Self Image: Peace, Rest, Grace
by Eric S. Love
What Is Peace?
It is a fruit of the SPIRIT (Galatians 5:22): love, joy, peace…
Fruit grows on trees or plants. It has to be grown. If you have an apple tree, you will not get oranges from it. You will only get apples.
The fruit of the Spirit grows only on spirit trees. As we grow into the fullness of the Spirit – live a life worthy of our calling (Eph 4) – the fruit of the Spirit becomes natural in us, as natural as apples on an apple tree.
I believe all the other fruit are dependent on these first three: love, joy, peace…
Love is foundational to every aspect of the Christian life.
Joy should be as natural within our relationship with the Lord as oxygen in lungs. It’s our source of strength (Neh 8).
Peace is a critical fruit that is available through Christ and it is pivotal to all the remaining fruit (patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility - all of these are choices).
***A note on the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit is the manifested intimacy with God the Father (for all its purposes in our lives, that is its core mission), and really the only way to experience true intimacy within natural, physical relationships (God is love, love is God). Whether it is acting as a conduit where intimacy is communicated between people or the actual substance of intimacy itself, the purpose of the Holy Spirit is always intimacy.
Peace is first and above everything else a provision, a matter of supernatural grace, a gift from God that brings us into a place of rest. It is a force of good that works in our lives through the Holy Spirit within intimacy with the Father through Jesus. It is strong enough to overthrow strongholds.
Phillipians 4:6-7: When we choose to reject anxiety and fear and instead be thankful and communicate with God where we are and what we need, the peace of God – as a result – literally turns our hearts and minds into strongholds of faith, hope and love… this peace has nothing to do with understanding…
Peace, in a functional way, is a choice, an attitude. It’s a partnership between us and the work of the Spirit, the Truth of the Spirit. It has nothing to do with understanding and has everything to do with faith. (We tend to have more faith in what we can understand than in the promises of God. This is a dangerous place to live since our “understanding” is often based on perception, experience- usually bad- and emotion.)
Simply: Peace is the choice to be at rest in God’s grace.
Rest is being and doing the things we are created to do, designed to do, fulfilling our God-given purpose. Has more to do with being than doing.
Grace is the supernatural ability to be something that it is impossible for us to be. (Think salvation: we are saved by grace through faith… and become new creatures. Think Mary: highly favored one… a virgin who conceives the Son of God. That’s impossible – but it happens.)
Basically, all of this comes down to our self-image being cultivated by who the Father says we are within the context of intimate relationship. It is about our identity in Christ.
The Truth sets us free (John 8:31-32) but ONLY if we LIVE in the word – what the Lord speaks to us through the word and the Spirit… this is what makes us true disciples: if we choose to live in the truth of what God says about us. Then, and only then, the TRUTH SETS US FREE.
This is the perfect image of us living in peace. And it is this Word (as the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, shows us Jesus and reveals the written Word to us).
Consider what the new testament says about peace:
Luke 2:14 – Jesus is announced by angels for the first time on earth: Glory to God and PEACE on earth (Emanuel, God with us, has come – and with Him: peace)
John 14:27 – Jesus said: My peace I give you and I don’t give like the world gives
John 16:33 – Jesus said: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.
Romans 14:16-18 – The Kingdom of God is righteousness (right relationship with God), peace and joy.
Romans 16:20 – It’s the God of peace who crushes satan under our tender feet
Ephesians 2:14 – Jesus is our peace
Colossians 3:15 – God’s peace should rule our hearts
So what is peace (being at rest in God’s grace)? It is Jesus ruling our hearts, fortifying our hearts and minds, setting us free as we live in confidence – a confidence that defies our understanding at times – in God’s unalterable love for us.
This is how it works:
Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our TRUST leads to JOY AND PEACE, which results in us overflowing with HOPE as the result of Holy Spirit POWER: it is a communion of our trust in God and the work of His Holy Spirit in us, which is an act of intimacy. The Holy Spirit IS the manifested intimacy with the Father.
Being in THE PLACE OF GOD’S REST
Hebrews 4: God had promised his people that they could enter into HIS REST in the Old Testament (this is not Canaan… because He continued to make this promise after they entered Canaan), but they never entered it. God continues to promise us that we can enter into HIS REST (a more sure, promised rest than anything we’ve seen).
This rest is reserved for those who hear and obey His word out of true love for Him. (This is what Hebrews 4 says and sounds very similar to John 8, where the truth sets us free…)
First: what is the rest of God? It is being and doing the things we are created to do, designed to do, fulfilling our God-given purpose. (Israel’s purpose was always to bear His light to the world – from the very first covenant with Abraham… to BE God’s light in the world but they missed it because they chose not to walk in relationship with God – they wanted Moses to do that for them.)
Let’s look in the Garden of Eden: there were two trees… the tree of knowledge of good and evil (which they were not allowed to eat from) and the tree of life. They ate from the wrong tree – the tree of knowledge – and were driven from paradise. This paradise represents Life (Isaiah 51:3). Basically, they experienced death.
The curse on man was not that he would labor, but that his labor would be toilsome. His God-given purpose was to “keep” the garden. His curse was that now, keeping the land would hurt him. Again, having children wasn’t the curse… the pain that came with delivering a baby was the curse. Being a mother was certainly part God’s purpose.
When we choose our own understanding over the life God provides, it ALWAYS causes our purpose to come under the curse of pain and toil.
Being in God’s rest is as simple as choosing the Life which comes only through God over our own knowledge (something we can take pride in, something we can claim as our own). In Revelation 2:7, Jesus promises us that He will grant us to eat from the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God. Life is always God’s purpose for us.
