God Offers Peace, But We Get In The Way [ARTICLE – Garrett McNew]

“Get a life.”

This is one of my favorite playful insults to direct at any given teenager in our youth group.  The interpretation of the insult (should it need to be explained) is to say, “Your life is of very little value.  It is pointless because it is boring and inconsequential.  In your current status you amount to nothing.”  (The insult sounds much worse when it is explained… I may owe some people an apology…)  The insult does not denote that the recipient is dead.  “You are dead, get a life.”  Rather, the insult insinuates that, while the recipient of the insult is alive, they are not truly living.  They are missing out on “the good life.”

With my extensive description (maybe I should get a life…) of a three-word sophomoric put-down in mind, I ask this question: Can you have life apart from peace?  You can certainly live a lifetime without peace.  But can you truly LIVE without peace?

You cannot live life on this earth the way that God intended for humans to live without living a life of peace.  Yet peace, as God intended it, and as we see it represented in the Garden of Eden, is simply not possible on this earth, is it? The Garden of Eden was a place where the external factors seemed to make peace the only possibility.  While the Garden of Eden is not my ideal living arrangement (mainly because I like steak, fish, and bacon; but the greatest of these is bacon), it is the place where our Creator placed sinless mankind with the intention that he would dwell there in peace.  God gave him everything he would need to live in peace.  Man had the whole garden, save one tree, to use for food.  God even gave man a help meet for his life’s work.  The external factors of the Garden provided the greatest chance on this earth for man to live in peace.  Yet, the Devil (the enemy of peace, lest you forget) was in the Garden.  Many times we describe the Garden as a perfect paradise.  I wonder, can any environment in which the Devil exists be accurately described as perfect?

You ask, “So, God made an imperfect place for sinless, innocent man to dwell?”  I answer, “Or has peace with God never been about the external factors?”

We know the answer to this question.  We preach and teach that peace is a heart issue.  Peace comes from the inside when God has control of the desires of your heart.  

Yet, just like Adam and Eve who sought to improve their lives in the Garden of Eden by becoming like God, you and I try to improve our lives by changing the “environment” in which we dwell.  “Environment,” as I have used it here can mean many things.  As people search for peace they try to change many aspects of their environment.  For example, a woman might seek for peace for her emotional desires by attempting to change the level of attention she receives from a man.  A student might seek for peace from the pressure to succeed by striving for better grades.  A child might seek for peace from his parents’ authority by avoiding his parent’s restrictive rules.  A busy pastor might seek peace from the cares of his church by taking a vacation.  All of these are attempts to change the environment so that we can make peace possible, and that is exactly the problem.  You and I cannot bring ourselves lasting peace.  We are incapable of creating a perfect environment in which we could sustain peace in our lives.  

Does this mean a person will not know perfect peace until he is in heaven?  In Heaven there is no sin, no sorrow, no death, and no Devil.  We will be in the physical presence of our Savior and Creator.  There, the external factors will be perfect for peace.  

Yet Jesus still offered peace to his followers while he was on this earth.  Didn’t Jesus know that this sinful, rotten earth was no place for peace?  That must means that peace is somehow attainable apart from external factors.

I think of John 20:19.  The disciples were assembled behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jews who had orchestrated the crucifixion of their Lord.  They were in fear because of their external circumstances.  Jesus showed up and offered them peace.  Twice He says, “Peace be unto you.”  Eight days later, He appears to them again and repeated, “Peace be unto you.”  Then John ended the chapter by saying, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”  

Jesus came that we might have life.  Life does not start in heaven.  It starts now on this crummy, sin-filled earth.  You can have life now, and the life that Christ offers is a peace-filled life.  (Is this not what we teach and preach to the unsaved?)  To truly live is to have peace.  To truly have peace is to live the life God always intended.  We know that this life and this peace do not come apart from God.  It cannot.  Yet, we watch as our world desperately searches for peace everywhere but from God.  They scamper to and fro about their lives trying to solve the external circumstances that they perceive to be the enemies of their peace.  The psychologist would call these enemies of peace “environmental conditions.”  In other words, “If I could only fix my environment I would have peace.”  Yet they have misidentified the enemies of their peace.  The Father of Lies has deceived the unsaved into thinking that the enemy of their peace are things like statues from the 1800s, hate speech, racism, climate change, etc.  The reality, however, is that the unsaved do not have peace from God because they do not have peace with God.

When Christ shed his blood and paid for mankind’s sin, he paved the way for peace with God.  See, the worst possible “environmental condition” that stands in the way between a human and peace is a righteous, holy God who is ready to judge sin.  All other perceived enemies of peace diminish when a sinner beholds the wrath of the eternal Judge who demands the steepest price for sin.  One simply cannot have peace from God until he has peace with God.  

Remember: John 20 records Jesus offering peace to his disciples–to believers. I submit to you that Jesus does not offer life without peace.  So if you are living in fear of what tomorrow holds, the government, N. Korea, the political/moral climate, mass shooters, or natural disasters, you are not truly living.  If you are stressed out about your finances, your boss, your vehicle, your house, or your family, you are not truly living.  If you are worrying over the ministry God has given you… If you fret for the lack of finances in the offering plates… You see where this is going. 

I can’t hush the infectious protests and propaganda of the LGBT community that is shaping our world for the worse and stealing our youth.  I can’t chase the humanistic professors out of our schools.  I can’t eradicate governmental corruption.  I can’t curtail Americans from giving their freedoms away.  There are a lot of issues of life that fire me up, distract me from my God-given mission, and rob me of sleep.  It is so easy for a Christian to live without peace from God…because they don’t have peace with God.

You argue, “Hold on.  A Christian is different from the unsaved.  He is headed to heaven.  He has peace with God.”  

Having true peace with God is about so much more than just a home in Heaven.  When we try to control the externals to create peace in our life, we are, in essence, attempting to do what only God can do.  We have pushed him aside while simultaneously pounding our chest and saying, “I got this.”  Whether it has been a purposeful pushing away of God’s control, or a thoughtless one, the result is always the same–no peace with God.  

Colossians 3:15 says “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”  We try to live that verse more like, “And I will make the peace of God happen in my heart because I desire peace, and I’ll be thankful when I get my way.”  But Paul said, “Let the peace of God…”  When you “Let,” you are not in control.

I guess the short version could be this: God offers peace, but we get in the way.  It’s not your environment that is standing between you and the peace God offers.  

“But you don’t know what I’ve been through…”

Suppose the disciples in John 20 might have offered the same excuse before Jesus appeared to them?  Yet when Jesus showed up, and they realized he truly was God, and he truly had conquered death, they had peace.  Why?  Because the Jews didn’t want to kill them anymore?  No.  Because they realized that God was in control.  He still is.

Peace is as simple as recognizing that God is in control, so you don’t have to be.

If peace in my life represents me truly living, then I suppose there would be times that I might need to be reminded to “get a life.”  Because a life without peace is really no life at all.  Even beneath the heavy weight the yoke of ministry can bring, Jesus still says his burden is light.  Even in a world that seems to be morally unraveling in ways I can’t (or don’t want to) understand, Jesus still says, “Peace be unto you.”

Author Bio: Garrett and Jamie McNew grew up at First Baptist Church of Englewood, Colorado, and both attended and graduated from Heartland Baptist Bible College in 2013 and 2015.  They are now serving on staff at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Garrett is the Youth Pastor and the whatever-else-Pastor-tells-him-to-do pastor.  You can learn more about Lighthouse Baptist Church by visiting www.lbcsprings.org or @lighthouse.baptist.colorado.springs.

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