Are You a Peacemaker?
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Matthew 5:9
We're glad to God for bringing you to be with us here today as we worship and as we study his word together. I invite you to turn to Matthew 5 as we turn to God's word now and let it speak to our hearts. Coming soon, within a matter of a couple of weeks, some people will be turning to Christmas music because it will be that season, others are playing Christmas music already and I'll leave those people unnamed, but we will be singing that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, among other things. Where Christ is, peace is. It is the nature of his kingdom that it is not only a kingdom of grace but it is also a kingdom of peace because Christ himself, Scripture says, is our peace. Christ is the Prince of Peace and so that has implications for those of us who are in his kingdom and that's what we're going to look at as we open God's word today at Matthew 5:9, if you'll turn there with me if you haven't already. Matthew 5:9 as we continue our study of what is called the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and in verse 9 Jesus said,
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Now, let me remind you as we begin, especially those of you maybe that haven't been with us, you're visiting for the first time, that as Jesus opens this section of Scripture, chapters 5:3-10, verses 3 through 10 is what I'm trying desperately to say, Jesus opens with a description of the character of the one who belongs to his kingdom. This is the character that flows from somebody's life who has truly been born again, or you could say it this way, in Matthew 4:17, Jesus said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," and then within just a short space of Scripture, Matthew introduces this sermon which Jesus preached and so what you see in the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus expanding on and declaring what true repentance looks like. We could state it in a different way: Jesus is describing the character and the life of someone who has truly been born again.
Now, when you're born into the world, you're born into sin, you're born into a condition where you are separated from God and before you can know anything about Christ, before you can go to heaven, you must realize that you are a sinner lost and separated from God because of the sin that you inherited from your parents and also from the guilt that your own actions of sin, your thoughts and motives of sin, have brought on your own life. No one is born as a son of God in this sense, no one automatically goes to heaven unless they have turned to Christ in order to receive the forgiveness of their sins. It's very essential that we understand that. Jesus as he goes into this sermon in Matthew 5-7, Jesus is describing someone who has been born again. This is someone who is now in the kingdom. He is describing what it looks like to belong to him. Stated another way, try to say this from a lot of different angles so that it can't be misunderstood: when someone becomes a Christian, God imparts to them a new nature. God changes their heart. He gives them a new heart and that new heart is fashioned after the heart of God himself. It's a nature that is inclined toward holiness and in that inclination to holiness, one of the things that you find is a disposition toward peace.
There are some of you, I'm sure, especially if you were saved a little bit later in life, you could give testimony to how Christ changed you whereas before you had been an angry, vengeful person, a hateful person that was selfish and self-centered and would strike out at anyone who dared to oppose you, I'm speaking in a sense of autobiography here knowing that it's like that for some of you as well, as yet when Christ saved you and brought you to peace with God and reconciled you to God and gave you a new heart, suddenly that anger and the hatefulness was replaced with a disposition toward peace and love and you didn't have to be angry and vengeful anymore because that wasn't even in your heart. Well, you see what I want you to understand, my friends, beloved, as we study God's word and as we look at it together today, that that's inevitable for someone who truly comes to know Christ. When Christ brings you into his family, when the Holy Spirit enters your heart, the peace and the love and the joy of Christ is going to become an animating principle of your existence that drives out that prior hate and vengefulness that was the mark of your former way of life.
So what Jesus is describing here is something that flows naturally from true salvation and it leads to the question then that shapes what we're going to look at for the rest of today. The question is this, Jesus Christ being the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ who imparts peace to the hearts of those that he saves, the question then becomes, beloved, for you is: are you a peacemaker? Are you a peacemaker? You see, this is something that we don't discuss this in the abstract. Christianity is not a mere intellectual philosophy that talks about a preferred approach to life that has no real bearing on whether you live it or not. No, no, that's not true Christianity. True Christianity means that God changes people when he saves them and he changes them and makes them like himself and so with Christ being Lord, with Christ being the King of peace, then in the heart in which he comes to reign, peace becomes an inevitable consequence of that and so it becomes an easy test, a painful one perhaps but a clear and decisive test for you to ask yourself, "Am I a true Christian?" by asking yourself the question, "Am I a peacemaker? Do I love peace? Do I prefer peace over conflict? Do I love peace enough to pursue it when people are at odds with me?"
