Sermon Series: Ephesians–the Believer's Bank
Peace, Perfect Peace
In a nutshell: Peace is a person–Jesus. God designed peace to follow a process that creates a new oneness where there was self-righteousness. Peace is obtained through believing God's message and communicating with Him.
1. Two ministers from different denominations, but who were friends, were having constant arguments over their doctrinal differences. Finally one told the other, "Look, what are we fighting over? We're both striving to do the Lord's work. From now on, let's make peace about this issue. You do things your way, and I'll do things God's way!"
2. Have you heard about the new invention for people who are looking for peace and tranquility in their lives? It's called a phone-less cord.
3. Then there is one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons. Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!"
To which Charlie Brown says, "But I thought you had inner peace."
And Lucy replies, "I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness"
B. People are looking for peace
The fact is, friends, peace is something that is very important to human beings. Many people think they've discovered peace when things are going well, the job is fulfilling, they have money or resources to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, there aren't any arguments at home, or the kids are well behaved.
But then something happens. The stock market goes down, or there is a change
in the job, or money gets tight, or something happens to destabilize the home...
and all of a sudden the peace is gone. That's part of life.
But at some point in a maturing person's life, that person has to answer the question, "Is peace created internally, or is it the result of "how things are going"?
That is what we're going to be looking at this evening.
I want you to understand, that what we are going to look at tonight is not just some Bible doctrine or just some theological ideal. But what we are going to be looking at tonight is some very practical stuff. I mean if you are having conflict in your home, or at work, or in your neighborhood, or with someone in this church, or any person or group of people in this world today, this section of Scripture will tell you how to resolve it and gain peace in that situation.
The outline of the message is very simple. It has three parts–First, we'll look at where peace begins–the origin of peace. Second, we'll look at the process of peace (how it is actually brought about). Then third, we'll look at how we can get peace–by drawing upon the peace-reserves that are in each of our spiritual bank accounts.
II. The Origin of Peace
A. What Is Peace?
Paul starts with a definition of true peace. True peace is oneness. Peace is not just the stopping of hostility, or the absence of conflict. Real peace means being one. If you define peace in any other way, you are only dealing with the symptoms, not the core problem.
This is what I mean...
1. If you define peace as being when two armies lay down their weapons and stop fighting each other. You've missed the mark. That's not really peace.
2. If you define peace as a husband and wife agreeing not to get a divorce for the sake of the children, but the home continues in coldness and divisiveness, it may be what Dr. Laura recommends, but it's not peace according to God.
3. If you define peace like Dan Reeves, the former coach of the Denver Broncos football team did when he described his relationship with his star player, John Elway and his top assistant coach, Mike Shannahan, who both conspired to get Reeves fired from Denver a few years ago, this way... "I've moved on. I'd play a round of golf with them, but I would not want to sit down to dinner with them." If that's how you define peace, you're still not there.
4. If you've ever been in a church that has all the people of the church participating in services and programs from week to week, yet there are people in that church who are resentful of others in the church. You don't have peace.
I say that because peace is defined in this passage as oneness, or harmony. It is sharing mutual enjoyment. It is being one. Anything else that is substituted for that, is at best superficial, temporary and in the end...highly unsatisfactory.
B. Secret of Peace is a person
But in the beginning of this verse Paul gives us the secret to oneness and harmony and real peace. Peace is a person. The person's name is Jesus Christ. Now don't tune me out and think I'm being simplistic or spiritual. I'm not. Because when Jesus Christ makes peace, –between individuals or between nations–that peace will be satisfying, permanent and genuine.
The problem with most of the world (including us at times) is that we try to get peace by clearing up the results of conflict. But that's not where God starts. He starts with the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He says, "If you want to have peace you must be at peace with the Person of Jesus. Then with that peace, you can solve any conflict." Trying to do it any other way is just a waste of time.
So, if you have asked Jesus Christ to be the forgiver of your sins and the leader of your life, you have a relationship with Him. And that relationship puts the power of peace at your disposal.
Now, how does peace–the person of Jesus Christ–resolve conflict. What's the process? That's found in the next verses...
III. The Process of Peace
Paul uses an example here of the greatest conflict known to human beings in recorded history. The conflict between Jew and Gentile. If you don't think it's the greatest conflict, in our modern age, try and find one that has taken up more time and more human effort than what has happened in the Middle East since Israel became a nation right after World War II. Then look over all of recorded history and try and find a peace that has failed as many times as the peace between Jews and Arabs. I don't think you'll find a conflict that is greater.
