Turning Confusing Problems into Clear Principles, Pt. 3
(Practicing ‘Shalom’ in a World of Strife)
Study Guide June 3, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
As we mentioned earlier, we are looking forward to our Wednesday night Summer series of exploring the Jewish Tabernacle. There are so many great concepts illustrated throughout the Tabernacle. And sometimes we learn lessons that completely change our lives and change how we think about things. An example of one of those concepts and lessons comes from that Jewish word that is one of the most well known words of the Hebrew language, but surprisingly not well understood at all. That word is: ‘Shalom’. What’s interesting about it is that even though most people think of ‘Shalom’ as just being a greeting or just meaning ‘peace’, it originally meant so much more, along with all of its implications.
But first, think about it: We live in a world of strife, right? We live in a world of angst. We live in a world of conflict. We live in a world of stress. We live in a world of unrest. But this morning we want to help you deal with all of this. We want to give you something that will help you relax, especially in your mental attitude. We want to help you live your life and deal with others with a relaxed mental attitude, or a ‘shalom mental attitude’.
One of my favorite screen characters is Ballou, the big ole bear from the original animated version of Jungle Book. I haven’t seen the remake. But do you remember his counsel to Mowgli? “You need to relax a little…You need to unwind yourself.” Pretty good counsel for a whole lot of us, right? And how about his song? “Look for the bare necessities, The simple bare necessities, Forget about your worries and your strife. I mean the bare necessities, Old Mother Nature’s recipes, That brings the bare necessities of life.”
Now of course, the song needs some updating to be Biblically correct…Old Mother Nature’s recipes should be our Heavenly Father’s instructions for living, right? But do you ever feel all wound up in knots…tied up in the knots of worries and strife? Why is that? Is that the Holy Trinity doing that? Nope! Then it’s the unholy trinity doing that. It’s the world, the flesh, and the devil tying you up in knots in your mind and spirit. But how sad that we so easily co-operate with that unholy trinity or give into this unholy trinity.
Many Christians live in a continual state of angst in our humanistic society. So how can we, as God’s people, deal with the constant strife of our anti-Christian culture, but yet not be so bound up and tied up by it all? The answer is: ‘Shalom’. We were meant for ‘Shalom’. We were created for ‘Shalom’…in our relationship with our God. Here’s a capsule-form principle about that: We need to resist the strife of the unholy trinity and persist in acting on the ‘shalom’ of the Holy Trinity.
Now, note that ‘shalom’, as a word, is like the colors of a variegated plant. But a variegated plant is one that has many different shades or colors to it, and that is what the word ‘shalom’ is like. Shalom means everything from peace and harmony to wholeness and completeness to prosperity and well being. It also speaks of having a restful spirit and an absence of agitation or discord since we have a living relationship with the Creator of ‘shalom’.
But now, here is something else to be sure about: True ‘shalom’ is uniquely a Biblical word or concept, and you cannot experience true shalom apart from God. There is no true peace apart from God; apart from having peace with God and then having the peace of God. Rom 5:1-2- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” NASU
As we have pointed out before: Many people want the ‘peace of God’, but no one can have the ‘peace of God’ until they make ‘peace with God’. And we make peace with God through repentance toward God and placing faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.
Here’s the other thing: Until you make peace with God, or shalom with God, you can’t really have peace or a true shalom with anyone else..including yourself! God clearly reminds all people that there is no peace for those who are still enemies of God in their relationship to Him. Isa 48:22- “There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord.” NASU The ‘wicked’ here is a reference to those who are separated from God in spirit and in deeds because of their sins.
So think about that; the fact that there is no peace for those who have not received the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus, as their personal Savior. Then what is there? Well, If you cannot have peace with God apart from a relationship with God, then the most you can have with anyone is basically a ‘cease-fire’. But a cease-fire is not a state of peace, but just a pause in the ongoing conflict. And that is what life is for those who have not become new creations in Christ; an ongoing conflict, again, with God, with others, and even within themselves.
We need to keep that in mind when we are looking at or observing the unconverted people in our lives. And that is: we are looking at ‘conflicted people’. Their heart and mind and spirit is not at rest, not at peace, and especially not in ‘shalom’, because there is a hole in their soul that has not yet been filled with the Spirit of their Creator and Redeemer. Sure, there might be other things they have put in it or stuffed into that hole in their soul, but it will never give them peace, especially not peace with God.
In all of our dealings with others, we need to remember this constant state of this conflicted spirit in unconverted people around us…because if we do not remember this, then we are apt to get pulled into the same kinds of strife and angst and wrongful attitudes that these unconverted and conflicted people have in themselves and are inflicting on others.
For example: We have to recognize that there is a standoff between those who are redeemed and those who are not. Proverbs 29:27 puts it like this: “The righteous despise the unjust: the wicked despise the godly.” NLT So the righteous despise the wicked and the wicked despise the righteous. Solomon is simply pointing out a clear principle to understand concerning the fact that there is this mindset of a moral and spiritual ‘stand-off’ that is constantly present between those who seek to live under the authority of their Lord and Savior and those who do not. Plus, Solomon points out that this stand-off is accompanied by deep natural feelings and attitudes; the natural attitude of ‘despising one another’. Now, because of our nature, that attitude comes natural. But for those with a new nature, one that is now a new creation in Christ, there is a way to deal with that natural attitude differently than the way the ungodly naturally default to it; that is, they default to their feelings of disgust and despising of God’s people.