Well, let's find out today where you might fit on that scale. I've got four points that I want to give to you out of this message and the first point is this when it comes to answering the question, "Are you a peacemaker?" The first point of the reality of peacemaking is this, is to recognize point 1: that you have to work at peace. You have to work at peace. Look at verse 9 with me again where Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Blessed are the peacemakers. That word "peacemaker" is kind of a compound word in the original language and there is an active component to the term. You could translate it in this sense, you could translate it as someone who is a peace-doer. The verbal component of this word means to do or to make. Peacemaker, that's a perfectly fine way to translate it but to have the sense that there's an active component to it. It's a peace-doer and here's the way that we kind of set our expectations right at the start of understanding what this looks like, beloved: peace does not happen by default. Peace is something that you have to work at.
Even more stated and going a little bit more deeply into your heart and your character: you have to make peace a priority in your life. It should never be for a true Christian. Sometimes conflict is unavoidable, we realize that, but it should never be in the life of a true Christian that conflict is something that we love; that conflict is something that we seek to provoke simply for the joy of the sport of an argument or something like that. Peace is intended to be our priority because it is the very nature of the one who saved us. It is the very nature of the kingdom to which we belong that there is peace in this kingdom. So you have to work at it. You have to realize it's a priority and to desire it.
Now, with that little bit, let's step back a bit and ask kind of a preliminary question that helps us set things in mind, but let's ask ourselves the question: why is there conflict in the world? Why is it that there's conflict in your lives? Why is it that there sometime wells up in your own heart anger and resentment and retaliatory spirit? Well, turn over to the book of James, if you would, James 4. James 4 is kind of where our starting point is going to be here today. Where do these things come from? Scripture makes it really clear. The problem with conflict in the world is not primarily economic. That's a great fallacy that drives our political philosophies far too often where conflict and rioting and these kinds of things are excused and explained purely on economic disadvantage grounds. That's not true. That's not what Scripture says. If that was the case, you could throw money at it and make peace come and that we know is not true.
James 4:1-2 says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." The problem of sin, the problem of conflict is ultimately rooted in the inner part of man. There is sin. There is jealousy. There is evil lurking in the human heart and so the inner sins of pride and envy, of hatred and selfishness, and blood-lust, drive people to express outwardly the insanity of their hearts. We know this. There are whole categories of crime that we recognize and understand, crimes of passion, and sometimes people look at James 4 in the abstract and say, "What, you're saying because I lust, I murder? That doesn't make any sense." Well, you just think about it and watch the crime reports and all of that, how often is it that people are driven to murder because they can't control the person who is the object of their affections? And so Scripture says when you see that fruit of external sin, trace it back and realize that it started in the heart, that that's where these kinds of great outward sins come from. It is sin in your heart that is creating conflict in your life.
Why does that help us understand what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:9? Why is that vital for seeking peace and becoming a peacemaker in your life? Why is that so important? Beloved, listen carefully to me as I say this: what this does is it helps you understand where the battleground is. It helps you understand where you have to engage the principles that underlie this. This is where the battleground is. Here's the problem: you are seeking peace on hostile ground. You are trying to be a peacemaker in a realm that stirs up conflict, it is counter-cultural. It is against the grain of culture and it is even against the grain sometimes of your own heart. Here's the thing: it is not automatic. When we live in a world and in families where sin like this dwells in our hearts, peace is not going to be automatic. You're going to have to consciously set it as a priority and seek after it because if you just let your heart run free and your family and the world lets their hearts run free, what are you going to get? You're going to get rioting in the streets. You're going to get conflict in marriage and in relationships because sin is what produces that. The devil, the world system, and the sin in your own heart, work against peace. Peacemakers are swimming upstream, in other words, so that you realize that you have to – watch it – you have to make peace. You have to do peace. You have to be proactive in it in order for peace to come about and that means that it often comes at a price.
