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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

John Piper
Desiring God.org
January 4, 2015

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

With each beatitude another nail is driven into a coffin.

Inside the coffin lies the corpse of a false understanding
of salvation.

The false understanding said that a person can be saved
without being changed.

Or: that a person can inherit eternal life even if his attitudes
and actions are like the attitudes and actions of unbelievers.

The Cry of the Beatitudes: Get a New Heart

One after the other the beatitudes tell us that the blessings
of eternity will be given only to those who have become new
creatures.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
the sons of God.

If we don't obtain mercy, we receive judgment.

If we don't see God, we are not in heaven.

If we aren't called the sons of God, we are outside the family.

In other words these are all descriptions of final salvation.

And it is promised only to the merciful, the pure in heart,
and the peacemakers.

Therefore the beatitudes are like long spikes holding down the
lid of the coffin on the false teaching which says that if you just
believe in Jesus you will go to heaven whether or not you are
merciful or pure in heart or a peacemaker.

In fact, from beginning to end the Sermon on the Mount cries out,
"Get yourself a new heart! Become a new person! The river of
judgment is at the door!"

You recall the words of verse 20:

"Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"
(Matthew 5:20).

And at the very end of the sermon in 7:26f. the Lord calls out over
the crowds, "Every one who hears these words of mine and does not
do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the
sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of
it."

In other words, a life of disobedience to the beatitudes and to the
Sermon on the Mount will not stand in the judgment no matter
what we believe!

Not Optional Suggestions But The Path To Heaven

I have been convinced this past week that I have probably
not treated this dimension of the beatitudes with as much
earnestness and seriousness as I should, and that the care
that I have for your eternal good has not shown itself as
genuinely as it must.

My conscience was pricked in reading an old book by Horatius Bonar to pastors in which he said:

"Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise." (Words to Winners of Souls, p. 55)

So I want to impress upon your consciences with as much
earnestness as I can that in the beatitudes Jesus is not making
optional suggestions, and this sermon is not a series of suggestions
on how to make the world better.

On the contrary, Jesus is describing the pathway to heaven,
and this sermon is a message from God to urge you to get on
that pathway and stay on that pathway so that you can be called
sons of God at the last judgment.

That is what is at stake.

If you are on the narrow path which leads to life, my purpose
is to help you stay on it.

And if you are still in the broad way that leads to destruction,
my purpose is to direct you to the path of life.

How To Become Sons of God

When Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called the sons of God," he does not tell us how to become a son
of God.

He simply says that sons of God are in fact peacemakers.

People who are peacemakers will be recognized as the sons of
God at the judgment and they will be called what they are and
welcomed into the Father's house.

To see how to become sons of God we can look, for example, at
John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26. John 1:12 says, "To all who received
him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become
children of God."

And Galatians 3:26 says, "For in Christ we are all sons of God
through faith." In other words, we become sons of God by trusting
in Christ for our forgiveness and hope.

Sons of God Have the Character of Their Father

What Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:9 is that people who have
become sons of God have the character of their heavenly Father.

And we know from Scripture that their heavenly Father is a "God
of peace" (Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20).

We know that heaven is a world of peace (Luke 19:38).

And most important of all, we know that God is a peacemaker!

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting
their trespasses against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19).

He made peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20).

In other words, even though by nature we are rebels against God
and have committed high treason and are worthy to be eternally
court-marshaled and hanged by the neck until dead, nevertheless
God has sacrificed his own Son and now declares amnesty free
and clear to any who will lay down their arms of independence
and come home to faith.

God is a peace-loving God, and a peacemaking God.

The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and
resurrection of Jesus, is God's strategy to bring about a just
and lasting peace between rebel man and himself, and then
between man and man.

Therefore, God's children are that way, too.

They have the character of their Father.

What He loves, they love.

What He pursues, they pursue.

You can know his children by whether they are willing to make
sacrifices for peace the way God did.

By the sovereign work of God's grace rebel human beings are
born again, and brought from rebellion to faith, and made into
children of God.

We were given a new nature, after the image of our heavenly
Father (1 John 3:9).

If he is a peacemaker, then his children, who have his nature,
will be peacemakers too.

The Spirit of God Is the Spirit of Peace

Or to put it another way, as Paul says in Galatians 4:6, "Since we
are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,
'Abba! Father!'"

