February 14, 2016
I heard something on the radio the other day. It was being reported that refugees continue to pour into Europe from the Middle East. The reporter said that the only thing that would stop the flow of the refugees was lasting peace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if real peace came to that part of the world, so that people felt secure to go outside without fear of losing their life?
In this series of messages, Grace Gifts from Jesus to You, we are thinking about the question, why is it so valuable to embrace Jesus Christ? What does Jesus offer that is so good? Why would anyone give their life to follow Jesus? We have pointed out that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin. He offers eternal living. And he gives the Holy Spirit. Today we want to consider the gift of peace. Jesus offers the gift of peace to all who trust in Him.
I. YOU CAN HAVE PEACE WITH GOD. Mt.11:28-30; Rm.5:1
I realize the word “peace” is not found in these verses. Instead we find the word, “rest.” But the kind of rest Jesus is talking about is similar to the peace I am talking about today. Many of us have heard the Hebrew word, “shalom.” It is the word for “peace.” This word refers to a holistic kind of peace. We are talking about having a sense of well-being, being at rest, secure, calm, without fear. This is peace. The Greek word for peace generally refers to the absence of war and hostility. But when this word appears in the New Testament it carries the Jewish concept of wholeness and well-being. In Mt.11:28 Jesus speaks about finding rest for one’s soul. So let’s look more closely at these verses
In these verses Jesus offers an invitation to those who are restless in their souls. They are weary from carrying heavy burdens. Jesus doesn’t specify what kind of burdens he is talking about. Many people today carry heavy burdens of various kinds that bring weariness.
It might be the burden of failure in life, failure in marriage. It might be the burden of anger and resentment or abuse and addiction. It might be the burden of disappointment or not being loved. Many carry around a burden of guilt for things they have said and done. Others are burdened because they are not able to measure up to the expectations and demands put upon them by others or themselves.
But the heaviest burden is the burden of inner emptiness. People will often turn to religion to fill this emptiness because religion has to do with God and our relationship with him. Religion has to do with sin and guilt before God. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees used to speak about the yoke of the law, referring to the Law of Moses. Many found the yoke of the law to be a heavy burden. They could not measure up to God’s standards as defined by the Pharisees. In Mt.23:4 Jesus was talking about the Pharisees and he said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” In other words, these Jewish leaders who should have helped people come to know God, only made it more difficult by heaping up religious rules and rituals that had to be obeyed to the letter.
Religion is often like that. Rules and rituals become the means by which a person receives approval or disapproval from God. Many rules are for our good, and many rituals hold great meaning and significance. But when adhering to rules and rituals becomes the ground upon which we gain or lose God’s approval, they become a dead end. We are constantly trying to measure up, to somehow merit God’s approval. Religion is a heavy yoke. Many people just give up.
Notice what Jesus says. Jesus does not introduce a new religion or any religion. Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest.” Does that sound like religion? You can know all the doctrine in the world and not find rest for your soul. You can memorize all the verses in the Bible and not find rest for your soul. You can be a faithful congregant and not find rest for your soul. Rest for your soul is found only in Jesus Christ. “Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul.” This is an invitation from God.
And then notice that Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” How do we enter into the rest that Jesus offers to give us? The means for entering into Jesus’ rest is to come to Jesus and entrust one’s life into his hands. To take up the yoke of Jesus is to become his disciple by surrendering one’s life to Jesus. We surrender our life to Jesus because Jesus is the Savior-King. When we acknowledge and surrender our lives to Jesus we enter into the kingdom of God. We come under the good rule of God through Jesus Christ. This is the place of rest.
Why is it so important to embrace Jesus as one’s Savior-King? Well look at v.27. In v.27 Jesus says that all things had been handed over to him by the Father. He says that no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Jesus is claiming to be the only one who can connect people with God. If we want to know God then we need to know Jesus. Jesus is the One who reveals God to us.
Now there is a problem. The problem lies very deep within us. You see our inner restlessness is the result of living in rebellion against God. Our natural inclination is to follow our own thoughts and desires apart from God. Our natural inclination is to create our own inner peace through our own efforts apart from God. Our natural inclination is to find rest in what this world has to offer. Jesus invites us into his rest as we live in him and with him in God’s kingdom, but yielding our autonomy by surrendering to Christ is not something we are inclined to do.
This self-centered way of living is called sin. Sin is at the core of our being, and the Bible tells us that sin always leads to death, even eternal death, completely separated from God and his goodness and love.
When Jesus died on the cross the guilt of our sins was placed upon him. Through his death Jesus was reconciling the world to God. Jesus was making it possible for our sins to be forgiven. He died in our place. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can be justified before God. If our sins are forgiven we can be in relationship with God. To know God is to enter into eternal living in his kingdom. Those who would have rest for their souls must turn from their sinful, self-centered life and embrace Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. In Rm.5:1 Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this world in which we all carry heavy burdens, Jesus is offering a new kind of life that is filled with the peace and rest that comes from knowing God. By entrusting our life to Jesus, we are secure in a relationship with God. Having peace with God is the only way to have rest and peace in one’s soul. Jesus can give this rest to anyone who will have him as their Savior and King.
