When questioned by his mother what he learned in Sunday School, eight-year-old Justin answered, ‘We learned when God sent Moses behind the enemy lines to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. The teacher said that when they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for the engineers to build a pontoon bridge and they all just barely got across it in time, because the Egyptians were right behind them, coming in tanks and Moses radioed headquarters on the walkie-talkie to send bombers to blow up the bridge and they did and all the Egyptians were stuck and that’s how Moses saved the Israelites.’
The mother questioned, ‘Justin is that really the way the teacher told the story?’ Justin quietly confessed, ‘Well, not exactly, but if I told it her way you’d never believe it.’
That’s where we find ourselves today. We have a story that just seems to be easier to ‘un-believe’ rather than believe. Yet the whole story is rooted in the fact that believing it is what makes the story so easy. Even the best of us seem to have an innate ability to hear a wonderfully delivered sermon, or read a gifted author, or see miraculous events with our own eyes and two days later (if not two hours later) find ourselves second guessing our heart’s original interpretation of those events. Something about our nature interrupts our heart. I remember writing a couple of letters ago about how for years we’ve been taught that the Gospel is real in our heads but we just can’t seem to get it to drop down in our hearts. Steve Wiggins has a song on the station about the “18 Inches Journey” describing just that image. However, after a few years thinking about it, I think we have our image of that backwards. The Spirit of Christ’s home is in our hearts, He has taken up residence there. Our real problem is that when we come into contact with our heart (and His presence there) we quickly start walking back. We start losing what’s true in our heart because we simply can’t get what’s in our heart settled in our brain. Paul taught of a transformation that must take place, a metamorphosis of our minds. A migration from depending upon what we think all the time to what we know in our inner being is the transformation we need. How many times have you known the right thing to do, the best thing to do, you know that from your heart but your thinking/logic machine keeps you from acting on the Truth contained in your heart? We’re guilty of recalling too much in our heads and dismissing what we know in our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33- ‘…saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ A New Covenant, a new way for God to relate and to walk with believers!)
Part of our problem is that the Gospel is not a logical Faith. So much of it is upside down contrasted to our training and education. Jesus was upside down on just about everything. Losing is winning, giving is receiving, Faith as a mustard seed produces huge Faith, a King without a place to lay His head, the last will be first, etc. His is a Kingdom, for all practical and logical purposes, that squeezes our ‘gray matter’. It’s a Message that comes with a brain-struggle and that obligates us to a journey of having to transform our thinking. Believing in Jesus solves the heart problem-it does not fix the ‘stinking’ thinking problem.
I was doing some lexicon reading recently and noticed that Jesus spoke of Peace and Rest as something that’s generated from Him and not from our own attempts of self management. The Greek word for Peace of God and for His Rest is used interchangeably most the time. Freeing ourselves from all care and anxiety, coming to tranquility and un-troubledness (I’ll call it) is a story very much like Justin’s– if I told you the Truth you would not believe.
Simply, real Peace and true Rest come into our lives as gifts from God. They don’t require us to do something for them, He’s done something already on our behalf that causes us to benefit from His blessing. This is not the kind of peace that the United Nations claims to be able to give, it’s not sleep for our earth suits, it’s not even a peace or rest that can be described as isolating or promises the absence of stress, pressure or calamity. This is His Peace and His Rest that’s referred to in Matthew 11-28: ‘Come unto me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you (the) rest.’ It’s the ‘Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,’ of John 14-27. It’s a Peace the world can’t give! This is the Rest of Hebrews Chapter 4, not the kind of rest doctors try to produce, this one can’t be purchased at Walmart, politicians and their promises have no access to this Peace. The Rest is one only God gives as a free gift to those folks that perceive that Jesus is exactly who He said He is. That’s the problem and the issue that Paul addresses in the metamorphosis described above. We need to repent of that ‘stinking’ thinking and our logical reasoning, our placing human aspect to God and begin the journey to have our brains get in agreement with the mind of Christ (in our hearts). We need to follow Christ’s Wisdom by confessing, simply saying the same thing about Jesus, the Spirit and the Father that they say about themselves. It’s not our job to make the Gospel line up with our reasoning and logic but it’s our role to line up with His ways and His Truths. It’s amazing when you visit Scripture and realize that in the New Testament you cannot use the words Righteousness, Sanctification, Forgiveness, Atonement, Salvation, Faith, Hope, Love, Holiness without a reference to Jesus Christ. They don’t exist apart from Him. ‘My Peace I give to you’ is not a statement about us finding something we can produce in our lives by our efforts; any peace we create can be uncreated at any moment. His Peace is granted and permanent to us in the middle of any storm, fear and weakness:
Rom 5:3-5 … we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given*, given, given! unto us. (*Greek: freely, unforced)
Paul is teaching us that this Peace is a journey, moving progressively through learning to trust as we gain experience and confidence in the inner Spirit of God that dwells within those that believe. This kind of trust doesn’t come overnight. Experience and ‘hanging in’ when things are tough puts us in touch with that kind of Rest. The easiest way to say it: ‘we simply learn to stand! and stand Peacefully.’ Like Justin, this is a Peace/Rest that if expressed scripturally seems like the kind of story we cannot believe in. I often think about eternity and how this same creature, this creature that so easily forgets or ignores its heart, this creature that so eagerly seems to not remember what it has experienced or seen with its heart, that same creature, once standing face to face with God and in touch with only its heart (not its ‘stinking’ thinking), has the ability to be overwhelmed with the Love of God for all of eternity. We can surely find a bit of that ability now; it’s inside us by the Spirit of God. Once the earthly vanishes, what we have left is a creature that can naturally Rest in Who God is. We can start a bit of that now.