David Jeremiah - A Life of Peace
The Prince of Peace is just 1 of 250 names given to the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. When he appeared for the first time on this earth in a manger in Bethlehem, the angels announced his arrival, as you remember, with these words, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men"! The world into which Jesus was born had a very different idea of peace. Our English word "peace" originates from an old French word which means to be reconciled, or to have an agreement with, or to have the absence of hostility. But the Hebrew word "shalom" has a much richer meaning. That's the only Hebrew word I probably know to say out loud.
Would you like to have the privilege of speaking Hebrew this morning? Let's say the word "shalom" out loud together, shalom. This word is found 355 times in the Old Testament, and its basic meaning is to be whole, or safe, or sound. Shalom designates a condition in which life can best be lived. A review of shalom in the Old Testament reveals that it never refers to inner psychological or emotional peace. Shalom is the condition of everything being set right. It's about the total wellbeing of the person and the community. It's one of the deepest longings of the human heart. Say it again, shalom. Jesus is the one who brings the deepest longings of our hearts for peace to satisfaction. But if we are honest, we can easily become discouraged when we see so little peace in our world and in our hearts.
We long mostly for international peace, but Jesus, I believe, cares more about individual peace, internal peace. Yes, the world needs to come to peace, but how many of you know if peace comes to our hearts, pretty soon it comes to our culture? And so, you start where you need to start, and that is with the importance of individual peace. So, there are three major ways that we are affected by this peace which God brings. Let me explain them to you as we go along and we'll share them together. First of all, the Bible says that you and I can have peace with God. Underline the word "with".
Romans 5:1 says that, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". Peace with God was brought to us when Jesus Christ came down from heaven and went to the cross as the God man, and hung there between heaven and earth, and paid the price for our sin, our sin which separated us from God. Jesus paid the price for all of it. He took it all away. And when we put our trust in him, we are forgiven and that sin is erased. And then we can have a relationship with God. Then we can say, "Therefore, being justified by faith, I have peace with God". You have to start there before you can know the other kinds of peace that we're going to talk about this morning.
So, let me just stop for a moment and say if you've not made peace with God, it's not hard to do, but it means you have to make a decision. You have to decide to deal with your sin at the cross, give it all over to Jesus, and ask him to forgive you. And when you do that and invite him to come and live in your heart, a relationship with God the Father is established immediately, so that it is even possible, as the Lord God says, to come boldly before the throne of grace to receive help in the time of trouble. Wow. Then, of course, there's not only peace with God, but there's peace from God. John 14:27, Jesus is saying, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
There's a wonderful moment that the Apostle John records in his Gospel. Jesus is in a room making his first post-resurrection appearance to his gathered disciples. "Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for the fear of the Jews, Jesus stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" It is what he did next that perfectly illustrates what we had been talking about in these last few verses, for the next verse in John chapter 20 says this, "And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side". He was showing them his hands and his side obviously for the purpose of identifying himself to them, but I believe he was also saying, "These wounds are why I can say to you, 'Peace be with you.'" His death on the cross made it possible for him to offer us the peace we so desperately crave. But here's the best news of all, there's not only peace with God and the peace from God, but there's the peace of God. It's the best of all.
We read about this in Philippians chapter 4. Here's what Paul wrote to the Philippian believers, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God," now watch this, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ". The peace of God acts, according to Paul, as a sentinel or a soldier who walks back and forth in the front of the door of your heart to provide security. The picture here is that our hearts and our minds are always under assault, guilt, worries, threats, confusions, uncertainties. They all threaten our peace, and Paul says that God wants to guard our hearts and minds, and he guards our hearts with his peace when we commit ourselves to him. I like that picture of my heart and God's soldier walking back and forth in front of a door to keep all the junk out that would come in and destroy my peace.
So, we look back at the wonder of God's peace. I want to encourage you to cultivate that peace in your life. And there are four main highways upon which the peace of God travels, the Spirit of God, the Son of God, the Word of God in prayer. I want to say just a few words about each one of them. First of all, peace in the Spirit of God. Did you know that when Jesus was teaching his disciples and telling them that he was going to have to go back to heaven, he told them that it was a good thing that he was going back to heaven because when he was going to go back to heaven, he was going to send the Holy Spirit down to take his place. You say, "Well, how could the Holy Spirit be better than the Son of God"? In one way. When Jesus Christ was on this earth, he confined himself to the limitations of his human body, so that Jesus was where he was while he was on this earth only where we could be personally.
And as you know the story of the Bible, Jesus really never left the land of Israel. "But you see, when I go back to heaven, I'm going to send you my Holy Spirit, and he will not be so confined. The Holy Spirit will come to live within the heart of every single person who puts their trust in me, therefore through the Holy Spirit I will be available to you wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever happens to you". The Bible teaches us that when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within our hearts and becomes our perpetual, eternal Savior. John 16:33, Jesus finished his speech to his disciples about his going back to heaven, and said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace". The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace. When you have the Holy Spirit in your heart, you have the possibility of peace in your life. And the Bible says that peace is the inevitable result of the Holy Spirit controlling your life.
