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Monday, January 21, 2008

Welcome to The Struggle: The Peace That Starts the War (Pt. 2)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:10-12 ESV

"If you are to have peace with God, there must be war with Satan." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Contra Mundum (Against the World)

What we are quick to find in the verses following Matthew 5:9, is that Peace with God is not equivocal to peace with our fellow man. In fact, what Jesus is plainly laying out before his followers is the exact opposite; you should expect hostility from the world once you've been brought out of the darkness and bondage of sin. As we have seen and read in our previous studies, "friendship with the world is enmity with God" (Genesis 3:14-15, James 4:4). Notice that Paul says that we are to try ("as far as it depends on you") to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18). Not at any time are we guaranteed that this sentiment will be reciprocated. Once believers have been brought from death and sin to life in Christ, they are now set apart (sanctified) up and against the world. It makes them public enemy No.1 in the devil's domain (Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 5:19). The reason that we often times struggle with the concept of Blessed are the peacemakers, is largely due to our misinterpretation of what peace it is that we're seeking (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 12:49-53). Once you enlist in the army of the Lord, it is an inevitable fact that you will see combat and that the stakes are high; eternity hangs in the balance. Knowing what we know, we must be willing to hang all conviction on the line - even lay our lives on the line, for this is no ordinary combat scenario. This is not your father's war; it is fought on a cosmic stage with cosmic, as well as, supernatural consequences (Ephesians 6:12).

Fighting The Good Fight

This sort of language in our age of the peace and prosperity "gospel" may be called disturbing. However, it is only disturbing when we take our eyes off of Christ as our assurance and the promises that are made to those who follow him (Matthew 16:24; John 15:18-20; 16:1-4, 33). The peace that Christians obtain doesn't turn them into pacifists (Luke 22:35-38), but it must be fought with a different type of weaponry (John 18:36; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:13-18). Even though the battle that rages is a spiritual one, it will manifest itself at times in the physical realm; ungodly people will seek to do us harm, at times, and succeed (Matthew 11:12). As strange as it may sound, this should not concern us. In his letters to Timothy, Paul uses war-like analogies to encourage the young pastor in the hardships he would face in his service for Christ:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:12 ESV


Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. - 2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV

Dying to Live

A strange response indeed, but the concern for our safety should not be an issue. Our priority should be proclaiming the gospel of Christ promiscuously; knowing all the while that our lives are hidden in Christ, and that regardless of the outcome of our physical well-being here in this life, we will be raised again to a better life with him in the consummation of his kingdom. No accusation of guilt by the Devil, or ill-will, or harm threatened to our bodies and/or reputation by enemies (from any side they may come from) will be able to thwart God's plan of bringing his children into his glory. We should live in confidence that whatever troubles spiritually or physically that may come, we will be more than conquerors (Matthew 10:28; John 6:37-40; Romans 8; Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 11:32-38; Revelation 2:11, 20:6).

DMX - Lord Give Me a Sign

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. - Isaiah 54:17 ESV

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - Romans 16:20 ESV

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. - Jude 3-4 ESV

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” - Abraham Kuyper

Soli Deo Gloria,


Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Peace That Starts the War (Pt. 1)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. " - Matthew 5:9 ESV

"The mere absence of war is not peace." - John F. Kennedy

When asked to define peace, most people will give an answer that equates more or less to something like, "a world without conflict, suffering or violence". Yet, in a reading at the close of the beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:9-12), we are forced (once again--as we have been throughout our study of the beatitudes) to take a deeper look at what it truly means to be a peacemaker as a follower of Christ. In light of the verses that follow verse 9, it can appear at first glance to be an outright contradiction. How can he possibly expect us to make when we are being attacked and slandered? Intuition tells us to fight; in some cases, run. This sounds more like surrender--like giving up. But as we shall see, it is all about priority; how true peace is accomplished, how it transforms us, and how we are to strive or contend for it in this world.

Peace with God

If a person truly wishes to have any sort of real peace in the world, he must first be able to answer this question:

"What must I do to escape the wrath of a holy and righteous God?"

As it says in Scripture,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and 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. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. - Romans 5:1-11 ESV

Martin Luther comments on these verses:

“With ‘peace’ the Apostle here means that peace of which all prophets speak, namely, spiritual peace, as he indicates this by the phrase ‘peace with God’. This peace consists properly in an appeased conscience and in confidence in God, just as conversely the lack of peace means spiritual anxiety, a disturbed conscience and a mistrust over against God.”

As we can see from the text, peace has a much deeper connotation than just the absence of violence. It is the relenting of an angry God against worthy sinners. Through the person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ, God no longer seeks to destroy us and clears our conscience and hearts of sin. It is only through the repentance of sin and faith in Christ that we are saved from the wrath, as God himself initiates reconciliation with sinful man by offering up his own son as a propitiation (turning away) of his anger against us (1 John 4: 9-10). Without this perfect peace, we should seek peace no further, for it would be utterly meaningless and vain in its end. It will serve only as an act of futility, due to the interference of self-interest, greed, and evil (James 4: 1-3).

Like Father, Like Sons

We read from our key text that we find peace with God by becoming "sons of God". As we are made sons through Christ, we must then begin to take on the attribute of peace that has been granted to us. God himself is a God of peace (Romans 15:33; 1 Corinthians 14:33) and we are to become like him, seeking to reconcile ourselves, by his grace, to the rest of the world:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:14-21 ESV

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

It should be noted that the outpouring of our peace with God is an active one. We should strive for peace with the rest of the world, first and foremost, through sharing the Gospel. This will definitely be a difficult task. We will have to fight for this peace; at times, the price will be costly.

“Nothing can give perfect peace of conscience with God but what can make atonement for sin. And whoever attempts it in any other way but by virtue of that atonement will never attain it, in this world or hereafter.” - John Owen

Happy MLK...

Soli Deo Gloria,


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