|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|All humanity is born into eternal conflict, first with God and then with man. Because of Adam’s sin, we are born into conflict. We are at enmity with God the very moment you breathe the first time. It is sin that is passed down from generation to generation to generation from Adam.|
1 Corinthians 1:3
My precious Daddy is in heaven. He was just the kindest person who ever lived. Bless his heart, in World War II he got to smoking. That was a big thing to him. And they smoked Camels. You know, Camel cigarettes evidently are powerful, folks. They don’t have a filter. He smoked two packs of Camels every day for 30 years of his life. He died at 60 years old of a heart attack.
I remember about five years before my Dad died, he quit smoking. Now folks, I want to tell you something, you can quit habits in your life. There are people who help you out. But I want to tell you what happens. Many times when we surgically try to remove sin in our life, what we do by trying to do it ourselves, we maim everything that was natural and normal about us because you see, we are not surgeons. We try to play that role.
I tell you what happens. When you stop and cut something out of your life, if you don’t put something in its place, you are one miserable person. You know, the Pharisees have got to be miserable in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament in the gospels. There are people who are believers today who have cut out malignancies and have cut them out and cut them out and cut them out. And that is fine, but they have maimed everything else. They don’t have relationships that are normal with anybody. Everything is sin to them. They walk around looking down their nose criticizing and judging everybody, and they are one group of miserable people. I will tell you why: because the human nature cannot stand a vacuum. If you are going to cut something out, you have got to put something back in. But what are you going to put back in?
You see, we love to parade around like we are spiritual. “I don’t do this, and I don’t do that. I don’t drink, I don’t chew and I don’t run around with those who do. I am so spiritual it is just killing me.” And it looks like it is killing you. Miserable people. When you stop doing something you are always feeling like you are lacking something in your life. I guarantee you, you are! There is nothing in its place because you don’t understand grace.
Listen, Jesus Christ is not a surgeon. It is amazing the error that we make. He is not a surgeon. He is a physician, yes, the Great Physician, but He is not in the business of surgery. He is in the business of healing what is wrong. Living under God’s grace after you are saved is something that a lot of Christians still need to understand. That is what Paul is saying. “I wish this grace for you, that daily when you come to Me, you come to Me with those malignancies. You come to Me with that fleshly body. And you come to Me just like you came to Me when you originally received grace from Me. You get on your face before Me and say, ‘God, I can’t save myself.’” And God does a work of grace in your life, transforms you and enables you to do what you never could do before.
You see, you come that same way every day. You come to Him and say, “God, there is a malignancy in my life. It has crept up on me again. And Lord, I have tried to cut it out but the desire is there and it is killing me. There is a lacking in my life and I don’t know what to do. I get in the Word and it is like a newspaper. Nothing is helping me, Lord.” Cry out to Him in desperation. Oh, and the grace of God is so powerful. It heals. But in the healing process it replaces, and grace never leaves you lacking. Grace leaves you in the joy that the fruit of the Spirit of God produces when He is working and operating in your life. That is what it is all about.
“But there is bitterness in my life.” Listen, you can stop talking to anybody on the phone and maybe that will keep you from sharing it with anybody else. You can stop saying anything, but I tell you, you can’t conquer it on the inside. But you can come to God and say, “God, I am desperate for Your grace. Lord, I can’t.” That is when you are going to discover that He never said you could. He is going to say, “I can. And I always said I would.” In the area of that bitterness, when you surrender it to Him and confess it and acknowledge it and agree with Him what it is, God is able through His grace to replace you in that area of bitterness with His grace of love and forgiveness, ability you didn’t even know you had.
Folks, that is the Christian life. That is the good news of the gospel. That is being under grace every day of your life. Stop trying to cut it out yourself because you are miserable. I guarantee you that you are miserable. You criticize everyone who walks because you want them to be as miserable as you are. Come before God. The ground is level at the cross, folks. Come before God and say, “God, there is a problem of lust in my life, immorality, God. And God, I can’t stand it because every time I try to cut out the activity that feeds it, something within me innately continues to desire it. God, I can’t stop it. God, I am sick of it.” You come before God and say, “Oh, God, with your grace would you forgive me and cleanse me and would you produce in me purity where there was impurity?”
You see, that is grace. That is God replacing you. You know, we think God came into our life to reform us. You can reform yourself. There are people who will help you. You can stop doing anything you want to stop. That is all external. He came into your life to transform you, to replace you. It is Jesus in you and He replaces you with Himself. And along with that comes the fruit of the Spirit which is love and joy and peace and patience and all the good things that you are looking for. It wraps itself around what He is doing and you are able to live under the grace of God.
