Once again we are at that time of year when we traditionally wrap & unwrap gifts. That time of year when we give & receive. But a gift isn't a gift until it's been received. Have you received the gift of Life?
What will you be giving this year? What gifts do you want to receive?
I'd like to talk about one of the greatest gifts of all: the freeness & fulness of God's forgiveness. There is no possibility of purchasing it and it must come to us as a gift of divine love.
With Christmas cards going around, one of the more popular proclamations you will see is the angelic announcement to the shepherds of the coming of Christ: Luke 2.8-14. They gave glory to God in the highest and proclaimed peace on earth and goodwill towards men. But what does peace really mean?
Webster's dictionary defines peace as freedom from disturbance. As I continued looking at other dictionaries, I found the following freedoms in defining peace: freedom from disorder, from dissension, from anxiety, from distress. One last one that made an impression on me read "dead, and therefore free from the difficulties of life."
As I turned to the Scripture, I discovered that Biblical peace isn't the absence of troubles but is experienced in the midst of them. In fact, Paul told Timothy that
Persecution doesn't sound very peaceful to me. So where do we find this peace that's not just the absence of trouble, and isn't affected by anxieties? I came across John 14.27:
I find it interesting that in all of Scripture this peaceful passage comes from Jesus ... on the night before He went to the cross. He knew what He was facing, yet He took the time to comfort His disciples with a message of peace.
So, again I ask: where do we find this peace that's not just the absence of trouble, and isn't affected by anxieties? I'm still struggling here, friends. Is it up to me, not to let my heart be troubled or afraid? That's what Jesus said.
Paige's message this past Sunday spoke volumes to me, and things are starting to sink in. I don't think the angels were making a universal declaration of peace towards all of humanity, nor is God's peace a reward for us who've shown good will toward others. But, what it appears to be instead is a gracious gift from God to us who are the objects of His good will.
During the song portion of Sunday's worship service, Scripture was read that assured me that I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet that didn't give me an any immediate sense of calm or serenity. But the reality is: the God who had declared Himself at war with me because of my sinful rebellion... has justified me through faith in His son's finished work on the cross. And the first proclamation of that justification is that this sinner's war with God... is over! Forever.
Now that's peace! According to Ephesians 2.13-14, Jesus alone is my source of peace. And it's His peace--His very own personal peace--that He has given to us!
Apart from Jesus, the only peace this world can know is shallow & unsatisfying. My own personal pursuit of "peace" was only an attempt to get away from problems, and so I tried finding it in alcohol, drugs, and other forms of escapism.
The fact is, apart from God, I found no real peace in this world. The peace of putting my blinders on, and going to bed and trying to forget things was a waste of time. And yet I tried so desperately to hold on to this pretense of peace. It's been a futile pursuit to say the least.
The peace Jesus gives is a tranquility of the soul. It's a settled, positive peace that affects the circumstances of life. It's what I like to call "my supernatural, permanent, positive, no-side-effects, divine tranquilizer!" The peace that conquers our guilt of the past, that overcomes our trials in the present, and, most importantly, secures our eternal future!
One last thought. You know what robs me of my peace? Sin. Especially my own. I don't like the way it makes me think & feel! It clutters up communion with the One I claim to love. But, praise God, by His grace, I can take my sin to the cross where peace runs like a river flowing from Immanuel's veins.