The Most Important Peace

Psalm 34:11-14, peace, repentance, confessionThe correct understanding and application of scripture is of vital importance.  God’s Word is literally life and wisdom incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ.  When we seek to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and to go deeper into the study of the Word then we are really seeking to grow our relationship with Jesus.  And that is an endeavor that will always be worthwhile and eternally profitable.

As we discussed Psalm 34:19 last week I mentioned that the entire chapter was worth careful study and contains wonderful wisdom and encouragement for the believer.  As I originally read through and studied Psalm 34 I completely misunderstood verse 14 and it is that verse (with a few more) that we will be looking at this time.

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:11-14

In verses 11 through 13 we have an invitation to listen to the speaker as he imparts Godly wisdom to us.  If we heed his instruction then we will learn to fear (respect and admire) the God of eternity who is our creator.  His follow-up questions to this bold statement are good ones.  Do we desire life?  Do we truly want to see “good” during our time on earth?

If so, we must learn to tame our tongues and ultimately depart from evil and towards good.  Sounds simple but we know, because of human nature, it really isn’t.  Choosing to do good and seek a relationship with God while denying that fallen human nature can only be accomplished with God’s help and through God’s grace.

But what about that very last line of verse 14?  “Seek peace and pursue it”.  At first glance, this bit of instruction seems to come out of left field.  Thus far the speaker has been talking about personal behavior and that which comes from within.  If we take “peace” to mean the absence of conflict and violence then that would seem to point more towards our outward behavior towards others.  And initially, that is exactly how I read and understood verse 14.  But what if the speaker is talking about a different kind of peace?  What if he means inner peace that comes only from being in right relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ?

See, the only way any of us can truly be at peace is when we know our sins have been forgiven and we are walking in the light of His love.  And when we sin against Him and do not confess our sins it creates inner conflict and we are doing the opposite of verse 14.  To “seek peace and pursue it” is to make confession and repentance a priority!

Once I understood what verse 14 was really saying it really connected the entire thought from verse 11 all the way through verse 14.  And because of my initial misunderstanding of verse 14 I almost missed a powerful and life changing truth from God’s Word.  (Thank God that He led me to the commentary of Charles H Spurgeon who’s work inspired me to write this and to share what I had learned!)

Ultimately, the most important peace is the peace of God in our hearts and that peace will guard our hearts and minds no matter what this life might bring against us.  It is one of God’s most amazing gifts to us but it is an easy gift to miss if we don’t make it a priority and continually seek after it.

If You Start Badly, Can You Still Finish Well?

confession, forgiveness, Psalm 40:2Does this statement sound familiar?  “I am my own worst enemy”.  Or how about this variation: “My biggest problem is me”.  Does this describe where you are?  Can you relate to feeling as if for every right thing that you do you also do two or three things wrong?  I admit, some days I am right there with you.

In fact, it’s been one of those mornings already.  As I write this I’ve already been beating myself up mentally over some things from yesterday that I wish I had done differently.  Mistakes were made and the worst part is, right in the middle of it all, I knew I was making the wrong choice and I didn’t do anything to stop it!

That’s a bad, bad feeling and it leaves me both angry and sad.  If I chose to dwell on it and wallow in it then it would be extremely destructive and the mistakes of yesterday would lead to even more mistakes today.  Choosing to stay in a place of self-pity would mean that I miss God’s blessing for today and miss out on being a blessing to someone else.  I recognize that and I don’t want it to happen.

Here’s the good part:  No sin or mistake of mine is ever big enough or bad enough to overcome God’s grace and forgiveness for me.  Praise God for that truth!  I messed up.  No question about that.  It was yesterday’s sin and I choose, by the power of Christ in me, to leave yesterday’s sin behind and move forward to whatever God has for me on this day.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

One of the first things I did this morning, even as I was feeling very low, was to give thanks and praise to God above.  Even when I’m feeling very bad, He is always very good.  At the same time, I confessed my sin and spoke to God very frankly and earnestly about it.  I acknowledged that there are parts of me that wants to do what God hates.  As hard as I try and as much as I want to be perfect, I’m not there yet and I still sometimes make choices that are wrong.  As frustrating as it is, I let my sin nature get the best of me and I have to be honest with God and admit that the only cure for me is more Jesus and less “me”.

This is my blessed hope.  That Jesus isn’t going to leave me as I am right now.  He’s still working on me, I’m not a finished product yet.  I am ever amazed that he chooses to use such an imperfect person like me to do His work and carry out His plan.  I can only trust in Him to finish what He started when He saved me and called me to be His child.  His love covers all of my sin and sets me free from guilt, if I am willing to let go of myself and trust Him with everything.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2 (ESV)

How about you?  Does guilt have a place in your heart today?  Does it feel as if your failures are hung around your neck like a weight that is dragging you down?  Do sadness and anger haunt your every step?  If so, then it is time to be free of it.  It is time to turn all of those things over to God who has already paid the full price for all of our sin.  There is no mistake, no error, no horrible act that was not covered by His blood that day at Calvary.  Confess it, commit to Him and let Him heal you of all that is broken and wounded.

 

The Good the Bad and the Rest

repentance, sin, confessionLife constantly surprises me.  You would think after 39 years I would be accustomed to the way that things work, but that just isn’t so.

My mistake is in thinking that I can attain some level of mastery in being a human being.  To be a human is to be error prone, selfish and often blind to what is most important.  So even if I do things right for a while, just wait, something stupid is coming.  I will inevitably muck something up and then spend a few days contemplating where I went wrong and what I can do to fix it.

This is basic human thinking.  Thankfully, I am no longer fully human.

Christ lives in me.  God in the flesh.  That means that I am to show the attributes and characteristics of God in how I think and act.  When I make a mistake I need to own up to it and realize that I am forgiven based on what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross at Calvary.  I am not to carry around a load of guilt and shame and cause that to make me hide from God.

The Good is that Jesus’ love for me does not change or diminish based on my behavior.  If I am on point one day and listening to the Spirit’s voice then I will produce the fruits of the Spirit and good things will come from that.  But God will not love me any more than He does right now.

Nor will He love me less when I display my fleshly characteristics and am selfish or thoughtless.  God’s love is constant and His offer of grace and forgiveness does not change.  This is a mighty and wonderful truth that I must never forget.  God loves me.  Right now, just like I am.

The Bad comes in when I do try and hide from God, either intentionally by ignoring His voice or unintentionally by wallowing in guilt and shame.  Either way, my focus is not where it should be.  Instead of focusing on Him, I become like Peter who focused on the wind and the waves and began to sink.  In this case, my “wind” and my “waves” are me and my problem.  And it is always a bad idea when I focus on anything other than God who is Sovereign.

So what’s the Rest of this process?  The Rest is what happens in between the absolute truth of God’s grace and redemption and the Bad of my sin and rebellion.  The Rest is where I must take the right steps to confess my sin and make Jesus the Lord of my life once again.  The Rest is always up to me and will always come down to my willingness to repent.