Archive for November, 2010

A Point of View

November 25, 2010

Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  John 19:16-18

John isn’t trying to write the complete account of Jesus in his gospel.  He has a definite purpose and point to his version of these things.  One of them is testifying to what he’s seen and heard personally.  The other, of course, is to emphasize certain aspects of Jesus’ character, teaching and mission.

Pilate finally gave into the pressure, though he doesn’t exit the story just yet.  John makes a point of telling us Jesus carried His own cross, which means it’s significant in some way.  I don’t know whether or not other condemned criminals carried theirs or not or if John was simply giving us details of the abuse.  In the other accounts we learn why this was an important point of information:  Jesus was so weakened after the various beatings He’d received He collapsed and someone else ended up carrying it for Him.

The plan of salvation called for Jesus to be abused and die at the hands of sinful men.  The plan, which He and the Father made before the foundations of the earth were even laid, predicted this outcome.

Why?

For two main reasons (probably more), I believe:

1)  Save humanity.  A point everyone knows.

2)  To show how far sin will drive people into insane behavior.

Make no mistake about it, killing God is insanity, for to destroy the source of all life is to destroy all life itself.

Pilate handed over a man he believed was innocent to maintain political peace.  For the sake of preserving their traditions the Jewish leaders first attempted to discredit Jesus, when that didn’t work they plotted to kill not only Him but any evidence of His power.  Lazarus didn’t die a martyr’s death, as far as we know, but the Jewish leaders sure wanted to include him.  Even the soldiers’ abuse went outside the boundaries of sane punishment to sadistic pleasure in the helplessness of another—or did you forget the crown of thorns, purple robe and reed as a scepter?

Their behavior steps outside the bounds of sanity.  Yet we shouldn’t be so surprised by this since the world is full of illustrations which depict man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  Jesus’ presence on earth “unearthed” another truth which should come clear in the telling His story:  without God present in both the physical and at the center of human thought humanity will go insane.  Killing another person for a piece of bread is sometimes a byproduct of the circumstances humans find themselves in, but the need to do so grows out of the insanity of either wasting God’s creation or a few hording the resources to the exclusion of the many.  Coveting, murder, lust (not just sexual but the overwhelming desire for something not ours) and theft come as direct results of subtracting God from the center of our thoughts and company.

Jesus lived among us to demonstrate what the kingdom of God would look like even in a sinful world.  He showed us through His daily routine and ministry what the sum of life should equal.

And we murdered Him for it.

I don’t know about you, but I hate to be confronted with my failures or the wrongs I do.  My sense of self is already teetering on the brink of disaster—not due to a lack of self-preservation, mind you—from the knowledge of my lack of righteousness.  Even if I’m not an abnormally evil person (which I’m not to my best reckoning), I still know I don’t measure up.  Some people don’t have as much trouble with this as I do, I’m sure, for they look at their pleasures and gray areas of behavior as either par for course or rewards for being good 98% of the time.  I can’t excuse my sin, though I still want to, which usually means defensiveness in the form of denial, belligerence or outright smoke screening/throwing someone’s faults in their face.  Some even ask,  “If God doesn’t want me to be like this, why did He make me this way?” forgetting the degradation of sin and the law of entropy in the process.

Jesus’ example of purity and teaching God’s demand for us to be so as well flies in the face of our self-justification and side stepping reality.  We all know failure to the point of searching for a reason for it.  Mom used to say,  “If you could find a good reason for sin, you could excuse it.”  meaning, of course, she didn’t think there was one.

Pilate gave in to the mob for whatever reasons he had but none of them were good enough and a direct result of a broken down mentality caused by sin’s influence.  The priests and rulers despised Jesus not for His purity but because that purity exposed their own selfish ambition and lust.  They wanted Him dead so no one would see beneath their facade of righteousness—and because they hated the competition for the hearts and minds of the populace.  They did these things because of sin.

Quick definition:  Sin is denying God His rightful place in our lives and thoughts.

The result of sin is the evil deeds we do.  The piece of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil wasn’t poisonous but a symbol of the broken relationship between God and humanity.  We chose to manage our own destiny; the world we know is the result.  Jesus’ betrayal, trial, treatment at the hands of sinful man and subsequent death displayed what sin will do to a heart not regenerated by the Spirit of God.

