JUICY FRUIT SERMON SERIES
SEPTEMBER 22, 1996
My first recollection of peace occurred when I was in the second grade attending Taylor’s Elementary School. We were eating lunch in the cafeteria and a few of us were acting up a little, throwing some food. Everyone except me, that is. You know I would not think about doing that. Anyway, we heard a very familiar sound in the middle of our fun. It was the screen door opening to the cafeteria. All of our heads turned in unison and we all saw the most intimidating and frightening figure s tanding in the doorway. It was Principal W. A. Woodruff. He stood about 6’5” and weighted about 300 pounds. He was sporting his typical wardrobe, a white short-sleeved dress shirt, thin black tie, black pants, size 14 wing-tip shoes, black glasses and a gray crewcut. Rumor had it that he paddled kids with a 2 x 4.
A hush fell over the lunchroom. Everyone wondered what would Principal W. A. Woodruff do. He looked in our direction. The seconds seemed like hours. Then a little guy seated next to me, there is always one of these in every class, looked at W. A. Woodruff and here is what he said. “Peace, Mr . Woodruff. Peace. Peace, man.” And W. A. Woodruff to our shock and amazement smiled and in his Charlton Heston like voice said, “Peace, everyone. Peace.” And the entire lunchroom echoed, “Peace, peace, peace.” From that day forward, everytime we ran into Principle W. A. Woodruff we would say peace, peace, peace. We wanted to have peace with someone like him.
That was my first concept of peace. Jesus said these words about peace in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” In other words, Jesus is saying that His peace is different than the world’s peace. Jesus is not giving us a W. A. Woodruff, John Lennon, Richard Nixon, Woodstock type peace. He is giving us a profound peace. What if we could ask a soldier in the Persian Gulf their definition of peace? If we could ask them this question, they would probably look at us with bloodshot eyes and reply, “Peace means a stop to the bloodshed. Put the rifles in the racks. Return the ships to port. Put the jets in the hangers. Return us to our families. That is peace. Halting the hostilities.” And I would say that that is a pretty good definition of peace for a war-torn world in which we live. It is the halting of hostilities.
Yet God’s definition of peace is deeper, is distinctive and is dynamic when you compare it to worldly peace. God’s peace is on another plane, on a different level. There are three aspects to God’s peace and we need to understand them and see how to apply them to our lives.
The first part of God’s peace is spiritual peace. In Roman 5:1, the Apostle Paul is doing cartwheels. He is giving out Hebrew high-fives. He is so excited. Listen to his words. “Since we have been justified through faith….” That means that we have confessed our sins and received Christ as savior. “… we have peace with God…” Question. Is he talking about worldly peace or is he talking about spiritual peace? Well let’s do what we used to do when we took tests. Let’s substitute what we do know, worldly peace, before we attempt to learn what Godly peace is all about. If Paul were talking about worldly peace, this verse would say this. “Since we have been justified through faith we have halted our hostilities with God.” Now I don’t know about you but I doubt the Apostle Paul would be giving out Hebrew high-fives and doing cartwheels just because we ended our hostilities with God. Paul wouldn’t get fired up because God has gone His way to see over His sovereign schedule and we have gone our way to do our thing and watch the Cowboys. We have a truce with God. God is OK with me. I am OK with God. Paul would not get fired up about that. We are talking about something that is deeper, more distinctive and more dynamic than just external, worldly peace.
