A PERFECT PEACE THAT WILL NEVER CEASE

A PERFECT PEACE THAT WILL NEVER CEASE

The prophet Isaiah has been rightly called The “Messianic” prophet because he had so much to say about Jesus the Messiah.  He probably wrote more about the salvation that Jesus was to bring than any other Old Testament writer. (Percentage wise, Zechariah may have said more, but he only wrote fourteen chapters compared to Isaiah and his sixty-six).

 Paul wrote that the “Holy Scriptures” (Old Testament Scriptures) are “able to make us wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-16).  A study of Isaiah proves that to be true. I like to think of the book of Isaiah as “The Gospel according to Isaiah”. We are all familiar with the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but there is also the gospel according to Amoz’s  son (Isa. 1:1)

Isaiah tells us about the Lord’s Birth (7:14, & 9:6), the Lord’s Behavior (11:1-5), the Lord’s Bruises (53:4-11), and the Lord’s Blessings (61:1-3).  Isaiah saw the Lord’s Glory (6:1-5), specified the Lord’s Government (2:2-4; & 9:6-7), spoke of the Lord’s Grief (53:3,4, & 10), and stressed the Lord’s Grace  (45:25; 49:8-10; & 53:11).  Isaiah refers to the Lord’s Position (52:13-14), the Lord’s Preaching (61:1-3), the Lord’s Pain (50:6), the Lord’s Pardon (53:4-12), and the Lord’s Peace (9:6-7; 53:5). What he says about the Lord’s “peace” is what we want to focus on in this particular study. Two of my favorite verses in the Old Testament are, and have been since the first time I read it them, Isaiah 26:3 & 4. These verses read as follows:

            “You will keep him in perfect peace

             Whose mind is stayed on You,

              Because he trusts in You.

              Trust in the Lord forever,

              For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”

As we study these verses I want us to observe the PROMISE, the PERSON, and the POWER.

THE PROMISE

 Notice, first of all, the promise, “You will keep him in perfect peace”. (Isa. 26:3a) Observe carefully that this peace is “perfect”. This means it is “Without fault or defect, satisfying all the requirements.” (Webster). It means “completeness” (Strong).  When I think of the word perfect I think of words like, pure, ideal, flawless, exact, absolute, complete, whole, precise etc. It is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:6). It is the peace that only Jesus gives. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn. 14:27).  It is the “peace with God” that we have in Christ that Paul referred to in Romans 5:1. It is the “peace from God” that is referred to in almost every book of the New Testament. For example:

  1. Peace from God (Romans 1:7).
  2. Peace from God (1 Corinthians 1:3)
  3. Peace from God (2 Corinthians 1:2)
  4. Peace from God (Galatians 1:3).
  5. Peace from God (Ephesians 1:2).
  6. Peace from God (Philippians 1:2).
  7. Peace from God (Colossians 1:2).
  8. Peace from God (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  9. Peace from God (2 Thessalonians 1:2).
  10. Peace from God (1 Timothy 1:2).

          k Peace from God (2 Timothy 1:2).

  1. Peace from God (Titus 1:4).
  2. Peace from God (Philemon 1:3).

(See also the other books of the New Testament such as Hebrews 13:20; James 3:18; I Peter 5:14; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 1:3; 3 John 1:14;; Jude 1:2; and Revelation 1:4.)

 Observe it is:    Peace of God (Phil 4:6).

                          Peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

                          Peace from God (Rom. 1:7).

 Isaiah said, “Lord, You will establish peace for us” (Isa. 26:12). Notice that this something the Lord is going to do “for us”. It is not something we are capable of doing ourselves. How would He establish this peace? He answers in chapter 53:5, “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” He “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). 

 As Paul said, “He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). Jesus “Himself is our peace” because He established “peace for us” when He suffered “the chastisement for our peace” and thus “made peace through the blood of His cross”. That is how He keeps us in “perfect peace”. It is not partial peace, it is perfect peace. It is not temporary peace, it is permanent peace. It is a perfect peace that will never cease.

