This sermon is number 4 in a series of 4
The Wonder Of His Name - Part 4
"Prince Of Peace"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, good evening to you all. It's good to be back with you again in the Iron Hall - thank you, Paul, for the welcome - it has been a real privilege to be back with you these now four weeks, and I do trust that you've enjoyed the ministry of God's Word, and the presence of God in our midst. I certainly have enjoyed renewing fellowship with you these nights. We're turning again to Isaiah 9 then, and verse 6. We've looked at the various names - we've entitled this series 'The Wonder Of His Name' - 700 years before our Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah was given, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this prophecy. We've been looking at the names involved in it, let's just read it together - Isaiah 9 verse 6: "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace".
Tonight we're going to look at the title 'Prince of Peace'. I want us to pray together just now, and I want to say to you before we pray that I have been seeking to apply these names each week in a very personal way - but perhaps tonight is going to be the most personal night, as far as the application of this name, the 'Prince of Peace', is concerned. I believe that some of you are going to receive enlightenment concerning not only this title, but your lives. I want you to come now before the Lord in prayer, and ask Him to speak to you. We've done this each night, and I believe the Lord has been answering prayer. We praise God for what He has been doing in some people's lives, but tonight is a new night, and a new exciting opportunity for God the Holy Spirit to do something in our midst in each of our experiences. So let's come - will you come and pray for that for yourself, not forgetting those around you, that God might speak and meet with us all?
Father, we want to thank You for Your holy word. We want to thank You for this sure word of prophecy that we have. We thank You that it is self-authenticating, even in this prophecy concerning our Lord and how, 700 years after it was made, He came: veiled in flesh, the Godhead see - the little Babe of Bethlehem who would grow to be the Messiah, in ministry anointed of the Holy Ghost, to heal the brokenhearted, to bring liberty to the captives, Lord, to open the prison doors and set people free, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of Jubilee. Lord, we want to walk in that experience that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to us, that is revealed, particularly tonight, in this name 'Prince of Peace'. Lord, we're coming to You now in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we're asking to experience this peace that comes from Jesus alone. Lord, we can't work this up through a sermon, or a service, this is something that must be imparted by grace, received through faith, through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. So, Lord, we ask for the Holy Spirit to come and to minister to all our hearts. Lord, I ask that You will help people tonight, that this name, Prince of Peace, will become something very special to all of us in the gathering tonight. I need Your help, Lord, I pray afresh that You will take me, body, mind, soul, and spirit; and that, Lord, we might know that unction from on high. For Christ's sake, and for His glory we pray, Amen.
Now, I think from the first week's study in this little verse I have been impressing upon you that in each name of God that we find in the scriptures, and in each name of the Lord Jesus, there is a dual revelation. Now you're not in school tonight, so I'll not test you on whether you can remember what that is - but it's quite easy, and I hope that you will be able to retain it for future times when you're reading the word of God and you come up with a name of God in the scriptures. There is both: one, a revelation of God Himself in His character and in His nature, something about who God is; but, two, there is always something communicated to us in that divine name that is for our provision. I've been quoting this little line: 'Every name that He bears is a blessing that He shares'. So you have to do a bit of digging, and find out: well, what is the blessing that God is sharing with me in this name with which He has revealed Himself?
Now, tonight we're just spending the whole night on this one designation of the Lord Jesus: 'The Prince of Peace'. It's self-explanatory in and of itself. We look at the Lord Jesus in the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - and we see very quickly that He was a man of peace. If you watch Him and witness Him, you will see Him in a perpetual disposition of peace. You know, sometimes we read these stories, even in our daily readings, and you know we're so familiar with them - I would ask you to do something when you're reading the scriptures, particularly the Gospels, particularly the record of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus: try and picture yourself there, and try and look on at what is actually happening, and take particular note of the demeanour and disposition of our Lord.
