God’s Priorities for His Churches: Peace (2)
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” John 16.33
Since, therefore, the world is like a troubled sea, true peace will be found nowhere but in Christ.
- John Calvin, Commentary on John 16.33
The peace of Jesus Christ
Peace is the third priority Paul and other apostles sought for the churches under their care. It is the condition indicating that the Kingdom of God has arrived and is expanding. Where peace obtains, there, we can be sure, the Kingdom of God has taken root, and joy is just ahead.
It is integral to the human soul to seek peace. No one would prefer to live a troubled, fearful, disturbed, and disquieted life. People whose lives are chaotic, uncertain, continuously disturbed and interrupted, and vexed with challenges and doubts do not tend to know joy. This is true of believers and nonbelievers alike.
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5.22, 23), so wherever peace is in evidence, it is a work of God’s Spirit. Even the peace that exists between nations is only a work of God, as He keeps in check those vicious and self-serving tendencies common to all men. Where peace is flourishing, there the Spirit is ripening all His fruit for a powerful witness to Jesus Christ. Believers who know peace live confidently in the joy of the Lord. Churches where peace obtains become remarkable examples of the newness of life in Christ (Acts 6).
For local churches, the peace of Jesus Christ is more important than large numbers of worshipers, growing budgets, impressive facilities and staff, or a full calendar of programs and activities. Such things, when made priorities for our churches, can become sources of anxiety and disturbers of our peace. If we think we’re not “growing” as fast as we should, or we don’t have as cool a worship service as other local churches, or if we’re concerned about losing members to the church down the road, we may find the peace of Jesus Christ an elusive or, at best, intermittent condition.
But what is this peace, which the apostles sought for their churches – the peace that Jesus says we may have in Him?
Peace with God
First it is peace with God: In Jesus Christ, by trusting in Him, we have peace with God (Rom. 5.1). His wrath is no longer directed against us. He turns His face to us for favor and blessing. He invites us into His presence to partake of Him in worship and communion, and to walk with Him at every moment and in every situation. He gives us increasing understanding of His many gifts, endowments, and aids, and thus we grow in love for Him and the transforming power of His grace.
We have peace with God. Thus we know Him as our Father and Redeemer. We know Jesus as our Savior, Lord, King, and Shepherd. And we know the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Nurturer. We are comfortable and reverentially at ease in God’s presence, and we find there forms of joy and pleasure that nothing else can match.
We have peace with God. Thus our eternal destination will be in His presence, filled with and agog at His glory, and increasing in His goodness, world without end.
Being at peace with God, we fear nothing in this life. When the peace of Jesus Christ rules in our soul, we rejoice in Him and are confident and consistent in our witness. That peace we have with God may be interrupted from time to time – as when we willfully rebel and sin, or fall into some hard trial – but true believers are never completely bereft of God’s peace. They may always, through prayers of confession and repentance, and waiting patiently on the Lord, find their way back to the peace of God, which is ours because of Jesus Christ.
Peace beyond understanding
Second is the peace we experience in our soul, that peace that goes beyond understanding that Paul references in Philippians 4.6, 7.
This feeling of peace – the deep, inexplicable, indescribable condition of wellbeing – derives from our peace with God. Because we have peace with God, when troubles arise, or we are otherwise drifting toward anxiousness, we may roll our burdens on the Lord, resting them with Him, and us in Him.
This inward sense of peace is very strong, and it can be very attractive to those whose lives are lacking in such peace. From this inward peace, in which our hearts and minds are guarded by God Himself, flow gestures and wishes of peace to the people around us. Thus the peace that goes beyond understanding is an important stimulus to love and good works.
Peace with one another
Paul says that, as far as it is possible, we are to live at peace with all people (Rom. 12.18). In this respect, peace is a gift we offer to the people around us, out of the work Jesus Christ is doing within us. We can see how important such a gift is when we consider what we might otherwise offer to our neighbors: indifference, scorn, taking advantage, threats, put-downs, disturbances, shame, prejudice, and the like. Which would you prefer your neighbor offer you?
The shalom of the Lord spreads throughout a community as God’s people pray for the peace of their neighbors and live peaceably with everyone (Jer. 29.7). Because this is a peace that goes beyond understanding, it can cause our neighbors to look beyond us to the Source of our peace, and to consider Jesus in a new light (Jn. 17.21).
Peace in the midst of tribulation
The peace of Jesus Christ can make a community of God’s people stand out in extraordinary ways, and produce extraordinary results for the Kingdom of God. Not any of the troubles of this world can rob believers of their peace. Dislodge us from it, perhaps, but only temporarily. Believers are peacemakers, and they are thus blessed of the Lord to pass His peace to one another and offer it to our troubled world.
And so it’s no wonder the apostles took the peace of Jesus Christ as a third priority for the Lord’s churches.
What is the state of witness and evangelism in your church?
Dr. Michael McQueen addresses this question in the first of a series of Conversationson fulfilling our calling as witnesses for Christ. You can watch this Conversationat our website by clicking here.
Prayer for Revival: A Jonathan Edwards Reader
“As if he said, Have me within you to comfort you because you will have the world without you.”
- Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job 26.16.26
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).
The Peace We Have in Jesus
- T.M. Moore
- May 17, 2018
No wonder this is top priority for God's churches.
God’s Priorities for His Churches: Peace (2)