Five Levels Of Peace
Elder Jeff Winfrey, Pastor
Dawson Springs Primitive Baptist Church
101 East Walnut Street
Dawson Springs, KY 42408
The Man Called Tranquil
The old patriarch Jacob was nearing the point of death. He called together his twelve sons who were likewise by then old men and began to speak to each of them. He did not have much good to say about Reuben, or Simeon, or Levi. But then he looked to the fourth born son, Judah, and spoke these words. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10)
In Jacob’s deathbed words to his son, Judah, we find a beautiful prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ. One named Shiloh was to come and the people would be gathered unto Him. It is interesting and important to note that the old Hebrew word, Shiloh, means tranquil. One was coming who would be called by the name Tranquil.
This same man called Tranquil who was to come from the lineage of Judah had already been referred to as the seed of the woman near the beginning of the book of Genesis. But this earlier passage did not speak of tranquility. Instead of peace, it talked about a warfare where Christ would be wounded and Satan destroyed. So Genesis began with Christ in a battle and ended with Christ as one called Tranquil. Warfare and peace all in one man—How can these things be? Indeed, a war was to be fought and a victory won and through that victory would come peace toward men, but we are perhaps getting ahead of ourselves if we speak of that at this point in the story.
As we continue to consider our thoughts of this one called Tranquil, we can find many prophecies of His coming and of the peace that He would bring. A man by the name of Melchisedek was spoken of in the book of Genesis. A strong case can be made that this man was indeed Christ, but if not Christ, he surely was an Old Testament type of Christ. Melchisedek was King of Salem (King of Shalom), which by interpretation is King of Peace. Christ is the King of Peace.
Isaiah spoke of one that would come. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) [Emphasis added.] Christ is the Prince of Peace.
The old man Zacharias had not spoken for nine months. A year before he had thought his aged wife was barren, but now he held his firstborn son. And suddenly Zacharias could talk again. Now you might think that his first words would have been about his newborn son. But instead of talking about the miracle he held in his arms, he began to talk about a child who had not yet been born. His first words after a long silence were about the approaching birth of his Savior, and after praising the coming Savior he finally came to speak these words about the child he had fathered.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:76-79) [Emphasis added.]
The Highest was yet to come, but Zacharias’ son, John, would be called the prophet of the Highest. John would go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways. The preacher, John, would not give salvation, but he would give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins. The preacher, John, would tell of the tender mercy of our God. John would proclaim that the dayspring from on high hath visited us. The preacher, John, would give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. John as a preacher was not the way of peace, but John as the preacher of the gospel of peace would guide our feet into the way of peace. Jesus is the way of peace.
Just a few weeks after Zacharias spoke these words there were some shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. It was probably just another routine night until suddenly the light of the Lord was shining about them, the angel was upon them, a proclamation was made to them, and at that time the heavenly host began to rejoice and to proclaim the wonder of the moment. Listen to these glorious words. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14) [Emphasis added.] On earth peace! Shiloh had come. Tranquil was here. The Christ-child was born. Tranquility would be accomplished. Through this promised Son who had come to the earth in the form of a man, there could be and would be peace, good will toward men.
God is good! And God proved His good will toward men by sending His Son to make peace between Holy God and sinful men. When God sent Jesus into this world He sent Him for the purpose of making peace and God knew exactly what was necessary in order for that peace to be made. God knew ahead of time what Jesus would have to endure in order to accomplish God’s will. God was not shocked by the death of His Son on the cross. The whole thing was according to God’s good will and eternal purpose. It was according to God’s good will that His Son suffered on that cross in the place of you and me. God did indeed have a good will toward men. And the good will of God accomplished eternal peace between God and man through the coming of that one called Tranquil.
Shiloh, that is Tranquil, had indeed come to earth and a few days after His birth He was seen by an old man named Simeon. Simeon had been looking for this promised child. Simeon knew something that most did not know. Listen to these words:
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. (Luke 2:25-30) [Emphasis added]
Think of the words, Then took he him up in his arms. Oh, what a moment! How sweet it would have been to hold that baby! Simeon was picked by God to be the one that would hold this Son of God in earthly arms. Then took he him up in his arms. In his arms of clay Simeon held eternity. With hands so prone to sin Simeon held the sinless Savior. Simeon held Shiloh. Simeon’s hands touched Tranquil. Simeon brought to his bosom the King of Peace, The Prince of Peace, The Way of Peace, The Peacemaker. A mere mortal held in his arms the life that would bring peace, good will toward men. What a moment!
While holding His Savior, Simeon blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I want to tell you something dear child of God. You may have never held Jesus in your arms, but if you have held Him in your heart, then you, like Simeon, can depart in peace. If you have seen His salvation, then you can depart in peace. You can face that dark door of death and be tranquil if you know this one called Tranquil.
Level One Peace
Having briefly discussed this one whose name is peace, let us now consider five levels of peace. We will start by thinking about a man named Horatio Spafford. You may not know the name Horatio Spafford, but I expect that you know the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.” This man wrote that song under difficult circumstances. Let me share with you the occasion of the writing of the song. Spafford and his family had planned a trip to England and for some reason he was detained and could not make the scheduled departure. It was decided that his wife and four daughters would head on to England as planned and that he would follow them later in another ship. The ship that the wife and daughters boarded sank in the Atlantic Ocean. Spafford received a two-word telegram from his wife who had been rescued and taken to Wales. The sad message simply read, “Saved alone.” Spafford’s wife had survived the accident, but their four little girls had drowned at sea. This poor man stood all alone on the shores of America while his poor wife was all alone on the shores of Wales. And somewhere between these two lonely people were the little girls they had loved so deeply. Upon receiving the dreadful message Spafford quickly headed toward his wife. As I understand the story it was on that lonely voyage across that cruel ocean that he penned the words to the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
Think of those opening words to the song: When peace like a river attendeth my way. Perhaps Spafford remembered moments of peace, and tranquility, and togetherness, and family. Oh, those were good memories! But then think of the words, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Can you visualize this heart-broken man standing on the rail of that ship and looking at the never-ending waves pounding the side of the boat? Those endless waves coming and coming and coming! Pounding and pounding and pounding! Can you feel those sea billows continually rolling and pounding the sides of the ship as the sorrows relentlessly pounded his overwhelmed and so heavy heart?
In this world sometimes peace like a river attendeth my way. And sometimes sorrows like sea billows roll! The world, even our surroundings and the things that are happening to us in this life, can cause sorrows that are akin to pounding waves of discouragements. But at other times our circumstances can bring peace like a river. This peace like a river that Spafford spoke of is the first kind of peace that I would like to talk about. There is a peace that the world can give you. It is even a peace that exists in God’s natural creation. The one called Tranquil is the Creator and it is not surprising that a sense of tranquility can exist in experiencing His Creation. This kind of peace can be felt at sunset on the seashore—Or while gazing at the stars on a midsummer night—Or when cuddling a newborn babe to your breast. This peace lies somewhere between contentment and amazement. The creature can sense it as he ponders the Creator. It occurs when the mortal mind imagines the Eternal.
When I think about this kind of peace, I recollect the experience of the dawning of a new day in the quietness of a wilderness morning. When my son was a teenager he became enthused with backpacking. And when the boy got into backpacking, the old man saw an opportunity to spend quality time with his son. So the dad got into backpacking, too. We had some great times together! Children are indeed a gift from God.
Now in backpacking we carried on our shoulders the things that we needed. We took off into the wilderness and the quest was to stay alive for three or four days out there in the middle of nowhere. After a day of trekking we would make camp, filter water, re-hydrate the powder we called supper, recollect the moments of the day beside a small fire and retire to our separate tents. (I snored too much for us to share a tent.) Typical of a teenager, the boy liked to sleep in, but the old man awoke at the first hint of light. In the solitude of the darkness I would crawl out of my little tent and watch the woods come to life.
I can still recollect the moment—The dawning of a day in the woods—The soft glow from the near-dead embers of last night’s fire—The silhouette of trees on the soft light in the east—The hint of the stirring of a cool breeze—The song of praise from the voice of the first early bird—The sound of the steady breathing of a sleeping firstborn son, (though now a man, still my little boy) —The smile of God on an old man by a little tent—The peace like a river that attended my way—The dawning of a day in the woods.
In these quiet moments of solitude the wonder of Creation captures us. Indeed there is a peace that comes from God through pausing to ponder the works of His hands. At these moments we are caught up in the beauty of God’s masterpiece and our minds are led to prayer and worship. I am reminded of a song that begins with these words:
I love the quietness of he morning, the peaceful beauty of the day.
I love to go there to my bower and humbly bow my head and pray
Oh what a joy and peace it gives me to talk to Jesus in a prayer,
It gives me hope and consolation; it lifts me from a world of care.