Let's step back. Let's think about our Lord Jesus Christ, as it were, looking on a world at enmity with God: God haters, God rejecters, a world that was filled with sin and rebellion against God. How did he go about making peace? Well, he was a peacemaker to the point that he left heaven of his own accord, took on human flesh, in order to become the sin sacrifice at Calvary that would establish peace between men who were at war with God and his holiness. Christ was the ultimate peacemaker and paid the ultimate price in order to establish it. Left his home in heaven, shed his blood at the cross, in order to reconcile men to God who would not have found peace with God in any other way. The Holy One took the initiative to establish peace and Scripture says you look at that and you say there's your pattern, there is what you look after. In this sense, Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is very practical and very very searching, you're here today and you name the name of Christ, praise God for that. I'm so grateful for that. I accept that. I affirm that. I don't challenge your profession of faith in Christ. What I want you to see today is the implications of what that means, is that that means that you become...Christ saved you in part in order to make you a person who loves peace more than conflict; someone who is willing as Christ lay down his life in order to make peace, you become one who says, "I'm willing to lay down my rights. I'm willing to lay down my prerogatives so that there can be peace in the relationships that I have." You love peace enough to work at it.
Before we go any further, let me ask a really important question that's important for balance here. As you study really any doctrine in Scripture and as you study these words of Christ in particular, it's important for us to have a full biblical perspective on what's being said so that we don't go into an extreme that would be unbiblical. Here's a question: does this mean that we should have peace at any cost whatsoever? Is the demand for peace such that we should capitulate in every situation so that there can be an external harmony? Well, I'm going to help you with this and I can tell you for sure, having been pastor here for a few years, I know that you need help with this perspective that I'm about to describe to you. It brings us to our second point this morning: peacemaking requires righteousness. Peacemaking requires righteousness. Should we avoid conflict at all cost whatsoever? Any conflict whatsoever, should we just say whatever you want is what we'll do? No. That's not biblical peacemaking because peacemaking requires righteousness. Peacemaking requires righteousness. That's our second point here for this morning and we're just kind of laying the groundwork in order for all of this personal application to come in just a little bit. Beloved, biblical peace is not, it is not the absence of conflict no matter what. That is not biblical peace because what the Lord Jesus Christ did was he brought a righteous peace to bear on life. It was because he was righteous himself that he was able to establish peace between our holy God and sinful men. And the righteousness was not compromised in the salvation that he brought, he fulfilled righteousness in order to establish peace.
In the context of what we're establishing here, I really want you to see the context of what is the priority. Look at Matthew 5:6. This is the context of Jesus' statement that says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Before he said that, he said in verse 6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." In verse 8 he said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And so he establishes the priority of righteousness before he talks about peace. And if you look over at Matthew 6:33, really a key verse in the whole sermon for many many reasons, Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
Beloved, can I make...sometimes biblical interpretation is governed by the simplest of things that are accessible to a four year old child. Do you realize that the number six comes before the number nine? Do you realize that the number eight comes before the number nine? Do you realize that what comes first is number one in priority? Well, then you have everything that you need in order to be able to see what I'm saying here. Jesus says first, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." He says, "seek first the kingdom of God." And what this tells us is that biblical peace – ah, this is a pivot point, this is really critical, pay attention here – biblical peace flows from truth and righteousness, not contrary to it. Biblical peace follows the establishment of righteousness rather than contradicting it. Biblical peace does not yield to sin, it does not yield to wicked people so that there can be an external harmony. Righteousness is what we seek first and when that is established, then the priority of peace follows from that.
I need to illustrate this with you for a couple of ways because I know that the perspective of some is this: that no matter what anybody says, I have to make peace with them. No matter what anybody does, we need to let them do it so that there's not conflict. And beloved, that is not true. That is a completely distorted understanding of what biblical peace is like and I want to illustrate this for you so that you can see it and have this kind of settled in your mind.
