VIDEO Supernatural Peace

John MacArthur May 10, 2015

We come now to the Word of God and we return to the 14th chapter of the gospel of John: John, chapter 14.  As we’ve been going through the gospel of John, we’ve taken paragraphs pretty much along the way.  But this morning I want to deal with just one verse, one verse that is a very wonderful verse, a very important one.  It’s John, chapter 14 and verse 27, John 14:27.

We’ve worked our way all the way up to this verse and I couldn’t get past it, it’s just so rich.  John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”

Peace appears twice in that brief verse.  It’s a popular word; it’s an almost impossible reality.  It is a constant pursuit.  I give credit to people for chasing it.  But it seems as though the world has been unable to find it, and that is, in fact, true.

Turmoil is in us, near us, around us, and beyond us, dominating the fallen world.  There is an absence of personal peace, family peace, local peace, national peace, international peace.  The Durants, in writing their history, said that by their calculations, in the last 3,500 years, there has been less than 300 years that could be called peaceful in the world.  On a national level, this is a very troubled society.  There are many ways to demonstrate that, but that would in some ways be redundant since you’re all aware of it.

Maybe something you didn’t know is that two million Americans are in prison.  That’s the highest incarceration rate on the planet; and we’re supposed to have everything in this country.  We’re now facing, it seems, street riots on a routine basis, execution-type killings, and the threat of terrorism in our neighborhoods.  At the same time, family disintegration is pandemic.  Children are born illegitimately without a married mother and father, divorce is everywhere.  And where divorce doesn’t take place, marriages are still full of conflict, hostility.  And at the bottom of that list is personal peace.

This is a very troubled world, even at the level of human hearts; a lot of talk about peace.  There are always people trying to find peace: peace in the cities, peace in the communities, peace in the family, peace in relationships, peace in the world.  There are always people trying to come up with truces of some kind between conflicting parties.  People want that; they want peace in their lives.  They want some tranquility in their lives inside of them, and in the most intimate relationships they posses – in families and in communities, and on and on and on – to be free from trouble; to be free from stress; to be free from threats, fear, anxiety, depression, despair, conflict.  Everybody seeks that.

People talk about trying to find peace and quiet, or trying to make peace, or law enforcement trying to keep the peace, or global arbitrators trying to establish peace, until we finally rest in peace.  People pursue their peace by diversion, by drugs, by recreation, by entertainment, by shopping.  On a broader scale, there are those who tell us that peace will only come in communities and cities when there is social change, when there is economic change, when we fix the external things.  People have been saying that since the beginning of human history, and peace has been completely elusive.  There is a reason for this and it is this: among those who do not know God in the wicked world, there is no peace, there is no peace.

I read some years ago an assessment of history that asked the question: “How many peace treaties that have been signed have been broken through human history?”  Answer: All of them.

Now people settle for a minimalist definition of peace, a moment’s calm, a moment’s tranquility, a brief truce.  Historians have defined peace in the world as the lull in the battle when everybody stops to reload.  But there is a peace that comes only from God, and that’s the peace that is being presented to us in that verse I read.  Let’s look at a biblical definition of this peace.  Only God’s Word, only God through His Word, can authoritatively point to real peace.

Now in the Old Testament, there’s a familiar word for peace.  It’s the word shalom, and it’s used about 250 times.  Very common word among Jewish people.  In fact, it is the most normal greeting among Jewish people, and has been for centuries: “Shalom.”

It began to be used as a greeting way back in the book of Judges, way back in 1 Samuel.  It has been a part of Jewish culture since the beginning.  And when they said to someone, “Peace,” what did they mean?  Did they mean, “May you please stop fighting with your wife,” or, “Would you please stop being a problem in the neighborhood or disrupting the synagogue”?  What did they mean?

Shalom is a word that is a very large and all-encompassing word, and in essence it means this: a wish for completeness; or a wish for contentment; or a wish for fulfillment, or satisfaction, or blessing; or maybe well-being works; a wish for prosperity on all levels.  In other words, it is a desire that all that is good would flow into your life.

And that’s what Jewish people meant, and still mean, when they say shalom.  They don’t mean, “I hope you stop fighting with your wife.”  They mean, “I wish for you all that is good, all that is blessed, all that brings satisfaction, fulfillment, completeness, and contentment.”

The New Testament counterpart to that word is the word eirn from which we get the feminine name Irene.  It is the same thing.  Eirn is a word that literally describes a tranquil state of the soul, a soul at rest, a satisfied soul.  That’s the biblical view of peace.

Now outside the Scripture, humanity would settle for far less than that.  Humanity would define peace mostly in negative terms: to be without trouble; to be free from conflict; to have no stress.  It would be the absence of hostility, the absence of unrest, the absence of conflict.  Peace for the world is just the absence of what troubles them.  It is being free from things that cause you to be fearful, anxious, depressed.

But that is an insufficient and incomplete definition of peace; however, it is the only peace the world can offer.  That has to be their definition because that’s all there is.  There’s only the possibility of a lull in the conflict.  There’s only a possibility of a kind of superficial, temporary respite from an otherwise troubled existence.

Job said, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.  As inevitably as sparks off a fire go up, man is born to trouble.”  In this world Jesus said you’ll have trouble.  It’s the nature of fallen people living in a fallen world and colliding with other fallen people.  So we’ve got to kind of condescend a little bit to the world because the only kind of peace that they can ever experience is some temporary absence from conflict, or some temporary escape from conflict.

But that is not how the Bible views peace.  The most definitive condensed statement on peace I just read, it’s in chapter 14 of John, and verse 27.  The Bible says a lot about peace, and the word for peace is used, as I said, about 250 times in the Old Testament, Hebrew word.  The Greek word is very, very frequently used in the New Testament.  But when the Bible talks about peace, it is talking about something completely different; and that ought to be obvious to you because when Jesus says, “I’m giving you My peace,” He says, “it’s not the peace the world gives you.”

And what is fascinating to me is that at the very time that our Lord talks about peace and presents this peace as His own peace that He’s granting to His followers, He is at the most dramatic, potentially disturbing, distressing moment in His life.  He is leaving the world in hours through the means of execution on a cross, and He knows that, and He knows the details of it.  He has lived through them in anticipation by His omniscience a thousand, thousand times.  He knows what He faces.  He knows He will be not only crucified, it’s not just the physical reality of that, but that He will be separated from His Father and He will be punished for all the sins of all the people through all of human history who will ever believe.  He knows what He’s facing.

He also knows that His disciples are profoundly distressed.  They had certainly everything they could possibly hope for and more in His presence for three years, and now He is leaving.  He has said that to them repeatedly.  He’ll say it again in verse 28: “I go away.”  And He knows that this is troubling to them.  As chapter 14 opens up, He says, “Stop letting your hearts be troubled.”  So He is going to give to them a kind of peace which will put an end to their troubled heart.

I remind you that the setting here is Thursday night of Passion Week and the last week of our Lord’s life before His crucifixion.  This is Thursday night.  They’re celebrating the Passover in an upper room.  And starting in chapter 13 and going through 16, our Lord speaks to His disciples in that upper room.  And this section is full of promises, full of amazing, astonishing, startling, incomparable promises that our Lord who is leaving is going to give to His own, not only to the disciples, the 11 – Judas has exited by chapter 14 – not only to the 11 true disciples, but to everyone who will believe through what the disciples will write and preach.

So this is His legacy to all of us as well.  So in chapter 17 after He’s made all the promises in 13 to 16, He prays to the Father and asks the Father to fulfill all the promises; and He actually says in chapter 17, “Not only for these who are with Me, but for all those who will believe.”  So these are promises to all who will believe; and He promises us heaven, and He promises us that He’s preparing a room for us, and that He’ll be back to take us to glory.  He promises that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit will all dwell with us.

And then last time we saw that He promises truth, truth.  He pledges that the Spirit will come and enable the apostles and the associates to write the New Testament, and the truth will be deposited to His people for all of history.  So He’s made some astonishing promises: heaven, resources, whatever you ask for.  “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it.  You have all of heaven’s resources at your disposal even though I’m not here.  And truth is always going to be available to you through the Word of God, the Scripture, and the illuminating ministry of the Spirit in you.  And now the promise: peace, peace.”

