How to get Peace
A summary in the same conversational style of John Nelson Darby’s article How to get Peace – click for original. Collected Writings Volume 10 (Doctrinal 3). The enquirer is in red; his guide is in green.
The Bible says that Jesus has “made peace by the blood of the cross”, (Col 1:20) but I have not got peace in myself. How can I have it? I sometimes think I do not believe at all. You are happy; how can I be? A few who enjoy divine favour, but I don’t know how to get it. I’m distressed; I get on from day to day as other Christians do, but I know that I am not at peace. That is a serious thing, because it says “being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” (Rom 5:1). Now, if I have not got peace with God, I am probably not justified either.
You clearly do not then think it presumptuous to be at peace with God. But, although you are in earnest, you do not have the true knowledge of justification by faith. I do not say you are not justified in God’s sight, but in your conscience you do not possess of it. In God’s sight, whoever believes in the Son of God is justified from all things. But till he appreciates the value of Christ’s work, he does not have the consciousness of it in his own soul. Sadly, Christian activity has deteriorated and become a kind of business of getting happy, so souls are not energised in the power of the Spirit. Therefore they are not at peace.
If a person is really serious, he cannot rest in spirit until he is at peace with God. Christ’s work is finished. He “appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” (Heb 9:26) and He finished the work which his Father gave him to do. (See John 17:4). His work put away our sin, and is completely and for ever and accepted by God.
I recognise that, but I still sin. I feel I am in an ungodly state and I should be holy.
Of course you need to be holy, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) But in your instinctive self-righteousness, you turn from Christ’s work to your own holiness. That is natural. Some people are indifferent: they have a false peace.
Are you looking for an improved state of soul to find peace?
I am indifferent sometimes, and that troubles me. I have not peace, and I would give anything for it. Yes, I need a better state of soul.
Then you are on the wrong road. Christ’s “having made peace” applies to your ungodliness. Your desire is right, but you are putting the cart before the horse – you are looking for holiness to get Christ, instead of looking to Christ to get holiness.
Are you lost?
I hope not. Of course we are lost by nature; but I hope there is a work of grace in me, though I sometimes doubt it. If I were to stand before God now, where would I be? I hope everything would be alright. I believe that there is a work of grace in me, but I cannot think of judgment without fear.
I do not doubt that there is a work of grace in you. You should have no fear how you will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ. What really plagues an upright soul is his actual sins and his sinful nature — in short, the discovery of what he is.
Here is the turning-point of our inquiry: What you need is to be in God’s presence, knowing that you are simply lost! A sinner cannot subsist before God in judgment. Nothing can help you. You don’t need help; you need righteousness, and that you have not got, at lest in your own faith and conscience.
The case of the prodigal son (Luke 15) will illustrate this. There was a work of God in him; he came to himself, found himself perishing, and set out to return to his father. He acknowledges his sins, adding “make me as one of thy hired servants.” That looked good: there was uprightness, a sense of divine goodness, and a sense of sin, and he was thinking of what he could hope for when returning to his father. You could call it a humble hope. But he didn’t really know his father! It is as if he had never met God, though God had worked in him. When he did meet his father there is no word of his being like the hired servants. He confessed his sins, and came in rags (the effect of his sins) to his father. But the effect was that he met God. As to his conscience, in his sins, everything was settled; his father fell on his neck — grace reigned — and he was given the best robe. He had nothing before; he now had the righteousness of God conferred on him..
When in God’s presence, we need Christ, righteousness and justification through Him. We do not need progress, help or improvement. The only progress was to bring us into God’s presence. We find Christ, who bore our sins, to be our perfect, absolute, and eternal righteousness. And we have peace.
God condemned sin in the flesh, when Christ was made an offering for it (Rom. 8:3). We are therefore, not “in the flesh,” but “in Christ.” Instead of Adam and his sins, we have Christ and the value of His work. Things have been settled once and for all, for ever, on the cross.
How then should I approach God?
Come to God like Abel, with the sacrifice in your hand. God assesses its value; you will have the testimony that you are righteous: your offering is a witness to that. Your acceptance before God is according to the value of Christ’s sacrifice in God’s sight. It has nothing to do with or of any improvement in your state. You come with your slain lamb – that is Christ. God looks at that; He does not look at your state, because you are a sinner, and being such, otherwise shut out from God.
But must I not accept Christ?
You keep saying, “But must not I?” I am not surprised; I am not criticising you; it is human nature, but you have to see that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: (Rom 7:18). The real question is not about accepting Him, but whether God has really presented Christ to you, and you have eternal life in Him. A simple soul would say, “Accept! I am only too thankful to have Him!” but unfortunately we are not all that simple. God has done everything for you in grace. God has been satisfied with the offering. Aren’t you?
Oh! I see it now. Christ has done the whole work, and God has accepted it, and there can be no more question as to my guilt or righteousness. He is the righteousness for me before God. That is wonderful, and yet so simple! But why did I not see it? How stupid I have been!
You say you have been stupid. But what you were looking for? — Christ, or holiness in yourself and a better state of soul?
Holiness and a better state of soul.
No wonder you did not see Christ. You were not submitting to God’s righteousness. Instead, in pride, you were seeking to be satisfied with your own state and find peace there. You were just asking Christ to help you in your own self-righteousness! Christ has not only borne our sins, He has closed the whole history of the old man in death for those who believe: they having been crucified with Him. Furthermore, He has glorified God in this work (John 12: 31, 33; 17:4, 5), and so obtained a place of present acceptance for man in the glory of God. That is our place before God. We are sanctified, or set apart, to God by His blood. We possess His life, or have Him as our life, and we have the Holy Spirit. We are not our own, but bought with a price, and nothing inconsistent with His blood, and the price of it, and the power of it in our hearts, marks us as Christians.
