I Mean You No Harm

fruits of the spirit, Quiet time, Galatians 5:22Talk about a movie phrase.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually say “I mean you no harm” in real life before.  It’s a phrase devised by Hollywood script writers and is analogous to “I come in peace” (also a phrase I have not heard in real life).

With the way our world and our nation seems to be going, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if we all started our conversations with “I mean you no harm” as a preface or preamble to our human interactions (I’m kidding, mostly).  Fear is at an all time high.  Mistrust and suspicion have become our de facto mode of interacting with one another.  Social unrest, racial inequality, hate speech and bigoted ways of thinking seem to be defining our current reality and as Christians I wonder how we should respond.

Let’s go back to “I mean you no harm” for just a moment.  Is there a way that we can model gentleness of disposition and such a peaceful spirit that it can’t help but show through us?  I believe there is.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

The Bible shows us that yes, we can show forth peace in a visible and remarkable way.  As we surrender our old selves with our selfishness, fear, anxiety, anger and all of the old things that used to define us God replaces those things with the defining characteristics of His Spirit.  This does not happen instantaneously but is a gradual, day by day process as we learn to love the Lord and walk with Him.

This is why daily renewal is so vital to our growth and maturity as Christians.  Without that time to reconnect with the heart of our Lord we will gradually fall back into our old ways of acting and thinking and the fruit that we produce will not be the fruit of the Spirit.  If you’ve ever wondered why some Christians look and act so much like the unsaved, this is why.  A Christian who is not walking in renewal and who is not making personal Bible study and prayer time a priority will not grow in the Lord and will not be able to live and speak the right kind of message.

Our response to our unsaved family, friends, co-workers and neighbors will in some way determine their path through this life and where they ultimately spend eternity.  Are we showing with our attitude and actions the fruits of the Spirit or are we perpetuating the cycle of selfishness, anger and fear?  It will be one or the other.  There is no middle ground.

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.

Attainable Perfection: A Heart At Peace

Isaiah 26:3, peace, trustIn my weekly Bible study and devotional time God often causes a verse or group of verses to jump out at me and really stick in my memory.  Often times, this verse will be very relevant to whatever circumstances are going on at the time.  Here is a recent example that the Holy Spirit has really been working on me in regards to living it and practicing it daily.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

I don’t know about you but sometimes I fret.  Sometimes I am anxious and instead of living in perfect peace I am actually experiencing inner turmoil.  Outwardly I may appear fine but in my heart and mind, trouble abides.  Does this ever happen to you?

If we’ve spent much time at all in church and Bible study then we should know that God’s Word tells us not to worry and to cast our cares upon Him.  We know what to do and yet we struggle to follow these instructions despite the good that it would do us.  There are many reasons for this but I believe there is really only one root cause.  Let’s look at Isaiah 26:3 again, paying particular attention to the middle clause, “whose mind is stayed on You“.

According to Isaiah 26:3, how do we defeat worry and anxiety and gain perfect peace?  We do this by keeping our mind focused on God.  This is good news, as we now have a solution to our problem of worry and anxiety but it also raises another sort of problem.  How good are we at staying focused on God for long periods of time (or anything else, for that matter)?  If you are like me, then your mind is prone to wander and you might find yourself distracted when you can least afford to be.

Here is where God’s grace and our ability to choose comes in to play.  In our human weakness and sinful state we are prone to drifting.  We live in a world that is constantly changing and we ourselves are also always changing.  We need a fixed reference point and an anchor to cling to if we are ever going to have peace and stability in our lives.  This is what God offers us and is part of His salvation gift.  God Himself is unchanging and un-moving and so by choosing to cling to Him we can gain that perfect peace that Isaiah 26:3 talks about.

This is not a “one and done” sort of thing.  It has to be a daily choice and sometimes an hourly choice.  Choose to trust in God’s goodness and character, choose to place hope and trust in The Lord and choose to believe that He alone is able.  This is the key to perfect rest.  As we learn to cling to Jesus and to abide with Him in all situations and circumstances He will provide to us perfect, unmovable, unshakable peace.

Coming Soon – Peace on Earth!

peace, submission, Luke 2:14If you know human history it would seem that true, actual peace on earth is far from a possibility.  If you keep track of current events it would also seem that true, actual peace on earth does not exist.  And if you add together our human history with what’s going on in the world now it would seem like peace on earth won’t be a part of our future either.