But this is a supernatural peace.  It belongs only to those who are Christ’s.  There are four features of this peace that I want you to see in this one verse, okay, four features of this supernatural, divine peace.

First of all, the nature of this peace, the nature of peace.  When we’re talking about peace, what are we talking about exactly, specifically?  Well let me say very simply, there are two aspects to this: one is objective and one is subjective.  What do I mean by that?

An objective peace is that peace which is outside of you.  It is not inside of you; it is not experienced by you; it is outside of you.  It is a transactional peace.  And then that’s the objective peace.  The subjective peace is that peace that is inside of you and it is experiential, and the second is based on the first.

So when we talk about peace, let’s look at verse 27 and see how our Lord gives us the nature of this peace inherent in this statement: “Peace I leave with you.”  This is a deposit; this is a gift.  This is not a command, this is a gift.  He is not asking them to find this peace, He is saying, “I’m leaving this peace with you.  I’m depositing this peace.  You will possess this peace.”  It is a reality; it is a gift; it is a transaction.  Our Lord grants them this peace and to all who will follow them in loving and serving Him.

What are we talking about?  What is this peace?  Maybe the best way to start explaining it is to have you turn to Romans 5; Romans, chapter 5.  And here it jumps out of the page at you right away; chapter 5, verse 1.  Based on the work of Christ in the end of chapter 4, Him being delivered over because of our transgressions and raised for our justification, based on His work on the cross, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” okay.

So now we’re talking about peace with God.  Preposition is very important: peace with God.  We are at peace with God, that is why Paul in Ephesians 6:15 calls the gospel, “The gospel of peace,” because the gospel brings peace between the sinner and God.  That’s what justification does.  When God declares you just, when He imputes the righteousness of Christ to you, you are declared righteous.  You are justified by faith in Christ and by the work that He did on the cross.

On the cross, He paid the penalty for your sin, and that frees God to forgive you and impute the righteousness of Christ to you.  That is a declaration; that is a divine decree; that is not an experience.  That is not inside of you, it is a transaction that takes place outside of you by a sovereign God.

You are justified by God; that means declared righteous based upon your faith in Jesus Christ; and His righteousness then imputed to you, you stand just before God.  Therefore, we have peace with God.  Every Christian has peace with God, every Christian.

Now before you are saved, before you come to the knowledge of Christ, the situation is very, very different.  To find out how different it is, all you have to do is look at verse 10 of Romans 5: “We were enemies.  We were enemies.”

There’s no peace, no peace.  We are alienated from the life of God, cut off from God.  We hated God.  In a very divine and pure sense, God hated us.  He is angry with the wicked every day the Scripture says.

There was the most severe and permanent everlasting alienation between the sinner and God.  It ends up for those who don’t believe as eternal hell.  That’s how alienated we are from God.  That is the supernatural and final and terminal extent of our alienation: “We were enemies, but we were reconciled to God.”

How were we reconciled to God?  “Through the death of His Son, through the death of His Son,” end of verse 11.  So through the Lord Jesus Christ, we have now received the reconciliation.  That is the kind of peace we’re talking about, first of all, objectively.

Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 5.  Very important portion of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 5, verse 18: “God, who reconciled us to Himself.”  Verse 19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself by not counting their trespasses against them.”

How did God do this?  How did He reconcile us?  By verse 21: “He made Him, Christ, who knew no sin, sin on our behalf.”  So He put our sins on Christ, punished Christ.  And since our sins were paid for in full, all we have to do is believe and we are reconciled to God.  That’s the kind of peace we’re talking about.

I want to show you one other important text.  It’s in the 1st chapter of Colossians, Colossians 1:19, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, in Christ, and through Him, through Christ, to reconcile all things to Himself.”

How did He do that?  “By having made peace through the blood of His cross.  He made peace through the blood of His cross.”  Another way to say that is in verse 22: “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”  That reconciliation is the peace with God that Romans 5:1 is talking about.

Since the rebellion of Adam and Eve, the whole human race has been born alienated from God.  The whole human race has been born enemies of God.  The whole human race has been born as a children of wrath under divine judgment.  We are the enemies of God by birth, we’re born that way; and we’re the enemies of God by choice.  We are the enemies of God by heritage and we’re the enemies of God by action.

Humanity and God are at war.  All of us came into the world at war with God.  We are part of the world, and James 4:4 says, “Friendship with the world is to be the enemy of God.”  But the gospel of peace is the message that the enemies can be reconciled, and that peace was made through the blood of the cross.

That is justification.  All sin is forgiven; the rebellion has ended.  The enemies have become friends; the enemies have even become sons of God.  We are welcomed into God’s family and God’s presence forever.  Jesus made peace by taking on our punishment in full, and we are reconciled, and we now have peace with God forever,  We have peace with God forever.

Put it another way: forever God is on our side.  Forever He will never leave us or forsake us.  Forever we will be in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Forever we will possess the very life of God, forever.  That is an external, eternal reality, never to change.  That’s objective peace with God.

But that objective peace also provides for us a subjective peace, an internal peace, an experiential peace; a sense of goodness, trust, contentment, tranquility, confidence, well-being; and that is why when we get together, we love to sing, for example It Is Well with My Soul.  Of all the hymns that we sing, I don’t know that you sing any hymn with more eager gusto than you sing that hymn.  You just sing it with all your heart, “It is well with my soul.”  And you are in the moment, you’re expressing that, experiencing the subjective peace that comes from the objective reality of being reconciled to God.  That’s the joy that we have in being believers.

In Romans, chapter 15, there’s a verse, verse 13, that says this: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope.”  That’s a prayer.  That’s a prayer from the apostle who’s saying, “I want you to literally be filled with the subjective peace that ought to be the result of your objective reconciliation,” Romans 15:13.

Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking; the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  You have been made righteous, you’ve been justified, and the result of that is peace and joy.  And the two are really inseparable: if you’re at peace, you’re in joy.

Now this is not a kind of passive peace; it is not just being willing to endure; it is a lot more than that.  It is not some kind of benign reality.  It is a triumphant peace.  It is an aggressive peace.  It is a peace that moves out.  It is a conquering peace.

It is a peace that not only protects you from anxiety, and fear, and doubt, and despair; but it is a peace that triumphs over everything with courage, confidence, contentment.  It’s a triumphant peace, and you should be experiencing all of it.  So that’s the kind of peace our Lord is saying: “I leave you this peace.”  First of all, objectively, peace with God; and then subjectively, the peace of God, which is what it’s called Philippians 4 as we will see.  So that’s the kind of peace.

All right, just another feature: the source of peace.  Back to verse 27: “My peace I give to you, My peace.  Peace I leave you, but it’s My peace.”  That is to say it’s divine, it’s supernatural.  It comes from heaven; it belongs to Christ; it belongs to God.  I won’t take the time; I won’t take the time; but many places in the Bible you will find this statement: “The God of peace, the God of peace.”

You’ll find it in Romans 15; you’ll find it in Romans 16; you’ll find it in Philippians 4, 1 Thessalonians 5, Hebrews 13, 2 Corinthians 13, 1 Corinthians 14, et cetera, et cetera.  Second Thessalonians 3:16 I will point out to you: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.  The Lord be with you all!”  That’s his prayer again, that you would enjoy the peace that comes from the Lord of peace.

Well look at verse 27.  The peace that He gives is His own peace: “My peace.”  Another way to see that would be to go to chapter 16, verse 14, where our Lord says, “When I send the Holy Spirit, He will come.  He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.  He’s going to give you what I possess,” and part of that is His peace.  So the peace that we have is not the peace of the world – that’s the next statement he’s going to make – it’s from heaven.

