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Blessed are the peacemakers

Back to all sermons Revival

Date: March 13, 2022

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: Revival

Scripture: Matthew 5:9–5:9

This winter, I have been preaching through a sermon series that I have entitled Revival. You could define revival as an increase in the presence and power of God in both a church and a community. This series came out of a conviction that God has so much more available for us individually and as a church, but if we choose complacency, if we are fine with the status quo, if we live for the things of this world while relegating God to an afterthought, then we will miss out on all the power, the joy, the love, and the wonder that He has for us. Oh, that we would not live our lives and never experience the power and reality of our great God! May we give ourselves to Him and earnestly plead for a revival of our souls and of our church, that His kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Consider this quote from the Hebrides’ Revival, which occurred in the mid-20th century in Scotland: “Brethren, it is just so much humbug to be waiting for this, night after night, month after month, if we ourselves are not right with God. I must ask myself – “‘Is my heart pure? Are my hands clean?’” What if God were depending upon YOU? What if it were your sin that is holding God back from bringing revival to this place?

 

Earlier in this series, I mentioned what Richard Lovelace calls in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal the two preconditions of revival: an increased awareness of the holiness of God, and an increased awareness of the depth of our sin. By holiness, I mean that God is transcendentally separate from us in His perfection. By sin I mean our rebellion against God, our inability to measure up to His holy standard, and our brokenness. The more we are aware of the greatness of God, the high expectations of God, the incredible promises of God, along with our own inability to live up to His expectations and the terrible effect of our sin on ourselves and others, the closer we are to revival. You want to see revival in your life and in the church? Pray for those two things – Lord, increase my awareness of your holiness and the depth of my sin.

 

Few places in the Bible highlight the gap between God’s holiness and our sin more than Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Over the past six weeks, I’ve been looking at the Beatitudes, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes describe the blessed life, the characteristics of the man or woman who is favored by God. So far, these are the beatitudes we have looked at:

 

Matthew 5:3-9 - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

 

The peacemakers will be called sons of God. Do not take offense at the masculine language there. In the New Testament, all who believe in Jesus are adopted as children of God, but sonship Biblically speaking refers to those who imitate the character of their Father. Those who are peacemakers bring honor to their Father in how they imitate His character, for He is a God of peace, as it says in many places in the Bible, including 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:23 - May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

And do not forget that Jesus Himself was called the prince of peace in Isaiah 9:6.

 

God is all about peace. And blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Peace is certainly a very timely on a world level, as we look at the possibility of a world war. But I have no doubt that it is also timely on a personal and relational level, as I am sure we are all dealing with relational strife and conflict. This verse raises three questions that we need to answer. What is peace? What does it mean to be a peacemaker? How do we become peacemakers?

 

  • What is peace?

 

You may instinctively think that peace is the absence of conflict, but it is more than that. We live in a fallen world, where there is conflict between man and God, between humans and each other, between humans and nature, and even internally. What is conflict?  Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, defines conflict as “a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.”  Conflict results when my desires, expectations, fears, or wants collide with your desires, expectations, fears, or wants. 

 

James 4:1-4 - What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.  3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 

 

You want a home that is clean.  You work hard, you scrub the floors, you dust, you put the books in order of size on the bookcase.  And then your husband comes in and throws his stuff on the floor.  Or your kids track dirty shoes in the house.  How do you feel?  You want something, but don’t get it.

 

On Sunday afternoon, you want to watch the game.  You work hard all week, and all you ask for is 3,7, or 10 hours to yourself on Sunday on the couch so that you can watch the games.  And then your 3 year-old keeps interrupting you.  Or you have to visit your mother-in-law.

 

Peace is not the absence of conflict. In fact, the absence of conflict is often a false peace.

 

Jeremiah 6:14 - They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.

 

There is a false peace that comes from turning a blind eye to conflict and struggle and the heartache of the world. False peace says “all is well” when all is not well. Some people are just easygoing, go with the flow, peaceful people. But not dealing with conflict is not the same as peacemaking. True peace is found on the other side of conflict. True peace is the resolution of conflict. Remember, this world is fallen, and there is war all around. It takes great courage to be a peacemaker, for it means walking into the conflict to make peace, wading into the battle to bring a cease-fire.

 

The world is fallen, and so it is better to look at peace not as the absence of conflict, but resolving conflict, making peace where there is strife. And that can be costly. This is why theologians have believed that there are even times when it is right for governments and countries to wage war in order to bring about peace. Christians are called to peace, but there are times when nations must go to war in order to bring about that peace.

 

  • What does it look like to be a peacemaker?

 

Two elements to peacemaking. First is between you and others.

 

Seek to live at peace with others

 

Many times in the Bible we are encouraged to do all we can to live at peace with others.

