Many people think they have peace with God, but their lack of concern about their standing with him is a deception of their spiritually dead soul. There is a peace that passes all understanding, and in times like we were living in now, it is one of the most blessed aspects of the Christian life. The foundation of this peace is the cross of Jesus, where our sins found forgiveness, and the wrath of God is satisfied. The moment we trust in the atoning work of Christ, we are at peace with God objectively. From there, that truth begins to give us peace subjectively as God sheds his love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
The problem is, many people believe they are at peace with God, but because of their sins, they are still at enmity with him. Though they experience no distress at the thought of the holiness of God, it is not the peace of Christ they are experiencing; it is a dead calm. Scripture tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. There are signs that manifest if what we are experiencing is not the peace of Christ but is, in reality, the stillness of a spiritually dead soul. Here are six telltale signs of a dead calm.
1. Peace Without Heavenly Joy
One of the first signs that the peace we are experiencing is not the peace of Christ is that it is not accompanied by heavenly joy. The person who is alive in Christ and has experienced the conviction of sin, knows that there is no more significant dilemma in life. Once we have been awakened to the fact that hell is the only proper punishment for our sins and we find salvation in the cross of Jesus, all other problems in life pale in comparison. From there flows joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8), and that joy of the Lord will be our strength. If you find yourself unconcerned with your spiritual state before the Lord, but there is no joy in Christ Jesus, you may be experiencing the ease of a deceitful heart.
2. Peace That Rests on Our Own Merit
The second evidence that we do not have the peace of Christ can be seen when we consider our good-standing with God, and we base his favor on our character; when we think of all we do for the church, how we help the community, and think, “Of course, I have peace with God, look at all the good I do.” To further deceive ourselves, we often try to convince ourselves of our worthiness by looking around at the sins of others and see how we have avoided many vices that others have embraced. It is this comparison to other people that causes us to take comfort while we are still in our sins. This confidence in our goodness is a sure sign that we are experiencing the calm of a spiritually dead soul. Even if we claim the merits of the blood of Jesus, but believe our justification in Christ is a mixture of his death and our works, scripture says we are lost. We are saved by faith apart from works (Rom. 3:28); it is entirely the merit of Christ that brings us into a right relationship with him. If we add righteousness of our own, we condemn ourselves because our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
3. The Things of God are Barren and Dry
The third sign that our peace is not of God is exposed if we find the things of God barren and dry. This is when we have no hunger for the word of God, and when we try to feed upon it, it is like ashes in our mouth. If we can find more joy in an obscene Netflix series, than a time of prayer and Bible reading, something is seriously amiss with our spiritual condition.
4. Peace That is Easily Disturbed by Life’s Troubles
The fourth indicator deals with our response to trials. When life is going smoothly, our calm continues, but when troubles arise, so does the desperation of our heart. If life’s calamities have sent us into a tailspin of despair, the peace we are experiencing may not have been born of God.
Peace born of the flesh trembles when the things of the flesh tremble. Peace born of the Spirit of God looks to God himself who does not move, even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea (Psalm 46:2). There will be times of lament, sorrow, grief, and distress in the life of the Christian, but though we may be perplexed, we will not despair (2 Cor. 4:8).
5. Death Will Be Fierce
If we are reading this, we have not yet experienced this last one, but if worldly peace is not replaced with true peace with God, our deathbed will be a harrowing experience. Only the believer strengthened by the Holy Spirit is able to say, “Death, where is your sting. Grave, where is your victory. (1 Cor. 15:55)” A peace founded on the things of the world and confidence in the flesh will die when the flesh begins to perish.
As you went through this list, was any of this true of you? If so, it can only mean one of two things. 1. We are not a child of God, and we need to confess our sinfulness to the Lord, and trust entirely in the merits of Jesus, and the work he did on our behalf. Or 2. We are a believer, but our heart is still trying to find its hope and peace in this life. We must grow to be more spiritually-minded. If we do not, we may be saved, but we will suffer great loss as our carnal works are burned up on the day of judgment. We will be saved, but as one through fire (1. Corinthians 3: 15).
None of us are without sin. It is time for all of us to draw up under the wings of our Savior, and find joy in our salvation as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. The revived joy will make the things of God more precious to us than anything this world can offer, and life’s storms will not be able to take our peace. Finally, on the day we die, death will not have its sting, and the grave will not have its victory.