December 16, 2011 Devotion Sharing (It Came Upon the Midnight Clear)

Submitted by Gary C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

What are some aspects of the peace that Jesus came to give his disciples?

From John 14:27, on the night before Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested, at the last supper Jesus told his disciples to prepare them for his crucifixion that is ahead that “peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives . . .”  The peace Jesus gives to the disciples here is not the peace that the world gives, for the world’s peace only expresses a longing and a wish.  Rather it is the very real and concrete peace that was resting in and anchoring Jesus’ heart on the eve of his passion as the ultimate sin offering for mankind.  It is the peace that against the difficulties, the hardships and the trials that beset us in this life can keep us firmly anchored and afloat instead of sinking under the tempest-tossed waves.  It is the peace that as I face the storms of this life that are out of my control, before which I feel helpless and weak, that is able to keep me standing firmly rooted in trusting in God.

From John 16:33, when the disciples finally realized and confessed that Jesus is the Christ from God, Jesus responds, “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.”  The aspect of peace Jesus offers to the disciples here is the peace that is focused on and draws its strength from Jesus Christ who shall overcome all the trials and tribulations of this world and defeat death.  It is the peace that strengthens me as I have to face the troubles in this world, before which I may wonder how I am going to have the courage and perseverance to face it and go through it.  But I remember Jesus who took on the sins of the world, who was rejected and abandoned by everyone, and who was tortured and ultimately crucified – I remember this Jesus who went through all that and yet overcame the world and defeated death!  And this Jesus tells me to take heart and have peace in him.  If Jesus overcame storms that are much greater and fiercer than the storms I am facing, and this same Jesus is the one who promises to be with me always, to the very end of the age, then I can be strengthened and encouraged as I turn to him and cast all of my fears, worries and anxiety unto him.  He will guide me through because he is in control of the situation even though I am not.

From John 20:19-23, Jesus comes to the disciples behind locked doors for fear of the Jews and greets them twice, “Peace be with you!”  The peace that Jesus has come to give to the disciples is the peace of the resurrected Lord.  It is the peace that is built upon the confidence that Jesus has indeed overcome, that he has defeated death and resurrected.  This is the peace that has the power of reversal, to turn the fear of the Jews into joy, and to transform this band of persecuted and fearful disciples huddling together in a locked room into unstoppable missionaries evangelizing the message of the resurrection such that they had to be killed in order to be silenced.

From 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, the aspect of the peace highlighted here is the peace of reconciliation with God.  Whereas man and God stood in enmity because of sin, through Jesus reconciliation is accomplished as man’s sins are forgiven and washed away for every person who comes to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.  And this leads to forgiven sinners resting in God’s peace and acceptance as that firm bedrock against all the ups and downs of life.

In what ways have you experienced the peace that Jesus came to bring?

In my personal life I have experienced the peace of the forgiven sinner who is reconciled with God.  I remember this was the first thing I experienced upon my salvation decision.  For the first time in my life, I experienced the presence of this peace in my heart where once only endless competitiveness and comparisons resided.  Whereas before I was only able to gain a temporary “peace” from outcompeting other classmates on exams and midterms that would last at most until the next exam, the peace of reconciliation with God is so much more real and solid in comparison that I remember calling my high friends after I came back from the Winter Retreat of 1999 and sharing with them that I became a Christian and that I finally experienced true peace in my heart!  And I am thankful to say that ever since then, this peace of God which stems from God’s unconditional love and acceptance has accompanied me throughout all the ups and downs of life.  While there have been some real valleys that I went through these past 13 years, I am thankful to say that even in the midst of the darkest valley there was in my heart this firm bedrock of the peace of God’s grace and love for me, that I am loved and accepted by Him in spite of my sins and failures.

In addition, I have experienced the peace from Jesus that enabled me to stand firm and face the storms of life.  Most recently the health scare of my infant daughter, Abby, comes to mind.  Throughout those four days in the hospital where an emergency room visit due to her breathing difficulty led to her ambulance transport to a bigger hospital, and from there further transfer to the Intensive Care Unit where she was hooked up to all kinds of wires and monitors for the next several days, as scary and as bewildering and unsettling the entire experience had been, I am thankful that inside my heart I felt concretely the peace of Jesus that tells me she will be okay, that Jesus is in control of her life and that Jesus will help her to overcome.  This was a firm foundation that gave me strength throughout those days in the hospital.

Finally, I have also experienced the peace of the resurrected Jesus that has transformed an insecure and fearful person like me into a minister of the Gospel who strives to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with others.  This is the peace that has given me boldness, conviction, confidence and a total willingness to risk being rejected by people yet be okay with that and come back at it again the next day with the hope that I can meet someone who is open to the Gospel.  I know that on my default self that there is no way I would have been willing to do this.

What is your calling and responsibility with respect to this peace, and what would it look like for you to embrace this?

