4 PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PEACE
SHALOM – describes the deep sense of peace and well-being; much more than absence of conflict
Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9
As we read, look for emphasis on phrase “in the Lord” – think of that in terms of in union with the Lord … just like He is the vine and we are the branches; just as His very life flows through us and we do everything in total dependence upon Him
We are going to be looking at a supernatural way in which to live our lives … no possibility apart from this simple phrase of “in the Lord” – don’t want you to leave frustrated or discouraged … what we are talking about is totally unrealistic and unattainable apart from being plugged into the Lord’s grace and power and mindset and purposes
It always fascinates me how when you preach through a book study on successive Sundays … somehow you providentially hit upon just the right message for just the right date … but without all the agony and effort of trying to figure it out on your own.
We were blessed last week to hear Pastor Charles Hoblitz share of his experiences in St. Petersburg Russia. Do you remember the Biblical message that he had planned to bring before switching gears and just sharing some of his experiences? He was going to preach on How to Experience Peace in 2003 … I wouldn’t be surprised if the text he had in mind was the very one we have arrived at this morning. I don’t know about you … but I sure was glad he chose to give us some insight into how the Lord has used his ministry over in Russia. What an incredible ministry … all of this work accomplished since 1993! And we have the privilege of being his partners in ministry.
That is what the message of Philippians is all about:
THE PURSUIT OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST AND HIS POWER PRODUCES A HUMILITY AND UNITY THAT BRINGS GREAT JOY
Need to test ourselves … any increase in our passion for pursuing the Person of Christ and His Power? Any deepening Humility? Any stronger bonds of Unity? Any Increase in our Joy? – that’s what we are shooting for
This morning we have arrived at the theme of Peace – how appropriate for a New Year’s message that can set the tone for how we live in 2003.
Peace has always been popular … but rarely understood or actively pursued.
How about those annoying bumper stickers: “I’m in favor of World Peace” – what do you think that means .. Do those people even have a clue??
Or how about those interviews in those stereotyped beauty pageants: What is your goal in life asks the inquiring judge? The contestant responds back: “I want to do all I can to promote world peace” – what does that mean??
I find it interesting that people want to jump all the way to the macro level of World Peace without having any insight into personal peace in their own lives … and what God’s prescription is to experience that type of peace
HOW TO EXPERIENCE PEACE IN 2003 – 4 PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PEACE
Wouldn’t it be great if we could go to our doctor and explain our symptoms of fear, of anxiety, of stress, of broken relationships … and he could just prescribe a little Peace Pill
Like the IBM series of commercials – What your network needs is this magical universal integrator adaptor that will solve all your I/S problems …
Problem: Such a solution doesn’t exist
Certainly Peace should be an important goal for all of us:
– Dads – What kind of a job are you doing to promote a peaceful household;
How do you handle the pressures of work, of finances
– Moms – do you find anxiety and stress to be a recurring problem
Maybe there are physical problems or uncertainty contributing to stress
– Kids – do you like it when Mom is all stressed out??
The Apostle Paul had concerns about the stress level, the anxiety potential facing the believers at Philippi … they had external pressures from the Judaizers and enemies of the cross of Christ; they had internal pressures from potential divisiveness over individuals who were having a hard time getting along in the church. How can any church be effective in fulfilling its mission to reach out to the lost when they can’t even get along with one another?
So Paul starts off if vs.1-3 with his first Prescription for Peace
I. (:1-3) HOW TO EXPERIENCE PEACE IN OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE CHURCH
Not talking about philosophical differences in church strategy and mission;
Doesn’t seem to be talking about doctrinal issues … although many of the same principles will apply (otherwise Paul would apply the truth)
talking about 2 believers who are having trouble getting along with one another
Maybe they can’t even stand one another …
(MacArthur: “We’re not talking about doctrinal error here, we’re talking about two women who couldn’t get along with each other, had picked sides, caused a conflict and lined up people on both sides against each other. They were prominent women and they were obviously beloved women who were having an impact.”)
Be thinking about how you get along with every other person here … Maybe there is someone that really rubs you the wrong way … If it’s me then I beg you to especially listen very closely!
What’s the Solution?
REQUIRES OUR TOTAL COMMITMENT TO STICK TOGETHER IN THE LORD
AS WE STRIVE TOGETHER FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL
Kent: “This verse is another of Paul’s subtle transitions, so skillfully blended as to make it difficult to decide whether it should be placed with what precedes or what follows. A good transition, however, fits both segments.”
