Peace in Our Time?

Peace in Our Time?

Yes, it’s possible, but maybe not the way you might be thinking.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

Here we have two familiar passages talking about peace, taken from two different contexts, yet pointing to the identical source of genuine and lasting peace for our hearts and minds, regardless of our circumstances.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

We are prompted to ask two questions;

  • What is ‘perfect peace’?
  • ·What is meant by a mind ‘stayed’ on God?

One Commentary offers this explanation:

“‘Peace, peace;’ the repetition of the word denoting, as is usual in Hebrew, emphasis, and here evidently meaning undisturbed, perfect peace. That is, the mind that has confidence in God shall not be agitated by the trials to which it shall be subject; by persecution, poverty, sickness, want, or bereavement. The inhabitants of Judea had been borne to a far distant land. They had been subjected to reproaches and to scorn (Psa 137:1-9); had been stripped of their property and honor; and had been reduced to the condition of prisoners and captives. Yet their confidence in God had not been shaken. They still trusted in him; still believed that he could and would deliver them. Their mind was, therefore, kept in entire peace.”[i]

Our second passage comes from the Apostle Paul’s final exhortation and encouragement to the church in Philippi. Paul tells believers in Philippi not to be anxious about things in this life, but instead present their concerns to God, who promises a peace that is beyond human understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

It is a peace beyond human understanding because it’s a peace that God presents to human minds and hearts. Again, one commentary offers us the following:

“The peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order. The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.”[ii]

So What? How does that apply to us? Those passages were from other times and in other places. We are here and now.

The title of this article asked if there can be peace in our time and was immediately answered with a resounding “Yes”, and here’s why.

The peace promised in both our Old Testament and New Testament passages is God’s peace, not something we can somehow develop in and of ourselves. God’s peace transcends time and space. God’s children can know ‘perfect peace’ no matter what their earthly circumstances. It’s a peace far beyond human comprehension; complete calm in the storms of life.

It’s not a temporal peace, but peace in our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Do you remember the story of Jesus taking a nap while the sea was raging? (See Mark 4:35-40). It’s that kind of peace!

How do we obtain such peace? Our passages tell us:

First, we can keep our minds ‘stayed’ on God. While there are different translations of that term, we can think of it in terms of ‘worldview’. That’s a term we do understand. We can maintain a biblical worldview, which is another way of saying that we allow God, through His book and by His Spirit living in us, inform and support how we view everything in our lives.

Secondly, instead of worrying and being anxious about the things of this world (and there is plenty to be anxious about) we can present all of our problems, cares and concerns to God, through his Son and our savior Jesus Christ.

During his last meal with his disciples, after promising the coming of the Holy Spirit and shortly before the walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spoke these words to his closest followers:

“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)
Can there be peace in our time?

YES!!


[i] Albert Barnes

[ii] ibid

Book Review – “White Fragility and Getting White People To Talk About Racism“ by Robin DiAngelo

Reviewed by Tim Challies

 

This 2-part review of “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelois well worth the read. In the reviewer’s own words:

I am going to provide a kind of summary of its contents (Pt. 1) and then, in a second article (Pt 2), discuss whether it is a helpful resource for Christians.

The articles follow a particular “story line”.
  • Creation (What Should the World Be Like?)
  • Fall (What Is the World Actually Like?)
  • Redemption (What Actions Can Improve This World?)
  • Restoration (What Future Can We Imagine?)
  • The Bible’s Story & Robin DiAngelo’s Story
1.  White Fragility and Getting White People To Talk About Racism
2.  White Fragility and the Bible’s Big Story

 

NOTE: It looks like there will be a third and final part to  this review. It will be poste to this blog when it is released.

The Constitution is On Our Side, but Most Importantly the Lord is On Our Side • Pastor Gabe

When the Apostle Paul was about to be beaten by the Roman authorities, presumably for disrupting the public peace, Paul spoke up and said, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to defend himself, and he used …
— Read on themajestysmen.com/pastorgabe/the-constitution-is-on-our-side-but-most-importantly-the-lord-is-on-our-side/

George Whitefield : God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century

by Arnold A. Dallimore, Crossway Books

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I have just finished this most excellent biography! Being a G.W. fan, I have read several other works concerning his life and his work. This stands head and shoulders above all of the others. We are of course given a chronicle of his life and preaching, but we are also provided insight into his connection to the Church of England, the Methodist church, as well as a glimpse into his personal relationships, particularly  John and Charles Wesley.  The book also recounts instances of tremendous opposition, to his ministry, both private and public,  Lest I play the spoiler, I’ll just give you a small portion of a tribute to Mr. Whitefield, penned by John Greenleaf Whittier.

