“Peace Like A River”
“Stand firm – with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15)
OPEN: There has never been a time when it’s been easy for the church to take a message of peace into the world. The moment that we attempt to plant the seed, Satan attempts to snatch it away. Satan does and will continue to do all that he can to hinder us from realizing the purposes of God, consequently there's war in the life of a believer. That’s the history of the church. You go back to the point in time in which you see Jesus enter the world, and Satan does everything he can to have Jesus Christ murdered by Herod. He does everything he can during the very life of Christ to have Him killed, pushed off a cliff, crucified, Jesus conquers those efforts. You find that in the Book of Acts as the church begins to carry the message of Jesus Christ the devil resists them all along the way. Paul begins his missionary journeys to extend the Gospel to the world and he runs into magicians and sorcerers and demon possessed people trying to thwart the effort. Peter, on the day of Pentecost runs into hostility and from there on persecution breaks out of that church, the Sanhedrin are called to question these people and tell them to be silent. And all the way through the New Testament the Gospel is withstood as it were by Satan. the first three centuries are filled with persecutions of the church, the death of Christians, the martyrdom of those who love the Lord, and then we enter into the terror of the dark ages in which the whole testimony of the Gospel becomes almost blotted out except for a few flickers of faithful groups who believed the truth all through that time
The armor of God at the end of Ephesians 6 is given to us so that believers of all ages would know and understand the resources we have available to us as we fight the battles we are called to face. There’s going to be resistance and we need to know how we can stand in spite of the resistance. How do we attain the level of spiritual victory our God calls us to? How do we defeat Satan, how do we get the victory? - we’ve got to understand and use the armor God has provided.
Paul looks at the Christian and his war with Satan he sees in his mind a Roman soldier ready for battle, and all that the Roman soldier does to prepare himself suggests to the mind of Paul imagery that can be translated into the Christian's battle with Satan. And so he begins then to make the comparison, and as a Roman soldier wears a belt with which he pulls together his loose fitting robe - he says “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” For a believer there must be commitment to the truth, there must be a commitment to fight the fight, to live a life of truth. Secondly, we saw the next piece of armor in verse 14 also, “with the breastplate of righteousness in place” a Roman soldier would put on a breastplate to cover his vital areas, he didn't want to get hit here because it was fatal. And there were two areas he was protecting the heart area and the rest - known as the bowels in Hebrew terminology, and the Hebrews saw the heart as indicative of the mind primarily, and the bowels indicative of the feelings. So the believer protects his mind and feelings because those are the areas where Satan tempts, he tempts your thinking and your feelings, he wants to illicit sin out of you, induce sin out of you by wrong thinking and wrong feelings. so we must protect those areas and the Scripture says that we protect those areas with the breastplate of righteousness, as we live a holy life, as we live a consecrated, separated, set apart, righteous kind of life then we protect our vital areas from the terrible fearful attack of Satan.
That brings us to where we are this morning – the third piece of armor
– you are to have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
So now he comes to the soldiers shoes. Shoes have become a major part of our culture; originally shoes were used to protect feet, now they've become a fashion item. We have shoes for every conceivable kind of purpose today. What kind of shoes do you have on? Are they built for comfort or for function or for looks? I have several kinds of shoes at home. I’ve got every thing from Sunday shoes like I have on this morning to my grungy old work boots that I’ll have on tomorrow. Each type of shoes that I have serves some sort of purpose. Every type of activity calls for a different kind of shoe. In fact it is impossible to perform most tasks unless you are wearing a shoe that that is specifically designed for that purpose. If you are wearing a shoe that wasn’t designed for the purpose in which you are engaged you will won’t be able to do it. – Ill. Imagine if you showed up to the construction site wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers. (I don’t know how many guys here have fuzzy bunny slippers, but if you did, I can pretty well guarantee you won’t be doing a roofing project while you’ve got them on) Likewise a ballerina isn’t going to show up wearing army boots. And a nurse wouldn’t show up for her shift wearing high heels. A basketball player isn’t going to wear rubber boots. And a cowboy isn’t going to ride a horse wearing sandals. Each kind of shoe provides a certain kind of benefit that is suited to a particular purpose. Your shoes equip you to do the job. And that is especially true in battle. A Roman soldier wouldn't get out in a battle with just a normal leather shoe with a slick bottom – he would be slipping and sliding all over every place. He’d be trying to climb a rock to fight a guy and held be slipping down the rock. And so they had to have a special shoe, and it, it was very important because in battle this would save your life very possibly. Also they had to have the kind of a shoe that would last for long marches because they would cover tremendous amounts of terrain.