I am not so sure it is taught, I am not so sure it has to be caught, when the Spirit of God just has to turn somebody’s eyes on and they say, “Good grief, I have been going about this thing the wrong way ever since I ever discovered there was a sinful tendency to my body.” Victory is not you and me overcoming sin. Victory is not that. Now, some of you will come up to me and say, “You are wrong. I have overcome sin in my life.” No, you have overcome the activity, you never did overcome the desire. It is still resident in your flesh. You give it half a chance, and you will find it out. You will find it out. A lot of people are still trying to live as surgeons, aren’t they?
In Corinth, they must have been living that way because they certainly weren’t doing anything else right. They missed it on the first step of living under the grace of God. Victory is not me overcoming sin, victory is Jesus overcoming me. He lets me know that is why He lives in me. I can’t and never said I could. He can and He always said He would. It is His beautiful disposition and nature, listen to me, that we get to tap into when we come the way of grace, not depending on our flesh and our ability but surrendering to His power and His presence in our life. We get to taste of the nature and disposition of God Himself as He begins to manifest Himself in our life and we are never found lacking. We need grace. We desperately need grace.
Fifthly in our list from verse 3, the church of God is in need of God’s peace. In 1 Corinthians 1:3 we read, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now let’s define the word “peace.” I have sort of a rough definition, but it is a beautiful definition. Peace is the word eirene. It is the word that means the absence of war and the absence of conflict in our life. You say, “I don’t understand. What do you mean by absence of war and absence of conflict?” Listen to me. All humanity is born into eternal conflict, first with God and then with man. Because of Adam’s sin, we are born into conflict. We are at enmity with God the very moment you breathe the first time. It is sin that is passed down from generation to generation to generation from Adam. Because in Adam all sin, Romans 5:12 says, and death comes because of that sin.
But not only is there a conflict with God, that conflict is with man. I have said this over and over again. Apart from Christ you have no normal relationships. You cannot relate the way God wants you to relate apart from Him because there is an inbred conflict with God and then with man built into the flesh. You cannot live it. It is always conditional, it is never unconditional, in any relationship you have apart from Christ.
This is illustrated in Genesis when Adam sinned. Immediately you see the conflict with God. Then in a few chapters you find out that Cain kills Abel. You see the conflict with man, and it has been that way ever since.
I was in the Cincinnati airport one day. I didn’t have very long before my flight was to leave, and I saw this girl just bopping through the big concourse there. Have you ever seen people who just seem to be bubbling over? I mean, she really had it together. She was speaking to everybody. “Hi, how are you doing?” She started making a beeline right for me. Now there are seats everywhere. I am sitting there, and I don’t want to talk to anybody. Do you ever have those days? I don’t want to talk to anybody. Just leave me alone and let me get home! I was sitting there and she made a beeline right for me.
She came over and sat down in the seat right on the other side of my luggage. She sat down and said, “Well, I tell you what, on a rainy day I have always wanted to be in the airport in Cincinnati. Isn’t this a great place?” I am thinking, “Oh, boy, here we go. She is going to talk my ear off.” I said, “Yeah, me, too.” She started saying, “Where did you come from?” “Des Moines.” “Well, I came from Houston.” She talked about where she lived in Houston and all the different things going on. She kept on and I am thinking, “The question is coming. The question is coming.” It always happens. “What do you do?” It is amazing to me. You can have a CEO of a company talking about computers and rebuilding them and you ask me “What do you do?” and I say, “I am a pastor” and they break out in a rash and they can’t even talk to you. I mean, you talk about conversations being suddenly either abruptly stopped and ruined or completely turned, that question will do it.
“What do you do?” “I am a pastor.” She sat there for a minute, kind of like she was thinking, “Hmmm, maybe I’d better go,” or whatever. But she didn’t. She turned back towards me. I was telling my wife that her whole countenance changed as we began to put Christ into the subject and what Christianity is all about. She came from a religion that was not an evangelical religion. It does not teach a relationship with God the Father through His Son. It is strictly a religion. You understand that Christianity is not a religion – it is a relationship. But she didn’t understand that.
