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(Please note: The following is the sermon manuscript and not a transcript of the message preached)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 9, 2014
Blessed are the Peacemakers
One of the commodities that is highly valued by the world is peace. There are diverse opinions on how to gain peace, but it is universally sought after. During the years of the “cold war” in the last half of the twentieth century, we feared losing the quasi-peace that existed. Fear of open war lead the U.S. and the Soviet Union to live for decades on the brink of destroying each other under the policy of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – in order to maintain the balance from tipping either way which might lead to open war. When the cold war finally ended, there was acclamation that peace had finally arrived. While tensions with Russia and fear of nuclear war with them greatly diminished, the world has since remained in turmoil without peace. Our longest running war has occurred since then and the threat of nuclear destruction returned quickly with the rise of rogue nations and terrorists.
The Bible tell us plainly that as time goes on there will continue to be wars and rumors of war (Matthew 24), so even if one crisis is past, others will come and new wars will be entered into. World War I was supposed to be the war to end wars, but it was only a set up for World War II with hardly a break in between. Since WWII, open war, civil war or serious guerrilla warfare have occurred in China, Tibet, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Biafra, Liberia, Central Africa Republic, Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Greece, the Balkan countries, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq as well as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. This does not include the more minor internal conflicts and actions of terrorists such as has occurred in Russian, Spain, France, Great Britain and here in the United States. The only country I could think of that has not had internal conflict or been attacked in the last 100 years is Switzerland.
Even domestically it seems that there is a war with ourselves. Police battle criminals and gangs battle each other. It is not safe to take a walk in many of our cities at night and in some place even in the day. There are major conflicts between competing cultures in our nation. The paradigm shift into a post-modern society in which immorality reigns under the banner of secularism is in conflict with the religious elements of society that still believes that there are absolutes and that morality is important. Racial and economic tensions which are often heightened and exploited by political activists demonstrate the lack of peace on those fronts. Families are often in conflict with others and battling within themselves. Even personal turmoil runs rampant so that most people do not even have personal peace.
Yet, in the midst of all this, the desire of mankind is still to find peace. But what is peace? How can you find peace for yourself? How can you help others to find it? What is the benefit of peace? Those are some of the questions I want to address this morning.
Turn again to Matthew 5 as we continue in our study of this first section of the Sermon on the Mount which is called the Beatitudes. The theme of this sermon is Jesus’ declaration that your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if you are to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes are statements of fact about the blessing received by those who have the particular characteristic of righteousness described. The pivotal Beatitude is hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The first three Beatitudes build upon each other and result in craving to be righteousness. Being poor in spirit requires you to recognize the reality of God’s greatness and your nothingness so that you come to Him as a beggar. Humility is required to enter the kingdom of heaven. Recognizing God’s infinite holiness and your own sinfulness, you mourn and receive His comfort of forgiveness in Christ. This in turn results in the desire to submit to God which is the essence of being meek. The person who is poor in spirit, mournful and meek yearns to be righteous. Striving to be righteous leads to the following three Beatitudes. You become merciful become you know the mercy you have received in being made righteous by God. Purity of heart is the desire to be righteous internally, not just externally. The desire for others to also experience this righteousness before God leads to doing all you can to be a peacemaker. This is the Beatitude we will concentrate on this morning. Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” First I want to look at the blessing peacemakers receive, then the nature of peace and how to be a peacemaker.
Being a Child of God
Jesus says here that the blessing given to peacemakers is that they shall be called sons of God. This blessing once again proves the point that the Beatitudes are characteristics of those that are the truly saved for only the redeemed that can be called “sons of God.” The apostles state this in several places.
Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:14-17, 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him] in order that we may also be glorified with [Him.]