Look over at the very short book of 2 John, if you would. Just after James and just after 1 John comes the little letter of 2 John which we have studied in the past. 2 John and here over these next couple of passages that we're going to look at, we're kind of talking about how some of these things play out in the church. 2 John, verse 10, watch this, and remembering that Scripture is consistent with itself. Scripture helps us interpret Scripture so that we know the sense of what the fullness of Scripture is saying. In 2 John, verse 10, the Bible says that, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching," if somebody comes and brings unbiblical teaching, brings heretical teaching into your midst, "do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." Truth must be present before we can have peace with somebody in the midst. Somebody who comes teaching error, denying the deity of Christ, teaching a works righteousness rather than salvation by grace through faith in Christ, is somebody that we cannot have peace with. We confront them, we show them Scripture but if they harden in that and they say, "No, I disagree. I do not teach that. I will not teach that." We can't have peace with them. They have to be sent on the way. Biblical obedience to us requires us to not seek harmony and poison pure truth with error that somebody brings from outside and so we need to understand that. There are some people that are committed to heresy that we cannot have this kind of peace with.
Secondly, so we could say that peace does not tolerate error in order to achieve a superficial harmony. We can also say this: that peace does not allow divisive men to poison the fellowship. Peace does not allow divisive men to poison the fellowship. Scripture could not be more clear about this point. Turn back just a little bit to the book of Titus. These are just illustrations to give you a sense that biblical peace is not a call to capitulate to every wicked person that might come into your life and it is not a call to the church to compromise truth and unity for the sake of some superficial harmony in the midst.
Titus 3:10. We've studied this passage in the past. Titus 3:10 says, "Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned." A factious, divisive person has to be sent away after they've been warned and talked about it. Why? Because righteousness is a priority over a superficial harmony. We don't make peace with men who bring war into the church just for the sake of saying, "Well, I've got to be a peacemaker here." That's not the case. We're committed to principles of biblical righteousness and biblical righteousness upholds truth and it upholds unity as being a priority to a local fellowship.
So then peace, let's just put it this way, peace then is not a call to surrender to every troublemaker that comes into your life. Peace is not a call to bow down and lick the boots of those who would hit you in the face. That's not it and Scripture, I believe, makes that very very clear. And indeed, if you think further in Matthew 18, you know, Scripture says that if you find and you see your brother in sin, go and address it to him in private. If he repents, you've won your brother. If he doesn't repent, it's not that you let him go on your way, you ramp it up. You bring one or two more with you, you confront him further, and if he still refuses to repent, then it's obvious that conflict is building up by this hard-hearted refusal to repent, you tell it to the church. So all of that simply to give you a sense that the call to peace is not an unqualified statement. Biblically righteousness informs our understanding of what peace should look like. It is very essential for you to understand that. It's essential for us to know that as a church corporately and it helps very much to understand that on a private level as well in your personal life.
Having said all of that, another pivot point here, we're all prone to self-deception. You are, I am, we're prone to self-deception on this point and this is where you need to ask God right now in your heart, "Lord, help me to be receptive to your word and let your Spirit open my mind to understand how this applies to me." You're prone to self-deception, beloved. When you hear that righteousness precedes peace, your immediate temptation is to justify yourself and to excuse yourself. Every one of us has this sinful tendency in our heart to try to define – watch this – try to define our personal relational issues in terms of utter righteousness so that we can justify ourselves and not have to pursue peace in an area where peace is called for. So, beloved, do not deceive yourself, do not flatter yourself. When Scripture in those examples that we were looking at from 2 John and Titus, unity in the fellowship and the truth of the Gospel is at stake and those are things that God establishes a high priority on as part of true righteousness. What you have to be careful about, what you have to have the integrity and the humility before God to acknowledge is this: that the Gospel truth is not at stake in that personal financial dispute that you have with someone else. The Gospel, the unity of the church, is not at stake in that family disagreement that you're dealing with and battling over. You see, beloved, this is where this message gets so personal and as a friend back in California used to say, this is where the word of God gets into your kitchen, and I mean it gets into the pots and pans of everything that you're making out of your life. It is precisely in your personal life that you have to work at peace.
