Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Murder, Adultery, Lies (and then some): Matters of the Heart

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. - Matthew 5:21-37 ESV

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. - Proverbs 18:21 ESV

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. - James 3:2-12 ESV

A look at Matthew 5:21-37. Is anger the real sin, or is it how we deal with the anger that becomes the problem? Is looking but not touching really okay? As we study this passage in length, we will discover that society's permissiveness does not necessarily equate to biblical correctness. The sins of our hands are really the outpouring of the corruption in our hearts...(approx. 25 mins.)

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. - Psalm 4:4-5 ESV

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. - James 1:15 ESV

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. - James 4:11-16 ESV

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. - James 5:12 ESV

"Hatred is settled anger." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Society drives people crazy with lust and calls it advertising." - John Lahr

Soli Deo Gloria,

From the Balcony

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Essential Truths From the Balcony: "Jesus DID NOT Die To Save Us From the Devil..."

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? - Matthew 23:33 ESV

Every now and again, we like to lay out some of the fundamental doctrines that are necessary for salvation in Christ. The reason that we do this is because we believe that a faulty understanding on these matters can lead to grave error and have an undermining effect on spiritual growth and discipleship. Here is one of the first, and possibly the most important, in terms of understanding what it really means to "get saved" - more importantly, what it is that we are actually saved from...

The Wrath of God (Paul Washer)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. - John 3:18 ESV
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. - Matthew 10:28 ESV

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” - Acts 2:37-41 ESV

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." - Acts 17:30 ESV

"The Judge is before the door: he that cometh will come, and will not tarry: his reward is with him." - George Whitefield

Soli Deo Gloria,

From the Balcony

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Unbreakable: The Fulfillment of the Law & the Gospel in Jesus Christ

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-20 ESV

Gabcast! Views From the Balcony #1 - Unbreakable: Jesus' Fulfillment of the Law & the Gospel

An In-Depth look at Matt. 5:17-20. We discuss what it means when it says that Jesus fufills the Law, as well as what function the Law still has for us on this side of the Gospel.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” - Luke 24:27, 44 ESV

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:19-20 ESV

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. - Romans 10:4 ESV

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. - Galatians 3:23-24 ESV

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. - Galatians 4:4-7 ESV

"A New Law" - Derek Webb

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. - Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." - John 14:12 ESV

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. - Romans 3:31 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,
From the Balcony

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Preserve and Light the Way: On Being Salt and Light (Pt. 2)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5 ESV

"But the fallen human beings need more than barricades to stop them becoming as bad as they could be. They need regeneration, new life through the gospel. Hence our second vocation to be 'the light of the world'. For the truth of the gospel is the light, contained indeed in fragile earthenware lamps, yet shining through our very eartnenness with the more conspicuous brightness. We are called both to spread the gospel and to frame our manner of life in a way that is worthy of the gospel." - John R.W. Stott

As for our second role as Christians, being the light of the world, Jesus gives a simpler explanation. That is, at least it is simpler in our ability to comprehend what we are to do. While there can be some linguistic and historical wrangling as to what definition of salt we are to be in a metaphorical sense. It also gives us a better understanding of how these two functions of being salt and light compliment one another. Without salt to "prepare the way", in a manner of speaking, the light will have little or no effect.

"This Little Light O' Mine..."

As the light of the world, Christ describes his followers in two ways--the first of which is 'a city on a hill'. We are not to be hidden; we are to stand out. It should be almost impossible for us to stay hidden. We should always seek to make ourselves as visible as possible, to be in plain sight of the watching world. In a second metaphor, Christ explains this as a lamp that is used to light a house. He points out how ridiculous it would be for anyone to light a lamp and then try to conceal the light that it gives off. John Calvin comments on this issue:

"This means that they ought to live in such a manner, as if the eyes of all were upon them. And certainly, the more eminent a person is, the more injury he does by a bad example, if he acts improperly. Christ, therefore, informs the apostles, that they must be more careful to live a devout and holy life, than unknown persons of the common rank, because the eyes of all are directed to them, as lighted candles; and that they must not be endured, if their own devotion, and uprightness of conduct, do not correspond to the doctrine of which they are ministers."

The Christian's life is one of ultimate exposure and exhibition. We are to be on display for all the world to see. How else are we suppose to light the way for a world that remains in darkness? People everywhere are searching for a "better way". Take a trip on the Internet highway or a click of the remote control and we are immediately overwhelmed with all sorts of products of "salvation". Everyone has an angle promising to save us from the problems and misery of life. It comes in all shapes and forms--from money to miracle creams. Yet these things never truly satisfy and leave us wanting. We, by our fallen nature are conditioned for the darkness. As Jesus told Nicodemus, "man loves darkness more than the light".

"...I'm Gonna Let it Shine!"

