Cultivating The Fruit Of Joy and Peace
2 Samuel 6:12-15
The Joy That Is Unspeakable!
Notes William Sangster, "The fact that there is a cross at the heart of the Christian faith, and that following Christ involves some rigorous self- denials, does not alter–and cannot alter–this central truth: the fruit of the Spirit is joy… Tertullian said 'The Christian saint is hilarious'… The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than seventy times in the New Testament. Honest men at Pentecost thought that the apostles were drunk, and, whenever the living water has burst fresh from the rock again, the same exuberant gladness has been manifest." (Daily Readings, p. 144)
The Greek meaning behind the word 'Joy' means 'to be glad to the point of madness'. The joy of the Christian in this word is so vivid and so visible that he seems to be a man who has taken leave of his senses." (William Barclay)
"When Dr. Farmer, organist at Harrow, pleaded with the Salvationist drummer not to hit the drum so hard, the beaming bandsman replied: 'Lor' bless you, sir, since I've been converted, I's so happy, I could burst the blooming drum'."
Joy is experienced, not by seeking it, but by seeking Christ and investing oneself in the interests of others.
Joy comes by the realization of what God has done for one in the past, what God is doing for one in the present, and what God will do for one in the future.
First, consider that joy comes from realizing what God has done for one in the past. It is the sins of one's past which destroy one's joy. All need forgiveness–the moral and the immoral alike–and until the sin problem is taken care of, there is no basis for joy. One medical doctor gives the following testimony: "The night I asked God, for Christ's sake, to forgive my sins, I was weighed down with a sense of guilt and fear. After a few moments of confession and forsaking of sin, the guilt and fears vanished, and a miraculous, heaven-sent joy filled my mind. Instead of long continued and expensive trips to a psychiatrists' couch to get rid of a disease-producing guilt complex, I made one trip to God's alter and got rid of guilt itself." (None of These Diseases, p. 98; S. I. McMillan)
It does no good to rationalize sin or suppress sin, or deny sin. David, who had sinned grievously against His God, confessed his sins and found joy restored. "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities… Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." (Psalms 51:8-9, Psalms 51:12 a)
"Father, the joy you give me is unspeakable and full of glory! Because thou art its source, my joy is completely independent of circumstances, it is constant, it is deep. What joy to know that all my sins are cast behind your back, never to be remembered against me again. In thy presence is joy forevermore!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not seek joy, I will seek God, and in seeking God I will discover joy!
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Philippians 2:12-13, Philippians 3:12-14
The Joy Of The Perfecting Process
We saw yesterday that joy comes when one realizes that God has forgiven the sins of one's past. Joy also comes when we realize that God is actively at work in our lives, moment by moment, perfecting us and bringing us more and more into conformity to the will of God. Every day we are becoming more and more like Jesus.
God is constantly working in our lives. "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV) At age 83, veteran missionary E. Stanley Jones wrote, "The best that I can say about myself is that I'm a Christian-in-the- making. Not yet 'made', but only in the making at eighty-three. And I'm glad I am not 'made', for there is joy and anticipation in 'being made'. A great philosopher said: 'If I held Truth captive in my hand, I would let it go, that I might pursue it again'. A girl, recently in the Kingdom said: 'I like the person I'm becoming'. I do too. For the 'becoming' is a part of the joy." (A Song of Ascents, p. 17-18)
God is constantly working in our lives to perfect our character. God does this in several ways: (1) The Lord disciplines us: "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son'. .Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it". (Hebrews 12:5-6, Hebrews 12:10-11, NIV) (2) The Lord permits life's trials to perfect our character: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". (James 2:2-4, NIV) (3) Confession of personal mistakes and sins to God and to others results in perfecting our character: Says E. Stanley Jones: "There is always a fresh start possible. It begins by saying, 'I am wrong; I must, and will, change'. You feel cleansed by the very confession … Without that note of willingness to confess to being wrong, there is–and cannot be–any progress. People who are always right are always wrong–wrong by their very attitude of being always right. No amendment, no attainment. There is a perpetual, personal love to which I can return when I stray in thought or attitude or deed." (Song of Ascents, p. 17-18,23)
"Father, your working in me and my working with you to accomplish your life- time goal for me–Christ likeness in character–is a source of joy to me! What you begin, you always finish. What you purpose, you always perfect. Thank you for the joy of the perfecting process. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Lord's discipline. life's trials, personal confession–these are all working for my good and for God's glory. This gives me joy!
