Ironically, people today who tell us that we need to be tolerant are very intolerant of the gospel. In fact, I have found that the most intolerant people are those who are always telling us to be tolerant.
I’ve heard people say that Christians are so intolerant, but I don’t think that is true at all. Actually, I think Christians are the most tolerant people of all. Of course, we unapologetically believe in absolute truth.
But usually it’s intolerant people who say they don’t like the fact that we believe in absolute truth, and they’re tolerant of everyone except us.
What happened to their tolerance? Where’s all the love?
Proclaiming the Truth
To proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God will offend some people. So why do we proclaim it? It’s because the Bible clearly teaches it. This is what we as Christians call an essential, a nonnegotiable.
Jesus stated it as succinctly as it could be said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV). The Bible also tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NKJV).
So when I state that as fact, it will offend some people.
However, my job, if you will, is to simply tell the truth. It would be like going to a doctor who runs a series of tests and discovers a problem. But then the doctor doesn’t want to tell the patient the truth for fear of offending him or her. That doctor’s job is to diagnose a problem and then prescribe a course of action.
In the same way, as a Christian, I have to tell the truth about a person’s condition, which, according to the Bible, is sinful. I have to tell him or her what the problem is and then offer the solution through Jesus Christ. As a result, people will be offended by that.
Knowing His Wants
But what about the people who have never heard this at all? Would God send them to Hell? This is an incorrect view of God; the idea that God would somehow want to send someone to Hell, or at the very least, wouldn’t care if someone went to Hell. That is not the God of the Bible.
If we learn nothing else in the Bible, we learn that God loves humanity and longs for fellowship and friendship with us. We learn that God doesn’t want any person to go to Hell, and the best evidence of that is the fact that He poured out His wrath on His Son, Jesus, on the cross.
No father wants his child to be harmed. Any father would gladly take that harm or pain upon himself if he could. But God loves us so much that He put His judgment on His Son who had never committed a single sin. This was so we could be pardoned, so we would not have to go to Hell.
God said, “I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live” (Ezekiel 33:11 NLT). And we are reminded in 2 Peter 3:9 that God “does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (NLT).
We will be judged according to the light we have received. In other words, we will not be held accountable for what we don’t know. Now, that doesn’t excuse us from all responsibility. Otherwise, we might say, “Well, ignorance is bliss.”
Coming to Him
God longs for fellowship with humanity. He longs for friendship with you. Looking back to the Garden of Eden, we see this in the very timbre of God’s voice as He called out to the wayward Adam, “Where are you?”
Was God oblivious to Adam’s whereabouts? Of course not. God knew exactly where he was.
For example, when my granddaughter Stella was very young, she wasn’t that great at playing hide-and-seek. She would say, “Papa, find me!” while she was hiding in plain view. So, I would play along to humor her.
When God was calling out to Adam, it wasn’t because He didn’t know where Adam was. Effectively He was saying, “Adam, where are you? Adam? I miss our times together. Adam, why did you eat the forbidden fruit? Why are you hiding from me? Adam, I want to talk with you.” That is the heart of God.
If you want to see how God feels about this world, look at the trio of stories Jesus told in Luke 15. God is compared to a woman who lost a coin, a shepherd who lost a sheep, and a father who lost a son.
Each of these stories gives us a different glimpse into the heart of God.
God Is Everywhere, Waiting
Wherever we go, He will be there waiting. God doesn’t hang out exclusively in churches. God is present everywhere. Before you were even conceived, God knew you were coming. When you were but an embryo, God had His eye on you. When you were formed in the womb of your mother, He was waiting. He has been calling you to Himself.
God searches for us. He cares for us. And He wants us to know Him. Do you know what really excites God? Do you know what brings joy to God? It is when a lost person comes to repentance.
Repentance doesn’t only mean a change of heart; it also means a change in action. It means a change in direction, a change of both the mind and the will. It does not denote just any change, but always a change from wrong to right, from sin to righteousness.
God said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV).
The fact of the matter is that God will reveal Himself to the true seeker.
