care more than some think is wise; risk more than some think is safe;
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12.31.2009

A Peace-bearing Sword

The other day I read the following exert from Spurgeon's Morning & Evening, "Christ is the great Peacemaker; but before peace, he brings war. Where the light cometh, the darkness must retire. Where truth is, the lie must flee; or, if it abideth, there must be a stern conflict, for the truth cannot and will not lower its standard, and the lie must be trodden under foot." ... It was his commentary of Christ's statement “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34).


It caught me by surprise a little bit. 


Early last week, just before Christmas & immediately thereafter, I had heard or read several times over, the verses, "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" (Luke 2 :13-14,emphasis added). Of course, we know this is in relation to the birth of Jesus, the God-Man. The heavenly and angelic hosts proclaimed to the shepherds, because the Christ is birthed, that peace shall reign, among men. 


But questions remain, namely, Where is this peace to be seen - here on earth? Or is it strictly a heavenly peace? And further, is this peace to be experienced by all men, in the sense of "mankind", or rather a select grouping of "men" from every nation and tribe and tongue and people (Rev 14:6)? These are a bit of a rabbit trail in refernce to what I am really seeking to address, however, let's make a quick summation of these questions. I will answer them to my best understanding.
I believe the peace spoken of shall be experienced both here on earth, during our temporal stay, and for eternity in heaven in the presence of God. Peace is only possible through God's ordained and predestined reconciliation of men to Himself, through the Christ Jesus (ie: salvation alone by grace alone through faith alone, in the atoning work of Jesus alone; namely, His death upon the cross, punishment thereupon for humanity's sin, and His subsequent resurrection, damning sin, death, and Satan for all eternity). That is how peace is attained between God and man, after God the Father, through the mystery of the Holy Spirit, works men's hearts to repentance and acceptance of His gift of salvation. Upon that acceptance, peace is restored to the broken relationship, and men are then no longer at enmity and war with God.
Then, for the 2nd question, the answer has really already been given above, but let me state it plainly. God has ordained, by some mystery I am not even going to attempt to address, that salvation is not for all men. Why? - I am not going to surmise anything. But, it is clear, salvation is not for all, some are bound for an eternity in hell (which is completely heart-breaking, but all I can do is trust that this is best, because this is what the Father has ordained), separated from God. But what else is clear, is that God is a missionary God! He loves diversity (just look around you), and He has called from every nation and tribe and tongue and people a certain number of individuals, and this is the "men with whom He is pleased" spoken of in Luke 2:14. So the answer is that God is the One who brings peace to men, both now on earth and for eternity in heaven with Him, and that this is for those whom He has chosen as His elect for salvation, for those whom He has chosen for adoption and to be co-hiers with Jesus! 


Now then, back to my original point. The angelic hosts proclaim peace, and yet Christ Himself says He brings a sword and will divide families (Matt 10:34-36) ... Now, I am no scholar, but these statements seem to be at odds with each other. Obviously, the answer to this "contradiction" (its not really one, it just appears so at first glance) is provided with Spurgeon's commentary in the first paragraph of this post. But, it still provides for great contemplative thoughts. 


Before peace is violence! Before the calm, comes the storm of the Gospel! Let us not pussy-foot around this, the Gospel of Christ is violent, thats why we hear people say it is a "Violent grace." The cross is anything but peaceful!  I recall the movie, The Passion of the Christ, a heart-wrenching depiction of the last hours of Christ's earthly life, and how the producers described that they could not include the full extent of the torture and brutality of the cross because it would have surpassed what is acceptable for viewing, even according to Hollywoods's criteria. That is intense!


Henry states, "This [division] of the preaching of the gospel is not the fault of the gospel, but of those who do not receive it. When some believe the things that are spoken, and others believe them not, the faith of those that believe condemns those that believe not, and therefore, they have an enmity against them that believe. Note, the most violent and implacable feuds have ever been those that have arisen from the difference in religion; no enmity like that of the persecutors, no resolution like that of the persecuted." And I would add to it, if one is not fully devoted, totally sold out, and wild & crazy for this "atrocious grace," then it will eventually offend, and will eventually cause one to flee.


Take any matter - homosexuality, legal marijuana, abortion - and consider the strife these topics stir in the hearts of those who are activists for whichever side of the matter. Then consider that the Gospel is dealing with an individual's eternal condition. Further, the Gospel of Christ is decisive - you either go to hell or to heaven, there is zero middle ground, no balancing acts allowed, you are either in or you are out. No fence straddling, thats kind of dangerous anyway (Right guys?). The Gospel inevitably sparks, even ignites the most violent of reactions because in a person's sinful, fleshly, and worldly state they see nor comprehend their need for a Savior.


Yet, even if this need be made known, they may still detest the gospel because of this little thing called pride! Pride cast Lucifer (Satan) from 2nd to God to least of all, the Father of Lies, the Liar himself, the serpent! Pride is a powerful thing, and more often than not, I think it is the single most  powerful tool employed by the Enemy for keeping men from salvation (Now, don't get cranky, I know Satan can keep not a one whom the Father has called with that sweet and irresistible effectual call, but if one is not called of God, then pride will be the culprit to which he or she is held accountable).


But for the one who responds to that effectual calling, to him all the riches of Christ, the eternal King of kings and Lord of Lords, is given (and in time, when that saint in called home to eternity, all those "riches" will be laid upon the feet of the King!!!). To the one who is called, peace shall reign! Peace now, and forevermore! But dont go thinking this peace is comfort or ease. Far from it!!! Here is what Jesus promises, "These things (see John14 and following) I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) ... and  ... "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great ..." (Matt 5:11-12a) ... and ... "...Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For ever the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) ... and lastly (but certainly not least or really last either ... "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." (I Peter 2:21-25).


So, peace now is peace of heart, knowing that Christ has overcome all the world and the enemy has to throw at us! Alleluia and praise the Lord!


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