Allen Jackson - Peace And Conflict - Part 1
The Bible gives us some unique characteristics. Spiritual conflict and spiritual warfare or the story of scripture but as we approach the end of the age, Jesus and some other text give us some rather unique insight into what we can anticipate and what we can expect, so that we can be prepared. And I wanna continue that. We've been working really on trying to build a foundation of some principles and some perspectives that enable us to have the conversation. Deception is one of the characteristics that's increasing dramatically in our world, it's becoming institutionalized and we see with that coming as the limiting of free speech. And it's more important I believe than it's ever been that we know the scripture, and that we understand what God is doing in the Earth so we can understand something of our place in that. So that's our target.
In this session, I wanna talk specifically about "Peace And Conflict". I believe they can go together. I don't believe they're mutually exclusive. It'll require you to think a bit about definitions which is where I wanna start. I put a definition in your notes and it's just a definition from the English dictionary. It's not about original languages but it says the noun peace is defined in multiple ways. One, perhaps the most frequent definition is a state of tranquility or quiet. But that's not the only definition. And I don't believe it's the way it's used, particularly in the New Testament. A second definition is a state of security.
So that when Jesus said, "My peace I give to you, my peace, I leave with you," Jesus didn't lead a life that was tranquil or quiet that I don't imagine that he was saying when he was giving us to that because he hadn't demonstrated that. Most places he went, there was some turmoil, he was rejected frequently, he was ultimately tortured to death. So for him to say, "You can have my peace" there's not a great deal of comfort in that if you think of it as tranquility. But if you understand that it's a state of security, you never find Jesus anxious. He's not anxious about food, he can feed a multitude with a little boy's happy meal. He's not anxious about storms, he can speak to the wind and the waves. He's not anxious about disease, he can raise the dead back to life again. He's not anxious about politicians who are threatening him with evil because he says, "The only authority you have, my Father has invested in you".
You don't ever find Jesus anxious. So when he said, "My peace I give to you, I wanna establish a baseline". I believe we can lead lives that are defined by a sense of security no matter what turmoil is taking place in our world. That's a very important principle. Because if we imagine that our security is coming from our retirement investments, or our contact list, or a government, or a politician, or a political party, we are subject to a great deal of anxiety. But if we understand all of those things could be in flux, all of those things could be in play, and we could still understand we are secure because the creator of heaven and earth is watching over us. That our names are recorded in heaven. That he knows the hairs on our head. God said he attends the funerals of the sparrows and we're much more valuable than they.
So I wanna plant the seed that peace, security in the midst of a world of conflict is very much a possibility because we're going to need that peace in order to occupy the role and the place God has called us to in my opinion. And I wanna start, in this first section, I really, it emerged in my heart out of our Bible reading. We've been reading, concluding David and his life and the transition between he and to Solomon and his son. And then there's some really beautiful language in that. A New Testament passage from Acts 13, it has always struck me. It's a statement made about King David in the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It says, "After removing Saul, God made David King. And he testified concerning David; 'I have found David the son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he'll do everything I want him to do.'"
I can hardly think of a better epitaph. Can you imagine having written in scripture with your name? God said, "You just do whatever I ask him to do". Whatever God asks you to do, he'll go on record and say, "You're in". I'm more concerned of what he can say about Allen that everything I ask him to do, he at least took it under advisement, or he asked 50 friends, or he's something. But about David, it says, "He would do just everything I wanted him to do". And then there's a statement, there's a song attributed to David. It says, "When God had given him victory over all of his enemies". And in the midst of that song, there was a statement that captured my attention, and he's asking some rhetorical questions. The answers are obvious, "Is not my house right with God"? Yes, "And has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part"?
I thought, what I mean, this is the David's testimony at the end of his life or very near the end of his life, he said, "God has made an everlasting covenant with me, arranged and secured in every part". Wow! I wonder if you could believe that about yourself that God has a covenant with you that's arranged and secure in every part. You'll have to meditate on that a little bit, you have to think about it. You'll even have to rearrange some priorities, because a lot of times we're a little torqued with God because he is not doing what we want him to do, or we don't like his timeline, or his schedule, or you know, there's something, we're very seldom content.
There's usually some way we want the world to be that it's not, or the people in our world to be that they're not. And when we're giving God grief about it or we're withdrawn from God or something. And David said that God had made a covenant arranged and secured in every part. And there's one more piece of David and it really fits into this conflict discussion, warfare discussion. David is a warrior. I mean, from the time we meet him, he's a shepherd boy and he's killing lions and bears, and he pretty soon moves on to Philistine giants that terrify the entire Israelite army. I mean, above all else his story is one of a warrior. And when it comes to the end of his life and they're celebrating him in scripture, one of the ways he's celebrated is there's almost an entire chapter that is committed to reciting the mighty men who served with David.
