Sermon Presented on 05-18-13


        This is the fourth in a series of sermons I am doing on the fruit of the Spirit.  As I stated at the beginning of the first three sermons in this series, bearing fruit demonstrates our being disciples of Christ and by bearing fruit we also glorify the Father as Jesus said in John 15:8.  The fruit we are to bear is associated with how we conduct ourselves before God and man.  The ability to bear fruit is related to allowing the Spirit of God to manifest itself in our lives.  Paul wrote to Timothy that God’s Spirit is a Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. 

        In the first sermon we discussed what it means to allow the Spirit of God to be expressed in our behavior.  In the second sermon we saw how love is the most dominant and all encompassing fruit of the Spirit.  Last time we looked at what dynamics of behavior must be present to experience joy.  Today we will look at the third fruit of Paul’s list which is peace.


        For many, peace is a rare and seldom experienced quality of life.  What this word signifies is not something that is commonly experienced by many.  Peace is generally understood by people to be the absence of conflict.  Yet conflict is an ever present condition in the lives of many and in the world at large.  In many respects the history of the world is a history of conflict which it is a history of the absence of peace. 

       When we discussed Joy as a fruit of the Spirit, I quoted from the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence where our founding Fathers twice spoke of the pursuit of happiness being among our unalienable Rights.  In the Preamble to the Constitution we read this:

       We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

       So, just as our founding Fathers were concerned about providing for our happiness and Joy, as seen in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence,  so were they also concerned about providing for our domestic tranquility, which is to say they were concerned about providing for our domestic peace.  Yet, as is true with the goal to provide for the pursuit of happiness, the goal to provide for domestic tranquility is often far from realized as a quick look at the violence in our county bears out.   

       Two weeks ago in our discussion of Joy, we saw how joy equates with being happy and how the Greek word that is translated “blessed” in most renderings of the Beatitudes actually signifies being happy and experiencing joy.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed or happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  So we see that Jesus taught that one way to be happy and experience joy is to be a peacemaker, to behave in ways that encourage and facilitate peace. 

       The Greek word translated “peace” in the NT appears some 92 times.  It is a Greek word that was originally used by Greek speaking people to define national tranquility and exemption from the rage and havoc of war.  As time passed, this word took on the additional meaning of tranquility and harmony between individuals in general and the ability to simply experience internal serenity. This is how this word is often used by the authors of the NT documents.

         While it is true that peace is a state of being that occurs when conflicts are resolved, peace is also achieved when burdens of various sorts are lifted and removed.  For example, when we are experiencing the trial of a health problem, financial difficulties or other problems not directly related to conflict with another person, the result is anxiety and apprehension which is the absence of peace.  When the difficulty we are facing is resolved, we experience a return to a peaceful state, to a state of internal tranquility.  We see this illustrated in the Scriptures. 

       Mark 5:25-26: And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

       I am sure that the health problem this woman was experiencing created a great deal of anxiety in her life and greatly reduced her ability to experience peace.  But now see what happens.

        Verse 27-34:  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, `Who touched me?'" But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." 

       Here we see experiencing peace associated with relief from suffering.  How many of you have had a kidney stone?  They say the pain associated with a kidney stone is worse than the pain associated with giving birth.  Well, I have never given birth, but I have had kidney stones and let me tell you, having a kidney stone will quickly disrupt any sense of peace and tranquility.  But when the kidney stone passes, there is great relief and a definite sense of peace and tranquility.  So, one way to experience peace is to have a hardship or trial come to an end.

       Another way the Scriptures show peace to be achieved is to acknowledge sin and repent of such sin.  In this case peace is seen to flow from having the burden of sin removed.  We see this in an event that occurred during Christ’s ministry.  Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner.  While Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house, a woman who it is said had lived a sinful life came to the house bringing an alabaster jar of perfume and as she stood behind Jesus and weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Here is what Jesus said to the Pharisee.      

      Luke 7:44-47: Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven---.  Verse 50: Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

       Apparently this woman came to understand who Jesus was and that she needed to change her life.  She came to Jesus with a contrite, broken spirit showing her willingness to change and embark on a new course in life.  She demonstrated her love for and submission to Jesus by kissing His feet and anointing them with oil.  Her repentance resulted in the forgiveness of her sin. Jesus told her to go in peace.

       This woman had come to Jesus with a burden of sin.  She didn’t have peace. She had a great deal of turmoil and anxiety in her life.  Her repentance and forgiveness of sin allowed her to experience peace for maybe the first time in a long time.  Repentance and forgiveness is another way to experience peace.

       Paul said peace is a fruit of the Spirit of God.  When peace is experienced it is an attribute of the Spirit of God that one is experiencing.  While peace may be arrived at in a number of different ways, to experienced peace is to experience God’s Spirit.  It is to experience an attribute or quality of who and what God is.  As Tracy pointed out last week, we are made in the image of God.  But God allows us to choose whether to manifest the Godly image or behave in ways contrary to the Godly image.  When we choose to manifest the Godly image we express the Spirit of God.

       Just as we are constantly exhorted to love one another, we are equally exhorted to live in peace with one another.  In fact to love someone is to behave in a peaceful manner with and toward that person.  Peace is a natural consequence of practicing the agape love we discussed in sermon two of this series.  The teaching of Scripture is that we strive to live in peace with one another. 

       Mark 9:50c: “be at peace with each other."

       Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

        2 Corinthians 13:11b: Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.

       1 Thessalonians 5:13:b Live in peace with each other. 

       The night before Jesus was to be crucified; He gave much instruction to the disciples gathered with Him at what is often referred to as the "Last Supper."  He concluded His remarks in the following manner:

       John 16:33; "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

       Jesus spent a good portion of the evening before His crucifixion instructing His disciples in those things that would bring them peace.  He told them that it was in Him, Jesus, that they would have peace.  What did Jesus mean in saying that in Him they would have peace?  Let’s take a look at a few of the “these things” Jesus shared with His disciples and we will see what He meant by saying in Him they would have peace.