John knew his audience which is why he included the two thieves on either side of Christ.  He included the political wisdom of the day as killing his Master.  He showed what religion with God to interpret or direct it will do.  In the end humans without Jesus are lost to their own devices and the end of these is death.

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Thought for the Day

November 24, 2010

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Trump Card

November 20, 2010

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting,  “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”  John 19:12

The moment they said this they had Pilate on the ropes, and he knew exactly what they would say to his superiors.  At this point he had a choice:  save a man he barely knew or understood (even with his suspicions of Jesus’ origins), or save his career.

The Jewish leaders couldn’t have been more wrong in their logic, though.

Just because Jesus claimed to a king didn’t mean anything about His attitude toward Caesar, if it did, then every king ruling under Caesar would be suspect and treasonous just for existing.  For Jesus’ claim to kingship to harbor any threat to Caesar He had to oppose him in some action or political rhetoric in such a way as to support overthrowing him; nowhere in any of Jesus’ teachings can this be found.  So the Jews used the power of suggestion to create an artificial logic based off nothing more than an iota of truth.

But, of course, the situation in Jerusalem had become so explosive by this time, they didn’t need much more than the power of suggestion.  Already these same leaders had complained to the emperor about both Pilate and Herod.  Already the stage was set for their demise, as history records.  What the Jewish leaders didn’t realize (and would’ve resented had they known) was they were being used as pawns in a much larger wargame set in motion eons before the first human ever existed.

Unfortunately, their trump card also trapped them in the end because they declared through the haze of their zeal and animosity towards Jesus,  “We have no king but Caesar!” Just like their ancestors demanded of Samuel, and though him, God, the Jews denied God His sovereignty over their nation.  The blood lust and animosity ran so high they declared themselves subjects to the very ruler they hated the most.  Misguided passion puts us humans in all sorts of trouble, doesn’t it?  John doesn’t record their final acceptance of the consequences of their murder of Jesus where they they cried,  “His blood be on us and on our children!”  Matthew 27:25.  The juxtaposition they placed themselves in at that moment poised them on the brink of disaster.  A generation later the very king they declared as their rightful ruler sent an army to raze their city to the ground.  I’m not sure if any of these particular men were alive at that time, nor if they made the connection between their declaration this night or not, what I do know is they cursed themselves and their children for the sake of getting rid of one man.

The Jews’ love of power, prestige and religious authority left them with no room for God.  The hypocrisy of their stance toward all things law, exposed by Jesus, boiled down to a love of money and social standing.  The beauty of the Jewish economy was that if a man adopted a popular sect such as the Pharisees, he could prosper.  Their teaching came down to this:  If you obey the Laws of Moses and all the rabbinical teachings surrounding them, God will bless you with wealth, honor and life.  Sound familiar?  Money has never been the downfall of humanity, rather it’s the lust or love for it.  Yet I hear plenty of Christians giving lip service to obedience while they revel in the rewards of earth.  While I see nothing in Scripture which indicates wealth itself is evil, I read plenty of references to greed, avarice, and selfishness in the form of ignoring the poor in all their forms as standing outside God’s plan for us.  You can read in Deuteronomy 15 God’s design for wealth and the national welfare system.  No one was to go without.  So, no, God has nothing against wealth or plenty.

The reason the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil isn’t due to the object itself but our attitude towards it.  Anything we believe to be our basis for self-sufficiency and reliance outside of God’s direct supply or control grows out of our desire to be whole apart from Him.  We might mouth the words of dependence and submission, yet our hearts glory in our own power over our circumstances and grow haughty (great pride in oneself and contempt for others) from what we consider our own success.  Completely ignoring in the process the fact that every imaginable means to security and authority only derives its existence from the possibilities created by the Creator.

