Tomorrow, we celebrate Memorial Day. Although for most, this is simply a day for picnicking with family and friends, for others it is a grim reminder of the family and friends that we’ve lost in the line of battle or of those away from home currently ensuring peace within our nation’s borders.
At this time, we’re going to have a moment of silence followed by prayer for those left behind by the armed service members who gave their all so that we might have peace.
This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Together” where we’re learning more about the often neglected gift of the Holy Spirit of uniting people together.
We’ve learned how we, the church, are part of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision where the valley of dry bones were brought to life. Not only were those bones brought together to form bodies, but those bodies were also brought together to be a mighty army.
It is for this reason that Jesus told His disciples in John chapter 16 that it was for their good that He was going away. Better than having Jesus in the flesh with them was having the Holy Spirit within them binding them together in unity. Those words of Jesus are still obviously true today as we are better together, united by the Holy Spirit alone, than we are alone in our faith.
We learned last week about how although we are all unique parts of the body of Christ, there are connecting ligaments, tendons, and sinews that we all must possess in order to come together. Paul wrote about these connecting elements that the Holy Spirit freely gives us here:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Although love is what we are to wear externally and how the world will see and know that we are His disciples, it is peace that must rule our hearts internally.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Why is what rules our hearts so important? Well, the scriptures teach us:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
If everything that we do flows from our heart, then everything that we are to do is to be done from a stance of our peace within. It is this same peace within Jesus that enabled Him to establish peace here on the earth. It was the peace within that enabled Him to say to the storm, “Peace, be still!” and it calmed completely, to the boy prone to seizures and the demon fled, to his disciples to feed thousands with barely enough sustenance for one, and on and on. It was the Holy Spirit within Him that provided a peace that flowed out into the miraculous as His internal peace manifested itself externally.
This same peace of Christ provided by the same Holy Spirit is literally to rule our hearts and everything that we do as well. Again, from the context of Jesus reminding His disciples that He was leaving and that it was for their good that He was so that He could send the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus taught and lived the example that even in the midst of life’s troubles and intense pressures, we can maintain a peace within us that guides and directs us like a compass. This peace of Christ is a gift and is, in fact, a fruit of the Holy Spirit that cannot be stolen from our lives by anyone or anything unless we permit it to be. Paul prayed:
2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
Jesus, the Lord of peace, giving us peace at all times and in every way. This anchoring peace is not only possible, it is a free gift available for each and every one of us. In fact, we’re called to far more than simply possessing this internal peace that guards and rules our hearts, we’re called to give it away! We’re called not only to possess peace, but to be peacemakers!
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Being a peacemaker as a child of God should come naturally to us as an outpouring of the peace found within us. When we possess peace, we can establish and maintain peace among others, which obviously brings us together. This peacemaking process is made possible from a combination of the peace within us and the wisdom from Heaven.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Wisdom from heaven brings people together through peacemakers. What is peace in the kingdom of God and how do we become God’s peacemakers?
Well, peace is a military term. Peace is only possible when the enemies of peace are held at bay. Jesus said in John 10:10 that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, not exactly acts of peace, but rather, acts of chaos and disorder. Jesus also said in John 10:10 that He came to give us life and life abundant. Peace is made possible when the works of the devil are stopped and undone through the authority given to us by Jesus. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, against mere humans. Our battle is in the heavenly realms against evil and everything that attempts to set itself up against God.
We are peacemakers when we’re pure, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and the fruits of the Spirit, impartial, and sincere in our relationships with others. When we love our enemies, we wage war against our true enemy who is powerless to stop our love. It is that loving kindness that draws people to Christ.
In the Old Testament, the only times when the nation of Israel were at peace were when her enemies were kept at bay by the Lord. In the future, Revelation 20 reveals that there will be a thousand years of peace on the earth simply because Satan will be locked away in prison awaiting his eternal torment punishment.
Peace, in the Kingdom of God, isn’t defined as the lack of troubles or problems or battles. Peace is the trust in God’s promise to ultimately give us the victory over them all. Peace, in the Kingdom of God, isn’t defined as external tranquility, it is the inward confidence that all of our temporary problems will be swallowed up by eternity in the new order of things.
Though it may seem like a paradox, God has given us the natural phenomenon of this spiritual reality as evidenced by the eye of a storm. Right in the middle of all of the chaos and destruction of a massive storm such as a tornado or hurricane is the most peaceful and tranquil place of calmness. This powerful example is what God has made possible for all of us to possess, the peace of Christ ruling our hearts, the very center of who we are.
Even in the midst of chaos, troubles, tribulations, and destruction, we can be at peace. Even though we, the various parts of the body of Christ, see things very differently and sharply disagree about certain things, we can still be at peace with one another. With the peace of Christ ruling our hearts, we can come together in harmony despite our uniqueness and differences from one another. In fact, it is us being united together as one body which was the context of the Apostle Paul’s writing:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
This is also why the Apostle Paul wrote and reminded us again of this peace in the midst of chaos:
6 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.
We possess and enforce peace from the internal to the external; from the depths of our hearts outward for all to see. Likewise, if we do not possess the peace of Christ internally, our lives externally will display this reality as well. Of course, it is God’s will that we fully embrace His peace and allow and ensure that it is His peace that rules our hearts internally and lives externally. It is only then that our personal ministry to others can be more effective and impactful. Isaiah wrote this about God:
3 You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
This morning, God’s desire is not only that we possess His perfect peace, but that His perfect peace rules our hearts and everything that flows from our lives. Our Lord, the Rock eternal, desires to be our anchor that keeps us in the eye of the storms that rage around us. As we decide in our minds to trust in God no matter what comes our way, His peace will guard our hearts and keep us firmly rooted in Him.
We can then be peacemakers who are able to step into the storms and chaos that overwhelms the lost around us and bring them also into the peaceful refuge of Christ who keeps us anchored in the midst of the storm.