Date: April 29, 2018
Pastor Matthew Burt
Title: The Christian’s discipline is to Make Us Fit for Duty, Duty to God and Duty to Man
Text: Psalm 39, 1 Corinthians 13, Hebrews 12:11-17
Wellspring Church, Springfield, Mass.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
BIG IDEA: The Christian’s discipline is to make us fit for duty, duty to God and duty to man. Duty to others is the pursuit of peace.
The author has been encouraging us to understand that God loves us as a Father and also disciplines us. In v12 he says “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” because sometimes the discipline of God can be wearing upon us and cause us to despair and doubt His goodness.
We have instructions; we have commands of duty in these verses. We have “do dodo” and “don’t don’t”. I wonder when you hear these commands (dos and don’ts), how do you hear them? What is the response of your heart? We need to be honest as we answer this?Martin Lloyd Jones has written, “is there anything that so thoroughly tests our whole profession of the Christian faith as our reaction to it when it calls upon us to live a certain kind of life?”
That’s a very searching question. What is my reaction to the Lordship? the call of duty? the demands of God on my life?
He goes on to say this: “We may like to hear the gospel with its grand good news and all that it has to offer, but we do not always feel quite so pleased when it goes on to call us to live in a particular way.”
We have such an injunction in front of us this morning. We have a demand for a certain kind of duty and our hearts are going to be judged, tested, exposed to our own seeing in the way that we react to this very demanding call to duty in the first 5 words of v14: “strive for peace with everyone.”
OUTLINE FOR TODAY:
Point 1:The command of peace
Point 2: The duty of peace
Point 3: Our responsibility in peacemaking
Point 4: Applicationsin the form of questions
Point 1:The command of peace
The goal of discipline is holiness that we might have the peaceful fruit of righteousness. If we are being disciplined, we must strive for peace. What might look like disjointed commands are really part and parcel of the message. Run the race. Keep going because your Father loves you and He disciplines you for your life. As you encourage one another – strive for peace and strive for holiness.
a) So we have a call to peace. We need to ask ourselves what is peace? What does the word mean? In Greek it is Irene. In general, it is cessation of conflict. Ceasing of animosity – the calm after or before the storm.
b) There is also a peace that the world gives to its own. The world system, the culture of mankind, gives a peace to its people. The world tells these people to be at peace because you are OK. So the inhabitant of this world go numbly, blindly and skipping along. They are told by the world that there will be tough times in life but there is no issue with God. You are OK. There’s no conflict with the individuals morals, values and goals. The world says we tolerate you as you are – you are OK.
c) There’s also a peace that the unsaved person has. They have a certain level of peace within themselves. There is a great tragedy in this person. They go through life without knowing that they are bound for the end of their life where they will meet the punishment of God. There is a difference between peace and not liking something about yourself. You try to fix a bad habit in your life but you are still at peace with who you are – you are still pretty sure that you are OK, you just have some lacks that you need to fix. Most of the world thinks they are OK. This is why the Law of God needs to be part of the story of human beings. Even the summary of the Law in the 10 commandment is meant to awaken peaceful people out of their slumber. The threatening of the Law need to be thundered so the sweet drops of God’s love might make an impact into the self-satisfied heart.
d) The good news is that when the law is preached and God begins to take the scales off blind eyes, this blind dull unfeeling dead person who is at peace with himself will begin to realize that all that matters is what God says about you; what the word of God says about you. For people who think they are OK, they are suddenly confronted with what the word says. You need peace with the one who created you. The good news is that in your unpeace, you can find peace.
It’s possible that someone says I am not an enemy of God; there’s no warfare. I like the idea of God. God’s Word will say to you then – Is God the ruler over you? Are you delighted to seek to obey His commandments? If you are not happy to have God be the King of your life (rather than you) then you haven’t realized that you are at war with God because He is the only rightful ruler. The good news is God himself became the peacemaker. He sent His son to take away the hatred of God and put within us a new heart and a new life and we have peace with God. You may be OK to think of God being at war with you but God is not OK with that. God is not content, not satisfied to leave the warring heart in a state of peace. Because He was not content, He sent His son to make peace. The way of peace is only through Jesus Christ.
e) Having peace with God we can have peace of conscience. Our conscience is given to us by God to tell us what we have done wrong. I still have a conscience telling me “failure failure, failure; disobedience, disobedience, disobedience”. But the peaceful conscience will say “Yes I have rebelled but Christ has covered them”. My conscience is at peace because I have procured the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.
f) In this verse the author is not talking about peace internally or with God but he is talking about peace on the horizontal level – be at peace with all people. This is where the call to duty begins to expose my heart. There are relationships in my life where we don’t think we can have peace and we begin to make excuses to God. We are not really interested in doing what God says.
When he says be at peace with everyone, that’s a lot of people!
Who are these people?
- The first category of “all people” are the Jewish people who are hearing this. They are being persecuted. They are suffering for their faith. The apostle says have peace with all men. It’s true that most of us have lived most of our lives with a fairly comfortable relationship with the world around us. Paul says all who are Godly will suffer. I look around and think that I have not suffered. We are not persecuted because we pursue a Godly and holy life. There are times that will arise when our desire to live according the God’s word will raise up hostility and scorn around us. Our life should be different than the world around us. Recently, the New Yorker magazine spoke with some alarm about the pervasive infiltration of NYC by Chic Filet and it’s overly Christian values. Because of their moral stand and their stand as Christians, they are called “creepy”. So there will be persecution at some level. We need to be careful when we think about persecution. If there is mockery against us it should be because of the strength of our values and not because we are intolerant. There will be people against you – those times will come. Make sure it’s not because you have been a jerk. A lot of time we bring our persecution on ourselves. Make sure we are being persecuted because we love others and we love God and we stand up for the truth not because we are hard to get along with us. When we are annoyed by the “children of this world”, let us seek to live at peace with them.
