Summary: The peace that makes our hearts kind and gentle, the peace that overcomes worry, and the peace that protects us from our own fleshly failings and the devil’s lies.
What an experience it must have been to be in the Old Testament Church. There you are in the Temple. Gold sparkles in the sun. Finely polished wood enamors the eye. Rich tapestries, exquisite engravings, and flawlessly hewn stone make up the Temple of God.
And just as memorable must have been the sacrifices offered within. Occasionally you would see and take in the incense wafting up into heaven and the smell of roasted lamb from the morning and evening sacrifices. What vivid reminders God gave to show that real forgiveness was being given for the sins of the people.
But those sacrifices of old did not forgive sins in and of themselves. They only forgave sins because they pointed forward to THE sacrifice of sins that Jesus would one day make on Golgotha’s stony slope.
And so God’s old-covenant people lived in hope. It was a hope that looked forward to the day when the Savior, the Messiah, would come and fulfill all the sacrifices they saw, felt, smelled, and experienced in the Temple.
But we, too, in the new covenant also live in hope. We live in hope, knowing the same Savior who once came to take away sins, will come back and take us to Himself in heaven. Jesus has already fulfilled the ancient hope, for He came and atoned for sins. Now He will come yet once more and bring all believers into His eternal kingdom.
Jesus wants us to live, eagerly looking forward to that moment. We are to believe and trust that Jesus is, indeed, coming, and that truth will bring us the peace and joy to live out the faith and keep us in His heavenly kingdom.
Our epistle reading tells us, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” That word “reasonableness” doesn’t fully give us the richness of what the Apostle Paul was getting at. When we think of reasonableness, we think of not going to extremes, of taking the middle road. But that’s not the idea here. That’s because one word in English can’t carry the richness of what Paul was getting at.
What then was Paul getting at? He meant gentleness, consideration, the opposite of being stern and overly harsh. He meant being gentle, kind, patient, and yielding to others. Psalm 103 describes this trait well: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14).
That’s the love we are to show and live toward others--to friend and foe alike, especially to the weak and helpless. We are to be kind, generous, and thoughtful, not selfish, rough, or pushy.
But it’s one thing knowing that we should live such love toward others; it’s another to create it. The Law says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). But here’s the problem: the Law can’t make you love your neighbor; it can at most only change outward behavior. It can only threaten and punish you for not doing it.
Where then can such a spirit of gentleness and consideration come from? The Apostle Paul attaches the power right after he says how we are to live when he writes, “The Lord is at hand.” Jesus is coming soon. Not only has Jesus given His life for you to take away your sins and make you a holy in the eyes of God, but soon He will come to bring you into His eternal presence.
That’s what we look forward to and hope for! Although our sinful nature may fear death, the new self given us in faith looks forward to being in God’s eternal presence. The hope of heaven gives us the peace that passes all understanding, peace with God, and even peace with the world.
The hope of heaven overcomes worry. To worry is to be anxious about something, and it comes from uncertainty, not knowing how something will turn out. Will it succeed or fail? Will I live or die, be praised or disgraced, be rich or poor?
Often, that’s how we live in the world, when our sinful nature runs the show. When that happens, we grab and fight to have our own way. We try to pile up money, position, and security, because who knows what will happen? And when we are selfishly struggling to get our way, we fume at others because they frustrate us. That’s what worry is. The Lord’s apostle says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”
But of course we are. We look to the future, and the unknown frightens us. But Paul still says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Don’t worry about anything. God is not dead; Jesus lives! He rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God the Father, and everything is under His control--everything!