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The Nine Essentials: Peace
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ROMANS 5:1-5; 12:9-21

nine essentials slideOne of the things I noticed going back over the first couple of sermons in this series is that there has been an unintentional and yet consistent quoting of lyrics of songs from the 1970s. Apparently, while I was memorizing Scripture in Sunday School, I was also picking up on a lexicon of groovy tunes. When we talked about love as the first fruit of the Spirit, for example, I quoted Shirley Bassey’s much covered song “Feelings”—nothing more than feelings. We said that love, biblically speaking, is a lot more than feelings—it’s a fruit of the Spirit that translates into an act of the will—love that is both unconditional and conditioning.

 

Last week we talked about joy and about how that isn’t dependent on circumstances. It’s different than happiness, for which we are often “hooked on a feeling” (a song technically recorded by BJ Thomas in 1968, but made famous by Blue Swede in their 1974 version which reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1974 and featured the memorable opening, “Ooga chukka, ooga chukka…”)

 

Realizing my 70s flashback tendency, I was tempted to work in Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” this week, but since the topic is the fruit of “peace” another one from that band seemed more appropriate: From Boston’s debut album in 1976—“Peace of mind.” You remember it:

 

I understand about indecision

 

I don’t care if I get behind

 

People living’ in competition

 

All I want is to have my peace of mind.

 

Thom Scholz wrote that when he was working for the Polaroid Corporation before the band hit it big. He wrote it because he saw so many people trying to climb the company ladder and finding they had propped it up against the wrong building. What really mattered to Thom wasn’t getting ahead, but finding “peace of mind.”

 

I like that—it still works 42 years later. We still see people livin’ in competition, looking for peace of mind and finding it difficult. In fact, things seem to be a lot less peaceful than they were back then. We all need peace of mind…but even more we need the peace that the Spirit wants to bring through us.

 

Love, joy, and peace are all connected in Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit. Each one builds on the other. When Paul lists “peace” among the fruits of the Spirit, he is making the point that one of the key traits of followers of Jesus is to be people of peace—people who promote and live the ideal of God’s good creation, and help all of God’s people to experience a deep sense of well-being and inner prosperity. In this he is echoing Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be children of God.” Those who belong to God are to extend peace but, as we have said throughout this series, this is another one of those fruits of the Spirit that don’t tend to come naturally to us. If it did, we would see a lot more peace in our world!

 

So, how are people of peace formed and how is that particular fruit grown in us? Paul has a lot to say about that—more than we have time for this morning. In fact, he mentions “peace” 43 times in his letters in a variety of contexts, but taken as a whole we see that, like love and joy, “peace” is a fruit of the Spirit that is initiated by God and comes through us on its way to someone else. We can see this in the three major ways that Paul talks about peace: peace with God, peace from God, and the peace God calls for in us.

PEACE WITH GOD

First, Paul talks about peace with God as the foundation for peace in general. In Romans 5:1-2, he writes, “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory.”

 

When we put our faith, allegiance, and trust in Jesus and what God has done through him, we have peace with God. God’s grace has been extended to us in Jesus, who died for our sins. The result of that, as we said last week when we talked about joy, is that we have a family, a faith, and a future. We are incorporated into the family of God, we have faith that God is able to transform us from the inside out (what Paul means by being “made righteous”), and we have a future as people of kingdom—“the hope of God’s glory.”

 

Without that foundational peace with God, it’s virtually impossible for us to have any other kind of peace, nor will the Spirit be at work in our lives. If we were to look at the primary reason our world and our society are not at peace this would be the root—people are not at peace with God; indeed, they seem to be warring against God. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel described ancient Israel before the exile in this way—there were plenty of people walking around crying out, “Peace! Peace!” But there is no peace apart from peace with God. Without that peace, people are still enslaved to sin, still racked with doubt and fear, still wandering aimlessly searching for peace they can’t ever seem to find.

THE PEACE OF GOD

But if we have peace with God, if our relationship with God is settled, then Paul says, we are able to live with a new kind of peace: the peace of God. Look at Romans 5:3 – after Paul says we have peace with God, he goes on to say that “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing the suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. “

 

Peace with God leads to the peace of God, and that is a peace that produces actual peace of mind within us. We have freedom from anxiety and panic because we know that God is carrying for us. We touched on this last week when we talked about joy—that it’s not dependent on circumstances but rather joy and peace and based on confidence in knowing that God is at work in us and is caring for us. We can have joy and peace when it matters most—when we are in the midst of trying times. It’s this kind of peace that makes us into resilient people, and the kind of inner peace that makes us stand out in contrast to an anxious world.

 

Such people are attractive to others because they want to have that kind of peace for themselves. I think of the many people I have known over the years who have endured horrific circumstances in their lives and yet have a deep peace about them—people who have experienced loss, grave illness, unfair treatment, and still had peace.

