Posts Tagged 'peace'

God’s Best Gifts, Part 2

Christians are the most fortunate people on earth. Simply by virtue of our relationship with Jesus Christ through faith, we are the recipients of some amazing gifts from our Heavenly Father. We did absolutely nothing to merit those gifts. We certainly don’t deserve them. Out of boundless love and consideration, God has blessed us with things to make our lives worth living.

Last time, we looked at the first gift God has given His people: LOVE. He sent His Son in love, not condemnation, to catch man’s attention. There is so little genuine love on earth that God’s love in Christ Jesus stands out; man wants it; man can’t find that kind of love outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ. A side benefit of receiving God’s love is that you are made able to love others the same way God loves you! That Divine love isn’t in man naturally, it has to be placed there supernaturally by God Himself because it is His gift of love to you.

Love is in short supply in the world, but so is peace. Anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, fear, anger, and things like that are in abundance. When feelings and emotions like those pile up on you, you should remember this verse:

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 1:27 | TNIV)

Setting the scene

Jesus didn’t just speak verse 27 for no reason. In fact, it really isn’t a verse at all. In real life, people don’t speak in verses, and neither did our Lord. And life doesn’t take place in chapters, either. The chapter divisions in the Gospel of John (and in every other book of the Bible, for that matter) weren’t put there by its human author. They were added much later, in the fourth century. What we call chapter 14 is just a continuation of the events of what we call chapter 13. Jesus’ admonition to “do not let your hearts be troubled” was given in connection this:

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (John 13:31 – 33 | TNIV)

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38 | TNIV)

Jesus knew that His followers already had troubled hearts, and the information He had just given them simply added to the trouble they already had. So the whole purpose of chapter 14 was an attempt to calm their nerves about the future, especially in light of what He told Peter in verse 38.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. (John 14:1 | TNIV)

The news that Peter would disown Jesus; that there was some question as to how serious Peter was about following Jesus; and that He Himself was about leave them were the explicit reasons for 14:1. How would you feel if you, as a Christian, were told by Jesus that He didn’t think you were a serious believer and that you would go so far as to disown Him and that from now on, He’d be hard to find? How would you feel? Of course, everything Jesus said to Peter and His disciples simply indicated that He knew what would happen. In spite of how shabbily He would be treated by Peter, Jesus didn’t chastise him. He told the apostle and the others to be calm; to keep on trusting God and to start trusting Him. And Jesus is telling you the same thing, too. Essentially, He knows we are all weak, fickle, somewhat untrustworthy human beings. It’s good to know that we, like the disciples, when confronted with their shortcomings, were encouraged to “trust in God” and to “trust in Jesus.” Because, in the end, our salvation doesn’t depend on us getting it right 100% of the time. It depends on being dependent upon the grace and love of our Lord.

Gracious provision

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so , I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2 | KJV)

My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”. (John 14:2 – 4 | TNIV)

This speaks to His impending departure. Jesus would leave for a time, but He would return. This is an interesting paragraph that has resulted in numerous hymns and gospel songs being written to celebrate our mansion in heaven that the Lord is, even now, building for us. Songs like this one, written by Elvis Presley:

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold.

What if you don’t want a big old mansion? What if you prefer a bungalow? Or a real nice single wide? The TNIV’s “plenty of room” as opposed to the more familiar “many mansions” is far more accurate. The Greek word is monai, and it’s a curious word. Some scholars write that it has a reference to an Aramaic term for “shelters along the way,” or a place where travelers could rest for the night. In other words, Jesus may be talking about preparing places of rest or protection along the walk of faith. Could be, but there’s no getting around the fact that these “shelters along the way” are being prepared, apparently, in Heaven. In that case, Jesus, in leaving the scene for a time, promised to prepare a place in Heaven for all of His followers, many of whom had left their homes to follow Him. Nobody would be left out because there is room for all. Maybe our Lord is referring to both ideas. The idea that God is not only a divine Person but also a place was a common one in the Old Testament:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. (Psalm 90:1 | TNIV)