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1 John 1:1-4, Revelation 21:1-4
Joy Here And Hereafter!
We have noted thus far that joy comes from realizing what God has done for one in the past and what God is doing for one in the present. Look daily for the Lord and enjoy the present experiences of life, be those experiences ever so common. "God is constantly seeking to meet us in the common and unexpected moments of life. He does not wait for what we are pleased to call the 'grand moments' but He will make the common place the grand. We walk about blind to the glory that is around us because we do not expect to find it there. We mortgage the joys of the present, the quiet homely joys of humdrum days, to our anticipations of some distant time of overwhelming happiness of a kind that never comes to most people. Joy is all around us if we would only learn to see it in common things." (William Sangster) Open your life anew to the God of all joy, and your life will be 'on tiptoe with joy'.
Third, joy comes from realizing what God is going to do for one in the future. Regardless of how dark the present circumstances may sometimes seem, the future for the believer is bright with joyful prospects. Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". How heavenly to have God's constant presence! That is the source of perpetual joy–the joy that is not dependent upon circumstances. The more we entertain thoughts of Jesus and His Word throughout our daily routine, the more our lives will be filled with joy! Jesus is our joyful Companion in life. He lightens every burden, for Christ turns our burdens into blessings. In his autobiography, written when he was 83 years old, E. Stanley Jones wrote: "Life to me has not been a struggle. It has been, and is, a Song. The struggle has been only when I have departed from His Way".
Heaven is a glorious future reality for the true believer, an anticipation that brings indescribable joy! Every believer will see Jesus, face to face. All the tears will be wiped away. Each believer will receive his new resurrection body, and he will reign with Christ forever!
Of those who have reached Heaven's home, C. S. Lewis writes: "The dream is ended: this is the morning… All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." (quote from The Last Battle as quoted in 'Christianity Today', April 11, 1975, p. 19)
If you want joy, real joy, follow Christ every step of the way! Christ gives joy here and joy hereafter!
"Father, thank you for being such a gracious God, a God whose joy is our joy, whose purpose is our salvation, whose heavenly home is our inheritance! Praise and thanksgiving forever!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "Fear not little flock, it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom of Heaven"–these words make me burst with gratitude for the God that I serve!
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2 Corinthians 11:23-33
What Happiness Is Not!
There seems to be constant talk in our modern-day concerning 'Happiness'. Nearly everyone is seeking to be happy–the best sellers today are written on the subject: 'How To Be Happy'.
The terminology today is 'personal fulfillment'. Everyone wants his rights! Everyone wants opportunity to fulfill his potential! There is great talk today about talents, gifts, abilities, individual accomplishments!
People talk about their 'right to be happy'. Happiness is the orientation of modern-day man. Is this good or bad?
Let us first say that God wants His creatures to be happy. At the heart of Christianity is Joy. Those who see Christianity as a list of demands, will be driven to negative despair, but those who see Christianity as a reservoir of limitless resources will be leaping with positive joy! We are children of the Heavenly Father who knows us well and who had declared life as positive and good! It is "ours to run out and embrace life and know with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air that the first thing about life is to enjoy it.'" "It is your Father's good pleasure', said Jesus 'to give you the Kingdom'." (Secret of Radiant Life, p. 109; Sangster)
But, while God wants his creatures to be happy, we must realize that happiness is the sequel to or the by-product of holiness. Anything that goes against holiness, goes against happiness!
Happiness is not self-centered pursuits, resulting in making people into 'things' to be used. Happiness is not avoidance of pain at all costs or escape from personal responsibility. Happiness is not throwing off restraints in an attempt to find freedom. Happiness is not throwing off restraints in an attempt to find freedom. Happiness is not living a life without schedules or disciplines or requirements or accountability. Happiness is not dramatic events and escape from routine jobs which appear so mundane and tedious. Happiness is not constantly seeking personal fulfillment or personal rights. Happiness is not perpetual vacations, unlimited money, constant ease and total release from tension. Happiness is not power, prestige, an applause from one's peers. Happiness is not escape from responsible human relationships with all their accompanying challenges and complexities. Happiness is not doing what you want to do, when you want to, and in the way you want to. Happiness is not escape from difficulties, hardships, or afflictions.
