The Forgotten Secret of Inner Peace

Final Section

Losing One’s Way & Never Knowing It


Grantley Morris

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Perhaps you are sure you are not like that Pharisee because your life and/or ministry are crammed with obvious signs of God’s blessing. For those of us skidding down that slope, Jesus could have told another parable. In fact, he almost did (Matthew 7:22-23). Here’s how it goes: a great evangelist lifts his eyes to heaven and prays in front of thousands of admirers, “I thank you, God, that I prophesy in your name. I praise you for all the demons I’ve driven out in your name. I bless you for the many miracles you have worked through me. Thank you that I’m not like those of little faith – those non-achievers who wallow in their sin and desperately need my help.“ The congregation goes wild. Heaven’s viewers switch channels.

Alarmingly, Jesus was not referring to an unusual situation. His exact words were, “Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’ . . .” (emphasis mine).

Even in the Greek, the word many is vague, but it is often used for vast numbers, or for a majority (Examples).

Notice the many did not seem to be big-mouthing themselves by claiming to do these things in their own name. As with the Pharisee, the Lord definitely gets airtime. They had been around for a long while, and mastered the art of looking good. More disturbingly, they probably managed to convince themselves. Underneath all the ‘holy’ respectability, however, what they really seem to be saying is, “I did this for you. Lord. And I did that for you. I . . . I . . . I . . . for you. So you are indebted to me, Lord. I deserve heaven. My impressive labors cancel out any failings.”

Be honest: they were people we would probably hero-worship as the spiritual elite; people whose ministries would leave us in awe.

If ever they had seen themselves as one of God’s charity cases – helplessly dependent upon God’s undeserved mercy – they had left that behind. Now they saw themselves as God’s assets who had earned heavenly rewards.

Like the Pharisee, they had mountains of faith that they had God’s approval and, no doubt, were gallantly claiming Bible promises for themselves. Faith moves the hand of God – up to the point where it morphs into presumption and turns to pride.

Pride blinded them from the realization that serving God is not helping the Almighty out, but God displaying mindboggling love, humility and patience by letting us spoil his perfection, as we inevitably do. The tiniest role in heaven’s work is a mindbogglingly undeserved privilege.

Twenty or so years ago, I read of a famous missionary pioneer whose achievements flabbergasted me. Someone commented on the enormity of the loss his passing would be. The missionary replied something like, “Just one less person to mess up God’s work.” I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t record the details. I let that information – even the missionary’s identity – escape me, because I was so staggered by his comment that I could barely make sense of it. I have since gained a better understanding of what a grossly inflated view we have of human achievements.

The Almighty delights in using us, but not because he needs us. Whenever humans get involved, God’s perfection is tarnished. It does, however, highlight God’s greatest glory – his love.

We all need to take seriously Jesus’ words:

    Luke 17:7-10 But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say when he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down at the table,’ and will not rather tell him, ‘Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not.
    Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.’

Even the most diligent and impressive of us are unworthy servants who, at best, have merely done our duty. Paul understood this:

    1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the Good News, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me if I don’t preach the Good News.

    Romans 11:35 Or who has first given to him, and it will be repaid to him again?

Let’s return to those who were convinced they were doing great things for Jesus. There would have been a time in their lives when they had not yet prophesied, cast out demons or performed miracles. Back then, they might well have had a moment of genuine awareness of their unworthiness and utter dependence upon the grace of God. But that was long ago. They had moved on from those humble beginnings. Or, more accurately, slumped back to thinking like a non-Christian, while giving a convincing impression of being a powerful Christian.

Unlike many of us, Paul took nothing for granted:

    1 Corinthians 9:27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.

    Philippians 3:12-13 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do: forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before

In the terms of our opening analogy: the many that Jesus spoke of might even have boarded the Rescue Ship, but they ended up seeing no need to remain there.