Therefore it is the duty of the Christian to spread the light of the gospel into the world. We are to illuminate the darkened eyes by our example. This is why Jesus admonishes his disciples to take care that they always have the light shining. That we do not try to hide ourselves because of our own human frailty. Also, we must not allow ourselves to be extinguished by discouragement of our failures at times. Christ sustains us in both our failures and our successes. There are many examples in the Bible to point out the shortcomings of many mighty men and women, both old and new testaments, who had moments of faltering. But the thing that will sustain us through it all is that we remember that we are not doing any of this for ourselves. Our light is not to be shown for our own gratification and glory, but to the Glory of God Alone. We are in the business of shining the light that points to salvation in Christ as the only way, not through us. As Paul states to Timothy,

though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen - 1 Timothy 1:13-17 ESV

So as we go about our business of being in the world and not of it, we must always remember that salt and light must go together like law and gospel--you can't have one without the other. Light the way for the watching world.

HOOBASTANK - Crawling in the Dark

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12 ESV

"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." - John 9:5 ESV

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV

that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world - Philippians 2:15 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,
From the Balcony

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Preserve and Light the Way: On Being Salt and Light (Pt. 1)

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." - Mark 9:49-50 ESV

"No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness." - Luke 11:33-35 ESV

At the beginning of the Jesus' sermon, we have learned through the beatitudes what the characteristics of his followers should be. Now as we start to move further into Matthew 5, the verses following begin to give a picture of what they are to accomplish in the world in which they live. In other words, they have learned how they are to be--now they are going to learn what they are to do...

These two elements, Salt and Light are not two different metaphors for the same function. As John Stott states in his commentary on the Message of Sermon on the Mount:

"In fact their effects are complementary. The function of salt is largely negative: it prevents decay. The function of light is positive: it illuminates the darkness...For it is one thing to stop the spread of evil; it is another to promote the spread of truth, beauty and goodness."

Salt of the Earth

Salt in the time of Jesus and the apostles was not as we know it today; we use refined salt. But they used an unrefined salt--a sort of sea salt, if you will--collected from deposits on the Dead Sea Coast. The only reason that I bring this up is because it can matter in the interpretation of the verses above. The sodium chloride in which we use pure. Because of this it cannot lose its "saltiness". However, because the sea salt was unrefined, this meant that if it was mingled with other elements and that it could indeed lose its saltiness over a period of time. The point of pointing this out is that it adds weight to the warning that Jesus gives them. If we misunderstand the context of the salt, we may be led to believe that Jesus is merely speaking in hypothetical terms. We may also be led to believe that we as Christians in the world are to be "savory"--simply appealing to others because we "taste good". But be assured that the threat of losing saltiness is very real and we as followers of Christ are not simply left here in the world to be the spice of life.

The salt in those times was used as a preservative due to a lack of refrigeration. Things such as raw meat and fish would spoil rapidly(especially considering the climate) if they weren't salted. Seeing as how these things were already dead, the decaying process can be slowed through a preservative, but not stopped. So it is with the human race. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, all of the created order has been degenerating; in particular--Man--who was made in the image of God, while he still retains that image, it is a broken and decaying one (Genesis 6:5-7, 11-12; Isaiah 53:6; John 3:18-19; Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17). Therefore the Christian's first role in this world is to act as a slowing agent to the retrograde process that has been brought about by man's disobedience and hostility toward God. To quote Stott again:

"What does it mean to be Christian? To begin with, we Christian people should be more courageous, more outspoken in condemning evil. Condemnation is negative, to be sure, but the action of salt is negative. Sometimes standards slip and slide in a community for want of a clear Christian protest."

As we salt ourselves in Christ-likeness, it should have an overflowing effect. We preserve by being in our communities. As I said earlier, the salt of their day was mingled with other things. This is much like Christians in the world; we too are together with non-believers. This is an act of grace by God who sends us out into all of creation that the influence of the gospel may saturate the cultures of the world in order to hold back the destructive effects of evil. But when we fail to do our job, it leaves us and them worse for the wear. John Calvin states eloquently on the admonition of Christ to his disciples,

"There is nothing better than to receive this seasoning, by which alone our tastelessness is corrected. But, at the same time, let those whose business it is to salt it beware lest they encourage the world in their own folly, and still more, that they do not infect it with a depraved and vicious taste."

To say it another way, if we allow ourselves to become too saturated with the desires of this world, we lose our effectiveness. Christ leaves no wiggle room here. To be anything less than salt is to be worthless (Hebrews 6:1-8; Revelation 2:5-4). We become nothing more than something to be trampled upon.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." - John 17:15-16 ESV

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. - Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. - 1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,
From the Balcony

Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to The Struggle: The Peace That Starts the War (Pt. 2)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:10-12 ESV

"If you are to have peace with God, there must be war with Satan." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"Blessed are those who seek for peace; (but) in control are those who kill." - Derek Webb (from the song, I for an I)

Contra Mundum (Against the World)

What we are quick to find in the verses following Matthew 5:9, is that Peace with God is not equivocal to peace with our fellow man. In fact, what Jesus is plainly laying out before his followers is the exact opposite; you should expect hostility from the world once you've been brought out of the darkness and bondage of sin. As we have seen and read in our previous studies, "friendship with the world is enmity with God" (Genesis 3:14-15, James 4:4). Notice that Paul says that we are to try ("as far as it depends on you") to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18). Not at any time are we guaranteed that this sentiment will be reciprocated. Once believers have been brought from death and sin to life in Christ, they are now set apart (sanctified) up and against the world. It makes them public enemy No.1 in the devil's domain (Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 5:19). The reason that we often times struggle with the concept of Blessed are the peacemakers, is largely due to our misinterpretation of what peace it is that we're seeking (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 12:49-53). Once you enlist in the army of the Lord, it is an inevitable fact that you will see combat and that the stakes are high; eternity hangs in the balance. Knowing what we know, we must be willing to hang all conviction on the line - even lay our lives on the line, for this is no ordinary combat scenario. This is not your father's war; it is fought on a cosmic stage with cosmic, as well as, supernatural consequences (Ephesians 6:12).

