Christianity 201

July 17, 2021

God’s Peace for You

Today something radically different. Our devotional thoughts are taken from one of many 5-day reading plans at YouVersion. For those who don’t know it, just as desktop and laptop computer users tend to gravitate to Bible Gateway or Bible Hub, cell/mobile users tend to download the YouVersion app. It offers an endless list of Bible translations in hundreds of languages. It was conceived by Bobby Gruenewald (an associate of Craig Groeschel) who got the idea and immediately registered the domain name while standing in line at an airport.

Today’s excerpt from the notes has been edited for space; you’re encouraged to click the link which follows to read in full. There are also many suggested scripture readings for each of the five days you select, and you can click on them to read the passages.

Experiencing God’s Peace

What Is Peace?

If you ask people what peace means, they’ll give you a variety of answers…

While those answers aren’t bad or wrong, they are usually from a viewpoint that doesn’t include God in the equation. The world’s peace is different from God’s peace. Worldly peace is temporary and dependent upon circumstances, and doesn’t provide the kind of peace Jesus is offering. When things are calm, we’re at peace. When our circumstances grow dim, we’re not at peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus doesn’t want our hearts to be troubled. Because although we concern ourselves with temporal struggles, He’s offering a permanent solution, which is His peace. It doesn’t matter how intelligent we are, how decorated our resumes are, how many inventions are credited to our names, or how smart, creative, and wise we are—we don’t know how to create peace.

The Creator of peace is the One who created us. He is our Lord, our Creator, our Mighty God, and our Everlasting Father…

Peace With God

This peace that God gives may be beyond our comprehension, but it’s not beyond our grasp. It’s readily available to us. If we want to have peace with God, there are no “Three easy steps to peace with God.” There is only one way—Jesus.

When Jesus died on the cross, God put all of the sins of the world on Jesus—past, present, and future. When we accept this gift from God and put our faith in Him, we get the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness, according to Romans 4:23-24, is “credited” to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead.

We all want God’s peace. But until we come to a saving relationship with Jesus, receive His gift, and are saved, we’ll never have it. It’s best stated like this: If we want the peace of God, we must first have peace with God.

When we sin—and we will—this does not cancel out peace with God. When we are justified by God, it’s a one-time event. We’re not justified over and over. Praise God that our human condition doesn’t render our saved, spiritual condition as null and void.

So, what does peace with God do for us during uncertain times? It grants us hope. Hope that the life we live on earth is just the beginning of our forever life with God. As followers of Jesus, people who’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we’re given life abundant and life eternal. They go hand in hand.

Because we have the hope of Jesus and His Holy Spirit guiding us, an abundant life is possible here on earth. When we’ve taken our final breath in our temporary body on this earth, we are ushered into eternity. This life in our forever home is eternal and abundant. But, they are both just a continuation of what was begun on earth.

If you know Jesus, if you’ve made Him your Lord and Savior, then you can rest assured that whatever earthly scenarios or circumstances are weighing heavily on you don’t have eternal power over you. In light of what awaits us in our true home, this life is just a tiny segment in time. The peace we have with God is what guarantees our hope of what’s to come.

Peace of God

…To experience the peace of God, let’s dive into two Bible passages to see how we can make the peace of God our constant reality.

Romans 8:6-11

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[b] his Spirit who lives in you.

A Spirit-controlled mind leads to life and peace, and letting our sinful nature reign brings death. Think about it. When we cave and entertain sinful thoughts that are far from God’s best, our minds don’t have the peace of God. Not because God isn’t near, but because our sin has put a barrier between us and God. The peace of God and our sinful nature are at war. They cannot co-exist. But when we simply submit to our good God, trust in His ways, and obey Him, we’re no longer succumbing to our sinful nature and instead experience His perfect peace.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God covers us like a blanket when we stop worrying but pray about everything instead. That’s right—everything. We turn every burden or hardship that we’re carrying over to God and when we do, His peace that “passes understanding”  floods our hearts and minds. It’s so beyond our understanding. It’s not something we can create but something we obtain when we choose to trust, obey, and walk in faith…

Peace With Others

Sometimes our lack of peace with others is because we’re stubborn and don’t want to meet in the middle when we don’t agree. We think arrogantly that our way is the best way. Another reason we don’t have peace with others is because we don’t want things to go well for them, either because they’ve hurt us or we’re jealous of them. We don’t want them to flourish, but instead want them to fail.

