Good Morning Brothers…(It’s been a while)
I’ve spent the last number of weeks traveling for work, a quick vacation run up to Ohio to visit some friends, and trying to get ready for the upcoming deer season. I enjoy walking through the back country, reading game trails, marking feed areas and discovering water holes. This information helps me select trees for stands, corners for blinds, and back door access for a quick hike to get in and out of these hunting positions. The back country is a tapestry of wild waiting to be molded into a system of putting oneself on game. There is a delicate balance between “humanizing” the woods and “folding into” the woods. The best stands and blinds “fold into” the woods and eventually become part of the wild tapestry.
When I was in Ohio, I attended a mega church and was greeted with exactly what I expected. A huge stage, a loud band, a clever thought provoking message of “Come as you are”, and zero symbols of the Christian faith. There was no cross, no alter, no kneeling benches, no nothing…but there was a great coffee bar. I realize this sounds like I was offended, but I wasn’t, it was what I expected. Listening to the Pastor preach in flip flops, watching the band jump up and down, and trying to rejoice with the rest of congregation as they announced their I-phone App, a thought hit me, “Stay as you are.” It seems like the atmosphere produces a feeling of “Stay as you are”, instead of “Come as you are”, and then grow into spiritual maturity. As my brain started to process this (ping pong balls were bouncing) I recognized the worldliness of my surroundings. The stage, the lighting, the padded seats, the coffee and cookies, the men and women standing by the door in the same colored t-shirts, it all reminded me of going to the clubs back in college to watch bands perform.
It was comfortable.
Matthew 10:34-36 says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
Now read this verse.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Jesus says He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword, however, He leaves peace, His peace, with us. As I think about these two passages, a couple things come to mind. The peace that Jesus leaves with us is Himself. We could say that He leaves a piece of Himself with us. Thinking of it that way helps us understand that He is “peace” but He actually left the fullness of Himself with us (not just a piece) through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The sword that He brought to mankind is the animosity created between followers of Christ and enemies of Christ. The interesting thing here is this; the animosity should be fully on the side of the enemies, the followers should be full of Christ, or peace. The division of the sword is necessary for salvation to occur. “Come as you are”, animosity, bitterness, etc. and receive freedom from those worldly traps to embrace and grow into Christ, or peace. The peace within Christians should radiate so strongly that it overcomes the animosity. If it doesn’t, then the Christian has stayed in the “Come as you are” phase. The gospel message certainly contains the “Come as you are” phase but doesn’t contain the “Stay as you are” phase. Growing into peace, or Christ, is the process of sanctification, or the road to righteousness. To overcome the sword (animosity) it is necessary for Christians to radiate peace, or be engaged in spiritual growth, which is traveling down the sanctification road. The more holy and righteous we become (Christ like) the stronger peace radiates from within. If Christians all stopped in the “Come as you are” stage and remained broken in their sins, living guilt filled lives, continuing to embrace Christ as their personal Savior but not their Lord…the Church would die.
Instead of radiating peace, we are radiating brokenness, guilt, and a self centered religion predicated on half the gospel message. Animosity will not be overcome by that message. The Church would die through attrition, there would be nobody to take our place. New followers of Christ are necessary for the Church to survive. As the Church, we must speak the whole gospel message, “Come as you are” but don’t “Stay as you are”. The Church must not “fold into” our society that has animosity toward us, but radiate “Christ likeness” into the very same society. In short…let us radiate peace. Let us press on to a maturity in our faith. This will take effort on our parts and probably will not be “comfortable”, but it is necessary. We need to immerse ourselves in Jesus, then, and only then, will His peace radiate despite the troubles of life…and that kind of life…will overcome the sword.
Peace to you all…