And I thought as I read it, and I kept thinking about it, I thought that's a little unique. His epitaph, he's remembered because of the exploits of the mighty warriors that stood with him. I mean, he wasn't just a man of war himself, the mightiest of men stood with him and they are listed by name. I put just a sampling in your notes 'cause I can't read all their names. I'd have to make 'em up. But it said, "These are the names of David's mighty men". There's nothing quite like this list in scripture. We have genealogies that's a part of scripture. We have listing of tribal leaders. We have all sorts of lists, but I don't know that there's really a comparable list to a group of warriors that stood with the most celebrated of all of Israel's kings. "These are the names of his mighty men".
Somebody from somewhere. "And he was the chief of the Three; and he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter". That's a bad man, one on 800 that's about fair, and he is the chief of David's mighty men. And he goes on to list them all by name. I just put one more in your notes because his story stands out to me. "Benaiah was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel". That just sounds like, Beniah a valiant fighter from Kabzeel. Sounds like Hollywood made that up, doesn't it? He's got a headband and an eye patch. I don't know. "He performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moabs best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion".
So we know a little something about him, he's about half crazy, right? I like his snowfall too. A good snowy day is kinda fun. Maybe, you know, the work day is gonna be a little shortened or it's a little something. But you know, he has a snowy day, and he sees a pit with a lion in it. And his decision, "I think I'll go down there, I might go past there, I might take a picture of that. I might tell my friends". But he decides to climb down in the pit. Could we agree he's not quite right? "He struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with the club".
Again, you've got a spear, I think I'll take a club. "He snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah; he too was as famous as the three mighty men. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard". That there's no question that the presentation of scripture brings an inordinate focus to David as a warrior. And the commentary that we're giving on him on the New Testament is God said, "I have found a man after my own heart. He'll do whatever I ask him".
There's not a rebuke in that, there's not a complaint in that. I understand David wasn't allowed to build the temple, but David was allowed to put the plan together for the temple, and to gather all the resources for the temple, and to commission the construction of the temple and tell his son, "This is what you need, and here it is and do it this way". So when we talk about spiritual warfare, the heroes that we know in scripture did not lead their lives of faith apart from conflict, wrapped in a blanket of peace. They may have had a sense of security that came from their relationship with God. "If God delivered a lion into my hands and a bear into my hands, who is Goliath"? Well, Goliath was somebody that scared the entire Israelite army. "God has anointed me to be king, but we already have a king and he wants to kill me".
That's an awkward place. And yet David was secure in the fact that God had anointed him to be king. I would submit to you that one of the things that we can grow in is our security in the Lord. Not an arrogance, not a pride, I'm not talking about that. We have taken our security from other things. We've imagined we couldn't be deceived because we belong to the right church, or we belong to the right denomination, or we read books from the right publishing house, or we've had the right translation of the Bible. Folks, all of those things are subject to disappointment. Our security does not come from temporary places. And so, as you're reading through the kings, I think the reflection on David and his life is helpful.
In just a cautionary note at this point, if you imagine that being a good Christian means your life will be void of conflict, you cannot hold that notion and read your Bible. You can hold that notion and not read your Bible, but if you're gonna read your Bible, our heroes all faced conflict and they give us some pretty clear counsel. One of the most direct, and he was one of Jesus's closest friends was Peter. And in 1 Peter chapter 1 and verse 13 he said, "Prepare your minds for action". "Prepare your mind for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance".
Now, if he's telling you not to conform to evil desires, it is a given that there's a temptation and or a pressure and or voices trying to get you to conform to evil desires. And Peter's saying, don't do that. And his introduction to that is, prepare your mind for action. Buckle up buttercup. Get ready. And in case we didn't catch it there, in that same letter in chapter 4, he said, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you". Now if he's writing that, what do you know about the audience to whom he's writing? They're surprised and they feel like something strange is happening to them. Why is this happening to us? We didn't expect this. We've given our lives to the Lord, we've stood up for what's right, we've embraced the truth, we've repented of our sin. How could this be happening to us?
So he says, "Don't be surprised". And in the very next verse he says, "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ". Are you kidding me? Rejoice, have a positive emotion. Well, I thought I was supposed to complain and be bitter, and angry, and resentful. "In one vengeance rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed". You see, the best part of our faith is in front of us. The most celebrated part, the part that we yet don't understand. We have seen in such a limited way. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and he said, "Now we just see through the glass darkly. Our vision is impaired". It's like looking through a window that is fogged up or a mirror that's frosted, but the day is coming when we will see the glory of our Lord with clarity and in completeness.