Yes, you have to work at peace. Yes, peacemaking requires righteousness but thirdly for you here today, this is the heart of the message, thirdly understand this point: righteousness requires peacemaking. Righteousness requires peacemaking. I just flipped the points, didn't I? Peacemaking requires righteousness, we covered that, now where the word of God really sifts us is at this point that righteousness requires peacemaking. Beloved, those of you who name the name of Christ, God's word comes to you in an imperative way, in a commanding way here today and tells you that your pursuit of peace in your personal relationships is not optional. It is not something that you can take or leave like choosing whether you're going to put butter on your bread or not. It's not a matter of personal discretion. This is a command that Christ makes on all of his disciples is that you must be a peacemaker. A Christian, a true Christian must be a peacemaker.
Look at Matthew 5:9 with me again. I want you to see this very clearly. Matthew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." God's favor rests upon the peacemakers. Why? "For they shall be called sons of God." They are the ones who will be called the sons of God. It's the peacemakers who will be called the sons of God. It's the peacemakers who truly belong to his family. In this Beatitude just like all of the other ones that we've looked at, this is an extremely emphatic statement in the Greek. By word order, by the pronouns that are used, by the contrasts that are established, this verse is standing, as it were, on the platform and shouting saying, "It's they and they alone that shall be called the sons of God." Someone who is not a peacemaker is not and will not be called a son of God. This is central to Christianity. This is central to true Christian character that there is a peacemaker that God is describing as his son.
Step back. This gets really searching, doesn't it? I sympathize with you. True Christians pursue peace. True Christians are never happy to have conflict in their lives. True Christians desire peace. They long for it. They're willing to set aside their prerogatives. They're willing to reach out in order to try to establish peace otherwise someone who just rejects that and pushes against it and says, "No way! Not me!" is not a Christian. It's that clear.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." And we need to unpack what this means. Stated negatively: a peacemaker is not someone who loves an argument and just enjoys and luxuriates in conflict just for conflict's sake and goes out and provokes people knowing that they can just start an argument and they can get in an argument and make someone else mad. That is contrary to the spirit of Christ, contrary to the spirit of being a peacemaker.
On the positive side. Jesus speaks about this a lot in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. On the positive side in terms of understanding what this means: a Christian, someone who truly belongs to the kingdom of God, beloved, actively makes peace by resolving conflict and promoting harmony in his relationships. I'll say that again: what Jesus is talking about is someone who in their personal relationships actively look to resolve conflict and to promote harmony in their relationships whenever that's possible. Scripture does say in Romans insofar as it depends on you, be at peace with all men recognizing that sometimes it is outside of our ability to bring peace. Scripture realizes that and so God's word today is not making an unattainable demand on you that you must go and make everybody be at peace with you because Scripture realizes that that may not be possible. Sometimes in church leadership it's just not possible where we operate as men in the flesh and have the same limitations that you do in your personal relationships. Sometimes people don't want to have peace and at that point we say God bless you as you go, but it's never out of what you want. It's never without you reaching out and trying to establish it, but sometimes people just say no and they won't have it.
But we're not talking about them today, we're talking about you and what does this mean. How can we see what Jesus has in mind when he makes this general statement about being a peacemaker? Well, let's just see what he says in the rest of the sermon. One way that he points it out and highlights it as a priority is he says, "You need to make peace and you need to seek peace before you even seek to make worship a priority in your life." Look at Matthew 5:22. This is the same sermon given on one occasion. Jesus lays out these principles of character and then he expands on them later on in the sermon and here's what we see. Verse 22, Jesus says, "I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." So you see these principles of anger and retaliation and conflict in the heart are things that Jesus says, "Beware here. There is guilt enough in that to send a man to hell."