Jesus, the way to God

Leave it to a guy like Thomas to ask the question that all the disciples likely had in their minds:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”. (John 14:5 | TNIV)

Our Lord’s answer is among the most profound declarations in all of Scripture.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”. (John 14:6, 7 | TNIV)

Jesus doesn’t show the way, He Himself is the way. There’s a difference. Our job as followers of Jesus is to show the way to God, and that way is a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Lenksi quotes Koegel’s sermon on this very topic:

Jesus doesn’t say, “I show you the way,” like a second Moses, but “I am the way.” Nor “I have the truth,” like another Elijah, but “I am the truth.” Not only, “I lead you to life,” like one of His apostles, but “I am the life.”

Philip also had his question, which lead to another profound declaration:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:11 | TNIV)

That’s an interesting statement. Followers of Jesus are presented with a choice: Simply believe that Jesus and the Father are one and the same, or if you can’t muster that kind of faith, at the very least believe the evidence of your experience. In the case of the disciples, they had seen all that Jesus did and those miracles were evidence enough. In your case, if doubts ever float into your head and you wonder about Jesus, read again all that He did and remember what He’s done for you. Pretty soon your doubts will fade away.

The Holy Spirit, obedience, and peace

But why did Jesus have to leave them? That’s really what the disciples wanted to know. To them, it didn’t seem to make any sense. If preparing a place for them was too much for them to conceive, Jesus gave them an immensely practical reason for leaving:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16 – 18 | TNIV)

Jesus had to leave so that “another advocate,” the “Spirit of truth,” could come be with them. That phrase, “another advocate” is misleading. The Holy Spirit is “another of the same kind,” in other words, having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is just like having the Spirit of Jesus in us. When our Lord was here in the flesh, He was confined to a local area. He had to leave so that the blessing of His presence could be given to all people, everywhere. The Holy Spirit makes no sense to the world, but He does to you. He makes it possible for you to live like Jesus did.

Jesus took this occasion to give His disciples a gentle admonition:

If you love me, keep my commands. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:15, 21 | TNIV)

These two verses have to do with love, even though it looks like something else. Verse 15 is the why a Christian should live in obedience to the teachings of Christ and in verse 21, love becomes the test of love. A believer who knows the commands of Jesus and puts them into practice is the one who loves Jesus. These commands, by the way, serve a very important purpose, as one scholar put it:

The instructions of our Lord were given not to make us better theologians but better people.

To which we should all say a hearty, “Amen!” But then Jesus promises a kind of reward to those who love Him in obedience. Of course, that love will be returned by the Father and the Son, but the Son will “show Himself to them.” More than one scholar has pointed out that our Lord was speaking figuratively here. He didn’t mean that He would come to them in dreams and visions, but rather that the obedient, loving believer will enjoy the continual presence of Christ. This spiritual self-revelation refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16 | TNIV)

All this context is the background to this promise that so many believers cling to but few catch the connection:

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 | TNIV)

Back in the day, “peace” was both a greeting and farewell. This is how Jesus used the word here, only in reverse order – on the eve of His leaving, He left them peace but then prophetically offers it to them. The Greek word is eirene, and the Greeks looked at peace as the absence of strife. But to the Hebrew, “peace” was a much deeper word that carried with it a “sense of inner well-being.” This is what Jesus was leaving His people and at the same time offering them: Complete well-being. But that well-being is a to be continual state that comes from a relationship with Christ through faith, resulting from the presence of the Holy Spirit and life lived in obedience to the commands of Christ. So many Christians think that this peace comes to them at moments of stress and anxiety – like at the funeral or during some kind of test. But that’s not the idea here. The idea is that the believer will walk in this peace all the days of his life as he enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit and endeavours to live in obedience to the Lord.

This promised peace is Christ’s own peace, and it’s nothing like the peace of the world, which comes and goes and sometimes has to be enforced at the end of a gun! What good is that kind of peace? The world’s peace always falls short. God’s peace, though, is exactly what you need because it meets all your needs.