My calling and responsibility is to embrace wholeheartedly the peace that Jesus came to give, and to let this peace be that bedrock of my heart that would permeate all that I do as a Christ follower throughout the day, against all the ups and downs of life.  My calling and responsibility is also to be a witness of this peace to those who do not know God, for I know that there is no peace in their hearts though they long for it, and by my living and facing life with the peace of God as that solid rock I can be a powerful witness to these people.

What it would look like for me to embrace this is to have firm and consistent character of joy, hope and cheerfulness against the ups and downs of life.  To the outsider it would look like there is some “inner strength” within me that is able to keep me consistent and steadfast, instead of letting life circumstances dictate how I am going to feel or be preoccupied by.  Habakkuk 3:17-19 vividly captures this:  “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

Prayer

Dear Lord, I thank you for the peace that you have bestowed on me.  Thank you for giving me your peace that is with me always and has the power to keep me buoyant against the tempests of this life.  Thank you for the peace that gives me strength and steadfastness that I need when things are out of control in my life or when I face discouraging circumstances.  I pray that you may continue to fill me with your peace and keep me close to the cross, that your peace may continue to grow to become that solid foundation so that when the floods rise and the storms come and beat the house, it will stand firm and not crumble down. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Submitted by Richard L. from Gracepoint Davis Church

What are some aspects of the peace that Jesus came to give his disciples?

First, it’s interesting to note that Jesus’ peace is not the modern notion of “peace” as in tranquility or the absence of turmoil and conflict.  Rather, Jesus gave his blessing of peace to his disciples while they were in the midst of struggles and stressful situations.   He spoke of peace as the disciples’ world was falling apart, as Jesus spoke of his impending death, or shortly after he died and the disciples weren’t quite sure if he had indeed resurrected.  Jesus’ peace is not like the world’s notion of “peace,” the popular notion being that you can achieve the means to live a quiet and tranquil life, not bothered by much, successfully isolated from any troubles so you can enjoy “peace and quiet.”  Again, Jesus’ peace, as He spoke of in these passages and as sung in the hymns, came amid the violence, turmoil and stress of real life.

And so, one aspect of the peace Jesus came to give is that it would overcome troubles in the world.  His peace came in the face of troubles (“Do not let your hearts be troubled” [John 14],  “In this world you will have trouble” [John 16]).  His peace would not get rid of troubles – in fact, Jesus all but guaranteed them in John 16 – but his peace would help his disciples not be overwhelmed by troubles and instead overcome them.

Jesus’ peace would also overcome their fears.  Coupled with his promise of peace, Jesus said in John 14, “do not be afraid.”  His peace would help them not to be afraid of what they would face, against the stressful and crisis situations they were presently facing, and even those they and future disciples had yet to encounter.

Finally, a pivotal aspect of the peace Jesus came to give was that it was intertwined with him.  Jesus said in John 16, “in me you may have peace.”  In other words, in fellowship with Jesus, being connected to him, there is true peace. This is echoed in 2 Corinthians 5 when talking about reconciliation with God.  There is true peace in being reconciled to God through Jesus.  From yesterday, thinking about the sin and strife, the warring between men, the solution to that is reconciliation with God.

In what ways have you experienced the peace that Jesus came to bring?

I have experienced the peace Jesus came to bring with regard to my sins.  I experienced that sin and strife when I did things that hurt people.  When I was ignorant about God, I lived for myself and was headed down a path of destruction and ever more frustration.  But, God rescued me through Jesus, first stopping me in high school to pause and look at my life, to think about life and why I was living as I did.  He didn’t stop there.  In college, I finally saw the problem was my sin and separation from God.  And I experienced the peace of reconciliation and forgiveness when I finally accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  I also experienced peace about my eternity, as I was pretty fearful of death before I became a Christian.  My relationship with Jesus gave me peace that I would spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven, and I didn’t have to fear the unknown after I died.

I’ve also experienced the peace that Jesus brings to overcome fears and troubles in my life.  While I can’t say I’ve experienced that many troubles in life, I have experienced fears and the peace of Jesus regarding specifically the fears of taking steps of faith to share the gospel.  I remember being led to Taiwan as a short-term missionary and the kind of fears I faced.  But, I experienced peace at that time because I knew I was following Christ.  I had deep conviction it was the right thing to do, and the more I took steps of faith in the face of fears, I experienced Jesus’ peace.  The same has held true more recently in sharing the gospel with people and in ministry, as it’s a fearful thing to share your faith in this culture where most people have a negative or dismissive view towards Christianity.  I’ve experienced peace in sharing my testimony with people or just talking about Jesus, where initially I was scared and thought I’d be rejected, but instead I had the peace and confidence from Jesus to testify and minister to people.

What is your calling and responsibility with respect to this peace, and what would it look like for you to embrace this?

My calling and responsibility is to tell people about the peace that they lack and how there can be peace by being reconciled to God.  I remember personally experiencing fear, troubles, uncertainty, sin and strife before I was reconciled to God.  And, I must not forget that people are experiencing these same things apart from God.  No matter how much they may appear put-together, confident, or distracted on the outside, just below the surface, they are experiencing that lack of peace and are very aware of it.  To embrace this reality, I would need to work hard and think creatively about how I can share the good news, keep praying for, and keep hoping for people.  I know my tendency is to give up easily and think people are not interested or okay with themselves, but I need to remember there is no peace apart from reconciliation with God.

