Sermon for Sunday, October 15th, 2023 at Tuscarora Inn
[John 14:27 ESV] 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
The peace of a Christian is a beautiful thing.
Peace of mind.
Peace in the heart.
Peace in the soul.
A peace from God that leads to a life of joy.
And this peace is a characteristic, a virtue, that ALL Christians may have. It is one of “Fruit of the Spirit.”
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit living in you. And the Holy Spirit produces fruit: love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We perhaps don’t think firstly of “peace” as that attribute of a Christian.
I. The Opposite of War
The first meaning of “peace” that comes to mind is often that absence of war. Nations are “at peace” when they are not “at war.”
This is a Biblical use of the term.
Jesus says in Luke 14:31-32,
[Luke 14:31-32 ESV] 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
And peace between nations is far greater than the alternative. War is not glamorous or glorious. To quote General William Tecumseh Sherman: “War is Hell.” It is loud, dirty, bloody, destructive, and deadly. Peace is far better
There is a common suggestion that the best U.S. presidents are those who have won wars. But perhaps even better are the presidents who have kept us out of war! Those who have kept peace. We glory in the great war presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But almost entirely forgotten is Martin Van Buren, who diffused tensions in the 1830s between America and Britain and so avoided war.
Even my own martial arts training constantly enforced that truth: avoiding a fight is the best approach. You train, you prepare to fight, but peace is the first priority.
II. Many Meanings of Peace
But, there are other uses of the term “peace” in the Scriptures. In English as well as Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek, “peace” has various meanings.
The Hebrew word “Shalom” can indeed be “peace between nations” but it can also be “peace in friendships;”it can be “tranquility;” it can be “contentment.”
And the Greek “eirene” likewise can mean “peace between nations,” or “peace between individuals,” or security and safety.
III. The Peace of God.
But, for the Christian and especially in the New Testament, “peace” above all is that blessed state of being between God and man which leads to great joy. I want to repeat that, “peace is a blessed state of being between God and man which leads to great joy.”
A. Reconciliation with God
Ultimately peace is that relationship between God and man … renewed. The fall into sin brought division between God and man, but the atonement of Jesus Christ brings reconciliation; peace between God and man.
We who were once His enemies are now called His friends.
Paul speaks of this peace between God and man in Ephesians 2:
[Ephesians 2:14-18 ESV] 14 For he himself [Jesus Christ] is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Jesus Christ brought peace between God and man.
B. The Countenance of a Christian
So peace is salvation, no longer any condemnation from God. And this assured state of salvation in Jesus Christ brings tranquility, the peace “which surpasses all understanding.”
So the Christian peace is not only that legal status of being declared “not guilty” before God, but it is that attitude, that countenance of the Christian. … Christian peace. It is hard to describe it without reference to other fruit of the Spirit: peace that brings joy, peace that brings patience, peace that brings self-control, peace that brings love.
Imagine the great freedom of the Christian in having such peace. Not dwelling on the things of the past, nor worrying about things to come.
Maybe when you think of peace you think of a sunset, or the wind through alpine trees, or ripples of water on a lake.
I often have this scene in my head of St. Francis of Assisi — what little I know of him – gardening, taking care of animals. Living in God’s world with joy. That scene is sometimes mixed with what I’ve read and seen at L’Abri in Switzerland. They use only hand tools in the gardens. No noise-making power tools. This contributes to the serenity, the peacefulness of the place.
C. A “WHEREVER” AND “WHENEVER” PEACE
But that idyllic view I have of a peaceful world can be reality in our minds, wherever we are. Sitting in a hospital waiting room or at the DMV. Or driving a truck through the city. If we have the peace of Christ, we can live always in peace. [REPEAT: “If we have the peace of Christ, we can live always in peace.”]
It is nice to have externally peaceful situations. It is nice to be at the Tuscarora Inn. I enjoy the occasional quiet at my house when the kids are asleep. And I enjoy when they are playing together nicely, which doesn’t always happen.
But the beauty of the virtue of peace, that peace which the Christian has, is that THE CHRISTIAN MAY BE AT PEACE WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND WHATEVER THE PLACE. The Christian peace is internal, no matter the external world around him.
Though our outward circumstances may be difficult, the Gospel comes to us, and changes our inward circumstances.
D. A Gift of God
So we see that this is not a peace that we ourselves establish. It is a peace which Jesus Christ gives to us. He says:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
In Christ we are “at peace” with all that happens.
