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I recently asked my internet browser, “How many countries in the world are at war right now?” I was astounded to learn that it’s actually easier to ask, “How many countries in the world are at peace?” According to a study by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), only eleven nations in the world were conflict-free out of 162 surveyed last year! The only ones to achieve the lowest score for all forms of conflict—both internal and external—were Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Panama and Brazil. To see the IEP site, including an awesome interactive map that shows how each nation ranks world-wide, go to: http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/indexes/global-peace-index.
Not surprisingly, the United States is ranked 101st out of 162 nations for peacefulness. That’s because—including the involvement of U.S. troops in the five best-known theaters of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen—last year the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had special ops forces in as many as 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign armies! [See more at http://www.mintpressnews.com/us-now-involved-134-wars/196846/.] Although the last war the U.S. was officially involved in was WWII, we have had our hands in a multitude of international conflicts since then. Add to that our violent crimes, internal conflicts and other factors, and we find the US of A is not such a peace-loving country after all!
With the U.S. trying to police the planet, while groups like ISIS are kidnapping, beheading and burning alive anyone who does not agree with their particular ideology, it’s hard to believe this world we live in will ever be at peace. But, if we are honest, mankind has been at war since the very beginning and will be until its end. Let me explain…
When YHWH first created the heavens and the earth, everything was perfect, peaceful and beautiful. He Himself declared it “very good” (Genesis 1). There were just two human beings on the planet, and they got along great, from the moment they laid eyes on each other (Gen. 2:21-25). They were in perfect fellowship with God, as well, until they made a choice that ruined everything. From the moment that Eve listened to the serpent and ate the fruit the Creator had forbidden the first humans to eat, all of mankind was launched into war against itself and God (chapt. 3).
We didn’t instigate the war; Satan did. According to Isaiah 14:12-17, Ezekiel 28:12-16, and Revelation 12:7-12, the serpent—a.k.a.: the dragon, Lucifer, the devil, the king of nations—was the one who got too full of himself, tried to take on God, was tossed out of heaven, and has since concentrated his efforts on destroying those of us who dwell on the earth. He has been trying to devour anyone he can sink his fangs into, since the earliest days of our existence (1 Peter 5:8)!
But we aren’t innocent victims, by any means. Since that day in the garden, human beings have become just as full of ourselves as Lucifer was. We think we know what’s right and wrong and can do and have whatever we please. We get more than a little bent out of shape whenever anyone tries to tell us differently.
For example, Psalm 2:1-3 says, in the New International Version:
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
“Let us break their chains,” they say,
“and throw off their fetters.”
Our once brilliant minds have become so infected by selfishness, we can’t think straight. We fight against the very One who loves us the most and wants only the very best for us (Romans 8:7, James 4:4). We fight against each other, too, arguing over who gets what (James 4:1-3). We can even fight against our own well-being, by wanting the sorts of things that are only going to hurt us (1 Peter 2:11).
God knew from the very beginning that the only way to remedy the situation was to eliminate the source of the conflict Himself. No, he hasn’t wiped the devil off the face of the planet—although that would certainly seem to make it easier to end this war between good and evil. He took it upon Himself to remove not only the record of what we had done to offend Him, but also the propensity toward repeating those poor choices. How? Through the strangest act of bait-and-switch you ever did see!
God took His one and only Son, Jesus, and put Him on the front lines. He sent Him first to explain what we had done wrong and then to point out how He was going to make it right. Then God let the leaders of the one group of people you would have thought would understand accuse Jesus of the sorts of things they had been doing all along—lying about God, subverting the government, and so on. These religious leaders, who thought they knew the truth, turned Jesus over to a secular ruler, who admitted he didn’t have a clue. And then they forced this governor to execute a completely innocent man.
But wait! It gets better. Here’s where the bait and switch comes in. 2 Corinthians 5:29 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Every act of rebellion mankind had ever committed, every short-coming or in-your-face act of sedition, was placed on Jesus. Isaiah 53 tells us that, while Jesus’ enemies thought He was suffering for His own wrong-doing, the Lord’s hands and feet were “pierced for our transgressions” (vv. 4-5); our wrongs and their consequences were loaded up on Him (6); He was oppressed, judged and struck down because of us (7-8). Despite the fact Jesus committed no violence, nor had even said anything dishonest, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,” and make “his life a guilt offering” for you and me (9-10). Jesus suffered one of the most cruel and degrading forms of death ever invented by mankind, yet this apparent defeat was actually a tremendous victory, because—by dying in the place of those who had made themselves God’s enemies—He fixed everything, so that we could enjoy fellowship with God once again (11-12).
Romans 5:8-11 puts it this way:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Not only that, but Jesus eliminated the reason for conflict between different people groups. Ephesians 2:14-18 says:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
The religious and cultural lists of dos and don’ts that divide us are now irrelevant. We are all made one and can enjoy fellowship with one another by our common relationship to God through Christ and His Holy Spirit. And now we don’t have to waste precious energy and resources fighting against fellow human beings or God, since we know our real enemy is the devil and all his evil minions (2 Corinthians 10:3-6); we can take up the resources God has given us and join in the fight against the one who means to destroy us (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The cool thing is, this puts us on the winning side at last! Remember how we learned that the devil started this whole thing? The book of Revelation not only explains the origins of this battle, but also tells us how it plays out. We are going to continue to be Satan’s targets, and he and his forces are going to seem unbeatable (Revelation 12:17 & 13:1-10). Nevertheless, when Jesus comes back, He is going to defeat the devil and all his cohorts—ultimately tossing them into a lake that burns with fire and sulfurous fumes forever (Revelation 17:12-14, 19:11-21 & 20:7-14). Then the war, and all the suffering that comes with it, will be over forever. God can reinstate the perfect world, and no one will ever disturb His perfect peace (Revelation 21-22).
All it takes to join the winning side is to accept the fact that you have been at war with God, and that Jesus took your place at the execution of traitors. Surrender ownership of all you are and all you have to Him, and then join His army, instead of serving the kingdom of darkness (Luke 1:68-79 & 1 Peter 2:9-25). Fighting His battles is never easy, but it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears you will ever shed. And think of the day when every evil—including sickness and death—are defeated, when there will remain no more cause for tears ever again (Revelation 21:3-4)!
That final battle is coming soon [See my April 14, 2014, blog, “Eyes on the Sky,” at http://psalm8116.com/eyes-on-the-sky/]. Are you ready? Are you on the winning side? Get that way while you still can. There’s no way you want to be fighting on the wrong side when Jesus comes!
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