But we can learn how to live in peace with others from a variety of verses in God’s Word. Here are a few:

  • When someone persecutes us, we bless them in return (Romans 12:14)
  • Never pay back evil with more evil but instead be honorable (Romans 12:17)
  • Don’t retaliate with insults but pay back with a blessing (I Peter 3:9)

Even when we’ve blessed those who persecuted us, have chosen not to pay back evil, and been honorable in our actions, there still may not be peace. Why? Because people are people, and as good as we try to be and as much good as we try to do, we still fall short of perfection. Not every relationship can be salvaged, but let’s do everything we can to ensure that we’ve done our part.

  • Let’s love and be tenderhearted toward each other
  • Let’s believe and hope for the best for others
  • Let’s consider things from their point of view
  • Let’s apologize when we need to make wrongs right
  • Let’s pray for God to work in us and also in them

And let’s ultimately remember that people are not our enemies. We have a real spiritual enemy who loves it when we battle and accuse each other. If we blame people, circumstances, or struggles for our stress and lack of peace, then we are inevitably giving them control over whether or not we live in peace. Let’s not give anything or anyone in our lives this kind of power. There is only One peace-bringer, and His name is Jesus. He is the Prince of all Peace.

Peace Doesn’t Equal Perfection

…While earth is our home, we will have hardship and difficulties. We’ll go through seasons where the pain is intense because pain accompanies struggling relationships, struggling economies, and struggling health crises. These outside pressures don’t have the power to take away God’s perfect peace through Jesus Christ...

He meets us in our deepest time of need with an unexplainable, unfathomable, and inexplicable peace. This peace of God is unrivaled, and it’s beyond compare. No one or no thing is even in the same class as this perfect, mysterious peace. Even though it’s beyond our comprehension, we know when we have God’s peace and we know when we don’t.

We experience it in the midst of unspeakable pain and yet somehow, we have this calmness over us. We experience it when we’re in financial struggles and are unsure of how to pay the next bill, yet we’re amazed we can rest in God’s provision. We experience it when our health is in jeopardy and we don’t know when healing will come, yet we can’t explain the serenity we are living in. That’s the peace of God in imperfect situations. Life is not perfect, but our God is.

God doesn’t always take us out of our valleys, but He will always bring us through them. It’s often in the unknown that God shows us the most powerful revelations about who He is and who we are. We can still trust and rest in our good God during life’s challenges and exhibit faith during our own torrential, situational downpours. It’s this kind of faith that pleases our God.


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February 5, 2016

A Life of Peace Overflowing out of an Experience of the Grace of God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 (Phil 1:2 NIV)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7b)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 (2 Cor. 1:2)

(are you sensing a pattern here?)

Today we pay a return visit to Alex Koo who writes on Christian living, theology, culture, and books; and also speaks, teaches, and performs at various events. Click the title below to read this at source.

Searching for Shalom

In almost all of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he begins with the greeting: Grace to you and peace from God. It is dangerously easy to quickly skim over these two words without stopping to be arrested by the weight of this new Gospel reality. Grace and peace.

The reformer Martin Luther described this phrase as the heart of all Christianity; all of Christianity is a life of peace overflowing out of a genuine experience of the grace of God. Do you know this peace?

sunsetHow would you define peace? I posed this question to our young adult ministry. Some answered rightly that peace was a ceasefire, an absence of conflict. Others added that peace was being able to truly rest. But it’s infinitely more than that.

Yes, “grace and peace” was a typical traditional greeting offered in antiquity, but I’m convinced when Paul pens this, he’s also describing the new reality of the Christian. See, when he says peace, he means shalom. When he carefully writes the blessing of peace, he is also directing our hearts to the explosive reality that in Christ, there is shalom. And every single person reading this is longing for shalom. Pay attention to how Christian philosopher Cornelius Plantinga explains this concept of shalom:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight … a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights in. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Let me put it this way: we were made for shalom. Shalom is the reality of how God intended all things to be. Shalom is the experience when every arena of life functions in the way God designed it to be. Shalom is wholeness. It is fulfillment. Satisfaction. Shalom is when you take all the individual pieces of a watch, fashion them carefully together, and it starts to tick.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, what was Adam’s God-given purpose? When we ask a typical evangelical today, our instinctive, church-like response is: “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples.” Or perhaps some of us give the more sophisticated answer of “Glorify God” or “Love God”, but when asked how that looks like, the answer usually still boils down to “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples”.

That wasn’t Adam’s purpose.

