Making Peace

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

When God promised peace on earth so long ago, imagining such a marvelous thing was quite difficult. How could there be peace when the world of humanity is so hostile to God and to one another? This problem only intensifies when one considers the personal conflict within themselves. Even the best people notice antipathy in their hearts and minds for those things they know are right and good. How shall we ever know peace?

In God’s wisdom, He has promised and enacted peace on earth through Jesus Christ. This perfect peacemaker has made peace and continues to do so on two distinct platforms. On the first and most emphasized platform in our day, Christ makes peace between the holy God and the penitent sinner. When any sinful person trusts in Christ’s finished work (His obedient life, surrogate death, and vindicating resurrection), he or she enjoys perfect peace with God.

On the second and less apparent platform in our day, Christ is making peace on earth. Oh, how we may lament the bitterness and animosity of our world. Aren’t human history and our contemporary times marked by war and woe? Ah, but Christ is making peace by the advancement of the Gospel in and through the lives of those who believe, and He is bringing all things to their final culmination, at which time we shall all know true peace on earth.

May all Christians know His peace, may we all strive towards experiencing His peace among us and in the world, and may we all eagerly await the day when He puts an end to all our striving.

Knowing Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

If you ask the average person about love, you are likely to hear at least some intelligible talk on the subject. Love is a common theme both today and throughout history. Companionship, eroticism, fidelity, and a host of other things have been connected to the idea of love. But, do you really know love?

The Bible speaks of knowing love in conjunction with experiencing and understanding the love of God in Christ. One may only know love as it truly is defined when one knows love in the person and work of Christ. We can only know the height and breadth of love when we measure it by the standard of the one who defines such a profound concept.

When we come to know the love of God in Christ, we know love as it truly is. Furthermore, because of Christ’s example and the love He has shown and given to us, we are enabled and compelled to love others. When Christians give themselves away in love to one another, they are following the example of their Savior who has already given Himself in love to them.

May we all come to know the love of Christ, and may give ourselves away in love to others.

Fatherly Love

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18).

Fathers and mothers are distinct from one another, and differences regularly become clear in the discipline of children. A mother will often operate with flexibility in her expectations, but a father will usually demand immediate compliance. A mother may go until her emotional stamina can handle no more, but a father can regularly distribute discipline without much emotion at all.

Both fathers and mothers exemplify greater realities, reflecting characteristics of God Himself (even if imperfectly and sometimes abhorrently). God is like a cosmic parent, and all humans are like His children. Just as children with an earthly father, disobedient and defiant people are liable to God’s anger and wrath. What a heavy thought to consider… Your heavenly Father sees every disobedient thought, word, and deed!

Ah, but the beautiful and profound message of the Gospel is that God does not retain His anger forever. In fact, He delights in steadfast love! Through and because of Jesus Christ, God loves disobedient children. While disobedience requires punishment, God has fixed His wrath-filled gaze upon Christ in the place of those who trust in Him!

The great news is this: God is not a vindictive judge; He is a gracious Father who delights in steadfast love. He pardons sins and forgives disobedience, and He gladly gives a divine inheritance to all those in Christ.

Real Love Endures

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

This verse begins Psalm 136, the psalm in which God’s steadfast love is extolled more than any other place in Scripture. Every single verse of this psalm, twenty-six in all, praises the steadfast love of God. God’s love is steadfast and enduring, so it is worthy of this kind of emphasis.

When we think about love, we may or may not think of it as lasting. Sometimes we may think and act like love is merely a feeling that may change with circumstance or time. We may have been loved by others who did not continue in their love. We may even have been betrayed by those we thought truly loved us.

Real love, however, is defined by its staying power. Simply put, if love does not last, then it is not real. Conversely, God’s love is as real as it gets. When God decides to love, He does so with the end in mind. He decisively loves, and He commits to the full expression of that love.

What joy and hope and comfort there is in knowing this love from God! Gratitude necessarily exudes from the heart of one who has received and felt this love. The sinner who knows himself/herself to be loved by God is stabilized and shielded amid life’s tremors and storms.

Let us give thanks for the Lord, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever!

What kind of love?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 John 3:1).

If we were to think of different kinds of love, how might we distinguish God’s kind of love from other kinds? Would we say it is deeper, a more intensified kind of love, like a father or mother to a child? Would we say it is sincerer, a more self-giving kind of love, like a virtuous personal vow?

I think both of these are certainly true, but I believe there is something more in this differentiation of God’s kind of love. We might get to the bottom of it by asking a few questions.

First, who is “we”? Well, the “we” mentioned here is sinful, rebellious, and disobedient people. Those who were the original recipients of this letter were, like us today, guilty sinners before God.

Second, what does it mean to be a “child of God”? A child is beloved, joined, and an heir to all of the family benefits. It would take a lifetime to study all that such things mean when we are talking about God as Father to those He calls “child.”

Third, why and when are “we” called “child of God”? Because of Christ… and right now! The profound love of God is distinct from all other loves in that God loves the unlovable sinner. Those who rebel against Him are those upon whom He lavishes His love, and this He does through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this is true of any sinner who trusts in (i.e. believes in, has faith in, follows) Jesus.