What are you supposed to do? Verse 23, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Peace is such a priority to the Christian that he realizes if the situation called for it he would miss a worship service in order to be reconciled in a relationship rather than just going in and discounting and dismissing the conflict and saying, "I don't care about that. God, here's my offering." No, peacemaking is disposed to peace and realizes that God calls us to seek peace and to seek reconciliation as part of that which we would bring to him as worship. "God, I come to you presenting my offering of praise, presenting my offering of worship. I come as a peacemaker, not one who is harboring and storing up conflict in my personal life that I don't want you to know about or to address."
Jesus goes on. What does this peacemaking look like? It means that you reject that spirit of retaliation that we all feel when someone offends you. You repent of, you resist a spirit of retaliation as an animating principle in your heart. Look at Matthew 5:38-39. All of these verses we'll examine in greater depth in the weeks and months to come. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." What Jesus is saying here is he's saying avoid that spirit that wants to strike back as soon as someone offends you. "You hit me, I'm gonna hit you back." He says, "Don't be like that. Don't let that spirit animate your heart. Reject that spirit if you're one of my disciples."
On a positive side, it means that you show kindness to your enemies. Look at verse 43, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." Do you see it there, sons of God? Sons of your Father who is in heaven? "For God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Jesus says, "Look at God your Father, what does he do toward his enemies? He brings the sun up and sends rain on them just like he does on his own people. He shows goodness even to those who rebel against him." He says, "You recognize that and you go and be like that also."
What does a peacemaker do? He prays with integrity. Look at verse 12 of chapter 6. These are just illustrations from Jesus' own words. Chapter 6, verse 12 and again you see the principle of having a peaceful heart before you even approach God. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Oh beloved, oh beloved, how quick are we when we've got a problem with another person, there's a conflict and our spirit is to go to God and say, "God, deal with that person," and, "God, help me and change them," when the call of Christ on your heart as you come to prayer is you make sure that you have a forgiving spirit when you're approaching a God who has forgiven you if you're going to pray with integrity. If you want God to hear your prayer, understand that there needs to be a peaceful forgiving spirit in your own heart before you do, and that if you're unwilling to do that, oh boy, the spiritual consequences of that are great.
Primarily what this means is, this peacemaking, it means that you start with yourself. Look at Matthew 7:3-5. And I speak with soft words knowing that this is convicting. Matthew 7:3, Jesus said, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?'" Look at what Jesus says, "You hypocrite, first," do you see how we keep coming back to these principles of priority? "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Jesus makes this opening statement, "You be a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers, they are the ones who are the sons of God." Then as he goes through the sermon, he just multiplies illustrations and applies it and helps us see it in ways where every one of us falls short and feel convicted by it.
What are we to do with that? Well, beloved, here's the thing for you. This is in some ways an advance course in sanctification, it's an advance course in Christian living because all of us, you and me, all of us are prone to have little walls that we build up in our mind and in our hearts where we say, "I am not going there. And you don't know what happened in that relationship in the past. There is no need to talk about it. I am not going there and I will not be reconciled to that person." What you have to realize, beloved, is it doesn't work that way. Jesus does not allow that in his disciples.
So stated differently, a Christian, and boy do we need to hear this even in a day like this in our country, a Christian does not criticize the sin that he sees in the world and then become while he's simultaneously being an argumentative pain-in-the-neck to live with at home and at work. It's not like that. You see, the reverse is what Christ calls you to. He says, "You be a peacemaker in your personal relationships and then Christ will worry about what's going on in the world that's under his sovereign control." Beloved, don't talk about, please, please, I beg you, God's word commands you, don't be somebody who just harps on the sin of the world while you are just a pain-in-the-neck to live with and you won't even reconcile and be peaceable with those that are around you. There is no integrity in that. That is not true Christianity. Christ did not save you in order to make you a critic of the world while you were an obstacle in your home. That's not true Christianity. That has nothing to do with being a Christian.
No, a true Christian has the integrity to say, to humble himself before God and say, "Where is it in my sphere of relationships that I need to begin spreading peace?" For some of you young people still living under your parents' roofs, maybe you need to go to your parents and say, "Mom, dad, I'm sorry." Maybe some of you parents need to have that conversation with your kids. I don't know.