And in that day, whatever you have endured, whatever you've had to overcome, whatever you have suffered, you'll rejoice that you held that place for the Lord. So, it's what's Peter, don't be surprised he said. Verse 15, "If you suffer, it shouldn't be as a murderer, or a thief, or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler". You think, "Really he has to write this"? He said, look, if you suffer because your character's bad and your behavior's bad, don't blame God. "However, if you suffer as a Christian do not be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name". See, there's a tendency to avoid suffering 'cause we come up with all of our reasons to not demonstrate courage.
Well, I don't wanna bring any negative perspectives to the cause of Christ. So I was just quiet. I didn't want anybody to think that Christians were judgmental. You bet the ugliest thing you can be called these days is judgmental. You can embrace any kind of immorality, any kind of perversion, just about any kind of brazen ungodliness, and you'll be celebrated as courageous pacesetter, bold. But if you have the audacity to say in the public square, "I believe there's a right and wrong and I don't think that behavior is right". Well, you're getting a little judgy. "For it's time for judgment to begin with the family of God".
Judgment is a part of being in the family of God, of acknowledging there's right and there's wrong. And the fact that that can bring pressure upon your life or pressure upon your circumstances is not unique to the 21st century. It apparently goes all the way back, at least to the first century 'cause Peter is writing about it. And if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who don't obey the gospel of God? And if it's hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? You know, when we've given away what it means to be converted, I don't know that we've ever frequently said it's difficult. And Peter is implying that it's not simple. It's not earned, it isn't merit based, but to grow up in your salvation is not a simple thing, it is not. And we're gonna have to have the courage to say that so that we can encourage one another.
And if we'll begin to say that, it will give us the ability to tell the truth about some of the struggles that we face so that we can choose help. You see, being Christ followers and sitting in church does not make us separate from the temptations that come with our journey through time. And we're not all vulnerable on all points but we all face points of vulnerability and we very much need to be able to say, "That's a struggle for me," so that we can stand close to one another and find the help that we need. Peter is giving us some very pragmatic counsel. "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good". Even when it's not difficult.
Look at Ephesians 6 and verse 10. Now remember the bucket we're exploring here. This point is the conflict that comes with life and we're giving all of these things to be prepared, to prepare our minds for action, to not be surprised, to actually rejoice. In Ephesians, Paul writes to a church, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God". Well, if there is no conflict and there's nothing gonna be launched your way, if there is no threat, you don't need armor. So when Paul says, "Put on the armor of God," there's a very clear statement, you will need it. "Well you know, pastor, I just don't like to read these passages, they make me uncomfortable". Not as uncomfortable as conflict with no armor. That will be very uncomfortable. "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes".
Well, that's awkward. The devil game plan is against you. I don't use a lot of sports analogies, but I can tell you this in my limited experience, you know in competitive sports, if you are no good, if you're the weakest player on the team, they don't game plan against you. They just ignore you, you're pretty much harmless. They don't typically have a game plan for the person that brings the water bottles onto the field. But if your skill set is such that you've hold the potential to disrupt what's happening, to change the outcome of the contest, then anybody with any wisdom has a plan for how to deal with that. And Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus. He says, "Put on the armor of God, because the devil is scheming against you".
The church is the difference maker. It isn't a political party, or a politician, or elections. The outcomes of the church's intercession may be reflected in those arenas, but if the church isn't strong and vital and vibrant, those processes will lead us further and further into depravity and further and further away from God. The church is the difference. "So that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. Our struggle," maybe more literally, "Our (wrestling match) is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".
Paul is describing a hierarchy of evil and he's telling the Ephesian church it's necessary to remain strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. A full set of armor is gonna be needed to withstand the devil's schemes. "Well, I just don't know if I believe that". Okay, we'll visit you. We are engaged in a struggle, it's the essence of the story. A picture is portrayed of Christians involved in a struggle, not against physical persons. Not against physical persons but with spiritual beings. Not limited to the earth but including the heavenlies. It's what he said, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. How much do we know about that? How much have we cared about that? How much time do we spend on a regular basis engaging in conflict with principalities and powers, spiritual forces, not just on earth but in the heavenly realms?
Hey, the reality of life is it's often more difficult than I would like it to be. And the enemy comes and says, "You should quit. You should withdraw from God. He's not trustworthy. That he isn't dependable. You can't trust him for your future". Well, the enemy's a liar. God is faithful, he watches over his Word and his people. And even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he is faithful and we don't have to fear evil. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that light conquers darkness and that the truth conquers a lie. And I pray that the life of Jesus Christ will be more real in us than any threat we face today. I thank you for it and I thank you for your faithfulness, in Jesus's name, amen.