TUMBLING DOWN or JUST ANOTHER BRICK
I once read a story about a Piccolo player who had a perfect attendance record for all the orchestra’s practices. He attentively focused in on the conductor, following his every lead to perfection. One day the conductor pointed out the man’s faithfulness, commenting on how he wished all the other members would become just like him, “always here, always faithful.” The Piccolo player raised hand and interjected, “Sir, I just want you to know I won’t be able to make the performance, so I have attempted to make every practice to make up for it.” Bummer. Many Christians are like this, well rehearsed but absent when it counts the most.
Walls of Division
“Finish the repair: Expert in building and replenishing walls (business statement for a stonemason in New Mexico).” There are a lot of people who are like this stonemason, experts in building and replenishing walls. Every time we build walls we chip away at our level of peace. All of us become really good at building these walls. We learn how to do it when we are young in order to keep things secret from our parents and peers, sometimes to mask our deficiencies, other times to protect ourselves. We build walls to separate our inner life from our outer life. We separate our secrets from our friends and our insecurities are hidden. We hide from ourselves and we hide ourselves from others. Brick by brick, stone by stone, our personal walls grow higher and higher every year we live. Sometimes the walls become castles surrounded by deep, crocodile infested moats. We raise the drawbridge, put up our flag and live in the misery of loneliness and alienation. As long as we allow ways to exist between me and God, others and me, and between the real me and my self created image, peace is an elusive commodity.
Our passage helps us to see these walls and assists us in developing a strategy in tearing them down. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace has manifested His presence to destroy these walls. Paul mentions peace three time from the 11th verse to the 22nd verse of Ephesians 2. His assertion is that Jesus isn’t just an enforcer of peace, He is peace. When we become found in Him, this attribute of peace becomes an activated commodity among us, as we become peacemakers. This is really important to understand from an impartational aspect, as part of our inheritance we are supposed to enjoy is peace.
Holy Spirit inspired Paul to give us a history lesson in order to help us realize the full impact of this foundational truth by hitting us between the eyes with the difficulties that have existed between Jews and Gentiles and the walls that have existed between them throughout the ages, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation (Ephesians 2:13-14). Paul’s reference to the “middle wall of separation” is addressing the wall that existed between the court of the Gentiles and the courts of Israel in the Temple. There was a court for women, for men, and the Holy Place where all the sacrifices were performed. Right past this was the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant. On the Great Day of Atonement, the High Priest would sacrifice a lamb to God for the sins of the people. He would go behind the curtain and offer the blood to God.
Gentiles were not allowed to go past their court. On the wall that separated the space read a sign that said in Greek and Latin: “Anyone passing this point will be prosecuted and put to death.” Side note: the sign was excavated in 1817. When Jesus died on the cross, His completed work of atonement and reconciliation was completed and His offering of blood to the Father ripped open the curtain that had been the focal point of separation, keeping the people from the presence of the LORD. This aspect of separation is what the enemy continues to try and erect between believers and God. It is why we will always be a presence church, as we counter the work of the enemy. We are the witnesses to the power of peace and reconciliation.
Walls that Protect
Peace with God, like Justification, is positional and unchanging. We have peace and have been reconciled because we are in Christ, surrounded by His wall of peace. It is stationary. Our position of peace is one of leveraged power: we have the advantage of being greatly resourced, even when we don’t always see the results immediately. The word “peace” in the New Testament (Greek: eireinei), is used as a word which describes the result of a person’s correct response to God’s Grace. This is where the advantage comes into play.
The New Testament explains that the peace promised by the prophets is peace with God: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14), and Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1) This tells us that we find peace with God through faith in Jesus.
This peace was provided through the justification provided by the “guilt offering” sacrifice of the Messiah, as predicted by Isaiah: But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12)
Peace as Empowerment
That’s the context of Christ as our peace. Isaiah saw this when he prophesied in Isaiah 57:19, “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” This is the likely Old Testament basis for this passage in Ephesians. It means, peace to the Gentiles and the Jews through my Messiah. Isaiah also identifies Jesus as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9. Again, He is the releaser of profound peace at a high cost, the cross. Everywhere Jesus went, He tore at the walls of division that separated people. Think about what He did. He didn’t call Rabbi’s and Priests into His ministry circle, He called 12 regular Joes. Then He taught them that the ministry wasn’t the exclusive property of the Jews. In fact, it was the equal possession of Gentiles.