Most Bible versions carefully reflect the wording of the original Greek in both 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 2:15, where it speaks of true Christians as those “who are being saved”. For as long as we are on this sin-infested planet, salvation is not a one-off occurrence, but an on-going process. It is true that from one perspective, salvation can be a past event – transferring from the sinking boat to Jesus’ ship – but the ship is still in the treacherous sea, continually saving us from drowning, if we remain in it.

    Proverbs 28:26 One who trusts in himself is a fool . . .

To start off well is superb, but will we continue?

    Jude 1:5 Now I desire to remind you, though you already know this, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who didn’t believe.

    Romans 8:17  . . . heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him.

    Romans 11:22 . . . if you continue in his goodness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

    1 Corinthians 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly the word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.

    Galatians 6:9 Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.

    Colossians 1:22-23  . . . to present you holy and without defect and blameless before him, if . . . you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News which you heard . . .

    2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us.

    Hebrews 3:6  . . . We are his house, if we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end.

    Hebrews 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence firm to the end

    2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

    1 John 2:24  . . . If that which you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son, and in the Father.

    (Emphasis mine.)

Many similar Scriptures

In at least nineteen of Jesus’ parables, the critical factor is not how things were early on, but much later, at harvest time, or when the master or bridegroom or Judgment Day arrived – or however the parable went.

I very much understand you getting annoyed at me for mentioning such Scriptures. Clearly, however, the good Lord, who sees spiritual reality with greater clarity than we could ever hope to, sees us as continually needing these reminders. It would be ridiculously clumsy for him to list all the conditions and provisos attached to his promises every time he mentions them. Nevertheless, the all-knowing Lord obviously does not think it safe for us to note them just at the beginning of our spiritual journey and then let them slip from our mind. He considers them of such critical importance that he mentions them often.

We recoil from the slightest wisp of uncertainty, because we fear it will rob us of peace. The unyielding truth, however, is that any ‘peace’ that comes from mind games is fake. Real peace comes not from what we push from our minds, but from who we put in control of our hearts. Real peace embraces real possibilities. It can handle them because real peace comes from the Peace Giver. No possibility is ever so remote, or so evil, that it catches him unprepared, or unable to powerfully transform it into good for those who love yielding to the God of love. The Peace-Giver has no qualms about filling his Word with scriptures the squeamish run from, because anything motivating us to seek him, and to cling tighter to him, promotes genuine peace. All that matters is to what, or whom, we daily yield control of our lives.

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It’s a gross insult to our Savior to ever feel superior to those who are drowning in sin, since the only thing keeping us from the same fate is Jesus’ ship, not our clean living, ‘amazing’ faith, or spiritual efforts. We never reach the point where we can proudly conclude that the crisis is over, that we no longer need Jesus to continually save us, and that we can do the rest largely by ourselves. From the moment we lose awareness of this, we are in danger of wandering off without realizing the dire consequences, and having no idea that by doing so we are abandoning our Savior.

Most likely, these many that Jesus spoke of were pleased to have begun their spiritual life with the right attitude. They had understood what mattered when first saved, but failed to realize it is equally important for the remainder of one’s walk with God. This is precisely what alarmed Paul about the Galatian believers:

    Galatians 3:1, 3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?  . . . After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (NIV)

So many of us grasp that salvation is solely by faith in God’s grace, but think we progress spiritually by our own efforts. This is so dangerously wrong. We not only start off totally dependant upon God’s mercy, it’s the only way we can continue. Otherwise, to revive the rescue analogy, after having been in the Rescue Ship, we have, without even realizing it, abandoned it – and the one who gave his all to save us. Appallingly, few see even the slightest inconsistency. Having received from their Savior what they acknowledge as vital initial help, they are now cleaned up, and confident they can revert to saving themselves. Even while genuinely wanting to please God, we can end up wandering off the Rescue Ship, and joining those who, despite all the desperate efforts, self-congratulations, and rampant false optimism, haven’t the faintest chance of survival.