If you, as a believer, find God’s peace elusive, the problem lies with you, not with God. You say you love Him, but are living in obedience to Him? You have the Holy Spirit within, but are you paying attention to Him? You have all you need to be at peace. Appropriate it by doing what’s right.

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Exceeding Abundantly Above, Part 1

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Most Christians have heard this verse quoted many, many times. We hear it often in prayers or sometimes in sermons. It’s a favorite verse for those of us who, from time time, may have found ourselves in need – physical, spiritual, emotional, or especially financial. You probably know the words, though not where it’s found in the Bible. Here it is, Ephesians 3:20 –

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us… (KJV)

We know the words, but do we really understand what they mean? The three words that catch my attention, and maybe yours too, are these: “exceeding abundantly above.” Those are powerful words when you string them together, and they’re describing something phenomenal.

To help us grasp the magnitude of “exceeding abundantly above,” let’s turn to nature and observe the noble cod. The cod is one of nature’s most amazing fish due in large part to it’s astounding fecundity. Scientists who have studied the noble cod have calculated that a single cod will deposit nine million eggs. That the number nine, followed by six zeroes. That is a mind-boggling number of eggs, and it’s even more bewildering when you realize how many cod there are in the world’s oceans, all depositing their nine million eggs.

That’s a homey illustration of “exceeding abundantly above.” What is true of the mighty cod is true of our God, in the sense that He provides whatever we need in absolute abundance, all the time.

So, with the image of nine million cod fish eggs swirling around your mind, let’s consider just what it is that the Lord provides. He provides so much, but let’s go back to the beginning and think about God’s provision of grace.

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound… (Romans 5:20. KJV)

That verse seems to be talking about two things in abundance: sin and grace. But it occurs in a chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans dealing with peace, as indicated by the very first verse –

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Romans 5:1. TNIV)

Peace, when there is no peace

You might have noticed that peace is in short supply these days. Actually, it’s been in short supply since Cain murdered his brother Abel. The world was at peace until that sad event and it’s been downhill ever since. It’s not that mankind hasn’t been looking for peace or desiring peace, it’s that we can’t seem to find it. But that’s because man has been looking in the wrong places for it.

Take that towering example of virtue and intellect, Malcolm X. He once said this:

Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the laws, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That’s a good religion.

That’s right. Live at peace with everybody, until they get too close to you, then let’em have it.

Think about all the peace treaties that have been hammered out and signed by various states in the Middle East. How’s that working out?

And what about that League of Nations? The world was so shocked by World War I, it became known as “the war to end all wars,” and the League of Nations was formed as a way to stop any world war from ever happening again. During the 1930’s the League did virtually nothing to halt Hitler’s aggressions and his repudiation of Versailles Treaty that ended the “war to end all wars.” And following World War II, since the League of Nations was so successful, the world’s nations kicked that can again and formed the United Nations, which, as we know, has been wildly successful at confiscating the wealth of the western world but as far as keeping the peace in the world. Right, not so much.

Gerry Adams, president of Ireland’s Sinn Fein party, famously and rightly observed –

Making peace, I have found, is much harder than making war.

He’s right about that. It’s a lot easier to fight than it is to be at peace. That’s because strife is the common lot of man, not peace. Since the Fall, man has been at odds with his fellow man, with the world around him, with himself, but most of all, sin has caused a rift between God and man; a rift that no treaty can repair. There’s not a single thing a sinner can do to make peace between himself and his God. Nothing. That’s why Paul’s opening statement in Romans 5 is so spectacular: we have peace with God. And when you have peace with God, you will be at peace with the world around you.