Wars have literally been lost because armies didn’t have the right footwear. Ill - American Revolutionary War - the soldiers under General Washington with their feet being wrapped because they could no longer have shoes they were so worn out. And there have been other points in human history where battles have been lost because they couldn’t protect the feet of the soldiers from being frozen or injured or wounded. In the times of the Romans there was a common custom where they would plant in the grounds sticks sharpened a razor point facing toward the army hoping to pierce the feet of the advancing soldiers. So in order to protect themselves, the Roman soldiers would wear a boot that had a heavy sole so that it couldn't be pierced, because if their feet were pierced they couldn't walk and that could debilitate the entire soldier. You know he could be the best soldier there was, he could have the greatest strength and all of that but if his feet were hurt, the bottom of his feet he’s finished. You can hurt your arm, your hands, your elbows, your shoulders and still you can keep moving and function, you hurt your feet and you're really debilitated. So they would try to pierce their feet. Also in the battle you may be the strongest man alive, you may have the greatest sword there is but if you can’t stand up you’re in real trouble.
On the screen here are a couple of examples of ancient Roman military footwear. We have found lots of examples of what they actually wore during the first century. They used a thick soled hobnailed semi-boot that came around like this on their foot and then had straps that tied it in all directions so that it was tremendously tight and, and adhering to their foot, on the bottom they had hobnails, little pieces of metal that protruded from the bottom like a football or a track shoe or a baseball shoe to give them a grip on the soil. This gave them firmness of footing so they could stand in the battle.
One on the interesting things we’ve found is on right of this slide – notice the pattern of the hobnails in the bottom of the sole. It’s a stick figure of the enemy of the soldier on his knees begging for mercy. The idea is that he is trodden underfoot with every step the soldier would take. You might say, “Well what if that was a reminder to the soldier to be a praying person?” If you read anything about Roman history, you’ll find out, Roman soldiers weren’t remembered because of their mercy or their prayer life. Rome ruled with an iron fist. This wasn’t a message for the Roman soldier to pray – it was a reminder to put his enemy into subjugation.
If you want to know what made Rome so successful in their military campaigns – here’s a clue. Imagine being a Roman soldier on a march. As you are marching you look down in the dust at the footprint of the soldier in front of you and you see this imprint over and over and over again. “You are going to war – be prepared to meet the enemy – make your enemy beg for mercy.” Every step the Roman soldier took was a sermon. Not only for their own army but for anyone who would look at the dust after they marched through. The Roman left a message with every step he took – “We are bad news to anyone who tries to resist us”
So that’s what Paul sees - he sees this Roman soldier standing and his feet are firm and he’s able to hold his ground and make quick moves and keep his feet. He doesn’t slip and he doesn’t slide and he doesn’t fall. And he also sees this imprint in the dust as the Roman moves about in the cell. It’s a message about war and conquering and putting people into submission. And he thinks the Christian needs to have shoes too. You can get out there and have your waist all cinched up and you can be committed, and you can have your breastplate on and you be living a godly and righteous life as the Lord wishes, but unless you can stand on your feet you're going to fall over. And so you must have a solid base.
