From the Pastor's Desk 

Peace

9-17-17

 

            Let's pray.

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            If I were to hold my hand up like this (make peace sign) you would all know what that means, wouldn't you?  It's an almost universal sign for peace.  It started out as a "V" for victory sign during World War II and has since taken on a more general peace meaning.  There is also the famous peace sign, which supposedly began as an anti-nuclear weapon symbol and is now always seen as a peace sign.  The dove and an olive branch are other common symbols that we use to communicate peace.

            Peace can be an elusive concept.  There's the joke about every beauty pageant contestant saying that all they want is world peace.  You know what?  A lot of people want world peace.  In fact, who doesn't want world peace?  People have been working and struggling to achieve world peace since the beginning of time, it seems.  Unfortunately since that time, they have failed.

            Many years ago, back in the dark ages of 1968, historians studied wars.  They calculated that in the previous 3,500 years, the world had seen less than 300 years of peace.  In other words, there was peace approximately 8% of the time.  It has also been estimated that in the last five and a half millennia's, more than 8,000 peace treaties have been broken.  That has resulted in more than 14,000 wars fought.  In those wars a combined total of about 4 billion people have been killed or injured. 

            Mankind likes to think that with its technology and increased learning and understanding of the world around us, that we are advancing and that life for most people is getting better and better.  That's not necessarily true when it comes to war.  Of all of those combined casualties, 108 million people have lost their lives fighting in wars just in the 20th Century alone.  Things aren't getting better as time moves on.  The world continues to be unsuccessful in the effort to pursue world peace.   

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            Basically, war is conflict and therefore, peace would be absence of conflict.  But the concept of peace goes way beyond the realm of international social harmony.  People not only want and are seeking peace between government bodies and nations, they are also desperately seeking peace in their personal lives.  We all want relief from the relentless pressures and problems that each day brings.

            People seem to be in an almost constant state of seeking peace.  We live in a world with a lot of noise and confusion and that all contributes to our desire for peace in our lives.  It's so prevalent, we find sayings regarding peace in our everyday language.  We are told to make peace with our past.  Law enforcement officers are expected to keep the peace.  Even when this life ends, we talk about people resting in peace.

            What's truly sad is that people pursue peace their entire lives only to never find it in the end.  Left to ourselves, we have no idea how to find true peace.  It is not found in temporal things like social change, economic stability or any sort of recreational pursuit.  Those pursuits always leave us disappointed because none of them provide us with any sort of peace, let alone true peace. 

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            There is only one source of true peace, that is what we are going to look at this morning.  Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room on the night before Christ's death.  The Lord, knowing that these men were brokenhearted because He was leaving them, gave the eleven a farewell message of comfort and hope. 

            Part of that message concerned the Holy Spirit.  He promised that He would send them another helper.  It would be through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would continue to be with them.  That marvelous legacy would turn the disciple's temporary sorrow over His death into eternal joy.  Another part of that message had to do with what we're going to look at now.  For trouble hearts, Jesus promises us peace.  Let's read John 14:27. 

            The Bible is full of teachings concerning peace.  One of the most important OT words that speaks of peace is one that I imagine we are all familiar with.  Shalom.  Shalom means "peace."  It was sometimes used as a greeting; it was also sometimes used as a goodbye.  It can refer to the absence of strife between people; between nations and between God and man.         Shalom also speaks of personal peace.  Part of that would consist of an absence of trouble or conflict.  But it also positively speaks of completeness, wholeness, contentment, welfare, health, prosperity, harmony and fulfillment. 

            That is significantly different from how the world defines peace.  Humanity speaks of peace mostly in negative terms.  Peace to most people means the absence of war, strife, quarrels, disagreements, hostility or unrest.  They see it as deliverance from or the absence of any external conflict.  Peace to them is a lack of inner turmoil.  When there is no conflict and no turmoil the result is an undisturbed and tranquil state of mind. 

