Sunday, April 21, 2013

Salt, Light, and Mission

Matthew 5:

21 April 2013


"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:13-16, ESV)



This week we are moving beyond our study on the Beatitudes further into the Sermon on the Mount. We must not forget, however, that everything that follows the Beatitudes are not "more thoughts from Jesus," but are built upon the ideas of the beatitudes. That is to say, the ability to accomplish what Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount is dependent on our ability to live a life in accordance with the Beatitudes. We must be humble, repentant, meek, righteous, merciful, pure, peaceful, and completely obedient to God's commands. When we are not we find ourselves at odds with the remainder of commands found within the Sermon. Take a few moments in your class to discuss how you and your class members have practiced the beatitudes, or grown in their faith these past few weeks.


As we begin to look at the passage for this week we need to see how this passage fits into the flow of the Sermon on the Mount. We know that we have just come out of characteristics for the Christian Life and soon we will be discussing ethical commands for the Christian Life, especially in relation to the Law, however, what do we do with this passage about Salt and Light? Though this may seem trivial, we must not discount the ordering of the Sermon. The placement of this text creates the appropriate flow from who we are supposed to be (the beatitudes) to how we are supposed to be (Jesus' interpretation of the Law). There is a flow here that finds it center in the mission of God in our lives.


In a sense, the passage today answers the "so what?" question of the beatitudes. We are to live like the beatitudes because God has a mission for us in the world. That mission is presented to us in two metaphors (salt and light) and one correlation from those (our mission in the world.)


Salt—Our Preservation for the World


Though there are two great metaphors in this passage to which we will shortly discuss, we must first notice that the verb tense of the passage does not change from verse 11. In the beatitudes we had general statements given in the third person, but in verse 11 Jesus changes his tone to address his disciples. He says, "you are." So as persecution was a theme that he was presenting strictly to his disciples as an important part of their soon-to-be Christianity, so too is the meaning and force of being salt and light in this passage. We must not dismiss this text as merely a good illustration and an idea. Rather we must understand the force with which Jesus presents it. What He is talking about is our particular vocation in the world. We are to be salt and light, and with that we must move to understand what those are.


The passage then continues with, "you are the salt of the earth." The looming question that should arise in everyone's mind is, "how can I be salt?" What does that mean? The answer to that is found within that nature of salt itself. We must keep in mind the context of the sermon. Our culture and the culture of 1st c. Palestine is quite different. Particularly that means that the way in which we use salt and they way in which they used salt is perhaps not identical.


One of the main uses of salt is purification, especially for meat. If an animal is killed it immediately begins the decaying process. In order to preserve the meat of the animal one must find a way to stop or slow that process. In our time we can easily do this by refrigerating the meat, however by adding salt one can do this as well. Salt works as a preserving agent for the meat, but also as a purifying agent for the meat. In its own attributes it is able to affect and effect the decaying nature of the thing to which it is applied.


Since this is a metaphor it is good to turn to the correlation between the illustration and the meaning of the illustration. If we are to be the salt as this verse implies then there must also be an object upon which we are to work. That object is the world, as we see in the verse "of the earth." Because of the nature of sin, our world is in an ever-downward spiral to chaos. To follow this metaphor, sin has caused our world to decay and eventually it will spoil. Our job as salt in this world is to aid is slowing and stopping that decay. We could say that our job as salt is two-fold. We are to stop putrefaction and begin purification. As Christians we can do this by helping people see their sin and point them to Jesus who can provide healing.


In addition to this function, salt also adds flavor. We all know that if we eat something and it is bland we add a little salt and the flavor is enlivened and it tastes better. Once again, applying this metaphor to our world, we can see that here too we have the ability to be salt for the world. By living out our Christianity in the world we are able to add flavor to the world.


What we must be careful of, and this is the warning in this passage, is that salt can lose its taste. When it does lose its taste it is worthless. The warning for us is that if we are not continually doing our duty to be salt to this world we will lose the ability to be salt for the world. It is a sad day when that happens for we will lose all ability that day to be able to be used by God. The warning exists here to keep us on task to be salt for the world.