II. YOU CAN HAVE PEACE IN ANXIETY. Mt.6:25-34; Phil.4:6-7; 1Pt.5:6-7
The most significant relationship one could ever enter into is a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. When we are at peace with God, who rules over all things, we are able to have peace as we live in this world. This world is not a peaceful place. Rather there is a great deal of anxiety in this world.
People are anxious about many things. In Mt.6:25-34 Jesus tells us that people are anxious about their life, what they will eat and drink and wear. People are anxious about having enough. They are anxious about their health. They are anxious about tomorrow before tomorrow even gets here. We are prone to worrying.
And let’s be honest. Even though most of the things we worry about never happen, they do happen to others. We know what life is like in this world. People lose their jobs. People get into accidents. People get the Zika virus. People have heart attacks. People get cancer. People die. There is enough to worry about on any given day let alone worrying about tomorrow.
We worry about ourselves. We worry about our children. We worry about our parents. We worry about our marriage. We worry about our jobs. We worry about our investments. We worry about our performance. We worry about our country. We worry about terrorism. We worry about unstable people who have guns. We worry about anything and everything.
One of my favorite stories is found in Mk.4. Jesus and his disciples are in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. A serious storm comes up and the waves are breaking into the boat and the boat is filling up. A number of the disciples were experienced fishermen. They knew all about sailing on the Sea of Galilee. And they were afraid. Jesus was sleeping on a cushion in the stern, the back of the boat. The disciples wake Jesus up and say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Now that is an interesting question. One would think that Jesus would at least care that he might perish himself. But Jesus wasn’t concerned.
The passage goes on to say, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" In the first 3 chapters of Mark’s gospel, the disciples see many miracles performed by Jesus. But when they were in the boat it never occurred to them that Jesus even had power over nature and that they were perfectly safe with Jesus
How do we find God’s peace in anxiety? This is important because peace is a gift given to us from Jesus. It is a gift that we struggle to open and receive. I’d like to look at two passages. In Mt.6:25-34 we learn a few important principles for having peace. In v.26 Jesus tells us that our lives are valuable to God. God values our life. Those who know Christ belong to God. Since we are valuable to God, in v.30 Jesus says that we can trust God to provide all that we need. Then in v.33 Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In other words, when we enter into life with Jesus, our frame of reference changes. We look at everything from the vantage point of the good rule of God and we focus on what is pleasing to God. We make the connection between the miracles of Jesus and our own security in Him.
Then in Phil.4:6-7 we read, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Rather than stress about things we are encouraged to pray. We are told to give thanks to God in our anxiety and present our requests to God. When we do that, we give those concerns to God and let them go. Worrying does absolutely nothing positive. When we do this, the peace of God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
What are you anxious about? I guarantee you it is nothing that Jesus cannot handle. We must remind ourselves of these truths. When we live in the kingdom of God, under the rule of God, peace is God’s gift to us.
III. YOU CAN HAVE PEACE IN TROUBLE. Jn.14:27; 16:33
In Jn.14:27, Jesus says, “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.” And to this let us add Jn.16:33 where Jesus says, “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."
While worrying is wasted energy, there is a great deal of trouble that does come into our lives. Jesus tells us here that trouble is part and parcel of living in this world. We live in a troubled world that brings trouble to everyone. In addition to this, Jesus anticipated that his followers would experience trouble because of their commitment to him. It is not unusual for followers of Jesus to experience various kinds of persecution and even martyrdom.
Now the world does give peace, but it rarely lasts. Peace between waring nations is often based upon tenuous agreements between those nations. Rarely do nations trust one another. I mean does the United States really trust that Iran will not produce nuclear weapons? So we try to build in verification clauses in the peace treaties. Peace in the world often requires a show of military power. So we make sure that Russia, China and North Korea know that we have the power to respond in kind if they attack us. We have peace, but one never really knows what will happen.
Jesus says that our peace is something he gives to us. He says that when we are in him we have peace, his peace. This peace is ours through the Holy Spirit. What is more, this peace is predicated on the fact that Jesus has already defeated the dark powers of the evil one that continue to bring destruction in the world. Jesus has overcome the world. And in Jesus we overcome the world.
Now how do we practically enter into Jesus’ peace when we are facing trouble? It has everything to do with the condition of our relationship with Him. After all, it is in him that we have his peace. When we face trouble we do not usually have the luxury of sitting back. In trouble we have to face the realities of life and somehow deal with them. This is why it is so important to be in an ongoing, deepening, growing relationship with Christ in which our hearts and minds are captivated more and more with him. When a person is facing trouble it is difficult to suddenly cultivate a relationship with Christ. Cultivating our relationship with God and his Son must be the daily work of our lives. How does that happen? It happens as his word is taken into our hearts and minds. It happens as we turn to the Lord throughout the day, acknowledge on a daily basis the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We seek to cultivate a humble heart of dependence upon the Lord, so that when trouble comes we already have his peace ruling and guarding our hearts.
Now sometimes when we give a gift a person isn’t sure if they should open the gift right away. We might say, “Well, aren’t you going to open it?” We are excited for them to receive our gift. Jesus has given us his peace. But many of us continue to be overwhelmed by worry and trouble. And some of us have not yet entered the rest of Jesus that brings us peace with God, rest for our souls. Open the gift. You will love it. It’s from Jesus to you. Amen