A. Encouragement to Stand Firm in the Lord
Barclay: “The word which Paul uses for stand fast (stekete) is the word which would be used for a soldier standing fast in the shock of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him.”
1) Based on our common pursuit = pressing forward together to know Christ
do we have a passion for knowing Christ or more interested in our own goals and agenda
“Therefore” – looking back to end of Chap 3
are we truly living for eternity??
are we living like citizens of heaven??
If we allow other pursuits to distract us we will no longer be plowing the same field together
2) Based on our Preciousness (to the Apostle Paul and hopefully to one another) – expressions of intimacy
“beloved brethren” – closer than unsaved blood relatives; we actually have more in common = eternity!
“whom I long to see” – vs. can’t stand to spend time with
you know who that is in your life
“my joy and crown” – cf. 1 Thess. 2:19 “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” Paul did not want to see his reward compromised
How Precious are the fellow believers to you …
Motyer: “We have a long way to go before we are feeling the emotions of Christ towards each other as Paul was — we who so easily dismiss from our reckoning those whom God has accepted and reconciled, and who so lightly offend those for whom Christ died. If we felt for each other as Paul did, we should soon recognize the scandal of division.”
Some people just have a great big heart … said to say that has not been one of my strengths … I need to pray “God, enlarge my heart” … for a lot of reasons
I think of 2 people (You need to think of your own examples):
– Dr. Fullerton – aged man that led our college fellowship at Princeton
“Dear children” .. “beloved children” — he could say that with a full heart
– a missionary I come back to in my thinking a lot … you may have heard me make reference to him. I wish we could have him visit one day and present the incredible way God has used him … Abraham Thomas – just had that smile that made you warm all over and that pastoral heart where you knew that he valued you as one of his own dear children
B) Exhortation to Live in Harmony in the Lord
Think of how they used to fight when hand-to-hand combat was the main tactic. They would form ranks and try to stand firm and not be driven back by the attacks of the enemy. It would only take one weak spot for the attackers to break through and compromise your position.
“I urge Euodia”
How do you think these genuine believers felt when names read in public? What a legacy to leave for the future
“I urge Syntyche”
“to live in harmony in the Lord” – what a mouthful … saying a lot there
Mindset of Christ is what is most important – Phil. 2
What was the source or nature of their conflict?? Paul deliberately does not tell us
Key = letting their personal rights get in the way of that path of humility and love that would prove most productive for striving together for the faith of the gospel
C) Plea for Assistance – from mysterious “true comrade” could be Luke whom
Paul left in Philippi? Timothy?? Proper name?? Unknown??
“Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle”
Importance of the role of women in the progress of the gospel
– in Paul’s day
– in our day
Think of how often the Apostle Paul is criticized for what God spoke thru him about the differing roles of men and women in the church …. make no mistake: the apostle Paul elevated the position of women and treated them as equals and co-laboreres with himself in the gospel … this passage is probably the best proof text for that
Importance of Role of Peacemaker – blessed be the peacemakers .. Sermon on the Mount
Ministry of reconciling believers to one another – 2 Cor. 5:18-21 Excellent here … read in context … speaking of reconciling believers to believers
How receptive are we to help that is offered by others?? We tend to want to assert our independence … to claim that nothing is wrong … that we can handle it … what is our first reaction when someone offers to help us???
D) Final Encouragement
1) Based on our history of partnership in the gospel
– Think of the comraderie of sports teams ..
the greater the degree of suffering and discipline … the more you value that comraderie
– cf. how it is with those who have fought together in a war – common cause, common danger;
2) Based on our common and guaranteed final destination
“whose names are in the book of life”
(Rev 3:5; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19; Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23)
What a tremendous promise and anchor for our souls … we should never be embarrassed by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty with respect to our salvation; about the eternal security we enjoy because God has elected us before we were conceived and written our names in the precious book of life before the foundation of the world
Do you think everyone’s names are written in the book of life??
Do you think we can remove our names once God has written them there?
We are going to be living together in heaven for all eternity …let’s start living together right now
Walvoord: “A common faith in Christ and a common desire to serve Him do not necessarily adjust personal differences and do not always unite everyone in a course of action. The road to smoothing out these differences is found when Christians achieve ‘the same mind in the Lord.’ When this is realized, differences in minor details of doctrine and in practical matters can be adjusted. But too often human pride, the stubbornness of the flesh, and personal ambition for prominence get in the way. Paul’s exhortation emphasizes that Christians who are really yielded to the Lord should be able to resolve their differences. Even though they may not all be of precisely the same opinion, they should be able to find a meeting place in the mind of the Lord.”