Forty days He is in the desert, tempted by the devil himself, but He doesn't lose His peace - isn't that remarkable? Fasting alone in the desert, but we see very clearly - as we would put it: He doesn't lose His cool, He doesn't lose His equilibrium. He doesn't get into a state! Now, how are we when we are tempted and tried and tested? Let's be honest now, we're so different, aren't we? See Him in a boat on the Lake of Galilee, He could fall asleep in the midst of the storm - perfectly at peace. How are you in the storms of life? How do I cope? When He had knowledge of Lazarus' death, a very dear friend as we saw at the close of last week's message, He found out that the one whom He loved was dying - when He received that news, what does He say? He says to the disciples: 'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I might wake him up'. Perfect peace. How are we in the presence of death? That's how our Lord behaved.
When He faced the demoniac of Gadara, who was possessed with a legion of demons - we know that a legion may be anything between 3000 to 6000 soldiers in a Roman garrison, and this man may well have been possessed with as many demons. It was Christ's peace that overcame the devil's torture of that pitiful soul, so that that man came to be, listen: sitting, and clothed, in his right mind, and they - the bystanders - were afraid. Why were the bystanders afraid? How do we react when we face the terror of the enemy? Are we not afraid? But they saw not the terror of the enemy, they saw the peace of Christ overcoming the devil's torture in this man's life - and they were afraid. It's remarkable, isn't it? Though mankind has sought this most elusive condition, peace, peace of mind, peace of heart, peace on earth, when they see the peace of Christ they don't understand it! It frightens them! In fact, if we were to read the story, we would see that the people actually sought the Lord Jesus to leave their district, because they couldn't understand such unworldly peace. That's exactly what this peace of Christ is, it is a supernatural thing!
Before I go on any further, I want to say to you tonight that it does not call for our scrutiny, or our intellectual analysis, what this peace calls for is our worship and wonder, and childlike faith to receive it. You see the Lord Jesus now in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shadow of the cross upon Him. The soldiers come to arrest the Lord Jesus, and what does Peter do? He pulls out a sword and declares war on the mob, and the servant of the High Priest's ear. Jesus immediately warns Peter, we read in Matthew 26, Jesus said: 'Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword' - and the Lord calmly surrenders to the soldiers. He then is led away and undergoes the travesty of justice that was His trial. He is shunted from court to court, facing the lies, the trumped up charges of wicked men, and yet we read in Isaiah's prophecy: 'He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth'. We even read that Pontius Pilate - and we know from secular history that he was a hard-headed tyrannous rascal, and yet he wondered, 'marvelled' the Bible says, at the peace of the Lord Jesus as He answered not a word.
Even as He hung on the cross, unlike most criminals who were executed in His day, He did not curse His accusers - but rather He prayed. This is literally what it means: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing' - peace that is incomprehensible! Peace that is unspeakable! Indescribable! What peace! Do you know what the Hebrew word for 'peace' is? Well, you all know that of course, it's 'Shalom'. But it doesn't simply mean the absence of distress and unrest, but there is a very positive connotation in 'Shalom', it is the presence of wholeness, soundness, complete harmony and rest in the human spirit. It primarily does not refer to external conditions. You see, we talk about 'happiness', and happiness really is based on 'happenings', our circumstances. But this peace that we're talking about, supernatural, goes deep down into the human spirit so that it does not rest and depend upon externalities, but it is an internal disposition that Christ had when He hung on the cross and yet was at complete peace.
Now, let's be honest tonight: we often want God to change our circumstances, don't we? That's not always wrong, and God is a God who does change circumstances - but do you know something? What God is more interested in than changing your circumstances and mine is changing you and me. He wants to change our characters. You often hear the little saying: 'Prayer changes things', and it does - but the biggest thing that prayer will ever change is you. Now, I want to say to you tonight, as we look at the Lord Jesus as 'The Prince of Peace', now listen: that same peace is available to you! Do you believe that? The Bible talks about this supernatural peace as a gift of grace. It's a free gift, just like salvation, it cannot be earned or bought. You don't have to jump through hoops to get it, it's something that is absolutely gratuitous on God's part. It is because of the cross. We, as evangelicals, we wonder and revel in the cross - but I believe that much of the time we relegate the work of the cross to things of the past, you know, the bad things that we've done years ago. They have been blotted out by the blood of Jesus, but we don't realise that the blood of Jesus Christ is far more powerful than that: the blood of Jesus Christ is actually delivering us today from the consequences of sin, seeking to sanctify us, seeking to give us the full blessing of God's salvation. I hope it's not a half salvation that you've got! The blood of Jesus Christ has bought you this supernatural peace!
