by Mike Ratliff
29 His disciples *said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:29-33 (NASB)
Not that I am a war monger, nor do I even like war or conflict at all, but I do get upset when I hear people say things about Jesus being the Prince of Peace that, according to them, Christians should never be in conflict with anyone. After all, Jesus is the Prince of Peace! Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but that means that through Him and Him alone, people can find peace with God. Any who seek that peace in any way other than through Him will never find it.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
The “we” in v1 is Paul and all genuine Christians. All in Christ have been justified by faith. That is why they are genuine. They did not become “saved” by works or being religious or keeping rules or walking an aisle or saying a specific prayer. No, they were “saved” by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) As a result, God justified them, imputing Christ’s Righteousness to their account. Because of that, they have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That means that they are no longer at enmity with God nor is God at enmity with them. Not only that, but they have also gained access by faith into God’s grace in which they stand. What that means is each individual has direct access to the throne of grace. They don’t have to go through any human High Priest or be just a small part of large group that gains access to God by being religious. No, Jesus Christ is our personal saviour and High Priest through whom we have access directly to God. God has promised that all whom He saves will be glorified in eternity. (Romans 8:28-30) What a blessed hope!
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (NASB)
I have a T-shirt that I bought at the gift shop at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. I am a survivor of that act of domestic terrorism. I was just a block away from the blast. In any case, the T-shirt says on the front in big bold blue letters, “Hope Through Courage.” Well, I like to wear it, but those words do not really ring true to me. My hope comes via the good work God has done in my heart via the fires of sanctification. As I submit to my Lord in the fire I learn endurance. By patiently enduring these fires, God builds my character to become more Christlike. As a result, I have hope. My hope isn’t that I will have a lot of money or become well known or have an easy life. That is all temporal. My hope in in the eternal. No matter what my circumstances are like, it does not alter the fact that I belong to God and I have eternal life. I have eternity with my Lord awaiting. I can endure anything God allows to happen to me because God has poured His love via the Holy Spirit into my heart. I love Him more than I love life itself. Because of that I can say, “Though He slay me, I will worship Him!”
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NASB)
All in Christ have been reconciled to God. However, the vast majority of professing Christians are in bondage to their flesh. To them, God is an afterthought. Their devotion to Him consists mostly of just being in Church on Sunday mornings. The rest of the time they live for self-gratification. In fact, even their religiosity is done for self-fulfillment as well. The concept of a Sovereign God who sacrificed His only begotten Son to redeem them from the penalty of their sin is way to abstract for them. Their minds have been turned to mush by overexposure to entertainment. Since they are consumed by idolatry they are spiritually blind. Their consciences are cut off from their perception because their hearts are hard.
On the other hand, since things have radically changed with the COVID-19 plague that we are going through right now hasn’t it seemed that what I just stated above is going through a “reset” for large numbers of professing Christians? All those distractions are no longer available. No sports on TV. You can’t even go out to eat in restaurants anymore. No grouping together allowed, and that includes churches. However, the most critical thing I have witnessed is the spirit of fear coming upon believers. Yes, we are being tested and that is a good thing. Those of us who are grounded need to be there for those who not as well grounded. Those who are being tested by the spirit of fear need to get their priorities “reset”. What do I mean? I speak of this throughout my posts. We are supposed to be about becoming God focused in our walks instead of self focused. What this does is put Romans 12:1-2 into play in our lives. We become living sacrifices holy and acceptable unto God in how live and walk. We live in the Word and because of that the Holy Spirit transforms us through the renewing of mind. This is how we mature, becoming full of God’s wisdom,God’s discernment and thereby become Christlike and live lives that resemble Him rather than the world. We are now becoming Spirit-filled.
When God draws us to repent and move closer to Him and we obey Him, a wonderful thing happens. As we continue in our repentance He gives us the grace to experience a love for Him that is bottomless. It is so deep that it consumes us. As a result, we shed our bondage to our flesh. The chains are broken as we become Spirit-filled believers walking in repentance. We are now actually controlled by the Holy Spirit because we have humbly submitted our control to Him. As a result, we see the good work God has done to redeem us. We love to hear the gospel and give the gospel to others so they can be saved as well. Our lives become full of joy as we continually rejoice in God through the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.
My heart goes out to all Christians who have never experienced what we have been discussing here. I was there myself for many years. As I obeyed God in my repentance He also gave me joy beyond measure. I learned that a love relationship with God is more fulfilling than anything we could ever experience in the flesh. The Joy of the Lord is our strength. However, nothing is automatic. I must still devote myself to live for His glory. I must still submit my will to His. I must still pray continaually. I must still repent as the Lord reveals the evil in my heart. This will continue until He takes me home. My burden, however, is to express these wonderful truths to God’s people so that God can open their hearts to them. Then He will draw them to turn their hearts back to Him. I pray that God will do that good work in your heart so that you too can rejoice in Him and learn to live for His glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!