THE PERSON

Who is this person who has this perfect peace? It is the one “Whose mind is stayed on You” (Isa. 26:3b). It is the person whose mind is stayed on the price He has paid. It is a person whose mind is fixed and focused on Jesus. God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Jesus and His sacrifice. This does not necessarily mean that we will be at peace within ourselves all the time, but it does mean that we will be at peace with God continually.

Illustration: No one who is married and/or has children can have peace within (much less perfect peace) for any length of time. Like one husband wrote on his wife’s tombstone:

                             Here lies my wife and let her lie.

                             She’s now at peace and so am I.

Or the wife who said,  I knew I married Mr. Right But I had no idea that his first name was “Always.”

Too many times we may think that our peace with God depends on our peace within. But we can be torn apart within and still be at peace with God. Why? Because our peace with God is based on our trust in Jesus and what He has done for us, and not on the absence of trouble in our own lives. For example, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation…” (Jn. 16:33). Furthermore, Paul knew that “having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). However, there were times in his own life when he was troubled and not at peace internally. For example note the following statements he made on certain occasions:

  1. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling (1 Cor. 2:3)
  2. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, we areperplexed, but not in despair…(2 Cor. 4:8). Note: The word “perplexed” means “to be without a way, embarrassed, in doubt” (Vine); “to be in doubt, not knowing which way to turn, or what to do” (Strong); “uncertain” (McCord).
  3. We were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.. (2 Cor. 7:5).
  4. Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us.. (2 Cor. 7:6). Note: McCord’s translation says “lowly”.
  5. Our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life(2 Cor.1:8). Note: The New Living Translation has, “We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it”.
  6. I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother.. (2 Cor. 2:13). Note: The NIV has “I still had no peaceof mind..”; the NCVtranslates it, “But I had no peace…”

The point is, when Paul uses words like: weakness, fear, much trembling, hard-pressed, perplexed, troubled, inside were fears, downcast, burdened,  despaired, and no rest in my spirit, we know he did not always have peace of mind. He worried about others, he worried about himself, he let problems get to him at times, and he had the same fears and weaknesses that are common to us all. And yet, no matter what the problem, or how he let it affect him, he still always had “peace with God” because he was “in Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The thing we must remember is that God has established “peace for us” and He keeps those who trust Him in “perfect peace”, regardless of the circumstances, or frame of mind, we may sometimes find ourselves in at times. We may not always have total peace internally, but we do have perfect peace eternally, because of what Jesus has accomplished for us.

THE POWER

Finally, I want us to observe the power that makes this perfect peace possible for this pardoned person. Notice that Isaiah says we are to “trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4). He “will establish peace for us, For You have also done all our works in us” (Isa. 26:12). As Paul said, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:6).  God has begun a good work in us and He will complete it (Phil. 1:6). It is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). He works in us what is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:20-21).

Therefore, as the song says:

                             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.

Why is it always well with my soul even when “sorrows like sea billows roll”? The answer is in these two great verses in the Old Testament:

YOU WILL KEEP HIM IN PERFECT PEACE

Whose mind is stayed on YOU,

Because he TRUSTS IN YOU.

TRUST IN THE LORD FOREVER

For IN JEHOVAH, the Lord, is

EVERLASTING STRENGTH.

Conclusion: We have learned that God has supplied for us A PERFECT PEACE THAT WILL NEVER CEASE. It is a perfect peace for a pardoned people even though we may have personal problems that may sometimes rob us of our own peace of mind. It is a peace based on His promise, His pardon and His power. It is a peace that does not depend on our perfection, our performance, our productivity, or even on our perceptions (we may not even fully perceive the peace we really have, but He keeps us in perfect peace whether we fully realize it or not). This perfect peace depends on our trust in Him and Him alone.  He Himself is our peace. (Eph. 2:14). And we receive His peace when we receive Him into our hearts and are baptized into His name (Col. 2:6 & 12).

Wayne Dunaway

ohatcheechurchofchrist.org

Why I Observe/Celebrate The Thanksgiving And Christmas Holidays!

