Uncovering Happiness 5. Peace in the midst of opposition
Matthew 5:9-12New International Version (NIV) 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We are in the final week of our study into the beatitudes. We have looked at the beatitudes as not individual characteristics we put on or work on but at the state of someone who finds themselves in the Kingdom of God.
We have seen how this state is a blessed state; the word for blessed means delightfully fulfilled. And so, the state of those who find themselves in the Kingdom is one of delightful fulfilment.
We saw that we get into the Kingdom through the gospel; seeing that God needs to be our salvation and our everything that Christ is our hope for fixing our problems and He in himself is our delight.
Last week we saw the outworking of this gospel work, and tonight, we will see the mission of this gospel work.
You see church, I believe that the gospel does actually change everything. That if we understand what Christ has done for us, and we have known his love for us pour out on the cross we are fundamentally changed at a core level, this has impact on the way we see the world and how we conduct ourselves.
And tonight, I want to share with you one of the biggest ways that the gospel changes us; and that is in the goal of our lives.
Jesus says, blessed (delightfully fulfilled) are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Tonight, I want to show you how this peace that Jesus is talking about is a natural reality of the Gospel and is empowered by how we see ourselves in the gospel work of God but, and I warn you of this; it inevitably leads to resistance and persecution.
So let’s look at…
1. What is peace?
What is the peace that Jesus is talking about here?
I guess to tackle this tonight we have to address, maybe, what we perceive as peace in our lives today.
If I was to ask you what your perception of peace is I wonder what would come to mind.
Most of us would have a picture of a gentle stream or quite park. Essentially the absences of interruption.
But this is never the peace the bible talks about which is an active peace that seeks out to restore and bring about wholeness.
The Hebrew greeting of Shalom, which we translate as peace, means completion. And this is at the heart of those who are peacemakers.
To be a peacemaker is not to avoid strife and discomfort, but it is to imitate our King Jesus who was called the Prince of peace!
He took upon himself, in love, the violence and hatred of others. He opposed their war with love.
Now think this practically where does war and violence and hatred (essentially the opposite of peace) all come from?
It comes from our sinful tendencies, our “I am mine” mentalities our selfishness: The “putting myself before all others” mentality that we all have. And we all have this!
I mean how often have you got into a fight and about halfway through you realise that you may be wrong, but at this point it has become more about winning than being right so you bulldoze through with the fight anyway?
I want to propose that this attitude (that we all know is so real in our own hearts) is at the centre of the strife in this world. Essentially it is our self-centredness that is the cause of many of the world problems, if we could just see the other as we see ourselves there would be less problems.
The problem church, is that we don’t, and we can’t, because we are self-obsessed creatures. If you want to look behind the curtain of the world to understand it at its core and see what is really wrong with the world; see that we are all a bund of selfish, self-obsessed people trying to get “ours”.
Strip a man of his dignity, and put him in a place where all that matters is his survival and you will see this tendency rear its ugly head. We know that tendency is lurking below the façade we show to others.
So how do we fix this? Well we can’t without help! That is why Christ is called the prince of peace, because it is in the gospel that we are stripped of our “I am mine” mentality and are reformed into “I am His” reality.
Paul states it as such in 2 Corinithians 5:17-20
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Essentially church the peace we are desperate for, that brings delightful fulfilment starts and ends with the gospel again. It is only in the Gospel that Christ took upon himself our sins, our sins are no longer counted against us, they are counted to him and for the first time in our lives; we are at peace!
Our war with God is over, because our sins are paid for! Our war with others is settled because we are affirmed by our creator; the voice of affirmation that we are so desperate for deep down. We are at peace!
But the reality is that Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, not blessed are those who are at peace.
So we have to ask…
2. How we become peacemakers?
Well, it is not by avoiding conflict, in fact the only way we can become this kind of peacemaker is to confront; to confront the fundamental problem of mankind; our selfishness and sinfulness and call people to be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus.
Essentially peace-making is found when we can create peace in others, the way we create peace in others is by destroying the source of their internal strife that works itself into destructive behaviours.
