Continuing our study of the beatitudes, we've been comparing this to a highway to happiness. There are eight times in this section of Scripture in Matthew 5:1-12 where Jesus introduces a thought with the word “blessed.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says. “Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek,” and so. And we've been saying that this word “blessed,” the dictionary meaning is, “Supreme blessedness or exalted happiness.” And everybody, of course, is looking for happiness in our world today, but Jesus 2,000 years ago redefined it for us. He turned it upside down. And so this has been quite a surprising trip through the beatitudes. And we've come to the seventh of eight of these beatitudes. We're coming near the end of this particular series. And the seventh beatitude is found in verse 9. Let's read it together. It says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
November 27th, 1995 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of an important last will and testament. A gentleman by the name of Alfred Bernard Nobel left a vast fortune from his estate to establish something called the Nobel Peace Prize. You've heard of it. It's very famous. What you may not know is that Mr. Nobel, who was apparently a big believer in peace, was also the inventor of dynamite. That's how he amassed his great wealth. In fact, in 1867, at age 34, he received a patent for the explosive we know as dynamite. And over the next 29 years of his he became fabulously wealthy from the manufacture of explosives. Isn’t it ironic that the most famous peace prize is named after a man who invented devices that disturb peace? I just find that kind of interesting.
Somebody once said that peace is that brief glorious time in history when armies pause to reload. I don't know if you ever thought about that down at the Pentagon or not, but, you know, there's some truth to that, isn’t there? That peace is that time. When you examine throughout history the number of treaties that have been broken, and you look at the amount of times in recorded history that has been given to war. In fact, experts tell us that the world has been at peace for only 8% of the time since people have been recording history. In more than 3,000 years of recorded history, only 286 years have been without war. 8,000 treaties have been broken during that time, and the average length of a treaty is only two years. Isn’t that interesting? No wonder the world longs for peace on earth. And the number one question facing world leaders today seems to be, how can we achieve a lasting world peace?
But I want to bring this idea of peace a little bit closer to home. Maybe you're not concerned so much today about lasting world peace. Maybe you're wondering whether you can find peace in your home. Maybe you're wondering as a husband and a wife whether the threat levels can come down, and whether the hostility and the conflict can be resolved in your marriage, and you're wondering if we can bring peace just for one night, or one week, or one month in our house. Maybe you have a relationship with an extended family member that is fractured, and you've been in conflict. Oh, you used to call, you used to write each other, you used to show up at each other’s house on holiday times, but those times have faded away. And maybe you have a neighbor or a friend and there's conflict in the relationship, and your question this morning is not so much about lasting world peace, you're wondering if peace is really possible in the relationships where you've experienced conflict. And all of that brings me back to this wonderful beatitude where Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” There's something about peacemaking and the intentional activity of a person to bring estranged parties together. There's something about that that really gets the attention of our heavenly Father. He says, “That's one of my kids. That's a chip off the old block. That's somebody just like me. Sons and daughters of God.”
Let's explore this beautiful beatitude. And as we think about this beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” I'm reminded of three kinds of people in this world. You might want to write this down. I first think of the peacekeepers. You ever met a peacekeeper? A peacekeeper is an appeaser. A peacekeeper lives by the philosophy, “Peace at any price, at any cost, even if that means I must compromise a conviction.” Peacekeepers are conflict avoiders. You know, they just want to keep the peace, and so they don’t enter into situations where there's conflict, and a situation where there needs to be resolutions to that conflict. They'd rather just keep the peace. In the 1960s the peacekeepers said, “Make love, not war.” The United Nations often sends peacekeeping forces into war-torn regions in our world. They're not there to make peace, just to keep the peace. To make sure that the two sides don’t reload their weapons and fire upon each other again. That's what a peacekeeping force is there to do. Peacekeepers are parents who never discipline their children because they just want to keep the peace. They're spouses that never address the obvious conflict in their relationship and they just kind of brush it under the carpet. They're neighbors who smile at one another across the street, but mask the hurt feelings that they have toward one another in their neighborhood or in their community. Those are the peacekeepers.
