Peace At Last

Title: Peace At Last

Text: Romans 5:1-11

Time: September 10th, 2006

There’s a popular modern folk song about peace: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony. Let there be peace on earth, let this be the moment now. Let there be peace on earth, let this be my solemn vow: to live each moment, to give each moment, to peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” And though God is mentioned, the song is all about peace on earth, among men. And that’s just about how people today think about peace — among people, and within themselves. But there’s another kind of peace that’s a lot more important than even peace among men, and that’s peace with God and peace from God. Jesus speaks of this higher form of peace when He says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, ” John 14:27, KJV. And then the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” These last two references are to peace from and with God. Yet our world largely ignores this kind of peace and pursues all forms of human peace. In the 60s it was popular to make the peace sign with two fingers and say, “Peace, man.” We watch on television and hear about on the radio or read about in the newspapers concerning the Middle East peace process, the negotiations between Arabs and Israelis, how they progress, or more likely regress, from day to day. That is peace on the human level. Some people visit a counselor because they can’t find peace of mind, or they take medicine to give them a peaceful night’s sleep. Many married couples can’t achieve peace and harmony in the home. It seems like everyone these days is pursuing peace, but from the looks of things, it’s not found very often. What people fail to realize is that peace isn’t something we can achieve for ourselves in our own human effort; it’s something that must be given to us by God as a gift. And that’s just what the Apostle Paul wants to explain in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans. For months now, we’ve been working through the Book of Romans. We’ve seen how everyone stands guilty of sin before God, and is heading towards judgment and condemnation. But then Paul explains how through Jesus Christ we can be forgiven of our sins and made righteous in God’s sight by faith. Now the Apostle wants to share with us the full benefits of our salvation, and that starts with peace with God. If we aren’t careful we may be saved by faith but not understand nor enjoy the benefits of our salvation while we struggle here in life to make it from day to day. Paul wants us to stop, take in the blessings of what we’ve received, and let that change our outlook and life. Romans 5:1-11 (read).

First, we now have peace with God. Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Before our salvation there was always a big question mark about God — was he pleased with us, was he upset with us, what’s going to happen to us? Then, when we compared our lives with God’s law we knew that we are in trouble because we’d all broken the laws, and since the penalty for such disobedience is judgment and condemnation, if we had any doubt, now we were certain that we were in trouble. How can there be any deep, lasting peace with that worry? Without peace with God there cannot be any peace other than superficial or trivial peace. Now some people have tried to put God out of their mind, hoping that by not thinking of their alienation with God they could forget completely about it. But that doesn’t work because something denied usually works its way back up to the surface of our lives in some form or fashion, usually in anxiety or worry. But once we become honest with God and confess and repent of our sins to him we take the first step in the right direction. Like David expressed in the Psalm32:3-5, “When I held my sins within, my body wasted away. But when I confessed my sins, I found forgiveness.” And then finally, when we turned our hearts to embrace Jesus on the cross as our atoning sacrifice for sin, we were forgiven and given right standing with God the Father in heaven. That, Paul says, is the basis for our peace with God. That is how we receive all the other blessings God has for us. “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand,” Romans 5:1-2. Now, God is now no longer upset with us over our sins – that was dealt with on the cross. Now, God is now no longer needing to judge us guilty and condemn us to everlasting punishment for rebellion against His kingdom rule. In fact, now, God, instead of being negatively against us is positively for us because of the righteousness of Christ. Not only did Christ take our sins upon himself on the cross, but He also gave us His perfect righteousness so that when we stand before God the Father we are not only acceptable, we are rewardable! Instead of condemnation we get congratulation! All of this because of Jesus Christ. We have peace with God.

But what about life and all it’s problems? There is still suffering, pain, disappointment, death, injury, destruction, tragedy, sorrow, tears and loss. How does the peace of God from God brought about by peace with God hold up under the strain of life? It still holds up! Here’s what Paul says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering . . . because God has poured out his love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us,” Romans 5:3,5. In other words, because we are at peace finally, ultimately, with our Maker, our Creator, because there is no longer any division or alienation between us and the Ultimate, because we are in peace and harmony with God our Father, that peace carries us through anything life can thrown at us. This is really the “good news” of the Good News. The word “Gospel” means “good news,” and if this is so, then Romans 5:1 is the good news of the Good News. It means that nothing can rob us of our peace with God. That doesn’t mean there won’t be sadness and sorrow in life, but it means that nothing can overwhelm our deep peace with God long term and permanently. Yes, there will be moments in life when we’ll be sad and sorrowful, things may get depressing and we may even fall into despair for a while. But because we have made our peace with the Ultimate, that peace has the final say in our lives, not the temporary peace that comes and goes in the world, in circumstances in our life. The early Christians were forced to put up with some terrible situations, yet they were able to hold on to their ultimate peace with God throughout. During the 1st century, the Roman Empire persecuted the early Christians terribly, especially in Rome. Christians were fed to the lions, burned at the stake, crucified and tortured. How could they maintain their faith, composure, and peace in the midst of all that? They could because they held tightly to the peace with God they had by virtue of their salvation by faith in the Christ of the cross. Nearly all the original disciples were put to death for their faith. The Apostle Paul himself was martyred in Rome. But even before he finally died, he had faced death often, yet maintained a peaceful attitude toward it all. How could he? Because he never lost sight of the blessing that flowed his way through salvation in Jesus Christ. He had “the peace that passeth all understanding,” as another passage describes it. Now if Paul and these other early Christians could keep their peace from God while undergoing all kinds of terrible trials in the 1st century, we today can certainly keep our peace from God through the difficulties we are called to go through. We need to stop often and remind ourselves of our salvation and how it opens the windows of heaven and pours out peace into our heart that no earthly sorrow can take away. God is now for us, not against us. We are accepted, not rejected. We have peace with God and from God; no sorrow, no struggle, nothing on earth can take that away.

