Summary: This is the fourth sermon in the Series "The Fruit of the Spirit."
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS PEACE—GALATIANS 5:22-26;
What does peace mean to you? What comes to your mind when you read or hear the word? All of us can picture the five finalists in the Miss America Pageant being asked their final question which might be phrased something like this, “What is your greatest desire?” We would expect at least one contestant to say, “To have lasting peace on earth.”
Certainly one concept of peace is freedom from war, but basically peace refers to relationships, harmonious relationships between people; yes, between nations; and personal, spiritual peace with God. That third relationship is the most important one of all: “The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace.”
Ultimate peace is spiritual peace, inward peace, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” Paul shares a tremendous promise with us in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace, the peace of God. It transcends all understanding. It is beyond our comprehension, beyond what we are able to grasp. It can not be explained psychologically or philosophically, but when you have it, you know it is real. What is this peace, and how can you and I have it?
Throughout the Old and New Testaments God keeps promising His People the “peace that surpasses all understanding." Such peace is found only in His Son Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Jesus Himself promises us that peace in John 14:17, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
First of all, Jesus is the Source and Giver of “The peace that transcends all understanding.” He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” One meaning of the word “leave” in our Gospel text is “to leave behind at death.” Remember when Jesus spoke these words, it was on the night before His crucifixion. He promised His disciples, “I leave you my peace.” We all want to leave our loved ones something when we die. We might say that in this instance Jesus was leaving His legacy with His disciples; He was giving them, and us, our spiritual inheritance, the gift of His peace, and this gift of is for the present moment. We don’t have to wait until eternity to receive it. It is ours right now. It is for this very moment. That’s the sense of the original text. It’s as if Jesus were to use the phrase of the hymn writer, “I leave you My peace, I give you My peace, ‘for the facing of this hour’” [--Harry Emerson Fosdick, “God of Grace and God of Glory”].
Paul says such peace transcends all understanding, and Jesus says it is not the peace the world gives. Miss America wants freedom from war-- that’s the peace of the world, cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, freedom from the fear of terrorism, freedom from violent crime., but Jesus assures us that His peace is freedom from a troubled and a fearful heart: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace of Jesus, the peace that the world can not comprehend, “The Fruit of the Spirit” is a freedom from the fear of what might happen in the future and a freedom in the midst of present dangers, evil, or pain. Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled.” A troubled heart is feeling fear over something that may or may not happen. We might name this fear “worry.” Then He goes on to say, “neither let it be afraid.” Here is a second kind of fear: anxiety felt in the presence of current danger, evil, or pain that is real. Jesus is saying, “Trust Me! It’s useless to worry about something over which you have no control, don’t worry over something that may or may not happen, and don’t be anxious and fearful even in the presence of current danger, evil, or pain."
How can we have such peace and such courage? What was the very first “Fruit of the Spirit we explored two weeks ago? It was the Fruit of Love. We saw that love is the governing “Fruit of the Spirit.” All the other fruit overflow from love. John shares a fantastic promise in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I can have peace in times of real danger, evil, or pain; I don’t have to be troubled about what may or may not happen tomorrow because God’s perfect love drives out the spirit of fear. This is the “Peace that surpasses understanding, the peace the world can not give, the Fruit of the Spirit.”