And while we are thinking of songs, consider these wonderful words of praise:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,
How great Thou Art! How great Thou art!
Carl Boberg, translated by Stuart Hine
Yes, the world does have its peace. Spafford knew of these things and to him it was peace like a river. At times we find ourselves on Spafford’s river, gently flowing down that stream of life with feelings of contentment that words cannot describe. These are sweet moments. These are tranquil moments. These times of peace are some of the best moments in life.
And as I think again on the days of our backpacking, I suppose that there was a sense of survival adventure involved in the whole thing and maybe it all appealed to some kind of pioneer spirit in my soul. But though I admit to having these thoughts and feelings, I believe that these things pertained to the realm of the fantasies of my imagination. On the other hand, I believe that the peace that is brought by pausing to ponder God’s creation is far from fantasy. It is more akin to worship than fantasy. These experiences of peace belong to the realm of reality. And though this sense of peace exists only in the recesses of the mind, it is nonetheless a real experience.
So as we recognize that these feelings are real and that they are akin to worship, let me give you one caution. The world sometimes wrongly interprets these peaceful moments of quiet tranquility. Thus we find such things as the Eastern mysticisms and meditations becoming more and more a part of our Western thinking. Some have been so moved by God’s Creation that they have drifted into the realm of pantheism. In this they declare that God is in everything, even declaring that the Creation of God is God. Again I caution you not to begin to worship the Creation instead of the Creator. But having warned you to be careful how you interpret these things, I now tell you that I think that these peaceful moments where we are caught up in the wonder of God’s Creation are opportunities that we have to worship our Creator God.
In my heart and in my mind I have come to love these moments of what I call Level One Peace. The Creator gives us this first level of peace, this peace like a river. And I need these times of quietness along the way. It helps me as I travel through this fast-paced mixed-up world to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. These moments of peace settle our minds. They are like a refuge to our souls. I like and I need these times of calm repose. I truly enjoy this thing that Spafford called peace like a river.
Level Two Peace
But this peace like a river is not the best kind of peace. There are levels of peace that far exceed peace like a river. Let us return to Spafford’s song.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Surely we have another level of peace in these next words of Spafford. When that man under those circumstances could look at God and say, “God, whatever my lot, no matter what has happened, you have taught me to say, and I have learned to say, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay within my soul’.” This level of peace far exceeds a quiet morning in the woods. Anybody can get along with a quiet morning in the woods. Everybody makes it fine when life goes along like a peaceful flowing gentle stream. But what about when you are leaning on the rail of your ship of disaster and feeling those never-ending waves pounding on your desperate heart? Do you have peace at that time? Can a person really experience peace in these moments?
The world cannot know peace in these moments. First think about Paul’s words concerning the condition of a natural man without the knowledge of God in his heart. And the way of peace have they not known. (Romans 3:17) And now contrast Paul’s words concerning the man who knows and understands the providence of God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) Concerning the world, the way of peace have they not known, but for those that trust in the God of Providence, there is a peace of God, which passeth all understanding. What a contrast!
Let us go to Paul’s teachings about this peace that comes from trusting in the providence of God. Let us put this passage concerning the peace of God, which passeth all understanding in its context.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Paul said to: Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. The key to the statement is that we can rejoice in the Lord. We cannot rejoice in the loss of four daughters. We are not asked to rejoice in the loss of four daughters. But a child of God can rejoice in the Lord even after having lost four daughters. In the Lord a man can have hope of seeing those four daughters again. In the Lord a man can find grace to help in time of need. In the Lord a man can find a friend that sticks closer than a brother. In the Lord a man can find one that cared enough to give His life so that those four daughters might live forever in heaven. Even at times when sorrows like sea billows roll a man can rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Paul continues by saying, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. According to Strong’s Concordance the word, moderation, means appropriate mildness, gentleness and patience. The man who is rejoicing in the Lord always is surely on a more even keel than the man described by the words, the way of peace have they not known. The even-keeled man does not go off the deep end when sorrows like sea billows roll. He sorrows, but it is with an appropriate mildness that should accompany one who is rejoicing in the Lord. With him there is an obvious gentleness and patience even as he sorrows, for he knows that the Lord is at hand. This man who is rejoicing in the Lord always is so close to the Lord that he is within reach of Him. He can take hold of God. He can touch Him. He can feel Him. He can talk to Him. He can really sense God’s presence. He can cast his cares on God. To him the Lord is literally at hand.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say—The Lord is at hand. Whatever may happen God is still with me. No matter the circumstances God is still on His throne. My world may fall apart, but God is still in control. My situations are ever changing, but my God changes not. His promises remain sure. His love cannot fail. He stands by my side. He leads me on. He guards my way. His compassions fail not. His everlasting arms are still under me. His providence is with me. Whatever happens to me I can still cast my cares on God and know that He cares for me. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say—The Lord is at hand. And if the Lord is at hand, then it is well with my soul.
And if the Lord is at hand, then we can be careful for nothing. Now that does not mean that we have permission to be careless in everything. It means that we should be full of cares about nothing. It means that we need not be anxious and worry about everything. Let your cares go. Or better yet, cast your cares on Him. When our cares seem to overwhelm us we can say, “Whatever my lot, it is okay. I do not understand these things, Lord, but you have all understanding. And my soul trusts in you.”
So whatever your lot God has taught you to be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Do you have a problem? Tell God about it. Remember to include some thanksgiving in your prayer, but then tell Him about your concerns. Pour out your requests to Him. Bare your soul before Him. Come to the throne of grace and find grace to help in time of need. He hears and He cares.
And when you have been blessed to come to the mindset that is spoken of in this passage, then you have reached the point where the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. It surpasses our reasonable understanding that Horatio Spafford could say, “Its okay.” Doesn’t that blow your mind? It blows our natural minds to think of such a thing. But it does not blow a spiritual mind, for perhaps we have been in similar situations in our own lives. Perhaps in times past we have come to say, “Whatever my lot, its okay.” Sometimes we have not said it well. Sometimes we have not said it with the sincerity that we should have. Sometimes even as we were saying it we were fighting back second thoughts that were coming into our minds. But at times we have at least tried to say, “Whatever my lot, Lord, its okay.” And though we were fighting back second thoughts, to whatever extent we could really say these words, to that extent we found peace. And when your faith in God allows you to truly say, “Whatever my lot, its okay,” without any reservations, then the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Now when the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, is keeping your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, you have some good peace. This is ‘stormy night’ peace. This is ‘whatever my lot’ peace. This is ‘troubled heart’ peace. In the last sermon Jesus preached He began with the words: Let not your heart be troubled. (John 14:1) In the middle of the sermon we find these words: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27) And Jesus ended the sermon with these words: These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Jesus did not promise us the world’s prosperity. He did not tell us that great faith would deliver us from the world’s troubles. Instead, He promised that this world would continue to be just what it is and that a child of God can expect that in the world ye shall have tribulation. In this world we can expect that sorrows like sea billows will continue to roll. And whether we expect it or not it is true that sorrows like sea billows do continue to roll. But in His sermon Jesus did not stop with the promise of continuing troubles in the world. After telling us that in the world ye shall have tribulation, Jesus said but be of good cheer. Well how can we be of good cheer in the midst of this troubled world? How can our hearts not be troubled considering our surroundings? Jesus said I have overcome the world.
Not in the world, but in Jesus you can have peace. The world is full of troubles and in the world ye shall have tribulation. But though the world is troubled, Jesus said let not your heart be troubled. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. And though the world is full of troubles, Jesus has overcome the world. And though the world is troubled, we can be of good cheer. And even in the midst of the world’s troubles, when you have the peace that Jesus gives to you, you have the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. And even though the world will do its best to trouble your heart, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Let us now consider a little more deeply some things connected with the providence of God. And let us further consider the peace that passes all understanding that can come from understanding these things connected with the providence of God. There is no doubt that God has promised us His providence in this troubled world. God has promised I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Jesus promised to be with us alway, even to the end of the world. Jesus promised I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you. These are wonderful statements about the providence of God that we take great comfort in. And when we know these promises as truth we have the peace that passeth all understanding.
But concerning God’s providential dealings in our lives Peter said these words: though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. (1 Peter 1:6) Peter spoke of seasons or times in the lives of God’s children where heavy trials are brought upon us. How is it that in the midst of this teaching we find the words, if need be? Who decides if I need these trials? I believe that the Lord decides if and when I need these trials. And I believe that He decides it not as a punishment for my sins, but to increase my faith. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7) If need be I am brought through many and varied trials. If need be my faith gets purified. If need be I may have seasons of heaviness.
