The Gospel is Our Source of Peaceful Stability

How did I come to be thinking about shoes and money? (I’m asking myself.) There are places in the world where many people are subsisting on very little of both—Malawi, Africa, for example. While there, I observed many children walking to school, barefoot along the highway in all kinds of weather. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, and most people live by eating produce from their gardens. It is almost impossible to experience peace with an empty stomach, no medical care, homeless, or shoeless. That’s why we need to care for those in need with practical help as we offer them soul help through the gospel. In developed nations, we take shoes for granted, and many of us only think of shoes as fashion, rather than a means to protect our feet. Finances, on the other hand, is on our minds frequently, and many unfortunately look to money to provide a solid foundation for their present and future security.

 

But Christianity is counter-cultural, and the Bible our guide for this life. Instead of depending on that which will decay, we look to God’s eternal plan in Christ. Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Not only does God promise his presence with us, he has given us all the armor we need to defend ourselves against the pressures of life. In Ephesians 6 Paul describes our defensive gear including, “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness, and…shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace…the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17) The armor of God supplies us what we need to be content, not vulnerable to the world and its influence. When we are equipped and content, we are at peace. When we are peaceful, we can reach out to other believers in peace and love, with the gospel. These verses remind us that believers are strengthened, protected, stabilized by Christ, and God’s Word. Our peace and confidence in the Lord, with Christ’s strength and stability, overcome our complacency toward other believers. In a world of chaos and confusion, continually striving for happiness and fulfillment. Shalom is not a passive concept; it involves actively engaging with God and others in unity to enjoy and promote the peace and spiritual wellbeing of heaven on earth.

 

“Strictly speaking, the Roman soldier’s belt was more a part of his dress than his armor. It was made of leather and was used to gather his garments together as well as hold his sword. Yet it was part of his war equipment, for it gave him a feeling of inner fortitude and strength when tightened. According to Paul’s teaching, the Christian’s belt is truth. It is to be his inner strength, what gives him confidence…[and] inner truth or truthfulness beginswith a knowledge of God, who is truth, and…inevitably leads to a life change consistent with God’s character. We must be truthful men and women, of course. But we will become that only as we feast on the revealed truths of God. It is significant that Paul puts truth first. This suggests that successful spiritual warfare begins with fixing Christianity’s great doctrines firmly in our minds. Or to put it another way: It is dangerous to rush into battle [with the world] without having the great doctrines of the faith fixed firmly in our understanding…In this context Paul is urging those who already are Christians to ‘put on’ God’s armor. If they are Christians, they have already been clothed with God’s righteousness in the first sense. Therefore the only thing they can put on is practical holiness expressed in righteous thoughts and deeds.” (1)

 

So, having God’s truth and the imputed righteousness of Christ working to produce in us active righteousness, we also have particular shoes. I have issues with my feet that require custom orthotics and sturdy footwear to support me. I need shoes that will hold me firm,  without falling—a visual advantage when considering how our feet are fitted with the gospel. John Gill offers this perspective on Ephesians 6:15: “…the word…signifies a ‘base’, or foundation…and here it designs a firm and solid knowledge of the Gospel…which yields a sure foundation for the Christian soldier to set his foot upon, and stand fast on; it being that to him, as the shoe is to the foot, its base or foundation: and for the feet to be “shod with” it…designs the constant and firm standing of believers in the faith of the Gospel, and so striving and contending for it, without being moved from it, that it may continue with them.” (2) Gill’s emphasis on the internal strength we have in the gospel reminds us that we have already been fitted for peaceful engagement with the world.

 

There is an on-site housekeeper in my little apartment for the next few minutes, so I moved to our shared library. A resident stopped by, eager to engage in conversation. I closed my laptop to politely engage with her. She is pretty critical about most of the things happening in the world today and likes to express her opinions. What a contrast to my thoughts here! But see how God has used it since I am about to embark on a new thought. In his letter to the Romans, Paul follows up eleven chapters of doctrine with five chapters of application. In Romans 14, he begins, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” I have no idea if the resident who just left is a Christian, but I do know that I was not to quarrel with her about her opinions. So I kept changing the subject to something positive. Our dialog was not divisive or unpleasant but like a ping pong match as we both didn’t reply to each other. I kept my cool, and so did she. There are a great many negative things happening today, just as there always have been, in every age and place.  Many older folks make it their mission to complain. Life online is sometimes like one quarrel after another, about politics, economics, sports, and even food. Have you heard about the “Great Fried Chicken Sandwich Feud?” When Paul talks of food in Romans 14, though, he is not referring to the food as much as our attitude toward it. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6b)

 

“[Charles] Spurgeon was criticized for traveling to meetings in a first class railway carriage. His antagonist said, ‘Mr. Spurgeon, what are you doing up here? I am riding back there in the third class carriage taking care of the Lord’s money.’ Spurgeon replied, ‘And I am up here in the first class carriage taking care of the Lord’s servant.’ Let’s stop dumping on one another, and let’s allow God to deal with each of his servants how, when, and as kindly as he will. And while we are at it, let’s be thankful that he has dealt as kindly as he has with us. If he had not, we would all be in deep trouble.” (3)

 

Do you welcome other believers? What is your response when someone disagrees with you about politics, the economy, or social issues? How do you respond to someone who has a different approach to theology? How can you peacefully welcome those who love Christ but are not like you? When you put on your shoes, do you feel steady, unwavering, and firm in your choices and lifestyle, having the peace of the gospel? “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7)

(1) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Ephesians 6:14, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 6:15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-6.html

(3) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Romans 14:1-12, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

August 23, 2019

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