Light—Our Purpose to the World


The next metaphor we come to in this passage is on light. This is probably one of the most illuminating metaphors in the entire Bible. With it we not only see this allusion in Matthew 5 but we have the corresponding passage in Luke 11:33, Jesus claiming to be the Light of the World (John 8:12), the admonishment to be sons of light (John 12:36), and the command to walk in the light in 1 John 1:5. Light is an important metaphor to which we must pay special attention.


When we think about light we must come to it on a basic level. Light is "something that makes things visible or affords illumination." When there is no light there is only darkness. We remember the words of Genesis 1:2 where the world was in darkness until verse 3 when God said, let there be light. There is no such thing as darkness, but only the absence of light (just as there is no such thing as coldness but only the absence of heat). Therefore, by its nature, light is the substance that comes into darkness and provides illumination and visibility.


With this basic understanding of light we must now understand the metaphor in relation to the world and us. We are to be the light of the world. Once again we can see in this illustration that Jesus is alluding to the reality of the world's sin. It is in darkness. It knows not what to do because it has no light. It is our task to go to the world and provide light to it. This is a direct gospel correlation. The dark world needs the light of the gospel that is only accessible from those who have it and take it to the world.


This brings up two important thoughts from this passage if we are to understand our purpose in lighting the world. First, we must make sure that we do not hide it. The verse says, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket." It would be foolish to spend energy and resources to light a lamp or a light and then to hide it. In essence it would remove the only purpose for the light's existence. Think of a flashlight in the dark woods at night. You would not bring it with you to turn it on merely to put it back in your pocket. When we light something we hang it out in front of us so that we can see.


The second thing to understand form this is that it is for others to see, "and it gives light to all in the house." Our purpose of lighting the world is to help them see the light of Jesus Christ. We must remember that the only way that we are the light of the world is because Jesus is the light of the world. Our ability to be light is found only in Him. So that when are provided light we must take it to those who are in darkness. There is a great gospel work to be done by purposing our lives around providing light to the world.


Mission—Our Profession in the World


Finally, we must see that these two metaphors come together in the last phrase, "so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." All of what we have been discussing find it finality in this phrase. The preservation and purification of salt and the purpose of lighting the world are the only true professions of Christians. All other vocations are secondary to this great work mandated by Jesus here. That is to say: being salt and light means being constantly on mission.


The first few words of this phrase are a purpose clause. They mark off this part of the sentence from has preceded it to let us know the main point. Knowing this grammar helps us interpret this passage correctly. We could probably teach for days on salt and light and might even miss the main point. Jesus brings us this clause to help us understand that being salt and light is about two things: showing our good works to the world and bringing glory to God by doing so.


First, when we show our works to the world we are on mission. It is true that there have always been those like the Pharisees of the New Testament who tithed, fasted, and prayed well beyond what was required. We might call these people legalists. They live their religion for others to see. This is not what Jesus has in mind here. The good works that Jesus has in mind here is the life that we are to live that he just outlined in the beatitudes. When we live like this, even though it may bring persecution, we know that the world will see the light of Jesus Christ in our lives and will be salted by our actions. Our basic mission endeavor is to live like Christians in the place God has put us. In our offices, homes, and communities we are to live out the Christian faith so that others can be changed by it. For some of these we come in contact with they respond with persecution, for others they recognize the change the gospel has brought to our lives and want it for themselves. We do not know the extent to which our lives can affect others so we must strive to be as consistent in our day-to-day witness as possible.


Finally, we see that the ultimate purpose of being salt and light is that when others see our good works they glorify God. This means that by our good works, our saltiness and illuminating efforts others can come to know God as their savior. Our ability to change the world is found in the basic way in which we live our life on constant mission that ends in the glory of God through the salvation of those we touch. Encourage your classes to be salt and light this week by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and living out the beatitudes daily.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blessed Persecution

Matt. 5:10-12

Persecute – to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict. Specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.

Persecution is NOT the same as punishment. When we do evil, good people punish us. When we do good, evil people persecute us.