My natural reasoning says, “Now God, you don’t need to be deciding all this ‘need be’ about me.” But the sense of the text is that God says back to me, “But it is going to be good for your faith, my son.” And as I think about this idea that these trials will be good for my faith, I remember that my faith is really not what it should be. I oftentimes feel like the man who said to Jesus, Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. And if I have enough good sense about my spiritual condition to say, Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief, do I not trust God to have enough good sense about my spiritual condition to have the right in His providential care to put me through a trial in order to help my unbelief become strong belief? Is God not wiser than me? Can He not properly decide that it is time to increase my faith through His means? Can He not say to me, “It is time to refine some faith, my son.”? Is it not a blessing to me when He does this for me? After all, I even had sense enough to know that I needed help with my unbelief.
But fire is hot. It has to be to refine. And trials hurt. They have to hurt in order to help. Now I admit that from a spiritual point of view I would like to have stronger faith, but from a natural point of view I don’t like to be in a fire and I don’t want to hurt. But about that fire and even in the midst of that fire we have these words:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Peter 1:7-8)
Think about it. In the midst of that fire, even in the midst of your necessary season of heaviness brought on by this trial of fire, there is the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love. In the heat of the fire though you see Him not He appears to you. How can He appear to you if you do not see Him? You cannot see Him through your natural eyes. He appears to you through your eyes of faith. And since you see Him by faith, and since this trial is increasing your faith, it stands to reason that this appearance of Jesus through the eyes of increased faith would be more vivid to you than any you have ever known. And as you see this most vivid appearance of Jesus, the text says that you love Him. And surely as you see Him more clearly, you would love Him more deeply. Indeed, as you by your increased faith see Him in this trial more vividly than you have ever seen Him before, your love for Him will be greater than it has ever been before.
The passage continues with these words, in whom, though now ye see him not yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Continue to imagine yourself in this situation. You are still in the fire. You are still hurting. Your faith is still being refined. And though your natural tendencies would cry out in despair, and though you see Him not with natural eyes, yet there is something in you that sees Him more clearly than you have ever seen Him before. And though you see Him not with natural eyes you believe in Him more than you ever have. Jesus said to Thomas, blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29) Your refined and increased faith sees Him more clearly and believes in Him more deeply than it ever has before. And even though you are still in the midst of the fire, as you by faith see Him so clearly, and love Him so deeply, and believe in Him so strongly, you begin to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, at this moment you can see the Lord better than you have ever seen Him in your life. And as you by faith view Him you do rejoice even in the midst of despair. It is a joy that cannot be explained. It is unspeakable. Words cannot describe it. And though your life is full of trials your heart is full of glory.
Are these things possible? Can trials truly be turned to unexplainable joy? As I try to honestly answer these questions let me ask you another question. Is it a blessing to lose a granddaughter? There is a part of me that screams, “No!” But my true and honest answer to you is, “Yes. Yes, it is.” But please don’t tell my son and my daughter-in-law that I said that. I would hope that they would understand what I am saying, but I fear that they would not. The truth of the situation is that I have never felt to be closer to my God in all my life than I did during the fiery trial of the loss of that little girl. Was it worth it? Please do not force me to answer that question. Spiritually speaking, I know what I should say. I know what I am supposed to say. I know what I want to say. But I likewise know that there is a part of me that refuses to acknowledge that the increase in my faith was worth the loss that still haunts me. Like David had to wait, I am going to have to wait a little longer before I can see that child. She cannot come to me, but someday I will go to her. I sometimes cry when I walk through a store and see a pretty dress that would be about her size. And at this point I am missing some good times with that little girl. But though I am missing good times, I must admit that the whole experience has been so very good for my faith.
I continue these thoughts by saying that it is impossible to understand the ways of our God as He through His providence deals with us in our lives. Even when I look at this situation in my own life, I do not have the wisdom to have all the answers as to who or what caused the circumstances to be as they were. I do not pretend to know what was of God and what was not of God. I have not the wisdom to know what God caused and what He allowed. I do not have the understanding to know such things about my own circumstances and I certainly cannot explain such things in your life. But though I do not claim to understand the ways of my God, I do claim to love Him a lot. And though I might have more questions than answers about my trial, I do know one thing for certain. I know that I was brought to be really close to my Lord in this my fiery trial. And I am very certain that my faith was refined in the whole ordeal. And I yet further know that I experienced the peace that passeth all understanding in the midst of the fire of losing my granddaughter.
So I do not want anybody to try to explain away the presence of my God during these my experiences. I do not want anybody to take these things that I have come to know away from me. And as a preacher I do not want to fail to share with others these experiences about the providence of God and the peace of God. I do not understand much about the providence of God, but I know that it is real and I know that it is good. And I cannot understand much about the peace of God that even passes all understanding. But though I admit that it is past my understanding, I know that it is real and I know that it is a good thing to have. And as a preacher of the gospel I feel a sense of urgency to share what little I have learned through scripture and experience about the providence of God and the peace of God. I certainly know that I feel closer to my God after these experiences than I ever did before. And I understand a little more about the peace of God that passeth all understanding than I ever did before. And as a preacher of the gospel I have a burning in my bones to share this closeness with God and this peace of God with those that I preach to.
But preaching about the providence of God is a difficult task. When a mortal man with finite understanding attempts to explain the workings of the providence of God, he must maintain a delicate balance. If he goes too far in his explanation of providence, he can become a fatalist who would present the Holy God as the cause of all things, including evil. If he stops too short in his explanation of providence, He can become a deist who would take God totally out of the lives of His children. The first extreme falsely accuses God of things that He does not do, while the second fails to praise God for things that He does do. Because of the difficulty of finding the right balance, and probably because of fear of being misunderstood by others, it seems that in recent years many preachers have shied away from preaching about providence. But the solution to the difficulty is not to refuse to preach about the subject. So as preachers of the whole counsel of God let us study to understand the providence of God, and let us not deprive our listeners of the comfort of knowing about the providence of God. For with the understanding of the providence of God comes much peace to God’s children.
So as we bring this portion to a close, I remind you of the first level of peace. As you remember, we described Level One Peace with the illustration of the peace and tranquility connected with the dawning of a new day in God’s Creation. And further be reminded that this first level of peace always hinges on external circumstances. If the river of life is gently flowing, and if we take the time to smell the roses as we travel the pathways of life, then we can enjoy these peaceful moments of Level One Peace. But this first category of peace does not occur when sorrows like sea billows roll.
Oh but I remind you that there is a peace that can say, “Whatever my lot—It’s okay!” We have called this peace Level Two Peace. In the world’s way of thinking it passes our understanding how that the mind can be at peace in spite of what would appear to be overwhelmingly disturbing external circumstances. But the Bible and our own experiences teach us that this peace of mind can exist and does exist. Now in order to experience this level of peace we must understand that God is still in control. Though our circumstances can surely be out of our control, our God has not lost control. There is peace in knowing this. But beyond knowing that God is still in control, we need to also know that God still cares for us. Though our trials may tend to lead us to think that God has forgotten us, there is peace in knowing that His love is everlasting, that His promises are sure, and that He still cares for His children. If we can know these things we are well on the way to experiencing the peace that passes even our own understanding.
Level Three Peace
As we have thus far seen how ‘whatever my lot’ peace far exceeds the peace that hinges upon our lot in life, let us now begin to look at a new level of peace that very much surpasses anything yet mentioned. This is not to say that the experiencing of the first two levels of peace is not good. It is very good to enjoy the quiet moments of tranquility. I never want to lose those times in my life. And since those moments of tranquility that are based on our surroundings cannot hold a candle to the peace that is independent of circumstances, it is obvious that we never want to lose the peace that can exist regardless of circumstances. So our point is not that the first two levels of peace are insignificant. The first two levels of peace are wonderful and the scriptures even proclaim the second level to be so wonderful that it passes our understanding. But the third level of peace is far superior even to the peace that passes all understanding.
At least two things account for Level Three Peace exceeding the first two levels, and both these things have to do with the realm of existence of this third level of peace. Up until now we have considered peace that pertains to the realm of earthly circumstances and peace that exists in the realm of an earthly mind. Level Three Peace surpasses these previous levels of peace in that it considers the realm of heavenly things instead of earthly things, and in that this level of peace exists in the realm of God’s mind instead of in the minds of men. Oh, if the peace concerning earthly things passes our understanding, what do you suppose can be said of the peace connected to heavenly things? And if the peace that can exist in the mind of man passes our understanding, what do you suppose can be said of a peace that resides in the mind of God? Whatever pertains to peace concerning heavenly things must surely exceed anything in the realm of earthly things. And whatever can give peace of mind to the infinite mind of God must surely exceed anything in the realm of finite earthly minds.
