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.