Peace Not as the World Gives (Part 2)
There is a kind of peace that Jesus gives to us, and then there’s a peace that he doesn’t give. This seems clear enough in his statement in John 14:27: “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” We need to recognize that in this life, peace for the Christian comes alongside conflict and sorrow. Notice how he juxtaposes peace and tribulation in John 16:33 when he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I want to talk first about two sources of conflict unique to the Christian, before we see how Jesus gives us peace in the midst of that conflict.
The first source of conflict for the Christian is conflict within. Before the Apostle Paul’s conversion, he had a pretty good view of himself. He saw himself as “blameless under the law.” But after he met Jesus and became a Christian, he had a shift in his self-image. After his conversion, he saw himself as the “chief of sinners.” What happened here?
What happened is that he received a new heart and suddenly became aware of the beauty and righteousness of God and the ugliness and unrighteousness of his own heart. Now he became acutely aware of a conflict within him. He describes this conflict in Romans 7:15, 18 “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
My son said to me the other day, “I really want to obey you, Dad, but it’s really hard.” This is a beautiful thing to say, especially if we are saying it to God. This is a confession only the Christian can truly make, and a struggle that only the Christian can truly feel. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus isn’t saying that some people are poor in spirit and some people aren’t. What he’s saying is that although everyone is poor in spirit, only the ones who know this and feel in their bones that they are unworthy of God’s love and favor can actually receive it in the kingdom.
The Christian feels this, and feels it powerfully. There is a strong internal conflict. The Christian with a new heart is acutely aware of his spiritual poverty, and it troubles him. There is deep grief in the Christian’s heart as she cries out to God, “Father, I want to obey you, but it’s so hard.”
Yes, Jesus gives peace, but he gives it alongside real conflict and tension in this life. This tension comes not only from within us, but from outside of us as well. We’ll talk about that next week.