The saint who perhaps more than any other spoke of joy, is the saint who suffered most. The list of Paul's sufferings and troubles fills a page. Read them in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. And yet he could write: "In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds." (2 Corinthians 7:4)
"Father, knowing you truly is to possess within me a spring of living water, bubbling up with the joy of the Lord! Help me never to seek happiness but instead to seek holiness, and in experiencing your holiness to find that I am permeated with happiness."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will minister today out of the overflow of my life–the overflow of joy!
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What Is Happiness?
Yesterday we briefly described what happiness is not; today we describe what happiness is.
Happiness is doing God's will, regardless of the pleasure or the pain which accompany that commitment. Happiness is full-surrender of one's will to God's will, one's mind to Christ's mind, one's emotions to Christ's emotions. Happiness is death to self-centeredness, with a consequent resurrection to Christ-centeredness. Happiness is living responsibly in relationships,. giving God supreme place in one's affections, will, and intellect, and giving preference to other's needs before one's own needs.
Happiness is living a holy life–a life forgiven of sins and delivered from self-centeredness. Happiness is loving yourself genuinely because you love God supremely. Happiness is living responsibly, being faithful to one's commitments to God, to the Church, and to others, regardless of the pain or afflictions which such commitments incur. Happiness is being faithful in performing the God-given tasks–daily, routinely, yearly with or without the recognition of fellow humans. Happiness is serving others and in the process finding yourself deeply fulfilled. Happiness is seeking to make others happy, comforting the sorrowing, cheering the fainting, loving the loveless. Happiness is living a God-focused life, living fully to meet human needs and living dependently to appropriate divine resources.
Happiness is being a channel–a channel to connect God's love with human lovelessness, a channel to connect God's transforming power to human impotence. Happiness is service. Delighting in creating. Implementing 'love projects' in the context of a love-hungry world. Being God's little creators- -creating new movements, new lives, new hopes. Happiness is fulfilling the purpose for which humans were created–to love God and to serve mankind. Happiness is the exciting process of 'becoming', forever 'becoming', but never fully arriving. Walking by faith here and seeing Christ face to face someday. Happiness is companionship with Christ, made nearer and dearer when death robs one of the body!
Seek holiness, and you will get happiness also. Seek happiness and you will not only lose holiness, but you will lose happiness as well. "Whoever finds his life (i.e., seeks happiness as his primary goal in life) will lose it, and whoever loses his life (i.e., seeks God's will and way–His holiness– as his primary goal in life) will find it." (Matthew 10:38-39) "The hope of good men is eternal happiness; the hopes of evil men are all in vain." (Proverbs 10:28, Living Bible)
"Father, help me not to be afraid of life with its stringent demands and responsibilities. Help me to fall in love with life with its pains and pleasures alike, because I have fallen deeply in love with you. Make my joy complete because I am completely committed to you. In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Following Christ is not a 'joy ride' but it is a 'joy road'. Hallelujah!
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Romans 3:24-28, Romans 4:5
Peace With God
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Christ said to His disciples, just before He was arrested and crucified: "I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid." (John 14:27, Living Bible) Recognizing that peace is a gift of God, we must consider, during the next few days, peace WITH God, peace OF God, and peace FOR God.
First, consider peace WITH God. Man was made to be filled with God, but sin empties one of God's inner presence and leaves one void, estranged, and lonely. Man is lost without God. The ultimate consequence of sin is hell, and hell is separation from everything that is good. Sin results in driving one away from God, away from the one that man is made for! "And they (the human couple) heard the voice of the Lord God walking the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8)
In one section of his poem, Francis Thompson describes the way in which sin drove him from God, and yet how God pursued him in love.
"I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter."
Sin always has a way of alienating. Sin alienated the prodigal son from his father. Sin alienated the woman of Samaria from society. Sin alienated the thief from his family and friends, and nailed him to a cross. Sin alienates the spirit of man from the Spirit of God. Alienation from God destroys joy and peace and causes emptiness, misery, and loneliness.
