Monday, March 22, 2010

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

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 32 Num. 48

“The Peace of Christ at Christmas”

First Published: December 14, 1999

Last time, we asked the question: “Is this a peaceful season for you?” Specifically, “is this really a peaceful season, a time in which your soul is refreshed in and focused upon Christ?” Though there are many obstacles thrown up against our experience of God’s peace, we know that Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” So, God himself tells us that it is possible to experience his grant of peace, in every situation – good or bad.

We also asked “what is peace?” and suggested that peace is that state of the heart in which we rest comfortably in God because of his free favor to us in Christ. The peace of which we are speaking does not mean the absence of difficulties, challenges, or disappointments, but rather 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. Now, how does a believer experience this kind of peace?

We must recognize some of the things that hinder us from the apprehension of God’s peace. Sometimes we allow our troubles to overshadow our trust in God. For some of us, our circumstances have become the occasion of overwhelming worry. We must recognize this for what it is. Sin. Paul tells us not to worry about anything! Of course, some of us suffer from temperamental fearfulness. That is, we have a natural tendency to worry. We, too, must recognize this proclivity and arm ourselves in prayer against it. Then again, you may be in the midst of a season in which you sense a lack of God's presence. You feel distant from God. For a non-Christian, this may be the result of conviction or anger at God. For a Christian this is sometimes the result of a trial or the warning sign of a weak walk with the Lord. Prayerlessness is another thing that robs us of peace. Even mature Christians are quickly undone without prayer. Then again, misplaced priorities can undercut our experience of peace. For instance, when we set our hearts on things as a source of contentment, we are killing ourselves to obtain something that can’t deliver. God created with a “God-shaped void” within us. Only he can fill it. Some of us lack peace because our dread of consequences. We are fearful of what may happen, and peace is blocked out. And still others of us are haunted by regret over our past wrongs. We often kick ourselves endlessly over past sins and mistakes. All these things can be hindrances to our enjoyment of Gospel peace.

So what are the antidotes to these impediments to peace?

Well, if our troubles (hard circumstances) are robbing us of peace, we need to pray for God to grant our hearts a whole submission to his SOVEREIGNTY and GOODNESS. As when the Psalmist prayed: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) If our fearfulness (worry) is confounding our peace, let us determine to fortify our hearts with a reliance on and confidence in God's SOVEREIGNTY and RIGHTEOUSNESS. As when Isaiah promises: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) If we lack the sense God's presence (feeling distant from God), let us draw near to him in PRAYER. And if we discover our priorities misplaced (which is basically idolatry), let us determine to seek CONTENTMENT only in God (rather than in people, circumstances, and temporal prosperity). As Paul said: “For He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

More on peace next time.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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