A Life of Peace
I preached the following sermon at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, December 3, 2017.
A LIFE OF PEACE
Part 4 of The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. December 3, 2017.
INTRODUCTION: THREE-WAY PEACE
The fruit of the Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). When we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, he brings peace into our lives. This is not surprising since God is "the God of peace" (see, for example, Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
God's goal is for peace to rule on earth. Jesus is the promised Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) At his birth, the angels announced "peace on earth" (Luke 2:14). When Jesus reigns on the earth and there will be no more war (Isaiah 2:4).
God's peace is a three-way peace produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives:
There is peace WITH God. We were at war with God, but at the cross, Jesus brokered a peace-deal. He built a peace bridge.
Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace,
Romans 5:1 Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
There is peace FROM God. In mess and stress, we can experience peace and rest.
John 14:27 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.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV-WS) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There is the peace OF God that we extend to others. Because we are at peace, we are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
Hebrews 12:14 "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone."
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace
See also Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:15; 1 Peter 3:10-11.
HOW TO PURSUE PEACE - ROMANS 12:18
Today, I'd like us to focus on the third kind of peace - the peace OF God - peace with everyone. How can we pursue this kind of peace? Romans 12:18 has some answers for us: Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
The context of the verse is how to respond as a Christian to the hostility and conflict caused by persecution. Basically, don't fight back, don't take revenge. That's hard enough, but then Paul writes verse 18: "live at peace."
Even although the original context is the persecution of a first century church in Rome, we can apply the teaching to our relationships today. Here are steps to peace:
STEP 1: I CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY: "as far as it depends on you."
When relationships are rocky, the temptation is to put all the blame on someone else. But the truth is, there is usually plenty of blame to go around. It doesn't really matter if we're only 1% at fault. Jesus said:
Matthew 5:23-24 If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
In other words, don't waste a moment, make things right. Take responsibility. This is not easy. Most of us would rather walk on nails than walk into conflict.
Over the years, I've had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people who weren't exactly pleased with me. I only know one way to get the grace and courage I needed going in: PRAY!
Jesus said: Luke 6:27-28 "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, PRAY for those who mistreat you."
STEP 2: I DEAL WITH REALITY: "If it is possible."
The reality is: not everyone wants to live in peace with us. We can try everything, offer every concession, apologize, dialogue, and beg for peace, and still not get it. There are three possible reasons for failure:
We might be the problem, but we have a blind spot. We just can't see what we're doing to create the problem. In this case, it's wise to include a third party, a mediator, someone without a horse in the race, who can see things from a more objective perspective. The Proverb says, "the one who heeds correction gains understanding" - Proverbs 15:32b
People might demand what we cannot give. For example, they might want us to deny Christ, or to change an essential doctrine, or to cross the line in moral compromise, or admit to something we did not do. Jesus could have avoided most of his conflict with the religious leaders in Israel if he had stopped claiming to be God (John 10:33), but that was NEVER going to happen. There are some times when we should not "go along to get along."
People might not want peace. The reality is: some people are haters; mad about everything; always offended. The Bible calls it living by the flesh in Galatians 5:20-21: "... hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy." These poor people have the relationship skills of a middle schooler. Their guide to life is Jerry Springer.
Peace is not always possible - right now. That's just reality. Don't beat your head against the wall. Listen what Paul told Timothy to do when the haters were bullying him:
2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Don't argue. Don't get bitter. Be patient. Be kind. Pray and hope for breakthrough.
STEP 3: I STAY RATIONAL: "live at peace with everyone."
It just makes good sense to be friendly. That's what I mean by rational. First, it’s a positive way to live. Also, friendship is good for your health. Plus, we need relationship skills to succeed at work:
Years ago, I taught a college success course at SC4. As part of my preparation, I read all about EQ. That's emotional intelligence, the ability to get along, to be a great team member, to do the right thing in social situations. Did you know that EQ is a better predictor of success than IQ? Who knew that all the stuff we learned in kindergarten about sharing toys and not hitting and being a buddy - all that was setting us up for success in life?
All that to say this: Living at peace with everyone is about EQ, not IQ. That's what the word "peace" means - "joined together." It's about getting along with "everyone." Even with people who are not like us, who don't agree with us, who don't believe like us, or talk like us. Need help with this? I recommend John Maxwell's book, Winning with People.
The most important reason to live in peace is this: it's a sign of spiritual health. The Spirit has poured so much peace all over us. Just let some of that abundance overflow to the people around you. Spiritually healthy people like people.
Let me give you three ways to get along with people based on:
Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Promote your friends: Humility is not thinking less of myself; it's thinking of myself less (or not at all). John the Baptist knew humble: "He (Jesus) must increase but I must decrease." - John 3:30. To live at peace, "leggo my eggo" - ego, the BIG I.
Promote your friends' ideas. To value others means listening more, encouraging more, praising more without talking about yourself.
Promote your friends' needs. To "look to the interests" of someone else means asking, "What does my friend need from me? How can I speak a word of encouragement? Can I help them with something?
Peace - three way peace - is such a wonderful gift from God. It brings spiritual, emotional, and relational health and wholeness into our lives.
As we conclude today, let me leave you with this last thought about peace.
Because we need it, we should receive it. Trust Jesus to be your peace with God - now.
When we receive it, we should give thanks for it. "Thank you Lord for peace with you, peace in my heart, peace with my neighbors."
After we give thanks for it, we should share it. Let your peace overflow. Take positive steps to make and maintain peace with everyone.
Is there someone you need to build or repair the peace bridge to?
Order the Maxwell book - Winning with People