Paul states it this way in Galatians 4:4-7, 4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
The Apostle John put it this way in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become chi
ldren of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
You become a son of God through the work of the Holy Spirit and not by your own effort. It requires God to redeem you by leading you by the Holy Spirit to believe in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The blessing described here, as with the other beatitudes, only belongs to those who are true believers in Jesus Christ
It is a wonderful blessing to be a son of God, a joint heir with Christ, but I must give you a caution here. Many people profess to know Christ, but professing to be and the reality of being a child of God are not the same thing. The reality of a professed relationship with God will be demonstrated by a character that is being changed to be increasingly conformed to all the qualities of righteousness listed here in the Beatitudes. If your character is not being changed, you are in danger of being included with the false prophets described in the last part of the Sermon on the Mount in 7:15-23. Those described there even did miracles in the name of the Lord, but they were cast away because Jesus did not know them and their lives were marked by practicing lawlessness (vs 22-23). No human can live a righteous life by his own ability. It can only be done God’s way which requires the humility of being poor in spirit and seeking Him first with all your heart. God will then help you to live according to His will instead of your own selfish will.
The blessing given to those that are peacemakers is that they shall be called sons of God. They are those that belong to God as His adopted children and they are joint heirs with Christ. But what is a peacemaker and how do you become a peacemaker? First we need to understand the nature of peace.
The Nature of Peace
Peace is another one of those words that has been overused so much without precision that it has now developed a very broad range of meaning to the point that it can be confusing. It is used to describe anything from a serene and tranquil place, to the cease fire that follows a war, to the refusal to fight because the individual is too selfish and fearful to fight (peace sign). I have even heard it said that man’s greatest need is peace, but that would depend what is meant by peace. There are a lot of people that have figured out ways to be at peace in the sense of serene and tranquil, (drugs to calm anxiety are a huge business), yet their lives are still sinful and they remain under God’s just condemnation and will eventually be thrown into eternal Hell. That kind of peace is tragic. In addition, the Bible is clear that Christians cannot expect such tranquility for Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this world we would have tribulation and Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” What then is this peace that a peacemaker is supposed to strive to bring about?
The Greek word used here, eijrhnopoiovV / eir nopoios, “he who makes peace,” was used in classical literature as the opposite of one who makes war. Peace was the interlude between war. That still seems to be the meaning of the word for a lot of people. One person quipped, “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” However, the concept of peace that Jesus is dealing with here is not the Greek concept, but the Hebrew concept.
The Hebrew word, Shalom (mWlc9), was consistently translated as the Greek word for peace, eijrhvnh / eir n , in the Septuagint, and doing so gave the word a new richness and depth of meaning. The word could still carry the idea of being the opposite of war such as in Zechariah 8:10, ” . . . there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another,” but peace also came to be used in contexts that had nothing to do with war. It took on more of the general sense of well-being in contrast to evil in every possible form. An example of this is Proverbs 3:17, “her (wisdom’s) ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths are peace.” It could signify the good which comes from God, such as in Numbers 6:26 in the Aaronic blessing . . . “The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” The word peace did not merely mean “rest” anymore, but it could denote the salvation of man which could not be overthrown by any violence or misfortune, thus in Genesis 15:15 even death could be spoken of as “going to your fathers in peace.”
In the New Testament, peace was no longer just the state of rest between warring nations, but now also referred to the relationship between individuals and with God. This is seen in its usage in common greetings and farewells and in passages speaking about having peace with the soul and peace with God. This is the sense of peace that Jesus is talking about when He talks about peacemakers. Peace is the state of reconciliation, not just the absence of conflict.
For example, North and South Korea are at peace in the sense that they are not currently shooting at each other and dropping bombs, but those countries have not reconciled with each other which is why they are technically still at war with each other. That is the reason for the DMZ and UN troops (mostly U.S.) being stationed there. They are there to try to keep the nations abiding by the cease fire agreement that was made in 1953. North Korea stated that it had annulled the treaty in March, 2013, but has not engaged in a shooting war – yet. Until the two nations reconcile with each other, they will continue to be poised for open war, and the DMZ will continue to exist with foreign troops stationed there in an attempt to keep the “peace.” But the two Koreas are not at peace in the full sense of the word as would be meant by our Lord. A truce is good, but it is not fully peace.
When Jesus says that peacemakers are blessed, He is not saying that those who negotiate truces between warring nations will be called sons of God. He is saying those that bring true peace are His children.
