, What does peace mean to you? Without question, peace, strength, and help are probably three of the most common things prayed for in our lives. It may be worded in a different way or have another name to it, but what it comes down to is, one of these things being needed. Troubles and trials in this life are a common thread among everyone of us, and even promised to us by the Lord himself (John 16:33). When you ask for peace though, what are you truly praying for? In our text for today's note, we find Jesus and the Apostles during one of their many journeys. They lived a life on the move, following the direction and steps of Christ. When I consider a life of following Jesus I would like to picture a game of follow the leader. Not like I played when I was a child, where as the leader it was a challenge for you to go where no one could follow. Ducking under, jumping, over, or crawling through messes no one would dare to follow so you could be the winner. Much of my youth, I grew up on 300+ acres of thick woods and deep hollars, that is southern for shallow valleys by the way, and I can remember many a game that ended with crossing the creek in a not so safe way. That's not what I would like to picture when I consider following Jesus. I want to picture the perfect game with a perfect leader that only goes through green valleys and along the calm brook, and completely avoids the shadow of death. Often that is what we think would indicate a life lived for Jesus. However, if you follow the lives of the Apostles with Christ, we can learn better about the subject. They faced rejection, ridicule, and storms along the path that threatened their very lives. We find them in one of those situations here, the Apostles very much feared for their lives. After rowing and working and trying their best, they finally go to the Lord. Maybe they were going to seek His help. Maybe they went to Him to warn Him of the doom coming upon them. Either way, we can relate to them in that we tend to trust ourselves too long before going to our Lord. However, that is not my focus on this note.
We find here in this text two forms of peace. On the one side we find the form of peace most of us, and the world, want. The Apostles wanted the storm to still and the threat to pass. The reason for that is we tend to confuse peace with calm. The fact is, mostly when we cry out for peace, or seek peace, or pray for peace we pray that the problems of this world would leave and the sea would calm. I mean that is Jesus' response to them waking Him up, isn't it? He cries out "peace be still!" and all settles and they are at peace. I would love to tell you that is the biblical norm. However, if you look at the text and other texts when He does this, it is quickly followed with a reprimand. Our peace should not be based on worldly settings or the lack of storms. A peace built on a worldly setting is fickle at best. The second peace is exampled in Jesus. Now I know that we can not reach His level, but we can learn from Him and strive to better ourselves in those lessons. So, here is a man that seeks not to do his own will (John 6:38), but A man following the directions God sends him. He is indeed the perfect example in all ways. He knows that God has told him to go over to the other side and if God wants him there, he will help get him there. So this man gets on the ship and lays down, trusting in his God. Meanwhile, the storm begins to rage as it always will in this life. He finds his peace in his knowledge and faith in the God that directs him. True peace that passes understanding, as we are told in Scripture we can have, is not found in the world. It is found within us as we go through this world. When Jesus steps in and has to remove the problems of this world, it was not to give them peace. It was to show them where their faith lied and call out their weakness.
We serve a God that is able to overcome all the world's problems, permanently. That would be an awesome thing for sure. However, He works on a much more personal level than that. This world is sin cursed and full of trouble. God did not create it that way. God did not cause the issues or troubles. God is not obligated to fix them either. God does, however, promise to be with us as we go through this world. He tells us in Isaiah 43 that He knows us and calls us by our names. He promises that even if we pass through a flood, the water will not take us. When we travel through the fire, we will not be burned. Why is that? Because He is with us! Praise God and Amen. Let us strive to not find our peace in the world, in all its brokenness. Let us find our peace in the knowledge of a perfect God that loves us, carries us, never leaves or forsakes us, and promises us an eternal life beyond this world. When we find ourselves over taken by troubles and struggles, let us pray for peace. Don't look for the world to change though. Look for God to strengthen you. look for God to show you a path through the shadow of death. Look for God to speak to you in His word. Look for God to speak to you in the voice of a friend. Look for peace within and not without. God bless you all is my prayer.
Just as it is in all things, it matters what you know in Christianity. In our text, we find Paul working with some of the disciples of John the Baptist. They were good men. They were believing men. I want you to know- they were born again men. I set that preface as to not confuse you with the remainder of this post. When it comes to being born again children of God it matters not what you know, do, say, believe, or pray. Scripture is plain that the work of regeneration is instant, and a complete work of God's grace through the Holy Spirit. However, Paul asks them a question that matters. Have they received the Holy Spirit. Being disciples of John, they knew Jesus and His purpose of being here. They knew He was the Son of God. They knew many things and many of them had even met Jesus, see Matthew 11 and Luke 7. John was even careful to teach them how to pray. So much so that Jesus' disciples came to Him asking to be taught this as John's disciples were (Luke 11:1). However, in talking with them, Paul noticed something about them. Perhaps their speech gave them away. Maybe something they did tipped him off. Whatever the case may be he noticed their knowledge and, there-by, their experience lacked a major gift of being a child of God.