Jesus ministered to women and treated them as equals to men. He offered love and forgiveness to tax collectors and prostitutes. That’s why it says, He is our peace, who has made both one. Jesus is peace. Our peace. There is no way to know real peace without Him. That’s why the world is wacked out. Jesus peace is the peace of forgiveness, acceptance and pardon. The focal point of this passage is the cross as the agency of peace. The beauty of belonging to Jesus is knowing that His work of redemption helps us to overcome our jumbled feelings and areas where we haven’t accepted the power of forgiveness.
Deep inner peace is the fruit of sodzo ministry, the cleansing of our memories. Healing of this nature takes our future reality and applies it to our past actions, as we walk in the truth that nothing stands between us and God, unless we build a wall of our own making. Jesus loves to conquer our walls, going into the deepest places of our wounds in order to make us well. It is His contention that you are you are more than your past and that you are to never be defined by your failures. Jesus is always with us to expunge our points of pain.
Here’s another main item we need to consider as God’s people. The enmity that existed between the Gentiles and the Jews was based on Jewish arrogance and attitudes of superiority. The wall of separation existed beyond the inner wall in the Temple. It existed in their hearts. We have to guard against the recreation of these self same walls of religiosity. They are attitudes that will quench the Spirit and dry up the wellspring of renewal faster than anything else.
PEACE THAT DWELLS
Jesus peace is natural by-product of His abiding presence. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). One of the factors that emerges in this paradigm is that Jesus peace is more than the feeling we get when things are going our way or the times when there are no major problems in or lives. Make a mental note of this as we are approaching a New Year. Jesus peace is more than a profound resolution of external conflicts. When Jesus says, “Shalom,” It’s more than a greeting or an emotion. Peace is His life, death and message combined. When Jesus sets up residence in us through Holy Spirit, He intends to serve notice to our fears and anxieties, quieting the storms of inner turmoil, and setting us p as Kingdom administrators, real life peacemakers.
When believers use fear tactics to control or anger to intimidate, Kingdom ground is lost. Jesus peace needs to be our chief weapon in our combat arsenal. Without it reconciliation is impossible. Harmony will be elusive in marriages, churches, communities and our nation. Peace begins with THE Person and then filters throughout His people. When we are filled with His presence, we become peace, modeling grace and mercy. This leads us to a very personal question: are you willing to forgive the way Jesus does? He has forgiven before a request is made.
To be a peacemaker means we go to people who have hurt us with love and acceptance and forgiveness regardless of whether they deserve to be forgiven or want to be forgiven.
The Peacemaker wants us to be carried away into oneness and wholeness. He longs for us to experience all that He has for us impartationally. Are you immersed in His peace or are you like the Piccolo player, missing the real performance while being fully qualified? Are you a conduit for peace? Is your marriage suffering discord that would cease if you would just say, “I’m sorry?” Are you a manipulator through anger or fear? If so, lay it down and pick up the power of peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. There is another funny little story about a little girl who had to quote this passage in a pageant. She made a minor mistake by saying, “The peace that passes all misunderstanding.” That’s the type of peace we want to walk out.
Words that are knowledgeable: are you feeling any better… has that situation resolved… have you figured out what you need to do? None of the questions offer solutions. Each question does provide an opening for conversation. This a truth about life: everyone of us is getting over some situation that’s difficult, challenging or we are facing the unknown through an opportunity via an open door.
These points of uncertainty brings about a commonality among all of us. We all need to encounter peace in the midst of life’s uncertainties. When we find that deep, endearing, unchanging peace, we go through a life revolution. Ask yourself this, do I have a deep sense of calm and a feeling of well-being? Do I know that Jesus’ arms are around me, grant me the assurance that no matter what happens, everything will be OK?