The Jewish leaders represented Christ as a type.  In other words, they represented Him as priests, which meant they were intercessors for the people of Israel as well as themselves before the mercy seat in the temple.  So they stood as mediators before God for the people while being the mouthpiece of God to the people.  Whatever the declared as true for themselves would represent the nation before God.  Their firm—even vehement—declaration of who ruled them, i.e. Caesar, put the seal on the fate of their nation and themselves until they repented of it, which they didn’t do to my knowledge.  The sheep suffer for the mistakes of the shepherd; the people suffer for the sins of their leaders.  It has ever been thus and will ever be while sin rules our world.  We cannot vote consequences for past sins out of office since, most of the time, the current string of “rulers” continue the trend of their predecessors.

Whoever we submit to as our spiritual master or ruler holds our spiritual future in their hands.  Though we ought to respect our elders and give them our attention, we are also to be as discerning as possible so we can tell if they are of God or the enemy.  Jesus told us we will know them by their fruit.  If their fruit is service to others, submission to the authority of Scripture and humility in their authority, you may be sure we can trust them as far as we can trust anyone in the body of Christ.  This doesn’t mean our salvation becomes subject to them, though, nor does it indicate we give them full reign over our minds or choices.  Shepherds are guides not drivers; they lead by example not by sitting in the cart and cracking a whip over their congregation’s heads.  Those who preach prosperity in the here and now as a blessing of God for obedience must read John 15-17 again to correct their assumptions.  Jesus didn’t say people wouldn’t prosper nor be wealthy—or that anything was wrong with having an abundance—what He did say, however, will happen if we obey His teaching and immulate His life is that what they did to our Master they will do to us.

His path led Him through loss, torture, death and resurrection.  For us to triumph we must follow.  Anywhere else leads to eternal loss.

Capitulation

November 17, 2010

Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head.  They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying,  “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck Him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews,  “Look, I am bring Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.”  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them,  “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify!  Crucify!”

But Pilate answered,  “You take Him and crucify Him.  As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.”  John 19:1-6.

I find it weird Pilate flogged Jesus even though he didn’t think He was guilty.  I don’t know where he was during the abuse which followed the flogging—or if he even witnessed the flogging—but it’s amazing to me what happened to even an innocent man under his leadership.  He had Jesus flogged, beaten and humiliated  to appease the crowd.  I see in this more as a sign of those times rather than anything indicative of Pilate’s character.  The upper classes treated the lower with indifference and disdain.  To be born in the lower class meant the gods didn’t favor you—this POV permeated even Jewish society—to the point that abusing a lower class person seemed natural and right.  Using them till they dropped was not being inconsiderate in the upper class’ mindset but simply thinking of them as tools to be used at a particular person’s pleasure.

The fact that Pilate could allow Jesus to be abused so has caused much discussion amongst modern thinkers.  Some have used it as an example of man’s inhumanity to man; some have used it as a means to decry social injustice and push for change; others preach it in a dramatized manner in order to manipulate those listening.  There are more of these type of interpretations, of course, and they fall into a line of thinking where the cross becomes a symbol/metaphor for whatever cause the group or person is championing at the moment.  The cross is definitely awful, the beatings terrible, but worst of all was the fact of what humans were willing to do for the sake of political or religious gain.  Jesus’ trials—both before the high priest and Pilate—were little more than jokes of justice.

Pilate used the scourge as a lesser of two evils.  The cross and death were definitely worse options than a cat ‘0’ nine tails.  He let the soldiers have their “fun” out of it as well, for they must have heard the news about Jesus’ claims through the priests and officials, otherwise how would they know to make a crown of thorns, clothe Him in purple and hail Him as “king of the Jews”?  No, they were aware enough, probably given to mockery anyway and with a disdain for the Jews and all other nations as inferior to their own Roman heritage.  In their minds Rome ruled by dent of the gods’ favor, therefore they were better than other men.  Pilate, on the other hand, was half convinced Jesus’ claim was true, but not enough to keep him from appeasing the blood lust of the mob outside his judgment hall.

So Jesus got whipped 40-minus-1 for just being a nuisance to the Roman government and a threat to the Jewish leadership—at least, that was their reasoning.  In the real world, the character of the leaders of both parties were used against them to accomplish the goal of salvation.  Yet what does it say about a person when their very weaknesses can be used to predict an outcome?  Pilate may not have been a weak willed man, but the political pressure of the times, his own missteps and the Jew’s tendency to riot at the drop of a hat, knocked his usual resolve.  He capitulated to the crowd in a spiritual chess game he was primed for but not able to play to win.

