15 December 2017

Know Surrender Know peace!

Christians talk a lot about peace. ‘Peace’ can even be a greeting or a parting blessing as we leave a friend, wishing them that ‘the peace of God’ will be theirs. This is quite biblical, for Jesus Himself said, “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 14:27) We often quote these wonderful words of comfort in times of sorrow or trouble to reassure others or ourselves. However, are they only words or do we actually know this peace? 

We love to quote from Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” but what does that mean in our everyday experience? Do we really know that sort of peace or is it just something we would like but have missed somewhere along the way? Christians are sometimes accused of being hypocrites, play-actors. We can be in this matter. Do we pretend to have a peace, yet at the first sign of trouble it is shown to be a sham? We hear a lot of talk about peace, but do we know many peaceful people? So, what is peace? It may be easier to consider first what it is not. Peace is not the absence of war, for example. We as a nation may be at peace but this does not mean its subjects are peaceful or peaceable. Peace is defined in the dictionary as: “Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” Or another facet of it is seen in this definition: “An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.” Perhaps this brings us closer to a biblical definition of peace, as we find it in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (1:20). Or again writing to the church at Ephesus Paul says, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (2:14). So what can we learn about spiritual peace from these passages?

Firstly, from the words of Jesus, comes the astounding truth that He gives us His peace. These verses form part of a long discourse that begins in John 13:31 and is Jesus’ last talk with His true and faithful disciples before His death. He has just told them that He is going away, which has filled them with sorrow and heaviness, so now He comforts them with the promise of His peace which will remain. As a dying man would bless his sons, as the patriarchs had done, Jesus gives them His peace. Or like a last will and testament, He announces His inheritance that He is giving His children. Jesus calls it ‘His peace’, signifying it belongs to Him: it is His to give. It also tells us it is the same peace that the disciples have observed in their Lord, this divine peace that came from the Father. It was not just the calm we see in people of a quiet temperament. This was a divine serenity that nothing could remove or disturb. It was the quiet confidence of knowing that every aspect of His life was under God’s authority and control. Thus, He had nothing to fear from men. What do we know of this peace? Is this peace  something you long for? Jesus says here that It is not as the world gives, because what dying men leave their children are material possessions which often bring strife and division but rarely bring peace or happiness.

Secondly, from Colossians we see that Jesus ‘made peace’ through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Christ is the remedy for our alienation from God. We often speak of people being peacemakers, meaning they have been able to resolve conflict, but this is not what Jesus has done. In conflict resolution both parties have to be involved and willing to work out a solution. We talk of ‘win-win’ situations where both parties can claim a moral victory and keep face. This is not making peace but this is merely compromise to obtain a solution – something God knows nothing of. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We did not even know there was a problem. We did not recognise our need of a Saviour; we did not know we were lost. Then Jesus intervened and became our substitute. He did not negotiate with God on our behalf. He did not plea bargain or cut a deal; He accepted God’s lawful judgment upon us and took our punishment, thereby making peace for us – on God’s terms.

Thirdly, from Ephesians we learn that Jesus is our peace. He has done this, Paul says, by ‘making the two one’. This is a wonderful definition of peace. It is not the end of hostilities or the absence of conflict between individuals but the two becoming one. Politically, we speak of peace existing when people stop fighting, but often this is simply because they have agreed to differ. This is not biblical peace. Through His atoning sacrifice, Jesus has broken down the dividing wall between us and God. That division was symbolised in the temple by the partition that divided the ‘Court of the Jews’ from the ‘Court of the Gentiles’. That dividing wall has been taken away and we have been reconciled to God. Our sin came between God and us, but Jesus took it away and God accepts us ‘in Christ Jesus’. That’s why He is our peace. We have been adopted as sons and heirs, made one with Jesus, hence the incomprehensibility of it all, as Paul refers to it in Philippians 4:7.

Jesus has done everything. He has made peace, by becoming peace for us, and He gives that peace to us. So why as Christians do we become anxious and worried, appearing to carry the cares of the world on our shoulders? Why are we often fearful, sometimes miserable or quick-tempered and rarely at peace with ourselves, or the world around us? Is it the busyness and pressure of our modern day lives? If Jesus had our schedule to manage would He still be at peace? The answer is, yes! However, He would never have our schedule. His schedule was the one His Father gave Him. He was only and always about His Father’s business.

What is our agenda in life? Are we doing our will or God’s will? Do we obey the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit? These words challenge me as I write them. How can Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”, and yet so many of his people be struggling to get through another day or another meeting? Since we know that Jesus’ words are truth the problem must be with us, never with Him. The question then becomes: to whom are we yoked and whose load are we carrying?

Could the problem be one of surrender? Who is Lord of our lives? Who makes the decisions, who calls the shots, who is in control? Can we truly say, as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, “not my will but yours be done”. Surrender is not a popular word in our culture because we think of it as a negative term, associated with defeat. However, in Christianity it is the route to victory because it is the way we defeat our enemies: sin, the world and self will. Until we know total surrender to the Lordship of Christ in every aspect of our life, we can never know the peace of God ruling and reigning in the hurly burly of life.

How do we do this? We do it by complete surrender of ourselves to Christ as Lord. Jesus spoke of taking up the cross, just as He did. That means denying ourselves to live for God. Day by day, we will have to live close to Him and for Him, repenting of sin and relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us. Without that sort of godly living we will never know the peace of God. For it is only when we behold a glimpse of the glory and majesty of Almighty God, and understand something of what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to purchase our salvation, that we will be in the place to genuinely bow the knee and with Thomas declare, “My Lord and my God” which marks the surrendered heart. It has been said that Billy Graham’s great usefulness to God began when as a young man he surrendered everything to God.

How do we know it has taken place? There are many ways in which a surrendered heart is evident, most of which focus on servant-hood and Christ-likeness but the most noticeable and remarkable is that the peace of God will rule and reign in our lives. If we want to know this peace, then we must first know surrender!

Keiron Forbes