She started talking to me and she said, “You know, I try to go to church and I try to do what is right. Man, I just need to give more time to God. If I could just give Him a half hour in the morning. I mean, I just don’t do it, though. It is a shame that I just don’t do these things for God.” I listened to her for a while and said, “In other words, you believe that Christianity is a religion. Is that right?” She said, “Do what? Certainly it is a religion.” I said, “I hate to pop your bubble. I am going to have to catch a plane here in a minute, but I hate to tell you that it is not a religion. Religion may not work for you and it has never worked for me either. That is why Christ came, to solve the religious dilemma of people. It is not a religion. He came to give us a relationship with a Holy God, the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I began to talk to her about what that meant. I said, “You don’t give Him a half hour in the morning. You don’t just give Him an hour here and an hour there. You give Him yourself when you come to Him. That is solved the moment of salvation and then He comes to live in you and enriches your whole life.” Boy, she looked at me like, “Are you alright?”
Then they called my plane. That happens to me almost every time. About the time I really get into something, they will call the plane. So I told this girl, “Look, I have got to go.” I wrote down the number of a ministry that could help her, and said, “You call this ministry and they will get you into the Word of God.” I had to do something.
But I tell you, her whole countenance had completely changed when we started talking about a relationship, that she could actually be at peace for the first time in her whole life. That gal walking through the airport, you would think that she had it all together. But what she was hiding with the evident personality that she had and what she is hiding with the success she has had in life, is that she is in conflict. Conflict eternally with God and eternally with man. She lives with this inbred conflict. I don’t care how successful they look to you, inside that is the desperation of a person who doesn’t know Christ and understand His grace. They are everywhere around us.
Where do they find this peace? Again in 1 Corinthians 1:3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” What she is looking for only Jesus can give her. The Father sends it to her as a love gift through His Son Jesus who died for her. Jesus Christ, who is the source of God’s grace, is also the source of God’s peace. In fact, peace is the product of grace. Whenever you find grace and peace together in a verse, you are always going to find grace first and peace second. Because unless you have experienced God’s grace and unless you are experiencing God’s grace, you know not of His peace. By experiencing His grace at salvation, you have peace with God.
Look in Romans 5. Remember in Ephesians, “by grace are we saved through faith, not of works lest any man should boast.” Then we come to Romans 5:1. You experience the initial grace of God when you bow before Him at salvation, realizing you are in Adam and cannot save yourself. You put your faith in Him. Everything rests upon Him. But in Romans 5:1 we see, “Therefore having been justified by faith,” acquitted, that which He did is written to our account, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is beautiful.
It is really twofold. First of all, it involves an attitude on my part, but secondly it involves an activity that God has done. People say there is no Lordship salvation. Now that term does bother a lot of people. But I want to tell you something, folks. The way I understand it, it better be. It better be, because what does this word “peace” mean? When Japan surrendered to America, they didn’t walk forward and say, “We give up. We give up. Maybe one day we will stop fighting you.” That is not what they said. The emperor of Japan took his sword out and handed it over to General MacArthur. In doing that he is saying, “I will give up. We surrender. We will not fight you anymore. We will not initiate conflict with you anymore.” That is part of having peace with someone. That is the attitude of man.
But on the other hand, God the Father, through His Son has removed the enmity. He has removed the wall of partition. He has removed the demands of the law because they were fulfilled in Christ. That doesn’t mean we still don’t live under the law in the sense that we live obedient to Christ, but He has removed it in that it cannot condemn us anymore. God did His work to remove anything that would keep us in conflict with Him. But we also come with an attitude of saying, “We don’t want to be in conflict with you. We lay our sword down.” And at that very moment we are saved. That is peace with God.
That is what that girl sitting in the airport needed, and that is what is going to happen, I believe, one of these days. I don’t believe it is an accident that we met each other in the airport. There is going to come a day she is going to lay that sword down and recognize what God has done for her and receive Christ into her life. Now that is the peace with God.
But what Paul is talking about in Corinthians, I think, is a little different. It is the peace of God. Look in Philippians 4:7. Paul is talking to believers here. Just like the grace of God is not static, neither is the peace of God. And if you are walking under the grace of God, the transforming power of God, then you are living in the peace of God at all times. You have peace with Him, certainly in Christ. But this is the peace of God. Look at what it does. In Philippians 4:7 it says, “And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension [Go to any school, wherever you want to go, challenge your mind forever and you will never understand it] shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 5 we have peace with God and in Philippians 4 we have the peace of God. The peace of God is for believers to draw from in the conflict of every day life.
Now you have to realize this in context because it is more than just Paul giving a greeting. Paul knew what was in Corinth. Paul knew the evil and the wickedness that was in Corinth. Remember there was a Greek word that says when you lived immorally, it didn’t matter if you lived in Corinth or not, it said you are acting like a Corinthian. Paul knew that and as a result of that, Paul was writing to them trying to show them what could keep them from having their peace disturbed. Live under grace and live in His peace and you won’t have that disturbed, you see. He knew what was trying to disturb and trouble that peace they had. And regardless of circumstances and people, once you start living in the peace of God, it doesn’t matter what is going on around you. There can be with no conflict within you towards God and no conflict in you towards man. It is a beautiful picture here.