We don't know what it means to be arrested, beaten, and tortured because of our faith in Jesus. In fact, the only persecution most of us have experienced involved someone closing the door in our face or "un-friending" us on Facebook. But that could all change very quickly. With proposed RFID tags for all citizens, tax records showing who gives money to their church, and universal background checks recording who has a gun. The parts are already assembled for the day when Christians will no longer be allowed to roam free.

The down side to living in a land without present persecution is the curse of "nominal Christianity". As long as being a Christian is still culturally acceptable and comfortable, counterfeit Christians hang with the crowd. But fair-weathered fans of Jesus fade when the flames of persecution rise; only true followers remain.

While most Christians here in America have enjoyed relative peace from those in power for the last 200+ years, this has NOT been the case for our faith family throughout the rest of the world. In a recent podcast I heard the writings of a Roman official to tracked practitioners of what he called a "pernicious superstition" and recorded how he tried to get them to recant. While they were beating you they encouraged you to either worship Caesar or curse the name of Jesus. When persecution comes there are no more nominal Christians, only true believers will endure.

In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million -- fully 65% -- were in the last century, according to "The New Persecuted" ("I Nuovi Perseguitati"). More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. 171,000 Christians were martyred in 2005 alone [Int. Journal of Missionary Research]. It is estimated that currently over 200 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide.

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus concludes his list of the Christian's character by saying, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:10-12 NKJV).

In these three verses Jesus provides four points regarding persecution. First, we see…

  1. Reasons behind Persecution ("for righteousness sake…
    for My sake")

There are essentially two reasons for persecution:

  1. The Life We Live – Our Difference

When Jesus saved us, He began a purification process called sanctification. Our lives are now lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We strive to live our lives under His leadership for His glory. Paul summarized this situation in Romans 12:1&2, "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (NLT).

If you are no longer "copying the behavior and customs of this world", then you will stick out like a sore thumb in society. A night and day difference in your belief leads to a night and day difference in your behavior. There is now a contrast in your conduct compared to the culture around you.

Ephesians 5:8-11 says, "For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them" (NLT).

As you live your new life in Christ you will be different. You will think different, speak different, work different, spend different, watch different, listen different, and act different. This "difference" will set you a part from a wicked world and set you up by a wicked world for persecution.

"Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12 NLT).

  1. The Lord We Love – Our Devotion

Jesus plainly told His disciples in John 15:18-25, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. 22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I hadn't done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. 25 This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures[a]: 'They hated me without cause' (NLT).

To be partakers of the glory of Christ is to also be partakers of His suffering. Jesus Christ was the sinless epitome of perfect love in the flesh; yet, He was lied about, mistreated, tortured, and crucified just three short years after His public ministry. If the world persecuted Jesus, the world will also persecute you. Guilt by association.

  1. Rejoicing in Persecution ("rejoice and be exceedingly glad")

Jesus, says in verse 12 that we should "rejoice and be exceedingly glad" when they revile, persecute, and say all kinds of evil things against us falsely for His sake.

Two questions come to mind when I read that statement by our Lord, "Why?" and "How?"

  1. Why?

Why would anyone, in his right mind, rejoice and be EXCEEDINGLY glad when they were being persecuted? The answer comes from those who have experienced such persecution and lived to tell about their experience. In Acts 5:22-42 we read how Peter and the other apostles were arresting for preaching about Jesus. The High priest and the Sadducees were confused about the apostles' miraculous escape from prison (angel stuff) and intimidated by the large crowds that followed them, so they decided to have them beaten (probably flogged with 39 lashes) and then let them go with a stern warning. How did the apostles respond to such persecution? Verse 41 of Acts 5 tells us, "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name" (NKJV).

The apostle Paul, who had a resume stacked with suffering (a persecution "Pro"), valued suffering for his Savior above all the stuff and stature he had accrued his entire life. He wrote in Phil. 3: 7-8, "I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (NLT). Then in verse 10-11, Paul reveals why even suffering can be considered among his supreme desires, "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead" (NLT)!

Why can we rejoice in the midst of persecution and the suffering that accompanies it? Because, in that moment we relate with the One who suffered for us. We are never more like our Lord than when we endure unjust treatment. We are never more like Jesus than when we suffer for His Name.