 

THE PREACHER

Under the church of Federal Street,
Under the tread of its Sabbath feet,
Walled about by its basement stones,
Lie the marvelous preacher’s bones.
No saintly honors to them are shown,
No sign nor miracle have they known;
But he who passes the ancient church
Stops in the shade of its belfry-porch,
And ponders the wonderful life of him
Who lies at rest in that charnel dim.
Long shall the traveller strain his eye
From the railroad car, as it plunges by,
And the vanishing town behind him search
For the slender spire of the Whitefield Church;
And feel for one moment the ghosts of trade,
And fashion, and folly, and pleasure laid,
By the thought of that life of pure intent,
That voice of warning yet eloquent,
Of one on the errands of angels sent.
And if where he labored the flood of sin
Like a tide from the harbor-bar sets in,
And over a life of time and sense
The church-spires lift their vain defence,
As if to scatter the bolts of God
With the points of Calvin’s thunder-rod,–
Still, as the gem of its civic crown,
Precious beyond the world’s renown,
His memory hallows the ancient town!

 

 

Burial, COVID, and the limits of submission to government

by Jesse Johnson, The Cripplegate

A few years ago, Clint Archer and I were able to minister in a closed country. It was a nation that claims to have religious freedom—you can be any religion you want! All of them are totally legal!—but with one big exception: you can’t be part of a religion that buries the dead.

The result is that Christians there are severely persecuted. It is almost a rite of passage there to be beaten for your faith, and a basic component of pastoral ministry is visiting believers in the hospital. Churches are forced underground. They meet in buildings with covered windows. Believers arrive in staggered time slots so as to avoid government detection, and they leave in shifts, taking different roads to disguise what was going on inside. Evangelism is difficult, because if a believer gets identified, he would face retribution from the government.

When Clint and I first arrived there, we had the same basic response: “Why not simply do cremation, and be done with all this hiding and sneaking around stuff?” After all, beatings seemed a severe price to pay for something that many Western believers would consider an ethical gray area anyway.

But by the end of our time there, we learned to appreciate their conviction. They understood that burial of the dead was only the presenting issue. The real issue was that the government rejected Christ, rejected his gospel, and was determined to reject believers. Plus, as many of them reminded us, isn’t being persecuted a blessing anyway? (Matthew 5:11-12).

For believers there, burial was a matter of conviction, and it was not right for the government to tell them otherwise. It speaks of the hope of the resurrection—which of course their nation’s religion denies—and so burying the dead is one of the loudest declarations that Christians are different because Jesus was resurrected.

The government backs their ban on burials with appeals to the public good. They claim bodies in the ground would pollute the water and contaminate the earth. They claim their land is sacred in their own Buddhist religion, and so to allow burials would defile it. Christians have responded by doing burials in secret, and in return their churches likewise have to be secret.

That experience has shaped my own view of submission to government. Of course I agree with Paul when he commands believers to “be in subjection” to government authorities (Romans 13:3-7).  I agree with Peter when he tells us we must “be subject to every human institution whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Our goal is to lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and we pray for our government leaders to allow us to do just that (1 Timothy 2:2).

Yet like many of the principles taught in the Bible, they are not absolute. There is a balancing principle at play as well, namely that while the government is owed submission out of love (Romans 13:8), God is the only one owed ultimate submission. When the government says “don’t jaywalk,” we honor that. We pay our taxes. We serve in the military when called upon. We do those things.

But when government tells believers that they may not worship Jesus in light of the resurrection, then “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

Acts 5:29 is where the call to submit to government is balanced by the higher call to submit to God. Basically every commentary on Acts 5:29 all say the same thing: if the government commands you to sin, then they have gone too far, and must be disregarded.

But how do you know if an issue is an Acts 5:29 situation or a 1 Peter 2:13-14 situation? We would all agree that if the government banned evangelism, it is right to obey God and not man. Likewise, if the government bans wearing plaid (or something silly like the spelling of Catsup), it is good to obey government, even if their reasoning doesn’t make sense to us.

Where many Christians are weak is in the middle of those two. Honestly, we don’t really do a good job of understanding Acts 5:29 if the situation is anywhere other than an extreme. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that most of life is lived not in the black/white moral dynamics, but in gray areas. A decision is hard precisely because it is not obvious which category of ethics it belongs to.

So for our first example: consider a government that bans burial. Christians might say, “well, the Bible doesn’t command burial, and the government says it is for public health reasons, so let’s resort to cremation like the rest of the nation.” But they could also say, “God made the body to glorify Himself, and it is designed to do so in both life and death. Jesus took on a real body, which was then physically buried before his resurrection. The New Testament refers to burying the body as the ‘seed of the resurrection,’ so we honor the Lord most when we too bury the dead in hope of the physical resurrection.”

