Grace and Peace - Part 6

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

June 25, 2017
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

When I was in eighth grade a movie came out called Urban Cowboy. I’ve never watched it, but I do know it starred John Travolta (He will always be Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back, Kotter to me). One of the songs in that movie is “Looking for Love,” sung by Johnny Lee.

The song is about a guy looking for that special someone but unable to find her. He… 

…was lookin' for love in all the wrong places

Lookin' for love in too many faces

Searchin' their eyes

Lookin' for traces of what I'm dreaming of

Hoping to find a friend and lover

I'll bless the day I discover

Another heart lookin' for love

As surely as folks look for love, desperate to find their soulmate, they also long for something else: peace. And, just like the song, they look for it in all the wrong places.

They look for it in other people. They look for it in their possessions. They look for it in politics. They look for it within their own personal truth.

All those can give us a sense of peace, but it isn’t lasting because the kind of peace they give depends on circumstances. 

People fail you. Possessions are lost or stolen. Politics change depending on which way the wind blows. Inner peace from personal truth is really just a sham (a fantasy) because it doesn’t work that way in reality (most times enjoying that kind of peace is at the expense of others’ peace).

Longing for peace in this life is like living on a sailboat. We search the seas for calm winds and clear skies. And we may find them. But all it takes is a rogue wave or a sudden storm or a hole in the boat and suddenly everything becomes chaos and fear. Run of the mill peace is a very fickle thing.

Is there such a thing as peace that transcends circumstances? A peace so sure and true that nothing can touch it? Is there an everlasting peace? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Jesus told his disciples, as he was preparing to go to the cross…

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.

There are few words more comforting than that. But to know the peace Jesus gives, to understand it, we must first come to terms with why there is no real, lasting peace in the world. To grasp the peace in “grace and peace” we have to start at the same place we did with grace.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us. It is unmerited because of our depravity, our sin, our desire to do things our own way and not God’s. 

True peace is unattainable by us for the very same reason.

Look back to the beginning of all things with me…

Genesis 1:28–2:3 (ESV) — 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

In the beginning this world enjoyed perfect peace. All things were balanced and in harmony. Nature was peaceful with itself and people. People knew peace with each other and God.

But then something happened to mess that all up. You know the story. There was only one rule in Eden: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The devil showed up to deceive Adam and Eve. They broke the one rule. Afterwards they hid themselves in shame.

Genesis 3:9–19 (The Message) — 9 God called to the Man: “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” 11 God said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?” 12 The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?” 13 “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” 14 God told the serpent: “Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals, Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life. 15 I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.” 16 He told the Woman: “I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth; you’ll give birth to your babies in pain. You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you.” 17 He told the Man: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree That I commanded you not to eat from, ‘Don’t eat from this tree,’ The very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you’ll be working in pain all your life long. 18 The ground will sprout thorns and weeds, you’ll get your food the hard way, Planting and tilling and harvesting, 19 sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk, Until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried; you started out as dirt, you’ll end up dirt.”

All that harmony, all that peace, was shattered by one act of disobedience and rebellion. Adam and Eve’s fall brought sin into the world, and from that moment on there was no more peace.

One fellow explained the aftermath this way…

There were thus three disorders that arose from the Fall: the disorder within ourselves as our passions drag us away from God, the resulting disorder between ourselves and God, and the disorder between individual men and women. Each of these disorders ended in a complete breakdown of relationship. Because of his sin, man was separated from the presence of God… and condemned to death…

Sin infected us all and made us enemies of God (not so much him us, but us him), because God is the infinite opposite of sin. He is perfect perfection and cannot be in relationship with anything less than that. 

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, spent the better of four chapters making a case against both Jews and Gentiles. They both are in the same predicament; they both stand condemned because of sin, which means we all are…

Romans 3:9–18 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Ever heard the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” If God ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! The peace the world gives isn’t real or lasting because if things aren’t right with the Creator of the universe it doesn’t matter. We cannot know peace if we are at war with God, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not. This is why we long for peace and cannot find it.

I can’t help but think that some might be saying to themselves, “Why does Pastor Brad keep bringing up this sin thing? It’s such a bummer. Can’t I just enjoy God’s grace and peace without having to be told how bad I am?” 

There are two reasons why I keep bringing this up:

1.) We can’t experience God’s grace or peace apart from knowing how undeserving and incapable we are of possessing them.

That’s the whole idea of repentance. Realizing and admitting to God that apart from him we are hopelessly condemned to eternal separation from him. I say it all the time: you have to get lost before you can get saved.

That was the problem with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day and ours today. They think their good works are good enough to earn God’s favor. They don’t think they need saving.

When Jesus called for repentance because God’s kingdom was at hand, it passed right over their heads. They didn’t think they had anything to repent of. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (the implication is the lost will know they are lost).

2.) We can’t appreciate God’s grace or peace apart from knowing how undeserving and incapable we are of possessing them. 

Remember the time Jesus was having dinner with Simon the Pharisee and the prostitute came in and washed his feet? Jesus knew Simon was judging the woman so he told a mini-parable.

Luke 7:41–43 (ESV) — 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Grace and peace become bigger and brighter the more we see just how impossible it is for us to have them. That’s where Jesus comes in. He is our hero, our knight in shining armor. Jesus is the one who steps into our badness and our lostness and our un-deservedness and declares…

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.

This is why the prophet Isaiah calls him the Prince of Peace.

This is why the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, concerning the birth of Jesus…

Luke 2:14 (ESV) — 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

We will dig deeper into that next week, but let me leave you with this.

Conclusion: You know how longing for peace is like living on a sailboat? Peace depends on whether there is a storm or a hole in the boat, upon circumstances (which is the only kind of peace the world gives).

Have you ever thought about what lies beneath the boat? A world of fish and other ocean life. It doesn’t matter how chaotic things get up top, they swim on about their business in perfect contentment.

Where there is depth, there is peace. That is the kind of peace Jesus wants to give us. That is Christian peace.

Tim Keller says…

… Christian peace is a constant. It’s relentless. It’s not intermittent. We know the things the Christian peace is based on are not going to change when the body dies. They’re not going to change when the mountains are removed. They’re not going to change when the whole world is rolled up as the stage set we know it to be. Christian peace is like a river that just doesn’t run dry.

Have you experienced the peace that Jesus came to give? Do you appreciate it?

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