And therefore, as he says in Romans 8:14, "All who are led by
the Spirit of God are the sons of God."

And being led by the Spirit always includes bearing the fruit of
the Spirit.

And the fruit of the Spirit is peace!

So you see why it must be so, that the children of God must
be peacemakers.

It is by the Spirit of God that we are made children of God,
and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace.

If we are not peacemakers, we don't have the Spirit of Christ.

So we do not earn or merit the privilege to be called sons of God.

Instead we owe our new birth to the sovereign grace of God
(John 1:13). We owe our faith to the impulses of the new birth
(1 John 5:1).

We receive the Holy Spirit by the exercise of this faith.
(Galatians 3:2).

The fruit of this Spirit is peace. (Galatians 5:22).

And those who bear the fruit of peace are the sons of God.

Our whole salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace,
therein lies our hope and joy and freedom.

But our final salvation is not unconditional, we must be
peacemakers—therein lies our earnestness and the great
seriousness with which we must deal with these beatitudes,
and seek the grace of God in our lives.

Now let's look at . . .

What It Means to Be a Peacemaker

The promise of sonship in the second half of the Matthew 5:9
points us to Matthew 5:43–45 for our main insight.

Both of these texts describe how we can show ourselves to be
sons of God.

"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."

Notice verse 45, " . . . so that you may be sons of your Father
who is in heaven." The thought is the same as in Matthew 5:9.

There, we must be peacemakers to be called sons of God.

Here, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute
us if we would be sons of God.

So probably Jesus thinks of peacemaking as all the acts of love by
which we try to overcome the enmity between us and other people.

And if we ask for specifics, he gives two examples.

The first thing he mentions is prayer (verse 44): "Pray for those who
persecute you."

Pray what? The next chapter tells us.

In Matthew 6:9–10 Jesus says, "Pray like this."

Pray that you and your enemy would hallow God's name.

Pray that God's kingdom be acknowledged in your life and his life.

Pray that you and he would do God's will the way the angels do it in heaven.

In other words, pray for conversion and sanctification. The basis of peace is purity.

Pray for yours and pray for his, that there might be peace.

Then in Matthew 5:47 Jesus gives the other specific example of
peacemaking-love in this text:

"If you salute (or greet) only your brethren, what more are you
doing than others?"

In other words, if there is a rupture in one of your relationships,
or if there is someone who opposes you, don't nurse that grudge.

Don't feed the animosity by ignoring and avoiding that person.

That is the natural thing to do, just cross the street so that you
don't have to greet them.

But that is not the impulse of the Spirit of a peacemaking God,
who sacrificed his Son to reconcile us to himself and to each
other.

Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people.

It does not want the animosity to remain.

It wants reconciliation.

It wants harmony.

And so it tries to show what may be the only courtesy the enemy will tolerate, namely, a greeting.

The peacemaker looks the enemy right in the eye and says, "Good morning, John."

And he says it with a longing for peace in his heart, not with a phony gloss of politeness to cover his anger.

So we pray and we take whatever practical initiatives we can to
make peace beginning with something as simple as a greeting.

But we do not always succeed.

And I want to make sure you don't equate peacemaking with peace-
achieving.

A peacemaker longs for peace, and works for peace, and sacrifices
for peace.

But the attainment of peace may not come.

Romans 12:18 is very important at this point. There Paul says, "If
possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all."

That is the goal of a peacemaker: "If possible, so far as it depends
on you . . . " Don't let the rupture in the relationship be your fault.

A Tough Question: Peace and Truth?

Ah, but that raises a tough question:

Is it your fault when the stand that you take is causing the division?

If you have alienated someone and brought down their anger upon
your head because you have done or said what is right, have you
ceased to be a peacemaker?

Not necessarily.

Paul said, "If it is possible . . . live at peace."

He thus admits that there will be times that standing for the
truth will make it impossible.

For example, he says to the Corinthians (in 11:18–19), "I hear
that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, for
there must be factions among you in order that those who are
genuine among you may be recognized."

Now he would not have said that, if the genuine Christians should
have compromised the truth in order to prevent divisions at all
cost.

It was precisely because some of the Christians were genuine,
genuine, peacemakers, that some of the divisions existed. (Also
see 1 Corinthians 7:15.)

