This week we look at how to really tell if we believe. What is the key characteristic of a relationship with Jesus Christ. We look at two, along with the chief benefit of having them both.
Today’s message is based on John 14:15-21. To read it now, click here.
One of my all time favorite cartoon strips is Calvin and Hobbes. That strip actually ended over 20 years ago, it’s hard to believe, you know you’re getting old when… But Calvin and Hobbes were great. One of my favorite strips has Calvin and Hobbes marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor.
“What’s up today?” asks his mom.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”
Maybe that’s the way you feel as we see the news and we deal with what life bombards us with. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit like that might help, so we can say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have a word for this morning: Peace. “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.”
There is a defining phrase in that statement. One that tells us what kind of peace it is that Christ gives us. Did you catch it? “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.” The defining phrase is: “Not as the world gives.” Do you see how that defines God’s peace? The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order is the only way for a society and a people to experience peace, and law and order must be kept by the aggressive use of force. That’s the only way that the world can bring about peace.
But here is how Jesus will give you peace. When you obey His word, He and the Father will come to you and make a home with you. Right in your heart. Not by force but by choice. Your choice. They will abide in your heart bringing peace. The world’s peace is peace through strength. The Lord’s peace is peace through surrender. Surrendering to God.
One of the key components of our Christian faith is love. God is love. If we’re going to follow God, we’ve got to start with love. Jesus even said love is the characteristic that defines us as Christians. People will know that we belong to Christ if we love one another. In pre-marriage counseling I talk about the differences between romantic love and a mature love. Romantic love is really an immature kind of love. An immature love thinks in terms of what another person can do for you. It seeks something in return. That’s largely the way the world loves. Most people will love you for what you can do for them.
By contrast, we explore mature love, where the emphasis is on the other person. Instead of asking what they can do for you, you ask, “what can I do for them?” Jesus wants us, as his followers, to have that kind of mature love for one another. A love that leads us to service. A love that motivates us to do for others.
In John 13, the previous chapter, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Then He takes it a step further when he says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So, we love Him because He loved us first. And if we love Him, we must love others. Now He says if we love Him, we not only love others, but we also obey Him. He wants us to both love others and obey His commands. It’s not one or the other. We love others, and we obey His commands.
Understand that obeying His commands means submitting to Him. We sometimes have a hard time with that word: submitting. We give up our own will and we only do his will. Jesus said that His will is to do the work of Him who sent Him. He was submitted to God. Our will should be to do the work of Him who sent us. Understanding that when we accepted Christ as our savior, we were saved – rescued from a life of sin. But the irony is that only when we surrender that life back to the one who rescued us from our sin, can we truly be free and experience peace.
Sin has been defined as our taking control of our own lives. Because we belong to God, God should have control of our lives. When we take back control of our lives, that’s sin. Do you understand that’s really what sin is? And if you understand that, than you should understand that only by submitting to God can we live a life free from sin. In other words, if we have any hope in stopping the sin in our lives, we must be fully submitted to God.
When we are fully submitted to God, then we obey his commands and we do what he has called us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship (that means he created us, we are his), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He has things that he wants us to do – each of us have tasks that God is depending on us to do. Obeying Christ means that we are going to do those things. Here’s the catch – only by being submitted to Him, will we know what they are. When we are submitted to Him, we are filled with His Spirit. And when we’re filled with His Spirit, we gain the wisdom to know His will.
Remember, He said He would give us peace, but not as the world gives. What kind of peace does the world give? Usually, when we think of peace, we think of living in the absence of hostility. Often we think of war-time verses peace-time. We are either at war, or we are at peace. In this context, peace just means there isn’t a war going on.
Peace can be absence of hostility from others. We are at peace when we live in a quiet neighborhood and we don’t have to worry about the violence that we so often hear about on the news. In yet another sense, we can be at peace when we are well loved and respected in the community, and nobody hassles us or gives us a hard time – unless we deserve it! Remember what I said a few minutes ago, it takes force to keep this kind of peace. And I guess the million dollar question is: If it takes force to enforce it, is it really peace?
Peace can also mean calm, serenity, and silence. This kind of peace is more difficult to experience. It’s getting increasingly more difficult to live in this kind of peace, isn’t it? The world seems to try to rob us of our sense of calm, serenity and silence. This kind of peace is lacking from the peace the world gives us.
This is the kind of peace that Jesus is offering this morning. Calm, serenity, and silence, in the midst of a world of chaos. The world will not change. But when we love others, and we are obedient to Christ’s teaching, we will change. We will come to experience the peace that Christ can give us. A peace we can’t even begin to know without Him. A peace that Paul described to the Phillipians: “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We have that peace because when we love others and we obey his commands, He comes to us, He is with us, we are in His presence. Without Him, we can’t know that kind of peace. With Him, in his presence, we are at peace.
Do you feel that peace this morning? Do you feel a calm despite situations that should have you deeply troubled? Do you feel at peace with the world? If not, you need to know that only God can give you that peace. You need to know that He promised in His word that He would give you that peace. But you need to trust Him, and love Him, and submit to Him.