Paul wrote 13 letters, at least.  We’re not sure if he wrote Hebrews or not, but he wrote 13 for sure.  In 12 of those letters he said this: “Grace and –” what “ – peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have the God of peace, we have the Lord of peace; and in Galatians 5, we have the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace.  Again, this is the essence of the Trinity that dwells in the believer; with the eternal life of the presence of the triune God comes divine peace.  It was the same peace: “My peace,” He said, that kept Him calm on that Thursday night knowing what was about to happen; knowing that His disciples would scatter, Peter would deny Him; knowing that He would go to the cross, bear sin.  It was the same calm really that he exhibited through His whole life when He was treated with mockery, scorn, hostility, hatred, betrayal, all undeserved.

Where did that peace come from?  Well, essentially, it came from perfect trust in the Father, perfect trust in the Father.  So just mark it down in your mind: peace is connected to trust.  It’s connected to trust.  His trust in the Father was so clear and so consummate and so complete that Hebrews 12:2 says, “He went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him,” even though in the going, in the garden, He was sweating blood in the agony.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate was one disturbed person.  Pilate was getting more disturbed and disoriented and more disconnected from any kind of reality the longer he had to cope with Jesus.  So finally in frustration, chapter 19 of John, verse 10, Pilate says to Jesus, “You do not speak to me?”  He’s literally outraged that Jesus doesn’t get who he is and how important he is.  “You do not speak to me?  Do you not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”

The calm is stunning.  Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.”  That’s trust.  “Whatever you’re going to do to Me is what God wants you to do to Me.  Whatever’s going to happen is God’s plan.”  That’s why I’m telling you the peace that He gives is the peace that is built, not only on the external reality of justification, but the internal reality of a God who can be trusted.

This is where the subjective peace begins to really become strong.  And so Paul said to the Thessalonians, as I read you, that, “I want to pray that you would be full of peace.”  That peace isn’t created in a vacuum.  It doesn’t come as a result of manipulating your mind, playing mind games or psychological tricks.

So Jesus says, “Look, I’m giving you My peace, the peace that I possess in the face of Pilate, My executioner, in the face of the cross, in the face of separation from the Father: ‘My God, My God.  Why have You forsaken Me?’ in the face of sin-bearing.  This is my peace and it’s My peace that I’m giving you.”  And that should be obvious.  If the Trinity lives in us and the Trinity’s presence is our eternal life, then we have the possession of those attributes which are God’s attributes, including His peace.

It’s not available to anybody else; and that’s the third point.  The nature of peace, the source of peace, and the transcendence of peace.  He says, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  This peace from God is not found in the human realm, it transcends all that the world offers of superficial and temporary peace.  The world’s pseudo peace – listen – the world’s pseudo peace is the bliss of ignorance.  It’s the bliss of ignorance.

One writer said, “The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not.  They may be fearless and stupid.  But there’s a great difference between a stupefied conscience and a pacified conscience.  This is the Devil’s peace.  He rocks men in the cradle of security.  He cries, ‘Peace, peace,’ when men are on the precipice of hell.  The seeming peace a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger.”  So I say the world’s pseudo peace is the peace of ignorance.

I was visiting Lori Price.  Her husband is going to glory, maybe today even.  Patricia and I went to be with them yesterday and their precious family.  They’ve been in our church for many years; and a sadness in the family to lose this precious father, grandfather, husband.

But we were rejoicing.  All of us were rejoicing in the face of this inevitable moment of death.  They were all saying how thrilled they were that he was now going to see the Savior.  There was such peace.  And Lori was saying that they have some hospice folks who’ve been coming in in recent weeks, and one of them wanting to help said, “Well, you know, it’s all going to be good because it’s just going to add another angel to heaven.”

This is a person who regularly deals with dying people, and that’s what you’ve got?  That’s it?  This is going to add another angel to heaven?  Based on what authority do you say that?  If that comforts anybody, it makes my point.  People are happy to settle on a stupid answer and a false peace.

And I’m not denigrating the dear woman who serves in that way, I’m just saying if you don’t know where the real peace lies, you come up with ignorant responses to the most dire of all events; somebody on the edge of hell in the most severe danger they ever been in, and you can’t come up with some kind of superficial statement out of the air.  But why do people do that?  Because it works.  People will settle for an ignorant answer and a fantasy rather than face a biblical reality.

So we’ve seen the nature of peace, the source of peace.  And the third thing to say is that this is a transcendent peace.  It’s not the kind of peace that the world talks about with its superficial ignorant fantasy.  The Bible emphasizes that the world’s peace is inadequate.

Isaiah 48:22, “‘There is no peace for the wicked,’ says the Lord.”  No peace.  Isaiah 57:21, “‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”  Jeremiah 6:14, God excoriates the false prophets who heal the brokenness of His people superficially saying, “‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”  You remember Jesus looking over Jerusalem says, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!  But now they’ve been hidden from your eyes.”  No peace.

In the end times, 1 Thessalonians 5, unbelievers are going to say, “‘Peace and safety!  Peace and safety!’ and destruction is going to come on them suddenly like labor pains on a woman with child, and they will not escape.”  You can’t find true peace in ignorance or fantasy, it’s only available in Christ.

People lack peace.  That’s not an emotional issue; that’s not a psychological issue; that’s not a circumstantial issue.  That is a theological issue; that is a spiritual issue, because only those who know Jesus Christ can have peace with God and the peace of God.  And that brings us to a last point.

We’ve seen the nature of peace, the source, the transcendence.  One other important feature: the pursuit of peace.  You say, “Wait a minute.  What do you mean the pursuit of peace?  You just said it’s a given.  You just said it’s a gift.  It’s not a command.  He said, ‘I’m giving you peace.  I’m leaving you peace, My peace.’  What do you mean, the pursuit?”

Well, look at verse 27: “Stop letting your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”  Even with all these promises, all these incredible promises of peace, is it not reality, folks, that we live a lot of our lives lacking peace?  Do I hear an amen?  That’s what I thought.

We have to talk about reality here.  Is it strange to say you have a promise and then to give a command?  No more strange than to say you have a cupboard with all the resources.  Why don’t you go there and take some out?  Or you have a bank account with all the money you need.  Why don’t you go withdraw some of it?

This is consistent with everything our Lord has promised.  There’s always appropriation.  Look, He promised us, “All the resources of heaven are available, but to access that, you ask in My name.”  He promises us the truth, the truth, written in Scripture for us.  But to access that, you study to show yourself approved unto God.  You search the Scripture.  You’re a diligent student.  He promises us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we are commanded to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, to be filled with the Spirit.  This shouldn’t be surprising because the Lord promised salvation and eternal life to His people, but that is appropriated by faith.

Psalm 34:14’s command is this: “Seek peace and pursue it.  Seek peace and pursue it.”  By the way, Peter quotes that in 1 Peter 3:11.  Isaiah 26:3 reveals that it is those – this is very important: “Who steadfastly trust God, who are kept in peace.”  Isaiah 32:17 links the experience of peace with a righteous life.  Colossians 3:15 says, “Allow the peace of Christ to rule in your hearts, to rule in your hearts.”  Not something in a corner; it should dominate you.

Paul urged Timothy, “Pursue peace,” 2 Timothy 2.  Peter wrote 2 Peter 3:14, “Be diligent to be found by Him in peace.”  James 3: “Righteousness and peace are inseparable.”  Hebrews 12 speaks of the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  So peace in your life is pursued through righteousness, through faith, through prayer.

You know, a good way to see this is to go back to Matthew, chapter 6, just briefly because we only have a few minutes.  But Matthew, chapter 6 – you know the passage – verse 25: “For this reason I say to you, stop worrying, stop worrying about your life.  Don’t worry about your life.  Don’t worry about what you’re going to drink, what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to wear.  Don’t worry about that.”  Then He goes through a whole litany of things: “God takes care of the birds, God takes care of the plants.  Worrying doesn’t help anything.  You can’t add a single hour to your life – ” verse 27 “ – by worrying.

“Why are you worried about your clothing?  Look how He clothes the lilies of the field more gloriously than Solomon.  If God takes care of grass and plants, don’t you think He’s going to take care of you, since they are temporary and you’re eternal?  This is what the pagans – ” verse 32 “ – seek.  Your Father in heaven knows that you have need of all these things.”  Verse 34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will care of itself.  Every day has enough trouble of its own.  You don’t need to import what hasn’t happened.”