In this example of Jew versus Gentile, Paul tells us three things about the process of peace–how it works.
A. He has broken down the dividing wall
First of all, these verses tell us that He's broken down the dividing wall. I told you about this wall a few weeks ago. It was a wall or screen of marble that divided the outermost court–the Court of the Gentiles–from the rest of the worshipers at the Temple in Jerusalem. And if you'll remember, the wall had inscribed on it...""Let no one of any other nation come within the fence and barrier around the Holy Place. Whosoever is taken doing so, will have himself to be responsible for the fact that his death will ensue."
It was a wall that symbolized the animosity, the hatred, the contempt and the anger that Jews felt for any non-Jew. But the Jews of Jesus day aren't the only wall builders.
Illustrations: When we moved from southern California to St. Louis, one of the things that struck us as we drove around looking for a house, was the lack of walls. Having moved from here in southern California, where every home has a concrete wall or wooden fence around it's back yard, to a place where there were no fences, we thought we had arrived in heaven. At last a place that had no walls.
But, we soon discovered that there were other kinds of walls in St. Louis–they
weren't concrete block, but they were still walls that separated people.
And since moving here, we've discovered that there are walls out here, as
Let's not kid ourselves... there are walls
So, how does Jesus break down these walls of hostility? Verse 15 says, "by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations." In other words, Jesus abolished the comparative elements and puts everyone on equal footing.
Illustration: If you read the story in John 8, about the woman caught in the act of adultery, you'll see a great example of how this works. A mob of Jewish leaders of a variety of ages, brought a woman to Jesus whom they said had been caught in the act of adultery. (They never mention the guy she was with!). They said, "The Law condemns her, she must be stoned until she is dead, because she is guilty."
What does Jesus do? He can't deny the Law. So, He simply stoops down and writes something in the dirt–we don't know what He wrote. All we do know is that it was convicting. Then He eliminated the comparative elements of the situation. He said, "Whoever is without sin, go ahead and throw the first stone." Then one by one, starting with the oldest man in that mob, the accusers all went away. Finally the conflict between the mob and the woman was over, because only Jesus and the woman were left.
Now, what had Jesus done? All He did was to apply the Law to the judges as well as to the accused. He put both sides of the conflict under the same set of standards. When he did this, the conflict went away.
You see, by living a perfect, sinless life, Jesus divided humanity into two groups–perfect and non-perfect. Perfect people have access to God. Non-perfect people don't. And only Jesus ever lived a perfect life. So, everyone else is in the same boat of non-perfection, and without access to God.
And Paul's argument here is that since we are all non-perfect people, we all need to be forgiven. It doesn't matter if you are Jew or Gentile, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, Charismatic or non-charismatic, Protestant or Catholic, Lutheran or Baptist, hetero-sexual or homo-sexual, Christian or non-Christian. Anyone who is not Jesus, is sinful and needs to be forgiven. Understanding that, begins to end hostility. That's the first step in the process of peace.
B. Create a new man out of two
Paul goes on to say that the second step that God does in the peace process is, "to create in Himself one new man out of the two..."
When the Bible says create, it is talking about something only God can do. Human beings can be ingenious, clever and smart. But they can't create. Creating is the process of taking nothing and making it into something.
Illustration: When Tammy and Cory came to me and asked me to perform their wedding, Tammy was a Christian, but Cory wasn't . They had been living together for 5 years, thinking they were married by a Mexican Justice of the Peace, but discovered that the marriage was never recognized as legal. So, for the sake of their three children, they wanted to get married, for sure. So, they asked me to perform their wedding.
As I always do, I shared the gospel with them and found out Tammy's testimony, but Cory blew me off. About a year later, I found out, they were having some major problems in their marriage and were considering breaking up, but a neighbor had invited Cory to attend a Promise Keeper Stadium event. At that meeting, Cory responded to Jesus and became a Christian.
Do you know what happened in that home? The differences that they quarreled about didn't disappear, but the conflict did. Because they viewed each other differently. Peace came on their home and into their relationship. God had done the second step–He had created something new–a Christian couple. Tammy and Cory were no longer self-righteous individuals, each wanting his or her own way, but a man and woman whose life together became a Christian home.