Stand firm then . . . with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. verse 15
Notice the word “readiness” (some translations have the word preparation) don’t be confused by that., It reads a little awkward the way it’s translated, it simply means “made ready or equipped or prepared” All he is saying is your feet should be made ready by being shod, that’s what it’s saying. You’ve got to get your feet ready if you’re going to stand. Now most people who read this assume that it has reference to going and preaching the gospel. They look at Romans 10:15 “As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Now the Gospel of peace, watch this, is something to be preached, no question, it is something to be taken and preached, that’s what Romans 10 is talking about, But that is not what Ephesians 6 is talking about. Ephesians 6 has nothing to do with preaching, it has nothing to do with going anywhere.
What is the first word in verse 14? “Stand” This is not going. This is standing that the Apostle is in reference to. And the point here is not evangelizing the lost. It is true that boots are made for walking – but they are also made for standing. And that’s what Paul is trying to teach here – how to stand firm. This is not about evangelism for an unbeliever - this is facing conflict as a Christian and still standing. He is not talking about going anywhere and preaching, he’s talking about standing where you are and fighting the devil.
1 Cor. 16:13 says, “Stand firm in the faith” This teaching is all about standing not about going. You need something in your life that is going to enable you to stand. Equip you to stand - prepare you to stand.
Now what is it that equips you to stand? What’s he say here? It’s The Gospel of Peace. What’s that mean? Well Gospel means what? Good News. Peace means what? Webster’s says it’s a state of tranquillity or quiet - freedom from disturbance - freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. Well that’s fine but the word is deeper that that. The Greek root word is eirene. It is the same as a lady’s name, except that it is pronounced EE-ree-nee. The basic meaning is a harmonious relationship between people, nations, etc. It can also mean peaceful, as in quietness of surroundings or the heart. In other words, in the Greek mind there were two concepts of peace – peace on the outside and peace on the inside.
The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom – and it’s translated peace – but the root meaning of it is means to be complete – perfect and full - wholeness completeness – and abiding sense of togetherness. It’s all together – together. It is a deep down sense of contentment lacking fear and anxiety and fret. It’s what enables you to stand. You see that’s what the enemy doesn’t want you to have. He wants just the opposite. And you’re not ready for battle with the enemy until you understand how this piece of armor works in your life. If you don’t understand how God’s peace works in your life you will not be able to stand when the enemy attacks or when the day of trouble comes. Notice I said, “God’s peace” it’s not “your peace.” It’s not something that comes from within you – it’s something that God gives as a gift.
There are two kinds of peace that are spoken about in the Bible
- Peace With God
– means you and I make a decision to receive Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior and that brings to a halt the hostility and the enmity between God and ourselves. He forgives us of our sins and places us in his family and we become the children of God. God is not at war with his children – when we receive Christ we are positionally moved from being his enemies to being his children.
- But after you and I become children of God – we still have to live in this world. And this isn’t an easy place to find peace. Our environment is filled with war and trails and pressure and tribulation and sin and disease and every kind of stress imaginable.
- And the Bible speaks to us about
- the Peace of God
- it’s the tranquility and quietness of the soul. It’s a sense of confidence and assurance – it’s a stillness that remains no matter what is going on around us. Things might be going on - on the outside – but on the inside everything is still quiet and still and secure. So it’s a peace that is not determined or impacted by circumstances. Circumstances do not have to be a certain way in order for us to experience the peace of God. It isn’t something that we are brought into through some change of circumstance. It is steady – it is steadfast – and we aren’t thrown off when something comes our way that we didn’t expect. We stand firm. It isn’t a matter of chance or luck - but it is a matter of choice. It’s a choice you and I make. Now what I want you to realize is that the arrows do not go both ways. – in other words – there is no way to experience the peace of God until you have first made peace with God. The peace of God is conditional. No one experiences the peace of God until and after they establish peace with God. The Peace of God is a gift that He gives to his children. You don’t work up the peace of God – you are gifted with it as a result of being His child.
It seems to me that way too many people live continually on the edge of panic.