The scriptures speak of an eternal peace with the God that is described as a God of wrath and vengeance. As we think about eternal peace with the God who is capable of fierce anger, we should think again of the Man called Shiloh. Through the beauty of His creation this one named Tranquil gives us moments of peace as we pause to ponder the wonderful works of His hands. Through the comfort of His providence this man called Tranquil gives us peace that passes all understanding in the midst of our most dreadful circumstances. Far beyond the beauty of His creation and the comfort of His providence, this Savior called Tranquil made eternal peace between sinful man and Holy God through the wonder of His cross. Surely we take a quantum leap when we go from peace on earth to peace in heaven. Surely we take an ultra-quantum leap when we go from peace of mind in man to a peace that exists in the mind of God.
The greatest moment of all moments was when Tranquil made peace between the God of heaven and a hell-bound sinner. The greatest event of all events was when Tranquil made atonement for wretchedness in the mind of Holiness. The most glorious thing of all things was when God reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
In the words of Horatio Spafford:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
These words stir our minds to consider what Jesus did for us through His sacrifice. Think of the wonder in the thought that Christ has regarded my helpless estate. Oh, my condition was indeed a helpless condition. Nothing I could ever have done would have made peace between a Holy God and me. And Jesus looked upon me in my helpless case not with an attitude of vengeance, but with eyes of mercy Christ regarded my helplessness and hath shed His own blood for my soul. In the shedding of His blood for my soul, Christ did what I could not do. He paid my sin debt to a demanding God. He cleansed me of sin in the eyes of an all-seeing God. He satisfied the angry wrath of God against my sin.
Think of the bliss of this glorious thought, that every one of our sins was nailed to His cross. Bliss is a strong word that speaks of great delight, even ecstasy. But it is an appropriate word when we consider what Christ did for us. As I pause and ponder this glorious thought, that my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more, I am moved to near ecstasy. Indeed, it is a blissful thing to know that Jesus did not just pay for part of my sins, for if even one of the ‘little’ ones had been left to my account I could never be in the presence of a Holy God. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10) So I am thankful that Jesus did not just pay for part of my sins, but for every one of them. And I am also thankful that Jesus did not just partly pay for my sins leaving something else to be done. Jesus paid for 100% of the sins of all His people with no sin left out, and each of those sins of all those people was 100% paid for with no payment yet required. There is no part of my sin that is left to my account and there is no part of the demanded payment for my sins that is not fully paid. So when those sins were nailed to His cross, His children truly bear them no more. And that blissful thought makes a child of God Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
The Bible describes something called reconciliation that occurred when all the sins of all God’s children were totally removed from them and nailed to Jesus’ cross. At the cross all the sins of God’s people were placed upon His Son and paid for by that Son. And in that God ordained event, God reconciled His people to Himself by Jesus Christ. By His suffering and death Jesus made peace between Holy God and sinful men. How can it be that the all-righteous God can accept something like me? Shiloh is the answer. Shiloh! Wow! The perfectly righteous God will forever dwell with a sinner like me thanks to a man named Tranquil! Jesus was my Way of Peace, even my Peacemaker. Peace! Reconciliation! I am justified! God is satisfied! Christ is glorified! Shiloh! Tranquil! Surely these thoughts do stir our minds to Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
In the days in which we live some people perhaps have wrong ideas about God. If you do not know of the God that is capable of anger, wrath and vengeance, then you probably will not appreciate the wonder of the reconciliation that Jesus accomplished on the cross. So it might be appropriate to consider some things about God in relation to His hatred of sin and His fierce wrath against sinners. The Old Testament is full of instances of God’s vengeance against sinners, such as when God commanded the utter destruction of all the men, women and children in the land of Canaan. God had previously told Abraham that the iniquity of the people that inhabited the land was not yet full. But in four generations their sins would be to the point where God would be right and even prove His righteousness when He commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy every individual in that wicked land.
Be reminded that this God that utterly destroyed the nations in the Old Testament is yet the same God. He changes not from one age to the next and His hatred of sin is still seen in the New Testament images of a hell with unquenchable fire. God is Holy and in His holiness He hates sin. God is sovereign and in His sovereignty it is perfectly right for Him to be angry with sinners to the point where He would eternally destroy them. As a matter of fact, if the Holy God is just and is true to justice, then every sin must be punished with the fullness of His vengeance according to His perfectly righteous hatred of sin. So if you are going to have the right impression of God, it is necessary that you realize not only that God is a God that hates sin, but that you also realize that it is the right thing for God to show His wrath and anger against sin.
As we pursue these thoughts of God judging sin and sinners let us go to a time when His fierce wrath was unleashed upon His disobedient people. Prior to the writings of Jeremiah God had for generations sent His prophets calling for repentance and reform among the people of Judah. And the prophet Jeremiah continued that call to repentance up to and through the days that the Babylonian empire conquered and destroyed the land of Judah. But the people ignored the warnings and continued in their sin and rebellion. Let us pick up in the writings of Jeremiah at a time when God told them of His fierce judgment against sinners.
And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD. For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. (Jeremiah 6:12-19)
In this passage I want you to see the fierceness of God. I want you to understand His anger and wrath against sin and sinners. The prophet declared that when God would stretch out His hand in judgment, the wicked Chaldeans would come and take the people’s houses and lands. Because of their sins the enemies of Israel would come into the land and rape the wives, while the men of Israel helplessly watched. The vengeance of God against sinners is not a pretty sight. Some of the false prophets of that day stood against Jeremiah and taught things about God that were not so. They consoled the people slightly by saying, Peace, peace. But when God is angry there is no peace.
Why was God so angry with His people? Sin always angers the Holy God. The passage declared that every one of them was given to covetousness. The passage declared that from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. It is said that they had committed abomination. And when confronted with their sins, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush. When admonished to walk in God’s ways, they said, We will not walk therein. When told to listen to God’s messengers that He had sent, they said, We will not hearken. God had told them to stand in His ways, to look for and walk in the old paths, where is the good way. He had told them that if they did this they would find rest for their souls, but they refused His counsel.
And in the passage God declared that He would bring judgment upon them because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. And because of their refusal to cease from their sins God did stretch forth His hand of judgment upon them. Thus according to His judgment they lost their houses, their lands and their wives. God did bring evil upon this people. They were cast down and fell before their enemies. It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God who hates sin.
Perhaps we can look at one more passage from the writings of Jeremiah that will add insight to the concept of a God of judgment that is angered by sin and sinners.
How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger! The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. He hath cut off in his fierce anger all the horn of Israel: he hath drawn back his right hand from before the enemy, and he burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up Israel, he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. (Lamentations 2:1-5)
A passage like this is very sobering. Repeated use of such words as anger, fierce anger, wrath and fury concerning the God who can destroy with His thoughts is indeed frightening. Seriously consider the following words taken from this one passage that describe God’s actions against sinners. Sinners were covered with a cloud in his anger. Sinners were cast down, remembered not and swallowed up. Sinners were not pitied, were thrown down in his wrath and brought down to the ground. Sinners were cut off in his fierce anger. In His judgment God polluted the kingdom and the princes. His drew back his right hand. He burned against Jacob like a flaming fire, which devoureth round about. God bent his bow like an enemy. He stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant. God poured out his fury like fire. The Lord was as an enemy. He swallowed up Israel. He swallowed up all her palaces. He destroyed his strong holds. And all these things surely increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. As we are considering the subject of peace it is helpful to particularly notice the mention of God like an enemy, as an enemy and as an adversary. It is truly frightening to think of the Almighty God as an enemy of sinners. But in the midst of these somber thoughts do not forget the gospel of peace that is through a man called Shiloh.
At this point some might declare that these are Old Testament teachings and things are different now. I do not deny that the New Testament era is different from the Old Testament era. We do not have the time to deal with such things, but the book of Hebrews deals extensively with the ‘better things’ of the New Testament times. Among other things that are different, we now have a better hope, better covenant, better promises, better understanding, better news, better motivation, etc. But some things did not change with the New Testament era. The God of the Old Testament did not change into something else in the New Testament. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. It may surprise some, but the plan of salvation did not change with the New Testament. The same Jesus that saves today is the Jesus that saved His people in the olden days. And the same plan that saved Peter and Paul was good for the salvation of Noah and Moses and is even now good for salvation today. There is none other Savior than Jesus Christ and there is only one plan of salvation that can save. That plan was initiated before the foundation of the world and will still be sufficient to save to the end of the world.