In other words, it’s natural for the ungodly to bash the godly. It’s even natural for the godly to want to bash back at the ungodly. But the thing is about our new creation in union with Christ is that God didn’t create us to be ‘Bashers’, but to be ‘Builders’…not ‘people bashers’, but ‘people builders’. Remember, Jesus said, “I will ‘build’ My church”. And what does He build His church out of, His now ‘righteous saints’ out of? Right, He builds His righteous Church out of once ‘unrighteous sinners’. Remember that caveat of Paul’s? “By the grace of God, I am what I am…” Or ‘But, by the grace of God, that unbeliever could be me.’ So we need to look at unbelievers through eyes of grace; as in there is still a chance that this unbeliever might yet become a follower of Christ…that is, unless they persist in their resistance toward God.
Keep it in perspective: there is a time for everything. There is a time to do justice; a time to contend with those who contend against God and God’s people. There is a time to tear down and to defend the defenseless and so on. But as for carrying a general attitude toward the ungodly; naturally the righteous despise the wicked, but we are not to be controlled by the natural feelings within us, but by the supernatural Holy Spirit of God within us. Which means we are to seek to think how God would have us think about the ungodly around us and what to do about it all. We have to look to the Spirit of God to know what time it is: is it time to tear down or time to build up? God will lead. But regardless of what time it is, remember that the battle is the Lord’s, and so is the building of His church. And as far as it depends on us, we are to default to thinking like ‘builders’, unless it’s time to ‘battle’. In other words, we always start with ‘shalom’ unless it’s clear that it’s time for the ‘sword’. Like with the people building the wall in Nehemiah’s day: they worked with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. Their intention was to build, but they were ready to defend if necessary.
Now back to the examples of how this attitude of ‘shalom’ plays out in our general dealings with others around us. Again, “Shalom” speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to practice gratitude toward God, as well as then sensing a need to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way. So actually, this understanding then sheds a whole new light on the concept of witnessing.
We often think of witnessing as just one of those hard disciplines of the Christian life. It is a discipline, and it sometimes is hard to share the Gospel with all of the push back we get from our Gospel-resistant society. Witnessing can be a confusing problem for many believers. But if you understand that witnessing is also a way of ‘generously re-paying a debt’ we owe to others, it can turn this confusing problem into a clear principle; a principle where we now think of witnessing as a clear expression of how we really can love our neighbor as ourselves, and thus fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. So by thinking about witnessing with a ‘shalom’ attitude, instead of worrying so much about if your witness, whether by word of mouth or by a gift of Gospel literature, is going to be received or rejected…think of your gesture of witnessing now like being a repayment of just something you owe another person anyway. And by just passing on to others this gift you yourself received, you will sense a liberation and a satisfaction like you get from fulfilling a debt you owe to others.
And why do we say witnessing is like a repayment that we owe to others? Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said about what we owe others? Rom 13:8- “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” NASU Witnessing is one of the greatest demonstrations of ‘loving your neighbor’ that there is. We owe to others what God has given to us; the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And that really changes the perspective on ‘witnessing’, doesn’t it? Of course, our prayers and our hopes are that each one to whom we give a Gospel witness to will be open to the work of God’s Spirit and will then receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. But even if they respond in resistance or even rejection, once we realize that our part was simply to freely give to them what we freely received, then we can be at peace or shalom that we have just given to them something we owed them. Think about it: In witnessing to others, we’re not trying to start a verbal competition with anyone, we are simply accomplishing the completion of debt we owe to others; the debt to love them as someone else loved us and got the Gospel message to us. As Jesus pointed out to us: “Freely you received, freely give.”
Actually, this also adds quite an inspiring feature to our focus on Apologetics. As we have so wonderfully become better equipped in sharing our faith through our studies and seminars in Apologetics over the years here at the Chapel, when we add this attitude of ‘shalom’ to our apologetics it encourages us even more in getting the Gospel out to our world around us. How so? Well, as we come to understand that this peace of ‘shalom’ includes the peace that God can now offer to the world based upon Christ’s finished work of salvation, it means that our witness or outreach, our defense of the faith and offering of truth is not an intellectual tug-o-war with others around us. Why? Because remember, the war has already been won! Jesus has already conquered sin and death. Praise God! And so evangelism and the sharing of the reasons to believe that we learn in the studies of apologetics is now like something an army would do. With an army, after the war is won, they often distribute leaflets to the people that have instructions for them on what they should do now that the war has been won…how they are to make the best of their lives now and in the days to come; in the future.
Jesus has already won the war over sin and death. Jesus has already defeated every foe from sin and even death in His victory on Calvary. He has already defeated every falsehood that exists; the falsehoods of humanism, secularism, marxism, as well as every false teaching of world religions. Christians often live and deal with others in educational settings or political settings or business settings and so on, like these worldly ideas are still being contested. No, they are not! All of these false ideas and teachings and positions have already been defeated! We don’t have to defeat them again. Jesus already did that. And because the war has been won, His army, His church, is now called to distribute the leaflets, or to communicate to the world His Gospel and His words, the information and the instructions about how they should and can now live in order to make the best of rest of their lives now and in their eternal future.
And as God’s people communicate His truths, share His Gospel, and live among others in this world we are to do so with the mindset and the spirit and an attitude of ‘Shalom’. We are already at peace with God. And we can live with the peace of God. And so we can now share this offering of peace with God to whosoever will receive it, knowing that Jesus has already overcome the world. Many people in the world do not realize that yet, but they soon will. And that’s simply what we are trying to help others understand, that the victory over sin and death has already been won. And this victory is in Jesus. And all who follow Jesus share in His victory over sin and death. And that’s why we can live in ‘Shalom’ even while we live out our lives in a world of strife.
This understanding also gives a new sense to this benediction:
Num 6:24-26- “The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you ‘shalom’…peace.” NASU