So what’s the positive here?  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” okay, His righteousness.  So when you follow the path of righteousness, peace finds you on the trail, finds you on the road.  Don’t worry; pursue righteousness and you’ll find peace.  But one thing: you’ll have an affirming and not an accusing conscious.  That’s another message.

Philippians 4 – one more passage – Philippians 4, verse4: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”  That’s pretty clear.  But He still says, “Again I will say, rejoice!  Let your meekness, or your gentle spirit, be known to all men.  The Lord is near.”

Live in constant joy.  Never at any time should you be anything but joyful: “Rejoice in the Lord always; and I’m telling you again, rejoice!  Let your meekness be known to everyone.  What have you got to worry about?  The Lord is near.”

Verse 6: “Be anxious for – ” what “ – nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication.  Let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God – ” we already know about peace with God, Romans 5.  “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension – ” it’s not as the world knows, it’s beyond that.  “The peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It’s just an amazing thing.  Stop being anxious for anything.  You will pursue peace, first of all, when you pursue righteousness; secondly, when you pursue thankful prayer, when you come before God by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, letting your request be made known to God.

Now this introduces a critical component in peace: faith, faith.  You go to God in the midst of all your troubles because you believe in His power and His promise, right, and His provision, and His resources, and His love.  We talk about faith: “I need more faith.  How do I get more faith?”  I’m going to make it real simple for you – write it down: faith is primarily thinking, thinking.

It’s not something floating out in space, it’s thinking, it’s thinking.  Thinking about what?  God, His person, His attributes, His words, His works, His power, His promises.  The more you read about God and think about God, the greater God becomes; and the greater God becomes in your thinking, the greater your faith will be in Him; and the greater your faith, the more eager will be your thankful prayer in the midst of trouble that brings peace.

That’s why the Bible talks about having a renewed mind: Romans 12, Ephesians 4:23Colossians 3:2.  It’s about how you think.  And to make that indelibly clear, go to verse 8 in Philippians 4: “Finally, brethren – ” listen, here’s the last word on this “ – whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute – ” and all of that would be true of God “ – if there’s any excellence and anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

And if you’re thinking on those things, you’re thinking about God, because all those things are true of God.  God is truthful, God is noble, God is righteous, God is pure, God is gracious, God is worthy of praise.  And when you think like that, Paul says, “You’ll do what I’ve done.  You’ve seen me do this.  Practice these things – ” end of verse 9 “ – and the God of peace will be with you.”  You’ll experience this peace.

So how do we pursue peace?  Through righteousness, obedience, and through faith.  Trust and obey.  We go back to those things over and over, don’t we?  But the beginning is in your thinking.

Listen to Isaiah 26:3 – I mentioned that I’m going to quote it: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You because he trusts in You.”  Perfect peace is the product of perfect trust.  Perfect trust is the result of perfect knowledge of God.  The more you know about God, the more you trust Him, the more trustworthy He is, obviously, in your mind.  The more you trust Him, the more eagerly you go to Him in the midst of your trouble with thankful prayer.  And when you go to Him in your trouble with thankful prayer, the peace of God floods your soul beyond comprehension.  This is really – this is a staggering promise in verse 27.

It’s not surprising that I couldn’t get past one verse, right?  Pretty amazing.  And having said just that meager amount, we have come to the end.  There are more gifts that Christ promised to us in these passages, but none, none is more overarching than this one: peace with God and the peace of God.

Father, we thank You that we’ve been able to be together this morning, this wonderful place, the sanctuary of Your presence, because You dwell within Your people.  We have been blessed in fellowship, we’ve been blessed in music and prayer, and the Word has been a blessing to us, a profound, a profound stream of water coming down from heaven to quench our thirsty souls.  We thank You, Lord, for giving us peace with God and the peace of God.  May we experience it to the full as we pursue it through righteousness and faith.

I pray, Lord, for all who are here to know, first of all, peace with You through justification, salvation, reconciliation.  Lord, bring sinners, even now, to the foot of the cross.  Bring sinners to the realization that they live on the brink of eternal danger, and may they run to Christ for salvation and peace.

And saints, Lord, bring them to the place where they have a desire for the fullest of peace that doesn’t come because their circumstances change, but becomes a reality when their knowledge of You increases.  Increase our understanding of who You are, our great God, and cause us to walk in the path of righteousness by Your Spirit that we may enjoy Your peace.

We thank You, blessed Christ, for giving us Your peace.  What a gift.  May we be faithful to honor You in response, we pray in Your great name.  Amen.

VIDEO Groanings Too Deep for Words

John MacArthur Jan 8, 2012

We open the Word of God now to the 8th chapter of Romans to continue our look at life in the Holy Spirit.  We have been endeavoring to bring the wonderful, blessed Holy Spirit into a clearer picture in our understanding.  Given the fact that much today in the evangelical church is said about the Holy Spirit, I’m afraid that most of it is a misrepresentation of His person and His work.  I said at the very beginning a bold statement, and I will repeat it, that our Lord Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel for attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and in the modern Pentecostal movement of today, the reverse is occurring where works of the devil are being attributed to the Holy Spirit.  It’s a very sad, sad insult, a grief to the Holy Spirit and in some cases even a blasphemy of the blessed Holy Spirit. 

When we worship God, we worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Somehow, the Holy Spirit has been trailing behind in terms of emphasis when in reality, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity most personally, intimately involved in the life of a believer. 

We’ve been learning that in this 8th chapter of Romans.  We find ourselves now down in the middle of the chapter, and I want to read for you verses 24 through 30 – verses 24 through 30.  We’ve already looked at verses 24 and 25 but we need to read them for context, and we won’t go into verses 29 and 30 but, again, they give us the full picture of this section. 

Romans 8:24:  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” 

In earlier studies of this chapter, we have learned the marvelous height and breadth and length and depth of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to a believer in whom He dwells.  We found in verses 2 and 3 that He frees us from sin and death.  In verse 4, we are taught that He enables us to fulfill God’s holy law.  In verses 5 through 11, we are told that He changes our nature.  In verses 12 and 13, He empowers us for righteous living.  In verses 14 to 16, we learn that He confirms our adoption as sons of God, and that brought us to verse 17, and the lengthy section from verses 17 to 30 emphasizes the work of the Spirit in securing our eternal glory, securing our eternal glory.  And we have just read, essentially, the means by which the Spirit works to secure that glory, and we’ll look into it more deeply when we get to verse 26 in a moment. 

But let me give you the foundation for today’s thinking.  The greatest blessing God has given to believers is the secure promise of eternal life in heavenly glory.  We already know from the opening of the chapter that we are in a no condemnation status before God.  That is reiterated to us in verse 34 when the rhetorical question is asked, “Who condemns?”  Is there some higher court than Christ or God?  Again we are told nothing can separate us from that love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the theme of this chapter from the beginning to the end is that we exist in a situation before God that is unalterable and unchangeable.  It is a permanent no condemnation status.  That is to say, those of us who belong to Christ will be glorified.  We saw it essentially summed up in verse 29.  We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  That means we go from being predestined to being called to being justified to being glorified, and nobody falls through the cracks. 

I can tell you, beloved, no doctrine of Scripture is more comforting than that, more strengthening than that, more encouraging than that, and that is why we live with hope.  We live with hope.  Not a wish but a hope that is a fixed certainty, based on the promises of God. 

A comparative passage to this is very instructive for us.  The words of Peter in his first epistle, chapter 1 and verse 3, are a kind of benediction, a kind of doxology, in contemplation of this reality of our secure glory.  Where Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God.”  No wonder he burst into a doxology.  We have the promise of future glory, we are protected by the power of God through faith to that glory.  That is to say we have been given by God sovereignly a faith that will not fail, a faith that will not die.  That faith that is secured to us by the power of God, and the power of God is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. 