But let us return to the thought that the same God that hated sin in the Old Testament still hates sin. In New Testament writings Paul declared that God still is angered by sin even in New Testament days. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. (Romans 1:18) See from these words that the same wrath of God that destroyed nations in the Old Testament is still revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness. And in case you think that you might not be included in this group that is unrighteous we find these additional words from the New Testament concerning the universality of the sin problem. There is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) So we are all unrighteous and the New Testament continues to teach the wrath of God against unrighteousness. Thus it seems that we are all still in danger of the fierceness of the wrath of God that is executed toward sin and sinners. In spite of what the world might believe sin is still a big deal to God.
What could appease such an angered God? What could reconcile sinners to a God set on justice? What could bring peace with a God who is like an enemy? Let us delve into the answers to these questions by delving into Paul’s teachings concerning the great concept of reconciliation.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
We were without strength. We were the ungodly. We were yet sinners. We were enemies. These statements in the passage tell us of our situation before the God of judgment. To be ungodly in the presence of God is no laughing matter. To be yet sinners in the presence of the God that hates sin is indeed a serious situation. The fact that we were enemies standing before unsmiling Almighty Power is a grave state to be in. And to make our grim case even worse, we were without strength to resolve our problem. We were ungodly, sinful enemies to God and we had not the ability or any means to reconcile our sin problem with God. If left to our own, our case was hopeless and we would be helpless to defend ourselves against the wrath and judgment of God against us.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. What wondrous love! There is no love in history that can compare with this love of God toward us. But even God’s love toward us could not make the Holy God deny His Holiness. The Holy God cannot cease to hate sin. The Holy God has never failed to judge sin. The Holy God must always deal with sin. God’s love toward us did not cause God to ignore our sins. The Holy God cannot be the Holy God if He ignores sin. But the great wisdom of the all-wise God allowed Him to find a way to show mercy and love, while maintaining fierceness and justice. According to the infinite wisdom of the eternal counsel of the God of the covenant of grace, and according to His abounding love, God allowed God to take the place of sinners and receive God’s anger and wrath due to them because of their sins. God’s love toward us caused God to provide Himself as our substitute. And by the selfless act of dying for us, the God of mercy forever commends His love toward us and brings great glory to Himself. Christ took our place and suffered God’s wrath toward sin in our behalf. The righteous Judge demanded payment for sin. The loving Father provided His Son for sin. God’s innate holiness and His expressed hatred of sin demanded judgment and justice in regards to sin. God’s innate love toward us expressed that love by providing His Son for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood… In the courtroom of heaven where God sits as Judge, God declares His children to be justified. To be justified is to be legally declared to be righteous and innocent. The blood of Jesus cleansed God’s children from their sins. The sins were put away from them as far as the east is from the west, never to be remembered again. And since the blood of Christ has completely cleansed His children from their sins, God can properly declare them to be righteous. If all the sins of all the ones Christ died for are gone, then God can legally justify all that Christ died for without compromising His integrity. Since the sins have been paid for, and since the sinners have been cleansed from their sins, they are now holy, without blame and without reproof in His sight. And since they are now holy, God can invite them into His holy heaven.
Concerning this concept of justification, Isaiah prophesied that God would see the suffering of Jesus’ soul and that God would be satisfied with what He saw. Moreover, he declared that through Jesus’ suffering He would justify many. This same justification that Isaiah saw in prophecy, Paul declared to be accomplished with the words, being now justified by his blood. Furthermore, Paul taught that there are no faults left to our account once Jesus’ blood has justified us. Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. (Romans 8:33) Can anybody charge a man with unrighteousness, if God has declared him to be righteous? Who can charge with guilt one God has declared to be innocent? When God justifies in His eternal courtroom all charges are dropped. And once all charges are dropped in God’s courtroom no more charges can be made. If God has justified His children and declared them to be righteous, no one can say they are not. So on the authority of God’s word I declare to you that nobody can ‘un-justify’ someone God has justified.
And to the praise of the glory of Christ’s justifying blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. We shall be saved! We have been justified, so what can stop it now? Once Jesus justified by his blood, there is no other option than certain salvation. If the sinner is justified and declared righteous in God’s courtroom, nothing can keep him out of heaven. So if the blood of Jesus has justified us, the only possibility that remains for us is that we shall be saved from wrath through him. On the very basis of the meaning of justification how could God allow any other outcome?
Moreover on the basis of God going so far as to give His Son, how could God allow any other outcome? Consider the argument in the following words. If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) Is God really for us? Or maybe He is against us? Certainly the answer to these questions lies in the fact that God gave His Son for us. Since God has gone so far as to deliver His Son for us, can there be any doubt that He is surely for us? Can anyone even imagine that God would give His Son for us, if He were truly against us? So the next question is if God went so far as to deliver up His Son in order to save us, can anything now stop God from saving us?
Since the God who cannot lie has promised eternal life, and since the eternal counsels of God are unchangeable, I admit that the following scenario is based in that which is impossible. But in spite of these two impossibilities, I believe that we can find reassurance about the certainty of our salvation, if we attempt to think of the possibility of God doing what is even impossible for Him to do.
So as we admittedly try to reason in the unreasonable realm of the impossible, I declare to you that if the God whose immutable counsels cannot be changed had for some unknown reason decided to do that which is impossible for even Him to do by deciding to change His unchangeable plan of salvation, then surely that change in plans would have come before Jesus died on the cross. Or if the God who cannot lie had for some unexplainable reason been going to deny His very essence of being truth and take back His promise of salvation, then surely He would have done it before Jesus suffered on the cross. Oh, perish the thought, but if God had been going to do the impossible and even deny His own nature by not following through on His eternal covenant of grace and His everlasting promise to save His people from their sins, then He surely would have stopped the plan before the crucifixion of His beloved Son.
But if God did not take back His promise or change His plan at the moment when He faced the cross, then it seems certain to me that He is totally committed to the saving of His people from their sins. If God went through with the part of the plan pertaining to dying on the cross, then at this point the only reasonable assumption is that nothing will now or can ever stop God from completing the salvation that was paid for on that dreadful cross. So on the basis of reasoning that is admittedly based in the unreasonable realm of the impossible, I submit to you that if God has gone so far as to deliver His Son to the cross, and if God has gone so far as to go to the cross, then nothing can stop Him from now delivering salvation to the ones He died for. And as we consider the commitment God has made thus far to His plan of salvation, it is only reasonable and even absolutely certain that being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Returning to our passage in Romans we find the words: For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. These are words concerning peace that bring great joy. Shiloh has come and He has made peace between Holy God and sinful man. We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. To be reconciled is to be brought to be at peace with. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have now received the atonement. By receiving the atonement we are made to be ‘at one’ with God. This peace that Jesus accomplished is eternal peace. The reconciliation to God by Jesus is the way to heaven for sinners. This atonement that we have received by Jesus is what allows the Holy God to commune with us. We do joy in this and we praise God that when we were yet without strength, and though we were the ungodly, and while we were yet sinners, and when we were enemies to God, that we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son and through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have now received the atonement.
As we continue to consider the peace that Jesus made for us let us consider these glorious words: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18) The statement declares that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. God has reconciled us to God by God. God has reconciled us to Himself by Himself. Wow, any way you say it God gets all the glory. It is all of God—God Himself reconciling us to Himself all by Himself. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. Paul nearly outdid himself with those words. Perhaps the Holy Spirit never inspired a more God-magnifying, Christ-glorifying, man-humbling statement than this one.
God accomplished this whole thing concerning our peace completely without our help. God did all the reconciling. God made all the peace. God reconciled us to Himself all by Himself. We neither had the way of peace or the means to make peace with an angry God. We were helpless in the whole matter. We were without strength. As a matter of fact, we were not looking for peace. We did not come asking for peace. We were ungodly and in our state of ungodliness we were happy without God. But though we did not want God in our lives, God wanted us so much that He gave His Son for us and through the death of that precious Son God reconciled us to Himself all by Himself.
Think of these further words from the same passage: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Pause and ponder the idea that God made Jesus to be sin because of us. How ugly is the thought that my perfectly pure and righteous Savior was made to be sin because of me! Oh, and when my sins were placed on my Savior, they were so ugly that even the perfect Son became vile in the sight of His Holy Father. When Jesus was made sin for me the Holy Father turned His back on His blessed Son, so that the Son would cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” God’s anger at my sins was such that He forsook His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Indeed my Jesus was left totally alone in His time of anguish. I have God’s promise that I will never be forsaken, but my Savior was forsaken for my sake as peace was made between the Holy God and me.
So he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. What does the verse say? Does it say that we might be made a little better than before? Does it say that Jesus was made to be sin for us so that we might be so-so or that we might become fairly good? No! The words declare that God made Jesus to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Now it seems to me that the righteousness of God must be very righteous righteousness. Surely the righteousness of God is as good as it gets. Jesus truly perfected us when He took our sins and gave us His righteousness.
