PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
Pre Scripture Remarks
If you could concoct a miracle-formula of peace and package it, the sales would be phenomenal! That’s because people of every nation seek peace of mind. They seek tranquility and respite from the storms, both without and within. Man wants freedom from worry, stress, and pressure. The FDA bears witness to this as it reports Americans consume $287 billion of prescription drugs each year. Millions of dollars are spent on tranquilizers, and these are pills that furnish a false sense of security. Some people have become so dependent on stimulants and tranquilizers that without them they would wind up in hospitals or, worse yet, institutions where they would be force-fed more pills.
When I say, “People are searching for peace,” I don’t mean tranquility. Tranquility describes a temporary condition that typically arises from an external source. The peace I’m referring to today is best understood by the word serenity. Serenity is a state of being that comes from within. And the person living with type of abiding peace has an invaluable gift. That’s because it comes only from Christ.
Have you ever known someone whose disposition transcended life’s chaos? Someone that possessed a composure no matter what the turbulence?
(Illustration) Jim and Joanna Harriman knew such an individual. They were a typical American couple with two children, a mortgaged home, modern conveniences (purchased by credit), and barely enough money to scrape from paycheck to paycheck. Jim was an accomplished advertising executive but with enormous indebtedness they struggled and always felt drained. Their only solution was to rent the guest room. After advertising a young carpenter named Joshua responded and the Harriman’s let him move in. He was a hit with the children, brought them toys, never interfered with family disputes, and promptly repaired whatever needed attention. . . . What was most unusual about Joshua was an abiding calm that influenced everyone. Even family arguments diminished. Leaving for work and returning he greeted the family with the Jewish expression, “Shalom.” One Saturday while playing with the kids, Janet darted into the street after a ball. Joshua saw everything instantly unfold and scrambled to throw her from an oncoming automobile. Janet tumbled to safety but Joshua was fatally struck. Jim rushed to his limp body, raised his head from the asphalt, and under the hovering cloud of death heard his last word: “Shalom.” Even in death Joshua was strangely serene.
How does somebody live like that? Do you drape yourself with a robe, nestle into a monastery, and chant hymns? Do you become an isolationist or a hermit? Jesus didn’t suggest any such alternative. In fact, His parables and sermons taught just the opposite! Jesus taught His disciples to develop an “outgoing” lifestyle!
He commissioned the twelve apostles to invade society.
He authorized the seventy elders to evangelize the ten region of Galilee known as the Decapolis.
From the Mount of Olives He commanded the 500 disciples to infiltrate the globe.
And He commanded all Believers to take the Gospel “to all creation.”
But notice what Christ promised for those willing to invade the “uttermost parts of the world.” Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” And there’s the answer! Christians must go with Christ! When a Christian lives in the presence of Christ He furnishes them with peace and joy that no tranquilizer can furnish.
(Transition) The first point I want to impress is an exclamation: Peace is possible!
I. Peace Is Possible
One of the great and repeated promises of Christ and His Apostles is the promise of peace. Peace is the heritage of Believers! That’s why it’s employed 108 times in the New Testament; It’s available for any and every circumstance:
Mark 9:50 says it’s available as we interact with the world. Jesus said: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
In the Galilee when the storms rose to meet Jesus He rose to meet the storms and calmed them with the words: “Peace, be still.”
On the Emmaus road He comforted the travelers that were shocked by His presence with the words: “Peace be with you” (LUK 24:36).
In John 20:21 when the Apostles prepared to launch their ministry Jesus said: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And in the face of persecution when the disciples cowered in fear Jesus calmed them with the words: “Peace be with you” (JOH 20:27).
For any place or situation He said in John 16:33: “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.”
And then Isaiah 32:17 prophesied these words about Jesus: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Regardless of what you encounter, peace is your heritage!
But note something about this peace. The peace that God offers does not resemble the world’s peace. Worldly peace is nothing but a counterfeit for the genuine. And as a substitute peace it will always fall short of its promises. For example:
Nations sign “Peace Pacts” and “Peace Treaties” that are nullified before the ink dries.
The purpose of the United Nations has been to secure world peace and harmony among the nations. But since its inception in 1948, the world has experienced hundreds of wars!
Satan uses recreational drugs, Night Clubs, intoxicants, and sex but in the end it always leaves us numb and missing true repose.
