Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Your Part in Bringing World Peace

A Real and Lasting Peace in Our Time

‘Give peace a chance’ is the rallying cry of some who ‘really want peace’, and are ‘really willing to give peace a chance’, and think they know exactly what it will take to bring about peace. Now, if everyone else would just do exactly what they say to do, the world would be suddenly and eternally at peace.
They are overlooking the starting point for a true and lasting peace. The starting point for world peace is in the heart of the individual. Mankind in general is at war with the God of creation. The individual is specifically at war with God. A real and lasting peace begins in the heart of every individual. It begins with the individual making peace with God.
How is this done?
Acknowledge there is a conflict. The sin nature separates man from God. God is perfect and righteous; and we are not. God is the One who has the power and authority to fix all the problems facing the world, the earth, the cosmos, and the conflicts and problems in the lives of every individual. So, the question is, ‘Why doesn’t He? Why doesn’t God fix things?’
Something is standing in the way. Something specific has to be done before God moves on behalf of the individual. Mankind has no power to fix its own sin nature. The individual does have power to take THAT problem to God. World peace and peace in your heart must begin with facing the real problem. YOU are separated from God by your sins.
A tactic of ‘problem solvers’ who are faced with unsolvable problems is to change the people’s perception of the problem. We see this all the time. For instance, it is said that the conflict in the Middle East is caused by Israel taking land that is not theirs. That is not true. The problem is that the Islamic peoples hate the followers of the God of the Bible. The end result of that ‘sleight of hand’ is no peace for anyone. Such tactics might work part of the time with people, but it works none of the time with God. He knows the real problem. He has the real solution. He has offered His solution to you for free.
If you personally want a true and lasting peace, then you must surrender to God.
Unconditional surrender to God is required. This is not a negotiated peace. It really is an unconditional surrender. You must go to God on His terms. You cannot go to God and say, ‘Well, I am a good person; now let’s be friends.’ The path to God is through Jesus Christ the Son. There is no other way. Always consider that making one way into heaven was a very expensive endeavor for God. It is outrageous to ask that He make other ways into heaven, especially when the way provided is completely adequate for all who are willing to take advantage of the gift of eternal life.
In unconditional surrender, the repentant sinner goes to God as an immigrant; not as a settler.
An immigrant goes to a new land with the goal of assimilating into the population of the new land. They prepare for their journey. They learn the language of their new home. They learn the customs of their new home. They don’t give up their individuality; but they fully leave behind the old land and the things of that land that are unacceptable in the new land. Immigrants truly want a better country. That is why they are leaving their old lives behind them.
Settlers, on the other hand, go to a new land intending to change the new land into their own image. They want the people of the new land to become like them; to speak their language and learn their customs. They intend to give up nothing, only to take what the new land can give them.
Heaven has no settlers. If heaven could be changed to be like the land from which the people come, what would be the point of heaven? A true child of God is an immigrant. Their heart has rejected the things of this earth. They seek a better country. They are ready to change things and behaviors in their own lives to be more like the King of Heaven.
So, lets go over this one more time.
Acknowledge that sin separates mankind from God. The individual (you and I) go to God the Father of our own free will through Jesus Christ the Son.
You surrender to God. It is an unconditional surrender. God has no negotiated surrenders.
You go to God as an immigrant, one willing to change your own life to fit into the rules and laws of your chosen country.
Then what? You are a citizen of heaven, but you still live on earth. How are you supposed to live here temporarily, until you go to heaven to live eternally? Your salvation is secure, but the outcome of your life is still teetering between living like an immigrant headed for a better country, and someone bogged down in the cares and disappointments of this world.
I think one of the most important things that can give you a bright future or bitter failure is the direction of your vision.
If you look backward, you are in trouble.
If you look forward, you are on the right track.
Remember Lot’s wife. She was told not to look back. I believe this meant not to look back with longing as well as not look back at all with her eyes. She didn’t have to actually turn her head around to ‘look back with longing’. She wasn’t even well out of the city until she looked back in sorrow over the things she was leaving behind. She had left her home. It was probably somewhat lavish and ultra fancy. It might have been a palace. All her ‘stuff’ was still in the house, and it was being destroyed as she fled the city. Her friends and many loved ones were there. Her wealth was there. All these material things were there, but her way of life was also there. She turned into a pillar of salt, and is probably still standing right there in the same boring spot.
What I see Christians doing is not really looking back at a sinful life with longing. It is looking back at a part of their life that was different.
They look back to a period of time when they lived in a place they loved.
They look at a time when loved ones were in good health.
They look at a time when they had a job they loved.
They look at a time when they had a car they loved.
They look at a time when they had a church they loved and in which they were active. They look at a time they were considered wise and helpful.
They look at a time when they were so certain they were doing the exact will of God.
They look at a time when they were the ones doing the helping instead of the one in need of help.
All these things may have been good in their time; but those times are past. It does no good to look back with longing as though one would return to them if it was within their power to do so.
The Apostle Paul says to run with patience the race that is set before us. No one runs backward on the race track and expects to win a prize.
Yet, some Christians have made a habit of continually looking backward instead of forward. They mourn all the day long over ‘joys departed’. Looking backward is at least one way that a ‘root of bitterness that will rise up in the way and defile many’. (Heb.12:15)
Looking backwards definitely is a stumbling block in the way of a true and lasting peace between the individual believer and the God of their salvation. This is a very sad but very true statement: Bitterness in your soul and your life WILL hurt (defile) those around you. It will hurt the ones you love the most.
Looking back at your past with longing is not the same thing as looking back with thankfulness, fondness, and laughter. The Bible records the mighty works of God. We are told to remember them and teach them to our children. The children of Israel remember the Passover of Egypt to this very day, but does anyone believe they want to go back and do it all over again?
People are often selective in their memories, or unrealistic. They want to go back and live over the good things, but they forget the sorrow and hard times that were present at the same time as the joyful things. Life is hard. Once you get a day finished, it is finished. Don’t live like you were in a cartoon with your eyes glued to something behind you.
Luke 9:62 says, ‘And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’ I have a cherished photograph (somewhere in storage) of my granddad with his shoulder to the plow attempting to get a furrow across a rocky field in Arkansas. (If I knew where the box containing the photo is, I would scan it and have Ray publish it with this issue). There is no question from the photograph that granddad could not take his eyes of the goal, or he would fail. Every furrow in that field was an accomplishment. While the photograph is just of granddad, a plow, one mule, and rocky field, the photograph loudly says, ‘determination’, and ‘focus’. Grandad definitely was not wasting any time looking at the furrows he had already plowed. He wasn’t mourning over the ones that might have been a bit crooked. He wasn’t rejoicing over the furrows that were incredibly straight and deep. He was looking ahead. He was racing to get that field plowed and planted in time to get a good harvest.
In plowing the field, granddad was also focused on caring for his family. He was focused on doing what was right. In our daily grind, we cannot forget our responsibilities, but we will do a much better job at everything we do IF maintaining peace with our God is the main focus of everything.
Now, as a Christian, that kind of focus and determination needs to be applied daily to your own life. You will not bring about a real and lasting world peace through your actions. However, you WILL bring about a true and lasting peace between yourself and the God who created you. The more people who are at peace with God, the more of God’s blessings will fall on the whole earth. God’s spirit will not always strive with man (Genesis 6:3) World peace will come, but it will come when God says it will come. In the mean time, do what you can to personally make a difference. Make peace with God yourself. Live a life that encourages those around you to also seek peace with God.
It is peace with God that will strengthen you to do the tasks that are set before you, to live a life that you find satisfying, and to have joy now and in eternity.