The twentieth century might well be called the Age of Estrangement. Many today rub shoulders in large crowds, but still feel alone. Many today manifest their deep restlessness by frequent movement from one location to another or from one job to another, or from one wife to another. Many are madly pursuing pleasure, hoping to fill the void of loneliness. A fear of death plagues many.
Is there any peace, any hope for a person upon whom the wrath and condemnation of God rests? Yes, there is hope and peace in Christ! "Yet now God declares that we are good in His eyes if we trust in Jesus Christ, who freely takes away our sins. For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and end all God's anger against us. He used Christ's blood and our faith to satisfy God's wrath. .For God declares sinners to be good in His sight if they have faith in Christ to save them from God's wrath". (Romans 3:24-25, Romans 4:5, Living Bible)
"O God, all attempts to find peace through human efforts have left the human heart restless. I see that peace is more than aright set of external circumstances. Lasting and true peace is an internal condition of the human heart, given as a gift from God upon entering into a new relationship with Christ!
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In troubling circumstances I need not be troubled, for God's peace is not fragile; it is tough and endurable!
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Philippians 4:4-7, Mark 4:35-41
Peace Of God
Many times God is called the "God of all peace". Peace is a gift of God, the fruit of the Spirit. Said Jesus to His disciples, shortly before the crucifixion: "I have told you all this so that you will have peace 'of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world". (John 16:33, Living Bible)
The gift of God's peace is enjoyed in spite of circumstances. The peace the Christian enjoys is not unlike that which Christ enjoyed when he enjoyed undisturbed calm in the midst of the raging storm on the lake (Mark 4:35-41). "A contest was once held in which a prize was to be given to the most original allegorical painting of peace. One artist brought a landscape of exquisite beauty and tranquility, the limpid lake, the softly flowing brook, the green fields with cattle and sheep feeding on rich pasture, luxuriant trees with birds singing in the branches and children playing under their shadow, wile soft fleecy clouds sailed across the blue expanse and flung their changing shadows on the mountain sides. It was without doubt a perfect picture of peace under normal conditions. But the painting that won the prize was very different. It represented a naked rock in mid-ocean with wild tempests beating around it and the surf tossing high about its base while a ship in distress was seen driving before the fierce hurricane. The clouds were black and angry with the fury of the storm. But in the center of the picture that naked rock was seen to divide near the summit, and in its cleft, a dove was calmly dropping into her nest and spreading her soft wings above her little brood, safe and quiet amid all the fury of the elements. That is the peace 'which passeth all understanding', and which only the Spirit of God can bring to our heart." (Honoring the Spirit, p. 13-14; Myron F. Boyd)
There is a song which speaks of 'a deep settled peace in my soul'. Regardless of the troubled surface waters, the waters that are deep remain calm and powerful. The current may flow fast, but it flows undisturbed and peacefully.
Peace is a gift of God which is maintained by centering ones attention on Christ and on the needs of others. "Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee." (Isaiah 25:3, RSV) To keep peace in our hearts, we must learn daily to cultivate the presence of Christ in our lives. Also, we must give ourselves in service to others, for the more we are preoccupied with meeting the needs of others, the less occupied we will be with our own problems. As Sangster says, "Give yourself in service to others; every needy soul is an opportunity; seize every self- pitying thought in its early stages and direct it in pity to somebody else… Then the miracle will happen. Peace will come to you". (Daily Readings, p. 231)
"Peace, 'in spite of' when it cannot be 'because of' circumstances! That is the kind of peace I want in my heart, dear Father. Help me to stay my mind on You in order that you may keep me in perfect peace!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I cannot 'Make' the peace of God rule in my heart, but I can 'Let' the peace of God rule in my heart. My surrender to God shall result in my serenity from God! Glory!
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Isaiah 9:6-7, Matthew 5:9
Peace For God
If we have peace WITH God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and if we have the peace OF God in our hearts as we stay our mind on Christ, then we will seek peace FOR God, i.e., we will be peace-makers. We can be active peace- makers in many ways. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God". (Matthew 5:9) He who is a peacemaker is doing the very work of God, for God is a God of Peace.
First, express peaceful greetings. In many of Paul's letters, he expressed his greetings to his friends in these words: "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ". To wish someone peace is to wish him every blessing which God can give, even those choice gifts which sometimes come through troubling circumstances! To wish someone peace then is not to wish him freedom from all troubles in life, but to wish him God's richest blessings which sometimes come as a result of enduring life's trials.