The world’s offer of peace, however it’s packaged, always falls short!
Folks, this generation stands at the door of the Endtimes. And students of eschatology know the Bible marks the start of the Great Tribulation with the Antichrist signing a Peace Treaty that guarantees Israel’s safety. The Antichrist will appear as a “Peace-maker” but this man of deceit is actually a “Peace-breaker”! The coming grand deception that will befall mankind involves a spurious “Peace Treaty”!
I want you to notice the difference between the Christ and the Antichrist. Christ is the “Peace Keeper” but the Antichrist is the “Peace Breaker”! Isaiah 54:10 says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my Covenant of Peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD.” I believe Isaiah 54:10 is the very scripture that Christians of the Tribulation will use to recognize the Antichrist. They will see that this infamous world leader has broken covenant with Israel and it will be the “eye-opener” to revealing the Man of Deceit. Christians will realize Jesus would never break covenant with His people.
Always remember something: If God isn’t in the Headlines; if He isn’t in the details; if Jesus can’t be seen in-between-the-lines; then you are dealing with something that is artificial and will never deliver peace. I’m thankful we serve a faithful God. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”!
Shalom: The True Peace
(Definition) Let’s turn our attention to defining the Biblical peace that Scripture says is possible. It comes from that Old Testament word Shalom. The word Shalom has a wide-range of meaning. First, it describes the absence of hostility and discord. Second, Shalom describes someone with excellent physical health, material prosperity, and mental soundness. It describes one’s general well-being. For example: When the ancient Jewish people greeted others with Shalom, they were saying: “May God’s complete blessings surround you. May His Covenant-provisions be yours; May your home and land enjoy repose; and may you conquer your enemies.”
However, when the New Testament embraces the concept of Shalom it adds a higher spiritual dimension. And this added dimension is made possible through Jesus Christ. The purpose for Christ’s appearance as the God-Man was to restore our fallen relationship before God. He came to span the gulf between God and Man. And men are only enabled to claim this Shalom as they believe on Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul knew peace was found only at the foot of the Cross.
If you are struggling to find the peace of God there is hope. It doesn’t matter how often you have looked in the wrong places or done the wrong thing. Peace is possible! Jesus can wipe out the sins and mistakes of your past and give you a new start. And yes, peace comes with Christ’s “New Starts”! He doesn’t forgive you and then punish you by withholding His peace.
Think about it, everywhere Jesus travelled people tried to stone, apprehend, or discredit Him. He even warned His followers of the difficulties relating to discipleship when He said, ‘I came to send a sword even into one’s household.’ Devotion to Christ creates a constant outward struggle, but there’s God’s inner peace to sustain us.
(Transition) The Bible says peace is possible, but how? Point two indicates, Peace is possible through a person.
II. Peace Is Possible Through A Person
(Illustration) The October `95 issue of Reader’s Digest illustrated it well in its story of Sister Mary Catherine who died and went to Heaven. Saint Peter met her and asked if she had any regrets. She told him she always wanted to travel but her religious devotion had prevented the opportunity. Because of her faithfulness Peter gave her twenty-four hours to visit anywhere on earth. Precisely 24 hours later the phone rang: “Hello, Saint Peter, this is Sister Catherine. I’m in Rome visiting the Vatican and have just met the Pope.” Peter recognized the vibrancy in her voice and gave her another day. Twenty-four hours later she promptly phoned again: “Saint Peter, this is Sister Catherine. I’m in Paris. I’ve lighted candles at Notre Dame and scaled the Eiffel Tower. Would it be possible to have just one more day?” Peter consented. Three weeks later Peter’s phone rang: “Hi Pete, this is Cat—I’ve found a place called “Bourbon Street” down here in N’Awlins.”
True peace is never found in places or “things.” Peace is found in the “Prince of Peace.” And looking any other place will bring disappointment. After 6000 years of human history, mankind has never packaged the formula for peace. That’s because it doesn’t come in a package; it comes in a Person, Jesus Christ! Only Jesus genuinely satisfies. That’s why Isaiah 57:20 says: “the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. (21) “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
(Illustration) Some years back I ministered to a suicidal young lady whose family attended my Church but she rarely attended. Everything she relied on was associated with the world. In a moment of disillusionment, when her boyfriend broke their engagement, she swallowed a handful of broken razors and a bottle of medicine. A Spirit-filled doctor that attended my Church operated on her but gave her little chance of survival. He operated and plucked the blades, extracted as much medicine as possible from her stomach, and remarkably recovered. When I later asked why she reacted that way she replied: “I just went crazy.” In her moment of panic Christ wasn’t there to assuage her fears. So without Christ, she chose a deadly course.