How do you know which answer is best? Well, you look to the elders in the country—those who are familiar with the culture, those who are mature in the Lord, and you follow their lead. If you are one of those elders, how do you know if burial is an issue of obeying God vs. submitting to man? Well, you can look at the how the issue affects worship, and you can look at the government’s reasons for prohibiting it.  

Certainly most reasonable people would agree that the government’s stated objections to burial don’t pass the smell test. There are ways to bury the dead that do not contaminate the drinking water, and moreover Christians categorically reject the notion that their land is sacred and that burial of the dead would defile it. So in addition to the biblical arguments in favor of burial, there is also the simple fact that the arguments against it just don’t hold up. Moreover, this is not just some random nonsensical law, but it touches on the very nature of Christian identity in how it intersects with the resurrection.

Now a second example: consider the recent lockdowns of churches. When COVID first started to spread, governors and leaders didn’t really know what they were dealing with. Models predicted mass casualties, and children were thought to be super-spreaders. This was a going to be like the Spanish Flu of 1918, and so the government shut everything down.

That initial shutdown made sense, given what was known about the disease. It was fitting for government leaders to exercise their authority for the common good, and limiting gatherings was presumably an effective way to do that. This kind of use of government authority has been generally attested to (and submitted to) throughout church history. It was inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as 700,000 people dying.  

So when the government ordered churches closed, they nearly all submitted. Christian leaders, elders, and influential pastors universally suspended mass gatherings. Mark Dever cited his own church’s submission to government in 1918 as backing for his decision to cancel church, and most Baptist churches followed suit. John MacArthur encouraged churches to honor the government’s request as long as it was in the interest of public health and was short-term.

But things have changed since then. As time has gone by, the justification for closing churches has started to erode. As more has been learned about COVID, it obviously is not like the Spanish Flu (praise God). The severity of COVID hits the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with other health issues. It devastated nursing homes, not colleges.

Meanwhile many of the same government leaders who initially closed churches endorsed massive public protests. Then the medical community, and in many cases the same groups who advocated for shutting down churches in the first place, said that mass gatherings were ok, provided they were about something important to society.

It was at this point that I argue that the government reached its limit in barring churches from meeting. Most government leaders realized this and quickly allowed churches to reopen.

But some areas of the US doubled down on church closures. After the initial wave of protests, in California the government added singing to their list of activities prohibited at church.

So how do Christians navigate this? I agree that generally speaking, we are to be submissive to the government. We honor our leaders, and in particular our governors.

At the same time, the Bible commands us to sing (Ephesians 5:19). The Bible commands us to meet together (1 Corinthians 14:26; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:24-25). Scripture does not tell us what songs to sing, or what instruments to use, but it does tell us to sing. Likewise, it does not tell us how many people can gather at once, or if that a gathering should be inside or outside, in a central location or in houses. But it does tell us to gather.

Those commands are not inflexible. If there were a public health emergency that justified the suspensions of gatherings, then churches would honor that—as was plainly demonstrated in April, May, and June. But we have reached the point now where it should be up to the elders in churches how to best keep their congregation safe while continuing to worship.

In Virginia, churches are allowed to open, and we are allowed to sing, so this is easy for me to write. Our government restrictions are straightforward, and most churches are following them. Moreover, elders world-wide would be wise if they continued to encourage those particularly susceptible to COVID to stay home, and worship on-line.

But in a place like California, where gathering is effectively prohibited, singing is banned, and the justification for doing so is muddled, churches are very much in a position for their elders to decide “we must obey God rather than man.”

10 Toxic Traditions That Are Killing the Church | Josh Daffern

Although I am not a great fan of Patheos.com, I receive article alerts in my email. This was an interesting article, and with far too many “Read More” click bait style buttons.

Source: 10 Toxic Traditions That Are Killing the Church | Josh Daffern

I’m interested in what other folks think. There are a few comments reflecting various levels of theological prowess, and I did leave a comment.

“I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘tradition’. I would term some on the list as ‘error’ but not necessarily ‘tradition’. Some in the list have merit, come not so much. If you want to know what I think is a ‘tradition’ killing the evangelical church it’s the disappearance of the truly Biblical gospel! I don’t think that was even mentioned. These days people come to Christ for just about anything except for repentance and belief that Christ died for the SINS of his people, NOT poor self-esteem or their best lives now! The death of Christ sits on the back burner as something that was necessary so that sinners can ‘save themselves’ with their free will decisions as the deciding factor.”

Thoughts, anyone?