“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I am giving you a peace that is different from the world’s version. So do not let your heart troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
If we let Jesus’ teaching settle into our minds we are likely to arrive at an “aha moment” or an insight or sudden discovery that makes a formerly thorny issue crystal clear. The verse for this week’s GraceWaves provides a great example.
The translation above is my own, and in it I wanted to stress the contrast Jesus made. You have two kinds of peace available to you: the peace of Christ and the peace of the world. Interestingly, the two sources of peace are not mutually exclusive. A Christian can and does have peace that the world offers, and there is nothing wrong with that. But you cannot “mix up the peaces.”
The peace the world offers comes in an endless variety of pleasant forms. Think of the following common experiences you have probably had this morning already: you got out of bed with little or no difficulty, the newspaper was in its usual place in the front yard, your computer “booted up,” you had milk for your cereal, your car started, etc. Absent any of these, you likely would have felt some measure of discontent. The level of discontent might have been minor or substantial, as in the case of poor health, for example. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these expressions of worldly peace. I am glad to receive each one, and so are you. We simply have to face the fact that we do reach a point where our troubled lives are beyond the solution of worldly peace.
Therein lies the challenge. We try to substitute the world’s version of peace for the peace of Christ. Most people are vaguely aware of the problem, but unwilling to accept the solution. The wounded conscience whispers its need, but the individual lives with symptoms that range from a constant and residual agitation to hectic discontent. In response we expend tremendous energy fretting over the warning signs and then inexplicably importing, developing, or protecting more of the world’s peace in a vain effort to fill the void (e.g. make more money, lose weight, work harder, etc.). We insistently try to fill the void with worldly peace, and when the gnawing hunger remains we wonder what we have done wrong. We have mixed up the peaces.
The peace the world gives is fine but fleeting. That’s Jesus’ point. The warning for us is never to try to solve a fundamentally spiritual problem with a worldly solution. In his Confessions Augustine wrote these familiar words, “God You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are always restless until they find their rest in you.” How can we find this rest in God?
First, confirm the fact that in Christ you already have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). As a believer in Christ, your life is determined in Him. Your eternity is secure, and one of Jesus’ great teachings, particularly in John, is that eternal life has already begun for you. If life is a game, then you are already assured of victory. No amount of worldly trouble can prevent that victory, and no addition of more worldly peace will augment that victory. Your salvation is precious. Remember that great gift.
Second, cultivate a more consistent awareness of Christ’s presence. Especially in John, Jesus’ teaching about His closeness to every believer is quite stunning. John 13-16 is a remarkably intimate window into Jesus’ interaction with His disciples the night before His crucifixion, and we find repeated emphasis on His presence with the believer. He will abide in you and exhorts you to abide in Him (John 15). The promise of the Spirit, which in John has the revealing title of Comforter, is in chapters 14 and 16. And chapter 17 contains Jesus’ profound prayer in which He prays for unity of you with God in the same way Jesus enjoys unity with the Father.
The truth is God is so deeply and truly with you that words are completely inadequate. But the promise is one you must embrace. As Dr. Don Minton told us in seminary, “Wherever you walk, you need never walk alone.” At this very moment, you are not alone, and you never will be.
Though we can only scratch the surface, the second week of Advent is a time for us to celebrate the peace of Christ. Don’t mix up the peaces! The great irony here is that while we will have tribulation in the world (John 16:33) no amount worldly peace will solve all those troubles. The peace of Christ, however, meets your deepest need. Read again the words of this verse, and hear Him speak softly to you, “Do not let your heart be troubled.”
Grace (and peace),
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 6, 2010