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I choose to celebrate/observe the National Holidays that have religious connotations like Thanksgiving and Christmas since they are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Some of those who asked me think it is wrong, others have serious doubts about it, and some just did not know either way. The following article will give the reasons why I observe these National Holidays that honor God.

One. According to the Dictionary the word “holiday” means: “1: holy day 2: a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically: a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” The word holiday can mean a “holy day” but, according to the second definition, it can also mean “a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” In America the Thanksgiving Holiday is celebrated more in the sense of the second definition than the first. It is actually in this sense that I observe the day. I do what most people in America do: spend time with the family, eat a Thanksgiving meal, watch football (Detroit Lions versus whoever), sleep, eat some more etc. Therefore, I do not observe the Thanksgiving Day as a “holy day” in the strict sense of the words (holy + day). The National Holidays are not “holy + days” per se, but rather days “marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” That is the sense in which I observe them. I personally do not know anyone who celebrates/observes Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day in the same sense that the Jews observed their holy days in the Old Testament. But since I observe the fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other National Holidays, I see no reason not to observe Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way. I am glad that we have a day set aside to commemorate our freedom and honor our soldiers, and I am also glad that we have days relating to thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is much the same way that I refer to the word Sunday. When I refer to Sunday it is not in the sense of “sun + day” (honoring the “sun”), but rather the first day of the week and on the first day of the week there are certain things I do (assemble for worship, etc.) that I do not do on other days and that is the sense in which I observe the National Holidays.

Two. It is my understanding that when Paul condemned observing “days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10), he was condemning those who were attempting to be “justified” by the law of Moses (Gal. 5:4). He was telling those who wanted to bind the law of Moses, which included “circumcision” (Gal. 5:3) and “days, months, and years” (Gal. 4:10) on Christians as the means of justification, that they had “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). The law of Moses was a “yoke of bondage” and Christians are free from that arrangement (Gal. 5:1). It is my judgment that this is the sense (seeking justification by keeping the law of Moses which commanded observing “days”) in which the Bible condemns observing special days. I do not observe our National Holidays in this sense and I never have.

Three. God gives the liberty to each Christian to be fully persuaded “in his own mind” concerning observing certain days in other contexts and for other reasons. For example, Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day above another” and “another who esteems every day alike.” Then he adds, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5-6). These verses clearly teach that a person can “esteem one day above another” if he chooses to, as long as does not condemn those who choose to do otherwise, and that is exactly what I do. I do not demand that anyone observe National Holidays with religious connotations, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, as I do, but I let each one make up his own mind. I am not going to let anyone stop me from observing these days in the way I observe them, and I am not going to demand that any brother/sister start observing the days unless he/she wants to. I choose to honor the days because I think it honors God for our Nation to have National Holidays that focus on giving God thanks and commemorating the birth of Jesus.

Four. Many (and probably most) of the Christians I know do exactly what those of us who “observe the Thanksgiving Holiday” do. They get together with their families for Thanksgiving meals, churches give out food or make special contributions to worthy causes, and they wish people “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Holiday” etc. If they are not observing the “day” it would be hard for anyone to realize it. It certainly has an “appearance of evil” if it is wrong (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV). The same goes for the Christmas holiday. They put up Christmas trees, give gifts, have Santa Claus, sing carols, change services from Wednesday to Tuesday, give Christmas or Holiday fruit baskets, wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday–which has to be “Christmas” since that is only National Holiday in December that is observed by Christians—and do many other things that those of us who observe the day do.( By the way, it seems a little strange, to say the least, that there are some in our country and, sad to say, even in the church, who think that saying “Happy Holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas” actually changes anything. If I wish someone a “Happy Holiday” in July then I must be referring to “Independence Day” because that is the only National Holiday in July. Therefore, I am wishing them a Happy “Independence Day” whether I like it or not, or whether I actually say it or not, because that is the only Holiday observed. It would seem a little strange to wish them a Happy Holiday, but not be referring to “Independence Day.” If I were opposed to observing “Independence Day” then I would avoid any reference to a “Holiday” altogether. I would also avoid doing the things that others do in celebrating the day—putting up flags, fireworks, etc. The same is true of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I were opposed to observing these National Holidays then I would avoid using the words “Happy Holiday” that refer solely and only to theses days in the minds of Christians in these months. For example, I do not observe the Jewish holiday “Hanukkah” (“an 8-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus of Syria”) that is celebrated/observed by the Jewish people in December. Therefore, I do not say “Merry Hanukkah” or “Happy Holiday” when referring to that day. I avoid it altogether. I do not do what the Jewish people do who celebrate/observe the day, because I personally do not observe the day as a Holiday. I purposely avoid doing those things that the Jewish people do, because I do not want anyone to think I was observing it. If others want to observe it that is fine, but not me. If, as a Christian, I was opposed to the Christmas Holiday I would not: put up Christmas trees and Christmas lights, or send Christmas/holiday cards, or give Christmas gifts, or have Christmas parties, or change meeting times because of Christmas eve or Christmas day, or sing Christmas carols, or give out Christmas/Holiday fruit baskets, or wish people a Merry Christmas” or Happy (Christmas) Holiday, or do any of the other things that those who celebrate and observe the day typically do. Personally, I would either have get in or get out. I would not try to do something that appears to “straddle the fence” or “come down on both sides of the question.” I would either leave it alone altogether, or do like most everyone else does. I would not be comfortable doing the same things that others do, who observe/celebrate the day, and then say that I am not celebrating/observing it.