Now, we know that through the blood we have peace with God, don't we? Colossians chapter 1 verse 20 says that Jesus has made peace through the blood of His cross. The big word in the Authorised Version for this is 'propitiation' - it simply means that a wrath-averting sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God has been made in the person of this, as Isaiah 9 says, child that was born, who would be human flesh, who could stand as a substitute for sinners; but He would also be the Son given, He would be the divine Son, the One able to satisfy the demands of God because He Himself is eternal. Through the shedding of His blood He has made peace with God for humanity. Paul the apostle says in the book of Corinthians: 'We now', because of the cross, and the peace that has been made through the blood, 'We have a ministry of reconciliation', we preach this peace - or at least we're meant to! We're meant to be ambassadors for God, Paul literally says, standing in Christ's stead, in Christ's place, imploring men: 'Be reconciled to God!'. We can do that because of the cross, that is the good news - listen to what Paul says: 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself', that is mighty! Do you know what that means? The whole wide world is reconciled to God tonight through the shed blood of Jesus - that's right! The problem is: men and women aren't reconciled to God. You see, God, whose back was once toward us because of our sin and because there was no substitute and satisfaction for our sin, through Christ has reconciled Himself to us so that He has turned to face the world and offer the free gift of forgiveness of sins - but the problem is: most people's backs are still toward God. Repentance, you know, is turning around and being reconciled to God.
Through the cross, we read also in Colossians 1:20, 'and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven' - listen: the Bible looks really far ahead into the future, and sees that Christ will reign for 1000 years on the earth, and there will be peace! Then it looks further to a day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and wait till I tell you: all that is already in the bank because of the shed blood of Jesus! It's already finished! It's as good as done in the mind of God, He's just bringing humanity into line and sync with His plan. He's being long-suffering for us, so that we might come to repentance and enjoy what He has done through the blood of His Son. Can I ask you tonight: are you in agreement with God? Are you reconciled to God? Are you at peace with God? Wonderful verse in Romans 5 and verse 1, this is the 'how' of it: 'Therefore, being justified', that means just as if you'd never sinned, clean slate given to you as a sinner, 'Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'. You see, grace is the hand of God that reaches out and offers us reconciliation; faith is our hand that receives it from the Father. Have you received it?
Maybe you have lost the sense of peace with God through sin, and this is often what happens. Maybe someone, they thought they had received it at one time in their past, but sin, or selfishness, has come in and interrupted that fellowship between them and God. But listen, it's all the same, I never cease to wonder at the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He still offers such reconciliation to rebellious sinners, even Christian sinners! Turn with me for a moment to John 13, John's gospel chapter 13 - these are very familiar verses of Scripture that we know well, but sometimes what is obscured (in the whole of the Bible I have to say) are the divisions of chapter and verse. Divisions of chapter and verse, while they are sometimes advantageous, are certainly not inspired of the Holy Spirit. They were put in by men, and most of the time they did a good job - in fact, I think Martin Luther was one of the main men who divided our Bible the way we have it, maybe not the chapters, but certainly the books and the order in which we have them.
But here is one unfortunate division between chapter 13 of John and chapter 14. Now, in verse 38 of chapter 13 Jesus says to Simon Peter, who was always putting his foot in his mouth you remember - Peter had said, 'I'll follow You to death!' - Jesus has to say to Peter: 'Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times' - but look at this, read it again and forget about chapter 14 and those big numbers there, forget about those big numbers. Look: 'Jesus answered him, 'Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me''. Are you seeing something you've never seen before? The division is not there. Yes, the disciples were troubled because the Lord had told them, 'I'm going away, and where I'm going you cannot follow Me'. They're troubled because He had also been telling them, as He instituted the Lord's Supper, that there was one eating with them at the table who would betray the Lord - that troubled them, no doubt. Then He's also speaking about Peter now, who was a real bold man, he was the courageous guy, the fighter, that he was going to deny the Lord - this was hard for them to take in. The Lord does speak collectively to them, the plural 'you' is there, 'Let not your heart be troubled', but He was speaking to Peter. This just boggles my mind, that before Peter denied the Lord, the Lord's grace was so great that He could say to him: 'Peter, be at peace about it'. In fact, in verse 27 He again says to the group: 'Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid'. He is telling them: 'You will have a supernatural peace'. Now, of course Peter's peace was interrupted by his betrayal of Christ, but the Lord had assured him: 'Peter, Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you; and when you're restored what a blessing you will be, Peter'.