That's a picture, as well, of what God has created in this church. We are a diverse group of people, from a variety of backgrounds, some with considerable earthly resources, others with just a few, representing several different generations, with multiple tastes in music and experience, and church backgrounds and non-church backgrounds, but united in a bond that cannot be discovered in any other way than in the peace of a common relationship to... and dependancy on... Jesus Christ to be the forgiver of our sins and the leader of our lives.
So, the second step in the process of peace is that God creates something new. His church–made up of equally sinful people, exists where nothing existed before.
C. Reconcile us both to God
But there is a third step in the process of peace that God does. This step is found in the phrase "to reconcile both of them to God through the cross..." in verse 16.
Now, the phrase, "both of them" refers to Jew and Gentile. But the principle cuts across any barrier that is known to human beings.
Illustration: At one point in the Promise Keeper clergy Conference in Atlanta, about 5 years ago, I had my arms around the shoulders of a black inner city church pastor from Birmingham, Alabama; a retired Brethren in Christ missionary who had spent his entire adult life on the mission fields of Africa; and a white, long-haired, bearded, leather-jacketed biker pastor from Alhambra. We were locked in a group hug and praying together, and crying together over the lost condition of many of the people in our towns or areas of influence.
What was happening was that we were experiencing real reconciliation–not something that came from the NAACP, or from affirmative action legislation, or from the ACLU or from any other group.
The word, reconcile, is one of those rich words that means to turn from hostility to friendship. And that's what happened. Us 4 guys became instant friends with whom we could share our struggles and concerns and know that those thing would be taken seriously, and remember before God.
Even though we were vastly different, we had peace with each other because we were first of all, reconciled to God. That broke down any and all barriers that stood in the way of peace. That gave us the ability to be reconciled to each other.
IV. The Way to Get Peace
But that leaves one last piece in this puzzle. We know that Peace starts with a person–Jesus Christ. We know that there is a definite process that turns hostility into friendship. But how do we get our hands on it? How do we draw upon this resource of peace that's in our spiritual bank accounts? That's verses 17 and 18...
There are two things here that you need to do in order to draw upon of this peace.
A. Preached Peace
The first one has to do with preaching. I saw a bumper sticker the other day on a car that said, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." You know, that should be our attitude when it comes to preaching. When you analyze it, preaching is never an argument or debate or dialogue. Preaching is simply an announcement of fact. You can either accept it or reject it, but you can't quarrel with it. Preaching is what God says is true.
This is why I say that. As far as we know, Jesus never set foot in Ephesus. In fact, Jesus never really ventured outside of Palestine. So how could He come and preach peace to the Ephesian Jews (those who were near) and the Ephesian Gentiles (those who were far away)? The answer is that Jesus came through the person of Paul. Paul makes this important statement in...
2 Corinthians 5:20a
In other words, when Paul preached, it was the same as God saying the same thing. So, that means, the message in the book of Titus (for instance) that was written by Paul; or any of the books written by the apostles, carry the same weight as the words spoken directly by Jesus himself on the Mount of Olives. Because both are appeals made by God –through His Holy Spirit, just using different mouthpieces.
And if you want peace, if you want to draw upon that resource that belongs to you because you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then the first thing you have to do is listen to the message that's preached to you. Apply what you hear from the pulpit, and your Sunday School classes and your individual and group Bible studies. You can't draw upon peace unless you're retaining the content of the preaching you're hearing.
B. Communication with the Father
Then what? The second step in drawing on our peace reserve is communication with the Father. Listen to this from Ray Stedman in his commentary on Ephesians...
The circumstances of our life are chosen by God. That means that the trials and pressures and joys and sorrows all have been selected by a loving Father. We begin to see that his provision of power and truth and life is all available in Jesus Christ, and we understand that we can appeal to him. We can cry out to him. He invites us to communicate with him, to unload before him all the burdens and pressures of our life."
Friends, if you're experiencing an absence of peace in your life, or any of your relationships, I'd suggest you take an honest look at the quality and quantity of the time and energy you are applying what you hear every Sunday from this pulpit, and the amount of time you're spending in the presence of the Father. Because it's through those two avenues–and only those two –that you will have access to the peace that is in your individual spiritual bank accounts.
A t-shirt slogan is a good summation of everything I said tonight. It's simply this...
NO GOD, NO PEACE
This page was last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2004 03:36 PM