Why would it be? Adam’s purpose was indeed to glorify God, but there was no need yet to share the Gospel. Why? Because everything was as God intended it to be. There was shalom. I usually explain this concept of shalom in the form of four dimensions. For Adam, he experienced shalom:

  1. Upward. Adam and Eve enjoyed an upward shalom with their unhindered, pleasurable, freeing relationship with God Himself as He walked and dwelled among them.
  2. Outward. Adam and Eve enjoyed the trusting, loving companionship and friendship with each other.
  3. Inward. They lived with a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, purpose, and meaning.
  4. Downward. Finally (and the most unfamiliar to most Christians), they also experienced a downward shalom and rightness with their relationship with creation. This means that they fulfilled their role as cultivators and stewards of the earth over their possessions, over the animals, over technology, over their work.

But ever since the fall of our spiritual parents Adam and Eve, shalom has been shattered. Everything changed when sin entered the picture. Pastor Timothy Keller says:

Human beings are so integral to the fabric of things that when human beings turned from God, the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled …We have lost God’s shalom — physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart.

In each of the four dimensions, shalom has vanished, leaving only a broken shadow of what used to be and what God had intended.

  1. Upward. Now, humanity’s relationship with God has been severed. We belittle and mock God by worshiping other things. We don’t love God as we ought and we run from Him because of our sin and shame.
  2. Outward. Horizontal relationships are now characterized by jealousy, hostility, fear, gossip, lack of trust, betrayal, manipulation, oppression.
  3. Inward. We all live with a broken sense of purpose. We are paralyzed by guilt and shame, if we’re honest — or we buy into an illusion of self-sufficiency and pride, and attempt to recreate purpose for ourselves apart from God.
  4. Downward. Our responsibility to manage God’s creation is out of alignment. We now look to our vocations for identity. We look to hobbies, technology, the arts, the sciences, to give us hope and significance. We look to created things to give us what only the Creator can.

All of this brokenness, in each dimension, all play out in our daily lives. It plays itself out when we gossip about others (outward brokenness) to feel significant and validated (inward brokenness). We refuse to worship God (upward brokenness) and instead look to creation — video games, hobbies, careers, academics — for purpose (downward brokenness). All these dimensions are connected. Shalom has vanished. Yet, in every one of our hungry souls, we all long for shalom. That’s why Saint Augustine writes, “our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

The Gospel is God’s plan of restoring all things to shalom. Including you and me.

This is the Gospel: God looked down in love, and for His glory and the joy of His people, embarked on a mission to reconcile all things back to shalom. Every dimension. And in the fullness of time, God sent His son Jesus Christ, to live a life of perfect shalom and died for our sin, as our substitute. Now, if we confess our sin, our idolatry, our rebellion … if we put our faith in the work of Christ, we will be saved. We will be reconciled back to the Father. But not only that, as we begin to believe the Gospel truly, we begin to be reconciled to shalom in all areas — upward with our Father, outward with others, inward with our souls, and downward with creation. When we believe and receive the grace of God for our sin, then we begin to experience peace or shalom, in the here and now, until He comes again to restore all things.

And because of this, we say with the apostle:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Have you been reconciled to the shalom God is extending to you in the Gospel? Have you been reconciled to God Himself? Believe in Christ and be saved!

Grace and peace.

December 10, 2014

People Searching for Peace with God

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Regular columnist Rev. Clarke Dixon is back again this week with something appropriate as we move into the Christmas season. Click the image below to read this at source; there’s also a puppet skit on the site to go with it!

Finding Peace with God. Can Religion Help?

E5166E42-5B09-4592-9013-42F666B12C92People often look for a sense of peace by pursuing religion. There is a sense of peace that can be obtained through a perceived connection with transcendence. In other words, you feel connected to something much bigger than yourself, and so someone or something, good hopefully, is in charge. Also, religion satisfies the craving that we seem to have for “cosmic justice.” Whether through karma following the evil throughout history, or a judgement of the wicked at the end, religion helps restore our sense that justice will be served. And so we can make some sense of suffering and gain a sense of peace. Therefore that people pursue religion is very natural. But does it work? While religion can bring us a sense of peace, can religion bring us real peace with God?

The answer is hinted at in the events of Christmas. Consider the religious leaders of the day and their participation at the manger scene. Were the priests invited to see baby Jesus, or did they take the initiative to go and see? No. Were the pharisees invited to see baby Jesus, or did they take the initiative to go? No. And the scribes? Again, no. When God sent His angels to issue an invite to come see the newborn king, none of the religious types were invited, but instead shepherds! The shepherds likely would not have been welcome in the Temple because their work with animals would make them “unclean,” but they were welcomed into the presence of Emmanuel, “God With Us.” And the magi took the initiative to go and see. Admittedly, the Bible does not explicitly place them at the manger and they may have shown up quite a bit later. Regardless, they were not even of the right religion! Right from the get go we have a sense that Jesus is not going to be about religion. He is going to be about God reaching people, all kinds of people.