Second, use peaceful words. We can be peacemakers by the words we speak. Some words build up and some words tear down human relationships. Be very careful in the selection of your words! "A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1) "Some people like to make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise soothe and heal." (Proverbs 12:18) Blessed are those who bring good tidings, who proclaim peace! (Nahum 1:15)
Third, involve yourself in peaceful actions. "Abraham Lincoln once said: 'Die when I may I would like it to be said of me, that I always pulled up a weed and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow' … There are people who are always storm centers of trouble and bitterness and strife … There are other people in whose presence bitterness cannot live, people who bridge the gulfs, and heal the breaches, and sweeten the bitterness. Such people are doing a godlike work, for it is the great purpose of God to bring peace between man and Himself, and between man and man. The man who divides men is doing the devil's work; the man who unites men is doing God's work." (Daily Study Bible, Matthew, vol. I, p. 105; Barclay)
Fourth, pray peaceful prayers. One of the most productive activities to bring about peace is prayer. What the world needs is millions of prayer warriors who will cover the earth with a blanket of prayer. Prayer is the mightiest force in the Universe, and the only ultimate way of bringing peace to our troubled world. "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
"Father, enable me to be an ambassador of peace, your instrument of peaceful relationships between fellow human beings. Let my greetings be peaceful greetings. my words be soothing words, my actions be reconciling actions, my prayers be world-changing prayers!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Upwardly I enjoy peace with God. Inwardly I enjoy the peace of God. I will therefore outwardly allow peace to flow from my life for God.
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Christ–The Source Of Peace!
Have you ever wished that everyone could get along with one another? Why are there racial conflicts, and why is there a 'generation gap'? There are conflicts over styles, tastes, and outlooks and philosophies. Why can't Americans and Russians get along, in spite of the various ideological differences? Why can't the various classes–rich and poor–accept each other instead of contemptuously and suspiciously looking down on each other? Why can't people whose temperaments and personalities are so different get along, accepting differences without allowing those differences to become barriers of misunderstanding?
These are the concerns which Paul dealt with in the Book of Ephesians. The gathering together of all things in Jesus Christ is the key theme of Ephesians. Unity, reconciliation, and peace are the key words of the Book. In Ephesians 2:14-18 (our devotional reading for today) we have a 'Profile of Peace'. The Profile of peace is shown in five ways: (1) Source of Peace– Christ; (2) Instrument of Peace–Blood of the Cross; (3) Purpose of Peace– Reconciliation; (4) Foundation of Peace–Love; (5) Meaning of Peace–Unity amidst Diversity.
Ephesians 2:14 says that Christ is our Peace. If Christ is the source of peace, it is the blood of the Cross which is the instrument of peace. There is no cheap peace, either between God and man or between man and man. Sin has destroyed the peaceful relationships between God and man and between man and man. It is through "the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13), by the 'flesh' of Christ (Ephesians 2:14) that the dividing walls of hostility can be destroyed and that peace can be established! There is no easy peace. Christ is the author of peace, but not even Christ could bring peace without the suffering and the blood of the Cross! It is "through the Cross" (Ephesians 2:16) that God is able to reconcile man to Himself and to reconcile man to his fellowman.
What a message to our world! Many there are who talk about peace today! But they don't know either the source of peace (Christ), nor the costly instrument of peace (the blood of Christ's cross). They don't discern the seriousness of man's problem of estrangement! They are like the false prophets of Israel: "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace', they say, when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 8:11)
Men look to other sources of peace outside of Christ–sources like peace treaties, councils, the United Nations, military armaments, education, etc. As earnest as man's attempts are to find peace, there is no peace outside of Christ! Christ alone is the Author of peace, and His Cross alone is the Instrument of peace between God and man and between man and man!
"O Father, I am restless until I rest in thee, and yet I cannot rest in you without coming to your Son, whose blood alone can affect a reconciliation between You and me. The blood of your Son is able to cleanse me at the deepest level of my sins, and to speak peace to my troubled soul. Hallelujah!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "I see the new creation rise, I hear the speaking blood; It speaks! polluted nature dies–Sinks 'neath the crimson flood'." ('The Cleansing Wave')
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Reconciliation–The Purpose Of Peace!