Peace here can be defined as reconciliation with God, which results in compatibility. That is why Paul was so excited. We are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Once we make a faith decision and accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are reconciled to God and thus we have a compatible relationship with Him. Think about it. Seventy percent of the people you know are not in church this morning. They are not here. They are at the golf course. They are at restaurants. Some are still asleep. If you ask them if they are at war with God, they would answer no way, that their relationship with God was just fine. They might be in their neutral corners, but certainly no war is going on. But see, they do not have that compatibility, that true peace that God brings in a personal relationship. They are not attracted to Him. They don’t want to worship Him. They don’t have the love and the joy they could have with Him. Yet they are trying to find peace by gaining and attaining and maintaining and sustaining. They decide that if they get married, then they will have peace. They think that if they finally have a child, then they will have peace. They believe that if they finally make a million dollars, then they will have peace. The problem is that the more we search for peace, the more elusive it becomes. God tells us to get off the treadmill. That is a formula for frustration. Just open up your heart and allow His Son to infiltrate your heart and you will gain the peace that surpassed all understanding. That is the peace of God.
You see, the peace of God occurs in your life and my life when we know that God is in control. Also peace occurs as a result of our obedience to Him. If we are disobedient to God, if we live a lifestyle of sin and rebellion before Him, we will never know peace. We might know the Mr. Woodruff kind of peace, but not that internal peace. Spiritual peace. Do you have peace with God?
Some here are able to respond that they do have peace with God. Well, let’s go a little bit deeper. There is another aspect of peace that you need to get in touch with. I call this personal peace. In other words, large blocks of us have peace with God, but we do not have personal peace. We do not have the peace of God concerning who we are, how we look, how we are wired up and how we function. Yes, we can have peace with God spiritually, but still not have a comprehensive peace because personally we are still lobbing those accusations. “God, I wish you would give me more hair. God, I wish my legs were longer. God, I wish my complexion was darker….or lighter. God, I wish I was funnier, brighter, bigger, meaner, badder.” Now what do you think God does when we talk to Him like that? Does He just pick up the hand grenades and give us a taste of our own medicine. He doesn’t do that. You see, our God is gracious.
As we have been talking about during this series, the moment Jesus Christ comes into our lives, He puts the person of the Holy Spirit inside of your life and mine. And the Holy Spirit does not have His eye on the clock. He doesn’t say that He can hardly wait to bail out of your life. No, no, no. He is putting in some serious overtime hours. He is working day in and day out, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to produce peace in your life and mine, to produce personal peace.
Why do we compare and contrast ourselves with others? You know every time I do that or you do that, we are making a mockery of God’s creative genius. We are unique. We are one of a kind. As I always say, if you weren’t you, no one would be you. There would be a hole in history, a gap in creation. God made you the way you are, so be yourself. There is no one who will ever look like you. There is no one who will ever have that laugh. There is no one who will have your sense of humor. There is no one who will have your focus. No one. There is no one, before you or after you, who looks you, acts like you, talks like you, walks like you, no one. Are you at peace with God personally regarding how He made you? I am not talking about just a truce, grudgingly accepting how we are. We have got to worship God. We have got to praise God. We have got to love God because He made us. He loves us. He molded us. And the Holy Spirit will not stop this peace producing battle until we can agree with the Psalmist in Psalm 139:14, “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
See Colossians 3:15. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…you were called to peace…” Circle the word rule. It is used one time in the Bible and this is it. The word rule literally means to umpire. An umpire is one who is empowered to settle a dispute. Here a dispute is going on. The world is telling us that we have to look a certain way, have certain things, etc. to get personal peace. But the Holy Spirit says no, that we have to see ourselves the way God sees us. The argument goes back and forth and back and forth. Then God’s Word comes in and umpires. He throws out the one who tears down and says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We have the Spirit of God umpiring us and the scripture backs Him up.
We have got spiritual peace and personal peace. Some of you think you are coasting through this message. You believe that you and God are tight. You believe that you have personal peace. No problem. But this next aspect of peace really gets us. This one nails me every single time. I don’t care if you have been a Christian for thirty-seven years. I don’t care if you have cut your teeth on the back of a pew in some church. This one will get you. It will get right in your face. We have got to have relational peace. Yes, we can have spiritual peace and personal peace, but if we don’t have relational peace, we don’t have the comprehensive peace that surpassed all understanding. God wants us to have relational peace.