The only way we can do that is by reconciling them to their God, and the only legitimate way to do that; that actually will permanently calm their soul is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
People don’t need to be affirmed that they are essentially good, they know they are not. They don’t need to hear that all they need is to get what their hearts desires and their lives will be okay, every celebrity is an illustration of how that does not work. We don’t need the right partner, or gadget, or political cause. We need deep reconciliation with our own internal conflicts, that we all want to be good, and affirmed in that goodness, but our own selfish choices and action betray us, we cannot be.
And this is where every other world-view and religion essentially fails, it cannot give peace to where it is needed. They may promise it but are betrayed by the fact that we live with ourselves.
This is where being a peacemaker through the gospel is our own goal in life, because if you know the gospel, you know the power it has to heal that deep sense of guilt you have. It and it alone has the power to actually deal with the internal shame that you have been trying to cover up your entire life. Because only in the gospel is there an accounting of that guilt and shame. You own it and own up to it.
You come to God guilty, as you are imperfect and broken, and every one of your sins is accounted for. You are not made innocent because God is just merciful. You are made innocent because someone else paid your way in other words justice matters. Jesus; who never sinned took upon Himself your sins and paid their price, so that your guilt is actually dealt with and then he gave you His perfectness, so that now, in Him and because of Him there is not and cannot be any condemnation! There is peace; real peace a peace that actually heals the human soul!
This becomes the call of those who finds themselves in the kingdom, we become proclaimers of that peace. Essentially, it all comes down to the fact that we believe that the hope of mankind for real peace is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We become like Paul who says in Romans 1, I believe in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is power of God for salvation from faith from first to last.
In other words, it is a power unlike any other found in the world. And this power can actually change the world for peace.
This is what becomes the mission of those that find themselves in the Kingdom; we administer God’s peace, and we believe that that peace will create a better world for all those who enter into it!
The question that now comes up, though, if we are offering something that has so much potential, why the persecution?
3. The persecution of peace-making
Doesn’t it seem weird that Jesus’ say blessed (or delightfully fulfilled are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Why would this be the reality?
Well think at what is at stake? Think about the significance of what Jesus is saying here? The stakes are huge, the demand is massive, the cost is incredible.
We are stripping people of their world-views, their self-importance, their self-justifications etc.
If you call out people for their shortcomings and tell them that they at the foundation realities of their life their biggest problem is themselves, and the only way to fix that is to humble themselves, to surrender; you are going to find yourself coming up against the egos of people, you are going to find that people are not going to react lovingly to you…
Peace-making, because of what is at stake and the nature of it is, is a confrontational reality.
This is why if you get the gospel, you will see that your entire life is reconfigured to be about the nature of the gospel; in other words, you will want to be a peacemaker. And because of this you will find yourself in conflict with people.
Now if you find yourself always in conflict it may be that you are not actually peaching the gospel; it may be that you are just obnoxious and arrogant. On the other side if you never find persecution you may actually not understand the gospel and therefore are cowardly in presenting the gospel.
The reality is that the presentation of the gospel will always feel like a chore until it becomes your reality, however, when it becomes your reality it becomes your life and when it becomes your life, you will find yourself constantly presenting it; because it is your hope and your life. And if you find yourself doing this you will find opposition.
This is the peculiar think about this message; the only way I can call you to the reality of being a peacemaker is if you yourself have discovered the peace that comes from the gospel of Jesus.
If you haven’t you will lack the reality of that peace to enable to honestly share it. I know of someone who always felt guilty about sharing the gospel; until she fully understood it. Now she is finding herself naturally addressing the reality of it to people she would have never ever had done before, because she has discovered its power.
The reality it, if you get the gospel your life becomes defined by it and therefore you live it out. In this church, you will become peace-makers and the warning is this; it won’t always be peaceful. The question is are you convinced of its power?
Do you believe that the gospel is the hope for real internal and powerful peace? This is and this alone is our delight in the opposition and persecution that will come when we present that peace to others.