While many people assume that joy and happiness are similar there is a vast difference between the two. For the Christian happiness depends on circumstances while joy is a choice and depends on being obedient to Christ. I like how Meg Bucher puts it: “The difference between joy and happiness is substantial. We often assume that the fleeting feeling of happiness, giddy laughter and contentment in the comforts of life is akin to the joy we experience in Jesus. But joy supernaturally sustains our souls in seasons of heartache, injustice, and sorrow. Enduring the valleys of life is nearly impossible without the life-giving fuel of joy in Christ.”1
Happiness is a reaction to something great while joy is the product of someone great – Jesus. As a result, while happiness depends on external factors, the true source of all joy is Jesus. And when we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior we can constantly walk in the flow of joy and experience this wonderful gift. For joy is indeed a gift and a fruit of the Spirit for we read in (Galatians 5:22-23): “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
And the reason I know that joy is a choice is because of what we read in (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18): “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I love these verses for two reasons. First, they say that rejoicing always is the will of God and we know that obeying God’s will is a choice; we can either obey or disobey. And second, rejoicing always means we can have joy in the good times and the difficult times or else God wouldn’t say to rejoice always. I love what the website compassion.com shares about joy: “Although joy does feels better with a happy smile, joy can share space with other emotions — sadness, fear, anger … even unhappiness. Happiness can’t.”2
It is important to note that happiness is more a state of mind while joy is both emotionally and intellectually rooted in our faith in Christ. Joy is that settled confidence that Christ is in total control of the details of our lives and that He is going to work all things for good as we trust Him and let Him lead.
And to add emphasis to the command to “rejoice always” (since this is God’s will for us) we read one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture – (James 1:2) which reads: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Here we see that joy and trials can both co-exist in the economy of God. And that’s because we know as Christians that God always has our back. Mel Walker shares this thought beautifully when he says: “Biblical joy is choosing to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction, because we know that God will use these experiences to accomplish His work in and through our lives.”3
When we know in our hearts that God is working all things for good on our behalf and that He loves us no matter what, joy can well-up in our souls because it is God-centered unlike happiness which is often based on external people and events. Happiness, again is based on external events, while joy is based on knowing who we are in Christ.
It is so important to remember that a person pursues happiness but chooses joy. Joy is more of an attitude of the heart and spirit that brings us lasting comfort and peace even when we go through the storms of life. Just as having an attitude of thanksgiving and praise is a by-product of realizing how wonderful Jesus is, joy should become a part of our Christian countenance too. And the more we fall in love and reverence Jesus, joy will become a shield to protect us when trials and tribulations come our way. Happiness is nice to experience but it is fleeting. Joy, on the other hand, is a fruit of the Spirit and so much more fulfilling to our souls.
It’s that season again, when we’re reminded to be thankful — and to express thankfulness. God has told us,
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)
Even though we know it’s God’s will, for most of us, a reminder is a good thing, because in the midst of busyness and challenges of life, we often forget to be grateful for our many blessings.
I always think of a particular incident when I think of giving thanks. Many years ago, our friend Paul noticed that his young daughter Susannah had a ritual with her bedtime prayers. She always prayed, “God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and …” She went down her list, asking God for her all her wants.
At prayer time one night, he said, “Susannah, you have a lot to be thankful for. I’d like you to start your prayers with thanksgiving.” Susannah agreed, but Paul left on a trip the next morning and wasn’t able to reinforce his instruction.
When he returned, her prayers had not changed. He said, “Susannah, what did I ask you to do when you pray?”
She hesitated before answering. “Uhhh. Start my prayers with Halloween?”
She remembered the request—but didn’t understand what thanksgiving was and got mixed up with which holiday he had said.
Unlike Susannah, I understand what it means to give thanks and that it’s good to express appreciation, but I often get so busy that I don’t take note of what I’m grateful for, much less express it to others. I’ve resolved to do better after recently experiencing the blessing of being on the receiving end.
My husband is a pastor of a church of amazing people who regularly communicate their thanks. It makes it a joy to be part of them. However, we were recently showered with love and many expressions of appreciation. I must admit, it felt good. It deepened our love and our commitment to give more of ourselves. It also made me want to be more faithful in expressing my thanks.
But that was just the beginning of the day. After church and the dinner that followed, our home filled with out-of-town family who came to celebrate Dad’s 89th birthday. We visited, celebrated, and enjoyed being together. After the meal, while still around the table, I was once again struck with what an impact it makes to speak words of appreciation.