In John 6, Jesus essentially said the same thing when He said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will not turn away.”  “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” and “I will lose none of them, but raise them at the last day.”  He said, “This is the will of the Father.”  The New Testament calls this, for example, in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, the sealing of the Spirit, sealing us safely to future glory.  Paul speaks of it in this way:  “He who began a good work in you will perfect it to the day of Jesus Christ.”  But perhaps there’s no greater or stronger text on this great doctrine than the one that is before us.  We groan for the reality of our glorification, we’ve been learning that, haven’t we?  We live in a cursed world. 

We ourselves, though regenerate on the inside, are still incarcerated in unredeemed flesh, and we groan in our humanity.  The things we want to do, we don’t do.  The things we do, we don’t want to do.  We have a body of death attached to us, as Paul says in Romans.  We still, as He says in 1 Corinthians 15, have a corruptible body, a perishable body that we long to get rid of.  We want the perishable to put on that which is imperishable, the mortal to put on that which is immortal, the corrupt to put on that which is incorruptible.  We long for glory. 

And so starting in verse 19, running down all the way to verse 23, Paul talks about the groaning of creation, how the world itself, both the created world, animate and inanimate but impersonal, groans under the burden of the curse of the fall of Adam and Eve.  Not only does the creation groan, but we groan, verse 23 says, we ourselves groan within ourselves, longing to be all that we have been promised to be in full glory.  We feel the weight of our sin, we feel the curse of God, we feel the power of corruption within us.  We understand the decay and the inevitability of death that stalks us all.  We groan; creation groans.  As I told you last week, the whole creation is groaning, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, the revealing of the sons of God, all of that that’s going to happen when there is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and all the curse will fade away in some kind of an uncreation, kind of an atomic implosion, the elements melt with fervent heat.  Everything in this universe created by God goes out of existence, and in its place a new heaven and a new earth and no curse. 

Creation is personified as feeling the pain, waiting, longing for that day, and we genuinely long for that day.  As I look at heaven, it’s not about golden streets – although I’m happy to live there – it’s about the absence of sin; it’s about the absence of temptation; it’s the absence of ignorance that is appealing about heaven.  We all groan for glory. 

But there’s a third groaning in this passage that is quite remarkable, and it is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  It is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  The blessed Holy Spirit in whom we enjoy – with whom we enjoy fellowship, called the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – is also groaning, groaning, waiting for our glorification.  Creation is pained by the curse.  We are pained by the curse.  And even the Holy Spirit suffers the unfulfillment of the believers in whom He dwells until the curse is removed. 

As we’ve gone through this chapter, we are essentially learning this, that the Holy Spirit is responsible for three marvelous ministries in our lives.  First of all, the ministry of regeneration.  He gave us life.  We are born of the Spirit, born of the Spirit.  He gave us life when we were dead – regeneration. 

Secondly, the ministry of sanctification.  It is He who increasingly conforms us to the image of Christ.  Second Corinthians 3:18 puts it from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next, as we gaze on Christ as revealed in Scripture, who is the perfect model of Spirit-filled humanity.  As we see Him as the example, as we gaze at Him in His full expression of deity and humanity, the Spirit changes us increasingly into His image from one level of glory to the next.  That’s His work of sanctification. 

And along with that work of sanctification, the third ministry that He has in this era of grace is the ministry of security.  He secures us until that final ministry, the ministry of glorification when as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, He will also raise us to be in His very likeness. 

I think about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, regenerating, sanctifying and securing me to future glory.  What a blessed ministry.  And all the while I’m thinking about that, I’m grieved over the amazing irony – amazing irony – that it is these very ministries of the Holy Spirit, which are so precious to us and so clearly revealed in Scripture, that are denied by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.  They claim to be the movement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have some kind of corner on the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have an experience with the Spirit that we don’t have.  And yet they deny the very work that the Spirit does in the life of the believer. 

First of all, they deny the work of regeneration.  The Bible teaches us that we are all dead in trespasses and sin, we are unable to give ourselves life.  We must be born from above, born of the Spirit, and that is totally a work of God, not of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God.  The Holy Spirit blows where He will, like the wind; does what He will with whom He will.  This is a sovereign, mighty, divine work.  Charismatics would want us to believe that it is a synergistic work, that the Spirit must be involved in it but that the sinner has the power in himself to make the necessary steps to bring life to himself in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  They also deny His mighty work in sanctification.  They are little interested in the internal work of the Holy Spirit, little interested in His perfecting us into the likeness of Christ, little interested in His cultivating the love of holiness, the love of righteousness, the love of purity.  They’re much more interested in the externals. 

It’s called the holiness movement, but it’s really not about holiness.  It’s called the Holy Spirit movement, and it’s really not about the Holy Spirit.  Very little interest in internal holiness and purity that is the Spirit’s true work and almost exclusive interest in the external phenomena that they attach to the Holy Spirit, which in reality have nothing to do with Him, such as supposed miracles, tongues, falling down, hearing voices, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, material prosperity, worldly success.  And because that is not a paradigm for sanctification, the movement is loaded with scandal, sex, greed, corruption, and perversion. 

You know, doing a little bit of reading on the history of this movement is a very interesting thing.  If I asked you, “What is the fastest-growing form of religion in the world?” you probably wouldn’t give me the right answer.  The right answer is Pentecostalism.  That is the fastest-growing religion in the world.  It didn’t exist in 1900.  Just a handful of people launched something in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, followed up by something in 1906 here in Los Angeles.  And by this time now, the estimate is there are a half a billion people that would identify with this movement – from nobody in 1900 to half a billion people.  Falls into three forms.  There’s traditional Pentecostalism, there is Neo-Pentecostalism, and there is the Charismatic movement from 1960 on, but it all kind of blends together. 

What happened in this movement is the center of interest was shifted from the gospel to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The center then was shifted from the Bible to experience, to a false experience with a false theology.  Worship, then, was radically recast away from what was worship in spirit and in truth to what was simply an inducing of emotional highs.  People became bored with the Bible, bored with preaching, and so preaching began to fade away.  Sound doctrine had to be eliminated because the movement couldn’t survive under the scrutiny of sound doctrine.  And so in the place of preaching the Bible and sound doctrine was wild, emotionally charged music and manipulated feelings.  The truth was replaced with lies, and it is its own judgment.  It is its own judgment. 

The work of the Holy Spirit has been so totally misrepresented.  There are essentially three forces in Christianity. This is called the third force: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism.  And we have said much through the years, the church has, about the errors of Roman Catholicism.  We have said a whole lot less about the errors of Pentecostalism because they threaten us with accusations of being divisive, and that causes some people to be silent. 

I’m not defending the truth for the sake of my own church or the sake of my own opinion.  I’m eager to defend the truth for the sake of the Holy Spirit, not that He needs me as a defender, but He needs me to not grieve Him and not quench Him and not insult Him and certainly to recognize what dishonors Him.  I feel like the psalmist who said, “The reproaches that fall on you have fallen on me.”  When the Holy Spirit is dishonored, I feel the pain, and it seems to be a very popular sport to do that. 

So let’s look at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit with regard to His groaning related to our security.  It’s an amazing section of Scripture, particularly in verse 26.  “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness for we don’t know to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  This text has to be one of the great biblical treasures.  It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit supports and secures us in our grace journey to final glory.  This is one of the most abused texts in the New Testament by the Charismatics.  I always expect my Bible to bleed here because it’s been wounded so many times.  They want us to believe that this is an advocacy for – advocacy text for speaking in tongues, this “groanings too deep for words.”  They want us to believe that what this verse is saying is that when you don’t know how to pray in words that you do understand, launch off into glossolalia in words that you don’t understand and this is the Holy Spirit doing what you can’t do.  That is not what this verse means, as you will see in a moment.  It’s utterly foreign to the reality of the meaning of this text to impose that on it. 

Let’s pick up the context:  “In the same way the Spirit” – “in the same way.” What do you mean “in the same way”?  In the same way that creation groans, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, in the same way that we ourselves groan, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body, so the Holy Spirit groans.  We saw the groaning of creation, the groaning of the believer, now the groaning of the Holy Spirit – and all of this groaning in the direction of our future glory.  It would be one thing for the creation to want to be glorified, one thing for the believer to want to be glorified, but those two in themselves wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that glory, but here comes the most important groaning of all, the groaning of the Holy Spirit for our future glory.  In the same way, the Spirit groans “with groanings too deep for words.”  It’s an amazing thought. 

