How to Experience Peace

peaceful man at end of pier via pxhere - public domain

“I Have Overcome the World”

“I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

His disciples said, “Ah, now you’re speaking plainly and not using parables or figures of speech. Now we know that you know all things. this is why we believe you came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:28-33

Jesus explains in a more direct way about how he came from the Father and will soon leave the world and go back to the Father.

Then his disciples say, “Oh, OK, now we get it. Now we believe.”

And Jesus says, “Do you now believe?” And he proceeds to tell them ahead of time how they’ll respond when the authorities come to arrest Jesus. You’ll scatter and “leave me alone,” Jesus says. “Yet I’m not alone, for the Father is with me.”

Then Jesus says, “I said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Pursuing Art for Art’s Sake

I just finished Drew Dyck’s excellent book Generation Ex-Christian. Easily the best book I’ve ever read about how to reach prodigals. In it he talks about how some people believe that art is good for art’s sake.

In the nineteenth century, there was a movement that came to be known as “art for art’s sake.” Proponents of this philosophy rejected the conventional view that art needed to serve a practical purpose or appeal to a classical ideal. In their eyes, art had intrinsic value, regardless of whether or not it contributed anything practical to society. Art was its own justification for creating art.

This view of art is debatable. Yet I appreciate the idea behind it. When you truly love something, it purifies your motives. Instead of loving it for its practical benefits, you are compelled by love of the thing itself.”

Transactional Christianity

The discussion in Drew Dyck’s book about art made me think of my attitude toward God and Christ and the attitude of some of my believing friends. As Christians, whether unconsciously or consciously, we can seek Jesus for practical transactional purposes. If I have Jesus, then I get something in return.

If I have Jesus, maybe God will keep me safe from tribulation.

If I have Jesus, then I’ll get to go to heaven.

If I have Jesus, then he can help me get out of this bind.

If I have Jesus, God will give me the resources to pay my bills.

If I have Jesus, and pray for that new job, maybe God will give it to me.

If I have Jesus, and try to do what he says, then God will give me a good marriage relationship.

Or, if you’re single, if I have Jesus, and ask for a wife, maybe God will provide me with my soulmate.

So let’s get the first item out of the way (if I have Jesus God will keep me safe). We see in today’s passage that Jesus declared to us plainly, “In the world you will have tribulation.” So yes, God may choose to spare you from a specific tribulation in response to prayer, but in general, tribulation is part of the human experience for all of us. And there are even tribulations specific to Jesus followers. Just have a look at the lives of the disciples in the book of Acts and beyond. (For more on God and suffering, see this previous post: God and My Pain and Suffering.)

The rest of the examples on the list of what we can get from receiving Christ are either a sure thing like heaven, or at least a good possibility, like a good marriage relationship. Whatever the benefit, the point is, there can be a human tendency to approach our relationship with Jesus in a transactional way.

But here’s the deal: An attitude of desiring Jesus for the practical benefits that come with our receiving him just gets in the way of what Jesus wants for us.

Pursuing Jesus for Jesus’ Sake

When Jesus says,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

He’s saying we can experience his peace and joy in the midst of our tribulation. He’s saying we can enjoy his peace even during this life on earth, before we enter into heaven. But there’s something that has to happen for us to realize this experience.

We see an example of what this is and how this works from Jesus himself in today’s passage. Jesus talks about how when the persecution comes, everyone will abandon him and he’ll be alone. But then he shares the reason why he’ll be able to keep God’s peace and endure all the torment right up to the cross.

He says, “Yet I’m not alone, for the Father is with me.”

Jesus’ peace remains with him through his trial because he still has his Father with him. And because that means so much more than anything else to Jesus, Jesus is able to not just endure his tribulation, but he even loves and forgives the very people who persecute him.

After his discussion of pursuing art for art’s sake, Drew Dyck writes about pursuing Jesus for Jesus’ sake,

“When it comes to Jesus, we definitely have someone worthy of our unqualified devotion.”

When I was younger, I would often go through tribulation without experiencing Jesus’ peace. And I think it was because I had this practical transactional approach to my relationship with him.

As I get older, I’m realizing more and more that the secret to experiencing Jesus’ peace even in the midst of tribulation is for me to forget about all the practical benefits and seek after Jesus for Jesus’ sake.

So instead of pursuing Jesus for the associated practical rewards, my life changes when I pursue Jesus seeking as my reward:

Jesus.

God is the ultimate reward. When I feel that, my faith becomes as authentic as it possibly can. When I seek Jesus himself as my ultimate reward my faith is pure. And my perspective changes. Big problems suddenly become much smaller. My priorities change and God moves to the top. He becomes my ultimate. I find myself able to extend grace and love and forgiveness to others. I can even find myself loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me. (see Matthew 5:44)

And I experience Jesus’ peace, even in the midst of tribulation.

I freely confess, I’m just beginning to learn this way of thinking and feeling.

Jesus said you and I should “take heart” because “I have overcome the world.”

I don’t know about you, but I, Kurt Bennett, can’t overcome the world. So for me to experience the peace that comes from overcoming the world, I have to be completely connected with Jesus. Jesus even includes this qualifier when he says “in me you may have peace.” (emphasis mine) “In” Jesus. You can’t get any more intimate than that. (see John 17:21-23)

I hope you’ll join me in pursuing Jesus for Jesus’ sake alone.

(You might also like Senna Part 2–Teach us to number our days)

Notes:

Image of peaceful man on the pier via pxhere.com — public domain

 

1106 Design Love Like Jesus Book Cover

Coming in January of 2020:

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindle, hardcover, and paperback are scheduled to come out in 2020.)

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