We are “at peace” with what has come to pass.
And we are “at peace” with what will come to be.
Like all virtues, peace comes from God. It is a fruit OF the spirit. The spirit OF God.
The spirit works peace in us, the peace that is accomplished by Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives us peace objectively.
The spirit gives us peace subjectively.
In Christ we are reconciled to God.
But by the Holy Spirit we KNOW we are reconciled to God.
E. Better than the world’s peace.
The Peace of God is better than the world’s “peace.” Theirs is a temporary peace. The 1 week vacation in the Bahamas but with the knowledge that the next 51 weeks will be back in the office and with all its stresses.
Jesus says: “my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”
This is not peace as the world sees it. Jesus even promises (Luke 12:51-53) that there will be division over him. [Luke 12:51-53 ESV] 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Christ’s peace is different. His peace is a forever peace. It is a whenever peace. And it is a wherever peace. A peace with God that brings peace of mind and peace to the soul. Praise God that we may live in peace. Do you ever think of that option? So easily do we get angry, frustrated, bothered by others or by our circumstances. But we don’t have to take that route. We may embrace peace. We may cultivate the virtue of peace.
Now — and this is a key point of transition —PEACE WITH GOD BRINGS A TENDENCY TOWARDS PEACE WITH ALL THOSE AROUND US.
F. Peace with God leads to peace with brothers and sisters.
Peace with God leads to peace with brothers and sisters.
Or, to say it another way, AFTER having peace with God, we seek peace with men.
[Romans 14:17-19 ESV] 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
And we have contentment:
[Romans 8:6 ESV] 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
So the Christian virtue of peace which we practice, in which we live, should help to diffuse the situations around us. There are a multiple “situations” in my neighborhood back in Unionville. The neighbors are not always at peace with each other. I try to stay out of it, or I try to suggest peaceful solutions.
It is far better to live in peace with your neighbors, and with your brothers.
Another example of peace: Just this week I got the Missionary Banner from PMU. And I noticed that they didn’t run the ad for our internship application for next summer at Sola, our mission to the hikers. And I asked Pastor Casey, our Field Director at the mission agency, “Did we forget this? Are we running in the next issue? That might be too late for the application deadline.” And he was apologetic, very concerned because, as he admitted, he forgot the put in the internship note in that paper. Like most pastors, I’m sure he’s seen people angry with each other. And how sad that would be if THIS harmed our relationship. But I responded to him saying “These things will happen. I’m not upset with you.” And, like the old Alka Seltzer commercials, what a relief it is.
This is that peace applied. We talk about it in our church vows, that we are to seek the “peace and purity of the church.” Seeking peace means understanding that when something has gone wrong, or contrary to your desires or expectations, that it is not usually out of malice that a person has done something but often out of forgetfulness, a genuine mistake which all people make. Peace requires forgiveness. Peace requires a forgiving heart.
So Jesus says: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
It is peaceful in a monastery, but we live in the regular wold. And so we must seek peace even through the craziness of this life. The Christian life is not perfect or easy. Trouble will still come. Christian peace does not avoid adversity, it triumphs over it. [REPEAT: Christian peace does not avoid adversity, it triumphs over it. Troubles will come, but how we react to them has changed. We react as Christians covered with the virtue of peace, knowing that God is sovereign, Christ is in control, and that all thing works together for the benefit of those who love Him.
So, do you have peace?
And how does the peace of Christ change you?
How is it evident in your life?
Are you upset with someone? You mustn’t hang on to that. Instead, know the peace of God. He forgives our sins, we are to forgive the sins of others.
There isn’t much peace in the world today.
You’ve perhaps seen that sign on a church before:
No God, No Peace
Know God, Know Peace
For those who do not have the peace of God, they have no peace.
It has been said that there are two rules of atheism:
(1) There is no God.
(2) I hate Him.
In such a life there is not peace, but hatred. And the hatred of God leads to the hatred of circumstances and the hatred of others.
But we should focus on, let’s say, the two rules of Christianity:
(1) There is a God.
(2) I love Him.
Then we have peace, ever trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we love; who first loved us.
Jesus Christ, a priest of the order of Melchizedek – king of Salem. The King of SHALOM. Or, in English, the King of Peace.
Let us look to Christ and have peace.
Say and believe with the “heavenly host” in Bethlehem:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
Say and believe with people at the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
And believe and know the words of Christ:
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Peace I give to you.
Let us pray.