The Bible says it this way in Romans 12:18. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” My favorite part is “if it is possible.” There is always an exception to relational peace now and then. And God knows it and that is why He said, if it is possible. For example, have you ever tried to seek reconciliation and the person does not want to hear or deal with it? Have you ever been in that situation? I have had that occur maybe twice in my life. The Bible says do as much as you can, but if the person will not turn and talk and deal with you, just say thank you, Lord, and go another way. But in 99.9 percent of most situations, the person will turn and talk to you and communicate with you. It needs to depend on you, on me. It is not the other person. It is us.
We are not talking about pseudo peace where we never argue. Keeping everything smoothed over is called co-dependency. How many of you have snorkeled? OK. Now the big question. How many of you have been diving as a certified scuba diver? Do we have any dive masters here? I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling in my life. Lisa and I have been to the Caribbean many times. In fact, we were going to the Cayman Islands about 15 years ago before they were even popular. Lisa and I snorkel and we snorkeled a lot in the Cayman Islands. We usually were with friends who also knew how to dive. They had wet suits, tanks strapped to their backs, a knife on their calves like Lloyd Bridges used to sport on Sea Hunt. Do you remember that? The divers would always tell us that we were missing the real thing; the closeness, the color, the plants, the real experience. You have heard that before.
In relationships, God is telling Christians to quit splashing around on the surface of the water snorkeling. Don’t just say that you are at peace with God and have personal peace. God wants us to get out of the water, strap the tank to our backs, put on the wet suit and dive deep relationally. Don’t just stay on the surface, dive deep relationally. I am going to share with you five ways regarding how to establish relational peace, how to become a relational peace diver.
- Take the initiative. Matthew 5:23-24. “…if you remember that your brother has something against you…go at once and make peace….” Is the Holy Spirit bringing certain people to mind that you need to have peace with, maybe a spouse or a friend or a classmate or a neighbor, or someone at work. If you are the offended or the offender, go and make peace. Think about the mind of God, the character of God, the nature of God. We were totally in the wrong. We sinned before Him. We are totally messed up, depraved. God is holy, just and perfect. He didn’t sit there and say too bad. He didn’t say that mankind has separated itself from Him and He would not take the initiative. God reached out to us through Jesus Christ and has redeemed us. He brought us back and reconciled us to Himself. He took the initiative.
Now what if God had the same peace producing mentality that you have and I have. I can tell you where we would be. We would all be facing hell. Yet God did it. He said He did that for us, and that we need to reflect a little bit of that and be reconciled with a brother, sister, parent or child. The Bible says to go at once and make peace.
This Monday morning I woke up early and went into my study. I heard a knocking on my door and the words, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” It was my four-year-old son EJ with a Power Ranger glove on his right hand. He told me that he wanted to study with me. I told him that he could come in if he didn’t make any noise whatsoever. I gave him some books, a legal pad to draw on and some fishing magazines.
I was praying that while I was studying for this message God would prepare me for peace. So EJ is in there for thirty minutes, and he doesn’t utter a word or a sound. Then, out of nowhere, I hear something that I can’t quite identify. I asked EJ what the sound was. He kind of smiled. He heard the noise again and asked EJ what it was again. He took off his Power Ranger glove and showed me a little button that he could push which would then sing – Go, go Power Ranger. So I am thinking to myself that I had been praying for an illustration for this message and here it was. A four-year-old boy with a Power Ranger glove that sings, Go, go Power Ranger. You know what the Bible says? The Bible says that the moment we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes inside of our lives and He is the power source. It means that He is dynamite. God is saying to you and to me, go, go Power Ranger. That is what He is saying. Take the initiative and reconcile.