When Jesus was close to leaving this world, He had a serious discussion with His closest disciples. We find much of this recorded in the book of John chapters 14-17. He lets them know in plain language that He is leaving, and where He is going this time they can't follow. He tells them in this conversation that He will not leave them comfortless- aren't you glad of that! He will send the Holy Ghost to comfort them (John 14:16-17). To guide, strengthen, and teach them as He has been doing. We find in Acts when this takes place in its fullness. And, by Paul's question here, we know that this gift is not for the Apostles alone. Every child of God has access to and the ability to receive the Holy Ghost in their lives. When Paul asks them this question they admit that they have never even heard of such a Spirit. Now comes why I put the preface. Paul was not asking if they are born again. Paul is not asking if they need saved. Paul is not asking for them to prove that they are saved. In regeneration, we know by Scripture, that the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in every child of grace (1 Cor 3:16, Gal. 4:6, Ez. 37:14, Titus 3:5-6). However, they had yet to experience Him truly affect their lives. Paul didn't want that for them. He wanted them to know what they had access to in in their lives, as do I. Much of the New testament is devoted to the importance of the Holy Spirit in the child of God's life. Do you know what He can do for you? Paul quickly corrects that missing piece of knowledge and their lives are changed for the better at that moment. Why is that?
We find in Scripture that the born again child of God has a dual nature. The flesh, or old man, that is not changed in regeneration. Then, there is the inner man, or new creature, that is born in righteousness and true holiness. We find in Romans chapter 7 that we are constantly fighting with ourselves over this. We also find in 1 Cor. 14:32 that the spirit is subject unto the flesh. This is true in the prophets and every child of grace. Our spiritual life can, and is, held back by what we do or do not know. This is why it is so important to study, to read the Scriptures daily, to find and attend a bible believing and teaching church, and to yoke up with others that will sharpen our knowledge of God. The more we know of Him the more we can experience Him. Let me quickly point out here by doing this we are not empowering God. He needs nothing from us and is not controlled by us. However, we are a stiff necked, stubborn, rebellious people, and we want nothing more than to prove we need no one. This has been true from the life of Adam and will be true to last human of earth. We will not depend on, seek, or ask for help until we know someone can do it better. This is why Paul asked the question. And, I ask you the question, how much do you really know? How much do you want to know? Have you experienced or received the gift of the Holy Ghost in your life? Study and get to know Him and see if it doesn't change your life.
God bless you all and please feel free to comment or contact me with questions.
Deep down we are all very much alike. Some of us cover it up better than others, but we all want to match up and blend in with someone. Most of us want to blend in with everyone. However, even those who choose to stand out in the crowd, tend to try and look like someone. It's comfortable, it's safe, and we think no one will focus on me if I look like everyone else. If you think you don't, consider your time running up and down the highway. I am a firm believer in the magic five. No cop will worry about me if I'm doing 80 in a 75. However, get me in Dallas or Atlanta and all bets are off- I'm doing 85+ like everyone else. Why? Because I'm just following along. We may follow every law on the book, but whether it be a magic five or following the flow of the busy folks, we think no one will care because, "everyone else is doing it'. Trends in fashion, speech, and beliefs are the same. They depend on peoples tendency to just "go along". I am convinced if we could break that mindset, modern art and fashion would go bankrupt, but that's just my opinion.
Paul, in our Romans text, speaks to this issue. The very fact that this is so tempting is scripturally taught. It is in our fallen nature to just repeat what we see and hear. This is probably the most easily seen in Israel's tendency to repeat the same issues over and over again. Their biggest sin, and what eventually brought their destruction, was wanting to look like everyone else. They wanted a king like everyone else, even with the Lord telling them that is a bad idea (1 Samuel 8). They wanted gods like everyone else, and worshiped them. These things ought not be. Paul tells us it will be easy for us to be conformed to the image of this world. It is the natural effect of living in this world. To be conformed is to be pressed into the mold you are in. It is of no effort of your own to be conformed- it is surrendering to be pressed into the mold, and be found in the same shape and condition. It may look tempting and shiny to be like everyone else. We tend to, however, have a very small angle view. We see the pretty shape of the cookie cutter and think it would be nice to not just be a blob of unshapened dough. Yet, the reality is, they only want us in the mold so we can be thrown in the fire and forced to stay in that shape. Any effort to change only leaves us broken. The world right now is applying major pressure to get you to conform to their idea of Christianity, morality, and thinking. Paul warns us to be aware of this pressure and not allow it to happen to us.
Rather, Paul tells us to, instead, be transformed. Be changed completely. We are, by nature, the children of wrath. We are, by nature, given to sin and following the track of this world. Paul tells us to be different- Changed into the child of God that God has called us to be. Be the child of God He has made us able to be- by the daily renewing of your mind, you can be who He has called you to be. While we would like to think God would do all of this for us, Paul tells us WE must renew our minds. Renew them daily in His word. Renew them daily in prayer. Renew them daily in walking with the Lord. You do not have to conform to the world to be like someone. You do not have to follow the path of least resistance to follow the crowd. Scripture is full of examples to follow (Hebrews 12:1). Hebrews chapter 11 is full of examples of men, women, and adolescents of all types and backgrounds being different, but the same. One of my favorites is the other text I shared above. Daniel is the perfect example of what this is supposed to look like. He and his friends were under immense pressure to blend in and be conformed to the image of the Chaldeans. The text given is a renewing moment for him. It is when Daniel purposed in his own heart that he would not go along. He did not fight the system, he didn't make a scene, he simply said he would not be changed. He was transformed from a Jew in captivity to a man of God, living for Him, right where he was. That is what we are called on to do. If we want to look like someone, look like Christ. Be like all the men and women of God, of old.
May God bless you all to live, walk, talk, and praise like Christ. Be strong in your faith and learn to help others.