Another way to say it: Romans 8:6 says the mind of the flesh (human reason without the Holy Spirit) is death, but the mind of the Spirit is Life and Peace both now and forever.
This is choice.
Our choice then is God’s promised LIFE or the fruit of our own KNOWLEDGE. (Either way we “labor,” one is toilsome and one is restful.)
Two trees = two kinds of labor:
- Knowledge: labor in our own pride and understanding
- Life: labor in our God given purpose and calling
Back to Romans 8, this time verse 13 puts it pretty clearly: If you live according to the flesh, you die. But if through the POWER of the Holy Spirit (again, intimacy) you are – by way of habit – putting to death the evil deeds of your body (that is, reason apart from Holy Spirit intimacy with God), you shall really live forever.
What binds us to the tree of knowledge and keeps us from entering the rest of God?
- A hard heart (Hebrews 3:11, 18-19).
- Hearing God but not following. (Hebrews 3:15)
- Lack of faith. (That’s why the Israelites didn’t enter the Promised Land the first time. They wandered around for 40 years afterward.) *Waiting to understand something before we believe it will just keep us wandering around in circles. We get nowhere, like a dog chasing its own tail! At some point, we HAVE TO TRUST GOD, especially when we don’t understand.
- Continuing to walk in sin (being out from under God’s government; lawlessness). It dulls our senses and turns to apathy.
Sin, at it’s most basic state, is when we do not believe God will satisfy us. We doubt He will be enough for us. That’s what led Israel to sin just on the other side of the Red Sea.
Here is how sin affects us: Sin leads to deception (we make excuses and start believing them). Deception hardens the heart. A hard heart produces unbelief – doubt. Doubt always leads us away from God. When we wander away from God (like when we fail to trust Him) it leads to sin. Terrible cycle.
Deal with areas of sin. Target grace against those things (we have supernatural ability – GRACE – to overcome areas where we live outside God’s government).
Faith is the antidote for unbelief. If doubt keeps us from entering God’s rest, faith opens the door!
What brings us again and again to the tree of life and leads us into God’s rest?
- The word of God: it is the truth and the only true reality. This is the written word and what He is SPEAKING to us through relationship.
- Faith: hearing and obeying the word (not obeying like resentful children but out of love and trust – we may not understand God, but we can understand that His only motive is love for us…. ALWAYS)
- Hope – confident expectation: walking out hope all the way through the end (which is a product of God’s word and faith
- Love: God is motivated by love. Faith is activated by love. Hope is based on love.
Hebrews 4:11: We must be zealous and strive to enter daily into this rest. Remember, being in God’s rest does NOT mean that we don’t labor… it means we labor without TOIL and our labor is fulfilling, satisfying. BUT WE HAVE TO FIGHT TO STAY IN GOD’S REST. Look, we are fighting either way. There is no such thing as existing without conflict. The promise we have is that we can be at peace within the conflict, that we can know TRUE REST by being who God says we are – His children, His people.
Hebrews 3:15: We must work against unbelief. We are to work against hardening our hearts. Hearing God is meant to provoke us to action: faith or doubt
Hebrews 4:12-13: God’s word is alive and full of power, sharper than any two-edged sword. It divides our soul (knowledge) from spirit (life), joint from marrow. It clearly sets them apart so we can choose between them. Otherwise, they are muddled together. This is why being in the Word is SO dang important.
The double-edged sword uncovers what we are made of and demands a response: an act of trust or an act of fear. WE HAVE TO LIVE IN THE WORD.
Grace and the Word (July 8, 2007)
Embracing GRACE (no matter how you feel about yourself) is an important step on the way to intimacy with God.
But it’s only a step… Grace defies our sin, but if we stay at the point where we simply embrace grace regardless of our sin we will learn to use grace as an excuse for our sin. That kills the effectiveness of grace.
What’s the next step? Learning to target our sin with the power of GRACE. That will kill it.
How do we do that? By combining the disciplines of
BEING WITH GOD, what we call prayer (talking with Him, hearing Him, interacting with Him on an individual and intimate level – this teaches us to embrace grace)
and STUDYING THE WORD (2 Timothy 2:15: study to present yourself TO GOD approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly dividing the Word of Truth)
Without cause to be ashamed, there is no shame (nothing to be insecure about); this confidence leads to a healthy self-image, less clutter to confuse our thoughts and emotions. Then we can “correctly divide the Word” in our lives.
How do we use GRACE to target our sin?
1. By being in the Word, using it to keep us focused, engaged
2. By being in friendship with God, allowing that relationship to ground us in the reality of who we are and who He is
One is the brick. The other is the mortar.
The accountability of True Relationship is as powerful in overcoming sin in our lives as anything because sometimes it is not enough to want the right things for ourselves alone (we have a terrible capacity to look beyond the consequence of bad decisions in order to enjoy, even briefly, the fleeting pleasures we find there).
This is why FRIENDSHIP with God, not just respect, fear or religious infatuation, is vital for growing in Christ. The Holy Spirit allows us the freedom to interact with God on an intimate and personal level.
The Word is what gives us weight. It’s what locks us in. It’s the boundaries of the accountability of the Word that makes is possible for us to live in freedom.
The freedom of a flag to fly in the wind is dependant upon it being attached to the pole.
The lightest birds can only fly above the tree tops. It’s the heavier birds that fly to mountain tops. It’s the weight of their bodies that allows them to fly against the wind without being blown away.
***Both the accountability of our Friendship with God and the accountability of the Word are vital for spiritual growth. In this way, God’s grace will attack and overcome the annoying areas of disobedience.***