There is in some people a desperation for inner peace that leads them to do the unimaginable. The heathen will sacrifice a child hoping for relief from their guilt. Think about a Muslim who is homosexual. What hope does he have? He feels trapped with no hope for deliverance. He is told if he dies in the act of fighting for Allah he will have a guarantee of heaven. So he arms himself, goes to a nightclub, shouts “Allahu Akbar” and begins to gun people down. Dozens and dozens of corpses lie in his wake before he is finally stopped.
The search for hope and inner peace takes some on a spiritual journey that leads them to strange rituals. Others add hallucinogenic drugs, getting on a high that momentarily eases their inner turmoil. The current opioid crisis in middle America indicates that young people are looking for something they are missing.
Man is spirit, soul, and body. The spiritual man cannot be nourished by physical or psychological substitutes. It has been widely quoted that man has inside a God-shaped vacuum that can only be filled with God Himself. But men too often try, ending in frustration and often destruction.
A man in old Russia was not at peace. He had gone to church, participated in the rituals, said the prayers. To no avail for his empty heart. He went to the village priest and asked what he should do. “You should take a pilgrimage. Go to the holy city. They will tell you what to do.” He took the priest’s advice and began his long journey. The nearer to the city he came, the more he anticipated finding inner peace. He finally made it. “What shall I do?” he asked the holy men in the great cathedral. They gave him various exercises none of which brought him peace.
Finally, after he had exhausted all of their suggestions, he went back to his village. disappointed and disillusioned.
Some time passed and the Russian seeker heard of a house meeting where they were telling about salvation from sin through faith in Jesus. He decided to go. There he heard the message of Christ dying for his sins and then rising again in victory. He listened to the testimonials of others who had found forgiveness and peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. “Brothers and sisters, pray for me. This is what I have been searching for!” Down on his knees he went, repenting of his sins and placing his faith in the gospel of Christ. He stood up a new man. He had found peace with God.
There is only one way to find peace with God. It is the way of grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).
Sadly, the plague of inner turmoil is not restricted to the heathen, the cults, or those involved in formal religion. At the end of her life, a lady from a holiness church was having doubts. Had she done enough? A retired evangelist well up in years knelt at an altar and whispered, “I hope I haven’t missed it!”
There are two things to be said to people like these. First, they need to be reminded that the devil is a dirty fighter. He will get people when they are weak, sick, depressed, aging, infirm – and beleaguer them with doubts. He will accuse them. He will attack their faith. But he is a liar. Jesus called him the father of lies. Believers who are attacked by the devil and his demons must take up the shield of faith to quench those fiery darts.
The second thing that needs to be said is that we are not saved by works but by grace. That is so basic that we may tend to overlook it. But we do so to our own peril. If we begin to wonder if we’ve done enough to merit heaven, we have lost the message of grace. If our focus is on ourselves for our salvation, we will become as lost as the Russian pilgrim, or the heathen who try to find peace in so many wrong ways.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are saved by grace. That is something bestowed on us by the goodness of God. Grace! Something not deserved. Something not earned. It is received by faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith…” Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is believing and receiving. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Faith! It is how we receive grace. It is how we are saved. Salvation by grace through faith is the gift of God. It is not of ourselves. We did not plan our salvation. We did not provide our salvation. We did not perform our salvation. It is a gift given by God. We merely receive it by faith.
It is not of works, lest any man should boast. Here is where it is so easy to get tripped up. I was seated next to a pastor in a particularly serious service. He later told me that he wondered at the heaviness he felt. “I checked everything I’d done,” he said. “I didn’t come up with anything, but I wondered a while.” Something about his disclosure to me seemed a little off. Where was faith? He may have been led by a message to do deep personal evaluation, but he was somehow not led to the answer of faith. Examine yourself all you want, but do the right check up.
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). Are you in the faith? Are you trusting Jesus and Him alone? Or are you slipping into your own error of earning the favor of God by your works? It is important to periodically read the book of Galatians to keep from falling away from grace into the failure of being made perfect by the flesh. If what we trust in can be duplicated by false belief systems, we are heading disastrously toward a graceless, useless religion.
We must recapture a robust view of salvation by the grace of God. It is the only message that can satisfy a lost soul. It is the only message that can keep a believer from being lost in a maze of doubt and confusion when the enemy comes roaring in with accusations and doubts.
Not a few of the song writers in the past have understood this need for the focus on grace for saving and keeping the believer. Edward Mote had it right in his hymn “The Solid Rock.”
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.