Have you ever known someone at perfect peace? (Isaiah 26:3-4) This person is at ease with whatever is happening to him, no matter the circumstances or trials he is facing. Maybe it is a frightening medical diagnosis, or that he is on his deathbed or in the rubble of a difficult relationship. In spite of these circumstances, he has a tranquility, joy and contentment based on an abiding confidence in the providence of God and assurance that all will be well.
Adam and Eve had peace in the Garden of Eden. They had a perfect relationship with God and with each other. When sin came, peace departed and we have been searching for it ever since. Often we look in the wrong places or to the wrong sources, maybe to control or fame or some human relationship that we think will bring us peace. God is the only place we can find the peace we are seeking, but sin has blinded us to His beauty.
Jesus came to give us peace (John 14:27). Because of Jesus, we can have a life of joy and contentment with who God is and what He is doing, not just a temporary tranquility based on circumstances. Because of Jesus, we have peace with God. He is no longer angry with us; there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! The gospel also gives us the ability to have peace with other people—other messy, broken sinners like ourselves, who have been saved by God’s grace. The Christian Sabbath (Sunday) is set apart as a day of rest and peace and fellowship with God and His people. On it we are reminded weekly to cease from our striving, to remember that God has everything under control and that all will be well. We need this preparation that the Gospel of Peace brings in order to prepare for Spiritual Warfare.
When it comes to resisting temptation, we must keep a few things in mind. First, if we are to resist it, we must recognize it as a temptation. It is not just a harmless diversion; it is a danger! Second, we must know and believe that what God offers is always better than the temptation at hand. Don’t believe Satan’s lies; what he offers is not true or helpful. Third, if we are to resist temptation, we must trust God’s armor and stand our ground in it.
Today we will look specifically at army boots; that is, the gospel shoes that God provides for our feet as we engage in Spiritual Warfare. Paul has in mind the sturdy, thick-soled sandals with straps worn by Roman infantry soldiers in which they could advance over difficult terrain and stand their ground against the attack of an enemy. The footwear issued to a Christian soldier for Spiritual Warfare is the Readiness provided by the Gospel of Peace.
What is this Readiness? Many commentators, based on passages such as Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:14-15, understand this to mean that we are prepared to preach the gospel to others. They picture an active, offensive-driven warfare to deprive Satan of his captives. Others say this readiness is the steadiness that the gospel brings to you personally, that it is the foundation of stability on which you must stand your ground against temptation. In this picture, we are to remember who we are and whose we are all the time, and this confidence undergirds our ability to do spiritual battle. Both of these interpretations may be correct, but Pastor Mark understands this particular passage to refer primarily to the latter—the peace of the gospel that we must stand in so that we can withstand temptation.
What is the gospel? We tend to look at it from our perspective when we say the gospel is the call to repent and believe, or the forgiveness I experience because of Christ. (These are benefits of the gospel, not the gospel itself.) The gospel is actually the good news of what God has already done for us. It is Christ’s victory over sin and over all the forces of darkness. You can also say that the gospel is God—who He is and what He has accomplished for us in Christ. The love of God for his people is from before the foundation of the world and into eternity after this world; in other words, God’s peace envelopes all of my troubles. It was there before they started and will continue long after they are finished. The gospel is the victory of God in Christ that can never end. This is an incredible basis for peace in the midst of whatever trials come our way!
What is peace? The peace referred to in this passage is not the absence of troubling circumstances, but rather peace above and in the midst of our circumstances. It is the relationship with God that allows us to stand in His presence and enjoy His presence. The gospel gives us peace that we cannot find anywhere else (Philippians 4:7). It can’t be found in a retirement account or a stable job or in happy family relationships. The gospel gives us a peace that can bear the weight of grief and anxiety and difficult circumstances.
So put on your army boots—the gospel that gives peace. Unpack the gospel before your own eyes every day. God is enough! Take your stand on the gospel. It is the only firm footing for your life and warfare. Because of what Christ has accomplished, you have peace with God and with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Enter into this rest that God has provided for you in the gospel.