Shiloh brought peace. As an angry God now looks upon sinners, He sees not their sins anymore. Instead, He sees the righteousness of God. Christ accomplished what we could not do. Shiloh has come! Tranquil has been here! Peace came to earth and there is good will toward men. God is satisfied! Sinners are justified! Christ is glorified! Jesus became sin for us and we came to have the righteousness of God in Him. Oh the glory of being reconciled to God!
This peace has eternal ramifications. Reconciliation with the Holy God with whom we were at one time enemies is a peace that makes us fit to be in the dwelling place of God as opposed to a burning hell. This peace is a peace of mind in the mind of God concerning His disposition toward sinners. This peace allows God’s children to enter into the eternal rest and peace of heaven itself. Now this level of peace sure beats a quiet morning in the woods! Don’t take me wrong; I do still like a quiet morning in the woods. But this heavenly peace is infinitely greater than any momentary peace connected with earthly circumstances. Furthermore, this eternal peace so very much exceeds even the ‘whatever my lot’ peace that comes from knowing the God of providence. This attitude of peace that occurs in the mind of God as He considers a sinner that had been His enemy far exceeds the peace that occurs in my mind when I find reassurance in God’s providence. Now if the peace of providence passes my understanding, how much more does this eternal heavenly peace go beyond my imagination. As far as the heavens are higher than the earth is this peace of heaven higher than any peace experienced by those who reside on this earth. And as far as His ways are higher than our ways is this peace in the infinite mind of God higher than anything pertaining to the finite minds of men.
Level Four Peace
Thus far we have considered what we called Level Two Peace that exists in the mind of the man who knows that the God of providence is still in control. We also have considered what we called Level Three Peace that exists in the mind of God who knows that He has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. Now I believe that there is a Level Four Peace that in a sense combines these two. Like the second level of peace this fourth level is a peace that exists in the minds of men. But like the third level of peace this fourth level is a peace that concerns what is in the mind of God. So to put it simply, Level Four Peace is the peace that exists in the mind of the man who knows that the mind of God is at peace with him. This peace of mind occurs when a man comes to know what God already knows about the eternal peace that Jesus made between God and man. When you can know that God knows in His mind that you are at peace with Him, then you can in your mind be at peace with God. And if you have this peace with God in your mind, you have something that very few children of God have ever experienced.
Before we begin to talk about a man knowing what God knows, let me acknowledge that it sounds presumptuous for me to speak of such a thing. I understand that most of the things God knows are past our finding out. The minds of men are very limited, but the mind of God knows all things about everything. So I readily admit that it is impossible for man to know all that God knows and it is impossible for the mind of man to know all that is in the mind of God. But it is possible for men to know some of the things that God knows if God reveals these things to men. And we are thankful that God has revealed many things to us through the Bible.
Now as we think about the incomprehensible mind of God and try to relate it to our study of Level Four Peace, it is important to note that God’s understanding is never dependent upon man’s understanding. God knows what God knows whether you know it or not. It is a little wordy, but this statement can be turned around to say that your not knowing what you do not know cannot make God not know what He already knows.
These truths become important as we apply them to our study. The crucial point is that God knows that He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ whether you know it or not. Some think that man has to believe that Jesus did what He did in order for it to become real. My friend, God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ whether you believe it or not. And God knows that He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ whether you know it or not. This too can be turned around to say that if you have no knowledge that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, your lack of knowledge cannot make God not know what He already knows. So God’s mind continues to know what it knows in spite of your knowing or not knowing that God knows what He knows. But if you do come to know what God already knows about having reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, then you can have a peace in your mind like the peace that is in God’s mind.
So the point is that there is a peace that comes to you when you know what God knows about peace. Or to say it a little differently, there is a peace that comes to you when you know that God knows that you have been reconciled to Him. When you come to know these things that God already knows, and when you come to know that God knows and is sure of these things, then you can have a contented peace of mind concerning your eternal acceptance with the Holy God. Now if you do not know these things you will continue to have many doubts and fears in your mind, but if you know these things that God already knows, and if you know that God already knows these things, you can have a peace that few have ever experienced. Again Level Four Peace is the peace of mind in the man that knows and is sure that God knows and is sure about the eternal peace that Jesus made.
In our study of Level Three Peace we saw that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and since God is the one that did this reconciling, we can be assured that God knows that He has done it. Surely from before time God knew that this reconciliation was going to occur. As it occurred God watched all the details unfold just as He had planned. And God now surely knows what the Bible clearly proclaims, that Jesus has made peace between God and sinners. In the mind of God there is no doubt as to what Jesus accomplished on the cross and God knows for certain that the result of this peace is that all His children will be with Him forever in heaven.
But do you know these things that God knows so well? Do you know that God has reconciled you to Himself by Jesus Christ? Do you know that peace has been made? God is satisfied with the finished work of Christ. But are you satisfied with the finished work of Christ? There is peace in God’s mind concerning what Jesus accomplished. God is at peace with you. Do you have peace of mind concerning the idea that you are at peace with God? Is your mind reconciled to what the mind of God is reconciled to? Do you really know that God is at peace with you? There is a difference in having eternal life and having the assurance of knowing that you have eternal life. There is a distinction in being eternally saved and having the peace that comes from realizing that you are eternally saved. There is a differentiation in an individual existing in the state of having eternal salvation and the mind of the individual existing in the state of mind of knowing that he has eternal salvation.
Indeed, there is a great peace in being able to see that your salvation is of the Lord. If you understand God’s plan of salvation by grace, then you can be assured that God is totally satisfied with the finished work of Christ. If you believe in salvation by grace and grace alone, then you, like God, can rest in the finished work of Christ. If you know that you are saved by grace without adding any ifs, ands or buts to the plan, then you know that thanks to the finished work of Christ on the cross, God is at peace with you. If you know these things about your salvation, then you know what God already knows. If your mind knows these things, then you have been blessed by God to have the peace of mind of knowing that God’s mind is at peace toward you. If you know without doubt and without disclaimer that Jesus has reconciled you to God, then you can have a peace of mind that even most of the Christian world does not have.
So we say again that God is satisfied with Christ, but are you? Are you satisfied with the finished work of Jesus Christ? You should be, but so many Christians are not. Many people do not think Jesus finished what He said He finished. Many feel that there is still something left to do. What did Jesus come to do? God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem…(Galatians 4:4-5) [Emphasis added.] These words say that Jesus came to redeem. Do you believe that He redeemed? Or do you think that He just made us redeemable if we do something to complete what He started? The Bible says that He obtained eternal redemption. Neither with the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12) Are you satisfied with the Bible truth that Jesus totally redeemed? Do you believe your debt to God has been completely paid? Do you believe that Jesus paid the price in full or do you think you yet owe something to God in order for you to have peace with Him? The Bible teaches that redemption has been eternally accomplished. God is satisfied that this is the case. In God’s mind you have been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. God is satisfied that you are without question His for eternity. But is your mind satisfied concerning your redemption?
Do you think Jesus has saved you from your sins or do you believe you must still do something in addition to what He has done? The angel proclaimed that Jesus came to save. Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) That is a proclamation of what Jesus came to do. When Jesus had completed the task of salvation He proclaimed, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) The angel said, “He shall save.” Jesus said, “It is finished.” And Paul said, “God who hath saved.” (2 Timothy 1:8-9) The Bible says that He came to save and after the fact and in the past tense the Bible declares that He has saved. Salvation is accomplished. Jesus knows it is finished. God knows it is finished. But are you satisfied that salvation is finished? God knows that Jesus came to save and God knows that Jesus has saved. But are you satisfied that Jesus has saved?
Do you believe God reconciled you to Himself by Jesus Christ? Or do you think you must reconcile yourself to God by something you do? Do you believe God made you accepted in His beloved Son? Or do you perhaps believe that God will only accept you if you first accept Him? The Bible declares that God in His grace reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. And the same Bible proclaims that God in His grace has made us accepted in the beloved: To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6) By your God appointed position in the beloved Jesus Christ, God has made you accepted. He has made a sinner like you and a criminal like me acceptable to Him. I will not tell you some of the things I have done. Nobody knows some of the things I have done in my life. But Jesus knew all my wickedness and He marked every iniquity. And though it seems that I would be so unacceptable, God now looks at me through the blood of Jesus and I have God’s stamp of approval. Jesus’ robe of righteousness covers my sin. The blood of Jesus makes me acceptable. Our acceptance with God is not based on our accepting God’s Son. Our acceptance is based on our having already been made acceptable to God by that beloved Son. God knows that He reconciled His children to Himself by Jesus Christ and God knows that He made them accepted in the beloved. But do you know these things?