Robert’s youngest brother said, “Dad, at our house, we have a tradition that we do on birthdays, and we’d like to do it now.” He went on to explain that we wanted to each share something with Dad that we appreciated about him, starting with the youngest and moving up.
Seven-year-old Elena went first, and one at a time, each of ten people shared something they were grateful for, something Dad had done that had blessed his or her life. Most shared two or three things that had made an impact — and all sounded sincere.
At least once, Dad’s eyes filled with tears. Others were touched too. It was a precious time and a much bigger blessing than the simple gifts given earlier.
It was also powerful. Dad wasn’t the only one blessed. We all left the table encouraged, strengthened, and closer to one another because of words of gratefulness. All we did was say thanks — but we don’t make a point to do that often enough. I basked in the blessing and power of the time around the table for several days.
I wish we had practiced that tradition in our home as our children were growing up. In fact, I’m wondering how to stimulate more giving of thanks in other settings — of open, sincere, thoughtful expressions of appreciation. If you have ideas, I’m interested.
However, after some thought, I’ve decided that the best place to begin is with myself. I might not impact the whole community, but I could encourage some.
Meanwhile, I hope your Thanksgiving is blessed with gratefulness—and with thanksgiving.
A humble, transparent, and inspiring testimony of one leader’s journey learning to find joy in living with less and giving away more.
Is your stuff holding you back from a better life? There came a time in my life when my wife, Tami, and I started to ask ourselves questions like these, which eventually demanded answers. What we discovered led us to less stress and more joy in giving together as a family.
I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. Business ownership was custom for our family. On my mother’s side was a family-owned business, Chicago Rawhide, that evolved from making leather products to supplying multiple industries as the world’s leading oil seals manufacturer. My family eventually sold the business to the owner of Fiat, which created a significant “liquidity event” for us.
I used the money I received from the sale to start a trucking company. This business’s success helped me buy my father out of the steel business when I was just 27. Six years later, I purchased a competitor ten times the size of the physical location of the original family business. I was achieving the world’s definition of success.
With that success came the ability to buy a lot of nice stuff. We purchased my grandmother’s vacation home on Lake Geneva, an 1880s historic home in Telluride, Colorado, and our dream home in suburban Chicago.
God had blessed us with the ability to make money, but the more we accumulated with it, the more complicated our lives became. It hadn’t hit me yet that maybe this consumption mentality (packaged as the American dream) was robbing our joy. As the steel industry grew more volatile and risky, I decided l needed to sell my business and start investing in others. We had all this stuff that required maintenance and a big chunk of my time. As I grew exhausted and unsatisfied, the questions around it all became louder.
Over time, thanks to my church, mentors, Bible studies, and a program in spiritual transformation, my true desire became clearer. I had experienced God at work in my heart and wanted to partner with Him. I began examining everything with stewardship in mind: Is hanging onto this going to bring me closer to God? Is it neutral? Or is it taking me further away from Him? Am I holding onto something that’s distracting me from the life that is truly worth living? (1 Tim. 6:18-19)
In light of these prayers and a desire for minimizing distractions, we sold two of our homes, and for the first time in our 41 years of marriage, Tami and I became renters. We love our two-bedroom apartment, which allows much less upkeep and stress. We kept the property on Lake Geneva for family gatherings, entertaining friends, and hosting Journeys of Generosity and spiritual retreats. Though still a work in progress, little by little, we’ve gotten rid of a lot.
These five questions help us discern what we keep or release.
1. Is this an asset or liability?
Back in 1979, when my mom’s family sold that business, I got to witness a lot of relatives “win the lottery,” so to speak. Some were prepared to handle the amount of money they received. Others weren’t. The windfall was a blessing to some; others ended up worse off than they’d been before receiving it. I’m thankful I had a business degree, or I might have gone down a similar path.
I wonder now why many wealthy, even business-owning, families don’t teach the simple difference between a liability and an asset, because these lessons can apply to our spiritual lives, too. What if we asked this question about everything we owned: Is this an asset or a liability to my relationship with God?
2. What is it doing (or will it do) to my family?
It’s so important to prepare a family for wealth. If an asset we are enjoying isn’t serving a purpose, or worse, it’s building a sense of entitlement or wastefulness in our kids, that’s a big sign we should release it. In our case, keeping the property on Lake Geneva was valuable for relationship-building and memory-making. In addition, it was a fruitful place to bless others and take time away to be with God.