They have just enough calmness in their life to barely get by – just enough composure to make it through another day. But let just one little ripple come their way – one little issue that upsets their routine – and immediately they are falling apart. They can’t stand because they loose their togetherness. Too many people live with an inner sense of restlessness desiring that calm – desiring peace – and they go from one thing to next either trying to find it or trying to establish it with their own formula. Can’t be done. It can only be yours through a relationship with Jesus Christ. - I’m going to spend the rest of the time I have with you today focusing on establishing Peace With God. When we come back next week we’ll talk about how you can enjoy the Peace of God.
Let’s take a look at this verse: “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
Peace with God means that you have a harmony with one another – you have a sense of oneness with Him – there is a unity with him. There is no war – no fighting – you see the truth is until you and I recognize that there is a barrier between us and God – a barrier that stands in the way of peace - until it is removed by a change inside of our hearts – you will never have peace with God. You see peace with God is the heart of it all. Before we can experience peace within ourselves, there must first be peace between us and the Lord. How does that comes about? God’s provision for that – His only provision for that is His Son Jesus Christ.
Notice it says in this verse we are justified by faith. What does that mean? Well take the word apart – it simply means “to be found just” – to be found innocent. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no way for that to happen for any of us. Because we are not just – we are not innocent. If we were to stand before the bar of justice there is only one sentence that can be passed – guilty. But God is in great love for you and I sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty that is attached to our sentence. The bible says that the wages of sin is death. And that is what jesus experienced on the cross at Calvary. He died to pay the penalty. He died to pay the price. He died to put an end of the war between us and God. Our only hope to be justified in Christ. - the only hope that you and I have to find peace with God is found in Jesus Christ. You can never have peace with yourself – with others – with the way that you feel inside of yourself until you have a genuine peace with Almighty God
Look at what Isaiah says:
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
You say, well the reason I don’t have peace in my life is that I’ve got so many difficult things going on in my life. I’ve got problems that surround me. I’ve got issues that are pressing, and people who are difficult and stress that is unrelenting. All theses issues that surround me in my life. You see the issue is not that you got problems on the outside – the issue is you do not have enough of Jesus on the inside. Peace is not the absence of external conflict. It is the power of internal security. If your life is fragmented and insecure God is not at fault. He offers peace even for the person who are facing difficult times – difficult situations. Look at what it says – “You will keep in perfect peace” what is perfect peace? Perfect peace is abiding peace. Perfect peace is a peace that stays when there is a storm. Perfect peace is a peace that doesn’t run away when the problems run in. Get this now - It’s a peace that is grounded in the character of Almighty God. You can not find “perfect peace” any where else. – The world doesn’t know this kind of peace – the world doesn’t understand this kind of peace because the world does not know Him. You can never experience the perfect peace of God until you trust Him enough to be steadfastly focused on him.
If you want peace – declare an end to the war.
You say, “I’m not at war with God.” Oh, yes you are. If your heart is not surrendered – if you are not fully-devoted to him. It’s the same as a declaration of war. If you’re ever going to begin to experience peace in your life, the first step is to recognize the war in which you’ve been engaged with Almighty God. You’ve got to sit down and make a decision that your private war with God is over. You see- the lack of peace in a person’s life is an indication that we are not steadfastly focused on Him. “You will keep in perfect peace him who mind is steadfast because he trusts in You.” Perfect peace - It’s a promise of God. Now if that is not a reality in my life – it’s simply saying that I am not steadfastly focused on him. Now watch this – If I am not steadfastly focused, according to that verse, it is because my trust level is not what it must be. Trust in God, leads to a mind that is steadfast – which leads to experiencing His perfect peace. Now follow this – if we are not steadfastly focused – that is we do not look to him constantly for his power, grace, strength, wisdom, leading – it is because we do not trust him enough in those circumstances to even look his way.
Now I’m not saying that God is your enemy – God is never the enemy to those who seek him. He is never the enemy - he is always reaching out, loving, forgiving, tender, kind, helpful in every single way. But until you recognize that you are actually fighting against him, resisting him, denying him his rightful place, you are actually at war with God.
You are declaring yourself to be his enemy.
