INTERESTING FACTS : "It thou seek rest in this life, how wilt thou then attain to the everlasting rest? Dispose not thyself for much rest, but for great patience. Seek true peace - not in earth, but in heaven; not in men, nor in any other creature, but in God alone." - Thomas a Kempis
TEXT : Isaiah 32:17 "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."
THEME : Peace and Assurance
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. [Isaiah 26:3].
That was the verse we read just a few chapters and days ago.? What an astonishing promise!? It would have been amazing enough had God only offered us the promise of peace.? How much more that He offers us perfect peace (or "peace peace" as Pastor Ray explained last Thursday).? But that He would go further, as Isaiah tells us, and would Himself watch over us to keep us in that peace.
Isaiah doesn't tell us that we can keep ourselves in perfect peace if we would keep our mind stayed on God.? Conversely, Isaiah tells us that it is God who would be the one doing the keeping.? He would be the one watching over us in earnestness to ensure that we are in perfect peace.? How amazing that not only does He offer us peace, and not only does He offer us perfect peace, but He also offers to be the very watchguard of that peace to ensure we stay in it.? All that is required of us is that we keep our mind stayed on Him.
A line from an old song comes to mind when I think of what it means to keep our mind stayed on Him. "And the things of earth will grow strangely dim," wrote Helen H. Lemmel, "in the light of His glory and grace".
In Philippians we are told to keep our mind stayed on Him by giving Him everything in prayer.? We are told that if we make our requests known to God in prayer then, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus".
The world has no such promise.? Those outside of Christ go through great lengths to find some sense of peace.? Some mutilate their bodies and hang themselves through their flesh with hooks.? Others try to numb their anxiety and fears with alcohol or drugs.? While yet others simply placate themselves in non-stop entertainment.
But not us.? We have a promise from our Father - and we have the righteousness of Christ.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : Righteousness' Effect
We are commanded by God to be holy and to be righteous.? Through the law, God set the standard for us as to what it means to be holy.? In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us that it is impossible for us to keep the law, and that the law was set in place to help us understand just how far away from the mark we are.? The law could not make us holy, but it pointed out to us how very lost and sinful we are.
Even the "good" among us are far from being righteous.? The scriptures tell us that not only is there none righteous (Rom. 3:10, Ps 14:1-3, Ps 53:1) but that our righteousness is as filthy rags.? The picture given here is pretty graphic.? It's not the picture of rags that are dirty from cleaning a house, or even grease stained from working on an engine.? It's the picture of rags that are used by a woman during her menstruation.? That is how God describes our goodness, our righteousness.? Imagine all the unbelievers in the world who are genuinely trying to do good.? Helping the poor, the broken.? Relief works, Red Cross personnel, food pantry workers and those that care for the infirmed - all of them, when outside of Christ, cannot be just before God.? God looks at them and their purity is as clean as the rags used by a woman during her menstruation.
We read in Isaiah 32:17 that "the work of righteousness shall be peace", but then how shall we experience peace?? If our righteousness is as filthy rags, what kind of peace can that produce?? It also tells is that the "effect of righteousness [is] quietness".? How can we experience quietness, calmness or serenity of spirit if we know that our righteousness doesn't measure up and we stand under God's judgment?? If death looms around the corner and Hell mocks us behind its gates, awaiting our arrival, how can we have peace or quietness?
How?? It's not our righteousness. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.[2 Corinthians 5:21]".? When we are born again God no longer looks at us and sees our righteousness, our filthy rags, but rather He looks at us and see Christ's righteousness.
Paul said "And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that [righteousness] which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:[Philippians 3:9]".? As new creatures in Christ we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and the work of His righteousness in us, true righteousness, is peace.? And the effect of His righteousness in us is quietness as He speaks "Peace be still" to our troubled soul.
But what about assurance?? Consider this. We have a "perfect peace" which passes all understanding which is given to us by God, and which we are kept in by God.? That peace is produced by a righteousness that is given to us by Christ, through the gift of salvation which is given to us by God, though the gift of grace which is given to us by God that we believe though faith which is given to us by God.? In a different take on the old "Footprints" poem allow me to suggest that there are never more than one set of footprints in the sand, for Christ is always carrying us.
And if that weren't enough He has also promised us that He will finish what He started in us (Phil 1.6) and that nothing will be able to separate us from Him because we are more than conquerors though Him (Rom 8:35-37).
If we keep our mind stayed on God and these truths, there will remain in us a lasting peace, quietness and an assurance - blessed assurance.