- Another way to establish relational peace is to empathize with others. How many hunters do we have here? There are very few here, they all must be hunting. Romans 15:2 says, “We must bear the burden of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others…” Circle the words doubts and fears. The word considerate is rendered scopus in the Greek. We get the word microscope, telescope from scopus. You talk to any deer hunters. They will always set the scope before the season starts. So the Bible says, empathize with one other. Put the crosshairs on their doubts, on their fears when you are reestablishing the relationship. I didn’t say sympathize. I said empathize. Sympathize means feeling sorry for someone. Empathy means feeling what the other person is feeling. I call empathy the Doc Martin principle. A good friend of mine gave me these Doc Martins. I love these things. I had never worn a pair before. They are really, really comfortable. When I opened the box, I came across a brochure and it really described empathy perfectly. It said, “Walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and you will understand their problem. Walk a mile is somebody else’s Doc Martins and you probably won’t give them back.” I like that.
When you are on a peace-producing mission, put yourself in the other person’s shoes; in their Doc Martins, their Air Jordan’s, their high heels, their sandals.
- Focus on the issue, not the person. That is why the Bible says the following in Ephesians 4:29. “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”
There are a few phrases to avoid.
When you are talking so some, do not start comparing them with others.
“I wish you were like…………her, him, or”
Don’t get into name-calling.
“You are so………”
Don’t do the threat thing.
“I’m going to…..leave, divorce you, run up your credit card.”
Don’t play psychologist.
“The reason you’re like this is……..”
Do not play David Letterman. David Letterman always interrupts people. And women, let me talk to you for just a second. When you are in an argument or a discussion with your husband, you have got to remember something. You are smarter than he is. You have to know that right up front. And often times you know what they are going to say before they say it. But don’t interrupt, let them finish. Now guys, here is what we do. Instead of interrupting, we just start talking louder and louder. Don’t do that.
“Excuse me, but…..”
Also, don’t become a lane changer. Guys, most of the times when we are getting beat in a discussion with our wives, instead of saying they are right and we are wrong, we change the subject. We confuse the issue by changing lanes.
“That brings up another……..”
Focus on the issue, not the individual.
- Be flexible. Lisa and I do a lot of running. We run at least four days a week, mostly together. Before we run we always stretch. We try to get flexible. Without doing that we can really damage a hamstring and be hurt for quite a while. God is in the flexibility and stretching business. He stretches us. He makes us flexible. You start getting on a peace-producing mission, and He will make you flexibile. Inflexibility is one of the major causes of divorce and relational turmoil in our world today. Hey, it takes give and take. It takes compromise. James 3:17 says, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere.” If you are married or not married, let me tell you quickly five areas of conflict: money, sex, in-laws, your schedule and your kids. That’s it. You know, right up front, those areas will be filled with conflict, so handle them Biblically. Thank God for stretching you and making you flexible.
- Make reconciliation the aim not resolution. Resolution is settling every issue. Reconciliation is reconciling the relationship. In II Corinthians 5:18 we read, “…God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Now if you are an unbeliever, if you are outside the family of God, this is not true for you. But if you are a believer, God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. Do you know what the key to intimacy is? The key to moving to a deeper level in a relationship is conflict. If you handle it Biblically and lovingly. If you have conflict, you can always move deeper. I almost die laughing when a couple will tell me that they have been married for eight years and never had a fight. I know they are lying to me. Or if they are not lying to me, they are lying to themselves. The problem with problems is that we become inflexible and don’t want to reconcile. Then we run away. But the Bible says that we are to concentrate on reconciliation, not resolution. Often times we hold onto hurt from the past. Maybe we have a hurt toward a parent. Here is what we do. We focus on the hurt and end up resembling the person we resent. Then we get married, for example, and we turn all that hurt and resentment toward our spouse. That is bad news, isn’t it?
So how are you doing with this? How are you dealing with spiritual peace and personal peace and relational peace? Again we are not talking about the Woodruff peace. We are talking about the peace that only God can give to reconciliation and obedience to His Word. Cooperate with the Spirit of God and look out for peace that surpasses all understanding.