Do you know that some day God will let you into heaven because Jesus hath perfected forever them that are sanctified? (Hebrews 10:14) Like the ones before it, this statement is in the past tense. It has already been accomplished. In the judgment of God you have been perfected forever. Does God love you? He gave His Son for you. Does God want you with Him in heaven? He has always wanted you. Before you were, He wanted you. Will He have you with Him someday? He has perfected you for that purpose. Can anything stop God from having you in heaven with Him? Jesus said nothing could stop God’s plan of salvation. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28) No man can pluck you out of God’s hand. Nothing can keep one of God’s children out of heaven. Jesus will finally save all God’s children that were given to Him to save. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 6:37-39)
I want you to be satisfied with Jesus and with the work of Jesus. If you have assurance concerning the past-tense accomplishments of your salvation by Jesus, you are so very blessed. If you understand the good news of the finished work of Christ in salvation, then you have the truth that will set you free. If you are persuaded of these things you can enter into the sweet rest of blessed assurance that Paul knew. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) Paul was persuaded that Jesus would complete the salvation He had started. Do you have the rest and peace that comes in being persuaded of these truths?
You, like Paul, can have great peace of mind if you are satisfied that Jesus accomplished all that was necessary so that you would never be separated from the love of God. If you know what Paul knew about God having reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and more importantly if you know what God already knows about God having reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, then you, like God and Paul, can be satisfied with the eternal reconciliation that God accomplished by Jesus Christ.
Now God knows about reconciliation, but thankfully He did not keep these things that He knew to Himself. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit He revealed these truths to Paul. And through the moving of the Holy Spirit Paul wrote these things in a letter that would eventually become a part of God’s Bible. Let us return to these wonderful words of revelation about reconciliation.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
At the risk of being redundant let me remind you of some things we have already learned from this passage. We have seen that the passage begins by proclaiming that God hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. This statement concerns the accomplishment of Jesus Christ and the peace that was made between sinful men and Holy God. The statement is in the past tense. It is something that has been accomplished. The peace has been made whether you know it or not. It is a statement of what God already knows to be true. God knows that peace has been made. This truth does not hinge upon anybody knowing it to be the truth. This accomplished reconciliation remains unchangeable truth, whether anybody knows it or not. Truth is truth because it is truth, and not because it is believed to be truth. And accomplished reconciliation is the truth of the matter whether you believe it or not.
But we can be thankful that God did not keep this accomplished reconciliation a secret. God has called and continues to call ministers of the gospel and according to the passage He gives them a ministry of reconciliation. He sends them out with a ministry to witness the message of accomplished reconciliation to the world. The truth that God’s ministers are sent to testify of is the truth that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. They are To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. To them is committed the message even the word of reconciliation. It is as if they are ambassadors for Christ beseeching God’s people with the entreaty, be ye reconciled to God.
Now we ask again, does God need His children to be satisfied with the work of Christ in order for Him to be satisfied with it? No, God was satisfied with Christ’s work long before you ever thought about these things. God remains satisfied that He has reconciled you to Himself by Jesus Christ no matter how you feel about it. But for you to feel any peace of mind, your mind needs to be reconciled to the fact that God’s mind has been reconciled. So by God’s grace He has given to ministers the message of reconciliation. Through the message of the gospel of peace God’s children can come to know what God already knows. God’s mind is satisfied. God’s mind is reconciled. Is your mind reconciled as God’s mind is? If you believe this accomplished reconciliation to be the truth then you can in your mind be reconciled to God. If you believe this to be true and if you know this reconciliation to be a finished work, then you can be reconciled to what God is already reconciled to. That is what is meant by the entreaty, be ye reconciled to God.
This statement is not asking you to do something so that God will reconcile you to Himself. He has done that already. Instead, it is a statement that encourages you to believe in what God has already done. And if you do believe in the finished work of Christ and the eternal peace that He accomplished, then you can have a mind that is reconciled to what the mind of God already knows. If your mind is reconciled to God then you have a peace about eternal things that will comfort you as you hope in those things that Christ has secured. God reconciled you to Himself when He gave you your eternal life. You are reconciled to God when you are assured that God has already reconciled you to Himself and has given you your eternal life.
There is a difference in God reconciling you to Himself by Jesus Christ and you being reconciled to God through the gospel message of peace. God reconciling you to Himself by Jesus Christ gives you eternal life. Your being reconciled to God through the message of peace gives you the assurance of eternal life. The first satisfies God’s mind, while the second satisfies your mind. The first makes you acceptable to God, while the second makes you know that you are acceptable to God. The gospel does not give spiritual life. It gives enlightenment to the one to whom God has already given spiritual life. The message of reconciliation does not make you right with God. Jesus made you right with God. The message of reconciliation lets you come to know that you have been made right with God.
I will share with you a story that my mother has shared with me concerning her childhood fears about her salvation. She grew up in a church where she was taught that her salvation depended on her good works. In her mind her peace with God had to be achieved through satisfying God’s standards. At some point in her growing up years her fears about her eternal destiny began to seriously haunt her. She came to know that the standard was God’s word and that the standard was unattainable. She could read in God’s word that if she offended in one point of the law that she was guilty of it all. She could find that the Bible declares that there is none righteous, no not one. She could know from the words of Jesus that she was held accountable, not only for sinful actions, but also for sinful thoughts. So facing God’s standards and her own failures she became convinced that the only way she could go to heaven was to die in her sleep. She was clinging to the hope that if she asked forgiveness in her bedtime prayer and died before awaking to sin again that she might get to go to heaven. Where is the peace in such a plan as that? I declare to you that there is no peace in trying to make our peace with the Holy God.
My mother lived with this hopeless despair for a few years until in desperation she and my dad began to go to various churches trying to find peace that would soothe troubled souls. Eventually by God’s grace they ended up in a Primitive Baptist Church where for the first time they heard the message of salvation by grace and grace alone. It was a shock to them. They had never heard of such things as these. When they left that first service one of them said to the other, “Those preachers seemed like intelligent men. Surely they don’t really believe those things.” But by God’s grace and through the patient teaching of faithful men who understood God’s plan of salvation, my parents in time came to believe and hold dear to their hearts the truths of salvation only by grace.
Oh, when they came to know these truths, they finally knew what God had known all the way along. God had forever known that He had reconciled them to Himself by Jesus Christ. But when they became reconciled to God and His plan of salvation by grace, then they had come to the knowledge of what God already knew. Those preachers of the gospel of peace had prayed them in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God, and when they heard and believed the word of reconciliation they could finally be reconciled to God in their own minds. When they knew what God knew about their peace, they found a peace of mind they had never known. When they believed in the finished salvation of Jesus Christ they began to experience what we in this study call Level Four Peace concerning their eternal salvation.
I recently read a book that masterfully spoke of the fallacy of trying to find peace in a man-made works system of salvation. The author convincingly made the point that if we are depending on our good works for our eternal salvation, then we can never be sure whether we have met the mark. He repeatedly asked the haunting question, “How much good is good enough?” After his excellent reasoning he led the reader to the conclusion that if we are honest when we seriously examine ourselves against God’s word, we must admit that our chances of satisfying God by our works and getting to heaven by our goodness are very bleak. The arguments were excellent. The point was brilliantly made that there is no peace in trusting in our works to reconcile us to God. But then in the last paragraphs the logic totally fell apart. The writer’s final advice was that we should not trust in our works for our salvation. Instead of trusting in our works he claimed that we should trust in our faith for our salvation.
The letdown was profound. His logic had fallen apart. His own arguments had already disproved his conclusion. I could hardly believe what I was hearing him say. I had never done it before, but I felt I had to write him a letter concerning his conclusion. In my letter I complimented his superb logic in disproving the fallacy of salvation by works. I assured him that he had convincingly proved that there was no peace in such a scheme. But then I asked him where to find peace in trusting in my faith?
In the Apostles days Jesus often told them that they had little faith or even at times that they had no faith. If these men who walked so closely with Jesus had such little faith, can I trust in my faith to save me to heaven? Jesus said that if we had the faith of a grain of mustard seed we could move mountains. I must acknowledge that I have yet to move a mountain. As a matter of confession I admit that most of the time my unbelief far exceeds my belief. Regretfully my faith is admittedly very weak. So I can find no peace in trusting that my trust in Jesus will save me to heaven. I fail to find any comfort in having faith that my faith will make the difference. My conclusion is that my works fall far short and that my faith is in the same category. So the same haunting question, “How much good is good enough?” that the author had repeatedly asked concerning our works can be just as powerfully used concerning our faith. “How much faith is faith enough?” There is no peace in contemplating either question.
But there is peace of mind when a child of God understands salvation by grace. I am thankful that God’s plan to save me does not hinge on my works. Instead of being based on my works, God’s plan of salvation is totally based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. There is a big difference between trying to find peace in thinking that my works must get me to heaven and experiencing the peace of knowing that the finished work of Jesus gets me to heaven.