As an angry mob rushed young Stephen in Acts 7:55 he looked to heaven and saw Jesus, His Lord standing to welcome him home. And as the stones of death were flying through the air he cried, "Lord, receive my spirit"; and He did.

Have you ever felt like you really knew someone, but then you go through a similar life experience as them and it dawns on you that you didn't really know them before, but you do now? It's because you joined them in the fellowship of their sufferings. Stephen was more intimately connected to his Savior at his death than he was in his life. Paul walked closer to His Lord in chains than he did while free. The disciples were even bolder for their Lord after suffering for His Name's sake.

  1. How?

O.k., we can understand "Why" we are supposed to rejoice in the midst of persecution, but "How?" I mean how, when you're in torturous pain, are you able to genuinely rejoice? That doesn't sound natural… Well, that's just it; it's not natural. It's Supernatural.

Only the Holy Spirit of God can give us the strength we need to heed the words of Jesus. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control (Gal. 5:22).

On the day of Pentecost the disciples received the Holy Spirit, which gave them power to witnesses for Christ. Luke wrote that Stephen on the day of his death was "full of the Holy Spirit". It's that same Holy Spirit that gives every believer exactly what he needs when he needs it. Our ability to rejoice in the midst of persecution comes from our strong and sovereign God, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6KJV)

  1. Records of Persecution ("the prophets who were before you")

We also rejoice in our persecution because of the faithful men and women who have endured before us. Jesus, reminds us of the prophets. In James 5:10 we are told, "Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience" (KJV).

John Phillips has a wonderful reminder for us all,

"Hardly any of the prophets were welcomed by their contemporaries. The two who did have instant and spectacular results were Jonah and Nahum, both of whom prophesied regarding Nineveh. In the one case, instantaneous repentance resulted; in the other case, instantaneous and spectacular ruin occurred. For the most part, the prophets were highly unpopular preachers to the consciences of their countrymen. Hosea was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Amos was doubtless popular enough in Israel – as long as he denounced the surrounding nations – but the high priest of the calf cult threatened him at once when he denounced Israel. Micah was the first prophet to threaten Jerusalem with destruction. He must have been about as popular as a skunk at a Sunday school picnic! Habakkuk was called upon to utter woe after woe against his countrymen. Haggai saw success, but his contemporary and colleague Zechariah was murdered. Isaiah, after a distinguished career, was sawn in half in a hollow tree by Manasseh. And as for Jeremiah, he wept his way through life. John the Baptist was murdered, and so was Jesus" (Exploring the Epistle of James, 178-179).

Jesus was a realist. He knew that His program would be unpopular. He knew it would lead to His own death and to bitter hostility toward His followers. The Lord certainly did not envision His program bringing about a gradual evolution of love, joy, peace, and goodness that would sweep over all nations throughout the centuries until society was at last perfected. That postmillennialist view is simply not supported by the facts of history or the forecast of Scripture. The Lord spoke of hostility, hatred, and bitter persecution for His people. We should not be surprised when it happens; we should expect it. When it comes, it's important to remember that it is a part of God's sovereign plan and that we have not, do not, and will not suffer alone.

  1. Rewards for Persecution ("Blessed…the kingdom of heaven…
    great is your reward in heaven")

The thing that ultimately makes suffering persecution bearable is knowing the blessed reward that awaits us. If there's anything that Jesus reiterated time and again it's this, "My kingdom is not of this world"
(John 18:36).

Our physical existence on this planet is "but a vapor" (James 4:14), here for a moment. But the spiritual kingdom to which we belong as believers in Christ is ETERNAL. That's why Jesus said in Matthew 10:28,
"Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (NLT)

We are eternal beings who are eternally saved from death AND the second death. HEAVEN awaits the believer. Death is simply a dark door that opens into eternal JOY, PEACE, & PLEASURE in the PRESENCE OF OUR LORD! No dictator, torturer, or executioner can hold us back from heaven!