What is true peace? It begins by gaining peace with God. Romans 5:1 gives us our introduction into what this means. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2:14-18 expands on this point, 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both [groups into] one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, [which is] the Law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, [thus] establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Notice in the passage that there was enmity (vs 16) between God and man. We were His enemies because of our sin. Something had to be done to end the war that was between man and God. A truce would not have been enough for man would have remained in enmity against God and His holy justice would eventually demand his eternal condemnation. In addition, no man could or would do this on his own, yet no man can have peace with God until that enmity is removed. That is why God sent His own son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sin so that we could be reconciled with Him (vs 16) through the transformation that comes with being saved by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the message of peace that Jesus brought and preached (vs 17) and why Jesus is called our peace (vs 14). Romans 5:10 states the same thing, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much m
ore, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This reconciliation is why the Gospel is called the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Acts 10:36), and since the reconciliation of man and God takes place because of God’s initiative, God is called the God of peace (Hebrews 13:20, Philippians 4:9).
The first step in true peace is being reconciled to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which is salvation, and as pointed out earlier, it is only the saved that can be rightly called sons of God. Once an individual is reconciled with God, then there will be additional levels of peace that will develop as the believer learns to walk with God, for increasing trust of the Lord results in increasing peace. Isaiah 26:3 declares, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.” This is the peace of God that arises from proper prayer that Paul speaks about in Philippians 4:6-7 which surpasses all comprehension and will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. The peacemaker Jesus refers to in this Beatitude will strive to help others find this peace with God. This begins by calling people to be reconciled to God for salvation and then extends in calling people to walk in God’s ways, for that is the only means for there to be peace between both man and God and between men.
Being a Peacemaker
If a person wants to be a peacemaker, then he must follow the model that God has already given us in Jesus Christ making peace between us and God. How did Jesus do that? He both pointed men to God and provided what was necessary for there to be reconciliation. Jesus never wavered in declaring God’s word and He sacrificed Himself on the cross as the redemption price of atonement so that man could be forgiven his sins, have his nature changed, and be reconciled to God. Perhaps you might object that Jesus could do this because He was God in human flesh, but you are just human and find it hard to just refrain from revenge on your enemies much less sacrifice yourself out of love for them. True. You are not God and you do not have such a capacity in yourself. However, every believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit at salvation when He began His indwelling of you (1 Corinthians 12:13). You can be a peacemaker only as you walk in obedience to God and in the power of His Holy Spirit. Jesus is the example and the Beatitudes give us the needed guidelines by which we can become peacemakers.
First, the peacemaker is poor in spirit. A peacemaker must have an entirely new view of himself. Pride and self-centeredness must be replaced by humility and a focus on God. Pride and selfishness block and pervert peacemaking. An ego centric person will distort the gospel in the effort to gain more spiritual scalps for his belt. Such people are interested in glory for themselves, not for God, and so they will change the message of God to make it palatable to the unbeliever. They become stumbling blocks to those they are supposedly helping. The poor in spirit are in awe of the majesty of their infinite Creator and have found in His grace the source of life. They, like a beggar without means or ability, simply point other beggars to the source of life. As peacemakers, they point others to Christ for only in Him can there be found true peace.
Second, the peacemaker must be mournful over sin. This goes along with the change in understanding of one’s self. You recognize your own sin and in humility examine yourself before you step out to assist someone else. Galatians 6:1 puts it this way, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” But notice that this also requires a change in your view of others. You no longer see them as adversaries, but as those who are also entrapped in sin, and this causes you to mourn for them.
The peacemaker is also meek and submits himself to be controlled by God. Personal desires are subsumed in the desire to do God’s will. This allows a person who is meek to respond with compassion and forgiveness even when personally insulted. It is difficult if not impossible to be a peacemaker without that, otherwise personal injury will redirect the focus away from the will of God. You do not want to be like Jonah.
