THE PLEASURE IMAGE

              AND THE PEACE OF GOD

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;

not as the world gives do I give to you. Let

not your hearts be troubled, neither let them

be afraid.

While the road to the City of God is lined with all kinds

of wonderful samples of the glory that lies ahead, itís

certainly true that the glory we now see is incomplete.

We see through a glass dimly. We know only in part,

prophesy only in part.

 

And itís also true that as we travel we hit dry stretches.

We come to deserts of frustration and valleys of sorrow.

So itís not surprising that as we pass through hard times

the enemy comes along and flashes before our mindís eye

a pleasure image which offers us a shortcut to satisfaction.

 

For instance,

ó if weíre living in a place where food is

scarce, Satan distracts us from our real

goal by showing us an image of lots of

delicious food and how to get it,

 

ó if weíre walking a road thatís lonely,

perhaps even while weíre surrounded by

family and friends, weíll be shown a

picture of a paradise of endless sexual

pleasure. Look around you at the ads,

billboards, television, your own imagination,

 

ó if weíre having trouble paying the bills,

weíre given a promise of luck and fortune

and shown some way to keep the hope alive

with lottery tickets or T.V. giveaways,

 

- if weíre bored with where we are, weíre

shown a thousand unreal ways to get out

of this hole and go places.

These needs for food, love, money, a change of scenery

are not evil in themselves, But when they are magnified

to the point where they become the meaning of life we

are spiritually sick.

 

The "Pleasure Image" ó we know itís a lie,

                                    we know where it leads,

                                    we know what happened to the

Israelites when they dreamed of meat and got it, when

they made the golden calf and had their orgies. On all

sides we see the wrecks of lives that pursued the

pleasure lie and we know what has happened to us every

time we have given reign to these impulses. Yet, we

still keep going back for more. We look at the pleasure

image and complain:

 

"How dull our life is."

 

"If only my husband werenít such a blob!"

 

"If only my wife had a little snap!"

 

"If only I had a decent job!"

 

"If only I could get away to that deserted

island and sit under a palm tree and watch

the waves roll in."

 

The more we dwell on our favorite pleasure image, the more

our self-pity increases and our impatience with those

around us.

 

And it wonít help to take a cold bath or wear a hair shirt

or fast for twenty-one days---not for this. And donít

think we twentieth century saints are the only ones who

have this problem. Thereís never been a believer who

hasnít. Peter had to contend with this pleasure image too,

and the apostles, and the women. But there was one

thing that saved them.....

 

In the presence of Jesus and in the words and

Spirit of Jesus they experienced, and we can

too, a satisfaction,

ó which is not a lie,

ó which thrilled their souls

    and bodies and drew them forward in the will

    of God and made those pleasure images shrivel

    up like deflated balloons.

In the presence of Jesus they tasted Godís peace  ---Godís

peace ---itís the only cure.

His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,

the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the

Prince of Peace.

 

Of the increase of his government and peace

there shall be no end.

The peace they experienced in the presence of Jesus was

not like any peace they had known before. It was not the

peace of tranquil circumstances since everywhere Jesus

went there was always disruption. In that sense He didnít

come to bring peace but a sword.

 

It was the peace of God which was upon Jesus as He went

about doing the Fatherís will. And there is no pleasure

in all the world that can compare with even a momentary

taste of that peace.

In thy presence is fullness of joy. At thy

right hand are pleasure forevermore.

God alone knows who on this earth is able to appreciate

His peace. But thereís many an alcoholic who needs only

a whiff of that peace and heís done with the bottle.

Many a man or woman whose life is warped beyond recog-

nition by lust or whose mind is a madhouse of perverse

fantasy who needs only to taste Godís peace to know that

this alone is the satisfaction worth going after.

 

Many a Nicodemus whoís up to his ears in

religion will quickly turn his life around

in exchange for that peace.

 

Many a Levi will joyfully say goodbye to

his financial enterprises forever to walk

with those who dwell in that peace.

And you, child, will be called the

prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to

prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his

people, in the forgiveness of their sins,

through the tender mercy of our God,

when the day shall dawn upon us from on high,

to give light to those who sit in

darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

And when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of

God who takes away the sin of the world he was pointing

to Him who has come to guide our feet into the way of

peace.

- To know Jesus is peace.

- To follow Jesus is peace.

- To love Him is peace.

- To serve Him is peace.

 

Peace I leave with you,

My peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give to you.

When Jesus first sent them out by twoís He instructed them

to say to whatever house they entered, "Peace be to this

house. And if a son of peace is there your peace shall

rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you." So

they went out with peace and they came back with peace.

    "My peace I give to you."

ó Peace that can settle a storm on Galilee

  as if it were a crying infant. "Peace, be still!"

 

ó Peace that can quiet a troubled conscience

  in the same way. "Your sins are forgiven.

  Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

 

When Jesus came back from the dead His first words to His

disciples, "Peace be with you!", and peace filled that room

like light and washed over their minds like healing waters.

 

There are really only two things in this world that promise

us satisfaction: The pleasure image of Satan,

and the peace of God.

 

Now we know that the pleasure image is a lie, that it only

leads to more hunger, frustration and misery. Yet, we fall

for it again and again and we always will, until we learn

to open our hearts to the peace of God. To open our hearts

to the peace of God means three things:

 

1. Receive it.

 

   "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you."

 

But if we donít receive it, if we donít let it in, if we

donít welcome it, what can His peace do but stand there

at the door and wait. If someone loves you you can receive

that love or you can reject it. Likewise with Godís peace.

We can receive it, or we can reject it.

 

ó We can stand there looking at the glass

    of water, or we can pick it up and drink it.

 

ó We can hear the words with our ears, or we

    can take them into our hearts.

 

"Lord, I donít understand what itís all about but I

want your peace. I take hold of it now with heart and

mind."

 

2. To open our hearts to Godís peace means to let it

   rule within.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

 

Itís up to us whether peace rules our hearts. We make

it peace or war by turning from those thoughts, words,

and deeds that drive that peace out of us.

 

We soon know the things that drive Godís peace from us.

Nothingís worth having or doing if it robs you of Godís

peace.

 

Did you ever notice how, after youíve gotten off some

juicy gossip, your peace is gone? How often turning away

from someoneís cry for help the room where you sit may be

quiet but your heart isnít.

 

To do whatever you have to do to keep Godís peace, or

to bring it back, thatís what it means to let it rule.

 

3. To open our hearts to Godís peace means to live it.

"Have salt in yourselves and be at peace

with one another."

 

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall

be called the children of God."

 

When you walk into a home and the people in that home are

dwelling with each other in peace you know that God is

there. And, when they have differences,

when there is tension or disagreement they

canít stand to let it go on. They have to resolve these

things in peace. You wonít find God in a house of dis-

sension. Striving, biting, devouring, grumbling,

criticizing, drives the presence of God from our

midst. Better to give in, to yield, to deny ourselves

in order to work and minister in His peace.

 

War we have all around us and we always will until Messiah

comes. But in the shadow of our Lordís cross there has

got to be peace. Not just saying, "Peace, peace," when

there is no peace, but truly the peace of God flowing forth

from us and through us like a healing stream.

 

    "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to

    you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.

 

What the world gives always turns out to be

something different from what it seemed. What

I give never changes.

 

"I give you my peace,

                   receive it,

 let it rule your heart,

                   live it,

 

 and you will be satisfied."