In the Old Testament, when a leper was cleansed, in addition to the sacrifice, the blood was put on the tips of his ear, his thumb, and his great toe. Every thought and action which cannot pass the test of that blood, is excluded from the Christian’s walk. So the precious blood, and the love Christ showed in shedding His blood, is the motive, and the Holy Spirit is the power for our walking in devotion, as Christ walked. If we are in Christ, Christ is in us; and we know it by the Comforter (John 14), the life of Jesus is to be manifested in our mortal body.
That is a very high standard!
But that is what scripture says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought to . . . walk even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6). God has Christ as the model. He is the expression of what is divine in a man. Otherwise one might say that complete grace and assurance leaves us liberty to do as we like. If we are completely saved, what is the use of works? That is a dreadful principle: it is as if we have no motive but “getting saved”. Say somebody told us that a man’s children were exempt from obligation because they were his children? I should say that they were under obligation, because they were his children.
Before we were Christians we were not under the obligation of living as Christians. We were under the obligation to live as men ought to live, according to the law. Now we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. And our duties are the duties in love of God’s children. We may fail, but here the advocacy of Christ comes in. Advocacy is not the means of our obtaining righteousness; Christ’s has already made the propitiation for our sins. We don’t go to Him in order for Him to advocate, because he will already have interceded for us. Christ prayed for Peter, even before he had even committed the sin.
Let’s go further. We know God in love, and are reconciled to Him We have communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Does that mean we have common thoughts and joys and feelings with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ?
That is communion. We have to seek that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, being rooted and grounded in love. (Eph 3:17). Even though we may be poor feeble creatures, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, so our thoughts, joys and feelings, cannot be discordant with those of the Father and the Son.
All this is new to me; I am brought into such a different world! If this is true, where are we all? But there is a passage which I don’t understand. We are told to ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5) . What you have said, it seems to me, sets this aside.
We are told to do no such thing, though many a sincere soul is honestly doing it. The words are part of a sentence The sentence starts: “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me,” . . . then a parenthesis . . . “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” It is a taunt. The Corinthians had called in question Christ’s speaking in Paul, and the reality of his apostleship, so he really says “You had better examine yourselves; how did you become Christians?
Now for something else. We read in 1 John 5:11 “that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life.” Between this life and the flesh there is no common ground. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;” (Gal 5:17) – they are totally contrary to one another. The scripture continues, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”. You had been trying to find signs of life in yourself with only a general apprehension of the goodness of God, strengthened by the knowledge that Christ died. It left you with a better hope; at least, when you looked at the cross you saw what you needed as a sinner. Still you looked for something better in yourself: you could not say you possessed everything you needed in the cross. You were fearful of judgement because of your state. You did not really know redemption. Life is not redemption. Both belong to the believer, but they are different things. What unites these two truths is in the resurrection of Christ. We are dead with Him. Then we are raised, and then quickened. The full power of life is seen in resurrection. We do not have just eternal life, but deliverance out of the state we were in, and entrance into another. The price was in redemption.
Before our conversation, you were redeemed, of course. And God had wrought in you in grace, but you were looking at this in view of a God of judgment, with glimpses of divine love, but you had not faith in accomplished redemption.
Well, while the old foundation remains, what you have said has put Christianity in quite a different way. I am now clear as to the ground of my peace. But you would make us out-and-out Christians, dead, as you say, to the world and everything.
The truth is, the great body of true sincere Christians are as those without, hoping it will be all right when they get in; instead of being within and showing what is there to the world, as the epistle of Christ. The new man cannot have his objects here. We are crucified to the world, and the world to us; and so we have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.
But we still have to remember that the flesh lusts against the Spirit, so we need vigilance. We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). That is not because our place is uncertain, but because God works in us. It is a serious thing to maintain God’s cause when the flesh is in us. Satan uses all the resources of the world to hinder and deceive us. But do not be discouraged, for God works in you; greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4). The secret is lowliness of heart and the sense of dependence, and looking to Christ with confidence. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling. You cannot trust yourself too little, and you cannot trust God too much. The true knowledge of redemption brings us into perfect peace, and a true and constant dependence on the Redeemer.
We have been taught to rely on God’s promises and trust them for our salvation.
Trusting God’s promises is right: and there are most precious promises too. But tell me, is it a promise that Christ shall come and die and rise again?
No: He came; He died, and is now risen at God’s right hand.
So it cannot be a promise, because it is an accomplished fact.
To help us on our journey onward, there are many and cherished promises. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (Heb 13:5) “ God… will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” (1 Cor 10:13) “ No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:29) “Who will also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:8). I could cite others.
We know God Himself only through Christ. If I know Him, I know Him as God our Saviour; as one who has not spared His Son, as one who raised Christ from the dead after He had had taken our sins. In a word, I not only believe in Christ, but in Him who has given Christ and owned His work; who has given glory to man in Him; as a God who has come to save, not to judge me. I believe in Him, by Christ. I know no other God but that. I do wait for a promise, the redemption of the body. That will be the full result of His work.
Christianity gives us a known relationship, in peace and love. Love is the spring of all. He first loved us. We find our joy in Him; we love others, as partaking of God’s nature, for Christ is dwelling in our hearts, and love constrains us.
You make a Christian a wonderful person in the world; but we are very weak for such a place.
I could never make him in my words what God has made him in His. As to weakness, the more we feel it, the better. Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.