- More narrowly this is peace within the body of Christ. Here’s a great tragedy for us: those who find themselves as part of the household of faith find themselves in contentions, discord and separations.Paul says walk rightly with humility, gentleness and patience eager to maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. What a tragedy it is when those called by God dispel the spirit of unity.
This peace is built on love – love for others; not love for self. Paul says the whole of the Law hangs on “love your neighbor”. We the church show the world something completely different by the way we forgive one another. This is not to say that churches are wrong to separate on the basis of doctrine or practice.
- Even more narrowly than peace within the church is peace with everyone includes our nuclear family: husband and wives; parents and children; aunts and uncles. Charles Spurgeon asked his congregation in a sermon on this text,
“Can we call a man a Christian who will not speak with his own brother? He goes on to say, “When we hear of strifes between husband and wife, between brother and sister between [parent] and child, we are ashamed that the name of Christ should be connected with such unhallowed contentions. Instead of bidding such persons follow after holiness, I would speak to them as unto carnal and bid them first being forth fruits [showing repentance]. Do not even publicans and sinner love their own relatives? Are they not often forgiving and gentle? How is it then, that you, calling yourself a follower of Christ, allow enmity to reign in your spirit?”
- Peace with everyone includes the large at large, the church and our most intimate natural relationships. There may be some that say“you don’t really understand the issues. I do love generally but I can’t get along with this person in the church; you don’t know how much pain I have suffered at the hands of this family and you are calling me to this peace.” No matter what your situation, you are not exempt from striving after peace with everyone.
- Lastly peace includes our enemies. These are people who are out to get us. How do we treat them? Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
There’s the list of people we are supposed to have peace with. Next, We want to look at the duty and the responsibility of peace
Point 2:The duty of peace
We have a duty. Salvation is not of works but your life is to have works in it. The Christian life is a life of duty. MacArthur published a book called “Faith Works”. On first thought we might think“It works!”That’s not what he meant. If you have faith, it will be a working dutiful faith. One of those duties is to strive after peace with everyone.
It’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5: 13-16 – do not put your light under the basket so that the world can see your good words. Five times in Titus it talks about how to do good works. It’s not just a good idea – it’s a duty to live at peace with everyone.
It is not an elective; it is not a course we can take that is not a part of the regular curriculum of the Christian life. It’s a required course. It is a duty to be at peace with our neighbors. It makes me sad that this is a duty because it is necessary. Doesn’t it sadden you that we have to be told to be at peace with our family members? The power of sin is so strong, the love of ourselves is so big in our lives that we have to be commanded to live at peace with all people.
Point 3: Our responsibility in peacemaking
We are told to strive after peace. Remember strive is to make great efforts; to struggle; to fight vigorously; to chase after. It’s like a hunter in the field going after his prey, he follows the prey across hill and dale until finally he gets his prey. Don’t give up – fight, work vigorously for peace with everyone. The responsibility is ours. The NIV says this: make every effort to live at peace with everyone. Work hard; struggle.
The responsibility here is not waiting for others. It is yours first. We know Matthew 18, Matthew 5. Now listen to 1 Peter 3: 8-12
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.10 For “Whoever desires to love lifeand see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The responsibility of peace making is yours and mine. It is sometimes long work.
Proverbs 18:19 says this:
“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarrels is like the bars of a castle.”
It might take a long time to batter down the walls. Sometimes you can’t do it by yourself. You need the help of someone else. Do you have a situation where you tried to get along, there’s been hurt and broken relationship and when you try to explain there’s an impasse – if so get help. It’s important work. Don’t give up by using the world’s methodologies. If your boundary is love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace – then YES. If your boundary is don’t do this to me then we have missed the duty of “strive for peace”
Point 4: Application; sin the form of questions
A) Are you in relationship of peace with God? Have you accepted the love of God? If you can’t answer YES – don’t rest on the peace the world has given you. Call out to the peacemaker Jesus that He might end the warfare.
B) Are you in a broken relationship with someone? Is that dispute because they have offended you? Don’t wait for an apology. Consider my own pride. Rights, hurts, and anger are about not getting my way. Our offenses are often about not getting on our way. Have you considered the poison of bitterness that will someday eat right thru you and ruin your peace. Have you considered the necessity of the determination that we are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven. If I do not forgive then I am saying that the hurt done to me is greater than the offense against the holiness of God that each of my sins has exacted upon.
Or is it because you have offended them? Are you standing on your rights that you were misunderstood? There’s humility that needs to happen here. Ask for forgiveness. Show that we love them enough to take the blame ourselves.
C) Have your pursued your duty in this broken relationship? Have you stopped short of doing everything you can?
D) Have you stopped to consider the pain that others are experiencing because of your disobedience to make peace? It’s not just between you and the other person. Have you considered the smear you have put on the name of Christ?
E) Give no encouragement to those who love contention and determine to stay in a bad relationship. Whatever you do, don’t take sides ina contention that is not yours. Don’t even listen unless both sides are there. If you do, you add contention. Don’t lean on your own understanding or interpretation of tone of voice. Don’t be defensive. Don’t reject even the smallest attempt at making peace even if it seems insincere – grab the smallest straw.
We see bridges across canyons and wonder how the bridge was ever made? Across the two sides of the chasm –one person shoots an arrow with a thread and it lands on the other side. The other guy pulls the thread and ties a cord and then adds a rope and then adds a cable. You don’t build a bridge by shooting a cable first; you build it by shooting a thread across the chasm. Begin to pull. If all you have is a thread then shoot it across the chasm.
It’s for your good, the good of others and the glory of God.