            Peace is one of the blessings that flows from a right relationship with God.  Therefore, true biblical peace doesn't depend on the circumstances of life.  True peace lives above those circumstances, even if they are filled with turmoil and conflict.  Even in the most difficult and troubling times of life; even when everything seems to be falling apart around us, when we belong to God, we can still experience His peace.    

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            We can only have peace in our hearts because of what Christ has done for us on the cross and through His work of salvation and forgiveness in our lives.  Because of what Christ has done for us we have peace with GodRomans 5:1.  Peace in the Bible is a pretty simple concept.  It all starts and ends with peace between us and God.  If there is no peace with God, then there cannot be any real peace in this life.

            Since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been at war with God.  We all sin; we all violate His holy law; we all deny Him glory.  That makes us His enemies.  All have sinned.  We oppose God from birth by nature and by choice.  No one is neutral; no one is innocent.  Having set themselves against God's law, all people inevitably face His wrath and the penalty of eternal punishment.

            The harsh truth is that humanity hates God.  All who are part of the world system, all of those who aren't born again believers, cannot be at peace with Him.  James 4:4.  The good news, however, is that enemies of God can be reconciled to Him and can therefore enjoy eternal peace with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is through Christ that we have peace.  Col. 1:20.  At the moment that we are justified before God and reconciled to Him, the rebellion ends, sins are forgiven and enemies become sons of God.

            That's all possible because of the cross.  Jesus had to be sacrificed to satisfy God's holiness.  That is the only way there could be peace between sinful men and a holy God.  Because God is holy and just, He requires that a penalty be paid when sinners violate His law.  Christ's sacrifice fully satisfied the demands of divine justice.  Though He was righteous, Christ was punished in the place of all who believe as though He were a sinner.  That is how enemies of God become His friends.

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            Because we have peace with God, we can also experience the peace of God.  Phil. 4:7.  The word guard in this verse means "to keep watch over."  This is an active element in our lives.  Because we belong to Him, God keeps us and He guards us and He protects us.  It doesn't mean we'll never go through any trials or difficulties; those are plentiful and abundant in life.  It does mean that since we are in a right relationship with God that He will protect us from anxiety, doubt, fear and distress.  This peace, like we've already said before, is not affected by circumstances and in fact triumphs over them.  The peace of God works in our lives to turn sorrow into joy, fear into boldness and doubt into confidence.

            As is the case with all of the blessings that we receive from God, the peace of God comes from all three persons of the Trinity.  God is the one and only source of true peace.  Jesus calls it His peace.  Therefore, we would do well to keep looking to Him.  Heb. 12:2.  It is the Holy Spirit who actually appropriates this peace to us and applies it to our lives.  It is only by trusting in God and looking to Christ and obeying the Spirit that anyone can find peace and settled confidence in the midst of any hardship.

            The world doesn't have a clue about true peace.  It only offers a momentary fleeting tranquility.  That fleeing tranquility is found in some rather dubious places.  People turn to self-indulgence, materialism, love, romance, substance abuse, false religion, psycho-therapy, or a host of other placebos to fill the void in their lives and give them some sort of peace.  What people find looking in these places is temporary, shallow peace.

            The gift of peace that God has given to us is not like the gifts the world gives.  During NT times, the world experience what is called "Pax Romana," the peace of Rome.  But that so-called peace only existed because of the force of Rome's military strength.  When people of the world say "peace be with you," it is nothing more than an expression of hope and goodwill.    The problem with the world's search for peace is that people are ignorant.  I know that sounds harsh, but it's true.  If unbelievers understood the wrath of God and the agonizing, unrelieved, eternal torment awaiting them in hell, they would never enjoy a moment's peace in this life.  Isa. 48:22.  Not only that, but they don't understand the reason for their lack of peace.  It's not an emotional problem; it's not psychological issue; it has nothing to do with circumstances.  It is a spiritual problem.  Only those who know Jesus Christ can have peace with God.  Only those at peace with God can experience true peace in this life.