How is it possible that we as Christians have peace with God? Nobody else on earth does, by the way, only Christians. Here’s what Paul had to say about this –

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness… (Romans 1:18. TNIV)

So all people on earth are under the wrath of God. That’s the human race’s default position, by the way. People don’t start out in God’s good graces. We’re all born sinners and born under the wrath of God. Nobody begins life untainted by sin. Only the Christian escapes this wrath because only the Christian has experienced God’s grace.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25, 26. TNIV)

So peace with God can only be achieved when a sinner enters the Kingdom God, where peace is the norm, by faith in Jesus Christ and in the work He accomplished on the Cross. God’s wrath, as far as the Christian is concerned, has been completely and forever deflected. The justice of God which demands sins be paid for has been satisfied in the work and Person of Jesus Christ. And that’s why only the Christian can know what real peace feels like. Peace in the midst of utter chaos is possible when you are in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. He, not drugs or vacations or people, is our peace.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  (Romans 4:25. TNIV)

All Paul means with that verse is that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are “justified” which is a fancy way of saying thanks to Jesus, we are viewed by God “just as though we never sinned.” That’s why we have peace with God – there’s no fear that we’ll ever by punished because we know Jesus was punished for us.

God’s definition of peace

You might wonder how it’s possible to be at peace with the world around you just because you’re at peace with God. Let’s look at how Paul dealt with this peace when he wrote to another congregation –

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7. TNIV)

God’s peace “transcends all understanding” is just another way of saying that it’s all but impossible to understand God’s peace. But you don’t have to understand it to experience it! You may not understand electricity, but that doesn’t stop you from turning your lights on when you walk into a dark room. You don’t understand how your skinny HD TV works, but that didn’t stop you from buying one, hanging it on your wall, and starting a Netflix account so you can watch old TV shows back to back to back. There are all kinds of things in life we don’t understand but we still enjoy them. God’s peace is like that. And the key to enjoying God’s peace that “transcends all understanding,” is this –

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6. TNIV)

Like most things, this peace that comes from God – that is unimaginable – is ours in Christ Jesus (that is, as long as we are in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ) if we do a couple of things. In other words, while we have peace with God simply by virtue of our relationship with Christ, if we want to experience it on a day-to-day basis in the here-and-now, we have to do a couple of things. First, we have to stop being anxious about anything. Yes, anything. There is never, ever a time for the believer to be anxious. That’s hard because we live in a culture that sees anxiety as a virtue. We are trained almost from birth to worry – and be all dramatic – about everything in our lives. It’s crazy, the things we worry about. America used to be the home of the brave, but now we’ve become a home for the paranoid – for people always worried about this or that, often about things we have absolutely no control over. If you find God’s promised peace elusive, maybe you need to change your habitual way of thinking. Instead of automatically defaulting to the negative all the time, make a conscious effort to see the situation from another perspective: God’s perspective. Paul made that clear to the Romans when he encouraged them to, “…be transformed by renewing your minds…” (Romans 12:2). That means to change the direction of your thinking. If you can do that, you’ll be one step closer to experiencing that “peace that transcends all understanding.”

However, simply changing your thought-life isn’t enough. You have to replace the bad habit (worrying) with good ones: Prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving. So instead of worrying about a situation, pray and ask God to intervene and do something. Pray in faith believing this –

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13, 14. TNIV)

So ask, and then thank God for He’s going to do. Thank God for bringing His will to pass in the situation you’re tempted to worry about but won’t because you prayed about it!

When you let it go and give it over to God, you will finally experience the “peace that transcends all understanding.” It was provided for you on the Cross of Christ. Peace – abundant peace – the result of you and God being reconciled and brought together isn’t just a spiritual peace between you and God, but it’s a practical peace between you and anything or anybody around you.

That’s what makes Romans 5:20 such a deeply moving and profound verse. In case you forgot it, here it is in a modern translation –

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20. TNIV)

That’s an admittedly confusing verse, especially the first sentence. Let’s make it really simple so we can all understand what Paul is getting at in a very general sense. There are two ways a sinful man may take to deal with the sin in his life. He can take the legalistic route. A lot of religions are legalistic. They provide you with an endless list of do’s and don’ts. If you can stick to their do’s and don’ts, you’ll be OK. The problem is, as Paul noted, the “law,” the Jewish list of do’s and don’ts, only served to make those trying to keep it sin more! That’s the downfall of every religion based on rules and regulations: they aggravate the sin problem and even make it worse. But, and this is the second sentence, the increase of sin due to man’s meddling cannot defeat God’s grace because, “Where sin increased, grace increased even more.” In other words, in the battle between sin and grace, grace will always win because grace abounds – it is endless.