Revelation 6:9-11

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?" Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9

7 April 2013

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9 ESV)



If you are paying close attention to the news you will find that there ever is some war going on. Right now we have troops in Afghanistan and have recently sent planes and ships to Korea. We hear of the rebellions in the Middle East, especially in Syria. We hear of these wars and battles so often that we are accustomed to them, too accustomed. Wars are common place to us, at least as they are happening throughout the world. Though there are organizations that exist to promote, instill, create, etc. peace, those attempts are elusive. World War 1, was known in its time as the "war to end all wars". It was followed by the "League of Nations" which would resolve territorial disputes without war. Then World War 2, The United Nations, and many wars since show humanities failure to find peace even when we strive for it.


This is also true in our own lives and in the communities in which we live. Though we do not have guns often pointed at us, we are ever at war with others around us. Perhaps people in your class are dealing with strife in their home, with their children, with their jobs. All of us have these man-to-man battles we face weekly. Still yet, we find that we battle within ourselves. Inner conflict sometimes leaves us depressed, wrecked, and uncertain where to turn. These are things with which we all find in common and because of that we all are in search of one thing: peace.


We would like to see peace from the wars in the world and the wars in our lives. John MacArthur accurately speaks of worldly peace, "Peace is merely that brief glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload." (MacArthur, 136) We all would like to find peace, sometimes at whatever the cost. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that it proclaims a peace to come to all mankind too. There is a strong correlation between the good news of Jesus Christ and attainable peace in this world. This is why the seventh beatitude says, "blessed are the peacemakers." This morning we are going to look at what this verse means and how we can have peace in our lives.


Sin is Our Impediment to Peace


There is an innate desire for peace in every person. When we find those brief moments of peace, we exhale and try to make it last. Commercials even capture that moment with the slogan "Calgon take me away". It can be said that there are some people so contentious they are always looking for a fight. But if we were to ask that person, perhaps their answer would be that they were trying resolve all conflict in their life; they were trying to achieve peace. That desire to seek peace come from the subtle awareness that we do not belong here. It is the realization that something in this world is not right. This only points to the reality of the biblical message. In Genesis we see that God created the world and saw it good. (Gen 1:31). It was at peace, there was no conflict. It is also true in Revelation that at the end of all things there will be peace again (Rev 21:4). It is clear that God intends for us to be at peace.


The real problem for peace is that the world is utterly opposed to it. It is against peace because of sin within it. As soon as sin entered the world in Genesis 3 we wiped away every notion of peace from our histories. Mankind closed himself off from a relationship with God and a relationship with others. His inner attentions turned from doing the will of God to doing only as he pleases. This is the nature of sin and as such it is not surprising to see that it is against all that is peaceful. For a man who only looks to himself and his interests (the true life of the sinner) can never find peace for he will always be working against others.


Sin is the real impediment to peace in our lives. If we are to achieve peace in this life we must find a way to overcome sin. This is indeed a real problem. In Isaiah 48:22 it says, "'There is no peace,' says the Lord, 'for the wicked.'" If we are to be people who live in peace, we must find an end to the sin in our lives, for sin is ever roadblock to peace.


Christ is The Giver of Peace


For many of us the declaration of sin as an impediment to peace is as obvious as the second point that Christ is the great giver of peace. However, lest we gloss over this point too quickly let me ask, if we know the problem and the solution to finding peace, why then do many of us still long for peace? The answer is that we still struggle with the knowledge of Christ as the giver of peace. So, let us not move too quickly over the point of our need for Jesus as the bringer and giver of peace in our lives.


For us to understand the peacemaking we are to do we must understand the way in which peace is connected to Jesus. In Isaiah 9:6 we are given the picture of Christ, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." In this messianic prophecy we see that the very nature of Christ will entail peace, and not just any peace, but all peace. For it is in Christ, as the prince of peace, that is the fountainhead of all peace. No peace comes apart from Christ. In another prophecy we see this function of peace in Christ's work:


Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

    righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

    and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

    and he shall speak peace to the nations;

his rule shall be from sea to sea,

    and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zech 9:9-10)

It is no wonder that the Jews thought of the Messiah as a conquering hero for them, but in that they miss his type of peace. He comes not riding a war-horse, but a donkey. His peace is not through force, as with the Romans, but through a different plan. The first appearance of Messiah is for reconciliation through sacrifice rather than conquest.