The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the agonizing reality of the burden and the weight of sin in the lives of those in whom He lives.  He unites with our desire to be free from the flesh, our unredeemed humanity, and to receive full salvation; full sonship; full, righteous perfection.  Our eternal glory is secured, then, by this groaning intercession of the Holy Spirit.  This is necessary.  Go back to verse 26. It says that the Spirit “helps our weakness.”  We’ve already identified our weakness.  We groan within ourselves, back in verse 23.  We have the down payment on our future glory, the firstfruits, but we groan under the debilitating weakness of our remaining sin.  The Holy Spirit helps our weakness. 

This doesn’t mean weak prayers; doesn’t mean weak prayer life. It doesn’t mean a kind of a weak understanding of what’s going on.  It’s the whole debilitating power of our fallenness that remains in us.  It’s our general weakness as fallen beings.  It’s a comprehensive word.  The whole scope of our sinfulness is a weight to us, and it is such a burden, such an overwhelming burden that we don’t even know how to pray as we should.  We don’t even have a strategy to cope with it.  We are so helpless in our sin and so helpless in our suffering, we don’t know how to overcome the power of our fallenness.  We don’t have what it takes to guard our own souls. 

I was reading one popular Charismatic theologian who said this:  “I believe the Spirit is very strong, but His seal can be broken if a person with his own free will has chosen to live life on the darker side.  Sins can keep Christians out of heaven.  If you can’t stay loyal to your spouse, you can’t stay loyal to your Lord, and will not be able to stay loyal to Him even after you enter heaven.  Like Satan and the angels, you may be thrown out.”  Really?  Just how insecure is insecure?  I can’t be loyal on my own here, and I can’t be loyal on my own in heaven, and I might get thrown out?  That is to completely, completely ignore the Holy Scripture that describes the securing ministry of the Spirit. 

Let me say it simply:  If you could lose your salvation, you would.  If I could, I would.  In fact, if I had to do anything to keep it, I couldn’t keep it at all.  I don’t have the power.  I don’t even know how to arm myself.  I’m way too weak.  I’m not kept by my own power.  I’m not kept by my own prayers.  Yes, “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation,” but on my own, unaided by the power of God, that’s not going to do it. 

This is illustrated to us in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Peter is on the brink of his classic failure around the fires at the trial of our Lord, and Jesus gives him warning.  Jesus tells him in verse 31 of Luke 22:  “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.”  “Satan’s coming after you,” and he certainly did.  But verse 32 says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  What was Peter’s attitude going into this temptation?  He said it this way:  “If everybody fails You, I won’t.”  Self-confidence.  He didn’t know how to pray for himself.  He didn’t understand the profound nature of his own weakness.  He had no ability to understand the forces that he was going to encounter.  He was secured not by his own faith. He was secured not by his own will power. He was secured because the Lord Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  That’s the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ that secured Peter, and that’s a model of His high priestly work.  He ever lives to make intercession for us. 

The reason that you’re going to make it to glory, the reason that you stay saved, that you are secure, is because you have a high priest in heaven continuing to intercede for you.  And you also have a second intercessory priest living in you; namely, the Holy Spirit.  Just how much power does it take?  How much divine power does it take to get a believer from grace to glory?  It involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit. 

Do you think that you can hang on by yourself?  We could never attain to the resurrection of glory by the strength of our own flesh.  We could never overcome our own sinfulness.  We could never protect ourselves from failure unless we had been given by God a faith that would not fail, and it is sustained by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.  That is why, as Grace was singing a little while ago, it doesn’t matter what comes at us, our faith doesn’t fail.  Illustration: Job.  Our faith doesn’t fail. 

In this case, verse 26, how does the Holy Spirit help our weakness and the fact that we don’t know how to defend ourselves, even through prayer, even tapping into the divine power?  “The Spirit Himself intercedes,” “the Spirit Himself intercedes.”  Huperentunchano, a strong compound word, means to rescue someone in very great danger with no resources on his own, like somebody floating down the stream headed for Niagara.  That’s the extremity of this verb.  We need somebody beyond us and above us with far greater insight, far greater power than we have, and it is the Spirit Himself.  I love that pronoun, auto, which points back to the Spirit Himself, not someone delegated by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit Himself.  It’s His work.  This is His work.  It was He who gave us life.  It is He who conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ.  It is He who secures us. 

How does He do it?  “With groanings too deep for words.”  “With groanings too deep for words.”  Please – this is not speaking in grunts and gibberish and tongues; this is not ecstatic speech; this isn’t anybody saying anything that can be heard.  This is the Holy Spirit saying things that can’t be heard.  It says it, “too deep for words.”  Groanings, not of men, but groanings of the Spirit.  The magnificent beauty of this is that the heart of the Holy Spirit aches for the glorification of every believer.  And that aching, compassionate longing for the glorious manifestation of the children of God causes the Holy Spirit to speak silently to the Father in inter-Trinitarian conversation about the well-being of believers.  We are not secure because God said it. We are secure because God said it, and God makes sure through the work of His Son and His Spirit that it happens. 

The Holy Spirit understands our flesh, understands our weakness, understands temptation.  Would never, ever lead us into some situation we couldn’t handle, right?  “No temptation is taken you but such is as common to man.”  God will always make a way of escape.  John 18 is an illustration of that.  When they came to arrest Jesus, He wouldn’t let them arrest the disciples because the Scripture needed to be fulfilled that none of them would defect, and so they were never going to be in a position where defection would happen.  It’s a securing that is not simply a stated fact. It is a securing that is a constant work by the intercession of the Son and the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit yearns for our final glory. 

This is the heart of God, really.  I was reading Hosea chapter 11 and I came across verse 8 where God says, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?…. My heart is turned over within Me.  All My compassions are kindled.”  And, you know, in the true sense, God never does give up Israel, does He?  He’s going to bring Israel back.  That’s the heart of God.  How can I give you up? 

These groanings have content.  They have meaning.  They have purpose.  They are individually expressed, inter-Trinitarian, wordless communications that transcend language, that secure your place in heaven.  And who is the Holy Spirit speaking to?  Go back to verse 27:  “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is.” 

Who is that?  Who’s He who searches the hearts?  Well, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  First Kings 8:39 says, “You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.”  First Chronicles 28:9 says, “The Lord searches every heart, understands every motive.”  Psalm 139: “Lord, You have searched me and known Me.  You know when I sit down; You know when I rise up.”  The entire psalm lays that out.  Proverbs 15:11: “Even Sheol and Abaddon are open before the Lord.”  Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt.  Who can know it?”  The answer:  “I, the Lord search the mind.”  Acts 1:24: “Lord, You know every man’s heart.”  There’s no creature, says the writer of Hebrews, hidden from God’s sight.  “All things are open and laid bare to Him with whom we have to do.”  So the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in this wordless communication from His own eternal, holy mind to the Father and His mind.  The One who searches the hearts, God, knows the mind of the Spirit, perfect communion, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

What is the will of God for the saints?  What is God’s Will for us?  That we be glorified?  Is that His will?  Was His will that whomever He predestined He would call?  Whoever He called He would justify?  Whoever He justified He would glorify?  Is it His will to bring to heaven a redeemed humanity?  Is that His will?  Is that His purpose?  Is that the plan?  Absolutely the plan.  The Father planned it.  The Son provided for it.  And the Holy Spirit preserves it, protects it.  So the Spirit is praying for our glory in consistency with the Father’s will.  The Father planned our glory, the Son provided our glory, and the Spirit protects our glory.  This is just an astonishing verse. 

As you go through your life, you think about a lot of things around you and outside of you.  Do you ever think about anything inside of you?  Do you ever think about the ongoing, intercessory work of the Spirit of God who never slumbers or sleeps because God never slumbers or sleeps?  Do you think about the fact that in all the vicissitudes and struggles and issues of life, the Spirit of God is relentlessly interceding on your behalf, silently, in perfect communion with the mind of God to effect the purposes of God?  And that you even have an advocate against every accusation brought against you, namely Jesus Christ, who stands at the Father’s right hand in your defense as the One who paid in full the price for all your sins?  That’s why you get to glory.  That’s why no one can ever condemn you. 