Someone might say – hey I know that I’ve got a few issues in my life and I understand all about sin – but are you telling me that because I’ve got a few little problems in my life that I’m an enemy of God? No, I’m not telling you that – I’m just saying that’s what God says about you. You say, “well, I’m not against God.” Listen carefully – (Romans 5:10) “For if, when we were Gods 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!” The Bible says that you and I until we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we’re the enemies of God. Not that God is our enemy – we’re his enemies while we are working against his plan and will, against his mercy and grace. We fall into the category of the enemies of God when we are working against the purpose and plan and objectives of the will of God.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:21-22)
In our old sinful condition, we have no peace with God. This verse says sin alienates us from God – separates us from God. We are enemies in our mind – what’s that mean? It means we consciously determine in our own minds to become God’s enemy because we want to fulfill the desire of our own sinful nature. We decide we are going to live our own way – not God’s way. We don’t trust his plan, we reject him – we alienate ourselves because we want to fulfill our own evil desires. Now notice the second half of this verse…. Sometimes people talk about “making their peace with God.” We actually are incapable of “making our peace” with God. We have no terms to offer Him. The only way to find peace with God is to accept the terms of the peace treaty Jesus offered when He died on the cross.
Why would anyone reject His terms of peace?
Yet people do everyday. Instead of peace they live in turmoil. Imagine - Here’s Holy God, who has done everything within his power in order to bless us and make us one of his children, to lift us up and make us the person that he wants us to be. And here we are working against that.
Isa. 57:20 “The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Listen you work against yourself when you work against God. You’re an enemy to yourself when you’re an enemy towards God. When people live without God there is always something churning on the inside. It says it casts up mire and mud – they cannot find rest. The waters of their life are always muddy. A heart that does not experience peace with God cannot find contentment, cannot find stillness, and cannot find joy. No amount of relationship, finances – no matter what you try, you cannot find peace.
God says there is no peace for the wicked. You say, “Well I don’t like you calling me wicked.” – I didn’t call you wicked – God calls you wicked. That’s his pronouncement over you if your reject His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s His judgment over you. You say “Well, I still don’t appreciate it – I don’t like it.” Well there have been lots of criminals that don’t like the verdict of a judge. Whether they like it or not, the verdict still stands. That’s the way it is with God. You see God is the one in the position to pronounce who is wicked and who is not. He’s the ruler, king and creator – we’re not. I hope you don’t like being called wicked – I hope you don’t like enough to do something about. You see - it is because of that fundamental fact that you lack peace – and not only that – it is because of God’s pronouncement that you are wicked that you will spend eternity separated from him. – God doesn’t say this by way of being mean. He’s not calling you names – he’s simply declaring the nature of reality. He realizes his holy nature and he realizes your nature and my nature and to say anything else he has to either deny himself or he has to tell a lie. He can’t do either one of those. He has to tell the truth. He is holy. And sinful mankind is wicked.
– If you reject the call to unconditional love that makes it possible for you live in harmony with Almighty God for eternity– the Bible says that it is wickedness. You may be acceptable in the eyes of others, you might think that you are “all that”, something special – but in the eyes of God as much as he loves you – you are deemed wicked. Willingly to save you? Yes. Willing to love you? Yes. Willing to turn you around? Yes. Willing to give you peace? Yes. But not until you surrender the reign of your life to the Prince of Peace. You are wicked until God’s peace prevails in your heart. The only way to experience the peace of God is totally surrender your whole heart to Jesus Christ and trust him as the Master of your life, the Lord of all, and the Savior of your soul. You’ve got to declare an end to the war between yourself and God. And the only way to do that is surrender to Jesus Christ. – you have to raise the white flag of surrender and say I need to be forgiven of my sin and wickedness. I receive Him today.
CLOSE: This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-18)
When we learn to obey God’s commands, we experience peace. The peace we experience isn’t just like a nice little pool of water, but like a river, where the peace just keeps coming and coming and coming and coming. It will enable you to stand in the midst of the worst kind of storms and battles. You don’t want to hear God say, “If only you had done this – I would done this” Peace is yours – through Jesus