Is God's grace and reconciliation not marvellous? That Christ could actually promise His peace to Peter before he had sinned! Now don't think tonight that I'm giving you some licence to go out and sin, because Peter had no idea of premeditation regarding this sin - as far as he was concerned it wasn't going to happen! But the peace of Christ was there for him even before it. It was interrupted by it, but it was there for him after it. Isn't His grace great? Sin robs us of peace, but it is offered again when we repent and believe: 'Believe in God, believe also in Me'.
There is the peace with God, we know a lot about that in evangelical circles, but something different is the peace of God. Now, here's a mistake that many make: they confound the peace with God with the peace of God, and they are not the same thing. All you have to do is see a lot of Christians to realise that: they don't have the peace of God. We've got a real problem in evangelicalism: we think that the conversion experience is the end experience, when in fact it is only the threshold experience, it is only the entrance into this new life of discipleship and commitment, and the process of sanctification and being made into the image of Christ - it's only the beginning! We've got to move on! So many have peace with God, but the peace of God eludes them! Do you have it tonight?
Look with me at Galatians 5, Paul, remember, is talking to Christians here. So, if to be a Christian gives the peace of God to you, well, he was wasting his time - but, of course, many of them didn't have it. In verse 22 of chapter 5 of Galatians we read a list of the fruit of the Spirit, Paul says: 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace', there it is, peace, 'longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law'. Now look at verse 22 again, note it does not say the fruit of the Spirit plural, 'the fruits of the Spirit', it doesn't say that - it says 'the fruit of the Spirit', singular. This is one fruit. Now I know there are several fruit here, nine, but it's actually one fruit - these are different aspects of the one fruit. Therefore this fruit can be summed up actually in one word, what is that word? 'Character', that's what this is a description of here, isn't it? The fruit of the Spirit is really character, whose character is it? Well, do you know anyone who is completely loving, completely rejoicing, completely at peace, long-suffering, kind, good, faithful, gentle, controlling self? Yes, you do: Jesus! This is His character here that we're reading about.
We're thinking specifically of peace, and what Paul is saying is that the fruit of the Spirit for the Christian is actually the impartation of the character of Jesus into the spirit of the believer, and so this peace can be in-wrought in the life of the Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, fruit, you will know, cannot be manufactured. There is no such a thing as a fruit factory, unless you want the plastic stuff in the fruit bowl in the middle of the table that doesn't rot - but try taking a bite out of it! You can't manufacture fruit, it is born of life, it's produced. Now, the Lord Jesus in John 15 taught on this very subject, and He said that if we are to produce much fruit for the Lord Jesus and for the glory of the Father, we need to abide in Him. That's what Jesus said: 'Abide in Me, and if I abide in you, you will produce much fruit'. He used the illustration of a vine, and we are the branches, and we are to bear fruit to the glory of God - but the only way that we can bear that fruit is if we abide in the vine, the life source that is Jesus Himself.
In other words, we don't cultivate the fruit - and so many Christians, I have to say, are running around exhausting themselves trying to do something for the Saviour that is in the power of the flesh, and they are manufacturing something that is not born of the Spirit. God does the cultivating of the fruit. If you read the parable in John 15, the Father is the vinedresser, He is the husbandman, He is the farmer. He's the one who does the cultivating, all we have to concentrate on is abiding in the vine and allowing the life of Jesus to abide in us and flow through us. We simply do the drawing upon the life source, abiding in the vine. So, to put it another way: fruit comes in the Christian life through being in relationship with Jesus - that's what abiding in the vine is. I think we said a couple of weeks ago that that's the one word that could sum up the whole Christian experience: relationship. Jesus said in John 17 verse 3: 'This is eternal life', not a ticket to heaven, though we get to heaven, but this is eternal life 'to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'. It's to know God, to relate to God - and if you're wanting to know the peace of God that is imparted by the Holy Spirit, you do it through the relationship that we're meant to have with Jesus Christ: abiding in Him, the vine, and He abiding in us. If we abide in Him, the peace of Christ, that supernatural peace that you see manifested in His character, will be imparted to us by His Spirit.