Now, all of that produces the truth of verse 28.  All of that gets us to verse 28.  And I know that verse 28 is a popular verse, everybody knows it that’s been in the church any length of time.  And it sort of gets isolated a little bit, but the context gives the rich meaning of this verse, and you must see it in the context.  “And we know” – this is sequential, this is subsequent, this is connected. It is because of the groaning, intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with the purposes of God to bring us to eternal glory.  It is because of the Spirit’s intercessory work and because of God’s divine purpose that God Himself, in answer to the Spirit’s pleas, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  And let me just say – because we can’t go into all of this – I’ve done that in years past about verse 28. You can go on and on about it because it’s one of those expandable verses – very expandable verses.  But let’s just say for the moment that the “good” being referred to here is eternal glory.  The “good” being referred to here is eternal glory because it is eternal glory that is the goal of everything, as verse 30 indicates, “glorified”; verse 19, “the revealing of the sons of God”; verse 21, “the glory of the children of God,” that’s the theme; verses 24 and 25, our “hope.”  The good being spoken of here is our eternal glory. 

The point is this:  Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good.  Not everything in this life works out for good – far from it.  Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it.  You might draw a good outcome from it.  You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you.  It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because you can comfort those with whom you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles. 

All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here.  The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers.  We are secured to that final good, that which is the best.  “God causes all things” – in response to the intercessory work of the blessed Holy Spirit – “to work together for good.”  The extent of security.  There it is, the extent of security – “all things” – “all things” – “all things.”  What does that mean?  Nothing can change the ultimate good – nothing.  That’s the positive way of saying we’re in a no condemnation status.  There are no limits on that.  “All things,” pantos, whatever the nature, whatever the number, whatever the extent, whatever the character of whatever may come in a fallen, corrupt world to people who still bear the weight of the curse in their unredeemed humanness – all of it.  Everything that comes – everything – is woven together by God for our final good. 

“Works together” is sunergei, from which we get synergy.  God is the great synergizer.  We could say that’s what providence is, God’s providence.  All things are not necessarily good in themselves, all things don’t necessarily combine to produce good in this life.  Some of you are living with that.  Life’s not being good – illness, loss of jobs, loss of houses, loss of lots of things, friends.  But in the end, there is a good, the ultimate good, eternal glory, that will come to pass.  That’s the good that is the theme here, and it’s attached to the hope mentioned in verses 24 and 25, our eternal hope. 

And this is good in the moral sense, not kalos, which is kind of good in the appeal to the eye.  This is agathos, good in the moral sense; the true goodness, the real goodness, the ultimate goodness so that we can say good things – and life is full of many good things, obviously; we’re blessed.  Good things work together for our good.  But so do bad things.  Bad things work together for our good – suffering, struggling with temptation, even sin.  God gets a hold of all of these things and works them, in response to the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, to our final good. 

So that’s the extent of our security.  How could we ever lose our salvation if everything that happens to us works together for our eternal good?  There’s no other option. 

So that’s the extent of security.  Who are the recipients of this?  The recipients of this security, this promise – just quickly.  Verse 27 tells us that the Spirit is interceding “for the saints” – “for the saints,” the holy ones who have been covered with the righteousness of Christ, and thus before God are holy.  But then in verse 28, it further defines them this way: “to those who love God.”  “To those who love God.”  They’re the recipients of this. 

You ever kind of ask yourself the question, “How do you know if somebody is a Christian?  How do I know if somebody – you know, they prayed a prayer, they go to church.”  How do you know if someone’s a Christian?  Here’s the answer:  They love God.  They love God.  They love God.  Why do they love God?  Because they’re the called.  That’s an effectual call.  That’s an effectual call. That’s not an invitation like in Matthew 22 when the Lord invites people to come.  That’s an effectual call.  That is an absolute call.  Verse 30:  “Whom He called, He justified.”  This is the call to life from spiritual death.  This is the effectual call, as theologians have called it.  All those who have been called in that way, called into life, called into salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit are then described as those who love God. 

How can you tell a true Christian?  They love God.  They love God.  Basic – they love God; they love Christ.  “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned,” 1 Corinthians 16:22 says.  Being Christian is about loving Christ, loving Christ.  We’re like that woman in Luke 7 who loved much because we’d been forgiven much.  The great command of the Old Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We desire to do that.  We don’t do that, but we do love God.  All through Scripture, true believers are described as those who love God.  “We love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.”  We love God.  We love Jesus Christ. 

It is a love that meditates on His majestic glory.  It is a love that longs to worship, to sing His praises.  It is a love that seeks the fellowship of others who love Him.  It is a love that loves those who love Him and are loved by Him.  It is a love that seeks communion with God, intimate communion.  It is a love that seeks the knowledge of God in the Word of God, to know Him more.  It is a love that is sensitive to God’s honor and God’s dishonor.  It is a love that hates what God hates and loves what God loves.  It is a love that grieves over sin and rejoices over righteousness.  It is a love that rejects the world.  It is a love that longs for the coming of Jesus Christ.  But mostly, it is a love that obeys the Scripture.  “If you love Me” – Do what? – “keep My commandments.”  “Whoever keeps My Word, he it is that loves Me.” 

For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise.  The Holy Spirit is interceding in perfect harmony with the will of God so that God is causing everything that happens in the life of those who love Him to come together in the end for their eternal good and eternal glory because that was His purpose from the very beginning.  Predestined to that purpose.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name. 

We do a lot about worshiping God.  We say a lot about worshiping God.  We seem particularly in this current era to celebrate, and could neither be over-celebrated, neither the Father or the Son; to celebrate the cross and the work of Christ, and you could never do that too much.  But in the midst of all of this, seems to me the Holy Spirit has been left behind.  And He is equally God and equally to be honored and adored. 

These are things that are confidences that we have.  Verse 28 says, “We know.”  “We know.”  This isn’t a maybe; we know this.  This is the certainty of our security.  “We know.”  How do we know?  Because we know the purpose of God to predestine, call, justify, and glorify a redeemed people.  This is the plan.  Christ provided the necessary sacrifice, and the Spirit makes the plan work all the way to the end. 

Now, verses 29 and 30 are two profound verses for next time.  But I want you to listen to me right now.  Usually,  when I finish going through the Word of God with you, I have prayer and then you all just jump up and run.  I don’t know where you’re going.  I don’t know what’s so urgent.  I just assume it’s deep conviction, and whoever gets up first is the most convicted.  So we’re going to ask you, because when you teach the Word of God, the Spirit of God is working, don’t you believe that?  And sometimes it just ends, and so what we’re going to do is I’m going to have a final prayer with you at the end of our service and let you know the prayer room is available and open for any help you need spiritually, anything you need there.  The member center is open for membership, baptism information, you know all that. 

But I’m going to ask you after this closing prayer to sit quietly and meditatively and think about what you heard while Steve plays for about 30 seconds or so, just some quiet background. And let’s just try to capture some moments of personal examination, okay?  And then when he hits the foot pedals with both feet, that’s the signal that you can begin to move.  Can we do that?  And just kind of close in that meditative way after this prayer? 

Father, thank You for – thank You for this.  What can we say?  What can we say?  What can we even comprehend of this magnificence of this generous grace, of this overwhelming mercy that You have given to us?  We thank You for not only giving us Christ as our heavenly defender, but giving us the Holy Spirit as our earthly intercessor who cries out for our glory. And You hear and You answer, and we’re secure by a supernatural protector.  We give glory to You, O Son of God, for the mighty work on the cross, for the purchase price of our redemption.  We give You glory, O blessed Holy Spirit, for regenerating us, sanctifying us, securing us, and one day glorifying us.  We want to honor You, the triune God, in every way and live lives that adorn all that is true about You, as much as is possible for weak humans such as we are.  Thank You that You’ve made us Your children, adopted us as sons, and we, too, groan until the day of our glory when we can fall at Your feet and worship You, O God, in full righteousness.  That’s our prayer.  In anticipation of that, we offer You the rest of this grace journey in obedience to You, that Christ may be honored and lifted up and draw others to Himself.  We pray in His name.