Says Ephesians 2:14-15 "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace. "The fact is this: By His Cross, Christ has destroyed the walls of hostility and has built the bridge of peace between all peoples of all races, nationalities, cultures, and ages. Christ destroys the barriers between races, nations, and individuals because Christ has demonstrated his love on the Cross! The Cross shows God's love for all, and God's love for each. "The sight of that Cross awakens in the hearts of men of all nations love for Christ, and only when they all love Christ will they love each other." (Daily Study Bible, Ephesians, p. 134; William Barclay) The Cross is God's outstretched hands, drawing all people to one another in peaceful and loving reconciliation. God is saying through the Cross to hostile humanity: "Because I love you all equally, all of you who are so different culturally, racially, and religiously must love each other deeply!" Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth (on a Cross), will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32) The purpose of peace is reconciliation–between man and man and between God and man. "His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross." (Ephesians 2:15 b- Ephesians 2:16)
The Cross demonstrated God's love for all mankind, which is God's giant magnet to reconcile man with man, "thus making peace" (verse 15). Also, the Cross satisfies God's justice–Christ receiving the death penalty of sin in his own body in the place of sinners–which provides the basis for God's reconciliation with sinners.
Thus, the Cross is the basis of all reconciliation. Because the Cross satisfies God's justice, the Cross is Christ's appeal to God to forgive mankind. Sin has been punished in Christ. Being the just God that He is, God will not punish twice for one crime! The innocent one (Christ) has died for the guilty ones (sinners), therefore the alienated ones can become the reconciled ones. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of Christ's death on the cross, providing atonement for sin, Christ is our door of access to the presence of God! Further, because the cross demonstrates God's love, the Cross is Christ's appeal to man to reconcile himself with his fellowman. "The work of Jesus is to show all men that God is their friend, and because God is their friend, that they must be friends with each other." (Daily Study Bible, Ephesians, p. 137; Barclay) The Cross of Christ both satisfies God's justice, regarding sin's punishment, and demonstrates God's love in the midst of sinners' hostility to one another.
"Greater love hath no one than this–that the sinless One would lay down His life for the sinful ones. O Christ, your sacrificial life and substitutionary death provide not only inspiration for change but power for moral transformation of my life. Your blood speaks peace to my sinful heart, and draws me to make peace with my fellowman."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The love of the invisible Christ will motivate me to express love to His visible creation!
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Matthew 22:34-40, Romans 13:8-10
Love–The Foundation Of Peace!
Love, not law is the Foundation for Peace. "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations." (Ephesians 2:14-15 a)
Law divides because it is exclusive. Love unites because it is inclusive. The 'law' (Ephesians 2:15) which Christ abolished in his flesh, refers to man-made ceremonial laws. Man-made laws and regulations divide mankind, but God's love unites mankind. "The Jews believed that only by keeping the Jewish law was a man good, and only by so doing could he attain to the friendship and the fellowship of God. Now that law had been worked out into thousands and thousands of rules and regulations and commandments and decrees… A religion which is based on all kinds of rules and regulations, about sacred rituals and customs and practices and sacrifices and days can never be a universal religion… Jesus ended legalism as a principle of religion. And what did He put in its place? He put love to God and love to men. Jesus carne to tell men that they cannot earn God's approbation by a keeping of the ceremonial law; that they must accept the love and forgiveness and fellowship which God in mercy freely offers them." (Daily Study Bible, Ephesians, p. 134; Barclay)
Love opens the door to all; Law closes the doors to most. Love destroys the barriers–the fences! "Rita Snowden tells a story of the war. In France some soldiers with their sergeant brought the body of a dead comrade to a French cemetery to have their friend buried there. The priest told them gently that it was a Roman Catholic cemetery, and he was bound to ask if their comrade had been baptized adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. They said that they did not know. The priest said that he was very sorry, but, if that was the case, he could not permit burial in his Churchyard. So the soldiers took their comrade sadly and buried him just outside the fence of the Churchyard. The next day they came back to see that the grave was all right, and to their astonishment they could not find it. They knew that it was only six feet from the fence of the burying ground, but search as they might they could find no trace of the freshly dug soil. As they were about to leave in perplexed bewilderment the priest came up. He told them that his heart had been troubled because of his refusal to allow their dead comrade to be buried in the Churchyard; so he told them that early in the morning he had risen from his bed, and with his own hands he had moved the fence to include the body of the soldier who had died for France. That is what love can do. The rules and regulations put up the fence; but love moved it. Jesus removed the fences between man and man because He abolished all religion that is founded on rules and regulations, and brought to men a religion whose foundation is love." (Ibid, p. 135)
"Father, you have destroyed the barriers which separated me from you. Now help me to tear down the 'fences' that separate me from my fellowmen. Make me a peacemaker–a 'bridge-builder', not a 'fence-constructor'! In Jesus' peaceful name. Amen!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will major on those things that bring me closer to my fellowmen; I will minimize those controversial issues that lead to division and misunderstanding with my fellowmen.