Second, where comes this peace? So that we never, ever forget the source of our salvation peace, Paul reminds us once again. Romans 5:6-8, “You see, at just the right time, when we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There’s a contemporary worship song that captures this verse that goes, “I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken. I’m accepted, you were condemned. I’m alive and well, your Spirit lives within me, because you died and rose again. Amazing love, how can it be, that you my King should die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true, it’s my joy to honor you, in all I do, to honor you.” What this verse means is that we owe all of our eternal peace and happiness to Jesus, because he was willing to leave heaven, come to earth, and die a horrible death for our sins and earn us our righteousness before God. That righteousness gives us access to all the blessing of God including peace with God and peace from God, peace of the Holy Spirit living within us. It is impossible to list all the benefits we receive from God because of the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf, but just think of a few: eternal life, eternal happiness, constant assistance in this life, emotional support, physical help, financial and material assistance, supernatural intervention at times, wisdom and knowledge for life, comfort in distressful times, etc. We can’t possible name all the benefits that we receive now that we have access to the grace of God through Jesus Christ. So we see how very important the death of Jesus was and is to our present well being. That’s why the Lord’s Supper or Communion is celebrated so often in Christian churches. Have you ever wondered why Christian churches emphasize the death of the Lord Jesus in the regular remembrance of the blood and the body of Christ? You might think the resurrection of Jesus would be celebrated in some form on a regular basis instead of the death of Jesus. But the fact is, it is the death of Jesus that opens up the blessings of heaven for us while the resurrection is more of a proof of that event. The death of Christ may seem like a negative thing, but in the whole scope of our salvation it is a positive plus! In the atoning death of Jesus our sins are washed cleaned, we are forgiven; then, we are given righteousness so that our standing before God the Father is positive! Without the sacrifice of Jesus for sins, our standing before God is negative, now and later. We would face judgment for sins, God’s wrath, and ultimately condemnation and punishment. But because of Jesus we now stand on positive terms with God. That is our peace with God!

Third, we not only now have peace with God, we have it later also. Romans 5:9-11, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” We don’t ever have to worry about the future, about God ever changing His mind about us, about God ever backing off His grace, acceptance, and love for us. We are at peace with God now because of Jesus Christ and we will be at peace with God from now on and forever because of Jesus Christ. Yes, there will be a Judgment Day at the end of the age, but we don’t have to worry about that day because we are fully accepted and welcomed into God’s presence through the atoning death of Jesus. By faith we have repented of our sins and turned out hearts to Jesus as our Savior, fully embracing the salvation He offers us. As a result, we are made righteous before God and gain all the benefits of salvation. It’s easy for believers to forget about all the great benefits of their salvation. It’s easy to get so caught up in daily life that we forget to stop and reflect on the fact that we are loved and accepted by God, that He has blessings to pour upon us from heaven starting now, that no matter how hard things get in life we can always carry God’s peace with us wherever we are, or in whatever situation we find ourselves. We can have the peace of God because we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Peace can always be present in our lives no matter what is happening in the world around us. We may be in for some very difficult times ahead in this world. Our modern science has given nations the power to bring death and destruction upon millions and millions of lives. Fortunately, we haven’t had to witness a war on the scale of WWI or WWII again so far, but that could all change in a moment. How can we have peace knowing that WWIII could break out at any instant? Because our peace is from God, because we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. And we’ll have our peace with God whether we live or die, whether in good times or bad times. Again, the words of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid, ” John 14:27, KJV. Do you have the peace with God that can’t be shaken? If not, why not invite the Prince of Peace, Jesus, into your heart today? If so, why not take more time to reflect and rejoice in the blessings of salvation that are yours today, and that can’t ever be taken away. You have an everlasting peace.

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