I just spent a few minutes reading the news headlines, and that was enough for me. The internet can be a wonderful thing, but one of the downsides is an absolute overload of information. A steady stream of this in our diet is surely bad for us, and we really do need to be careful about ingesting too much. But one good thing is that it certainly does keep the problem of the sinfulness of mankind in front of us - there is no forgetting it while reading today's news. We have a few choices in life when faced with such a broken world: we can despair, we can pretend that everything is okay, or we can do something to make the world better. I really love that third option! But, what can we do?
Recently, we were teaching at a student conference. My assignment led me to spend a significant amount of time in the book of Romans, chapter sixteen. We were using the salutations in Paul’s letter to this thriving early church in Rome - the capital city of what was arguably the most powerful and significant empire in the history of the world - as a snapsot into what the early Christian church looked like. It truly is a fascinating and thought-provoking study; men, women, Jew, Greek, Roman, young, old, rich, poor - all were represented in the leadersip of the New Testament church.
As I prepared, I could not help be struck by one of the last sentences in the chapter. It captured my attention like a bolt out of the blue…
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
This has got to be one of the most intriguing sentences of all time. It seems so contradictory, but is quite effective to make us pause and dig a bit deeper to understand. Can our God actually be peaceful if He crushes things?
The Peace of God is such a beautiful thing. We know that the shalom peace of God is part of His character. It is His wholeness, completeness, and contentment, and is available as a gift to every believer. But for today's thought, we must understand that peace can also be a term that has meaning only when juxtaposed with its counterpart of strife, or war. When used in this sense, we cannot understand one word without the other.
Since that dark day in the Garden of Eden, when man and woman disobeyed God and plunged of the cliff of sin and selfishness, the battle for the souls of mankind has been raging. The wicked prince of this dark world does all he can to steal, kill, and destroy, and to keep men and women fighting and striving with one another - remember the news headlines? So deep is his hatred for God, Satan seeks to keep men and women bound in chains of darkness and oppression, to keep mankind in perpetual hatred of one another, and to keep man and God separated forever.
But though our sin and selfishness made us His enemy, God Himself fights for us and rescues us. This is why the angels sang on the night of Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill to men on whom His favor rests!” When the Messiah was born, the end of the war was near. When Christ was crucified, the death blow was indeed struck - not to our Great God, but to Death itself. Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for our sin and rebellion, bringing the possibility of peace between man and God again.
In every war, the winner of the battle sets the terms of peace, and the loser of the conflict must accept them. The enemy of our souls would have every man, woman, and child believe that there is no hope for mankind - that we are doomed forever. But Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The winner sets the terms of peace, and through Jesus’ finished work on the Cross, there can be peace between God and man as well as between man and man.
When Jesus delivered His great, revolutionary teaching on the Kingdom of God, the listeners were amazed. We are still amazed today. The Kingdom of God is utterly different than any kingdom or system we see here on earth, where the most ruthless and powerful often make it to the top, and where the one who has the most money or the most weapons or the loudest voice often ends up in power. But Jesus preaches of His Kingdom, which is entirely other - to win you must lose, to live you must die, and to love you must give yourself away.
In the beginning of this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus delivers the Beatitudes, which are a description of what men and women who walk with Him in His Kingdom will look and act and be like. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” God graciously invites us to join Him in HIs Kingdom work of peacemaking. The battle is won, and He is patiently waiting until the most prisoners of war have been rescued and brought back into His Kingdom by those of us who accept this commission to be peacemakers in God's name.
At the student conference, one young man stood up to give a testimony of a wonderful thing God had done in his life. He happens to be the younger son of our good friends, Scott and Crystal. Even if I had not already known who this student was, I could have easily guessed after a minute or two - he is so remarkably like both his mother and his father. His tone, his mannerisms, and his words were unmistakable and everyone who knows the parents can see that this is their son.
In the same way, Jesus says we will be known as God’s children when we do what God has asked us to do with Him - make peace. This is what He does, so this is what we must do, with His tone, mannerisms, and words. Our assignment is to go and make disciples of all men and women (Matthew 28: 18-20) and to show them how peace with God is possible, and how peace with other people is possible. This is our mission, this is our call, this is what we must be about. This is precisely how we can make a difference in this hurting world.
The question becomes, am I a maker of peace or still a participant in strife? Do I properly reflect God as His son or daughter - do people look at me and see God, or do they just see more of the same old stuff the world has to offer? What do our churches reflect, our marriages, our relationships with family and friends - are we fully submitted to God and His peace? If we cannot honestly answer that we bring only peace and not more strife, then it is time for change. If we are to be peacemakers, then there is no room in our lives for strife. We must love one another, forgive one another, and choose to believe the best about one another.
When we take our place as sons and daughters of our King of Peace, and rightly represent Him, we can look at our college campuses and cities and know, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” God has done the hard work; He has saved us and made a way for peace. Now let’s bring it.
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Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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