True Peace Is Jesus’ Presence, Not Presents

Sisyphus (10.8.18)

Journey In Genesis: Selected Passages 1

Genesis 3:1-7:“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals
the Lord God had made. He said to the woman,
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent,“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree
that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food
and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,
she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together
and made coverings for themselves
. [& then they hid from God]

So much to learn here, but we’ll focus on the fact that Adam & Eve
believed a lie from the serpent instead of the Truth from the LORD.

They believed there was a new experience of joy & peace & pleasure
that they could achieve & arrange their own way, on their own
& apart from God & His boundaries, a knowledge higher & more fulfilling
than knowing God personally. Let’s look at this lie in our own lives:

Lie #1:Our joy & peace is based on our circumstances/situation.

Or, our lives need to bearranged in a certain way for us to have joy & peace.
Holistic feng shui: get your life put together just right & the positivity will flow
& you’ll have the peace& joy you seek.

  • Like old t.v. antennaes: bend them just right
    to get a clear picture on the screen…

This “perfect arrangement” is different for many of us
for me, it’s a peaceful evening in a quiet house filled w/my loved ones,
a good book, a bag of spicy cheetoes or big bowl of popcorn,
an ice-cold sparkling water, & classical music or movie soundtracks
playing in the background (plus rain hitting the roof/windows).

That sounds stone-cold boring to some of you, & that’s ok! 🙂

Others love a good 15 mile run—that’s a great day to them.
I don’t understand it—they look so miserable as they’re having their perfect day!—
but by all means enjoy the run (I’ll enjoy my spicy cheetoes!).

It’s not wrong to have that perfect day, or to ask the LORD to bless us with those activities. But there are many nights when I work hard all day, I look forward to having a perfect night (or even a perfect hour!), & when I don’t get it I feel grumpy, irritable, frustrated, clenched inside. And I’m unkind toward others.

I’m believing the lie, thinking I need to have my version of feng shui/
“just right” to have joy & peace.

Or I might help with the household chores, but honestly, many times
it’s not to honor Christ, it’s not even necessarily to bless my family;
it’s serving myself, because I feel that I need to get the house cleaned up
& arranged a certain way for me to be happy/calm/peaceful. I’m really serving myself!

And sometimes while I’m serving myself, I’m irritable/grumpy w/others until
the house gets arranged “just right.” (& then when I’m done blessing myself,
I want to be left alone cuz I worked so hard!)

Pursuing joy thru life-arrangement turns us into Sisyphus,
the Greek myth who kept pushing a large boulder up a hill
only to have it roll back down to the bottom each time.
That is his eternity.
Pushing, hoping, believing, working up the inspiration to keep
pushing, hoping, believing…in himself.
He can get the boulder to the top, he can save himself, he can arrange his life
in just such a way as to get freedom/relief—he can do it!

That’s the story of humanity, starting with Adam & Eve—
push the boulder, collaborate/ innovate to create methods
to push the boulder for us, arrange your life THIS way,
life-hack your way to contentment.
Achieve our dreams, reach our own goals at any price,
trample whatever gets in our way,
cut all corners to make your intricate origami dream life.

Even many Christians fall in this trap: we use King Jesus
to build our own kingdom & give us the life we desire.

But we ignore God’s Word, we want our comforts carrying us
instead of us carrying a cross.

We’re believing a lie as Adam & Eve did. This is why, without repentance & faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ, all good deeds/”arrangements” are powerless
to get us to heaven, are merely different styles of pushing the boulder our own way.

We need the God-Man Jesus to push/arrange for us
& to trust that He HAS pushed for us,
from the manger to the cross thru the empty tomb.

God gives us the Truth to resist this lie:

Ephesians 2:12-14: “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise,
without hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace…

Father help us understand & experience that Truth more & more!

Jesus is our peace.

Not just that He gives us peace (though He does do that),
but the peace He gives is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27)—
His peace is not some kind of object (health, wealth, ease, comfort)
because those things can be taken away,
because we can trust & cling to those things instead of Him.

The world can only offer those things, which are nice for a while
but like a sugar boat quickly dissolve in the storm & sink.

He gives Himself as our peace.

The temporary peace of the world is stuff/circumstances;
the lasting peace of God is a Person: Jesus.

Psalm 121:5: “The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade 
at your right hand…”

Numbers 18:20: “The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land,
nor will you have any share among them;
I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”

This is why Paul prayed for the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 1:17-19:

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Yes! Knowing God deeply/personally, knowing the hope to which He has called us,
knowing that we are to be a hopeful people because of
the riches of His glorious inheritance for us,
the vast majority of which we will not get until heaven.

We look ahead to a future vacation because of the specific activities
we hope to do on the vacation–beach, waterpark, museum, restaurant–
and our hope for the trip leads us to get excited now;
we almost start the vacation before it happens!

How much more should we know the details of our Father’s
amazing inheritance for us in Christ–He isn’t keeping it a secret,
it’s all in the Bible!

But it’s sprinkled throughout the Bible,
like salt & pepper crystals/flakes are spread in a meal.
To get the salt & pepper out, we’d have to dig through the food carefully,
intentionally, with much patience & focus.

Tis is why we dig into the Bible so much during the worship service &
during the week with each other & alone!

This is key to us enjoying the joy & peace of Jesus Christ…

And also in Ephesians 3:16-19: “I pray that out of his glorious riches
he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power,
together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

THAT is God’s arrangement for our lasting joy & peace
knowing Him deeply thru His Spirit & His Word;
we can never get that thru our own arrangement of our lives.

Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

[we’d rarely willingly arrange our lives to come anywhere NEAR
the valley of the shadow of death—we want the mountaintop!
But when God leads us into that valley, David says…]

I will fear no evil, for You are with me
[in the face of death I can have peace in the face of Christ!].