The nature we feed will be the nature which rules in time of crisis.

A Cause for Fear

November 12, 2010

The Jews insisted,  “We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, He was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace.  “Where do you come from?”  he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do you refuse to speak to me?”  Pilate said.  “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered,  “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”  John 19:7-11.

Something about Jesus made Pilate believe He stood apart from the general rabble of the common people.  Like I said before, I don’t know what it was about Him that impressed Pilate, but something triggered in him a fear when he heard the Jews declare Jesus’ claim of kinship to God.  Or, may be he believed the Jewish religion superior to all others, therefore, by default, the God the they worshiped was real to him.

The Jews claimed Jesus blasphemed God by claiming to the Son of God.  The only reference I could find in my Bible reference on this subject of blaspheme was in Leviticus 24 where Moses instructs the Israelites to stone a man convicted of blasphemy.  I also looked up the Greek reference for Son of God to understand why the translators used a capital “s” to set Jesus’ designation apart.  What I found was the form in which Jesus used it (see Vine’s pp. 585-6) gave Him a unique relationship with God the Father beyond the normal human claim to be sons of God.  His was an equal as much as any son is equal to his father.  The priests and rulers of the temple understood this difference enough so they could call it blasphemy, since they didn’t accept His status as anything more special than a prophet or miracle worker—in the same vein as Elisha, for example.

In John 5:16-18 we see the Jews understanding perfectly well what Jesus said about Himself and the God.  “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. There’s absolutely no way around this statement as to John’s intent on making Jesus part of the Godhead.  I know, I know, other people discredit this gospel as being added to or adjusted over the centuries, but the earliest manuscripts discovered still have this text intact, so I’m not sure when the addition would have taken place—especially since the writer was probably still alive.

In this way God created the atmosphere to ensure Jesus would die, even though His claim to Son-ship  would be legit.  Jesus had to die, that’s the point of salvation.  We might lament the way it went down, decry those who betrayed Him, dramatize the violence in order to shame the devil, but in the end, there’s no pretty way to die by murder.  I don’t know the law well, but I think it was just understood that a person couldn’t set themselves up as God or even connected to God in a special way without committing the sin of idolatry—and blasphemy.   Yet Jesus’ relationship stood out in stark contrast to any other claim made in this vein.  Plenty of men were running around the country at that time (refer to Gamaliel’s argument to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:33-40) yet these were not persecuted not persecuted by the Jews, though some were killed by the Romans themselves.

Yet Jesus’ claims went beyond the pale of anyone else because of the miracles.  He even argued that if the priests and rulers couldn’t accept His claims from His teachings alone they could refer to His impossible works of healing, etc.  I mean, after Lazarus, what could anyone say about His claim to a special connection with God?  According to the Law (Deuteronomy 18), they should’ve been listening to Him instead of trying to crucify Him.  It’s even more significant to me to read Pilate’s reaction to Jesus’ reply, especially since he had no investment in the case being a Roman.

When Pilate heard the Jews say that Jesus claimed to the Son of God, he became afraid.  When Jesus said he would have no power over Him at all if heaven had not granted it, Pilate grew even more fearful.  He understood the ramifications though, vaguely, because he still handed Jesus over to be crucified.  I can’t say what went through his mind, but from his actions and what John says about him here I gather he was more than half convinced of the truth of Jesus’ divinity—or, in his mind, demigod status.  Still, in the tradition of Roman gods and goddesses some of them perished in service of gods’ purposes, so Pilate probably had a fatalistic view of the world, jaundiced by the religious teachings of his culture.

No matter how philosophical a person claims to be or appears to be in an academic situation their true believes, superstitions and core convictions come out when the pressure’s on.  Cynicism or wisdom might prevail in the end, but not without lots of argument or soul searching.  Pilate used an argument of the day on Jesus by saying,  “What is truth?” knowing full well the matter was debatable and the conclusions of whatever side one fell on, inconclusive enough so the argument remained unsettled.  Yet Jesus’ calmness, reluctance to defend Himself and sheer reputed power impressed Pilate—it had to—to the point of being very afraid of making a misstep in his decision.