II. (:4-5) HOW TO EXPERIENCE PEACE IN ALL OUR RELATIONSHIPS
A. PREREQUISITE — REQUIRES OUR TOTAL COMMITMENT TO ALWAYS REJOICE IN THE LORD – must have this fundamental tone to your life or you will be thrown off course by:
– outward circumstances
– how others treat you
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” another great transition verse … goes with both sections
Do you know some believers that remind you of prunes or lemons?? all shriveled up with negativism and gloom and doom;
Buy not enough to have “The Power of Positive Thinking”
not talking just about taking a Dale Carnegie class here …. although I have taken my share for work and find a lot of principles borrowed from the pages of Scripture
but it does you no good to borrow the principles if you don’t tap into the power!!!
God did not design us to live on an emotional roller coaster with extreme highs and lows depending on our circumstances and how others treat us
He designed for us to recognize our supreme role as His creatures = that of offering up praise and rejoicing for His name sake for Who He is = The Alpha and Omega who never changes; and what He has done, is doing and will do for us
Worship – that is what we have been called to devote ourselves to
God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth
this spirit of rejoicing requires a commitment on the part of our will; we don’t always just wake up and feel like doing it
Presbyterian inhibited upbringing – we aren’t good at outwardly expressing the emotional side of this rejoicing – hurts us – because rejoicing has a snowballing cyclical effect just like depression does
Look at how easy I find it is to emotionally express myself while watching a Ravens game … amazing phenomena … over something so empty of eternal significance
Different cultures vary greatly in their capacity here
Kent: One might ask: How can we rejoice in view of our difficulties?
“So he repeats the command, because in all the vicissitudes of the Christian life, whether in attacks from erorists, personality clashes among believers, persecution from the world, or threat of imminent death—all of which Paul himself was experiencing at this very time – the Christian is to maintain a spirit of joy in the Lord. He is not immune to sorrow nor should he be insensitive to the troubles of others; yet he shoud count the will of God his highest joy and so be capable of knowing inner peace and joy in every circumstance.”
B. GRACIOUISNESS — REQUIRES OUR TOTAL COMMITMENT TO PUT UP WITH A LOT
“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”
Greek word can be translated:
“readiness to forgive”
we can’t pick or choose those people that we are going to put up with …
Isn’t it curious how the Lord gives us close relatives that really test us in this area
Need to overlook irritations; not be overly sensitive; don’t make people walk on pins and needles when around you
such conduct has value in terms of giving us peaceful relationships with others
such conduct has value in terms of giving us a good testimony before others
Zeisler: “Now if you want to check whether or not you are a gentle, forbearing person, see if your forbearance works with everybody, not just certain people. Anybody can be gentle with nice people, but the Word of God to us is to “let your forbearing spirit be known to all”– everybody, hard people, intimidating people, pushy people. That is how to check whether or not we are really trusting in the nearness and the strength of Christ. This gentleness is also part of the peace we have with God. Harmony between brothers and sisters in the family of God, joy in everything, and gentleness as we face all the things the world throws at us are all evident in people who receive God’s peace.”
Gromacki: “The term ‘moderation’ (epieikes) means gentleness, reasonableness, magnanimity, forbearance, good will, and a friendly disposition. A magnanimous person bears trouble calmly and rejects revengeful meanness.”
C. ACCOUNTABILITY — REQUIRES OUR CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE NEARNESS OF THE LORD
– Possibly: His presence close to us now ??
provides comfort and encouragement and the patience and perseverance we need
omnipresence: watching how we are conducting ourselves right now
– More likely eschatological sense: His soon return?? – cf. 3:20-21 Parousia
trials are just for a short time; almost over
final accountability before the judge
James 5:7-9 – parallel passage
Paul not asking them to do the impossible. Patience is possible because the return of the Lord is at hand
III. (:6-7) HOW TO EXPERIENCE PEACE IN OUR HEART
A. (:6a) Formula for Certain Defeat = Giving in to Anxiety
“Be anxious for nothing”
Greek word = “to be pulled in different directions” – our hopes pull us in one direction and our fears in another and we are pulled apart
We excuse ourselves: I just can’t help it … it is a Panic Attack …. I’m defeated before I even had a chance to put up a struggle … Overlooking the importance of preparation … look at how important prayer is as the safeguard to protect us before the temptation of fear or anxiety strikes
(Don’t view the Starting Point of the conflict as that moment when you first sense the temptation and the pressure to worry or fear; the Starting Point is that quiet time where you do the necessary preparation of prayer and praise before the Lord)
Cf. Performance Anxiety – Humility is the key here … why do we respond one way before a certain type of person and another way before someone we view as very important?? Remember we are living in the presence of God … that’s the only one we need to please …
B. (:6b) Formula for Certain Victory = Life of Inner Peace
1. Transfer of Responsibility = Cast all your cares upon God
“let your requests be made known to God”
Key point: we want to pray to God for help while still holding on to the responsibility of trying to control all things – not possible!
