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3.PEACE: What does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple? - Ephesians 2:11-22

What does it Mean to be a Mature Christian Disciple?
3. PEACE (Ephesians 2:11-22)

By Ted Schroder,
www.tedschroder.com
July 9, 2017

What is the difference between a Christian who is serene in all circumstances and Christians who worry all the time? Where do I find strength to battle anxiety and fear? How can I find and practice peace on a daily basis? If I am a Christian I ought to be able to be at peace with God, myself and others. Peace is at the heart of the Gospel. Christ died to give me peace with God -- "since we have been justified by through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Christ died to give me peace with others -- ""for he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility... his purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near" (Ephesians 2:14-17). Christ died so that I might have peace with myself -- "the mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).

Yet things come between me and God, and between me and others, and between my lower nature and my Christ nature. I often feel guilty, conflicted and anxious about many things.

Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, has written a searingly honest book entitled, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, hope, dread, and the search for peace of mind. In it he reveals his own agonized search for relief from anxiety disorders throughout his life and reviews all the theories of the source of anxiety and the treatments for it. He describes anxiety as apprehension about future suffering -- the fearful anticipation of an unbearable catastrophe one is hopeless to prevent. At the root of all clinical anxiety is some kind of existential crisis about growing old, death, the loss of loved ones, the fear of failure and personal humiliation, the struggle for meaning and purpose, and the need for emotional security. It may also be fear of future accountability and divine judgment.

We are influenced by our political and consumer culture that promotes anxiety by the constant barrage of bad news, and a parade of unrealistic expectations. The media thrives on conflict. Peace is an anomaly, it is not the norm. Our peace is attacked all the time.

So how can I mature in the peace that Christ brings? Jesus promised:

"Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The peace we are talking about is the peace of Christ: "Peace I leave with you: MY peace I give you." That peace is found in him and what he has done and is doing in us: "so that in ME you may have peace." He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He came to bring peace. At his birth the heavenly host sang: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14) When Jesus enters into our hearts and when we surrender to him as Savior and Lord we receive his peace, his forgiveness, his love, his grace. Peace is Shalom: wholeness, harmony, completeness. "It means fullness, having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself...the presence of love" (Frederick Buechner). It is the restoration of the right relationship between us and God and us and others. It is a recognition that God is in control and that we do not need to be in control of everything to maintain our peace.

How do we maintain this peace in our daily lives?

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7).

We attain peace through a life of prayer. We are to bring our daily needs before the Lord in prayer. We commit our anxieties, our concerns, our fears, our apprehensions, to God in prayer. We offer them up to him for guidance, for perspective, for strength. We rehearse our blessings, thanking God for all his goodness to us. We counter our pain and complaints with gratitude. We recognize that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). We identify the providence of God, that he has a purpose for us in his plan for the world. We ask for perseverance when the going gets tough. We ask for peace on the journey. We walk with Christ on the Way, sharing his peace. We pray, not only for ourselves but for our government, nation and the world in which we live. "I urge then that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:1,2).

We maintain peace in our daily lives by seeking to be peacemakers in relationships. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18). It will not always be possible to avoid disagreement and confrontation but you must discern what is important enough to break the peace. "The kingdom of heaven is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit....Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace, and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:17-19).

Dr. Richard Carlson wrote, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It's All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life" which became a runaway bestseller. He authored a series of books: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Men, for Women, for Teens at Work, in Love. His philosophy was that we all spend far too much time fretting over trivia that is irrelevant in the long run ("sweating the small stuff") and not enough time concentrating calmly on what's going right, rather than what's going wrong. "We blow things out of proportion," he explained: When people are dealing with the big stuff in life - death, earthquake, financial crisis - they find an inner strength. But they freak out over the smallest things. The big things are few and far between, but the little things drive us bonkers. It's very exhausting and it takes the joy out of life.

To be a mature Christian disciple is to know what is important in life, to distinguish between God's will and our will. It is to seek peace, to seek what makes for peace, to live in peace, to allow the peace of God to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus in the midst of chaos and conflict. "Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life" (Philippians 4:7, The Message). This peace of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Seek to receive the Spirit of Christ for it is his peace we need. It is in Christ that we find peace.

Heavenly Father: In the midst of the storm and stress of life, grant me the peace of Christ. Help me to rise above the turbulence of my daily fears to find my peace in you. Quiet my anxious mind with the awareness of the power of your loving presence. Pour the oil of your Spirit on my troubled consciousness. Let me rest under your protection. Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not seek to be comforted as to comfort; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in your giving us your Son that we find our peace. Amen.

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