You know, there is nothing more comforting to me than the voice of the captain on a plane when the plane is going through turbulence. We took off one time flying from Kennedy Airport going to Johannesburg, South Africa on a big 747. You know, you fly on normal planes and they take off a long ways up the runway. You fly on a 747, and it is like flying a hotel down the runway. You are three stories up watching this thing. And it goes and it goes and it goes and it goes and goes and you are thinking, “Lift up, lift up, lift up.” Everybody in the plane is waving their arms and saying, “Lift up.” Right at the end of the runway they have these big cross marks and you know if you miss those, you are going to be in the third story of an apartment building across the field. “Come on, lift up.” Finally it shoots you off.
We had just gotten to climbing altitude, and they had given us something to drink, they had given us the peanuts and all that kind of stuff. They were going to serve a meal in a little bit. All of a sudden we went into turbulence like I have never been through in a plane in my entire life. I mean, it was like a roller coaster. I had peanuts in a bag and they were popping out of the bag. They would pop out and I would catch them. The Diet Coke was sloshing all over the place.
We are thinking, “Good grief. What is going on?” And it went on for a solid hour. You could try to take a bite of something and it goes diving. You know, it is amazing, you watch your coke go up in the air and come back down. I mean, it is really bad.
About that time there is a little click of a microphone above you and the pilot comes on and says, “Good evening.” Where is this guy? Is he on the same plane I am on? He has totally got it under control. “We are flying about 36,000 feet.” I am thinking, “That is a recording. He is not even in here. He is in New York and we are all fooled. We are all messed up.” “We are flying at 36,000 feet and I just want you to know that there is a little bit of turbulence out here.” He says, “There is a little bit of turbulence out here, but everything is under control. We have a 14 ½ hour flight, and I hope you enjoy being with us,…” He gets off. But it was amazing. As soon as he cut the thing off, we were still bouncing around but it was like, “Hey, everything is okay. We heard from the Captain. He has it under control.” It just soothes the heart.
Listen to me, if you are walking under grace, you are listening to the Captain all the time. And because of that, the conflict, the inner turmoil is gone. First of all, you know you don’t have any conflict with Him. That is settled in Christ. But now the peace of God. It is wonderful. It is soothing. It doesn’t matter what is going on around you, you see. It is that peace that carries you through whatever you have got to go through in your life. So Paul wishes the peace of God upon them. So as we choose to live daily in His Word, we hear from the Captain and that soothes us. This peace is God’s gift.
I want you to turn over to John 14:27. Jesus is going to leave a will for His disciples. He is about to go back to be with the Father. What is He going to leave with them that would be the incredible gift to remove internal conflict? Look at what He says. I love this. “Peace I leave with you.” Now, what kind of peace is this that you are leaving with us, Lord? I mean, you are leaving us.” Remember Peter. They were not real excited. He says, “My peace I give to you. The peace I have with My Father and He and I are one. The peace that brings joy because you know that you are going to the cross, bringing pleasure to the Father. This kind of peace.” Then He says, “Not as the world gives [because He shows you a contrasting peace here] do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Oh, folks, how desperate we are for the peace of God. But I want to tell you, you can’t have it unless you living under the grace of God. Unless you are depending on Him to be in you what you know you are not every day, the peace is not there. You see, the one hooks to the other. You have to be living under the grace to have the peace. That is why we went back and looked at this.
Look over in Luke 8. I love this story. So many times you talk about it and never read it. I want you to see it. I want you to see it right in the Word of God. What a wonderful picture. We sing the song, “And He spoke to the waves and He said ‘Peace, be still, Peace, be still.’” We sing those songs, but where does that come from? Well, it comes right out of the Word of God. Look at this. Luke 8:22 says, “Now it came about on one of those days, that He and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ And they launched out.” I love this about the Lord Jesus. “But as they were sailing along He fell asleep.”
There was another man in a boat that fell asleep, Jonah, but he had a little bit different situation here. He didn’t have God’s peace. As a matter of fact, he was totally out of the will of God. There was nothing more than apathy in his life and he had lost sight of what God wanted.