We can't create peace, what we do is: we cultivate our relationship with Jesus, work on abiding in Him and He abiding in us, and we will receive His peace. Now you say: 'Well then, is there nothing for me to do?'. Well, of course there is! There are things involved in abiding in the vine. We can't go into all of those tonight, but one thing I do want to do is I want you to turn to Philippians chapter 4, because there - and some of you may have heard me mention this before - we have a medicine bottle for the anxious, those who feel an absence of God's peace in their life. Believers who have peace with God, so many of them do not know the peace of God. If you're wanting now to know how you abide in the vine, and draw off the life source of Jesus this supernatural fruit of the Spirit that is peace, we have directives here - if you like, this is a medicine bottle for the anxious, and on the bottle is a label with directions, instructions for you to take this medicine to receive this supernatural peace.
Now I believe, before we look at this, that we've got to face facts. The absence of peace within the life of many believers, and the presence of distress, is at epidemic proportions in the church of Jesus Christ. Sure, in society at large it's a well-established fact that stress contributes to people becoming actually physically sick - and that's right. Mental, emotional, and often spiritual problems, are at the root of physical illness. Now I'm not getting this from theology, this is accepted. Some statistics would lead us to believe that a minimum estimate of illnesses that are psychosomatic could be anywhere upward of 50%. Now 'psychosomatic' doesn't mean it's all in your head, that's a misconception of that word, but what it does mean is that the physical manifestations of sickness and even disease that you're experiencing are coming from a mental cause, or an emotional cause that can manifest itself in a physical way. There are some statistics that I've read where even up to 75%, some doctors believe, of physical illnesses and symptoms can come from mental and emotional causes. But, that aside, one thing is absolutely sure: anxiety and fear are devastating to the spiritual condition because they rob us of the peace of God. They rob us of all the blessings God intends us to enjoy, but one of those that we're looking at tonight is peace - and fear and anxiety will rob you of the peace of God.
Now, understand what I'm saying here tonight: one thing that Satan can never do is, if you're genuinely born-again - and make sure you are! - he cannot rob you of your salvation, thank God for that! But what he seeks to do as the adversary, the accuser of the brethren, is: he seeks to divest us of the benefits of our salvation, so that we walk through life and we might as well not be saved because the joy of the Lord, and the peace of God, and the assurance of our salvation is being robbed from us! Two of Satan's most successful weapons in his arsenal against Christians are fear and anxiety.
Now, here are the instructions given in Philippians chapter 4 of how we can abide in the vine and draw from Jesus this supernatural peace. The first instruction is in verse 6: 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God'. Be anxious for nothing! Now here's the first instruction: worry about nothing, that's literally what it means! Worry about nothing. The reason for that is, now wait for this: worry is sin - did you know that? At least that's what the Bible says, if you're going to believe the word of God; because worry, in essence, is essentially unbelief. You are not believing God, but you are believing a lie - and you know who the father of lies is, the devil. Now listen to me: all irrational fears, all unreasonable anxieties, are based on a lie. Now, you need to assess that yourself, and maybe apply it to your own fears and worries - but you'll find out right away that that is the case. Most of the time the things that we worry about never ever happen, if not all the time. They never happen, or certainly things don't turn out the way we envisage them to. Many of the fears that we have are blown out of all proportion. We could give examples of that, but we don't have time tonight - but what is true is that if you have an irrational, unreasonable fear or anxiety, it's built on a lie. Maybe just where you're sitting tonight, you need to raise a prayer to God if this is a problem for you - fear and anxiety - and you need to say: 'Lord, reveal to me by the Holy Spirit what is the lie that I have believed'.