Here’s another parable Jesus almost told: A highly successful man prays, “God, I thank you that you have opened the heavens and poured out blessings beyond measure! I praise you that you have prospered whatever I have put my hand to do. Thank you that I’m not like other people, or even Lazarus who begs outside my gate.”

It didn’t work out too well for him, either (Luke 16:19-24). Heaven is rather sensitive to the difference between having a big heart and having a big head.

If feelings (or lack of them) are not reliable indicators of whether the Savior has rescued us from our sins, neither are prosperity or supernatural signs. The risen Lord told the Laodecian Christians, “you say, ‘I am rich . . . and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,” (Revelation 3:17).

“Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed,” Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 6:10). Another time, he told an entire church that God “supplies the Spirit to you and does miracles among you” (Galatians 3:5). Nevertheless, the Spirit-filled Apostle speaks of these very people having been “bewitched” (Galatians 3:1) and he is so concerned about their spiritual future that he writes. “I am afraid for you, that I might have wasted my labor for you,” (Galatians 4:11).

Even of himself he says:

    1 Corinthians 4:4-5 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. . . . (NIV)

Rather than thinking ourselves better than others, the Word of God says:

    Romans 12:10  . . . be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another

    Philippians 2:3 doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself

    (Emphasis mine.)

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It is said that when Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison, every convict he spoke to professed innocence. Finally, he encountered a thief under sentence of death. “Your majesty,” he said, “I am guilty and richly deserving of punishment.”

“Release this scoundrel,” commanded the king, “before he corrupts all the noble innocent people here.”

We laugh, but divine truth cheekily hides in that tale.

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One of my dilemmas when writing is never being sure when to stop. Different people require differing degrees of confirmation.

Disturbingly, for very many faithful church-goers, what I have shared above is so rarely expounded from the pulpit (and even in my own writings, I must confess) that what we have so far highlighted will not be nearly enough to assure everyone that it is not some optional extra for do-gooders, but basic to salvation. If you are already convinced that not one of us has any right to look down on anyone else, and that this belief is a significant way of distinguishing those who have truly let Jesus save them, you might prefer to slip through to the end of this webpage, where you will find a link to the next page in this series about supernatural peace. For powerful proof that what I have been saying about salvation is truly biblical, however, please keep reading.

Let’s examine another Scripture:

    Philippians 3:4-11  . . . If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: . . . concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. . . .
    I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord . . . and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own . . . but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

All Paul’s sacrificial giving, all his prayer and fasting, all his intense Bible study, all the sermons he had preached, he now sees as a “loss” and “nothing but refuse” (dung, offal, garbage, sewer trash, filth, a pile of waste, are other renderings of the word). Why? Because anything we hold up to God as something we can be proud of; something that makes us worthy before the Holy One, disgusts all of heaven. In fact, it keeps us out of heaven because it keeps us from putting our faith exclusively in Jesus.

My hope is that the following few sentences about myself turn your stomach, but that you are strong enough to trudge through the muck to discover why I have risked soiling this webpage with what seems like sickening egotism.

From early childhood, I would spend over five hours (not including breaks) every Sunday in church services and Sunday school. I always used to pray every night, and from before my mid-teens I had extended this to at least an hour in prayer and Bible study each night, with additional reading of theological works when I had a chance.

Despite having a raging sex drive since my early teens, and yearning to marry as soon as possible, I never had sex before marriage. Moreover, I endured all the shame and agonizing loneliness of never marrying until my mid-fifties (yes, you read that right) because I felt divinely led to commit myself never to have what I most yearned for (and, to be honest, what I felt I couldn’t live without) unless God made it crystal clear to me that marrying would bring him more glory than me remaining in torment. I promised him if it brought him slightly more glory for me to remain single, then that’s what I’d do.

I have never had a sip of alcohol, nor a puff of a cigarette, nor sampled any type of unprescribed drug. I don’t even have tea or coffee because caffeine is a low-grade drug. I have never gambled or knowingly used what I regard as a swear word.