Moreover, the plan of God to get me to heaven does not depend on my believing in the plan. If I believe in my belief to get me there, I have no peace. If I put my trust in my trust, I find no comfort. If I have faith in my faith to make the difference, then I fear I will burn in hell. The Bible does not say that we are to have faith in our faith. Instead it says to have faith in our Savior. Some would say that there is no difference. I say that there is a tremendous difference. If I put my faith in my weak and fickle faith I have no real peace. But if I can know God’s faultless, no-way-to-fail plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, then I can have a great peace of mind that is based in Him and not me.
God’s gift of faith was not given to me so that I might believe that my faith will save me. God’s gift of faith was given to me so that I might believe that my Savior has saved me. Jesus has saved His children whether they believe it or not. God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ whether we know it or not. But when we by faith believe what God already knows, then we have peace that assures our souls of our eternal destinies. There is little peace in trying to do good enough, or in trusting in my trust, or in having faith in my faith. But there is great peace in trusting in my Savior to have accomplished all that was necessary to get me to heaven.
Some will say, “Peace, peace when there is no peace.” The teachings that interject man into God’s way of reconciling sinners unto Himself will give some peace. You may find peace in works if you die in your sleep. You may find peace in trusting in your faith until something happens to make you begin to doubt. But real mind settling peace can only be found in knowing what God already knows, namely that God has already reconciled you to Himself by Jesus Christ. If and when you come to know this, you can in your mind be reconciled to the God who is very much reconciled to you.
Perhaps Spafford even knew of this blessed assurance. He spoke of an assurance that can control our thoughts and feelings. Though Satan should buffet, we have something more powerful than his assaults. Though trials should come, we have something that can overcome even these. Spafford spoke of a blessed assurance that can control. If our minds are controlled by the blessed assurance that comes with an understanding of what Jesus has attained in our behalf we can face anything. If I know that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul, and if I know what that accomplished, then nothing else in this world really matters. If the grace of God will bless me to let this blessed assurance control my way of thinking, then I can have peace of mind concerning the peace of mind God now has concerning my sin situation.
Some will ask why I bother to preach if God has already saved us. I answer that question by saying that I want everybody to have the peace in knowing that God has already saved us. I do not want God’s precious children to be like my mother was when she was a child. I want them to be able to know what God has done for them. If they can know that God has made peace, then they can have peace. I have a ministry of peace to proclaim. I have a message to witness to the four corners of the earth. There is a word of reconciliation that needs to be announced to the world. I want to tell anybody that will listen that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself by Jesus Christ. God’s children need to know what God knows about them. God’s people need to have the assurance in knowing that salvation has been accomplished for them. God’s children need to know that God has reconciled them to Himself by Himself, so that they can in their minds be reconciled to God. I want you to have some Level Four Peace.
Level Five Peace
Spafford wrote of Level One Peace.
When peace like a river attendeth my way
This is that hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze peace, or that lofty mountain grandeur peace, or that summer starry night peace, or that sunset on the ocean peace, or that holding a new grandson peace, or that quiet morning in the woods peace. I hope you have your moments of tranquility, your places of serenity, your times of quietness. It is soothing to the soul to pause and ponder the wonders of God. Just try to imagine what the Apostles must have felt when the Lord said to the raging sky, “Peace, be still.” Yes, there is a peace in quietness.
Spafford wrote of Level Two Peace.
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Can you imagine a declaration of wellness of soul as you stand on the rail looking into the depths that hold your four daughters? Can you understand such a calm repose, such a passive composure? It is certain that the world cannot understand such an irrational attitude. The scriptures even declare that this providential peace of God passes all understanding. So I suppose that the child of God who experiences this providential peace cannot understand what is happening in his heart and in his mind. But men like Spafford and Winfrey can attest to the world that it is real. It is not explainable, but it is real peace that can overcome real despair.
Spafford wrote of Level Three Peace.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Oh, it is a blissful thought. The whole concept of redemption is glorious. And when I think of God His Son not sparing, I scarce can take it in. It is too good to be true. No fairy tale has a happier ending. No story is more wonderful. To think that God sent His Eternal Son, His Perfect Son, His Beloved Son! My mind cannot fathom such a God. He did not need me. He is the same with or without me. But for some unexplainable reason the Holy Creator loved me enough to send His precious Son to a cross to pay a debt I owed. And this God hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Peace is made and God is satisfied. And when I further consider that the Holy Son of God willingly walked up that dreadful hill I am brought to tears. Tears of sorrow, tears of shame, tears of joy, tears of love! What a friend! What a love! What a God! And that Friend of Sinners suffered sufficiently to forever satisfy the wrath of the judgment of God against me. My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more. Eternity will be too short to praise our Savior for His unselfish sufficient salvation of sinners.
Perhaps Spafford wrote of Level Four Peace.
Let this blessed assurance control
There is a distinction between having eternal salvation and having the assurance of having eternal salvation. The salvation of God’s children is past tense, even a ‘done deal’. The debt is paid in full, nothing further required. The sinners are cleansed through and through, no further stain, spotless. God reconciled us to Himself by Himself. It is finished. God is satisfied. Salvation is accomplished. God’s children have eternal salvation and nothing can change that and none can pluck any of them from the God that saved them.
But do all that have this finished salvation know that they have it? The mission of the preacher is to declare this salvation, to take up the ministry of reconciliation and proclaim the word of reconciliation, to spread the good news. The gospel does not give life. It is the good news about the One who is the Life and the giver of life. Jesus gives the eternal life. The preacher simply tells the message of Jesus giving eternal life. Jesus has saved us and called us to eternal life. These truths are brought to light through the gospel. The preached word enlightens the child of God to the amazing grace that has already saved him. Jesus gave salvation. Belief in Jesus gives assurance of salvation.
When the message that God has already reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ is understood, the guilt stricken sinner can finally feel in his mind that he is reconciled to God. Indescribable relief fills the heart of the sinner that comes to understand God’s foolproof plan of salvation. When the child of God that already has salvation comes to understand salvation by grace and begins to sense the assurance of salvation that comes through that understanding, he has a peace of mind concerning eternal things that is more precious than any thing. He has blessed assurance; he has joy; he has rest; he has contentment. He has peace that only comes through understanding that salvation is of the Lord. He has assurance and peace about eternity. This peace of mind concerning the next world is the greatest thing a man can have in this world.
And finally Spafford wrote of Level Five Peace.
And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”, it is well with my soul
The voice of the archangel, the blast of the trumpet, the coming down of the Lord Omnipotent Savior King, the dead alive again, resurrection morning! Wow! Oh, when the faith shall be sight! I will be changed. No more doubts, no more fears, no more battle with the sinful flesh. No more looking through a glass darkly. No more reading Revelation and wondering what it means.
But best of all, the clouds are rolled back, all barriers removed, the door of heaven opened, nothing between Jesus and me! I will not have to envision a make-believe face and try to imagine what my Savior looks like. I shall see Him as He is. I shall finally be able to glorify Him with perfect untainted praise. I shall at last be totally satisfied. Oh, I do think that that will be well with my soul, and with my mind, and with my heart, and with my resurrected body. Lord, indeed, haste the day. Come quickly.
To know that something better is waiting sure helps us get through the anguish of the day. We read of a day when all troubles will be gone. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4) When I go to the nursing homes and try to preach the gospel to those lonely dying mortals, I often see tears of sorrow. Those imprisoned souls long for something better. They know crying. They have pain. They shed tears of despair. But when I preach of the hope of the resurrection, smiles replace the tears. When we sing together of heaven, joy comes alive. Oh, some day soon there will be ultimate endless peace.
To have the hope of eternal life delivers us from the despair today. To know, as John knew, that we will one day be like Jesus gives rest to the weary. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
Job certainly knew troubles, but he hoped for the ultimate peace. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:25-27)
Paul compared this world to the next and put things into perspective with these words. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
David declared that he would be finally satisfied when he awoke to see his God. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15) It is doubtful whether we are ever totally satisfied in this world. Even in our most peaceful moments there are still things in the backs of our minds that try to haunt us. But some day these haunts will be gone. Some day we will be satisfied. Peace, peace and there will be peace!
The hope of eternal life! A time of timeless endless perfect peace is a few days away!
There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye;
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be!
What did that say? All is ‘what’? All is peace. All is peace. Everything peace. Everywhere peace. All-the-time peace. Peace without end. Forevermore peace. Ultimate peace! A life forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, where all is peace! What a day! What a glorious day! What an eternity! What a glorious eternity! All by a man named Shiloh! What a God!