We should also consider the amount we plan to give in light of its impact on our kids’ lives—positive or negative—which is no easy task and requires significant intentionality and discussion.
3. Am I stewarding or hoarding this?
I kept thinking about the bigger barns story in Luke 12. We’ll be judged by what we did with what we had—whether we chose to use it for God’s purposes or to hoard it. God calls a hoarder a fool! I was building bigger barns. When I asked myself, “Am I being a good manager of the things I am blessed to be stewarding?” the decision to sell or give more away became clearer.
Once our kids were older, there was no good reason to keep the house in Telluride. I wish I’d known at the time the value of giving a property before the sale, but it still felt so good to sell it. Why had it been so hard to come to that decision?
4. Why am I hanging onto this?
When I was candid with myself, I realized I’d kept the Telluride house for the wrong reasons. It helped us make family memories for years, but I kept it after it was no longer fulfilling that purpose. Why? An embarrassing part of the reason was so I could boast about owning it. When others bragged about their place in Aspen or Vail, my historic home in Telluride would impress. But I realized the people I was trying to impress had a mantra—the one with the most toys wins—and I too had subconsciously adopted it at some point. When we finally sold that house, it was such a relief to release it.
5. Who could benefit if I gave it away?
My family had grown very involved with a ministry in the infamous Cabrini Green neighborhood on Chicago’s Near North Side, Holy Family School. We grew passionate about this community of people and the school itself. The mission of providing high-quality Christian education to underserved African American families spoke to us.
We all felt God calling us to make a pledge, so we called a family meeting to decide about selling the Telluride house. It felt so good to use the money from something we no longer needed to help a ministry that could do so much with it. We have fond memories of the time our family spent in Telluride, but we’ve never regretted the decision to use it to give to this ministry we all loved. This experience showed me that when you make yourself available and show up where God is already at work, you get to experience a miracle.
“Comparison kills gratitude.” Thankfully, Tami reminds me of this. It’s sometimes hard for me when I see others getting cool stuff. I know that I’ll continue to want more things, thinking I “need” them, or worse, I “deserve” them. I’ve found the antidote for this temptation is to surround myself with a community that believes we own nothing and are simply stewards of what God has blessed us to manage.
We need to be available to God, act on His nudges, keep our focus on being His light in the world, and humbly glorify Him through our actions.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
– Romans 12:2
All the work of buying, owning, and selling businesses and properties left me with something, even after the “stuff” was gone: knowledge and empathy. Those activities are not inherently bad—in fact, they can produce a lot of good—but only when surrendered to God’s will and way. Now, I use my time helping others think through these questions so that they can use their stuff in God-honoring and exciting ways, too!
There were wise men, not “three” wise men. Thank God that’s out of the system.
What can we learn from the wise men who were following the star, seeking the King of Jews? (Matthew 2:1-16)
5 things we can learn from the wise men
1. They were sincere seekers of the Truth; having diligently traveled afar to finally meet the King as prophesied by Micah, the prophet. Many give up their pursuit along the way. How is your walk with God today? Are you weary and fainting? Wait on the Lord. 2. They experienced an exceeding great joy when they reached their destination. They were deeply convicted and invested in their pursuit of Jesus. Is the joy of salvation abounding in you? Are you growing in the hope found in Christ alone? 3. They humbled themselves and worshipped Jesus. A true reverence and submission after knowing the truth. Many intelligent men of the world reject the truth of the Word even after hearing the truth. 4. They offered gold (faith), frankincense (praises) and myrrh (prayers). What are we offering to God daily? Are we offering the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God? are we living by faith that pleases God? 5. They were warned by God to go another way because Herod wanted to destroy the child Jesus. When we walk in God’s wisdom, He guides our ways keeping us from evil men.
As believers, we should not give up, rather grow in the word of God daily. He is our true sustenance and reward.
“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:14-17
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 4:23, Colossians 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.
In 2002, Jack Whittaker won $315 million in a West Virginia lottery. Years later he told a reporter, “You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too.”