But let me be pastoral here if I can. It doesn't always come naturally to me. I know that's a funny thing to say. Our church has many peacemakers in it. I know that to be true. One of the ways that we know that that's true about our church is that there is such a sweet spirit of fellowship that animates life at Truth Community and I am profoundly grateful to God for that. To be a pastor to a church that's filled with peacemakers is one of the greatest blessings that God could ever give to a man that he calls into ministry so I thank God for that, I thank God for you. At the same time, beloved, we're all fallen, we all fall short, and it is important for me to press this home to you in fidelity to Christ and to help you spiritually: if you are a man or a woman that has a quick temper or if you're a man or a woman that harbors ongoing settled bitterness toward your spouse or your family, or if you love being someone that others just do not mess with, "You don't mess with me because you know what you're gonna get back!" There are people like that, aren't there? "Don't mess with me because my claws are out!" and you like that, you like being that way, you self-identify that way. Or if you refuse to even meet with someone to discuss a problem, you need to take spiritual inventory.
Christians are peacemakers. Christians are peace-doers. Christians love peace and realize that conflict is not goal one; that an angry temper is contrary to the spirit of peace that animated Christ. It is contrary to the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Where is an angry temper? Where is an irreconcilable spirit? Where does settled grudges and bitterness fit in that life of the Spirit of which Scripture speaks so clearly? Where? Do you know what? You can't find it because it's not there. Scripture describes a completely different kind of character. So if you're someone that's marked by this as settled character traits, beloved, you really need to take spiritual inventory of your life.
I'm going to say it again: Jesus is teaching for keeps. Jesus means what he says here and when he says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they and they alone will be called sons of God," don't think that he's winking an eye at those settled pockets of sin in your life as if they're acceptable and something that he's going to turn the other way at. Christ didn't leave heaven to come to earth, Christ didn't go to Calvary, Christ didn't rise from the dead, Christ didn't save you and put his Spirit in you, Christ didn't impart to you a new nature when he brought you to salvation in order for you to keep living like the world and keep living like your old man. Do you see? We're talking about and at this point I really want you to understand what we're talking about here. At one level we're talking about your personal life and who you are and what kind of person and character you have. At one level we're talking about that, but at a more profound level we are advocating, we are describing, we are expounding what true Christianity is and true Christianity is not someone who makes a verbal profession and then lives in anger and bitterness all his life. That's not true Christianity.
Is there forgiveness for your angry spirit? Yes there is. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. That's not the point. The point is what is your view toward conflict? What is your view toward disruptions in relationships? Rather than being at war with people, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you need to declare war on that part of your inner man that accepts conflict and even revels in it and to realize, "I've got to put that to death because Christians are peacemakers. My King is a King of peace. He is the Prince of Peace. I've got to change. I can't be like this anymore."
So what's up with you? Are you a peacemaker or not? Maybe you need to confess sin as a Christian and just deeply repent and be grateful to God that he is a merciful God who receives us in mercy when we come to him in repentance. Isn't it wonderful that he's like that? Maybe this points the finger, the Spirit of God puts his finger on your heart and says, "You've never ever been a Christian because you've never ever turned away from the anger and conflict that you love so much; that you nurse and cultivate." Maybe you need to be born again. Don't take that option off the table if the word of God convicts you in this way.
Well, the wonderful thing about the Gospel is that Christ invites you to come. Freely, graciously says, "Come to me and I will give you rest." Christ makes a free invitation to you. If you're convicted of sin, to come to him and to know that he will receive you graciously, wash you, cleanse you and restore you. Christian confessing sin, someone coming as a repentant sinner who needs salvation for the first time, either way, the arms of Christ are open wide. He's a peacemaker toward you, the question is will you respond and come to him on his terms of peace.
Why should we live this way? Why should we care about these things? Jesus packs that into this verse as well. Point 4 here this morning, fourth and final point this morning: God will reward peacemaking. God will reward peacemaking. He'll honor it. He'll bless it. God honors his people when they try to spread this kind of righteous peace.
