaos in PEACE!
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." ~Matthew 10:34
This is the second in a three-part series on ‘peace and division’.
The earthly reality of peace between people and nations is conditioned on a two-way exchange of peace. This may be in the form of personal reconciliation, a corporate agreement of unity, an international treaty, etc. This kind of peace often has an exit clause, either in hearts or on paper, makes way for separation. Conditional peace is based in (1) a common interest in peace, and (2) common core principles. For believers with a Biblical worldview grounded in the truth of Jesus both their peace and principles are very important. For such believers who embrace the presence of the Holy Spirit, submit to the counsel of scripture, and can discern spiritual dimensions, peace with those with secular, intellectual worldviews is possible. However, agreement on core principles will usually be lacking thus true peace is unlikely.
This earthly, or horizontal, peace is based upon willingness of two parties to be in agreement with a common interest in peace grounded in common principles and beliefs. Where the principles are not common, the interest is not there, or the motivations are unrighteous, there cannot be real peace between even two people, much less between nations. There will be conflict even if superficial peace rests on the surface. Where there is conflict there is also division.
Scripture also shows us that Jesus also came to bring division. In Luke 12:51 Jesus says, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Where there is division there is lack of earthly peace. In this sense Jesus will be the cause of division, even in families! He caused division in the culture of his day, in the nation of Israel, and in the Roman Empire. His followers were persecuted, mocked, and some sent to the Coliseum in Rome to be killed as entertainment.
What a seeming inconsistency for a ‘man of peace’! Jesus also says, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-37 NIV). It is clear that the presence and reality of Jesus is not one-dimensional, only peaceful, but is multi-faceted based upon the offer and the receptivity to HIS PEACE. The result can be peace or division!
He tells the believer to offer peace when coming into another’s presence such as a home. However, the offer of peace may not always be regarded with respect and accepted in Godly fashion. "As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." Matthew 10:12-14. The amplified translation says it this way, ‘Then if indeed that house is deserving, let come upon it your peace [that is, freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin]. But if it is not deserving, let your peace return to you.’ There are beliefs, distresses, sin, worldviews, and world systems that simply will not understand, believe, or receive the peace that lies within the believer in Christ. In the global sphere we know that Islam and Christianity can exist together, but the offer of real peace, through Jesus is usually rejected and often met with persecution and even death to those who offer it. We cannot expect peace, no matter how sincere the offer, when the demonic realm undergirds those who hear the offer.
In America we are seeing deep chasms of division, some of which have been obscured by superficial peace for many years. Now we are seeing these divisions surface openly and lead to tangible fractures and separations. A Methodist denominational committee's recent recommendation to separate the denomination into two separate groups comes following almost two decades of conflict over gay and lesbian issues in the church. If approved by the full denominational conference later this year, one Methodist group will follow scripture by not conducting gay or lesbian marriages nor the ordination of openly gay/lesbian leaders. The other group will follow the culture and embrace both the gay/lesbian marriages and ordination of gay/lesbian leaders. The offer of peace by the scripturally adherent group has been repeatedly rejected due to divergent values, worldviews and motives within the gay/lesbian activists.
Such divisions are necessary and will become more common in the coming years to bring clarity of values and make Biblical worldviews vividly apparent. Things are shaking! But, Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27NIV) for Jesus is still the King of Peace for those who embrace him fully and walk in His ways! Hallelujah!
Part three in this series coming soon!
Click here to read part one of this series, Jesus Came To Bring Peace, Right?
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. Luke 12:51-52 NIV
As I celebrated the season of Christ’s supernatural birth in December the Holy Spirit showed me how common the word ‘peace’ is used in both secular and Christian environments. He also showed me how misunderstood and shallow is our use of the word and the concept of peace. Today, as we enter 2020, I begin a three-part blog on this topic.
Throughout the New Testament there exists dichotomy, and seeming inconsistency, as to the concept of ‘peace’. We hear and see slogans regarding ‘peace on earth’, but there is little peace on earth. We see more strife and division than peace and unity. As we enter 2020 we can expect a great deal of global conflict, battles with weapons and words, and deep chasms between belief systems. Peace, as we commonly think of it, will seldom be evident around us. So, what did Jesus accomplish through his death and resurrection regarding peace?
It is clear from scriptures Jesus came to bring peace, primarily between God and mankind. He leaves a deposit of peace for those who will exercise faith to receive it. Jesus reveals and offers a deep personal, emotional, and soul condition of peace that he will not take away. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27NIV). It is not man’s version of peace. It is not a short term armistice. It is an immutable, eternal covenant of peace offering inner stability, calm and steadiness in any situation.
Peace between God and mankind comes to us through our faith in Jesus. We have vertical peace, i.e. between the believer and the Father. Sin can no longer separate us from God’s peace because our justification (i.e. the judgement for sin) is complete through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (Romans 5:1-2 NIV). Our faith in Jesus and our believing He has justified us, rendered a verdict on our behalf, activates that inner peace with God. We are not at odds with God because we have the righteousness of God within us. Jesus in us is our righteousness! Therefore our vertical relationship with the Father is secure and peaceful! It is part of the New Covenant!
But God also desires peace between people at the earthly level. The Word says to us; If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18 NIV). It is possible (but not guaranteed) to live at peace with anyone, to the extent it depends on you. Hebrews supports this premise, Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). There is an expectation in scripture to make efforts to live at peace with others as a core principle of the faith, to the extent that living in peace with others depends upon us personally. But peace may not be dependent upon you only.
More on this in my next post.