His daughter and granddaughter died of drug overdoses, and he was robbed of $545,000 eight months after winning the lottery. “I just don’t like Jack Whittaker,” he went on to say. “I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become.”
There are a lot of things that money can buy, but there are also things that money cannot buy. As Zig Ziglar pointed out, “Money will buy you a bed, but not a good night’s sleep, a house, but not a home, a companion, but not a friend.”
Money isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t intrinsically evil as some would suggest. Maybe you’ve heard people say, “You know, the Bible says that money is the root of all evil.”
But the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Here’s what it does say: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV).
So money isn’t evil. If you love it, however, if you make it your goal, if you think that money will bring you happiness, then you’ll be in for a rude awakening one day. On the other hand, there are uses for money, and money can be a blessing in our lives. The Bible tells us that money is something we can use to touch other lives.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. . . . By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19 NLT).
So where do we find the meaning, purpose and happiness in life that we all want? How can we be truly happy people?
According to the Bible, if we seek to know God and discover His plan for our lives, we will find purpose as a result. We will find the meaning and happiness that we so desperately long for—not from seeking it but from seeking him. The Bible says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15 NKJV).
C. S. Lewis wrote, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.”
According to the Bible, happiness and fulfillment are not things we should seek outright. Rather, happiness and fulfillment will come as a result of seeking something else. That something else, in fact, is someone else: God Himself.
We won’t be happy by trying to be happy. We won’t find fulfillment by trying everything this world has to offer. But we will find fulfillment when we commit our lives to the Lord and ask Him to reveal His purpose for us. When we align our wills with God’s will, we’ll discover life as it was meant to be lived.
Henry Ward Beecher said, “The strength and happiness of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.”
In the New Testament we find the account of some men from Greece who were looking for Jesus. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, and they were seeking answers, meaning, and purpose in life.
We’re not quite sure if they ever had a personal encounter with Jesus. John’s Gospel tells us they went to Philip, who then went to Andrew. Together Philip and Andrew approached Jesus, and He gave them His response.
In effect Jesus answered the essential question he could see in their hearts: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Why do I exist? How can I be happy?
At this time in history, Greece basically was the cultural center of the world, the intellectual capital of Planet Earth. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle held court there. Greece was the fountainhead of philosophy, the matrix of mythology, the cradle of civilized society.
Not only was Greece an intellectual capital, but it also was a philosophical capital. In this open, free society, devoid of absolutes, the people were encouraged to live as they pleased. Immorality was pervasive, and justice was lacking.
These men who came to Jerusalem were searching for something more, and Jesus gave them what they were asking for.
His words for them, in effect, unlocked the secret to personal happiness and fulfillment: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:24–25 NLT).
Jesus was saying, “Here it is: If you want to find your life, you need to lose it.”
This seems very difficult to understand. It seems unnatural and certainly impossible. But what Jesus was saying is this: If you want to live life to its fullest, you must be willing to lose your life. Then you will find it.
There are people today who essentially say, “I don’t want to live by anyone’s rules. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’ll do whatever makes me happy and brings me fulfillment, because all that matters is me. It’s all about me.” So they live their lives with that attitude.
But Jesus was saying that if you seek to live for yourself, then you never will find yourself. If a selfish, me-first attitude permeates every aspect of your life, then you’ll come up empty. And ultimately you’ll see the emptiness of life without God.
I love C.S. Lewis. He isn’t perfect. He had a few ideas that were a bit much for protestant me. Overall he was a genius. What made him so brilliant is his ability to take the complex and translate it into words and ideas that others could understand and repeat. When you really understand something, you move beyond the jargon, take the idea apart, and remove the unnecessary, so the truly important can shine through with greater clarity.
I love the Narnian Novels by Lewis. They are brilliant. They have so many themes within his other books and are completely relevant for our world today, almost 70 years later. Lewis fought in World War I and wrote this book only a few years after the end of World War II. He was painfully aware of fighting in the middle of winter without the ability to celebrate Christmas. When Lewis penned one of his most famous lines, he summed up how the world’s enduring suffering faced during the second world war with one line. “It’s always winter, never Christmas.”
This past year has felt like it is always winter, never Christmas. It feels as though there has been a spell put on the world that has frozen hearts, frozen dreams, and is desiring to freeze our joy. There is a war we are facing in our world today, and it is a war on Joy. True Joy everlasting Joy.