So, how can I tell if I'm controlled by the Holy Spirit of God? By the quietness within me when there's turmoil around me. How do I know if the Holy Spirit's working at peace in my life when I have some moments when everything should be coming unglued? And I just feel this little sense in my heart, "I'm going to be okay. God is with me. I'm going to make it". That's what God says he will give to us through his Spirit. And then the peace of the Son of God. When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure from them, he encouraged them with these words, he said, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". Just a few verses later, Jesus expounded on his earlier promise. He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. Now, to be honest with you," he said, "in the world you're going to have tribulation; but be of good cheer 'cause I have overcome the world".
I love this question that is tucked away in the book of Job. I never realized this was there. I've read the book of Job a lot of times, but this was escaped me, but it's worth writing down. Job 34:29, "When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble"? Isn't that a great verse? If he, and this is obviously speaking of God, if he then brings quietness here, who's going to make trouble? Here's my prayer for all of us borrowed from the prayer Paul prayed for his friends in Thessalonica. Here's what he prayed, "Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace always in every way". That's my prayer. Then there's peace in the Word of God. "I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his saints". I will hear what God the Lord will have to say 'cause when I listen to him, he speaks peace.
Did you know that the Bible is the key to your peace? And when I'm going through some times and I don't know what to do, I try to find a way to spend more time in the Scripture, not to prepare a sermon, but for my own help and encouragement. And once in a while, you guys, you should memorize a few verses from this Book because they act as anti-terrorism agents in your life. So, when bad stuff is happening and terror is going on, you know there's a verse some place you can grab hold of and use it as a weapon against anxiety. And finally, there's peace in prayer. Listen to what Paul says to the Philippians in chapter 4, "Be anxious for nothing," listen to this. Anxious means worried. Did you know the old King James of this verse says, "Be careful for nothing". I always thought that was kind of like a proof text for when you're a teenager, "Be careful for nothing". And then I realized the word "careful" means anxiety. "Be anxious for nothing," says the Scripture, "but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God".
Now, here's the way I sort that out in my mind. In essence, Paul says the Christian life is composed of three circles. First of all, there's the worry circle or the anxiety circle. And if you read the text, what belongs in that circle? Be anxious for what? Nothing. And then, there's the prayer circle, and what should you pray about? What goes in the prayer circle? Everything. And then there's the thanksgiving circle, and what goes in that circle? Anything that God does for you, always be thankful. In the very act of being thankful for what God has done for you, he begins to dissipate the anxiety that's trying to hurt your heart. So, in other words, we must Be anxious for nothing, prayerful for everything, and thankful for anything. That's the kind of peace that never fails to produce that quiet center in your heart.
Some years ago, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Moody Pastors Conference in Chicago. After I went back to my room that night, I decided to catch an earlier flight home the next day that was to leave at 7 a.m. As I was getting ready for bed, I began to calculate how early I would have to get up in order to make that flight. On my time, which was 2 hours earlier, I asked for a 2:30 wakeup call. I made it to the airport in plenty of time and I went to my gate, only to discover that my flight was delayed for an hour, which later became 2 hours. You guys know what that's all about. When I checked in, I asked the young lady at the desk if she knew what was going on with my flight. She said, "There's a storm hovering over Chicago, would you like to see it"? I said, "What do you mean"? She said, "Well, come around here and I'll show you the storm on my computer screen".
So, I went around the welcome desk, and there on the screen of her computer I could see the storm. Here was Chicago, and surrounding it was this red mass. That red mass literally swallowed Chicago up on the screen. And we were right in the center of the storm. The storm was over the top of Chicago so no planes could land and no plans could take off. Everything was shut down. So, I went back, sat down in my comfortable chair, and began working on my computer. And for the next few moments, I watched as the storm I had seen on the computer rolled into the city of Chicago. I saw this ferocious storm, the rain beating against the glass windows. You could actually see the windows moving with the pressure of the wind and the rain. I had a moment of clarity right then, a moment of truth. I was surrounded by a storm. In fact, I was sitting at the very center of that storm. But I was sitting in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee in my hands, working on my computer, and I was just as safe as anybody could be.
I was sheltered in the midst of the storm. And I remembered this psalm, "Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in your tabernacle forever. I will trust in the shelter of your wings". For you have been a shelter for me. The Lord Jesus Christ has more than I can count sheltered me in the midst of personal storms when I didn't know what was going to happen and the storm seemed almost unbearable. Down in the quiet place in my heart where no one can see but God himself, there was this quiet peace that was beyond my understanding and didn't seem rational because it wasn't, it was super-rational. It was the peace of God which passes all understanding.
And that's the peace God wants you and me to have. That's his gift to us. He has bequeathed it to us and made it a legacy of the cross. And if you will receive him, first of all, you can have peace with God, but after you become a Christian, you can know the peace that comes from God. And most of all, you can learn how to accept the peace of God and the God of peace who lives within your heart, and you will be better. And in this crazy world which seems to be spinning out of control, he will be the only stable thing in your whole neighborhood. And people will look at you and say, "What's wrong with him? Isn't he reading the news? Isn't he hearing the story"? Oh yeah, we hear the story, but we're sheltered by the Lord Jesus Christ.