Yet Luke 2:14 says “Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”  And if we take the Bible to be God’s infallible word then a true, actual peace on earth must not only be possible, but must be in the making even now.

Where is this peace?  If it really is in the making then where does it start and can we be involved?

The good news is, peace starts with us.  It starts IN us, to be more precise.  It starts when we lay down our own selfish wills and submit our lives to the authority of God through his son, Jesus Christ.  By proclaiming publicly that God’s will is more important than our will, we unify our hearts towards a high calling.  And when hearts are unified towards God, peace begins.

We can finally be at peace with God having been redeemed out of sin and death and unto life and freedom.  Together with like minded individuals we can work in one accord toward God’s ultimate purpose on earth: to spread the good news of the gospel and make it known to all men that Jesus saves.

In Luke 2:14 the message of the angels from God was really a statement of beginning.  Stated another way they said” God’s goodwill is shown to all men.  Peace is now possible with God through the gift of His son!  Praise His name for this marvelous gift!”

Although it may seem that true, actual peace on earth will never be attained we can read and study God’s word and know that one day God will bring peace to all the earth.  He will do this through force in a final defeat of Satan and his armies at a place called Armegeddon.  Once evil is removed from the earth those who chose to submit to His authority during life will be given the privilege of living with Him in His holy city of New Jerusalem.  Those who chose not to submit to His authority during life will be sealed away forever in a place called Hell that was originally reserved for the Devil and his fallen angels.

I say this both to inform and to warn.  The time to choose peace with God is now, while you have the chance.  We are not promised tomorrow.  God can do amazing things with your life but only if you let Him.  He leaves the ultimate decision up to you.  Choose peace with God by laying down your will in submission to Him or choose to be the god of your own life.  Both decisions have eternal ramifications and there is no middle ground.

The Secret to Peace, Joy and Purpose

There is a wonderful sense of purpose and joy in focusing our mind and heart on Jesus.  When He is the object of our affection and the goal in our mind all the cares of this life fall away.  There is sweet communion between us and the Lord and our faith grows as we become, day by day, more like Him.

peace, joy, purposeThis is not a natural state and does not happen easily.  Our inclination is to never seek God and to be completely self-centered.  Even for those of us who have been born again and have the Spirit of the Living God within us, we still struggle with quieting our mind enough to hear His still, small voice.  Our eyes remain full of the things we see in this life, our ears still hear those who call us away from God and our hands have a hard time letting go of all those things that seem so big but are actually so very small.  All of this is in competition for our attention and our focus and can completely stop us from growing in our relationship to the Lord, if we let it.

Using myself as an example of what not to do, I have been a Christian for more than thirty years and yet it is only in the last year that I have really started to get serious about training my mind to seek God to the exclusion of everything else.  I can’t help but think about all of the time that I have wasted and all of the blessings I have missed out on because of my lack of discipline.  Even so, God is patient and merciful and has never forsaken me.  I sit and write today as a testimony that it is never too late to commit all your ways to Him, and that He is utterly worth it.

You might not be in the habit of quieting your mind and turning your spiritual eyes towards Jesus.  If you are like many of us, you were saved but not necessarily told exactly how to go about growing and nurturing your salvation.  Even when we are encouraged to have a “quiet time” and read our Bible, unless we have first sought the Lord in Spirit and in truth, with our whole heart, our relationship to the Lord is not going to grow like it should.  We will very quickly realize that something is missing and that there should be more to this new life in Christ.

I suspect that for many Christians, this is exactly the root of their problem.  They know they should be excited about spending time with God but they aren’t and can’t quite figure out why.  For them, the relationship is not a real and dynamic thing with a hugely personal God but a series of steps to be performed on a daily basis.  And that is a tragedy.  God is real and He is with us always.  But unless we train ourselves to really seek Him and decide that we want Him over and above everything else, He will only be as big in our life as we let Him be.

What do I mean by “training” ourselves to seek God?  I mean that we must focus, by an act of will over and over again, to praise, honor and pour out our hearts to our Savior.  The more we do this, the sweeter the relationship grows and the more we want to know God and to put our trust in Him.  We find that there isn’t anything that we can’t take before His throne and in place of our weakness, worry and confusion He gives us peace, joy and purpose.  This is the secret that every Christian should know.