The symbolism of washing his hands of the matter might have seemed to him a way to absolve himself from the outcome.  I don’t think Pilate knew of any way to save Jesus, for even if he decided against the Jews, Jesus would die in some out of the way place in secret plus there would be a riot instigated by the Jewish leaders.  He was caught between that proverbial “rock and  a hard place” scenario with no way around it, so he washed his hands by making the Jews decide who would go free and who would die.

The decision to abstain from making a decision is still a choice against both options—or however many there are.  No one can say they chose for right if they didn’t choose the right option as opposed to the wrong one, even if they didn’t choose the wrong one.  Pilate, at this point, only held one decision God required of him, his own.  Despite the rulers and powers that be, his own personal decision for Christ would have ended in disaster because of the aforementioned problems, but his own soul would have been on the road to reconciliation with God.  As it was, he chose the coward’s way out and lost everything anyway—including himself.

Yes, he had cause to fear—riots, getting fired, loss of wealth, power, prestige, position, and his own self-worth, but what he lost because of this decision was far more vital to his future than any of the other losses.  Jesus warned us,  “Do not fear those who can kill the body, then do no more.  Rather, fear Him who can throw both body and soul into hell.  Yes, fear Him.” For years this passage has been misconstrued to mean Satan, reputed as the ruler of hell, but Who it really points to is God the Father who alone has the power to judge the righteous and unrighteous, or to sentence anyone for eternity.  The rulers of this world might confiscate our property, destroy our credit, power to make a living and squash our public freedom to the point of killing us, but they can never take away our hope in Christ.  Pilate folded to the political pressures in an attempt to salvage his career; he lost everything eventually anyway.

If we are part the world, it will love us as its own.  Let Pilate’s choice and life demonstrate what kind of love that is be a warning to us who believe.  Nothing is worth more than eternity or loyalty to God.

JurisPrudence

November 4, 2010

“What is truth?”  Pilate asked.  With this he went out again to the Jews and said,  “I find no basis for a charge against Him.  But it is your custom from me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover.  Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

They shouted back,  “No, not Him!  Give us Barabbas!”  Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.  John 18:38-40.

It’s almost like Pilate asked his question about truth then went outside to illustrate to Jesus what it meant.  We cannot know Pilate’s motives for asking the Jews to choose, but we can deduce from his conclusion of Jesus’ innocence he didn’t think He deserved to die.  We can also deduce from the choice he laid before them he wanted to give them an option between the worst of the worst and innocence.  So he used Barabbas as a political decoy/scapegoat for his own powerlessness in this situation.

It’s nice to think that Pilate held all the power over the Jews in everything but the truth is a rioting crowd causes quite a bit of damage and creates trouble for the leadership.  Even if they squash the riot, their bosses eventually begin to wonder why those in charge can’t keep the political lid on the situation and start looking for a better person to fill the job description of ruler and diplomat.  Pilate was caught between this hard mountain of an inevitable backlash and the Jewish “rock” being thrown in his lap.  Stating his conclusion in public set the stage for Jesus’ possible release, but couldn’t guarantee it.  The fact that he even resisted their will at all, though, showed he held justice in some esteem, for if he were an outright evil man, he wouldn’t have cared and just signed the death warrant.

Pilate wasn’t your average ruler.  He’d been (from what little I know of his history) a soldier who worked his way up through the bureaucratic ranks, therefore he understood the business of being in charge from several viewpoints.  His history with the Jews showed he wasn’t afraid to take action when he deemed it necessary, for one such story tells that he stopped a riot by killing everyone in the streets until they all ran and hid.  He could be ruthless and hard as a magistrate, but in Jesus’ case (and therefore most likely in others) he showed a grasp of justice and mercy.

Something about Jesus struck him as different.  Isaiah claims there would be nothing about His physical appearance to attract us to or make us notice Him especially, so it must have been Jesus’ bearing.  Ever meet or see someone who just had presence?  They seem to take over the room no matter who else is there, dominating it by just standing around.  I think Jesus had this in spades and Pilate recognized it—he couldn’t help it.  Even if he didn’t believe Jesus was more than a mere man, he still saw the difference.

