"Pursue that which makes for peace"
Sermon for August 30, 1998
There are some very practical things that can be said about today’s text like:
But I would argue that the pursuit of peace in an inward work long before it’s an outward work and that if we really mean business, that is if we really mean to pursue peace, we need to establish ourselves as persons of faith.
As persons of faith, we believe that Jesus has the "words of life". We agree with Simon Peter’s statement in John 6:68-69:
"Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. Also we
believe and have come to know that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
John presents these world-shaping words and moves on to relate Jesus’ comment that He would be betrayed by one of them, thereby high-lighting the faithfulness of the eleven whom "He chose." It is not possible to successfully pursue peace on any other level if you have not attained it on the most personal of levels. The "words of life" that you receive by faith make for peace.
Having established the main point of my sermon as the necessity of "words of life," I want to revisit the statement of faith by Peter. In Matthew 16:16ff, it is recorded that Jesus exclaimed in response to Peter’s words, "flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father Who is in heaven." (v.17) There, in sixteen words, our Lord contrasts for us two ways of knowing: that which is revealed by flesh and blood and that which is revealed by our Father in heaven. Flesh and blood knowledge refers to empirical knowledge, the kind acquired by the senses and scientific study. Knowledge from heaven, on the other hand, refers to revelation, Spirit speaking to spirit. Both kinds of knowledge are necessary for getting along in this world and Jesus is not de-valuing flesh and blood knowledge here; He is matter-of-factly putting worldly knowledge in its proper place. What is that place? One of necessary contrast to revelation and Christian faith. As Jesus goes on to explain in Matthew, the church will be built upon revelation and faith. Hell, a spiritual entity, will not prevail against the church which is in spiritual opposition to Hell. The church as the embodiment of the Kingdom of heaven, or God, is a supernatural entity subject to its own laws and reality. The "keys to the Kingdom of Heaven" which are the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be given into the authority of Peter, and by way of extension, the faithful. So we, as the body of Christ, have authority today to bind in heaven and on earth.
This declaration of our spiritual authority is a "word of life". As we receive such words by faith, we receive peace. Let’s make sure we are all on the same page now. Faith is by definition absolute trust in God’s resolve to do what He says He will do. The focus is on God, on what He has the capacity to do. We are the beneficiaries. Insofar as we have faith, we have spiritual security, we have peace.
However, faith, as I have just defined it, is an embattled thing. Faith is opposed by many things. Faith is opposed by the evidence, by common sense, by the order of this present world, by our circumstances—indeed by everything that flesh and blood knowledge tends to plainly substantiate. Sensual, materialistic, testable reality seems to contradict faith knowledge to the core. Indeed, this opposition is so compelling at times that the historicity of Jesus and the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, known as the Incarnation, are vital truths for Christians to affirm! Thank God, our Savior was flesh and blood real even as He was eternally real.
Isaiah 26:5: "God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him, because he trusts in God." These are words of life. When common sense tries to assert its authority over us, we need to affirm biblical truth to obtain perfect peace.
Psalm 34: 11—16 ( please turn there), a psalm of David reads:
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your tongue from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Fear of the Lord, according to David and the Old Testament, leads us to peace, and to fullness of life and days. If we will but:
This, in four simple points, is the way of peace. It is almost as an afterthought that David reminds us that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (v. 15)—that is upon those who diligently seek peace by living out the words of life shared here! God hears (v. 15) as we suffer in the pursuit of peace, as surely we may, because the pursuit of peace is full of pain and suffering. The pursuit of peace is worth the price of rebirth as are all the spiritual things that must be birthed in us according to our new life. But suffering and pain both become bearable in purposefulness. Furthermore, the Lord our God is, for our sakes as well as His own, actively opposed to those "who do evil" (the wicked) (v. 16). What we learn from David is that with breathtaking finality, the wicked won’t even be brought to remembrance anymore—neither the horrors they perpetrated, nor their foolish sense of arrogant self-importance will remain.
This is the key to inner peace; that by faith you receive "words of life" from Jesus as your Lord.
"Words of life" from Romans 12:18: "If it be possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." We learn from this that the pursuit of peace entails a good hearted effort at being peaceable, conciliatory, kind and hospitable. We are not responsible for the outcomes, but we will be judged for our attitudes as well as our in-puts.
"Words of life" from 1 Corinthians 7:14-16:
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under
bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife,
whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you
will save your wife?
These verses breathe peace for those who are unequally yoked. We live at peace because the ultimate issue is salvation. We affirm that one saved spouse in a marriage, or family is better than none. We learn that the children are covered that the presence of a believer makes all the difference in the world. We are not panicked if an unbeliever departs, that is abandons, or divorces; nor are we obliged to pretend that what is over, isn’t over. The peace comes from knowing that the cleanness of the believer overshadows the uncleanness of the unbeliever! We are encouraged to know that even one makes a marriage "holy," even though we know that God prefers us to be spared the anguish of being unequally yoked. But none of this pertains to us if we do not receive these words of life with faith. By faith we know the difference between what is apparent, and what is real. We have peace because that knowledge absolves us from so much guilt, shame and frustration. It doesn’t matter that things are said to the contrary, that things are explained differently, or even if blame is placed on us—such words are merely evasions and subterfuge, the work of someone resisting God’s call. Peace is the result of our supernatural and uncommon sense of things.
2 Timothy 2:22 speaks words of life to the tumultuous years of growing up and to those in captivity to youthful lusts who may no longer be youthful:
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with
those who call on the Lord our of a pure heart.
A Christian is a team player for whom accountability partners, discipleship, and worship are essential to our pursuit of peace. First, note that peace comes by joining other Christians in fleeing lust. Pursue purity of heart with those who call on the Lord. You may well do some calling on the Lord yourself because the passions may run strong. Sustain that purity of heart above all else. Many things may beckon for the allegiance of your heart—friendship, loyalty, the need for acceptance and affection, release from pain, sedation of a wounded heart, confusion even fear of being alone—you are to respond to each of these emotional suitors with a godly rebuff. Only by the pursuit of righteousness will you attain peace. Paul urges Timothy not to compromise his "holiness" with any impurity of heart. Impure choices and behaviors will hinder your spiritual growth. There are, in terms of life challenges, enough things you won’t be able to avoid, it is best not to accumulate too much baggage from lustful pursuits.
So what have we learned? We’ve learned that time and again, the scriptures offer us "words of life" which grant us peace if we will but receive them by faith. In the passages I’ve shared, I have by no means been exhaustive, only representative.
The pursuit of peace begins with your decision to be a person of faith. That decision makes you a God truster, a person of the book, who looks to Jesus for truth. It means that when you have to choose between heavenly knowledge and the knowledge of flesh and blood, you’ve already decided. And if you’ve already decided, you have already been delivered from so much confusion and misdirection. You know Who your authority is, and you have elected to listen to Him as your final authority—not yourself, not others. . .not emotion, not experience and not even the well-educated, politically placed, rich and famous who might want to be your authority. Ask what The Book says, then without equivocation and doubting, just do it. Guard against forever asking questions and never receiving instruction. Where the scripture is plain, such questions are merely an excuse to be your own authority and to avoid responsibility. There is no peace down that road. You choose the harder path of obedience and see what serenity will come your way.
Again, "God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on God because he trusts in Him."