January 29th 2023: Ian Middlemist
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“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).
In 2011 there was a devastating hurricane which hit the Caribbean and the east coast of the USA. It was a category 3 storm with winds reaching 120 mph. There was widespread destruction with damage estimated at $15.6 billion, and 56 deaths. It was amongst the top five worst storms on record at the time in terms of financial loss. These tropical hurricanes are given names alphabetically, and this one being the ninth was named “Irene,” which is of Greek origin with the meaning “peace.” This name will not be used again! The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.”
I draw your attention to this particular storm because it is illustrative of the world within which we live. There have been some incredible storms of various kinds in recent years, including war, financial crisis, economic poverty and so on. However, someone has calculated that in the last 3,400 years of history, only 268 years have been years of peace. The rest have been years of conflict and war. Apparently (not quite sure how these figures were arrived at) there have been 14,351 wars both large and small in which 3.6 billion people have been killed. During all this time, indeed throughout all human history, there have been repeated calls for peace and there have been poems, essays, songs, lectures, appeals and so on all calling for peace, but all to no avail.
True peace can only come through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. In our passage we find that Jesus was about to leave His friends at the end of His earthly ministry by going to the cross, being raised, and then in His ascension. He says to His disciples that even though He was about to depart this world, He would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18). He speaks of three especial blessings that He will leave them as He goes. There is the blessing of joy (John 15:11), the blessing of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and then also the blessing of peace (John 14:27).
We shall consider what peace is not (“not as the world gives”) before considering what this peace is that the Lord freely gives.
 What this peace is not.
It is important to begin with a negative, as it is necessary to remove obstacles in the way. We are told expressly that the peace which the Lord gives is “not as the world gives,” so how then does the world offer peace? What are the counterfeits or false offerings called “peace” in our day? We may define peace as the rest, guidance and control of God opposed to self wisdom and control. People know very little of such peace! Let us consider three things which peace is not.
[a] Not avoiding conflict.
This is a typical route taken by many. Something goes wrong and there are arguments or excess of noise and mayhem and so on, and what do people do? They scatter. People think that peace is merely the absence of conflict. They have a concept of peace that tries to eliminate the trouble or conflict. Either they attempt to smother the war or run away from it. Can we have peace in the midst of strife and storm? Well, the very night before Christ would face betrayal, rejection by His disciples, and the agony of the cross at Calvary, we find the Saviour not just speaking about peace but dispensing it too.
We remind ourselves that although Jesus is the eternal Son of God, nevertheless He is also fully man. In His flesh He felt true pain and agony both of body and (on the cross) of His soul. Yet now in the midst of this coming event He takes time to minister to His disciples by saying:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27).
The wrath of God is that decided, settled anger against sin. It is not an ‘off the cuff,’ raging out-of-control anger we usually think of. Now this is the storm that Christ was to face. He did not run or avoid this storm. In fact, He set His face to go to the cross:
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51).
[b] Not indifferent to sin.
The peace that Christ brings is not a cheap peace arrived up through cover-up, or by means of sedation or dulling of the mind. It is not just a cease-fire. A cease-fire in the current Ukraine-Russia war would be welcomed, of course, but such is not true peace. In a cease-fire the conflict is still in place, for it does not deal with any of the difficulties that brought about the conflict. True peace speaks of the conflict dealt with and settled. Peace cannot be arrived at by simply blocking out stuff, by a person saying “I have learnt not to care.” This type of attitude does not deal with the heart issue.
Christ was most certainly not indifferent to sin but was concerned that justice would be done. Paul wrote these vital words:
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.
The peace Christ was speaking of was the peace He achieved through His death on the cross. How costly was this peace! This peace meets trouble head on. Christ dealt with the storm He faced and came out bringing peace.
[c] Not just a mystical sense of well-being.
Those who opt for a mystical idea of peace abandon logic and reality. Mysticism does not make any logical sense. The peace Christ gives is real, spiritually and physically real. It is also connected and logical and not abstract and ethereal. The Lord does not give to us a worldly peace, but a true peace that dealt with justice and sin and was perfect.
 Objective and subjective peace.
The New Testament speaks of two kinds of peace. There is an objective peace which deals with our relationship to God, and there is a subjective peace which is our experience in everyday life.
[a] Objective peace.
The ‘natural man’ (that is, a person left to their own devices and left without God and His blessings), lacks peace with God. People may be successful and happy in experience but have no peace with God. All man is described by Paul as being “in Adam” (Romans 5:10). We are all by natural birth enemies against God. We are at war against God. Not everyone is a blasphemer in actual experience, and maybe many are living without expressing an active hatred of God, but practically all ignore, forget, and operate against God and His ways. All operate in their own ways.
In diplomacy the whole point is to bring two groups together for the purpose of peace, to ratify a treaty which brings peace. In Genesis 26 we have an example of this type of treaty formation. Those at war with Isaac saw that the Lord was with him and sought to strike a treaty to ensure that there would be no harm done them. There had been battles over wells and now there was an established peace. But this was limited.