That’s why Jesus said in John 16:33: “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.”
Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace” when he said: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).
Isaiah 26:12 says: “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”
Isaiah 53:5 says: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Jesus is the embodiment of peace. And that’s why Paul spoke of “being in Christ” and Christ being in Him. The Apostle Paul was totally absorbed in Christ. He was filled with the Spirit of Christ. Paul wasn’t a part-time Christian. He served God without limits! Twenty-hours a day and without reservation!
Today, many people try to serve God on a part-time basis: they attend church when it doesn’t interfere with their schedule; give when it suits them; pray only during a crisis, and place pleasures at the center of living. These people want just enough of Christ to say they are “Saved” but not enough of Christ for others to see.
Here’s what I call this: “Gatorade Christianity.” Imagine watching a sporting event. During the game a thirsty athlete runs to sideline for a swig of Gatorade to recharge his electrolytes and return to action. It’s a spur-of-the-moment swish in the mouth that energizes them. But saints of God, there’s no such thing as “Gatorade Christianity.” Christians can’t expect to rush into God’s House, take a swig of Jesus, and expect to be fully charged for life’s challenges. Christians need daily gulps from the “river of life.” We need to live with a prayer always on our lips and the Word of God saturating our hearts. That’s when peace will stand guard over your life.
(Transition) Thirdly, Peace is acquired by practicing peace.
III. Peace is Possible by Practice
Football, baseball, and soccer teams practice. They practice because it sharpens the skills of athletes. And the more practice the better the performance. Professional coaches consider practice so important that they levy heavy fines on players for tardiness or absence from practice.
(Illustration) In high school I played trumpet in the band. And I enjoyed it enough to take trumpeting seriously. I took a daily band class, attended afternoon rehearsals, then took the trumpet home and practiced more. My parents were nearly deafened by my incessant blasting. But all the practicing brought a measure of success. I was privileged to play in the marching band, stage band, compete in national competition, and eventually seated first trumpet, first chair in the school band. I, and two friends, won a State competition and traveled to St. Louis, Missouri for a national competition.
But how do you practice Peace? Let me suggest several ways:
1. Peace is practiced through prayer. Many people make prayer an emergency cord that’s only pulled at the height of danger. If you’re trying to claim peace this way it will never come. As I said a few moments ago, keep a prayer on your lips. The Bible says to “pray without ceasing.” And notice how Paul said we could have peace in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.”
Amazingly, a 1995 Harvard University study concluded that prayer, of all things, positively affects circumstances. It helps people cope with stress and even recover from illnesses.
God provided prayer to help conquer fear, worry, and difficulties. Pray! And don’t forget to “pray in the Spirit.” Isaiah 28:11 says: “. . . with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, (12) to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose.” There’s a definite correlation between peace and your prayer-life.
2. Peace is practiced by understanding God’s nature. Think about that statement for a moment. When you study the goodness of God it will bring produce peace within your soul. Contemplate His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and faithfulness. Contemplate His power, sovereignty, and transcendence. When you understand God’s greatness you will know that He is “working all for your good.” As the maxim says: “Know God know peace, no God no peace.”
In Deuteronomy 7:9 Moses commanded Israel to get acquainted with Jehovah when he said: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”
God said in Jeremiah 9:23: “This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, (24) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
3. Next, peace is practiced by recognizing you can’t control every circumstance. Always remember that you can’t control the storms of life. You can’t control accusations against you. But you can control how you react to the storms and trials of life. Keep Christ seated at the helm of your heart. Know that Christ is more than a match for any storm or difficulty. Trust God in all things.
4. Peace is practiced by retreating to quiet places. That means the Lord wants you to slow down, retreat, relax, and listen to the Spirit’s voice. On many occasions, Jesus left His Apostles and withdrew to solitary places where He talked to His Father.