I began my study this week with the determination that I was going to “pick up the pace” in our study. It’s not because I am eager to be finished with our study of Colossians, the fact is that I’m enjoying the study. My concern is that if we go too slowly we may begin to lose the context of our study.
I have reminded you many times that the quoting of a list of verses means very little. What matters is the context of those verses. Context is what determines the true meaning. For example I might say of someone, “He kills me . . .” One person could say I was accusing someone else of murder. They might take me to court for defamation of character. But if you knew the context of the statement you might see that I thought someone was a great comic and I said, “he kills me”. In that context the meaning is: this man makes me laugh so much that my sides hurt. Context means everything.
But try as I may I could not get beyond verse 15. The fact is, that the context is not difficult to figure out. Paul is giving the Colossians guidelines for living the Christian life. The guidelines stand somewhat independently. The reason I could not get beyond verse 15 is a simple one: I wanted to know how to apply this verse in my life.
The word “Peace” is a word we use like: love, joy, and grace. We love those words. We also love the idea of God’s peace. But what does it mean to “let God’s peace RULE in your life”? The word for “rule” is a word that is similar to our word, umpire or arbiter. Paul is calling us to let peace be the umpire, the ruler, the decision maker in our life. Wouldn’t you like to obey that command?
The opposite of living in peace would be to live a life characterized by: churning, anxiety, worry. I wish I could tell you that I don’t have any ideas what these words mean . . . but I can’t. I know all too well how quickly turmoil can displace peace in my life. In fact, in each of the last couple of weeks during my week of preparation I found myself wrestling personally with the very issue I was to preach on. That was again the case this week as demands for time and preparation crashed down upon me.
We churn about all kinds of things
- How to pay Bills
- How we will fulfill our obligations
- Career and Life decisions
- Our families . . . will our children be safe? Will they turn out O.K.? Will our parents be able to make it in their old age?
- We churn about our health
- We churn about the weather (it’s danger, it’s effects on the crops, it’s effect on our plans)
- We churn about our spiritual life (why does God seem so far away; can God forgive me; what happens when I die?)
We are good at churning because we have so much practice at it. But Paul gives us a different goal. He tells us to strive to let the Peace of Christ rule (control) our lives. He wants the churning to stop so that we can enjoy the journey. In order for us to do this, there are several things we must know.
THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS BASED ON (ANCHORED IN) OUR PEACE WITH GOD
Before you can know the peace OF God you must find peace WITH God. In Romans 5:1 Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” The Bible explains it quite plainly: if we want to know peace with God then we must be justified by faith. . . But what does that mean.
To be “justified” is a legal term. It means to be declared innocent. When we are justified with God we will no longer stand before Him as guilty and sinful rebels. We will stand before Him perfect and innocent.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s impossible! You’re right. It is impossible by our own efforts. There is no way that we can be proclaimed sinless after we sin. We can’t (and won’t) do enough good to offset the bad.
This is where the Gospel comes in. Christ, the perfect sacrifice gave His life as a payment for our sin. He took on our sin and gave us his perfection. It was an act of justice and mercy at the same time.
The Bible tells us that anyone who trusts Christ for their salvation, anyone who makes Jesus the leader and ruler of their life – will be seen in the perfection of Christ. Their sins are paid for, their past is cleansed, they are “right with God”.
Do you see how essential this is to letting God’s peace rule in our lives? The first ingredient to living in this peace of God is to know that God is no longer angry with us. And when God is for us . . . who or what can be against us?
In the Old Testament there is the great blessing God gave the priests for the people: “‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”‘ These were far more significant words than we realize. It was common knowledge that because of our sin, no man could see God and live. Some could see God’s shadow . . .or in Moses’ case see the “back side of God” (whatever that means) . . .but they couldn’t see God face to face. Sin was a barrier far too great. God who is Holy could not and would not have anything unholy in His presence. The blessing then takes on new meaning: The Lord bless (instead of curse) you and keep (instead of cast you away) you; the LORD make his face shine upon you (rather than His wrath) and be gracious to you (rather than exercising judgment). May the Lord turn his face toward you (rather than away from you) and give you peace (rather than dread or terror).
This benediction is something that only believers in Christ will experience. When we trust Christ as our Savior, God turns His face towards us. He looks us in the eye . . . . and smiles with the smile similar to that of two lovers who have been apart and are now reunited. We see not wrath, but love. We don’t experience terror, but peace.
THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS NOT RELATED TO CIRCUMSTANCES
We tend to think of peace as the absence of turmoil. We have peace, we say, when countries are not at war. But sometimes, that peace is only the two sides reloading.
The same is true in the spiritual life. We think that we are living in peace when everything is going well. When the road is smooth we say we are enjoying God’s peace. And in those times we may certainly be enjoying God’s blessing . . . or we may be in process of being lulled to sleep by the Devil.
In John 16 Jesus tells his disciples that He is going to be taken and that they are going to desert Him. In the next breath He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Here’s what I want you to see: the kind of peace offered by the Lord has nothing to do with an absence of difficult circumstances. You can have peace in the midst of the storm.
In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace of Christ is not like the world. In the world you have peace when everything is going well. The peace of Christ transcends circumstances. He follows this by telling them not to be troubled and fearful. Do you see that this would be an unnecessary command if His peace was good times? Why would you be troubled if everything was going well. It would be like me saying, “Don’t worry about me getting into a car accident while I’m sitting at home.” It is in the stressful times that we are to know peace.
In Philippians 4:6,7 we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice, that Paul says the peace we know will be that which “transcends all understanding.” A peace that comes when everything is going well is not at all difficult to understand. . . .we are all peaceful at that point.
We live at a time when a whole host of people will tell you that the reason you have difficulties in your life is because you are not living correctly. They understand peace to be the result of circumstances. That is not the peace Jesus is extending. Peace is not the absence of trouble . . . it is standing with Christ in whatever circumstance you face.
THE PEACE OF CHRIST IS THE BYPRODUCT OF UNWAVERING TRUST
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” God will grant His peace if we will trust Him.
When Peter was walking on the water out to Jesus he became alarmed when He took His eyes off His Master. The same thing happens to us.
Suppose you were leading a blind man. You faced walking across a plank-like area. You told the man that he would be fine and you told him to hold your hand and to do as you told him. Now, you might walk confidently because you could see, the blind man would walk confidently if he trusted you. He placed his confidence in “other eyes”.
This is what you and I must do. In the difficult times; the times when we cannot see; we must listen and trust the one who does see.
I think of many times in my own life. I find myself churning inside. I am facing a big presentation or a difficult decision. I can’t sleep because my heart is restless. I find often that I must chide myself to remember who leads the way. And when I pause to focus on who I am following; when I recall that God is the one who loves me with an everlasting love; the one who placed the stars and planets in place with a word; the one who knows the end from the beginning; the one who promises that nothing shall separate me from His love or snatch me from His hands; the One who has promised that he will work all things for the good; when I remember that He has placed His own Spirit in me to comfort and direct me; guess what? God’s peace begins to wash over me. I have found calm in the midst of howling winds and driving rain and in the midst of inner storms as well.
I must admit, I have not had the kinds of storms that many of you have had and are going through now. I know that some of you have turmoil surrounding you on every front. But I know who I believe in . . . and so do you. And we have seen others . . . .those who have gone through terrible trials: crushing physical affliction such as Joni Eaerickson-Tada; great public humiliation and imprisonment like Charles Colson; great personal loss like Elizabeth Elliot (who’s husband, a missionary was killed by those he served) or the late Joe Bayly (who had to bury three of his sons). But you’ve seen it not just in those who you’ve read about . . . you’ve seen that peace in the lives of neighbors and friends. People who have survived when everyone thought they would crumble; people who continued to find strength even when you thought they had lost it all; people that others might have considered cursed who lived like they were blessed. We know it is true . . . God’s peace is available for the storms because we have seen it.
This is a peace that is anchored in knowing that God is in control and knows what He is doing. We are to take Him at his word and follow his instructions.
No suppose you went to a car dealer and bought a shiny new (and expensive) new car. Say you had been driving that car for a long time when suddenly the engine stops. You have to have the car towed and you have it towed to the dealer who sold it to you. All this time you are talking about what a “lemon” you bought. You call the dealer a “crook” and you make disparaging remarks about him and his heritage. Now when you go into the dealer and begin giving him a piece of your mind that you really can’t afford to lose, the dealer looks at you and smiles. He walks over to your car and opens the glove compartment. He pulls out a shiny book in a bag that has never been opened. And he shows you that this “Owners Manual” says that every once in a while you need to put some oil in the engine. And every now and again you need to add anti-freeze to the Radiator. He tells you that if you do these things, your car will run well.