Go back to Matthew 5:8-9. Here is your motivation. If you say, "Oh, I see it but this is just so much! There is so much at stake here! This is so long-standing, how can I even get started?" Get started here. God honors and God blesses his people. Look at verses 8 and 9, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Christian, here's why you can be a peacemaker, here's that which establishes a core motivation in your heart to overlook earthly wrongs and to seek reconciliation when you can. You're not going to find it on a horizontal dimension, you're going to find it by looking up and seeing how God views his people.
Verse 9, "they shall be called sons of God." The term "son" here emphasizes that the true Christian reflects God's own peacemaking character. God looks at his peacemaking children and says, "Ah, that's one of mine. I see reflections of myself in the way that they are trying to do this. I'll give them the honor of being declared one of my own." You see, it's not only that one day we'll see God in heaven, that would be wonderful enough, but beloved, you need to treasure what I'm about to say, you need to treasure this truth that I'm about to unpack for you: it's not just that you're going to see God as a Christian, you are going to see God in the capacity that he is your Father. What can we say about a father and son? The son is welcome in the father's presence. The son bears a reflection of the father's nature. The father receives the son in peace without fear. The father, God the Father, God the uncreated immortal God from all of eternity past to all of eternity future, unchanging, immortal, invisible, independent God, holy above the nations will look at you and receive you into heaven and say, "Ah yes, my child, come. You belong to me."
That's precious and when you realize what the outcome of the peacemaking life is, you've got all the motivation you need. Do you know what? It should be settled in your heart that, "The thing that is most precious to me is still in my future." The most precious thing that you could ever ever have is for the Lord Jesus Christ to meet you, as it were, at the gates of glory and say, "Ah yes, my child, welcome. Enter into the joy of your Master. Well done, you good and faithful servant. Well done. I saw you seeking peace when no one would have it with you. Well done, you were like me in that. Well done, you were faithful when there was no earthly reward for it. Well done." And to recognize that when the Son of God says to you, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," more than abundant reward is that for all of the earthly effort that you make at peacemaking with people who don't want to cooperate. "Well done!" And with grateful tears of joy, you respond, "Lord, thank you for even making it happen. Thank you for the death and resurrection of yourself that reconciled me. Lord, I may have been an imperfect peacemaker on earth, Lord, you were the ultimate peacemaker. You were the great peacemaker because it was you who purchased my peace with God at the cost of your own blood. Thank you for the reward but, oh Christ, I give you the glory. You are the peacemaker here." And to be in his presence with that spirit is worth whatever peace costs here on earth.
Are you a peacemaker? The reward is great. It's work for a time. It's a reflection of what Christ calls us to be.
Let's bow together in prayer.
My friends, what Christ has promised, Christ will certainly fulfill. Are you a peacemaker? Oh my friends, don't fight to get what's yours. Don't let that be the spirit that animates your life. Simply be a peacemaker and trust Christ to care for you.
Our gracious Lord, we have tried in our feeble preaching here this morning to give you the honor that is your due. You are the Prince of Peace and if we are at peace with God, it is only because you took the initiative with us and you did the work. You did the work of blood atonement at the cross of Calvary in order to reconcile us to God. You loved us enough to overlook our rebellion. You loved us enough to fulfill righteousness on our behalf. You loved us enough to shed your own blood to wash away our sins. We ask you once more for those who are not in Christ, dear Lord, we ask you to open their eyes that they might see that and run to the cross, flee to Christ as a product of the work of your Spirit. For those of us who know you, we thank you that you brought us into peace with God, objective peace with God. Our sins will never be counted against us ever ever again. We thank you for that. We thank you that you've accounted to us, you've credited to us a perfect righteousness that gives us full access to God now and will give us full access to heaven when we die or when you return. Thank you for that peace. There are no barriers between us and God because of you, our Lord Jesus, and we thank you for that. And in light of that, rejoicing in the peace that you have brought, we ask you to help us be peacemakers now in every area of life that you've given to us as we go. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.