by Stephen Stillman
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In the first half of the book of Isaiah, the prophet generally gives the message of judgment for sin, and he calls Judah, Israel, and the surrounding nations to repent of their sins. Yet during this message of judgment, Isaiah foretells that the Christ would come to bring peace. “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace“, Isaiah 9:6. This prophecy came during a time of great darkness, but God promised through Isaiah to send a light who would shine on everyone living in the shadow of death. Indeed when Christ was born in Bethlehem, the angels announced the event of His birth with these words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men”, Luke 2:14.
During His lifetime Jesus gave His peace to those who believed on Him. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you…” John 14:27. Jesus distinguishes His peace from the peace as the world understands it: the absence of war on earth. What Jesus brought instead of worldly peace, was a reconciliation between God and man. With Christ’s peace we have no need to fear the present or the future. This peace only comes to those who heed such warnings as Isaiah’s to repent from their sins and find that reconciliation between themselves and God. Those who do not receive Him, remain in a state of alienation from God and His people. The antagonism of the unbeliever toward Jesus and His followers is such that it will even destroy the closest family relationships. Jesus did not come to bring the kind of peace that glosses over deep differences just for the sake of superficial harmony. Conflict and disagreement will arise between those who choose to follow Christ and those who don’t. Jesus also taught his disciples that His peace was not meant to bring worldly peace. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemy will be those of his own household”, Matt: 10: 34,35.
As Christians we continue to live in a state of spiritual warfare. Jesus taught us that war will be waged within the institutional church. In it there will be false sheep and shepherds. Although there will be the pure in heart who see God, there will also be those within the church who try to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh and are proud. Even Jesus disciples were proud when they were found arguing about their prestige in the kingdom, “Now there was a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest” (Luke 22:24). There will also be those within the church who are worldly, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”, (I John 2:15). Some people think worldliness is limited to external behavior – the people we associate with, the places we go, and the activities we enjoy. But worldliness is also internal because it begins in the heart. There will also be backbiting within the church, ” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another”, (Gal. 5:15). When we are not motivated by love, we become critical of others. We stop looking for good in them and see only their faults. When we express their faults to others, soon the unity of believers is broken.
If as Christians we live in a continued state of spiritual warfare we find ourselves asking, where is the peace Christ promised? We must remember that the peace Christ gives us today is not peace with others or peace from the problems of this world, but peace that can be found in our hearts. It is a peace that the world cannot give. It is a peace that comes only by expressing faith in Jesus. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith is required of those seeking His peace.
The return of Jesus, however, will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah for future peace when the unrighteous will be separated from the believers and destroyed. Jesus describes this in His parable of the weeds, “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them (tares) is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age”, Matt. 13: 37-40. At the end of the world, angels will separate the evil from the good. There are true and false believers in churches today, but we should be cautious in our judgments because Christ is the only one qualified to make the final separation. It is more important to judge our own response to God than to analyze the response of others.
As Christians we find peace, not in the world, but in our hearts, because we have been reconciled with the Father. There is an old hymn that I love, “Take It To the Lord In Prayer”. The lyrics say, “oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.” How much pain are you bearing needlessly today, because you are not experiencing the peace of Jesus in your heart, and not taking your problems and pain to Him?
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