One of the central themes of the life of C.S. Lewis was that of joy. His autobiography is entitled “Surprised by Joy” He had much to say about Joy. It was the hope of what was to come for him and the real enjoyment that comes from understanding we have been forgiven. The Pevensie kids understood this in the gifts they were given. “All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be.” -C.S. Lewis (Interestingly, his wife’s name was also Joy).
The contrast between the Witch and Aslan at this point is one of the central themes of the first Narnian book. A key scene occurs in Chapter 11 when the Witch and Edmund are traveling through the woods in pursuit of the beavers and the other children. They happen upon “a merry party” made up of a squirrel family, two satyrs, a fox, and a Dwarf, seated at a table and enjoying a delicious holiday meal. The Witch is incensed and demands to know, “What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?” When she discovers that the meal was a gift from Father Christmas, she turns the entire party into stone. The benefit of the scene is that it demonstrates that the Witch’s evil is not fundamentally about winter and cold weather, but about a deep-seated hostility to life, joy, and celebration.
The witch wanted nothing more than to see winter forever. Like Rigney says, her desire wasn’t about cold and winter. It was a deep hatred of joy of celebration of the newness of life. This wasn’t just about cold weather. It represented her hatred of joy the forward-looking hope even in winter. Which is why she made it always winter and never Christmas.
But again the contrast goes beyond the weather and seasonal change, and perhaps surprisingly, centers in key ways on food. The Witch expresses anger at gluttony and self-indulgence; however, she also gives Edmund Turkish Delight that has been enchanted so that “anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves” (Ch. 4). Indeed, the Witch provides two meals to Edmund: the enchanted candy and stale bread and water. The Witch and her evil are the origins of both gluttony and asceticism, of sinful indulgence and sinful austerity.
In contrast, we see Jesus often break bread with his disciples. In fact, it was in the breaking of bread that they recognized Jesus after he had been raised to new life. It was at a meal that Jesus promised that he would once again eat with us at the marriage supper of the Lamb. In heaven, we will not float around on clouds shooting people with arrows. We will experience the true joy that the world shows us in part in the good gifts God has given us. Gifts of friendship, gifts of food and drink, gifts of beauty in the world he has made.
Another contrast was how each of the Pevensie kids was given a gift. Each of the kids received a gift from a sleigh. Lucy was given a dagger for protection, a healing cordial for help, Susan a bow for protection, a magic horn that calls for help, Peter a shield for protection, and a sword for help. Edmond was not with his family. He was in the witch’s care. He had received his gift from her sleigh. It was Turkish delight that was so delicious that you always wanted more till it drove you mad. Edmonds gift was for his own self-gratification and was a means of the witch’s manipulation. It is a reminder of Digory, who was tempted to eat the silver apple. You “Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair.” Edmond found his heart’s desire but also despair. The gifts his brother and sisters were given were not for themselves exclusively. They were for the protection and help of themselves and others. The love modeled for us in the Bible is a self-giving love, not a self-gratifying one.
The gifts we are given by God are meant to be used for the help and protection of others not for the promotion or gratification of self.
Children often wrote to C.S. Lewis to ask him about Aslan’s true identity—his other name in our world. Lewis always answered by giving hints, including this one: “Who in our world arrived at the same time as Father Christmas?” (Hint: Read Luke 2:1-20.)
One of the things that have always saddened me in this story was how Edmond wasn’t there to receive a gift. He missed Father Christmas because of his treachery. But what we see in the coming weeks was Edmond didn’t get a gift from Father Christmas. He got Aslan himself. He received what he needs more than anything else in the world. He needed forgiveness for his sins, just like you and me. We need forgiveness. Edmond is broken by his sin. He comes to Aslan and receives mercy. He receives forgiveness. He receives Aslan himself. This is the call you and I come to Christ. Find forgiveness. Because “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 This is the great exchange our sins for his righteousness. This is the basis for our Joy. This is the deeper magic forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation that the witch feared but could not understand.
There are not many people I know that like pain. I have met people who enjoy inflicting pain upon others, but thankfully they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people I’ve met would prefer to experience joy and delight.
Pain, which is a distressing sensation, can be a physical suffering or distress from an injury or illness, a mental or emotional suffering or torment. Pain could also be a result of torture or a miserable experience. Of course an extreme worry can cause pain.