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have
not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set
a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's
foes will be those of his own household."

In other words, you must love peace and work for peace.

You must pray for your enemies, and do good to them, and greet
them, and long for the barriers between you to be overcome.

But you must never abandon your allegiance to me and my word,
no matter how much animosity it brings down on your head.

You are not guilty; you are not in the wrong if your life of
obedience and your message of love and truth elicit hostility
from some and affirmation from others.

Purity the Basis for Peace

Perhaps it's just this warning that Jesus wants to sound when the
very next beatitude says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted
for righteousness' sake."

In other words, righteousness must not be compromised in order
to make peace with your persecutors.

When Jesus pronounces a blessing on you for being persecuted for
the sake of righteousness, he clearly subordinates the goal of peace
to the goal of righteousness.

In James 3:17 it says, "The wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable."

First pure, then peaceable, not the other way around.

And that is the order we have in the beatitudes also (in verses 8
and 9): First, "Blessed are the pure in heart," then, "Blessed are
the peacemakers."

Purity takes precedence over peace.

Purity is the basis of biblical peace.

Purity may not be compromised in order to make peace.

Why Focus on the Individual Dimensions?

Now I want to close by dealing with one more question that
a message like this would raise for some people today.

Why, in view of the world situation, does this message on
peacemaking confine itself to the personal dimensions of
prayer and greetings and individual reconciliation?

Aren't these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the
issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks, civil wars,
religious oppression, and international terrorism?

Before we answer that question, let's ask another one.

Was Jesus unaware that the iron hand of the Roman Empire
rested on the tiny land of the Jews without their consent?

Was he aware that Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews
at a Passover celebration?

Was he aware that the Roman soldiers could conscript
any Jew they chose to carry their baggage?

Was he aware that Pilate had his soldiers bludgeon a crowd
of Jews protesting his stealing from the temple treasury?

Was he aware that Pilate massacred Jews on the temple ground
and mixed their blood with their sacrifices they were offering?

When Jesus spoke of enemies, why did he confine himself to
prayer and personal greetings and blessings and individual
deeds of generosity and kindness?

Why didn't he talk about the issues of national humiliation, and
Roman oppression, and political corruption, and the unbridled
militarism of his day?

Was he utterly out of touch with the big issues of his day?

No.

There is another explanation for why he preaches the way he does.

There were some present at that very time who told him of the
Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

In Luke 13:1–5 some people confronted Jesus with one of Pilate's
atrocities. Here's the way he responded:

And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were
worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered
thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise
perish."

He took a major social outrage of injustice and turned it into a
demand for personal, individual repentance.

"Unless you repent you will all likewise perish!"

That's what he always did. Why did he do this?

Because for Jesus the eternal destiny of a human soul is a weightier
matter, a bigger issue, than the temporal destiny of a nation.

If you come to Jesus with a question about the justice of taxes to
Tiberias Caesar, he will turn it into a personal command aimed
right at your own heart: "You give to Caesar the things that are
Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:15–21).

If you come to Jesus with a complaint about the injustice of your
brother who will not divide the inheritance with you, he will turn it
into a warning to your own conscience, "Man, who made me a judge
or divider over you? . . . Take heed and beware of all covetousness;
for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his
possessions" (Luke 12:13–15).

The Truly Weighty Matter In The World Today

Now let's go back to the question.

Why does a message on peacemaking from the Sermon on the Mount
focus on the individual issues of prayer and greetings and personal
reconciliation?

Aren't these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the
issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks, civil wars,
religious oppression, and international terrorism?

The answer is no, because the point of these personal issues in the
Sermon on the Mount is to make crystal clear that every individual
within the hearing of my voice must become a new creature if you
are to have eternal life.

You must have a new heart.

Without a merciful, pure, peacemaking heart you cannot
be called a son of God at the judgment day.

And that is the truly weighty matter in the world today.

Is the Son of Man confined in his views of the world, is he out of
touch with the real issues of life because he regards the eternal
salvation of your soul as a weightier matter than the temporal
destiny of any nation on earth?

Blessed are you peacemakers who pray for your enemies and greet
your opponents with love and sacrifice like your heavenly Father for
the reconciliation of people to God and to each other, for you will
be called sons of God and inherit eternal life in the kingdom of your
Father.

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/blessed-are-the-peacemakers

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