But they're not peacemakers. There's a difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker. A peacemaker is somebody who takes intentional steps toward a situation that is hostile and toward relationships that are estranged and he makes peace, or she makes peace. Haddon Robinson says, “When Jesus talked about peacemakers, he meant active involvement in bringing people together who are estranged.” And Robinson also said, “Peacemaking is the fine art of developing right relationships with all kinds of people.” And that's the heart and the soul of this peacekeeping idea here.
There's a third person that we might want to acknowledge, and that's the troublemaker. You have peacekeepers, you have peacemakers and, well, sometimes you have troublemakers. Troublemakers love to create conflict. They're quarrelsome. They're looking for a fight. They love to lob verbal sticks of dynamite into relationships and into situations and find those relationships explode. Their verbal dynamite is full of gossip and slander and backbiting, and you know, you always have to be on lookout for the troublemaker in any organization. And given the three kids of people here, given the three options, the peacekeeper, the peacemaker, the troublemaker, no wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Those are the ones who intentionally move into a situation and bring estranged parties together. Those are the ones that Jesus said are happy, supremely blessed and exalted in their happiness.
Now again, I hope you brought your Bible this morning, because I want us to turn to a number of passages of Scripture this morning as we examine this idea. And the first place I want us to go is to Isaiah 9. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker because he's the Prince of Peace, isn’t he? And in Isaiah 9 we have a prophecy of Scripture that is messianic in nature. We often read this at Christmastime. But there's a wonderful phraseology here that helps us land upon Jesus, who is our Prince of Peace. He's our peacemaker. Isaiah, 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, for unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And then, it goes on in verse 7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal”—or the passion—“of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
What a great text of Scripture as it speaks of who our Savior is. He's a Wonderful Counselor, he's a Mighty God, he's a Prince of Peace. He's the best peacemaker. He's the model peacemaker. At the cross, as we'll learn from other passages, Jesus brought estranged parties together in his peacemaking effort. But did you notice there in Isaiah 9:6 and 7, I love verse 7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” Now, this is a prophetic passage of Scripture, and it really even speaks beyond Jesus’ first advent to his Second Coming where he will establish his rule and reign from the holy city of Jerusalem and establish his government, “And the government will be upon his shoulders.” Since I moved to Washington D.C. just a couple of years ago that serve as your senior pastor I've read this verse Scripture, just taking on new meaning to me. That the government that is often just kind of frustrated to kind of get things going, the government will be upon his shoulders. And whether you're on the political right or political left, and whatever you think about big government, there will be a time when the increase of his government…his government will increase. It will get bigger and bigger. And it's not just the increase of his government, but the increase of his government and peace. There will be a time when everybody will gladly accept bigger government because it's peaceful. And it's led by none other than the Prince of Peace, who can bring the ultimate answer to the question that every world leader has, and that is, how can we achieve a lasting world peace? When the Prince of Peace steps upon the world stage again, at his Second Coming it will happen. And everyone will say, “Bring it on. Bring more of it.” “The increase of his government and his peace, there will be no end.” It's the passion of the Lord, the zeal of the Lord that will make that happen because he's passionate about peace.
Well, let's now turn to the New Testament to Ephesians 2. I want to hear some pages in your Bible turning this morning. Ephesians 2, and we'll read together verse 14 and 15. Let me give you a little context to this verse of Scripture here. This is in a section of Scripture where Paul is talking about how through the cross of Jesus Christ, God brought together two estranged parties. Not only himself with humanity. We were enemies of God, and he moved toward us in reconciliation. But he's talking about those who were far away from the covenant promises of God, those are the gentiles, and those who were near the covenant promises of God, this was Israel. And he says, “Those who were far and near were brought together as one.” Verse 14, why? “For he himself”—this is Jesus—“is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”—what hostility—“between Jew and gentile by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” This was part of the transaction at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Now, turn over to the book of Colossians. Colossians 1. Just a few pages to your right, there. Colossians 1:19, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”—who is him? This is Jesus Christ—“and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things on heaven”—makes me wonder what in heaven needed that be reconciled? That just made me think this week. But—“Through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things or things in heaven”—how—“by making peace through his blood shed upon the cross.” Think of it this way, the cross of Jesus Christ is God’s peace treaty. It was his way of saying, “The war is over.” Not just a ceasefire and an opportunity to reload our weapons, but the war, the enmity between man and God is over. Because God our peacemaker and the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ moved intentionally and relationally toward us, and through the blood of Christ wrote this peace treaty. And therefore, I like to say that the best peacemakers are those who have made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Romans 5:1 tells us, “That being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If through the Lord Jesus Christ we have peace with God, well, the antithesis of that is, apart from Jesus Christ we're at war with God. Our sin makes us at enmity with him. But God moved toward us in relationship, and as our peacekeeper, established that peace treaty with us.
