Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Still More Pursuing Peace

Ephesians 5:15-20 gives more guidance on finding peace. Rather than finding a temporary peace in drunkenness, the apostle Paul instructs to be filled, not with spirits that you drink, but with the Spirit of God. Wisely make the most of every opportunity; Christians are people of action for good in a world in which many act for evil. Note: Act wisely. Carefully examine charges against others. Avoid gossip. Also, he says encourage and seek encouragement from other Christians by instructing one another in song. When we sing, we do so to teach and encourage, not just to enjoy a pleasant melody or to rock to a pulsing rhythm. This speaking to one another in song also conveys an implied task, assembling to worship with other Christians. It is when we meet together in worship that we speak to one another in song. We do not find peace in isolation. Adopt an attitude of gratitude, “always giving thanks to God for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we search for problems or mistakes, we will find them. When we search for evidence of God’s grace, we will find peace.
John 6:51-58 also gives guidance in our search for peace, but the words of Jesus there may frighten or even disgust us at first, just as they did many of those who first heard them. Jesus says here in riveting terms what he says more mildly in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Follow Jesus and you find the path to peace. This is not an easy path. It is not for the faint of heart. The words of Jesus here led early opponents to accuse his disciples of cannibalism. Those accusations were false. These words also have significance for us when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, something early Christians made a point to do when they met together. But eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord’s Supper do not exhaust the meaning of these words. Jesus calls us to follow him with fervent faith and intensity of spirit. We obey his will, whatever the consequences. I give a word of caution here: We always must beware of thinking what we want is what God wants. Study hard, pray hard, and determine God’s will after careful consideration of the facts. Then act in faith with trust in God. Jesus says here that if we follow him with a consuming faith, we will find life - we will know peace. Many people left Jesus when he spoke this call to radical discipleship. Peter however understood, and told Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” When we give everything to Christ in faith, when we die to sin, and are buried in baptism, we arise into a new life, Romans 6 says. In that Christ focused life, we find peace. To be sure problems remain. Like David, like Peter, like Paul, we will still stumble as we go forward. But if like them, we maintain our focus on our Savior, we will reach our goal.
I began by talking about international, community, and personal searches for peace. Most of our lesson has concentrated on the personal search. I submit to you, however, that peace in the community, in the nation, and in the world, begins as each individual finds peace and seeks to help others find the way. Pursuing peace does not mean avoiding conflict, letting people abuse others, or refusing to interact with others because after all, they are not perfect. The passages and examples we have examined counsel us to pray for wisdom and the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to tell truth, to avoid slander, gossip, and to make the most of every opportunity, to assemble and sing songs of instruction and joy with other Christians, and to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Our course of action is to follow Jesus with an intensity and fervent focus that may frighten our friends until they realize that we have found a peace that they too can share. So today, we stand before Jesus. Are we focused? Will we act for him? Now is not the time to cower or to say, I can do nothing. It is the time to say, “Just as I am, Lord, I come.”

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