Grace and Peace - Part 8
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
July 09, 2017
We are now in our eighth message on a persistent little phrase found in the NT: “grace and peace.” In every letter Paul wrote, every letter Peter wrote, and in two of John’s writings, “grace and peace” are included in the greetings. They must be important.
And, of course, if you’ve been with us, you know they are. Grace and peace are a Christian’s two most precious possessions and the greatest need of those who aren’t Christ followers.
Today we continue looking at the second of the two, peace. Our key text last week was John 14:27 where Jesus said to the disciples (and to us):
John 14:27 (ESV) — 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
What kind of peace did Jesus have that he could give us? A peace unlike what the world gives? Since Jesus was free from sin, he wasn’t at war with God like us. And since he wasn’t an enemy of God, Jesus enjoyed perfect peace and fellowship with God.
Jesus lived out daily, in absolute perfection, the prophet Isaiah’s words:
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) — 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
That is why Jesus slept in the sinking boat when everyone else cried out in fear. That is why he never feared the Pharisees or the Romans like everyone else. That is why he never worried about what he would eat or drink or how he’d find shelter and provision like everyone else.
And to our amazement, Jesus said he’d give that to us. A peace unlike what the world gives. A peace that doesn't depend on what’s going on around you. A peace that is bound up in heaven itself.
Jesus keeps his promises. He became sin on the cross and suffered a severing of perfect peace with his father, so he could make peace between us and our heavenly father. Through Jesus our sin was dealt with, making it possible for the war to end.
If we receive like a gift what Jesus did for us, we are no longer enemies. We are, in fact, now God’s children!
It doesn’t matter how wealthy we are, how secure we feel, how much contentment we enjoy, if we are not right with God, it doesn’t matter. It’s an illusion. If God is hot happy with us, we can’t know real happiness, joy, or peace.
The reason Jesus seems so other worldly to us is that he, unlike any man since Adam, wasn't at war with God. When you have that kind of peace, you look like a freak because it’s so strange. But it’s also attractive, isn’t it?
Jesus talked a lot about his peace. Look at…
John 16:33 (ESV) — 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
That sounds good and all, but it may be hard to believe we can know the same peace Jesus did. We tend to focus on the part we know from experience, the tribulation in this world. Can we really have peace in him? The same peace that allowed him to sleep while the storm raged? Surely that is more symbolic for us than what we might expect in reality.
Well, let’s see. The book of Acts is an account of the birth of the church and what happened early on. In Acts 12, as the church explodes in growth and influence, persecution follows. James (not Jesus’ brother) and Peter are imprisoned for preaching the gospel.
Acts 12:1–6 (ESV) — 1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Death and imprisonment for Christ followers was certainly the tribulation in the world Jesus spoke of. How can what Jesus also said in the same breath be true: “in me you may have peace”? And also “my peace I give to you”? Look at verse 6 of Acts 12…
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
Does that remind you of anything? Of maybe Jesus sleeping in a boat while the storms raged? Is this perhaps evidence that what Jesus said was true? My peace I give to you.
Later on in Acts Paul and his companion, Silas, encounter a poor slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination. Her owners made a living from her fortune telling. Paul delivers her from the spirit…
Acts 16:19–25 (ESV) — 19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Once again we see anything the tribulation in this world Jesus promised us. Look at verse 25…
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…
Does that remind you of anyone? They knew peace in the midst of troubles because Jesus had given them his peace. Spurgeon preached on peace a hundred years ago…
Lest there should be any of you who do not understand what I have said, I will try and say it over again briefly in an example. Do you see that man [Peter]? He has been taken up before a cruel tribunal; he is condemned to die. The hour draws nigh: he is taken to prison, and placed there with two soldiers to guard him, and four quarternions of soldiers outside the door. The night comes on: he lies down, but in how uncomfortable a position! Chained between two soldiers! He lies down and he falls asleep—not the sleep of the guilty criminal, whose very sense of dread makes his eyelids heavy; but a calm sleep which is given by God, and which ends in an angelic vision, by which he is delivered. Peter sleeps, when the death sentence is above his head, and the sword is ready to penetrate his soul. See you another picture?
There are Paul and Silas yonder: they have been preaching, and their feet are thrust in the stocks for it. They will die on the morrow; but in the midnight they sing praises unto God, and the prisoners hear them. One would have thought in such a loathsome dungeon as that, they would have groaned and moaned all night long, or that at best they might have slept; but no, they sang praises to God, and the prisoners heard them. There is the peace—the calm, the quietude of the heir of heaven…
Wherever there has been a true Christian, the world has tried its best to put out his peace; but it is a peace that never can be quenched—it will live on…
This peace that Jesus gives is much more than just a standing or a legal decree. It is a truth that permeates our very being. It is lofty, but it is also immensely practical. Like Jesus, we can enjoy it daily, even the midst of a tumultuous and uncertain world.
The kind of peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of conflict (we will have tribulation in this world because sin and death are still present). It is the presence of God.
It’s no accident that Jesus’ words concerning peace in John’s gospel are given in the context of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:15–17 (ESV) — 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:25–27 (ESV) — 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Because Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, the way was made for us to actually become the dwelling place of God, living temples that his Spirit takes up residence in.
In that way God is ever present with us. And if God is ever present with us then we know peace the world cannot know or give or touch.
Conclusion: I love this. It makes my heart sing. But at the same time it breaks my heart because, if I’m honest, I don’t consistently live like I possess this peace.
If I were in chains, I’m not so sure I would sleep or sing.
Thankfully, there’s another story about Jesus concerning the disciples and a boat. And we will close with this…
Matthew 14:22–33 (ESV) — 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus tried to teach Peter to live in that perfect peace, the kind that doesn’t depend on the wind or waters. When Peter fell short, Jesus in his kindness and grace lifted him up.
Thank God his peace is true and steadfast even when we are not.
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