God of Peace
Romans 16:20; Hebrews 13:20-21
When I was a kid people talked about building bomb shelters in their back yards and I’m sure some of you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I don’t know if you ever have given thought to what it would be like if there was a nuclear war. But following the 9-11 events I have thought of what it would be like to be under attack in the US.
You're sitting quietly at home having breakfast, and suddenly there's a blast, there's a flash, and you are engulfed in a fireball that reduces everyone to cinders. You are walking out at Summerville Lake with your family. There's a flash. There's a blast and you are gone. You go up to a WVU football game and then there is that flash. There's a blast. The city is gone, like an egg crushed under a steamroller.
That's what we'd face if nuclear war occurred. That's why on this Memorial Day Sunday it is important to honor those who died in our nation’s past wars so that we might have peace. As I thought about what to preach on because this is also Pentecost I prayerfully decided to focus on what the Word of God has to say about Christian responsibility for peace making and peace keeping.
I. First, we must remind ourselves that our God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, God the ever present Holy Spirit is the God of peace. Contrary to other religions – like Islam we are called to live in peace.
A. We may tend to overlook this attribute, which is an essential ingredient of the divine character of God, I would like us to examine a few Scriptures that discloses the God of peace. The New Testament has at least 6 references to this facet of God's nature. Here is 3 of them.
1. This is one of those texts that refer to God as the God of peace. Paul assures us that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet. Romans 16:20 (NIV) tells us that The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
a. Paul’s assurance that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet doesn’t sound to peaceful – but knowing that Satan is defeated can bring a great deal of peace to Christ’s disciples.
2. 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Paul in his farewell comment to the church in Corinth tells us:
a. To aim for perfection - if we don’t aim for perfection we will not try at all. It is our effort to live like Christ that makes a difference in the world.
b. To aim for perfection we have to follow the directions – Paul tells us to listen to him “my appeal.”
c. Be of one mind = live in harmony with one another
d. Live in peace – that comes when we are aiming for perfection, listening to the holy directions and living in harmony with one another.
e. Then the God of love and peace will be with us.
3. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV) May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
B. Because God is a God of peace He desires peace and He wants peace among the nations on our planet. We need to desire that peace but so often we try to manufacture that peace through treaties and human efforts. Human efforts will not provide peace – we have to have the Peacemaker, Jesus Christ, provide peace.
II. God is not to blame for war. We must remind ourselves that if there is war on earth you can't blame God for it. 1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…
A. We create disorder and confusion. With the assistance of Satan human kind chooses violence and bloodshed instead of harmony and life.
B. James the brother of Jesus in his letter pulls no punches telling us that if there is strife, if there is war don’t blame God. It isn’t His will it is human wickedness.
C. James isn't talking as a sociologist; but he gives us here profound analysis of why history is a terrible record of marching armies and bloody battles. . James 4:1-2 (NIV) 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God
D. Human theft. Ruthless ambition. Greed for land and gold and power. Fierce hatred, and cruel envy. These are the root causes of war not the will of God, but the wickedness of man. And Satan is definitely a part of this – urging us to choose us over others.
E. War destroys the world's resources while people suffer, starve, sicken, and shiver until they perish. War, that terrible scourge which destroys millions upon millions of human beings, each one of them created in the image of God. War, with all its indescribable agony and mutilation and terror and heartache. War, that breeds pestilence and disease and famine. War, which sows the seeds of suspicion and revenge in the field of international relationships. – It is of man’s making.
1. It was the famous Civil War general William Sherman who said, "War is hell." You may not endorse his language, and you might not agree with his theology; but you must admit that Sherman was right. War is a devilish business that originates in the depths of satanic depravity.
III. God calls us to be peacemakers. Third, we need to remind ourselves that the God of peace, who wills peace, calls upon you and me as disciples of Jesus Christ to be peacemakers. We probably are familiar with Matthew 5:9 (NIV) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” James 3:18 (NIV) Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
A. "The harvest of righteousness is sewn in peace by those who make peace." However heroic and patriotic soldiers and sailors may be, war requires, as we all know, ghastly violence. War compels men to perform acts that would horrify their hearts and consciences in civilian life. War not only does that, but as I've been pointing out, war produces every kind of unrighteousness. It breathes a harvest of evil.
B. Peace, on the other hand, produces, as James teaches us in this text, a harvest of righteousness. According to James writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, peace is like a garden in which peacemakers sow acts of compassion and forgiveness and reconciliation.
C. The fruit of those peaceful acts is righteousness. According to James, then, peace is the prerequisite for the establishment of God's righteousness in the earth. In order to have righteousness, we must have peace. It's as simple as that.
D. So the God of peace summons us, you and me as disciples of Jesus Christ, to be peacemakers in our friendships, in our marriages, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our places of business and work, in our country, and in our world.
E. But we need to understand that it's impossible to function as an agent of reconciliation unless you and I have first been reconciled to God by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ.
1. Understand it's impossible to be a peacemaker unless you and I have entered into God's peace by coming to the cross and by claiming pardon through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. When we have peace with God, His very peace is in our own hearts, we can become effective as peacemakers.
The Prayer of St. Francis of AssisiLord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, Grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.