Isn’t it nice we have a father who is approachable … who wants to give us good things …
a. “by prayer” – instead of worrying; emphasis on worship and devotion
b. “and supplication” crying out for your personal needs; pleading the promises of God
3. Tone = “with thanksgiving”
Have we misplaced the tone of thanksgiving and rejoicing which Paul continually stresses as essential for effective living and praying?
C. (:7) Assurance of Victory When We Depend on the Amazing Resources of God
1. Key Resource here = “the peace of God”
2. Supernatural Quality and Quantity of God’s Amazing Resources
“which surpasses all comprehension” (Eph. 3:20)
3. Active nature of God’s Peace
“shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
military metaphor; The Philippians, living in a garrison town, would be familiar with the sight of the Roman sentry, maintaining his watch.”
IV. (:8-9) ALL PEACE ULTIMATELY DERIVES FROM THE GOD OF PEACE
But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and wait for God to make it happen
Very similar to Pastor Brian’s earlier message – talking about that balance between the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility
2 KEYS TO TAPPING INTO GOD’S GRACE AND FAVOR
A. (:8) THINKING RIGHT
Satan wages a constant battle for control of our minds
Lots of enemies and temptations that would prevent us from Thinking Right
– Internet temptations – I think I’ll just pull up one picture of this particular actress; just curious ….
– TV – using that channel switcher to just linger on that one station a split second too long
– no place for gossip or giving a bad report of someone
– no place for putting others down
1. Appropriate Food for Thought
– “whatever is true” valid, reliable, honest opposite of false
– “whatever is honorable” – noble , worthy of respect – cf. elders
– “whatever is right” – upright or just; conformable to God’s standards
– “whatever is pure” – moral purity
– “whatever is lovely” – plesing, agreeable, amiable
– “whatever is of good repute” — admirable
What have you been munching on lately?
2 Cor. 10:5 “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”
2. Highest Possible Standard
“if there is any excellence”
“and if anything worthy of praise”
3. Active Focus = “let your mind dwell on these things”
Motyer: “The verb think about (logizomai) means to ponder, to give proper weight and value to, and to allow the resultant appraisal to influence the way life is to be lived.”
B. (:9) ACTING RIGHT
1. Actions Worth Imitating
“the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me”
Martin: “Before the composition of the New Testament and its acceptance as authoritative Scripture, ‘the tradition,’ as a standard of Christian belief and behaviour, was embodied in the teaching and example of those persons in whose lives the authority and ethical practice of the Lord was to be found. Paul refers to such ‘traditions’ (or ‘commands’ or ‘ordinances’) in a number of places (cf. 1 Cor. xi. 2, xv. 1 ff.; Gal. i. 9; Col. ii. 6; 1 Thes. iv. 1,2; 2 Thes. ii. 15). Before they were committed to writing and later formed the corpus of New Testament Scripture they were learned, received, heard, seen in the person of the apostles.”
2. Practice Makes Perfect (but only when you are practicing the right things)
“practice these things”
Pentecost: “Maturity in the Christian life is not measured by what a man knows but by what he does. Let that be indelibly impressed upon your mind. Hebrews 5:12-14 gives us God’s definition of maturity. Maturity is the ability to use the Word so as to determine the course of one’s conduct.”
Barclay: “To Paul, God is the God of peace. This, in fact, is his favorite title for God (Romans 16:20; I Corinthians 14:3; I Thessalonians 5:23). To a Jew peace was never merely a negative thing; it was never merely the absence of trouble; peace was everything which makes for a man’s highest good. Only in the friendship of God can a man find life as life was meant to be. But also to a Jew this peace issued specially in right relationships. It is only by the grace of God that we can enter into a right relationship with God and with our fellow men. The God of peace is the God who is able to make life what it was meant to be by enabling us to enter into fellowship with himself and fellowship with our fellow men.”
We have just come thru another Christmas season – remembering the babe born in the manger – The Prince of Peace — The Lord Jesus truly came to bring Peace on Earth and good will to men. There is no need to wait for the millennium to start experiencing that peace in the spiritual and emotional realm right now.