Related to humility, mourning and meekness is mercy which must exist within the heart of a peacemaker. You know what God has done for you and you want to do the same in extending mercy to others. There is also a change in outlook on people who are difficult and offensive. They are seen as victims of self and Satan who need help in escaping their bondage instead of as personal enemies. The quest for revenge ceases and defensiveness diminishes which opens new doors of opportunity through which you can help others.
All of these things produce a hunger and thirst for righteousness in the peacemaker, and not just an outward righteousness of doing the right thing, but an inward righteousness of purity of heart with its desire to also have a righteous mind and attitudes. This combination of humility, meekness, craving righteousness outwardly and inwardly in purity of heart demands that any peace that is arrived at is done in a manner that will glorify God. That demands Godly wisdom which according to James 3:17 is “first pure, then peaceable.” This means that peace will not be pursued by a true peacemaker at the expense of righteousness. Hebrews 12:14 adds that Christians are to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” This means that peace cannot be pursued at the expense of holiness either. True peacemakers are not appeasers who try to make peace at any cost. They have clear direction in what they are to do. They pursue peace only in the context of truth and righteousness. That is one reason that the Scriptures give a qualification about the Christian’s pursuit of peace. Romans 12:18 states, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” You are to do all you can do to pursue peace, but peace cannot be achieved unless both parties agree, and the Christian cannot agree to what will compromise the glory of God or their own holiness.
You need to be fully aware that the pursuit of being this kind of peacemaker will bring on the opposition of a world that is bent on sin. If peace were only the absence of conflict, then we could be appeasers who then watch others who serenely walk on the path to Hell. However, true peace demands reconciliation with God first and then with other men, therefore, true peace can only exist when everything is in harmony with God. A true peacemaker knows that there will often, if not usually, be opposition and strife before harmony and peace occur. A biblical peacemaker will not settle for peace at any price but will continue to set God’s standard of righteousness before a world that loves wickedness and accept the inevitable conflict that comes from that, for until a sinner comes to God, he or she can never have peace with God.
Jeremiah was a true peacemaker, yet he was always in the midst of conflict. He was poor in spirit and mourned so much he is called the “weeping prophet.” He was meek and hungered and thirsted after righteousness. He was merciful and pure in heart. That is why he was a peacemaker. The religious leaders of the day would foolishly talk of peace they would never gain because they refused to listen to Jeremiah’s call for them to repent. Jeremiah 8:11-12 states that they proclaimed, “Peace, Peace, but there was no peace,” because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed because of the abomination they had done.” If we are going to be peacemakers, we must be like Jeremiah who held out the standard of God’s righteousness even though he personally suffered from the conflict.
He desired his people to repent from their sins, become reconciled with God and know true peace. A person that is not willing to upset things by doing God’s will and proclaiming His standard of morality cannot be a peacemaker.
In summary, peacemakers are personally at peace with God because they have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). They have the Holy Spirit living in them who produces in them the fruit of peace (Galatians 5:22) and each of the characteristics described in the Beatitudes. They strive to be at peace with all men so much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18), but they pursue holiness and purity as their priority (James 3:17, Hebrews 12:14). In meekness and humility they proclaim all that God has said and call sin exactly what it is. They do not seek appeasement, but instead strive to fulfill their role as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) because they know there “is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). They also know that in this world they will have tribulation, but they are of courage because in Jesus they will personally have peace (John 16:33). Peacemakers love their enemies and pray for those that persecute them (Matthew 5:44). The striving of a peacemaker is primarily to bring men and women into reconciliation with God and secondarily into reconciliation with one another.