If you explore this vast website, you will see that I have written literally thousands of webpages, all without any advertisements nor even hinting for a donation. I have never sought to make any money – not even cover expenses – out of ministry. In fact, I have frequently refused donations.

Moreover, I’ve done all of this because I have genuinely wanted to honor and please the God I love with all my heart.

Does any of this make me even marginally better than someone who continually delights in every conceivable evil? Absolutely not! It just increases my spiritual danger, by swelling the log in my eye (Luke 6:41), threatening to blind me to my desperate need to put all my faith in the pristine perfection of my Savior’s righteousness, and none in my sleazy imitation.

Dare I ever imagine any of my ‘righteousness’ impresses the Holy Lord? I might as well proudly wave my bodily filth in front of people, saying, “Look what I’ve done! Aren’t I wonderful?” Everyone would turn from me in contempt, just like all of heaven would, if I thought my efforts were proving myself less worthy of hell than someone all of humanity despises.

Am I saying I now want to ease up and become more ‘normal’? Not at all. My point, however, is that I dare not squander the little faith I have, by placing the minutest fraction of it in any of my efforts to delight my Lord, the Love of my life. Likewise, it is vital that I ruthlessly cut out of my life every lump of pride, the moment I discover the tiniest trace of that spiritual cancer. My faith, and my boast, must be in Christ alone.

Think of it this way: an airplane could empower me to do what is humanly quite impossible. Through simply surrendering control to the plane, I could soar heavenward. If, however, I cave into fear and insist on keeping one foot on the tarmac, I’m going nowhere, despite my best efforts. I might long to hedge my bets, but it is simply impossible. No matter how scary I find it, I must completely surrender control to the airplane, putting all my faith in it alone, or I’m grounded.

Likewise, if I put almost all my faith in Jesus’ power to save me, but try hedging my bets by insisting on keeping the tiniest toehold on my own efforts, how can my Savior lift me to heaven?

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Ready for Divine Peace?

To think ourselves better than anyone else – whether a Christian or non-Christian – is such an easy sin to fall into. Nevertheless, the Bible is emphatic that doing so exposes us to the eternal judgment of God. Not only does this grave error reveal a corrupt heart and heretical views, it makes it doubtful whether we are saved (redeemed, had our sins forgiven). Christ is eager to forgive all our sins, but is thinking ourselves better than certain people so dear to us that we spurn his forgiveness of this sin? Do we consider we get too much out of this ego boost for us to acknowledge that it is wrong, and something for which we need forgiveness? Until we repent of this attitude, it puts us at odds with God, who alone is the source of the peace these webpages are about.

Our strong tendency to have an inflated view of ourselves dramatically highlights how divine peace differs enormously from human attempts to grope for peace. We find ourselves repeatedly tempted to try to feel at peace with ourselves, and with God, by boosting our egos, by such ways as telling ourselves we are better than the ungodly. Our egos, however, are what the Bible calls the flesh – our fallen nature. So to boost it is to propel ourselves in the opposite direction of both godliness and the peace of God.

Not only does it help us in many ways, it is vital for our spiritual well-being that we not consider ourselves better than anyone else. We have approached this matter from several different angles to demonstrate how basic it is to the Bible. I worry, however, that many will require still more proof – and there is no shortage of it in God’s Word.

One might expect that continual acceptance of the reality of our own depravity and utter dependence upon a savior, would be humiliating and depressing and sabotage peace. Instead, it is astonishingly joyous and liberating; freeing us from striving, hiding, pretending and competing. By flooding us with love, and empowering us to be at peace with God, with other people, and with ourselves, it unlocks the vault to divine peace.

I understand you finding this hard to believe at present. If you would like further help in coming to terms with this challenging topic, I suggest this: Accepting our Depravity: The Surprising Key to Peace & Spiritual Success. Otherwise, please continue with the link below.

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Next Page: Peace that Passes Understanding Finding peace in other areas of life.

Pages Related to Peace with God

Repentance: Why you Cannot be Forgiven While Refusing to Let Go of Sin

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2019 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

 

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