Looking backward will get your field plowed in incoherent circles.
Bitterness will be the crop you harvest.
You will feed your family bitterness instead of the sweet Word of God.
You will forfeit thanksgiving.
In forfeiting thanksgiving, you forfeit glimpses of a bright future.
Bitterness stifles repentance.
Bitterness smothers humility and meekness.
In looking backwards you pretty much turn into a pillar of salt, and wind up stuck in the mire as long as you live, OR as long as you continue to look back.
If you find yourself stuck in bitterness and have a crick in your neck from looking backward, then I have advice for you. Get a pry bar and turn your head toward the tree that cures bitterness. You will find help at the cross. There is an old song that says ‘Kneel at the cross, Christ will meet you there’. Hebrews 4:16 says, ‘Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.’
THEN, there is another problem that stands in the way of peace between you and God. That is your side vision. King David was probably using a little of that ‘side vision’ when he saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof top. He wasn’t looking backward, but he wasn’t looking forward either. His lapse of focus caused him terrible grief. It caused grief to those around him. It came back to cause him more grief later in his life.
Today Christians may not fall into the sin of David and Bathsheba, although that is not uncommon even among the brethren. More commonly, they look at what other people have in general and find themselves distracted by jealousy. They may see the new home someone else has and begin a quest to gain a home of their own that is equal or even superior to someone else’s home. It may be a car. It may be a vacation or vacation home. It may be career advancement. It may be the figure or hairstyle of a Hollywood celebrity. It may be the acclaim or fame of someone that the Christian suddenly desires for himself. Their focus changes from ‘peace with God’ and ‘pleasing God’ to ‘I gotta get me one of them myself’. Now honestly, what do you need with that bigger house, vacation home, fancy car, or career advancement? There is nothing wrong with any of these things in themselves. The sin comes in when the desire to have them is causing your head to swivel away from keeping God as your first focus.
An additional difficulty is that peace with God, once achieved, is a bit hard to maintain. It isn’t impossible, but it is something that should always be considered. Even Paul the Apostle was vigilant lest he become a castaway after having preached the gospel. (1Corinthians 9:27) If Paul took care to remain faithful and diligent then we should follow his example and do the same thing.
The song for this article is ‘Come Thou Fount’. The line that says ‘prone to wonder, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love,’ describes most of us – most likely even all of us. Practicing Christians really love our God. We want to please Him; but, we can be distracted. Be vigilant. Stay focused on the future and the prize.

Come Thou Fount 

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/comethou.htm (This is a very long version of ‘Come Thou Fount’. I don’t remember half the verses, but they all sound good today. It is a shame that songs are often shortened in order to fit in the hymnal. Then they are shortened even more to fit into the song service. The most notable ‘shrinking song’ is ‘Amazing Grace’. It has at least three verses that are not in most hymnals. It sort of leaves out the middle of the story. If you want to see all the verses go to http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/m/a/amazing_grace.htm )