We are like that car owner. When troubles come we often throw up our hands and curse God. We churn, we can’t sleep, we feel overwhelmed, life loses it’s sparkle. So we come running to the Lord and we say He has not done what He has promised. But He says, “read the owners manual and do what it says . . . .and peace will be your companion.”
In short, we are told to do what He tells us to do and then trust Him for the peace. Our peace comes from knowing that God is faithful.
Peace then is
- Trusting that God is in control even when circumstances seem out of control
- Trusting that God will not desert us, even when we feel alone
- Resting in God’s unmatched power even in the darkest night
- Claiming His forgiveness even when I feel like a failure
- Trusting His wisdom even when I feel foolish
- Being grateful and content even when I don’t have what others have knowing that God supplies all my needs
- It means trusting that we can do all things through the Christ who strengthens us even we feel overwhelmed
THE PEACE OF CHRIST RESULTS IN PEACE WITH EACH OTHER
Paul has talked about the interpersonal impact our faith should have. We do not follow Christ in isolation. Our faith effects our living. If we know God’s peace we will seek to extend this peace to others.
An old story which comes from the Salvation Army in the last century tells of a strong-willed woman who has been nicknamed “Warrier Brown” because of her fiery temper. She was often belligerent and became enraged whenever she got drunk. Then one day she was converted. Her entire life was wonderfully changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. At an open-air meeting a week later, she told everyone what Jesus had done for her. Suddenly a scoffer threw a potato at her, causing a stinging bruise. Had she not been converted, she would have lashed out at the man furiously. God’s grace, however, had made such a profound change in her conduct that she quietly picked up the potato and put it into her pocket without saying a word. No more was heard of the incident until the time of the “harvest festival” months later. Then the dear lady who had been known as “Warrior Brown” brought as her offering a little sack of potatoes. She explained that after the open-air meeting she had cut up and planted the “insulting potato,” and what she was now presenting to the Lord “the increase.” Warrior Brown had allowed “the peace of Christ” to be umpire of her life.” [Hughes, COLOSSIANS, p. 110, 111)
This woman understood.
When Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, he became angry with a man and lashed out at him. He even threatened him. Then he went back to his fresco and tried to paint the face of Jesus. He couldn’t for there was too much evil stirring inside him. The lack of peace forced him to put down his brushes, go find the man, and ask his forgiveness. Only then did he have the inner calm needed to do the face of his Master.
Peace with God and peace with each other . . . go together.
I don’t have to ask whether this subject is relevant to your life . . . I know it is. Just as it is relevant in mine. Where is the churning in your soul? What keeps you awake? What is it that causes your heart to race? This message is for that place and that time.
Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ? Do not answer quickly . . . think about it. Are you trusting Christ for you entire hope of salvation? Are you relying on His sacrifice as payment for your rebellion and sin? Are you willing to rest in His provision for your eternal home?
Perhaps you’re not sure. Then, my friend, it is time to become sure. Right now, take the matter to the Lord. Talk to Him . . . not me. Confess your sin. Take responsibility for your life. Then tell Him that you are sorry and want Him to make you a new person through Christ. Tell Him that you will trust Him. Perhaps you will use words something like this:
Lord Jesus, this morning I turn to you. I confess that without You I am lost. I have ignored and rebelled against You and now I seek your cleansing grace. Today I place my trust in what Christ has done for me. I trust His word on the cross and His glorious resurrection as the basis for my salvation. I receive Him as my Rescuer and will follow Him as my King. O Lord, place your Spirit within me. Begin the work of transformation in my life. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Once you’ve done something like this you can be sure of one thing: God has wrapped His arms around you. You are forgiven and You are safe. The storms may rage in your life. You may sense that things are out of control . . . but as long as you hold His hand, nothing can hurt you. Paul was right when He said in Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
This is our basis of peace: that we are loved by the God who rules the Universe. And we can face all things . . . ALL things . . .even the most difficult, painful, and disappointing things, with His peace. We can know peace because we know who we belong to. And we know that He has promised to see us home. And God’s promise is sure.
Faith is not a blind leap in the dark. It’s not believing even though common sense says it is ridiculous. Faith is trusting the Father you know to be loving, kind, consistent, wise, and forgiving. At times you may feel like you are jumping into the dark . . . .but you’re not. You’re not jumping into the dark . . .but into His arms. And you may not be able to see Him . . . but He sees you.