Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Peace of Christ

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 48
“The Peace of Christ”
First Published: December 7, 1999

Is this a peaceful season for you? Come on now, nobody else is listening. You can tell me. Is this really a peaceful season, a time in which your soul is refreshed in and focused upon Christ?

Well, whatever the case is with you, in the next few weeks literally thousands of cards will be sent out proclaiming “Peace on earth” when it will patently be the case that: (a) there is no such peace, (b) many senders and receivers do not have a clear conception of what peace is, and (c) many senders and receivers have not experienced (or are not experiencing) peace.

Now granted, there are some peculiar difficulties in this season which make it especially difficult. There is an increased busy-ness. The pace of life seems to speed up and we are often exhausted. There are past memories (good and bad). The good memories sometimes tempt us to present discontentment (“I wish it could be that way again and now”). The bad memories sometimes keep us from contentment with present blessings, because they preoccupy us and overshadow the many things for which we ought to give thanks. The separation of families is another thing that creates tension in this season. Perhaps parents or grown children live far away and we are unable to spend time with them during the holidays. This, in and of itself, can depress us. Or perhaps conflict occurs when trying to decide which set of parents or grandparents are going to visit or be visited. Then there are those unfulfilled expectations. We begin the season hoping that it will be our best ever and determined to relish ever moment, every carol, every smile. But then reality falls short of our dreams. Furthermore, family problems seem more acute at this time of year. Marital problems are intensified. Bitterness and frustration is sharper for those whose marriages have fallen apart. Then again, anxieties over fulfillment of obligations sometimes drown our joy (did I get the right present for so and so?). Extra pressures seem to abound at work. And so many feel forgotten, overlooked, and struggle with an aching loneliness.

These kinds of things often leave many people (even Christians) feeling totally overwhelmed and experiencing very little peace. But, dear friends, what an opportunity we have at this time of year to minister to others who are not presently enjoying the peace of Christ! Yes, this season can bring a challenge to our abilities to cope; but it also offers an opportunity for spiritual growth and service. There are multiple opportunities to: minister to the downcast, exhibit a good Christian model, evidence a sense of right priorities, and reflect the inextinguishable joy of inner peace with God.

So, how do we do it? Well, let’s start by defining peace (since we have already said that many don’t understand about the kind of peace that the Bible promises). What is the peace promised to and possessed by believers? It is not an absence of war or human conflict in this age. That kind of peace will only exist in the age to come. Nor does it refer to an absence of difficulties, challenges, or disappointments in our lives. No, for Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” Clearly, then, peace is not circumstantial.

So, what is peace? Peace is that state of the heart in which we rest comfortably in God because of his free favor to us in Christ. As Goudge says: “Grace is the free favor of God; peace is the condition which results from its reception.” Thus, spiritual peace entails a sense of the presence of God and a free submission to His will. We repose in God, who is our refuge, because we have been reconciled to him through Christ Jesus and we delight to do his pleasure.

How does one gain this kind of peace? We’ll talk about that next week. In the meantime, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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