Thursday, June 02, 2011

Let the Gospel Rule

One reason I'm glad I keep a blog is that it's so helpful for me to go back and read old posts. I don't do it often enough--but it's unbelievable how forgetful I am. I write when I am impacted by something I read or heard...then I fail to remember these valuable truths, and need to hear them all over again. Such is the case with this post--I wrote it about a year ago and found it still helpful when I ran across it the other day.

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

Our pastor preached a sermon a few weeks ago that included an analogy I'm still thinking about. He examined Colossians 3:15-17, and began by asking: What is the peace of Christ, and what does it mean for that peace to rule in your heart?

The first thing to note is that "the peace of Christ" isn't primarily a subjective feeling. It's not, "ahh, I feel calm" or "I have a peace about it." It's the peace that Christ bought--the objective fact that as Christians, we are reconciled to God because Christ "[made] peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). Jesus has purchased peace for us--once God's enemies, we are now His friends, servants, sons and daughters. Because of Christ's obedient life and sacrificial death, our sins are forgiven and God is well pleased with us!

So that's the peace that needs to rule in our hearts: the truth that we are at peace with God through the cross of Christ. The next question is, what does it mean for that peace to "rule" in our hearts?

Our pastor suggested that the word "rule" in this context means "to act like an umpire." A strange thought. What does an umpire do? He declares what the ball is. When the pitch comes right across the plate, he calls it a strike. When it's outside the box, he calls it a ball. He makes a judgment about the ball, about the pitch--and in this way he rules over the game.

That's what we are to do with "the peace of Christ"--the reality of being reconciled to God (in other words, the gospel). We are to make the gospel the judge over our hearts: our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, our will. The peace that Christ has purchased should rule over every aspect of our lives.

A thought comes into your mind: Is it true, in line with God's Word? Judge it in light of the gospel, and keep it or throw it out.

An emotion starts to consume you: Does it reflect the reality of who God is and what He has done, especially in Christ? Or is it growing out of sinful, idolatrous desires? Let the gospel determine whether that emotion is appropriate or whether it needs to be replaced.

You want to speak certain words: Are they full of grace, reflective of the gospel? Or would they be best left unsaid? Evaluate them in light of the person and work of Jesus, and then determine whether to speak them or hold your tongue.

It means letting the gospel saturate our thoughts, our words, our actions. It means everything we do and say is informed by and flows out of the reality that in Christ, we have been reconciled to God. The peace of Christ rules--makes judgments over, determines the truth about--every aspect of our lives.

I've written before about the struggle of trusting my own limited perceptions of a situation rather than believing what God says. It's all too easy to judge God and His work in light of my emotions and circumstances, rather than judging my emotions and circumstances based on the truth of God's character and promises.

So that's the challenge of Colossians 3:15 - to let the peace that Christ has purchased, the reality of the gospel, rule as umpire over my mind and heart. By God's grace, I want the reality of the gospel--what Christ has done and who I am in Him--to be the dominant feature of my thinking and to govern my emotions, my words, and my actions.

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