Beauty from ashes: How Christians can honor God in 2021

The events of 2020, while unprecedented to us, are not altogether unique. Humans have undergone similar and much worse trials throughout history, and we are blessed to have reliable evidence of some of these events in the Bible. Perhaps one of the most poignant scriptural similarities of undergoing a collective calamity we have is when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt. In examining their plight and drawing parallels to how we are responding to this current pandemic, it brings up the question, do we want to be like the Israelites, who grumbled and complained during difficulty instead of focusing on God’s plan for them, or will we be different?

Will we allow God to make beauty from our ashes and trust His character no matter what tomorrow brings?

The Israelites may have not been up against the coronavirus, but they perhaps faced even more fear and uncertainty than we are right now. They were terrified at the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s armies were approaching. They were scared they would not have food or water. They were afraid of the giants that roamed the Promised Land. And when they rebelled in their fear and made an idol to worship, plagues were brought down, which could be considered mini pandemics in themselves.

2020 has been one of the most turbulent years not only because of the pandemic but because of all the political and racial tension that has swept the nation. Likewise, in the Old Testament, we see examples of political unrest with Korah’s rebellion as the Israelites challenged Moses’ and Aarons’ God-ordained leadership. Aaron and Marian contested an election when they both challenged Moses as the leader, and unlike now, where recounts and lawsuits settle the challenges, they had to bring the staff before God to reaffirm who He chose.

All of these occasions gave them opportunities to either trust God or turn away from Him out of fear and rebellion. Throughout those trials and tribulations, it was not the Israelites feeling sad, hungry or worn out that angered the Lord. God was angriest with them when they retaliated and tried to displace Him as their leader, even after He delivered them from tyranny and promised that He would remain faithful to the end.

Looking at those stories from the lens of 2020, as Christians, we may be quick to cast judgment on the Israelites for their short term memory loss. How could they so easily distrust God after the myriad miracles He worked for them? But just as many of us have wrung our hands in despair, turned to substance abuse for distraction or become more caught up in fighting people on politics than praying on our knees in spiritual warfare, we are susceptible to the same sin of forgetting God’s goodness and finding something else to idolize.

As 2021 approaches, it is easy to think back on life before the pandemic and wish we could throw this year away and time travel back into what we view as better times. For many of us, myself included, viewing the years through a worldly lens, life did feel better before the pandemic. Yet, our faith is in Him and His promises, not on “better” times of past years. He tells us that if we humble ourselves and turn to Him, He will heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:15). We can choose to cling to His promises and goodness as our hope and firm foundation.

Trusting God, especially as we navigate a strange holiday season without our usual gatherings and traditions, can be easier said than done. So I encourage you to make the following practices a priority to have the right spiritual mindset as we brace for a new year:

  1. Thank God every day for the provisions He has provided for you.
  2. Praise Him for what He has done for our country and throughout the world during this time and also throughout history.
  3. Set an appointment with yourself and take time multiple times each day to praise Him.
  4. Be intentional with what you breathe in and out; are you complaining more often than praising? Are the people you are spending time with bringing you closer to the Lord?
  5. Go for a walk every day, and talk with God. Let Him know how you feel, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you during this time.

Our pride, in thinking we have control, is the biggest stumbling block we have before us. How much better is it to release control and not have to carry the weight of the future on our shoulders anymore?

While we cannot reverse 2020, we can respond in a way that pleases Him. Unlike the Israelites who tried to take over when things didn’t go as planned, we can give up control and trust that He will never leave us or forsake us and heal our land. By doing so, we will begin to see God’s goodness and His unwavering faithfulness, which is worthy of all our praise.

Peter Demos is the author of “Afraid to Trust,” restaurateur, president and CEO of Demos’ Brands and Demos Family Kitchen and leadership source expert.

A Country That Honors God

What truly protects a Nation

July 3, 2018 by Charles F. Stanley


As you look at the state of our nation today, what do you see? The Bible says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12), but this is not a popular belief in our society. However, it’s the only way our nation can flourish. Further support for this truth is found in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Abandoning the Lord leads to disgrace and the loss of His blessings.

Contrary to popular belief, what actually protects a nation is not military strength but the righteousness of its people and government. When the Lord is honored in a nation, He is exalted, and the people are protected. Therefore, we should look at our nation today and ask ourselves whether we as a country are honoring God. Our future depends on the answer.

Freedom doesn’t come cheaply, and it’s always under attack by our enemy, the devil. His ungodly and unbiblical influences fight against our beliefs, but the Lord gives us courage to resist.

As believers, we are under the divine guidance of our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we do not fight with weapons but with the Word of God—the only message that can transform lives and influence the world for good. Christ’s church will not be overpowered, and He will be faithful to raise up believers in every generation. We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel throughout the world, and this commission is not just for those trained as missionaries but for each of us in our own places of influence.

However, this means we must be willing to stand firmly for our convictions when they are challenged. Convictions are unaffected by the times, the values of the culture, or the popularity of current ideas. Christian beliefs may be unpopular presently, but the Lord is our defense as long as we exalt and obey Him as Lord and honor His Word as our compass for life.

As followers of Jesus, we are His representatives, and there is no room for compromise with the immoral, disrespectful, or self-indulgent aspects of our culture. So, how are we to respond to this world in which we live? Others may criticize and stand against Christianity, but we who love the Lord must stay true to Him. We can’t afford to let ourselves be lulled into thinking that because we live in a free and prosperous nation, nothing bad is going on or could happen to us in the future.

Despite the sinful condition of our culture, we should not be discouraged. Our God is greater than the world’s knowledge and wisdom, and His purposes are not thwarted by sin. He is sufficient and adequate to guide us through whatever we face—our responsibility is simply to believe, trust, obey, and follow Him, modeling the Christian life for those around us.


This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message“Standing on Your Convictions” which airs this weekend on TV.

VIDEO A Country That Honors God

What Truly Protects a Nation

July 3, 2018 By Charles F. Stanley


As you look at the state of our nation today, what do you see? The Bible says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12), but this is not a popular belief in our society. However, it’s the only way our nation can flourish. Further support for this truth is found in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Abandoning the Lord leads to disgrace and the loss of His blessings.

Contrary to popular belief, what actually protects a nation is not military strength but the righteousness of its people and government. When the Lord is honored in a nation, He is exalted, and the people are protected. Therefore, we should look at our nation today and ask ourselves whether we as a country are honoring God. Our future depends on the answer.

Freedom doesn’t come cheaply, and it’s always under attack by our enemy, the devil. His ungodly and unbiblical influences fight against our beliefs, but the Lord gives us courage to resist.

As believers, we are under the divine guidance of our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we do not fight with weapons but with the Word of God—the only message that can transform lives and influence the world for good. Christ’s church will not be overpowered, and He will be faithful to raise up believers in every generation. We have been commanded to proclaim the gospel throughout the world, and this commission is not just for those trained as missionaries but for each of us in our own places of influence.

However, this means we must be willing to stand firmly for our convictions when they are challenged. Convictions are unaffected by the times, the values of the culture, or the popularity of current ideas. Christian beliefs may be unpopular presently, but the Lord is our defense as long as we exalt and obey Him as Lord and honor His Word as our compass for life.

As followers of Jesus, we are His representatives, and there is no room for compromise with the immoral, disrespectful, or self-indulgent aspects of our culture. So, how are we to respond to this world in which we live? Others may criticize and stand against Christianity, but we who love the Lord must stay true to Him. We can’t afford to let ourselves be lulled into thinking that because we live in a free and prosperous nation, nothing bad is going on or could happen to us in the future.

Despite the sinful condition of our culture, we should not be discouraged. Our God is greater than the world’s knowledge and wisdom, and His purposes are not thwarted by sin. He is sufficient and adequate to guide us through whatever we face—our responsibility is simply to believe, trust, obey, and follow Him, modeling the Christian life for those around us.


This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message“Standing on Your Convictions” which airs this weekend on TV.