Sunday, November 4, 2018

81104 The Path to Peace

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The first question in the Westminister Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” And the correct answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We are not commanded to seek peace with God instead the Bible tells us that we have peace with God! That peace, which passes all understanding, is a part of the gift of God given to us in Christ Jesus. John Piper changes the catechism statement to, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever!” How do we get to the place of peace that allows us to enjoy God forever? Let’s see if we can find out!
Paul wrote a promise to the Philippians. If we will put aside all anxiety and pour out our needs in prayer God will give us peace that passes all understanding. That peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Earlier in Romans, we find this assurance, “God’s kindness is meant to lead it… To repentance?” (Romans 2:4). When we think of the peace coming from God and couple that to his kindness leading us to repentance we must recognize that God will allow us to suffer many things in order to bring us to repentance.
Many times we have found ourselves being drawn into rebellion against God. The word of God tells us that instead of preventing us from doing wrong God will let us go as deeply as necessary to see the need for repentance. Often we find ourselves facing the fact that…
God gave us up. Let’s look at three different verses found in Romans one. First, men have always rejected God because it is a natural tendency. In human wisdom, we often become fools who worship the creation rather than the creator. Look at Romans 1:24. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. When men rebel against God he will give them up so they can see how bad it is. If we do not repent God will let us go even deeper. Verse 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. And then, if they do not return to him. Verse 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
It seems to me that this threefold descent into depravity pretty much describes the world we live in. And, if we are not very careful, even represents many who are part of the church! The natural tendency of the human race is to rebel against God. We cannot rescue ourselves! God has to work in our life so that we can know him. We have all sinned, believer and unbeliever alike. But we who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ have a new experience.
We have been justified. Let’s turn to Romans 3:23-26. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
We have already seen that everyone begins their lives separated from God. In that condition, God gives us up to the consequences of our own sin. No matter how we might struggle to be “better” we always fall short until God comes into our lives in a special way. God’s grace gift to us is called “justification”. The only hope that we have will come about by faith in Jesus. Before we came to know Christ we were subject to God’s wrath! We can never ever escape God’s wrath without a sufficient offering of atonement. That offering, or sacrifice, is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Greek Old Testament, the word “propitiation” is often used to signify the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. That was the place where the priest came once a year to sprinkle blood seven times to make atonement for the people. This resulted in turning away God’s wrath. This ceremony pictures the fact that a broken law – represented by the Ten Commandments — stood between God and man. Once the blood was placed on the mercy seat God could be merciful to those who only deserved judgment. Christ is our mercy seat or propitiation turning aside God’s wrath.
All of this is…
Resulting in peace. Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:13-14. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. We were once eternally separated from God! The blood of Christ, who is our peace, has satisfied God’s wrath. This truth is explained further in Colossians 1:19-20. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
The fullness of God describes Jesus as the Christ. The Bible is very clear Jesus is fully man and fully God at the same time. In order for his sacrifice on the cross to be sufficient for our sins he had to be God! At the same time he had to be man in order to be our substitute. There is so much that I need to share! Jesus took on flesh in order to destroy our enemy and set us free. The only hope mankind has is the fact that the death of Jesus was a substitute sacrifice for mankind. We are reminded in Ephesians that we were dead in trespasses and sins. In our own strength and ability we deserve eternal separation from God.
The sacrifice of Jesus brings about peace between God and man. It is our only hope! That hope was…
Promised by the Angels. Let’s look at Luke 2:13-14. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture. It is repeated billions of times around the world at Christmas time. An angel came to tell shepherds that the Christ had been born in Bethlehem. Then the sky filled with a host of angels singing glory to God in the highest and on earth peace! This promise should bring us to want to know more about that peace. Yet most of the world celebrates Christmas in one way or another often with hardly any mention of the baby that was born to set us free from our sin! Personally, I like the Hallmark Channel! I am disappointed at how many different ways Christmas can be portrayed on film with almost no mention of Christ. In China Christmas is not a public holiday but it is still celebrated across the officially atheistic country. Christmas is an important holiday in Japan even though the population is almost completely non-Christian!
The world knows that the Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem!
Our path is not easy. Jesus himself told us in John 16:33. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus’ promised peace is not easily achieved. There is no promise that that peace will be easy. Instead, we are promised tribulation. When Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.” He is not promising that he will take away the tribulation. We are not promised to be kept from the storms of life we are promised to be kept IN the storms. For those who are looking for a soft spot in the world I would suggest that you feel of the top of your head.
Our path is not easy but…
There is purpose in our path. Let’s turn to James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Our opening text tells us that we have peace with God as a result of faith. That peace allows us to rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. We are also to rejoice in our sufferings! Suffering produces endurance! Endurance produces character! Character produces hope! And hope sets us free from shame.
James probably wrote before Paul did. In fact, James may have been one of the earliest letters of the New Testament. Paul may have been thinking of these words of James. James encourages us to deal with trials — remember Jesus promised us tribulation — with rejoicing! Count it all joy! Personally, I’m more inclined to rejoice when things appear to be going right rather than when I’m facing trials and temptations. But we should recognize that faith testing produces a stability that we need in our day-to-day life. Rather than fighting against our trials, we need to let them do their work in our lives!
Our hope is centered on the concept…
God is for us. Let’s look at Romans 8:35-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the verses before this Paul has given us assurance that God is for us. He is for us in all that he does. We may be defeated in our day-to-day struggles but evil will not win because God is for us! We are always being led in Jesus’ victory procession. We need to remember, “God is for us!” Make it personal! God is for Waylen Bray. Now, repeat after me God is for (fill in the blank with your own name) ____________ !
God will not allow anything to condemn us. We need not fear he is on our side! And then we see that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! When Paul wrote these words he was practically writing his own biography. He had been faced with death again and again. He had been surrounded by enemies from the beginning of his Christian walk. He certainly had experienced everything that he presents here. In Christ Jesus we are “Super Conquerors”.
This word should be very encouraging to us. John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, said that he was very sad one day when the word suddenly came to him, “What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” He then modestly added, “That was a help to me.”
We have peace with God because of the grace of God. God’s grace is the gift of blessings and favor that we do not deserve. Part of God’s grace is granted to all people. Since all people are born separated from God — not by God’s choice — by our birth into the human race. We are the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such we are born separated from God. It is unnatural for us to experience peace until we enter into saving grace. We are saved by grace through faith and that is a gift of God! In salvation, we should break free from the bondage of sin. However, we still have in our human nature the old habits and we need to be set free from them. That is the grace of God at work in us! Being justified by faith we have peace with God! When we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord!” we are saved and set free. Is he your Lord? Have you learned to live in his peace? We will look at this further next week. God willing!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

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