 

People have peace with God and the peace of God are non-anxious—they don’t panic when life gets hard; they don’t react negatively when circumstances don’t go their way; they worry less; they endure suffering with grace and, as a result, they have strength of character and hope for the future. It’s not about simply pretending things are ok or “fake it til you make it,” but it’s about an inner peace that is given by the Spirit’s presence. As Paul puts it in Philippians 4 (which we read last week) – “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). The peace of God is the fertile ground in which the fruit of peace can really grow when it is cultivated by the Spirit.

THE PEACE GOD CALLS FOR

But the peace of God is not the end goal. Remember, it always comes to us on its way to someone else. When Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the good news, he told them to greet everyone with “Peace”—it was not just something for them, but something to be extended to others. Later in Romans, Paul puts it this way: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with others” (12:18). When we have peace with God, we also receive the peace of God, but that is to lead us to become peacemakers extending the peace that God calls for. This is the essence of what Paul means when he includes “peace” among the fruit of the Spirit—it’s the peace we share that really matters.

 

What does that kind of peace look like? We get a clue in Romans 12:9-21 which we read earlier. Take a look at the list. People of peace:

  • They show genuine love to others (v. 9) – Remember that love is the root of the other fruit of the Spirit. People who live peaceably hate evil and hold fast to what is good, serving one another in mutual affection and showing honor to one another.
  • They are enthusiastic, serving the Lord with the fire of the Spirit (v. 10). People of peace are not the “frozen chosen” but are genuinely excited about serving and doing the work of the Lord.
  • They have hope no matter the circumstance, being patient in suffering and fervent in prayer (v. 12)
  • They contribute to the needs of the saints and show hospitality to strangers (v. 13).
  • They are able to bless their persecutors instead of cursing them (v. 14).
  • They are empathic, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (v 15). There is no schadenfraude or jealousy, but a genuine hope for the well-being of another.
  • They live as part of a community where they see everyone as equals and are humble about their own abilities (v. 16)
  • And they don’t seek revenge when wronged. Instead, they care for their enemies and let God handle the rest (v. 19-21). Instead of overcoming evil with revenge and retaliation, they conquer evil with good to the point that their enemies are embarrassed.

In other words, they are peacemakers who, as a result, are children of God—as Jesus said. Peace with God leads to the Peace of God which leads to peacemaking in the power of the Spirit!

 

So, how do we cultivate the fruit of peace?

CULTIVATING THE FRUIT OF PEACE

First, you must have peace with God. Have you surrendered your life to Christ, turned to God in faith, repented and ask your sins to be forgiven? Have you put your faith and trust in him? Maybe you’ve been a loyal churchgoer, but you kind of kept God at a distance, not let him fully into your life. I want to invite you today to be reconciled to him and experience the fullness of his presence. I invite you to experience real peace—the peace of knowing that you have a family, a faith, and a future in Christ.

 

Second, live in the peace of God. What are you anxious about this morning? What worries you? Where is there negativity, anger, or resentment in your life? These are things you need to hand over to God. Allow the Spirit to prompt you to release these things and, instead, embrace the peace of God that passes all understanding. There’s nothing you’re dealing with today that God doesn’t already know about and is working on—trust him, his promises are true, and experience real peace.

 

Third, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. Just like love and joy, living peaceably is a daily choice that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Practice peacemaking with your words, your actions, and in your responses to others.

 

For example, it is tempting in this culture to want to use words to win arguments or to prove a point—but peacemaking people use words in ways that promote peace with God and the peace of God. I saw an acronym the other day that I really liked that described the kind of words people of peace should use. Before speaking, peacemaking people THINK but asking, “Is what I am about to say…

 

True

 

Helpful

 

Inspiring

 

Necessary

 

Kind

 

If my words don’t reflect those traits, then they are probably best left unsaid.

 

The same goes for gossip. Peacemaking people will tend to want to see the best in people rather than troll for juicy tidbits that put people in the worst light.

 

People of peace stay out of arguments in which there is no real dialogue. I’ve said it before, but the old adage is true: If you wrestle with pigs, you will both get dirty but the pig likes it. Don’t give in to trolling on social media or sucked into endless controversies. Anger and indignation aren’t good strategies to win people to Christ. Being a peaceable person is far more attractive.

 

People of peace extend kindness toward their enemies and let God handle the vengeance business. By extending kindness to enemies, speaking truthfully with love, serving them instead of smearing them, Paul says we “reap burning coals over their heads”—a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22. He could mean guilt here or their status on the judgment day, but either way we are to respond to evil with good.

 

No one said this is easy, especially in a culture where peace seems to be elusive. But that’s why peace is a fruit of the Spirit! The more we lean into the Spirit and into the peace we have received from God, the more we become people of peace ourselves.

 

People with “a peaceful, easy feeling” (Eagles, 1972).

 

Source: 

Wright, Christopher J.H. Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Growing in Christlikeness. IVP Books, 2017.

 

Download the Bulletin, Notes Page, and Devotional Guide here.



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