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Ephesians 4:1-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
'Unity Amidst Diversity'–The Meaning Of Peace
What does peace really mean? Does it mean that all individual differences between mankind are abolished? If persons are reconciled to one another, does this mean that all personal identity is lost and that all individual distinctives are sacrificed? Ephesians 2:15 says, "His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace".
Christ came into the world "to create a new quality of thing which did not exist before … Jesus brings together Jew and Gentile and from them both produces one new kind of person. . .It is not that Jesus makes all Jews into Gentiles, or all Gentiles into Jews; He produces a new kind of person out of both, although they remain Gentiles and Jews. .The unity which Jesus achieves is not achieved by blotting out all the racial and national characteristics; it is achieved by making all men of all nations into Christians. It may well be that we have something to learn here. The tendency has always been that when we send missionaries abroad we tend to produce people who wear English clothes and speak the English language and have an English education. There are indeed some missionary Churches who would have all their congregations worship with the one liturgy which is used in the Churches at home. But it is not Jesus' purpose that we should turn all men into one nation, but that there should be Christian Indians and Christian Africans, whose unity lies in their Christianity. The oneness in Christ is in Christ, and not in any external change." (Daily Study Bible, Ephesians, p. 136; Barclay)
Unity, not unison, is. the meaning of peace. For instance, a symphony is great because there is unity (harmony) amidst differences in musical instruments. Another example: The Body is one, not because the body parts are the same, but because the body parts, though very different, work together to bring a harmonious functioning to the entire body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
'Unity amidst diversity' is the meaning of peace. The Church is composed of many Christians, all of whom are different, but all of whom are to cooperate together for the over-all harmonious functioning of the entire Church. What does peace mean? It means unity in the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-13). Differences between persons in the Church is what makes unity possible! If all persons were the same, there could at best only be unison! But unity amidst diversity is the meaning of peace. Never turning differences into barriers to communication! To be one in Christ is to appreciate one another's national, racial, cultural, religious, temperamental, age differences and to allow those differences to be used by God to benefit the entire body of Christ. Christ has come, not to destroy the God-created differences, but to destroy the sin-caused differences–the barriers caused by sin.
"Heavenly Father, you are the author of life with all of its rich variety. Help me to accept my uniqueness, and enable me to use my unique personality and gifts to contribute to the growth and edification of your Church and of your wonderful world. In Jesus' uniting name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I have a distinct contribution to make to my world, because I am a unique creature, created for a specific purpose. I will use my gifts, not to compete or to compare, but to complement and to serve the Body of Christ!
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Cultivating The Fruit Of Joy And Peace
Is it accurate to say that the 'last word' in Christianity is joy, not sorrow; self-realization, not self-surrender? Does a believer have a 'right' to experience joy in his life, in light of the fact that here is a 'cross' at the heart of Christianity? (Give Scriptural references to document your answer.)
What is the Greek meaning behind the word 'Joy', as it is used in the New Testament?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Joy is experienced, not by seeking it, but by seeking Christ and investing one's self in the interests of others".
Tell what is meant by the statement: "Joy comes from realizing what God has done for one in the past".
Is it accurate to say that one can never experience genuine joy unless and until he acknowledges the reality of real guilt in his life and openly confesses all his sins to Almighty God?
Do you personally identify with E. Stanley Jones' statement: "The best that I can say about myself is that I'm a Christian-in-the-making".