Five. I know that there is nothing specifically said in the Bible about our country making Thanksgiving and Christmas National Holidays. But neither is there anything in the Bible that specifically says that we should have the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, but I am glad to participate in making the pledge, and I am especially proud that I live in a country that has the phrase as part of the pledge. Also, there is nothing in the Bible that specifically says we should have “in God we trust” on our money, but I certainly support the idea and would personally oppose removing the phrase. In the same way, I am glad that I live in a country that has a day set aside to give thanks to God (Thanksgiving) and a day to commemorate the birth of Jesus (Christmas).

Six. Is there any indication as to what Jesus Himself would do in a similar situation? I believe there might be. Most scholars that I have read agree that the Christmas Holiday originated with men (who wanted to honor God) and not specifically from the teaching of the New Testament. But it seems to me that the Jews could have had a similar kind of holiday as well. It is known as the “Feast of Dedication” or “Chanukah” or “Hanukah.” You will not find it anywhere in the Old Testament. As far as we know, it originated with man, because it did not come about from a direct statement of God found in the Old Testament. It commemorates the deliverance and re-dedication of the temple during the Maccabean period of Jewish history. But what did Jesus do during the Feast of Dedication? (Read John 10:22-24). He evidently did not boycott it. As far as I know, He did not condemn others for observing it. He used it as an opportunity to teach. On a day when the people commemorated their deliverance from Antiochus, Jesus teaches them about Himself. Would I be wrong to do what Jesus did on this occasion? Instead of boycotting Christmas or avoiding it altogether, I see an opportunity to become all things to all men in order to teach them more about Jesus (1 Cor. 9:19-22). In my judgment, it is far better to teach about the birth of Jesus, and what His coming means to the world, rather than to condemn those who honor His birthday even though most admit that no one actually knows the exact day. It is a great time to teach them how people can be honestly mistaken about things taught in the Bible (such as, three wise men, wise men coming to stable, etc), rather than condemn them for things that are not wrong in and of themselves. In a time when many people are thinking about the baby Jesus, I think it is also an ideal time to teach them about the babe who is now the risen Lord!

Seven. Since so many in our nation are trying to take God out of everything, I personally am not going to encourage them by opposing, or neglecting, things that focus attention on thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is also interesting (and disturbing) to me that many in our Nation only want to take Christ out of the Holidays. Some, who would not object to the “Thanksgiving” holiday, do object to the “Christmas” holiday. They would not want to take “Thanks” out of “Thanksgiving,” or “Independence” out of the fourth, or “Veterans” out of “Veterans Day,” or “Those who died for our country” out of “Memorial Day,” etc. But when it comes to Christmas, which is a National Holiday “that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday,” people want the take Jesus out altogether. There was no “room” for Jesus in the “Inn” in Bethlehem, and more and more people are finding no room for Him in our country and even in some of our Churches. I realize that some in our Churches have honest convictions about leaving Jesus out of it, but in my judgment this is one of the things that they need to reconsider, especially among those who have “Christmas” but do not have “Christ” as part of it. There is probably more objection to the holiday honoring Christ (Christmas), than all of the other holidays combined. I wonder why that is?