Thats the Truth that defeats the lie.
But we must know & grip those promises by faith.

So Paul could say in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need,
for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do all this
[have joy & peace & contentment!]
thru him who gives me strength.”

Paul wrote those verses from prison, not how we’d arrange our lives.
He learned to be joyful & content because he knew that Christ had not abandoned him, he knew by faith (even if he didn’t know by feeling)
that theLord promised to be with him always.

So Paul’s priority wasn’t to get out of prisonarrange his life by his desires—
in order to praise God; Paul’s priority was to praise God while he was in prison &
share the Gospel with Roman soldiers,
& write a letter (Philippians) to bless Christians who weren’t in prison,
a letter God is still blessing Christians wit nearly 2000 years later.

That is what happens when we choose to not believe the lie
that we must arrange our lives in just such a way
in order for us to have peace & joy.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “…because of these surpassingly great revelations.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited,
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul tried to arrange his life to be free from this suffering/thorn,
but the Lord Jesus lovingly arranged Paul’s life to include this difficult thorn
so Paul would rely on Christ, not Paul’s circumstances,
not even rely on the amazing visions God gave Paul (which is still idolatry!).

Sometimes we can want experiences from God more than God Himself.

2 Corinthians 1:8-10: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,
about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,
so that we despaired of life itself.
Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, 
who raises the dead.” 

Paul & his companions wouldn’t arrange for such trouble if they were in control.
But the LORD lovingly arranged that pressure to give them
His true joy & peace by learning to rely on Him!

But does that mean that our Father doesn’t care about our clothing, shelter, food, etc.?
Of course He cares…He cares about every detail of our lives.

Is it wrong to want something from God, to ask for earthly gifts?
Of course not.

But do we need that earthly gift for joy & peace,
is that what we are resting on?
It’s a heart issue.

The Lord Jesus addresses these fair questions—Matthew 6:21,31-33:
21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…
31Do not worry about what you will eat, drink or wear.
The pagans run after these things
[the rat race],
and your Father knows that you need them.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.”

  • Is our heart focused on God’s gifts, or God Himself?
    If our arrangement is our treasure, our heart is in the arrangement;
    if we then lose that arrangement, we’ve also lost our heart.
    This is a big deal.
  • Are we learning to rejoice & rest & enjoy God alone
    before He gives us the earthly stuff we ask for?

This beautifully high theological doctrine—that Jesus Himself is our peace
impacts our practical daily lives: when we’re discontent with our body,
job, house, finances, grades, career, car, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend,
lack of a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend, friendships, etc.

Fixing those isn’t our priority in order to have peace & joy & contentment;
our priority is the same as Paul’s in prison: Jesus Himself is our peace.

And think of the pressure we put on others when we believe this lie:
“Your behavior, attitude, performance is the key to MY peace & joy.
I need what you do/don’t do to measure up so I can have peace & joy.”

Wow. That’s a weight none of us can carry. It’s overwhelming—
others sink under the pressure & we go down with them.
Only Christ can carry it.

Does that mean we don’t try to improve our situation,
does that mean w don’t try to get a better job ,
does that mean we do nothing if we have roaches in our house?

Of course not. Call the exterminator!

But that isn’t your primary next-step for joy,
the exterminator isn’t needed for us to have peace.

If we lost peace & joy when we found out we had roaches
(or insert any other difficulty),
it isn’t the Lord Jesus’ peace & joy that we lost;
it’s the world’s.

Praise God for the roaches—better to lose that temporary fake circumstance/substitute
of real joy & peace now, better to have our impressive sugar yacht
dissolve in the harbor before we get out in the middle of the ocean.

How do we know if we’re believing this lie?

-Ask the Holy Spirit to diagnose. This takes regular prayer & silence.
Are you like me, often clenched & white-knuckling it thru the day,
discouraged the first time things don’t work out as you plan?
Are you putting your joy on the shoulders of yours/others’ performance?

-Read the Word regularly; as we do it reads us back.

-Examine your calendar: how do you spend your time? What do you passionately pursue?How are you trying to arrange your life in just such a way? Not saying that is bad in & of itself, but are you relying on that arrangement to bring you peace & joy, are you seeking to be peaceful & joyful in Christ before you get that project completed? Are you arranging at the expense of cultivating/deepening your relationship with the Lord Jesus?

Closing Challenge

We see this theme again that our peace & joy are in our awesome Savior,
not in our arrangement of our situation:

1 Peter 1:3-9: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
who through faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—
of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Though you have not seen him, you love him;
and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him
and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy 
[you have Jesus in your trials!!!],
for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Oh cultivate that joy in Christ, loved ones—SEEK HIM!
His joy & peace arent uploaded while you sleep—seek Him!
My dear friends, as humbly as I can say it:
we do not need our lives arranged in a certain way to have lasting joy & peace.
Please don’t believe that lie.
God even designed hurricanes—which disarrange everything—
to be calm in the center!

We need Jesus Christ, to be in Him by repentance & faith,
to know Him deeply thru His Spirit & His Word.

Those familiar verses in Revelation 3:20 are addressed to Christians:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (remember Psalm 23 and the table the LORD prepares for David in the presence of his enemies)

Jesus said those words to the Christians at Laodicea 
who had strayed from Christ & found their peace & joy in earthly wealth,
in their temporary arrangement.

Jesus told them to repent & to come to the door & let Him in.

Perhaps many of us have stopped seeking Him first &
have focused on rearranging the furniture of our lives
in our quest for peace & joy.
Leave the furniture as is for now, stop rearranging to find peace, drop everything,
go to the door, let Him in—HE is your peace.