If the Christmas story hints at religion being incapable of ushering us into the presence and peace of God, then the Bible explicitly states it elsewhere: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 NRSV). There is much religion and many religious rites presented in the Bible, but they are not an end in themselves. Instead it all points beyond itself to God and the fact that the sin-caused gulf which exists between God and humanity is real and a real problem. But religion can never get us right with God, and so can never really give us assurance of peace with God. You get the sense that no matter how much religion you do, it is never enough: “And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11 NRSV).

How then can peace with God be found?

Let’s take our focus from the manger to the cross: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’” (Hebrews 10:12 NRSV). Notice the contrast between the priest who must continue standing for his work is never done, and Jesus who sits down because His work is accomplished. One is reminded of Jesus’ words on the cross: “It is finished.” It is through Jesus that our sins are atoned for and dealt with. It is through Jesus that justice is fully served and love is fully expressed. Religion does not bring us peace with God. God brings us peace with God.

Clarke Dixon C201Now many say things like “all religions are different paths that lead to God.” This expression does not work well because the different religions have different ideas of who God is in the first place. Some religions don’t even have a concept of God. And the expression does not work well for Christianity, for we do not see the Christian life as a journey that leads to meeting God at the destination. We are in the presence of God now! We do not live good and holy lives along the way so that we can some day be with God. We live good and holy lives because His love and His presence drives us to repentance. We live in His presence day by day, He is with us for the journey: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NRSV)

You are invited! Just as the shepherds were invited to meet the King of kings and Lord of lords, so are you. Not through religion, but through His grace.

19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Heb 10:19-22

(The full and rather long sermon can be heard at http://goo.gl/SFiSkp)

Photo is of a manger scene my Dad painted which now sits outside of our home.

December 19, 2013

Peace is More than the Absence of War

Today I want to give you a peek at the first half of Adrian Warnock’s sermon notes from a sermon called Blessed are the Peacemakers.  You’ll then be given an opportunity to link to read the conclusion. Remember, this probably was fleshed out to a 25-30 minute sermon; so read slowly and carefully. Adrian is part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church in London, England.


1. What is peace? At one level the absence of war.  Cost of a lack of peace is huge:  Peace is the most expensive commodity “Defense” spending 1.8 Trillion US Dollars for top 15 countries.  Could end poverty overnight.  More to Peace than war not happening!

Shalom”  =the absence of internal anxiety and external war:

Not alienation but acceptance
Not chaos but order
Not disruption but security
Not discord but harmony
Not danger but safety
Not anger but self-restraint
Not fear but the rest of faith
Not timidity but confidence
Not anxiety but calm
Not disorder but self-discipline
Not sense of being alone but being part of a people
Not loneliness but being known
Not a stranger but family
Not sickness but health
Not poverty but wealth
Not agitation but a settled spirit
Not hostile but friendly
Not bitter but reconciled
Not separated but together
Not broken but repaired
Not immature but complete
Not damaged but whole
Not ruined but restored
Not distressed but total well-being
Not full of clamour but quiet
Not restless but satisfied
Not inpatient but content.
Not insecure but in a covenant relationship

Peace is not just something between people but something that is inside of us too. Real need of world for peace is not just physical remedy but a spiritual one.  PEACE comes from the presences of God. If we want to be peacemakers we must first have peace ourselves!  If you haven’t experienced real peace you find it hard to give peace. If not at peace with God you are restless.

Sin breaks peace              “Passions at war in you”

2. How do we get peace? 

a. WITH GOD

Our God is a god of peace.  Purpose of Jesus Coming was to bring peace.

Real peace needs a change of nature. Must be reconciled first to God

As we heard we are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

At enmity with ourselves, each other, but more than that with God.  Nothing we can do to put that right: he sees our righteousness like filthy rags

BUT GOD > two of the best words in the Bible “rich in mercy”  “because he loves us…because he loves us!” NO OTHER REASON  Allowed us to share in the benefits of Jesus resurrection, and turned aside his own wrath, with it being satisfied in the death of Jesus on the cross!  GLORIOUS Gospel of peacemaking with God!

Propotiation — Jesus paid the price so we could be justified. satisfied the wrath of an offended person and brings reconciliation.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

Spiritual peace is all about becoming more aware of the presence of God

b. Within ourselves

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.(John 14:27).

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:23

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

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 4:5–7).

So for example, We grieve but not in the same way as those who have no hope

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