            Marilyn, our church secretary, just got back from a short-term missions trip to Rwanda, Africa.  She spent time with some missionaries there who are trying to help and minister to women and their babies.  Most of them have literally, absolutely nothing.  Their homes have dirt floors, maybe only a wooden bench or table and mats to sit on the floor.  There aren't a lot of jobs, especially for women and very little opportunities to better themselves financially.  Yet, they are filled with the Spirit of God.  They love the Lord and sing and dance and never whine, gripe or complain about anything.  That is a great illustration of the peace that passes all understanding.

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            The last aspect of peace that is ours as believers is peace with one anotherMatt. 5:24.  We can only obey and fulfill the command from Christ to be reconciled to one another because we are already reconciled to God through the blood of Christ.  But we also need to keep in mind that there is no good, Biblical reason not to be reconciled to one another.  Asking for forgiveness and extending forgiveness are basic aspects of what it means to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If we reconcile it is evidence of Christ's working in our lives.  If we fail or refuse to be reconciled, then that is proof that we don't belong to God and haven't experienced His peace in our lives.

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            The peace that we have in our lives is a sovereign work of God that we experience because of what Christ did on the cross and because of what the Spirit does in our lives.  But the Bible teaches that we have responsibility to appropriate God's promises to our lives.  That is true of much of our spiritual lives.  The Holy Spirit indwells and empowers believers; but we are commanded to be filled with and walk in the Spirit.  We have been given eternal life; yet we are to repent of our sins.  The Holy Spirit is our teacher; we need to diligently study the Word.  God gives us peace; we are to pursue peace in our lives.  2 Tim. 2:22. 

            When we do that, we no longer live in anguish over the past, because God has forgiven the past.  We don't need to live in despair over what is happening to us now, because God has provided for the present.  There is no need for us to worry about the future, because God has guaranteed what our future is going to be.  That leaves nothing to disrupt our peace.  Matt. 6:25-34.  2 Cor. 4:8-9; 17-18.

            How do we apply peace to our lives?  According to Scripture, it's relatively simple.  Col. 3:15.  Paul says it right there at the end of that verse.  Be thankful.  We need to have an attitude of gratitude at all times for all things.  We need to be thankful when God blesses us with good health and when He gives us sickness and illness to deal with.  We need to be thankful when He blesses us with plenty of financial and other resources and when we have nothing.  We need to thank God when we have a good reliable job that we like and when we don't like what we're doing or if we're facing the prospects of getting fired.  We are to be thankful when all of our family relationships are in good shape and when we're having trouble with our kids or at odds with another family member.  There are no exceptions and no exclusions to this command.  We are to be thankful.

            In addition to an attitude of gratitude, you can help maintain that inner peace by asking yourself this:  are your decisions and choices and priorities consistent with the reality that you are now at peace with Christ?  Is what you're doing and how you're doing it and even why you're doing what you're doing glorifying God?  Anything that would disrupt the oneness and the harmony we enjoy with God, anything that would disrupt our peace with God and with ourselves must be rejected.

            That of course would include any and all sin because all sin disrupts the oneness and the harmony of our relationship with God.  We can't and won't lose our salvation, but we lose the closeness and the unity with the Father when we sin.  Confessing and repenting of sin will help us keep a clear conscience and a peace of mind.  As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not going to experience God's peace, even though you are at peace with God, you won't have the peace of God in your life if your sins remain un-confessed and unrepentant.

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            This is the second time that Jesus has told the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled.  For Him to repeat that statement means it is a very important point that He is trying to get across to them.  That admonition is not just for them, it is for us as well.  Don't let your heart be troubled. 

            Over the course of the past couple of weeks, we have looked at two very good reasons why our hearts don't have to be troubled.  For one, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in our lives.  We not only have all of the resources of God at our disposal all of the time, we actually have God Himself living inside of us.  What could be more settling than that?  Also, Jesus has given us His peace.  He died to give us peace with God; peace within ourselves and peace with one another.

            As our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to start living with the peace that is yours because of what Christ has done for you.  If there is some public profession that you need to make regarding anything that Christ has done in your life, I invite you to come now as we stand and sing and share that with us.

           

            Prayer.