My calling and responsibility is also to face fears and troubles knowing that there is peace from Jesus, and not to run away from those fears/troubles.  It’s also to teach Christians to do the same, to trust and hope in the peace that Jesus brings through whatever trying time they may be facing.  It’s to have confidence in the promises of Jesus as we face those times together.  One way of embracing this would mean attempting fearful things for God, so I can experience this peace more deeply.  It would also mean getting more equipped in knowing the promises of Jesus so his promises can minister to me and I could minister to others going through fears/troubles in life.

Submitted by Phil C. from Gracepoint Davis Church
What are some aspects of the peace that Jesus came to give his disciples?

From John 16:33, it is the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus has overcome the world. It is a peace that no matter what happens in my life, no matter what trouble I face, or no matter how difficult it may be God is greater than any circumstance.

There is the aspect of peace that comes from knowing the resurrected Jesus. In John 20, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” The disciples were overjoyed when they saw Jesus alive.  There is peace knowing that my life doesn’t end with death. Because Jesus came back from the dead, he is able to promise eternal life to all who believe in his name.  And because of this, I don’t have to fear death as the end.

There is the aspect of peace that comes from knowing that God has forgiven me of my sins. 2 Corinthians 5 says that God reconciled me to himself in Christ not counting my sins against me. I used to be filled with guilt and shame, because I could only hide and cover up my sinfulness. But through Christ’s forgiveness, there is peace because I’m fully known, fully forgiven, and fully accepted by God. There is no reason to hide; no reason to wear masks to cover up. I can be myself, with faults and all, and know that I’m unconditionally loved.

In what ways have you experienced the peace that Jesus came to bring?

One way I have experienced God’s peace is by trusting in God through my time of unemployment. I am convinced that if I were not a Christian, I would have so many fears and worries in this situation of no job prospect with my wife pregnant with our first child.  But one thing I have been clinging onto is God’s faithfulness, and I know this to be true because He has been faithful to me these past 30 years of my life. This Thanksgiving season I had time to recount all the ways God has been faithful to me, and it gave me such a greater sense of confidence in God’s control over my life. I don’t need to be anxious or worried. I can trust and rest in peace knowing that God will provide in His due time, just as He always has.

Also, in regards to 2 Corinthians 5, I have also experienced God’s peace through being reconciled to God and being forgiven of my sins. Before Christ, I lived a life full of shame and insecurities. I put on so many different masks to appear as a good person, but deep down I knew I wasn’t. I hid sins, and I was always afraid that people would know the real me. But as the Gospel came into my life, I experienced something that I head deeply longed for–unconditional love. I realized that God knows me fully and yet loves me fully. And that revolutionized my world. I no longer felt insecure; I felt free and at peace with myself and with God because I knew that I was accepted just for who I am.

What is your calling and responsibility with respect to this peace, and what would it look like for you to embrace this?

My calling and responsibility in response to the peace I have been given is to be an agent of peace to others. God calls me to be “an ambassador for Christ” as it says in 2 Corinthians 5. I have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, and this message is something that I need to take to others who do not know God’s peace.

As I think about what this would look like, I’m reminded of the spiritual leaders who themselves have embraced this ministry of reconciliation and who brought the Gospel to me. I look at their lives and tell myself, “That’s what it looks like to be an ambassador for Christ.” Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” I have learned what it means to be an ambassador of Christ by observing and imitating the life of faith of those before me. It involves a lot of sacrifice, and I need to be sacrificial with everything that I have.  I need to find opportunities to be with our students and draw them into our community. I need to be generous with my money so that people can see that the phrase “treasures are in heaven” isn’t just rhetoric. I need to be willing to listen and take on other people’s burdens, just as God was willing to “be among us” through Christ. It means I have to be blameless in how I live my life. I need to be pure in heart and guard against the temptations of our society. It means I need to love people in this church genuinely as brothers and sisters so that people can witness true Christian community here. It ultimately means that I need to die to myself, and consider other people’s needs above my own (Philippians 2).

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the peace that you bring into this world. This world is in such need of peace. People live in fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and it is precisely into this darkness that you have come to offer your peace. Father God, thank you for the peace that I have received through Christ. And as one who has been brought “from death to life,” I want to commit to being an ambassador of Christ in bringing this message of hope to others. You have committed to me this “ministry of reconciliation.” It is such a privilege that you entrust this ministry to me. Help me to be faithful to it. Help me to remember those who have gone before me, those from whom I learned what it means to die to myself so that others might live. Thank you for my leaders, this church, the brothers and sisters that spur me on toward love and good deeds. In light of these cloud of witnesses, I want to commit my life to this amazing calling of sharing the Gospel with others so that people who were just like me might find hope and peace in being reconciled back to God.

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