Now, the Billy Graham Association for years has published a gospel tract that captures in a beautiful way all that I've just talked about from these passages of Scripture, and it's simply titled Steps to Peace With God. Some of you may have come to faith in Jesus Christ through a Four Spiritual Laws tract or a Romans Road. You know, all of those are good. I've heard one, The Good News and Bad News of the Gospel. This one that that the Billy Graham organization has used is Steps to Peace With God. How to make peace with God through the blood of Christ and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, one more passage of Scripture. Let's go backwards now to 2 Corinthians 5. All right. I'm in 1 Corinthians. Let's go to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. Paul says, “All of this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them, and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,” he says, “as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This again, is a fabulous text of Scripture. And it tells me first and foremost that God is in the reconciliation business. He is never more glorified than when a lost sinner is reconciled to him through the blood of Jesus Christ. God’s in the reconciliation business, and as believers in Jesus Christ he says we, then, in turn have been given the ministry of reconciliation.
That says everything about who are as a church, doesn't it? Especially in a world today where there's conflict and hostility and estranged relationships, whether it's on the international scene or it's in your neighborhood, in your community, or right there behind (0:19:00.0) that beautiful wreath on your front door. As a Church of Jesus Christ, we of all people ought to be peacemakers and reconcilers. And when there's hostility and difficulty and hurt feelings, we need to model what God has done in our lives, in moving toward people is relationship, bringing estranged parties together, going to those persons with whom we have, perhaps offended or there are hurt feelings. We're in the ministry of reconciliation. We are begging and imploring people from this corner of Braddock and Backlick, “Be reconciled to God. The peace treaty has been written. The war is over.” Bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ, but even then, working in our own relationships to make peace. We're in the reconciliation business, friends. (0:20:00.0) And if we can't model it from this corner, well, then, we ought to shut the place down, right? The world is looking for somebody to come on the scene and create lasting peace on the international stage. One day the Prince of Peace will come, but until then you and I are his ambassadors, and we're to be peacemakers. Not peacekeepers, just sort of brushing things under the carpet. Certainly not troublemakers. Let's not make more trouble than what there is already in the world. But peacemakers. People who make peace in an intentional kind of way.
Haddon Robinson, again, says it this way, he says, “No peace will exist between nations unless peace reigns in each country. And no country will have peace unless peace resides in each community. And no community will have peace unless peace inhabits the Church. And no church will have peace unless peace dwells within its people. And no people will have peace unless they surrender to the Prince of Peace.” C.S. Lewis says, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself because there is no such thing. It is not possible.”
Do you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Have you personally received Christ as your Savior, accepting the terms of the peace treaty that flowed through the blood of Christ on the cross? You say, “Yeah, I'm a believer in Jesus Christ.” Then great. Go be a peacemaker. Go out into this world that is full of hostility and conflict and estranged relationships. You may not even have to go past your own front door to move towards somebody in your family and become a peacemaker.
Now, let's camp out on that phrase on the backside of this beatitude. It says, “For they shall be called sons of God.” It's an interesting phrase, different than the phrase. “child of God,” in the New Testament. The phrase, “child of God,” in the New Testament speaks of our relationship to our heavenly Father. We are children of God in one sense, in a general sense, by creation, but in John 1 the Scripture says, “But to as many as received him”—that is, Jesus Christ—“to them he gave the right to become children of God.” In relationship with God. Okay? But this phrase, “sons of God,” speaks more of sharing the character of heavenly Father.