Pain is a natural way of our bodies getting our attention. — and it works! That knife blade going deeper in will cause us damage. That person may be violent. That food smells bad. These aren’t pleasant experiences — but we’d be worse off without them.
There are a rare amount of people that do not feel pain, but they can be seriously injured without knowing it.
Pain and suffering are related. Our pain reaction does feel like a reaction — it happens before we think or reflect on what we are experiencing. It feels direct and immediate. But the years we spend in childhood learning about danger and pain — and the fact that our reaction can be triggered due to past experiences — mean that the distinction between pain and suffering can be a slippery one.
Some years ago I heard about an unusual experiment that some scientists conducted. The scientists wired a cage with low level voltage in the bottom of the cage, they put dogs in it and then they closed the door. They sent a current through. It wasn’t enough to harm the dogs but it was enough to inflict some mild pain. You can guess the dog’s reaction. They jumped, they barked, they howled. Well, they kept this up several times a day, but the reaction eventually changed. After a while the dogs barely twitched when the current went through the floor of that cage. They had gotten conditioned to it. In fact, the scientists then opened the cage door, sent the current through the floor and not one dog even tried to leave. It’s as if they’d given up ever getting away from the pain. One last step in the experiment: they put a dog in the cage who had not been conditioned to the current and they left the door open. Well, they turned on the juice and the new dog knew exactly what to do. He ran right out of the cage followed by all the other dogs!
One dog knew what it was to be free; he knew where the hope was. But the one who had become conditioned to a hopeless situation didn’t even try to leave when he could – until one of his own came into that cage and showed him the way out.
And so it is with some of the people around you. They’ve been hurt by bad relationships, broken relationships, selfishness, loneliness, betrayal, but they look around and they see everyone else living in the same stress and confusion and emotional hollowness. And they decide this must be the way it is and the way it always will be. Just like those dogs in that cage.
The only way they’ll find hope in real life is if one of their own comes into their cage and shows them the way out. We want the shock-free environment outside the cage. There are those that find their way out of the cage. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten the people who are still in there. We work with them, we live around them, and we meet them every day.
There are people you know who are accepting a level of life they should never accept. It’s lonelier, it’s emptier, it’s more disappointing, and it’s more fatal than it was ever meant to be. There is a door that leads out. But they haven’t gone through it yet, maybe because no one has come into their cage to lead them out. Are you the one they are waiting for you?
What makes you happy? What makes you laugh out with great joy, from the depths of your heart? Have you ever checked the reasons for your laughter? Or, have you just strung along life and gone with the flow?
So many believers, born into “christian” families, have never bothered to examine their lives. Which is why many are found struggling with mental and emotional issues. How to examine? Looking at Jesus who walked the earth as the only example to emulate. Studying the word of God to seek God in prayer for the things inspired by the Holy Spirit.
If laughter is the best medicine, what is causing that laughter is critical. Movies and Internet media have contaminated the minds and hearts of people with their “roasts” and “stand-ups”. Do these bring you joy? True christians do not seek after false joy; they know where to find real joy.
There is so much joy when a team wins in sports or games. This joy too is carnal and earthly. These systems were created to fill us with duplicate joy and steal our time away from God. We also know most of these games are fixed to make money.
Love rejoices in the truth
“rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;” (1 Corinthians 13:6)
The wicked love lies and sin. The righteous love the truth. Those who enjoy truth, also are sanctified by the power in the truth of the word of God.
How can we rejoice and enjoy the presence of God? When we humble ourselves in prayer and fellowship. When we keep God before us, He gives our body rest too; not just our spirit and soul. The true way of this life is found in the presence of God. God reveals it to us.
“I have set the LORD always before me: Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:8-9, 11)
A new day is a day of rejoicing because this is the day He has made (Psalms 118:24). The truth about the new day is, it’s a gift. A gift to come closer to Him, be fruitful.
Be filled with the joy of the Lord, and in the power of His might. When God fills us with the Holy Spirit, our rejoicing is powered by love, God’s love.
Prepare yourself for the day of greatest joy for all those who seek His coming. The rapture is near, the groom is all set to pick the bride the Holy Spirit prepares. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen.