Why Jesus Stressed Peacemaking in Our Pursuit of Happiness

I majored in theater at Penn State back in the day.

My favorite show was “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” I played the lead role—the blockhead himself—Charlie Brown. Type casting no doubt!

The musical’s theme song, “Happiness” features a litany of things from pizza with sausage to climbing a tree that make for true happiness.

But Lucy and Linus join voices with the best lyric in the tune singing, “getting along.” Happiness is getting along.

It reminds me of a sermon Jesus preached about happiness. He proclaimed nine virtues which make for kingdom happiness called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). Each begins with the word “blessed.”

The seventh focuses on the joy of getting along in relationships. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (5:9).

Happy, fortunate, enviable—all synonyms for “blessed”—are those who determine to get along with others whenever possible and help others do the same.

Conflict impacts everyone. No one escapes differences which can lead to relational breakdowns.

Danger Mines Sign

I get this. In only my second elder meeting at my new church recently, I stepped on a conflict landmine. A lack of sensitivity on my part about a painful conflict in their past history ended a way-to-short honeymoon. Sigh.

It happens to all of us–even guys who dare to write books on preserving unity! Oh the irony. What to do? I asked the Lord to help me gear up once again as a peacemaker. I suspect it won’t be the last time either.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stresses that true happiness belongs to those who prioritize pursuing peace with others–no matter how often they must do so.

Other New Testament texts echo this. The apostle Paul pleads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). The writer to the Hebrews exhorts, “Strive for peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Why is peacemaking a kingdom of God true happiness virtue? The answer comes in the rest of Matthew 5:9— “for they shall be called sons of God.”

Working hard at maintaining oneness and repairing brokenness—whether with family, friends, or adversaries–gets us the blessing of being called children of God. It gives evidence that we belong to the God of peace who sent the Prince of Peace with the message of the gospel of peace reconciling us to himself.

There is no greater happiness than that. Are you known as a peacemaker? Would others say that about you? If so, take it from Jesus. You are blessed!

For a quick checkup and loads of resources to help you pursue your joy as a peacemaker, click on Biblical Peacemaking at Ken Sande’s website www.rw360.

Question: What principle or insight has helped you experience happiness as a biblical peacemaker?

A Reflection on Rainbows

Driving out of Hell’s Canyon (of all places) the other day our fishing party came upon this stunning scene in the foothills above.

The digital photo hardly does justice to the impact upon the eyewitness.

Immediately I remembered the account in Genesis 9 of God’s covenant promise to Noah, following the great flood, never again to destroy the world by water.

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

I thanked the Lord quietly for that most certain promise.

Upon returning to Central Florida I got to thinking about that picture I took and this text of Scripture and did a little more digging. Turns out the rainbow image, a thing of stunning beauty to be sure, shows up again on the other end of the Bible in Rev. 4:1-3.

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.

Spurgeon made the connection for me by raising a question:

Is it straining the allegory, is it carrying it too far, if I close this spiritualizing by observing that the very same security which God then gave to Noah and his descendants is that security under which we stand? He gave them a Covenant—a Covenant embellished with a Divine symbol and ratified with His own signature written out in all the colors of beauty. We, too, stand under a Covenant which has its own faithful witness in Heaven, more transcendently illustrious and beautiful than the rainbow—the Person of Christ Jesus our Lord.

So the one covenant of unsurpassed beauty points to another of even greater significance, the New Covenant of Christ and His shed blood which seals the promise that we shall never perish but live forever.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.

How To Be Certain Your Faith is Certifiably Genuine (Part 1)

Today’s sermon is now on the web. You can listen to it here.

Here’s how I closed the message beginning with the big idea of the text and finishing with a review of the two main points/applications:

Genuine faith bears the marks of steadfast allegiance to Jesus. Two of the four we have considered today: growth of insight and boldness in witness. Yet to come are perseverance through suffering and admission of need. Don’t forget the two application questions we covered and their implications. If you want to have assurance of your salvation, give yourself to the means of grace that contribute to your growth of insight into the things of Christ. Cultivate your spiritual appetite. Behold the Lord in all the ways He prescribes from reading his word to feasting at the Communion table. If you want to have assurance of your salvation, faithfully and boldly share your faith with others when the Lord opens the door of opportunity. Write out your testimony and memorize it if you need to like they teach you to do at CCC so you can have instant recall. Memorize some gospel verses to share with others. Speak up. Take some heat. Feel the sting. It’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ and the reputation of His name.

Consider these words of again, J. C. Ryle from Holiness as we close:

I bless God that our salvation in no wise depends on our own works. By grace we are saved—not by works of righteousness—through faith, without the deeds of the law. But I never would have any believer for a moment forget that our sense of salvation depends much on the manner of our living. Inconsistency will dim our eyes and bring clouds between us and the sun. The sun is the same behind the clouds, but you will not be able to see its brightness or enjoy its warmth; and your soul will be gloomy and cold. It is in the path of well–doing that the dayspring of assurance will visit you and shine down upon your heart.

Seven Benefits of Church Membership from the Book of Hebrews

Recently I finished another edition of Discover OGC, our newcomer orientation series. Over the next few weeks our officers are interviewing various candidates for membership at our local church.

Perhaps you have yet to make this decision. I commend these brief thoughts from Hebrews to your consideration as ample argument for moving ahead with membership. If you have made such a  decision and are a covenant member at OGC or some other local church, I commend these thoughts to you as well as an encouragment that such a choice is in your best interest.

1. It will help protect you from the peril of spiritual drift (Heb. 2:1,3). The writer pleads for greater attention to spiritual realities “lest we drift away” and warns “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Connection to a church body can be one strategy to counter the tendency to drift.

2. It can protect against the danger of an evil heart of unbelief (3:12-13). “Exhort one another daily . . . lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” the text says. Membership puts you more readily in touch with people who will do that for you. And, of course, it assumes that you will do the same for them.

3. It will add to the extent of your eternal reward (6:10). “God is not unjust to forget what you do toward His name, in ministering to other saints.” Where will you more readily find other saints to which to minister than in your church where you are a member?

4. It puts you in a place where mutual provocation can take place (10:24-25). Love and good deeds continually require external stimuli, the kind which comes from not forsaking assembling together but exhorting one another more and more.

5. It enables the pursuit of sanctification (12:14). We are to pursue peace with all and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. No one grows in a vacuum. We need each other to achieve Christ-likeness. Mark Dever calls church membership “an assurance of salvation cooperative.” We need each other in covenant community to help promote the assurance that we are indeed saved based upon some degree of evident sanctification in our lives manifested within the church and among its membership.

6. It more readily exposes you to examples worth imitating (13:7). Hebrews assumes the necessity of leaders whose lifestyles set a pace worth emulating.

7. It offers you the benefit and profit of glad spiritual oversight (13:17). How are you to ensure adequate shepherding of your life if you do not readily “arrange yourself under” (the literal meaning of the Greek for submit) spiritual leaders and gladly receive their spiritual ministrations on your behalf? Notice how often the writer emphasizes the assumption that you have spiritual leaders who rule over you – vv. 7, 13, and 24.

Don’t give in to modern evangelicalism’s pervasive plague of individualism. Covenant to become a member of your local church. The stakes are too high to neglect this gracious provision of God on our behalf.