Jesus speaks of peace only here in John 14 and also in John 20 (where He speaks peace to the disciples after He had risen from the dead). The gospel is God’s treaty. John MacArthur suggested that ‘peace comes where truth is known and acknowledged, the issues are settled and dealt with, and the parties involved embrace each other.’ From this, we need to think about reconciliation between the two parties, which involves reaching a friendship rather than merely the removal of hostilities.
The cross of Jesus Christ was the greatest act of conflict and violence possible. Much of Jesus’ ministry involved Him entering into conflict. He confronted evil doers, evil speakers and evil teachers. He was not afraid of conflict. The Lord Jesus became man stepping out of heaven’s glory into the world of conflict, war and animosity. He came to bring reconciliation and true lasting peace. In reconciliation there remains no longer any issue between the believer and the Lord. And so hostilities are all over and have been fully been fully, and finally dealt with. The Lord Jesus has written His treaty in His own blood – the covenant or bond of peace – an eternal treaty which meets all the requirements for a true and lasting eternal peace. In Ephesians 6:15 we hear of the “gospel of peace” so that in the gospel, true terms of peace are made. The effect of Christ’s coming (He who is our peace) is to make man who was at war with God, now to be at complete peace with Him. Our experience of peace follows as a result of this objective peace provided by the Lord. This peace is accomplished and a settled fact, for it is the objective peace that God brings in and through Christ. The world writes its treaty for peace but cannot deal with the problems and the reality. They offer meditation, drugs, cover-ups and avoidance measures or compromises, but none of these deal with any of the essential issues. Only Christ has dealt with the problems and conflicts and has come up with an eternal and true peace.
[b] Subjective peace.
Here we are speaking of sanctification, a growing in peace. Our Lord continued saying: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14;27). He has gained objective peace by and through His death. This is settled and available for all who believe. But do we experience peace day-by-day and moment-by-moment? Let us consider three aspects of this subjective sanctification in the realm of peace.
[i] Lay hold.
We ought to lay hold onto the peace purchased for us at Golgotha. Peace is ours because of what Christ has done, so we ought to take hold of it. Do you have a troubled heart? You can take hold of the peace the Lord has won. If we continue in such fear and trembling through our day we are not believing in the Lord. Are we anxious and in trouble of mind? Are we worried for things future or worried about things past? Both of these things (past worries and future ones) are all under God’s control. Now God is for us, for His treaty of peace has been made (Romans 8:31; Ephesians 2:14). The Lord has made provision for your past concerns and your future worries.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15).
We must let peace rule, for this is what we have been called to. From the peace which Christ has won we are enabled to traverse the conflicts of this world. And, what-is-more, we can offer the gospel to others as we go. Is the peace of God ruling in you, or are you walking in fear and trepidation? Where are your eyes? Where is your heart? Feed on Christ and rest on His wonderful provision! Do you face difficulties, problems, hard times, harsh decisions? Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Christ won this peace so it is yours to live in. We need to examine our hearts in the light of this. Christ has made peace and we can live in it.
[b] Sin robs us of peace.
You cannot have peace and knowingly walk in rebellion against God and His word. The peace of God is available only in the gospel and this demands that we come to Christ naked and open before Him ready to forsake sin and cling to Him. If we go to the Lord with sin harbouring in our hearts we ought not to think we will walk in peace. So examine your hearts. We can confess our sins and be washed clean, but this requires a forsaking of the sins committed (1John 1:8-10).
[c] Do not avoid all conflict and trouble.
It may well be necessary to avoid conflict on occasion, of course. But conflict and tribulation are the lot of the believer who walks with the Lord (John 16:33). We are in this world and we are not immune to the trials and difficulties of life. We are called to walk within the world displaying the great goodness of God. We are called counter to this world’s attitudes and ways. Therefore we will face greater conflict and troubles because the world objects to Christ and therefore to us (John 15:18,19; 17:14). Do not hide or run away, but face things in Christ with the peace of God won for you. We are not to be ashamed of Christ nor of His words (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).
In His high priestly prayer the Lord spoke of His disciples as being in the world, which we may characterise as a world of storm, and so He prays that they may be kept by the Father in the world to do His will (John 17:11). We must endure this world’s wars, its economic hardships, its ‘natural’ disasters, its diseases, and along with these, the world’s ridicule and scorn as well.
In 1555 Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake for his faith in Christ. The night before his execution his brother asked if he wanted him to stay with him through the night in his final hours on this earth. Nicholas declined this gracious offer saying that he wanted to sleep and rest in quiet before the big day. He was at peace! How so? Only because he trusted that the peace of Christ won for him at Calvary was his to dwell in. We too can have such peace, but only on the basis of the objective peace won for us by Christ’s death.
Christ has gained peace for us with God. We can walk in this peace by faith. We must not avoid conflict and trouble. We must ensure that we have forsaken sin. We must rest fully on the hope of salvation. May the Lord enable each of us to see His peace and live in it!
 Colossians 1:19-22.