In the context of Romans 5, no matter what is happening in your life, you will always experience God’s peace through His grace because that peace never ends. Your life may be in turmoil but that doesn’t limit God’s peace through His grace. The devil may try to convince you that God is mad at you because of stray bad thought. That’s a lie. God’s grace and the peace that exists between you and Him is stronger than that stray bad thought.

HEBREWS: THE FOUR WAYS, CONCLUSION

Real serenity. Not a worry in sight.

The Way of Submission and the Way of Peace, 13:17—21

Our letter writer is getting back the thought he began in verse 7:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

The intervening verses, 8—16, may be considered parenthetical in that they are more or less doctrinal. With verse 17, the writer switches back to the practicalities of holiness. Christian leaders have a solemn responsibility to live a life that reflects the faith they preach. Eventually, these Christian leaders must give account to God, not only for themselves, but also for those under their care—the members of their church. The readers of this letter needed to keep this in mind, so as not to make their job any more difficult.

1. Submit to church leaders, verse 17

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In addition to imitating the life of faith of the spiritual leaders who have passed, Christians are to “obey” and “submit” to their present spiritual leaders. In all likelihood, this admonition was given in response to a specific occasion or incident which was known to the writer. We know, for example, that some of these Hebrew believers had given up gathering together for corporate worship and that others were being influenced by false teaching. Their true Christian leaders needed the support and encouragement of their people now more than ever!

Some in our cynical society, and indeed some of the original readers of this letter, may wonder whether or not their pastoral leaders really had God’s authority or whether they had invented their own authority. It’s not uncommon for people to seek a career in the ministry because they, frankly, like the power it gives them. So, how do you know if your pastor or Sunday School teacher has Christ’s authority as they do their work? If a spiritual leader is genuinely committed and dedicated to the Word of God, both professionally and personally, the odds are very good that they preach and teach with Christ’s authority.

Why is it so important to respect the authority of your spiritual leaders? It’s because they have a responsibility to care for you, but also they will have to answer to God for your spiritual condition. Yes, leading the flock of God is a great privilege, but with that privilege comes a very heavy responsibility. The phrase “they keep watch over you” really means, “the keep watch for your souls.” What a powerful thought! A true spiritual leader knows well the word of the Lord to Ezekiel:

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. (Ezekiel 3:17—18)

J.B. Philips in his translation of Hebrews renders the last sentences of verse 17 like this:

Try to make their work a pleasure and not a burden—by so doing you will help not only them but yourselves.

The task of the pastor is heavy enough at the best of times. When members of his congregation engage in spiritual mutiny, his job is even harder. The fact is, as we honor and respect our spiritual leaders, we not only bring them a measure of joy, but we also help ourselves in the process.

However, our submission to our spiritual leaders must be predicated on their submission to God. A spiritual leader must be called of God to do the work of God in watching over the souls of his people. If he’s all about playing golf and taking vacations and feathering his own nest, he has no claim to the divine rights of his position. Sometimes we forget the the position of “clergyman” was not invented by the Church, it was established by God.

2. Pray for one another, verses 18, 19

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.

These two highly personal verses are like the flip side of the coin. Preachers are not supermen. They need supernatural help to do their work. They need prayer. The man of God not only has a right to be obeyed by his people, but he also has needs. One of those needs is for the prayer support and the loving encouragement of his people.

As we read this verse, it’s almost pathetic. There is almost a sense that the writer, whoever it was, had a fear of rejection, or being taken the wrong way. It may well be that in addition to caring for the souls of his readers, he’s also combating scandalous accusations made against him by false teachers. But his conscious is absolutely clear; both his work and his conduct were in line with God’s Word.