The ultimate peace that Jesus has brought to us is through His work on the cross and the resurrection. He knew our biggest obstacle to peace is sin, and in defeating it on the cross he gained peace for us. As Paul tells us, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1) or "and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col 1:20). What we must not miss in this is that in order to gain peace that comes from Christ, the only peace there truly is, we must attain it in similar ways that he did. He suffered and died, so too do we. Maybe we do not suffer and die ultimately, but everyday we suffer and die for our faith, we die to sin, we die to our wills, wants, and desires, and we live for God's. For in conforming our minds and hearts to God's will (something for which the progression of all these beatitudes trains us) we are able to attain peace from Christ, because when we are in His will we are at the place where He grants it. Whereas the more sin we allow into our lives the more conflict we invite.


Christians are the Promoters for Peace


With that foundation laid, we may ask so what? What are we to do now? We have the knowledge that we need Jesus' peace, but what are we to do with it? This is the main thrust of the beatitude. We are happy when we are peacemakers. We are happy when we are making peace. This is an adjective and it modifies our actions. This verse is not just encouraging us to be peaceful, rather it is encouraging us to make peace (something altogether different and perhaps even un-peaceful at times). It is as the NLT says, "Those who work for peace." It is an activity we must engage in. So how do we make peace?


First, in order for us to make peace, we must do so evangelistically. If we are to understand that peace only comes through the overcoming of sin in the world, and that only through Christ, then our first duty to make peace in the world is to take that message of peace to the world. We are to sow the gospel and in doing so we are sowing peace. This mandate is in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, and in Acts 1:8. By doing the work of an evangelist we are providing peace for people at the same time. This is the will of God for us. Another way of being a peace maker is found in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20:


All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.


When we were reconciled to God in Jesus Christ we found peace, and it is God's will for us to take that reconciliation to the world so that they too can find peace in God.


Another way to look at how we promote peace is in our everyday actions. Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
Hebrews says, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14). We are to try to find peace with all. This means our co-workers, our bosses, our spouses, our children, and even our n-laws. The way in which we do this is with our everyday actions. Too often we get irritated at the people around us. We become bitter and angry and we do not live at peace with them. We have already noted that peace comes through God and especially through His righteousness. It is that righteousness that we are to seek daily, but we also know that "for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (Jas 1:20). We must strive to find peace with all men daily. Later on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt 5:23-24). We must decide to seek forgiveness and in that we find peace.


We also must act, at times, for the benefit of others. If we see that there is strife in our family or friends we should find ways to aide peace in these situations. This does not mean that we have the license to stick our noses with they do not belong, but it does mean that if believe we can help people find reconciliation we need to do so. Though this sometimes means that we must engage in suffering in order for others to find peace, we must seek it out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this best, "Peacemakers will bear the cross with their Lord, for Peace was made at the cross." (Discipleship)


We must be people who strive for peace, even at our expense, because Jesus Christ acquired peace for us with the greatest cost.


Sons of God are the Recipients of Peace


Finally, we come to the promise for those who are making peace in the world: "for they shall be called sons of God." This is an important part of this verse and we must forget it in our discussions of peace and making peace. As we first look at this phrase we must note that the appropriate translation is "sons of God" as opposed to older translations "children of God." There is a word for child tekna but this verse uses the word for sons huios. There is a difference between these two words, especially in relation to God. "Children of God" has a connotation of position, and affection. It is true that we are adopted (Romans 8:15) and that we have the love of God, but that is not what this verse is getting at. The term "Sons of God" has the force of character, dignity, and honor. When we are called the sons of God we are likened to God himself, and not just as a member of His family; meaning we readily see the Father in the Son.


Later on in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus explains this sonship:


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. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)

The important clause in this passage is the so that clause. We are to love others, to make peace with others, to be reconciled to others, so that we may be sons who cause others to see our Father in heaven. It is does not get plainer than that. Our ability to take on the character of God in this life (and beyond) is directly related to the way in which we make peace in the world around us. We must be people who make peace if we are to marked as the sons and daughters of God.


In sum, to be a sons of God means, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it, we are owned. Everything about us is related to our relationship with Jesus Christ. He owns His sheep and His sheep do what He commands. To be owned by Jesus is to be a peace maker in this world.


Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)