List ways in which God is constantly working in our lives as believers to perfect our character.
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "People who are always right are always wrong–wrong by their very attitude of being always right". Has it been your personal observation that the people who are most joyous as Christians are the same ones who are most 'open', transparent, humble, and ready to confess personal mistakes or sins?
Does the following statement reflect your personal testimony, as you have sought to experience genuine 'joy' in your personal life?–"The Lord's discipline, life's trials, personal confession–these are all working for my good and for God's glory. This gives me joy".
Illustrate from your personal life, the truth of the following statement: "Joy is all around us if we would only learn to see it in common things".
What are the spiritual realities which are the basis for the believer's sense of perpetual joy? (Note Matthew 28:20, Luke 12:32, 1 Corinthians 2:9, Revelation 21:1-7)
Is Christianity basically a life controlled by moral prohibitions and demands, or is Christianity basically a life motivated by divine love and empowered with divine energy?
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Cultivating The Fruit Of Joy And Peace (Continued)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "While God wants his creatures to be happy. we must realize that happiness is the sequel to or the by-product of holiness. Anything that goes against holiness, goes against happiness!"
Describe the worldly conception of 'happiness' and contrast this conception of happiness with the Christian's conception of 'happiness'.
After considering the apostle Paul's many sufferings and troubles (as listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33) why was it possible for Paul to say. "In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds" (2 Corinthians 7:4)? Is it accurate to say that the 'happiness' of the non-believer depends upon the pleasant 'happenings' in his environment. whereas the joy of the Christian depends upon his living relationship with his God, independent of external circumstances? Can you personally testify to the fact that you have experienced 'Joy amidst Sorrow', because of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
What is happiness, according to your personal understanding and experience? Is your definition and description of happiness Biblically supportable?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Happiness is doing God's will, regardless of the pleasure or the pain which accompany that commitment. Happiness is living responsibly, being faithful to one's commitments to God, to the Church, and to others, regardless of the pain or afflictions which such commitments incur".
Give your interpretation of the following statement: "Following Christ is not a 'joy ride' but is is a 'joy road'."
Is there any peace, any hope for a person upon whom the wrath and condemnation of God rests? Based upon an und-erstanding of Romans 3:24-25, Romans 4: 5 do you believe the following statement is accurate?–"Lasting and true peace is an internal condition of the human heart, given as a gift from God upon entering into a new relationship with Christ!"
Describe what is meant by the following statement: "The gift of God's peace is enjoyed in spite of circumstances". How does a study of Mark 4:35-41 help a believer to discover and to maintain the 'peace of God' in his life?
Illustrate from your personal life, as a believer, the truth of the following statement: "Peace is a gift of God which is maintained by centering one's attention on Christ and on the needs of others". (Note Isaiah 26:3)
Share several ways in which you, as a child of God, can be a true 'peace-maker' in the midst of a troubled and distressed world.
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following vivid statement: "The man who divides men is doing the devil's work; the man who unites men is doing God's work".
From a study of Ephesians 2:14-18, who is the Source of Peace, and what is the Instrument of Peace?
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Cultivating The Fruit Of Joy And Peace (Continued)
Share your understanding of the following statement: "The cross of Christ both satisfies God's justice, regarding sin's punishment, and demonstrates God's love in the midst of sinners' hostility to one another, thus motivating mankind to love one another."
Explain the meaning of the following statement, as it relates to Peace: "Law divides because it is exclusive. Love unites because it is inclusive".
If persons are reconciled to one another (Ephesians 2:15) does this mean that all personal identity is lost and that all individual distinctions are sacrificed? What is the difference between 'unity' and 'unison'? What does 'unity amidst diversity' mean, as this concept applies to the local Church?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "To be one in Christ is to appreciate one another's national, racial, cultural, religious, temperamental, age differences and to allow those differences to be used by God to benefit the entire body of Christ". To what extent can a single local Church include people of various cultures, races, temperaments, and classes within its fellowship? Has not experience shown that the constituency in most local Churches is very similar (i.e., homogeneous, rather than heterogeneous), and that it is almost impossible for anyone local Church to grow without a basic commonality among its constituency? Is it possible to believe in the concept of 'unity amidst diversity' and still recognize that it is almost impossible for anyone local Church to reach 'all types and temperaments'?
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