The methods and practices are also godly. Peacemakers contend for the faith without being contentious. They disagree with the world without being disagreeable. They confront without being abusive. They fulfill the command of Ephesians 4:15 to “speak the truth in love.” They learn to put into practice the command of James 1:19 to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Peacemakers learn to control what they say in both avoiding unrighteous speech and in speaking fitting and aptly timed words. The mind must be in gear before you let your mouth run. Learn to speak only in light of gospel in each and every situation. Consider these things: What has God said about it? What is according to His will? What will bring Him glory? How can you further the cause of Christ? How can you help bring other people into reconciliation with God and with one another?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” May that blessing be true of you today.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times a word for “Peacemaker” is said. Talk with your parents about what it means to be a peacemaker and how God can use you to bring peace to other people
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. If the world values peace so much, why is the world filled with such conflict and violence? What countries are currently in armed conflict either externally or internally? What kinds of conflicts (violent or non-violent) currently exist in the United States? What is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount? Why is the fourth Beatitude pivotal? How do the first three produce it? How does it produce the following three? How does a person become a child of God? Explain with Scriptural support. What evidence demonstrates that a profession of faith is genuine? What is the range of meanings for the English word, peace? What was the ancient Greek concept of peace? What is the range of meanings for the Hebrew word Shalom (ìåÉíùÈ)? How is the word peace used in the New Testament? How is it used in connection with the relationship between God and man? How can man have peace with God? What additional peace can man have with God beyond just reconciliation and what is its basis? (See Isaiah 26:3 & Philippians 4:6-7). In what ways is Jesus the model of being a peacemaker? What do each of the Beatitudes teach about how to be a peacemaker? What is the relationship between righteousness, holiness and being a peacemaker? Jeremiah was a true peacemaker, yet he was in constant conflict – why? What methods and practices need to be part of a peacemakers efforts? What are the dangers of the tongue for a peacemaker? What must he do to avoid those dangers and fulfill God’s directions?
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
February 9, 2014 – Matthew 5:9
The world desires peace, but diverse ideas on how to gain it often result in ______________
Since World War II, a host of nations have experienced ______of various types, serious conflict or terrorism
Within our own nation, there are _____________between world-views, cultures and classes
Righteousness is the theme of the Sermon on the Mount and the pivotal Beatitude
The first three Beatitudes result in craving righteousness and the following three are the result of it
Being a Child of God
Romans 8:14-17 _________________________________________________________________________
Galatians 4:4-7 __________________________________________________________________________
John 1:12 ______________________________________________________________________________
You become a ___________________only through the work of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Professing to be & the reality of being a child of God are not the same thing – people make _____professions
No human can live a righteous life by his __________ ability
The Nature of Peace
There are people that are at peace (____________& tranquil), yet are still in their sins & heading to Hell
In classical Greek, eijrhvnh / eir n was the __________________of war
In New Testament, peace can refer to a __________________, harmonious relationship
North and South Korea do not have peace, only an ______________of open kinetic warfare
Man neither could nor would _____________with God on his own
God reconciles us to Himself through Jesus’ __________________- Romans 5:10.
Additional peace comes after reconciliation with God by walking in ________of Him (Isa 26:3; Phil. 4:6-7)
A peacemaker strives to help others find peace with God through _____________and walking in His ways
Being a Peacemaker
Jesus both pointed men to God and _______________what was necessary for there to be reconciliation
You are only human, but the Holy Spirit ____________and empower the believer to accomplish God’s will
A peacemaker must be poor in spirit – one __________
_humbly pointing other beggars to the source of life
A peacemaker must be mournful over sin – humbly seeking to restore those caught in _________(Gal. 6:1-4)
A peacemaker is meek – ________________his own desires in the desire to do God’s will
A peacemaker is merciful – __________________to others the mercy he has received from God
A peacemaker craves to be _____________ outwardly and inwardly with a pure heart
In purity of godly wisdom, a peacemaker pursues peace without compromising _____________(James 3:17)
A peacemaker will not compromise _______________in the pursuit of peace (Hebrews 12:14)
A peacemaker pursues peace so far as it _________on him (Rom. 12:18), but never violates God’s standards
Being a Biblical peacemaker will result in _________from the world for it demands reconciliation with God
Jeremiah was a true peacemaker, yet was always in ___________because the people would not turn from sin
Peacemakers are ___________with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and characterized by righteousness
Peacemakers seek to fulfill their role as _____________of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) with love for enemies
Peacemakers use godly means and methods – speaking the truth in ______________(Eph. 4:15)
Peacemakers consider life: focused on ____________ will & glory and reconciling others to Him
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