See what kind of love God has for all those who trust Christ! He self-sacrificially gives them all that He is, despite their eager attempts to make themselves His enemies. This is an incomparable kind of love.

Love in Action

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

How frequently do you say, “I love you”? How does it make you feel when someone says to you, “I love you”? If you are like most people, then the words are regularly on your lips and you enjoy hearing them from others. Love, however, is more than just a word.

Love is a word that has become quite confused in our day. We love cheesecake, baseball, Jesus, and family, but surely, we don’t love these each the same. What is love, anyway? What are we saying when we say, “I love you”? More importantly, what does God mean when He says it?

True love, the kind of love God exemplifies, is always demonstrable. God’s love is on display in what He has done and what He still does. God’s love is decisive, it is willful, it is sacrificial, and it is active. This is, in fact, what love is supposed to be.

In Christ, God shows love for undeserving sinners, and He promises life and blessing for anyone who will trust Him at His word. May we meditate upon His profound love, and may we gratefully strive to love others as He has loved us.

Hope because of Love

The prophet Jeremiah assures, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

The coming of Christ is demonstration of something profound about God Himself. God decided to create humans, and He decided to lovingly preserve humanity even after egregious disobedience. Throughout human history, God kept saying He loved humans despite their proclivity to dissent from and even disregard God’s good authority.

There are certainly ways we can see God’s love on display in various acts in the past, but one particular scene shows God’s love more than any other. In the coming of God the Son to earth, humanity was able to point to something tangible and say, “This is God’s love.” When Christ came, lived, died, and rose again, we forevermore could know for sure that God’s love is steadfast.

On this last day of the week of hope, we begin to see how our hope rests upon the never-ceasing love of God. The Lord is our portion, indeed, and we may enjoy new mercies every morning because our hope is in the God who has already demonstrated His unwavering love in Christ.

How do you know that God will keep His promises? Why do you hope in Him? It is because He loves with an active and inexhaustible love, which we have already seen on display in the person and work of Christ.

A Sure Faith

The author of Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation” (Hebrews 11:1-2).

Faith has become something of a nebulous word in recent days. For someone to “have faith” is often nothing more than their possession of a feeling of optimism. Faith, however, is much more stabilizing than mere feeling… at least from the Bible’s perspective of such things.

Biblical faith is much more akin to “trust in” or “secure dependence upon” someone or something. The necessary question that must follow any mention of faith is, “Who or what are you depending on?” or “In what or who are you placing your faith?”.

God has promised to give eternal and abundant life through Christ Jesus. This is good reason to have faith that all who trust in Jesus will receive as God has promised. But there is still further assurance of the promises of God, namely that God has delivered on His promises in Christ.

Jesus Christ has come! He has lived, and He has died, and He has conquered death for all who trust in Him! Therefore, faith is an assured hope that the same God who raised Christ from the dead is working in all things to bring about His desired ends.

We Hope for Justice

The prophet Isaiah laments, “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men” (Isaiah 59:9-10).

The world we live in is not as it should be, and this is the reason we need hope. Justice and righteousness and vigor for both is not the norm among humanity today. Furthermore, this is not just a contemporary problem. Human history is replete with injustice and immorality. Even among the people of God there is weakness and brokenness, and this is why we hope.

The evidence of our human desire for justice is all around us. Our modern American vocabulary even includes the phrase “social justice warrior.” Now, the phrase may sometimes be intended as virtuous and other times used as a pejorative, but the reality that we use such a phrase at all is indicative of our desire for justice.

Our hearts break when we see injustice, and we may work towards a more just society. However, Christians know that justice is something only Christ can truly bring. We do not place our hope in a political office, a social movement, a judicial appointment, or an economic strategy. We wait in hope for the arrival of the gracious king of glory, Christ Jesus Himself, who brings justice and healing to all who embrace His righteous rule.

Benefits of Waiting?

The psalmist sings, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).

In our modern day of drive-throughs, microwave ovens, Netflix, and DVR, it is hard to imagine that there is any value to waiting. Who wants to wait… especially for something good? But is there some benefit we are missing if we avoid waiting?

In ancient times, before the invention of infrared binoculars and high-illumination lighting, cities would have many watchmen stand guard throughout each night. There was no way to know what might be lurking in the darkness, but the watchmen would sound an alert if anything made an appearance. The great fear was that some enemy would invade under the cover of night.

In the gloom of night, these watchmen would wait for the morning to bring light and visibility. Oh, how they must have longed to see the morning sun to break across the sky! When they finally saw the brightness of dawn, their hearts must have been jubilant.

How many sunrises have you seen? Does the sight enthrall you? Do you praise God for the spectacle and celebrate with new delight? Oh, how different our perspective might be with just a little bit of waiting!

During this Christmas season, we may set our attention upon waiting for the Lord. God has promised to send the Savior, and He has made good on this promise. And yet, that same Savior has promised to come again. At His second advent, Christ shall not come as the suffering servant but as the conquering king.

May our souls wait for Him more than watchmen for the morning.

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