Eight. There is much more in the Bible about the birth of Christ than most people realize, and what better time to teach it than at a time of the year when people are thinking about it. (By the way, most people are going to think more about His birth during the Christmas season than at any other time of the year, whether they want or not. Some are going to think about it positively and focus on His birth and why he came. Others are going to think negatively and how those of us who focus on His birth should not be focusing on His birth. But most Christians are going to think more about it in one way or the other. Some will look at the manger scenes and Christmas things and think that it is, “A Most Wonder Time of the Year.” Others will see the same scenes and think that people should not be thinking about manger scenes and Christmas things, and they will think about how they should not think about it at all. But, regardless of the reason, most will think more about it in one way or the other). I usually speak/think about freedom during the fourth of July week. I usually speak/think about memorials during the week of Memorial Day. I usually speak/think about Thanksgiving during the Thanksgiving Holiday week. So why wouldn’t I speak/think/sing about the birth of Jesus in December. In my judgment, there is no better time of the year to teach about who He is, how He came, and why He came (especially concerning His birth) than at Christmas time. Furthermore, most Christians I know believe it right to preach about the birth of Jesus any time I want to. Therefore, I always want to preach about His birth at Christmas.

Nine. One of my main reasons for observing and supporting the Christmas Holiday is the attention that Jesus gets. I watched on TV the “Disneyland Christmas Parade” from Orland, Florida. It was a great parade and one of things I was impressed with most was the “Christmas Songs” focusing on the birth of Jesus. People from all races, backgrounds, and religions watched and listened as the performers sang about Jesus and His birth. I saw some of those in the audience singing along with the “Stars.” They sang: “Away In A Manger” and they called “Jesus” the “little Lord Jesus.” They sang, “O Holy Night” and they said, “It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” There were other songs that put the emphasis on Jesus and His coming into the world as well as why He came. Whether the singers were sincere or not is not mine to say. But like Paul said, “whether in pretence or in truth Christ is preached and I therein rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18).

Ten. The following is part of what Dale Jenkins published on his blog.

Regardless of how you feel about how Christmas and other holidays should be celebrated (and there are all sorts of shades and arguments on this one. The most interesting one I heard said we shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving – yes, Thanksgiving – because Christians should be thankful all the time) it would seem plain foolish to overlook the stats below and not capture this moment for the Lord and His Cause:
Top Five Times People Are Open To Considering Matters Of Faith…
#5 – After the birth of a baby (28%)
#4 – After a natural disaster (34%)
#3 – After a major national crisis i.e. 9/11 (38%)
#2 – During the Easter season (38%)
#1 – During the Christmas season (47%)
Chris Robison
Director
YMCA of Scottsville & Allen County
237.5704
Eleven: Since Christ is “in season” during the Christmas Holidays why any of us would not want to take positive advantage of that is hard to understand and openly opposing it is even harder–especially in our culture and the way our Nation seems to be headed. But it is probably still true that the “children of world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lk. 16:8). Why do I say that? Because the “children of the world” in our generation today seem to take advantage of every opportunity to oppose God, while the “children of light” neglect and even oppose what seem to me to be excellent opportunities to magnify the Jesus and what He has done.

Of course, I am not saying that other Christians have to agree with me on these matters, but these are my personal views as to why I choose to observe and celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays.

Finally, I hope all of you have a “Happy Thanksgiving” and a “Merry Christmas” or, if it makes you feel better……“Happy Holidays.” Of course, if you don’t like either greeting, I wish you a “Happy New Year”….there is nothing “religious” or “God honoring” about that in the minds of most. Blessings!

Wayne Dunaway
waynedunaway@gmail.com
ohatcheechurchofchrist.org