It may seem strange that the writer of this letter—a mature, thoughtful, and obviously spiritual individual—should ask for prayer from those reading this letter—people who needed his help, people who were struggling in their faith. How odd it seems for the greater to be asking something of the lesser. However, there is a great lesson here for us. The idea that I, an average or maybe below average Christian, one who has his own lapses of faith and is riddled with doubt, should think it’s possible for me  pray for another seems like the height of presumption! Surely I am the one in need of prayer! That kind of thinking is probably more common than we think. When it comes to spiritual superiority and power in prayer, those things don’t rest in any particular individual but in God Himself! We do not pray and intercede for others out of our own spiritual resources, but out of God’s infinite grace administered through His Holy Spirit. The fact is, God has created us as individuals, yet bound together as the Body of Christ by His Spirit. And each one of us, members of one Body, while dependent on the other, also offer our own talents and abilities to the whole. When it comes to members of the Body of Christ, it’s never a matter of superiority or inferiority, but of working together in complete harmony. Paul comments on this:

those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:22—26)

This is why we are all called to pray for one another. Each of us has been created by God. We are different from each other; we are distinct from each other but each of us has a place in and a role to fulfill within the kingdom of God. We have a responsibility to each other and if we are unfaithful in carrying out that responsibility, it will go undone and somebody will suffer. It won’t be the one you should be responsible for because God’s grace will look after him. It will be you. If you are a lax or lazy Christian who is so self-centered you don’t realize your responsibilities as a member of the Body of Christ, you will miss out the best God wants for you.

The writer of this letter understood this, and in humility he is giving them a chance to be blessed by giving them the opportunity to pray for him.

3. The way of peace, verses 20, 21

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

What a beautiful title: the God of peace! These verses form a benediction but it’s a deep thought in these two verses. Our God is a God of peace, and He makes that peace available to us all. That title brings a number of things to mind:

a. We live in a hostile world.

While Christians are called to “be in the world but not of the world,” we realize that the world is hostile toward God, the things of God, and to the people of God. The world exists to frustrate the purposes of God. Not only is the world in which we live hostile, but there is a spiritual world that is also hostile to the Christian. There is spiritual warfare going on all around us; we can’t see it but we may frequently see its results. But God’s peace transcends the upheavals of the world we see and that which we can’t. The peace of God has been called “the peace that passes understanding” because it sometimes doesn’t make any sense! How in the world can a person be at peace when their lives are so topsy turvy? In reality, that peace can be ours; that peace is available to any and all believers. If you don’t have it, it’s not God’s fault!

b. There are struggles in the church.

Yes, it’s unfortunate but true, but sometimes the atmosphere inside the church is just as toxic as it is outside the church! Imagine never finding relief from the stresses and struggles of the world because your church is a mess. There are churches like that and there are Christians who don’t know what unity and harmony looks like because their church is full of divisions and strife. For you unfortunate believers in that boat, the Bible has a word of advice for you:

come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord… (2 Corinthians 6:17)

You may think you should “bloom where you’re planted,” but sometimes the best thing is to be uprooted and transplanted so you will flourish. Once again, if you get stressed out in your church, don’t blame God. You need get yourself in a position to receive His peace, and that might mean a new church.

c. Peace with God.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Romans 5:1)

Thanks to the work of Christ, we are no longer at war with God. The conflict between man and God is over! Those who have named Christ as Lord and Savior have found the peace of redemption and reconciliation with God. As we yield ourselves to God’s will and accept His forgiveness, we are immersed in a supernatural peace. We rejoice that God took the initiative in making peace with us and we are blessed as we open ourselves up to Him and receive it.

The writer’s benediction comes swiftly after asking to be remembered in prayer. It’s personal and to the point. He mentions his “short letter,” although if Hebrews is a short letter in his estimation, we’d hate to see what a long letter looks like! He mentions Timothy, which as led some scholars to thing the writer is Paul. He mentions Italy and God’s people living there. Then he wraps up his letter by wishing them God’s grace:

Grace be with you all. (verse 25)

Without question, God’s grace is man’s summum bonum. It is the greatest gift available to any human being: God’s grace.

(c)  2012  WitzEnd

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