In the ancient languages, the Greek and Hebrew languages, they don’t have very many adjectives to describe things. And so, for instance, in the New Testament we know that Barnabas was called the “son of encouragement.” Okay? They would use that phrase, “son of,” to describe somebody's character. When Jesus looked at James and John and saw those two young men, he called them “sons of thunder,” describing their character in some way at that time. And so in this beatitude when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” there's a sense in which we are never more like God in character than when we are peacemakers. It speaks of what we like to say of our children, “You know, he's a chip off the old block. He's just like his dad, or she's just like her mom.” And that's sort of what this phrase, in a colloquial kind of way, is saying. “Blessed are the peacemakers, because from my perspective as your heavenly Father, a peacemaker is kind of a chip off the block. In character and in person they're just like me.” Because in the heart of things, in his heart of hearts, God is a peacemaker, and he moves towards us in relationship that way.
Now, again, let's bring this off the world stage down to your home and my home, your neighborhood and my neighborhood, your extended family, my extended family, your community, my community, your church, my church. How do we do this thing called peacemaking? Let's look at a few verses of Scripture to set this up. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I am so grateful for that verse of Scripture. It's a practical verse of Scripture. It suggests that sometimes peace is not always possible, but it does lay the responsibility at your feet and at my feet to move toward that person you are estranged with, move toward that person in reconciliation. It's possible that you can never resolve your differences. Okay. You keep, as much as it depends on you, you keep doing your part and you keep moving toward that person in relationship. That's why in marriage counseling I always begin with the importance of reconciliation. God is glorified when estranged husbands and wives reconcile. “God’s in the reconciliation business,” I say to a married couple. “I am for your marriage. I believe in your marriage, because God is in the reconciliation business, and he will be most glorified when that relationship reconciles.” If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, you have a responsibility, and I have a responsibility in peacemaking, live at peace with everyone.
Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort,” Paul says, “to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” You know what this verse of Scripture tells me? It's gonna be hard work, it's gonna take effort. You're gonna have to reach down and perhaps gut it out in a way you never have before because it's hard to move toward somebody you're estranged with. It's hard to sit there between two parties and try to bring those two parties together. You just ask some of our pastors in our counseling center who work with couples who are on the brink of divorce. It's hard work to counsel. He says, “Make every effort.” Leave no effort unturned. Don’t leave anything in the rearview mirror where you say, “I could've, I should've, if I only would have.” “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Which brings me to Galatians 5:22. It tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…what's the third one? Peace. This is a Holy Spirit enterprise, peacemaking is. And in the Body of Christ, in the Christian life, you know, the most frustrated and unhappy and, perhaps, even dangerous person is the person who is walking in the flesh and not by the Spirit. There's a whole world of theology we could jump into there of what it means to be filled with the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, but the person who is rightly related to God through faith in Jesus Christ, and who is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of the flesh, the fruit of that, the overflow of that person’s life is peace. That doesn't mean that he never experiences conflict or estrangement or hostility or difficulty, but, boy, I'd rather have a Spirit-filled peacemaker at the table any day of the week. Okay? Because I know that that unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace is gonna flow through those conversations.
If you're in conflict, in hostility with another party, first thing you need to do is ask yourself, “Am I in fellowship, not relationship, but am I in fellowship with God?" You can be in relationship with God through the blood Jesus Christ, and you're a child of God, and you have your fire insurance and you're going to heaven, but because of some fleshly, sinful way of doing things, you can be out of fellowship with God and therefore out of fellowship with others. And that's an important to ask when there's conflict. So look inside your own heart and say, “Am I walking by the Spirit, and I am in fellowship with my heavenly Father?”
Finally, Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort”—there's that phrase again. It's gonna be work—“to live at peace with all men, and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see God.” I love how that verse of Scripture brings together the last two beatitudes. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” the holy in heart, we might say, and, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” There's peace, there's holiness in this verse. And the pure in heart will see God, and others will see God in you when you're a peacemaker. When you're modeling what the Prince of Peace has done in our life in reconciling us to him. How can we, the reconciled, not pursue others in reconciliation as well?