 

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

 

Ephesians 4:1-3 - As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

 

So let’s get practical about some specific ways to be a peacemaker:

 

Listen

 

James 1:19-20 - My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

 

When someone comes at you hot, with strong emotion, the instinctive response is often to get defensive and attack back. But as we all know, that strategy is more likely to bring war than peace. Peacemakers are slow to speak. They seek to understand, to empathize, before they share their perspective. Nothing can diffuse a person’s anger like listening to them.

 

Speak kindly

 

Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

 

Again, meeting anger with anger only escalates the battle. Gentleness, on the other hand, can bring down the temperature in the room.

 

Forgive those who repent

 

We looked at the parable of the unforgiving servant two weeks ago when we looked at “Blessed are the merciful.” Jesus tells us to put any wrongs done against us into perspective as we consider the debt we owe God for our offenses against Him.

 

Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

The peacemaker does not hold grudges or keep score of offenses. The peacemaker forgives.

 

Ask for forgiveness when you wrong someone

 

Matthew 5:23-24 - Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

 

Look at how important reconciliation and unity are to God. He tells you that if you come to church and you are in the middle of worship, and you remember that you have done something to offend someone, then leave the church, go to that person, and ask for forgiveness. Then come back and worship.

 

Speak the truth in love where there has been offense

 

Matthew 18:15-17 - "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 

 

If someone has offended you, however, do not wait for them to come to you, for they may not know what they have done. Instead, we go to them and speak the truth in love, letting them know what they have done. And as you can see in this passage, you are to make every effort to bring about reconciliation. Notice that in both of the last two passages, we do not wait for the other person to come to us, but we initiate reconciliation. Clean up your side of the street. Take inventory and make amends.

 

We are called to speak the truth in love.  And in case you don’t know what love is, consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails.

 

We speak with patience, kindness, not rudely, not throwing out a record of wrongs, always protecting and hoping.  We speak to serve the other person, to build them up, to spur them on towards holiness.  We speak in a way they will understand and receive.  And we speak the truth.  Not flattery, not avoiding the problem, but saying what needs to be said, no matter what the response might be.

 

And while we’re on the subject, give permission to people you love and trust to speak the truth in love to you

 

Act in love towards all

 

Matthew 5:43-45 - "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  45 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.

 

A peacemaker acts in love towards all, even his or her enemies.

               

So being a peacemaker means seeking to live at peace with others. Secondly, being a peacemaker means being an agent of reconciliation

 

Reconciliation is one of the best words to sum up the gospel.

 

Bring reconciliation between people and God

 

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  19 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.  20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

 

Reconciliation sums up the gospel – where there was enmity, there is now peace; where there was division, there is now unity. Reconciliation is peacemaking work. Broken relationships have been made whole. We have been reconciled to God through Christ; our sins are no longer counted against us because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Our offenses have been forgiven.  We who were guilty have been declared not guilty. We who were enemies are now part of God’s family. Put another way:

 

Romans 5:8-10 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 

Jesus made peace between us and God by removing sin, the ground of alienation. And so we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, to bring people back to a right relationship with God and with each other. As Paul put it:

 

Ephesians 2:11-16 - Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)--  12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,  15 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,  16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 

 

The gospel brings people together as family. And as ministers of reconciliation, we are called to do the same, to bring people to God and to each other. You don’t gossip, repeating things that will cause discord. Encourage face-to-face conversation, help people listen to each other and seek unity.

 

  • How do you become more of a peacemaker?

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:3-9)

 

Go back to the beginning of the Beatitudes and consider how they build upon each other. God’s favor is upon those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy, who know that they have no spiritual resume to present to God. Those who know they are completely dependent upon God for every breath they take, and who realize that anything good in their life is a gift of God’s grace. God’s favor is upon those who come empty to be filled by His Spirit. And blessed are those who mourn, who don’t just intellectually know that they are sinners but who have felt the emotional weight of their sin, who know that their poor decisions and self-centered actions have harmed themselves, hurt others, and most importantly, caused the son of God to have to die for their sins.

 

Blessed are the meek, those who have mourned their sin to the point that they submit themselves to God, because they know that God designed them and knows how they are to live. And not only do they submit themselves to God, but they are quick to take the role of the servant with others, humbly looking to bless others and slow to take offense, because they know the truth about themselves. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who see the gap between God’s holiness and their sin, and are not content with that, but want greater holiness in their lives, who want to know God and honor Him and be like Him. Blessed are the merciful, those who do not punish others for their sins but are quick to forgive, and those who have a heart of compassion towards the suffering, because they know that it is only by God’s grace and mercy that they are where they are. Blessed are the pure in heart, those whose single desire is to honor God. And now, blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

 

It begins in the heart. We must be delivered from self-interest. Peace comes when your desires are not self-centered, but are to honor God, to be righteous. We can have compassion on others, knowing that we are no better, that all men do great evil because of their sin nature, because of the devil.

 

My only concern is God’s glory. What will bring him the most glory in this situation? Go and be reconciled. Leave your gift and go confess, go forgive, go speak the truth in love. Let’s have a revival of peacemaking.