Fighting The Good Fight

This sort of language in our age of the peace and prosperity "gospel" may be called disturbing. However, it is only disturbing when we take our eyes off of Christ as our assurance and the promises that are made to those who follow him (Matthew 16:24; John 15:18-20; 16:1-4, 33). The peace that Christians obtain doesn't turn them into pacifists (Luke 22:35-38), but it must be fought with a different type of weaponry (John 18:36; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:13-18). Even though the battle that rages is a spiritual one, it will manifest itself at times in the physical realm; ungodly people will seek to do us harm, at times, and succeed (Matthew 11:12). As strange as it may sound, this should not concern us. In his letters to Timothy, Paul uses war-like analogies to encourage the young pastor in the hardships he would face in his service for Christ:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:12 ESV


Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. - 2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV

Dying to Live

A strange response indeed, but the concern for our safety should not be an issue. Our priority should be proclaiming the gospel of Christ promiscuously; knowing all the while that our lives are hidden in Christ, and that regardless of the outcome of our physical well-being here in this life, we will be raised again to a better life with him in the consummation of his kingdom. No accusation of guilt by the Devil, or ill-will, or harm threatened to our bodies and/or reputation by enemies (from any side they may come from) will be able to thwart God's plan of bringing his children into his glory. We should live in confidence that whatever troubles spiritually or physically that may come, we will be more than conquerors (Matthew 10:28; John 6:37-40; Romans 8; Philippians 1:21; Hebrews 11:32-38; Revelation 2:11, 20:6).

No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. - Isaiah 54:17 ESV

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - Romans 16:20 ESV

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. - Jude 3-4 ESV

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” - Abraham Kuyper

Soli Deo Gloria,

From the Balcony

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Peace That Starts the War (Pt. 1)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. " - Matthew 5:9 ESV

"The mere absence of war is not peace." - John F. Kennedy

When asked to define peace, most people will give an answer that equates more or less to something like, "a world without conflict, suffering or violence". Yet, in a reading at the close of the beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:9-12), we are forced (once again--as we have been throughout our study of the beatitudes) to take a deeper look at what it truly means to be a peacemaker as a follower of Christ. In light of the verses that follow verse 9, it can appear at first glance to be an outright contradiction. How can he possibly expect us to make when we are being attacked and slandered? Intuition tells us to fight; in some cases, run. This sounds more like surrender--like giving up. But as we shall see, it is all about priority; how true peace is accomplished, how it transforms us, and how we are to strive or contend for it in this world.

Peace with God

If a person truly wishes to have any sort of real peace in the world, he must first be able to answer this question:

"What must I do to escape the wrath of a holy and righteous God?"

As it says in Scripture,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. - Romans 5:1-11 ESV

Martin Luther comments on these verses:

“With ‘peace’ the Apostle here means that peace of which all prophets speak, namely, spiritual peace, as he indicates this by the phrase ‘peace with God’. This peace consists properly in an appeased conscience and in confidence in God, just as conversely the lack of peace means spiritual anxiety, a disturbed conscience and a mistrust over against God.”

As we can see from the text, peace has a much deeper connotation than just the absence of violence. It is the relenting of an angry God against worthy sinners. Through the person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ, God no longer seeks to destroy us and clears our conscience and hearts of sin. It is only through the repentance of sin and faith in Christ that we are saved from the wrath, as God himself initiates reconciliation with sinful man by offering up his own son as a propitiation (turning away) of his anger against us (1 John 4: 9-10). Without this perfect peace, we should seek peace no further, for it would be utterly meaningless and vain in its end. It will serve only as an act of futility, due to the interference of self-interest, greed, and evil (James 4: 1-3).

Like Father, Like Sons

We read from our key text that we find peace with God by becoming "sons of God". As we are made sons through Christ, we must then begin to take on the attribute of peace that has been granted to us. God himself is a God of peace (Romans 15:33; 1 Corinthians 14:33) and we are to become like him, seeking to reconcile ourselves, by his grace, to the rest of the world:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:14-21 ESV

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. –
Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

It should be noted that the outpouring of our peace with God is an active one. We should strive for peace with the rest of the world, first and foremost, through sharing the Gospel. This will definitely be a difficult task. We will have to fight for this peace; at times, the price will be costly.

“Nothing can give perfect peace of conscience with God but what can make atonement for sin. And whoever attempts it in any other way but by virtue of that atonement will never attain it, in this world or hereafter.” - John Owen

Soli Deo Gloria,
From the Balcony