Let me, in the final thoughts that I have this morning, just camp upon some good words from Ken Sande in his book The Peacemaker. And it's a book I recommend to you. How do we do this thing called peacemaking? Sande says there are four Gs of peacemaking. Number 1, glorify God. Remember that making peace and bringing estranged relationships together glorifies God. Nothing glorifies him more than when the estranged sinner is brought to faith in Jesus Christ and those two parties are brought together. Not that God had any part in our sin. He reconciles us to him. But God is glorified in salvation in that way, and how much more he is glorified when the peacemaking process happens and estranged parties come together, and those two warring parties put down their weapons and turn their swords into pruning hooks and ploughshares and all that kind of stuff. God is glorified.
Sande says it this way, he says, “Instead of focusing on our desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will rejoice in the Lord and bring him praise by depending on his forgiveness, his wisdom, his power and love as we seek to faithfully obey his commands and maintain a loving, merciful, forgiving attitude. That glorifies God.” And he says, “That's the place to begin.” In my attitude.
Secondly, he says, “Get the log out of your eye.” You remember the verse of Scripture that Jesus said in Luke 6:42? He says, “Oh, or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?” He says, “You hypocrite. First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” In other words, stop blaming the other person, Sande would say. “Instead of blaming others for a conflict or resisting correction, we will trust in God’s mercy and take responsibility,” he says, “for our own contribution to the conflict.” And Sande says, “There's always two sides to it.” And in the peacemaking process that is successful, both parties accept responsibility, and they stop pointing the finger of blame. He says, “Get the log out of your own eye and begin to look in the mirror and see where you've had responsibility in this.”
Glorify God, get the log out of your eye. Then, he says, “Gently restore.” He says, “Instead of pretending that conflict doesn't exist or talking about others behind their backs, we will overlook minor offenses,” he says, “and we will talk personally and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook, seeking to restore them rather than condemn them.” Isn’t that beautiful? I told you it was hard work, right? He says, “When a conflict with a Christian brother or sister cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the Body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner.” But first, you go to that person in your family, in your neighborhood, maybe in your church, I don't know.
And then, finally, the fourth G, he says, “Go and be reconciled. Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation, forgiving others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutual beneficial solutions to our differences.” It doesn't get any better than Sande’s four G’s of peacemaking. He is right on the mark. Straight up the middle in the Scriptures. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Are you a peacekeeper? Are you a troublemaker? Or are you a peacemaker, intentionally moving toward others in relationship and bringing the estranged party together?
Let's bow together in prayer. Father, thank you so much for your word. Thank you that you are in the reconciliation business. And through your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, through his shed blood upon the cross you have reconciled us to you. Oh, how we thank you for that, Father. We who were once in a hostile posture toward you, we who nailed you to the cross. And I think of the word of Jesus when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know not what they do.” Peacemaking words from the Prince of Peace himself.
But, Father, there may be somebody here today who has never made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And if that describes you here today, I want to give you an opportunity to accept God’s peace treaty. To accept the terms and conditions of that treaty. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death,” the Bible says, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. For by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it's the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Have you made peace with God? He's calling you to himself today. And here's a way that you can respond. Maybe you just say something like this, “God, I acknowledge that I'm a sinner. And I take ownership of my part in being estranged from you, a holy and righteous God. Thank you for moving toward me in a reconciling kind of way through the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. I accept him. I believe in him. I receive him as my Savior right now. Cleanse me, restore me, reconcile me to yourself. In Jesus’ name.”
Others of you are believers in Jesus Christ, but as I've been talking this morning you're thinking of a friend, maybe a family member, maybe a church member, and the relationship has not been good. And with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, I just wonder if you might lift up your hand and say, “Pastor, will you pray for me that God would give me the courage the be a peacemaker and move toward that person in relationship? Would you pray for me, pastor?” Thank you.
And Father, I do pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ here. Help each of us to have the courage and the determination to make peace. I pray that relationships in marriages and in families and extended families, in neighborhoods, in communities, perhaps even up and down these aisles will be sweeter in the days ahead. And those relationships and those families will be stronger because we have chosen to do the hard thing, and we've made every effort. But we've chosen to do the right thing. Would you bless that, Father? You said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” And I pray for every one of us in this room that there would be a special blessing right around the corner for us because of the effort we've made in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
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