Summary: This sermon describes what it means to have peace and briefly touches on the importance of sharing that peace with others.
June 27, 2004 The Peace that Passes Understanding
Asaph once wrote, I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. (Ps 73:3-5) When we talk about peace, it sometimes appears that some of the most peaceful people are pagans. They don’t often think about hell or damnation. The law doesn’t scare them. They think in their minds, “I’m pretty good.” Paul once said, Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. (Ro 7:9) As an unbeliever, Paul used to enjoy his life. Then the law that he enjoyed started putting him to death and making him miserable. That’s the way unbelievers often are. They don’t pay much attention to their consciences. They love their sports, their riches, and their wines and beers. They have nice homes and enjoy nice jobs, often times they even have seemingly happy families. But in the long run, their peace runs out. Even if all their bills are paid, they may have health problems. Even if their families are running smoothly, sooner or later someone will get in trouble or something will go wrong. Paul also reminds us that, While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Th 5:3) This kind of peace is not the kind of peace that lasts forever.
As a matter of fact, Jesus warns Christians that life isn’t about that kind of peace. When you are brought to faith in Christ, you are put into the middle of a war. Jesus said, “I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword.” He then went on to explain that mothers would be turned against daughters, fathers against sons, and so on.” Jesus also said that “you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mt 24:9-14) That doesn’t sound like peace to me. So if we expect a physical and mental peace to happen on this earth, we’re only fooling ourselves. This is no better than the peace of Neville Chamberlain, who after trying to negotiate peace with Hitler assured everyone that there would be, “Peace in our time.” He was living in a dream world. So are you if you think as Christians you’ll never have any unrest.
When we look at the life of God’s people in the Scriptures - we don’t find them sitting around and enjoying the quiet life all too often. Consider David for instance. Nathan told him that as a result of his sin that, the sword will never depart from your house. (2 Samuel 12:10) For the rest of his life, David had to endure the results of sin.
• His son that was born of Bathsheba died.
• Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar and was murdered by Absalom.
• Absalom led a rebellion against him and died in that rebellion.
• Adonijah tried to steal the kingdom from Solomon and was put to death.
• David had to continually fight against the guilt of his sin for the rest of his life.
Just because David was Christian, he still struggled with sin and had to suffer the results of his own sins. He didn’t have much peace in his lifetime because of his own sexual problems.
A more modern example would be Luther. Here God had revealed the pure Gospel to this little monk. Yet what happened as a result? He was declared a heretic. His books were burned. The Catholic Church attempted to put him to death. He had to live through a Peasant War. He often had to live with terrible stomach problems. He rarely had a moments rest. He had to struggle against his own anger and tendencies to vulgarity. In many ways, Luther didn’t know what peace was, even though he was God’s tool for the Reformation.
Yet when Christ was born, the angels sang "On earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). When Simeon finally held Jesus in his arms he said to the Lord, “let your servant depart in peace.” As Jesus grew older, He promised His disciples - "My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27). Jesus promised to give us peace. This isn’t the peace of having a security system or having money in the bank or a clean bill of health from the doctor. It’s different from that. Paul describes it this way - Romans 5:1-2 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. You see, whenever things don’t go “right” in our world - when our health gets all messed up, we lose our jobs, whatever it is that makes you lose sleep - it’s easy to automatically think, “this is happening because God is mad at me. I must have done something wrong.” But when you go back to this promise in Christ - that we have been justified - we have been declared not guilty - then we realize and say to ourselves, “God can’t be punishing me for my sins. God can’t be angry with me, because God already punished Christ. I stand in God’s grace” This is the peace that Jesus gives us. Not peace with men, but peace with God.