“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been in a place of turmoil? Of course you have. We all have. We’ve all been there multiple times. Sometimes turmoil is an almost daily affair. And in these times when life is topsy-turvy what is it that we most want? Peace. We long for peace. We need peace. We want life to feel like a scene from a Bob Ross painting. How do we get this?
Well, it depends. The source of our peace is going to depend on the nature of our turmoil. What has caused us to be in such an uncomfortable state of affairs? Have we made a foolish decision? Then peace will come when we make amends for that somehow. Is there a broken relationship in our life? We won’t find peace until we restore it. Have we lost something important? The world will be right again when we have found it.
There are many possible sources of disquiet in our lives. Yet even once we have identified what our specific source of internal or external conflict is there is still sometimes a sense of unease that pervades. This isn’t one we can necessarily pinpoint. It’s more of a general sense that something is not right. Our world is off and needs restoring.
Allow me to offer a possible source for this broader tension: We have conflict with God. When we aren’t right with God, our whole lives can feel like they are set just slightly—or even a lot—off kilter. It’s like we we are looking at the world through a set of glasses that are cracked or dirty, but we don’t know it. Everything looks off and we can’t quite put our finger on why.
Let me tell you the reason for this: It’s sin. If we have sin in our lives, we cannot be right with God. Sin causes a point of brokenness in our relationship with God that will not go away until the sin has been dealt with. Here’s the problem: We can’t deal with the sin on our own. On our own we just keep on sinning. You know this is true just like I do. We may hold the line for a while, but eventually we’re going to slip up and fall back off the wagon. The result is this state of ongoing conflict with God. Spending life in conflict with God is no way to live.
Thanks be to God He felt the same way. He knew we needed some kind of a way to deal with the sin in our lives. He gave us the sacrificial system as a kind of beta version of His ultimate plan. And this worked—sort of—for a long time. He graciously allowed the death of an animal to substitute for our own death (which is the right and just penalty for sin—God is the only source of life, sin separates us from God, therefore sin brings death), but this was never going to be a permanent state of affairs. The very repetitive nature of this sacrifice revealed its ultimate insufficiency to solve the problem. We needed a better sacrifice.
More specifically, we needed a human sacrifice. The reason for this is that only a human sacrifice can atone for human sinfulness. There’s an obvious one-to-one correspondence to it. So, God graciously provided this very thing for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice—something we could never do—paying the price for our sin even though He never sinned Himself. This provided a pathway for us to have peace with God.
But there’s a catch here. Jesus only provided the pathway for us to have peace with God. If we don’t take it the path it will do us no good. That’s why the whole of what Paul writes here is so important. We don’t simply have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have peace with God when we have been justified. Jesus Himself provides that justification. His sacrifice on our behalf provided the justification.
Yet that justification must itself be received. And how do we receive it? On faith. We trust that Jesus’ sacrifice really did pay the price for our sins and we demonstrate this trust by doing what He says. In this way, it is our faith that justifies us. We accept on faith that Jesus really did die for us—we weren’t there to see it for ourselves—and live as people who have been justified.
What does that look like? Well, what does it look like to have a right relationship with God? The same way it looks like to have a right relationship with anyone else. We do the kinds of things they want us to do and work to see their needs, desires, and interests brought into reality. And what are God’s needs, desires, and interests? For us to love one another. For us to not sin. For us to work for justice. For us to put Him first in all things.
When we do this—which Jesus helps us to do through the Holy Spirit—we have peace with God. And when we have peace with God, our whole lives take on a sense of calm and rightness that is not accessible any other way. It bleeds over into all our other relationships as well such that this peace pervades our whole lives.
If you are in a place of turmoil where you need peace, where your relationships just aren’t right, allow me to invite you to consider the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is available to you anytime you are ready to receive it and live in it, but only through Christ. Place your faith in Him, trust that His sacrifice really was for you too and live accordingly. Find the peace you need.