But this is a beautiful picture here of oneness with Jesus and the Father and the peace in His heart. He fell asleep. “And a fierce gale of wind descended upon the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.” You know, on the Sea of Galilee the fishermen would be in the shallow water. Any time you are in a boat in a storm, don’t get in shallow water. Shallow water is the worst place you can get because the waves don’t have that far to go down before they crash up. That is what will swamp a boat. That is what will bring you under. And Jesus is still asleep. I love it. In the midst of it, here they are, boom, bang and He is just asleep.
Verse 24 goes on, “And they came to Him and woke Him up.” Now how many times do we disturb Him? “Saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.” Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall and watched that? Jesus said, “Stop it!” And the disciples are going, “Huh?”
Look at verse 25. “And He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?’”
We say we want to be a fly on the wall and watch that. Well, friend, you can watch that every day of your life as you live under God’s grace. Whatever it is that just absolutely is disturbing you emotionally and every other way, robbing you of the joy that God wants to put in your life, all you have to do is cry out unto Him and He in you speaks and the ripples and the waves that are going on inside of you calm. Now, the circumstances may never change, but inside the turmoil that has been created by what is going on out here just goes whew, and it is okay. There is no conflict. He is in charge.
You see, the Corinthian church needed to hear that they could have the peace of God. They are not living under God’s grace and they are definitely not living in God’s peace. You say, “Now how do you know that?” Let me tell you something. You may have peace with Him, but if you are not living depending on His grace, it is going to be evident in only one area of your life that is going to be so clear. It will appear in other areas, yes, but one area is going to be real clear. Do you know where it is? It is in your relationships to one another within the body of Christ.
He is talking to Christians here, the church of God at Corinth. He says there are divisions and factions. The very antithesis of what peace is division. The very thing Satan creates in our life is division. His very name is diabolos – dia, through; bolos, to cast – to cast in between and divide. And when you are living with relationships that are severed and bitterness and all this garbage that goes with it, it is very clear that you haven’t seen yourself as a sinner yet as far as your flesh being able to sin. And you haven’t seen yourself as a saint, separated unto His work. And you haven’t learned yet how wicked the flesh is and how it can steal away in a moment what God wants to give to you. Therefore you have walked away from His grace and His peace disappears. The moment it disappears with Him, it disappears with somebody around you. And that is where all your griping, complaining, your criticism, your bitterness and your garbage comes from. That is all it is, garbage. It comes out of me and it comes out of you when we are not living up under grace, folks.
Look at verse 11, and I will show you. He tells them how they can live but then he shows them how they are living. 1 Corinthians 1:11 says, “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people [friends of his], that there are quarrels among you.” You go to the book of James and it says, “Why do you quarrel and what are the conflicts all about?” It talks about the lusting of their flesh and their own individual desires.
When we are not living in the peace of God, you can count on it, the first place it will show up is in your conflict with others. You are opinionated, griping, this stuff is just rampant. It is in me and it is in you. Over in Ephesians he talks about letting no unwholesome word ever come out of your mouth. I want to tell you, if you haven’t studied Ephesians 1, 2 and 3, you can’t understand Ephesians 4 when he says that. Because in chapter 3 he says, “You be strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God.” That is how grace operates. And when you are strengthened in the inner man, then you can be kept in such peace with God and peace with man, you don’t have to utter those unwholesome words. The word “unwholesome” there in Ephesians 4 is the word that means rotten, putrid, smelly. Rotten. That is what comes out of people’s mouths who are not walking in the peace of God, not living under the grace of God. That is what kind of garbage it involved.
Wouldn’t it be something if somebody would call you up and say, “Did you know what I just heard?” And you say, “Phew! Oh, it is rotten. I can’t stand that! I have got to go. I can’t even talk.” And hang up. You just stopped that. You see, when you are living in the peace of God, a lot of people around you aren’t and you have got to be real careful or they will get your focus off His grace and His peace and pull you right down and disturb the whole matter by their little opinions that they have to throw in here. That is the way it is. My life, your life, anybody’s life.
You know, I heard an illustration and I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, it is wonderful. I am going to tell it like it is true. If you have a pasture full of thoroughbred horses and a wolf or a dog is trying to bite them, they all get together with their heads in the middle and they all kick the enemy together. But donkeys, when a dog comes in after the donkeys, they all put their tail ends together instead of their heads and they kick each other!
That is the church at Corinth. That is people who don’t understand that they are desperate for God’s grace every day and desperate for God’s peace. Because if you don’t have that peace with Him and there is no inner conflict with Him, you can’t have peace with others.
Turn over to 1 Corinthians 7:15. In a context of an unbelieving husband leaving his believing wife we find out that God is calling us to peace. It says in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” Anything else leads to confusion and all sorts of division.
Look in 1 Corinthians 14:33. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”