The question has been asked before:  When we are put on trial for our faith, will we be convicted of being like Jesus?

I want to be guilty of being not only a follower, but an imitator as well.  Right now, I’m not so brave as to stand courageous in the face of accusation,  “You’re with Him, aren’t you?  Hey!  You even act like ‘im!”  O, if challenged by confrontational methods where my self-worth is being knocked, I belligerently stand for Jesus, but where the pressure becomes more subtle I know I’ve been less than open.  What I desire is not to be defiantly Christian or Christlike, rather I’d like to stand for Him in a quietly firm manner with calm assurance, dedicated love and openly acknowledging the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I want to reflect without a rebellious attitude—at least one which reflects the norm of the world I’m leaving through Christ—and instead display the attitude of the Savior at His trial.  He did not get defensive or cop an attitude, nor did His stance show physical defiance with clenched fists.  No, His demeanor held calm assurance of His Father’s love and acceptance with a confidence in His own value because of it.

Pilate used a political escape switch to get out of a sticky situation—the end of which was inevitable from the start.  He couldn’t escape his responsibility nor the part he played in condemning Jesus, though, for by washing his hands of the guilt he stepped out of the way of what he saw coming at the hands of these men accusing Him.  If, by inaction, we refuse to rescue those being led away to slaughter, we become accomplices in their deaths.  Pilate might have thought his hands were clean, but his refusal to stand for what was right regardless of the consequences made him partly responsible for the scene which followed.

If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength?

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.  If you say,  “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?

Pilate showed just how strong he thought he was by attempting to wash his hands of the whole affair.  By avoiding a riot, he set in motion his own doom, which means he later lost his job anyway because of these evil Jewish leaders.  His knowledge of the situation trumped his desire to stay out of it.  Precisely because they brought Jesus to him to be tried and convicted, he had a responsibility to stand in the gap—it was his job after all—and save Him.  His attempt to save Christ wouldn’t have been successful even if he had tried, but his soul would have been safe for eternity regarding the Son of God.

Have You Got Your Heartguard?

November 1, 2010

Last night before I went to sleep I read the passage I’ve been chewing on for the last several days, again.  Something stood out to me that I have never really noticed prior to today:  It’s the peace of God which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

For a long while now I’ve known that the name of the LORD is a strong tower where the righteous run to find safety, but it never occurred to me to dissect this passage about who or what stands guard over the entrance to that Tower.  Read Philippians 4:7 with me to see what I mean:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How do we arrive at this place of peace?

First, rejoicing in the Lord always.

Second, refusing to be anxious about anything, instead everything that could give us reason for anxiety is presented to God through prayer and petition.

Third, redirecting our thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, and generally watching and learning in order to imitate those among us who practice such a lifestyle.

The only way the peace of God can guard us from anxiety is when we present our requests to God through prayer and petition.  Once this is done, the only way to remain peaceful is to think about such things as Paul listed in verse 8 which means, in order for us to be examples of the peace which passes all understanding we must first have bought into the truth of God being our only solution, answer and protector.  The nature of the world we live in presents plenty of things for us to be anxious about by default.  Our foil for this natural consequence of living in a sinful world is faith in the God who gives peace outside of human ability to either understand or destroy.

What guards our relationship with Christ?

The peace of God we find through trusting Him.

By what method do we invite such peace?

Through prayer and petition.

Once we have the mind of Christ, the only way to remain peaceful in Him is to focus our spiritual and physical eyes on those things which speak of Him.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the King of Kings, which makes His nature, truth and Way the noblest of them all.  He is the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star (removing Lucifer from that position forever), which makes Him the most lovely “thing” or being we could behold.  Everything about Jesus is admirable, praiseworthy and excellent.  And, if we are found in Him wholly given over to His heart and mind, we will be lights of His nature to those who need the directions to peace of heart and mind as well.

So, again, the only way to guard your heart from anxiety is the peace of God.  The only way to find that peace is rejoice in Him, and when our hearts are tempted to be anxious, to present these things through prayer and petition, trusting He will take care of us.  The only way to remain firmly rooted, grounded, founded and solid in this peace is fix our eyes on Jesus, who represents everything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Did I repeat the point enough?