       John 15:4-5a: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;

       Here Jesus reveals the major dynamic that must be present if we are to experience peace.  Jesus is speaking of a mutual indwelling, a spiritual oneness that results in our walking the way Jesus walked.  We know that Jesus walked in total harmony with the will of the Father.  We know the will of the Father is to live the Law of Love in all we think, do and say.  To the extent we effectively accomplish this will be the extent to which we will experience peace. 

       When we behave toward our neighbor in ways that promote their safety, security and welfare, we avoid conflict and dissension and in so doing we experience peace.  Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  “As far as it depends on you,” tells us that we will not always have our deeds of love and mercy reciprocated.  We can sometimes treat others in a loving way and have such love ignored and even maligned.  Jesus says to love that person anyway.

       Several years ago, country music artist Martina McBride recorded a song entitled “Anyway.”  In this song she cites a number of life’s circumstances where things we do don’t turn out like we thing they should but we should do them anyway.  One line in the song goes like this:  “You can love someone with all you heart for all the right reasons, in a moment they can chose to walk away, love them anyway."   Loving them anyway is to practice the law of love.  Jesus instructed us to even love our enemies. 

       Matthew 5:43-45: "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

       Luke 6:27-28: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Verse 32-33: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners' do that.  Verse 35: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

       God is kind to the ungrateful and even the wicked.  If we are to conduct ourselves as imitators of the way God conducts Himself, then we will do all in our power to facilitate a peaceful relationship even with those who may oppose us.  I already quoted Paul where he tells us to as far as it depends on us live at peace with everyone.  Let’s look at the context wherein this statement of Paul’s is found.

       Romans 12:18-21: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  

       Paul places his statement about trying to live in peace with everyone within the context of doing all we can to overcome evil with good.  Our daily goal should be to do all we can to avoid conflict and pursue peaceful relationships.  We should bend over backwards, as the saying goes, to facilitate peaceful interactions with our spouse, children, neighbors, co-workers, and everyone else we come into contact with.  We should do all we can to determine the motivations of others in acting in the manner they do and then do our best to adjust our reaction to them in such a way as to facilitate a peaceful relationship.

       This being said, there are times when repaying evil with good may not be the best way to handle a situation.  While God is merciful and loving in making His sun to shine on both the righteous and the wicked, He also punishes the wicked when the wicked fail to respond to His mercy and love.  The Scriptures make it evident that we have the prerogative to administer justice and hand out punishment when necessary to counter evil. 

       Paul makes it clear in Romans 13 that God allows for government authorities to punish evil doers.  In Proverbs 13:24 we read that he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. Look what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

       2 Thessalonians 3:10-16: For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ""If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.

       Here we see Paul addressing the problem of some not putting forth the effort to earn their bread and by implication they were mooching off others.  Paul clearly doesn’t approve of this behavior and he certainly doesn’t instruct that they be patted on the back and told that all their needs will be supplied and that they can just continue to be busybodies and not have to work.  Paul instructs that if a man will not work he doesn’t eat.  Here we see Paul balancing love and mercy with justice.  This is a balance we see throughout Scripture.

       So when Jesus and Paul instruct we are to love our enemies and live in peace, they are not teaching we are to be door mats for those who would take advantage of our kindness and simple dismiss their need to take responsibility for their actions.  The constant admonition in Scripture to live in peace does not preclude our responsibility to identify unrighteousness and demonstrate our intolerance for it.  The pursuit of peace does not require we tolerate sin in order to achieve peace. 

       Jesus did not have a peaceful relationship with the religious leadership of His day.  He did not tolerate their hypocrisy and clearly let them know it.  All you have to do is read through Matthew 23 and you will see the adversarial, non-peaceful relationship Jesus had with the religious leaders.   

       In view of the great emphasis on pursuing peace in Scripture, it might appear strange that Jesus had such an adversarial relationship with the religious leaders of His day.  It also may appear strange that He made the comment He made to His disciples about peace.

       Luke 12:51-53: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

       I think we all understand what Christ meant by this statement.  Jesus came with a message that created a great deal of controversy in His day.  This resulted in people arguing with each other over the validity of what Jesus taught.  This caused dissension within families and created adversarial relationships, the opposite of peaceful relationships.  This is what created the great amount of tension between Jesus and the religious leaders.  While one could say Jesus was the cause of these adversarial situations, in reality it was how people choose to react to Jesus that caused the absence of peace. 

       When we become angry with someone, we often say he or she made me angry.  In reality we choose to become angry in response to the other persons actions.  While at times such anger may be justified, it still remains that we make the choice to react in anger.  While Jesus, Paul and others taught we are to seek peace, peace is often disrupted when we react in anger to something said or done.  This creates an adversarial relationship.

       Paul said "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26).  This is a principle that if followed can go a long way toward facilitating peace.

       Peace is an elusive commodity in this world.  The facilitation of peace is directly related to practicing the law of love.  Unfortunately, practicing the law of love is also elusive for many.  The result is conflict rather than peace.   Peace is a fruit of the Spirit of God.  Its expression is dependent on implementing the Golden rule which teaches us to love others as ourselves and to do unto other as we would have them do unto us.  Peace is dependent on not committing sin when being angry as Paul points out.  Peace is often an elusive quality.  However, it is a fruit of the Spirit we are to be manifesting in our lives.  Therefore, it is a dynamic of our Christian life we need to pursue and cultivate. As Paul said, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

       Next time we will deal with probably the most difficult fruit of all:  Patience.