Now here's what happens: when you believe a lie there is a corresponding truth of God that you have chosen not to believe, OK? So when you believe the lie of the devil, rather than the corresponding truth of God, effectively what you're doing is: you are walking in agreement with the devil rather than walking in agreement with God. Amos 3:3, isn't it: 'Can two walk together except they be agreed?'. Another word for 'agreement' is the word 'covenant', it's essentially the same word. It's as if you're signing - you know, Satan hands you a document which says 'You are going to die with cancer in five years' - and you worry about dying of cancer, and effectively you believe what the devil is saying, and you sign the dotted line. You sign on the dotted line on that document, and you enter into agreement with Satan that that is worth worrying about because it's true, or at least could become true - when God tells you not to look into the future, because He is in control of the future, and more than that: if you're in covenant with Him, and walking with Him, He'll take care of your future and you don't need to worry about it. Do you understand? This is what I'm getting at: that by believing lies we give grounds to the devil to torment us and torture us.
What is the lie that you've believed? F.B. Meyer said that the English word 'anxiety' has the root word for 'anger' in it, anxiety, anger - and the literal meaning of that word 'anger' is: the physical act of choking. That's what anxiety and fear does to the peace of God and all the fruit of the Spirit: it chokes them out of existence, it will choke your peace to death. In fact, the Lord said, you know in the parable of the seed, the sower, and the soils: 'The care', or the worry, 'of this world chokes the word of God', and we become unfruitful! There it is! Worry chokes out the fruit of the peace of God. Whereas Paul says here: 'Be anxious for nothing'. It's the same expression that Jesus used three times at least in the Sermon on the Mount: 'Take no thought, take no thought, take no thought' - it's the same word in the Greek language, 'Be anxious for nothing'. It really means, listen to this now: do not under any circumstances worry about anything! Right, now, how do you measure up to that one? Come on now! Do not under any circumstances worry about anything! 'Oh', you say, 'well, that's impossible, you can't do that!'.
It's not just saying don't worry about your health, it's actually also saying: don't worry about your spiritual life. Now don't misunderstand me, I believe there needs to be a striving in the Christian experience, I believe there needs to be an insatiable satisfaction, so you're satisfied with Christ but you want more, you want to go deeper, you want to go on with God - but you're not meant to worry about it! You're certainly not meant to worry about your past sins, repent over them, and grieve over them if you must, but repent and confess and get up and take the forgiveness of God and accept it! You see answers to prayer, whilst you may travail and break your heart over things that you haven't seen come to fruition yet, particularly the salvation of loved ones, though you might break your heart you're not allowed to worry about it! There's a difference, you see, because the worry will rob you of the peace. Scripture consistently forbids it: worry about nothing.
There's the first instruction. You might say: 'Well, I'm finished now, you know, you've left me there. Worry about nothing? That's impossible for me! You might say it, but I'll never do it. How you do that?'. Well, listen, you're right, you can't just zap worries and they disappear. The second instruction here is: 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication' - you can't just make invisible your cares and concerns and fears, but what you ought to do, the Scripture says, is turn your cares into prayers. This is God's method for getting rid of your anxieties. Now, you might say: 'Well, does God not already know what's bothering me? Why do I need to pray about it?'. Well, of course He knows, the Bible says He knows what you're going to ask before you even speak it - but the point is this: prayer is an act of faith, whereby you're showing to God that you are giving these cares and anxieties over to Him. It's a very powerful thing. The Psalmist says in Psalm 55: 'Cast your burdens upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you'. The literal word for 'cast' is 'rollover' your burdens unto the Lord, lay them on the Lord, or literally 'throw your burdens unto the Lord', and He will sustain you. It's the same idea that we find in 1 Peter 5 verse 7: 'Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you'. Do you know how J.B. Phillips translates that, listen: 'You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern'. Isn't that beautiful? You can cast all the weight of your anxieties on Him, for you are His personal concern. Is that what you do? You see, that's what we're meant to do. Martin Luther said you can't stop the birds flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair. We can't stop the stresses and strains of life coming along our way, but what we can do is not allow them to nest upon us. We turn our cares into prayers, we decide: 'I'm not going to worry about this, but I'm going to pray about everything, and I'm going to roll these burdens unto the Lord'.
There was once a man who couldn't get to sleep one night, and at 3 AM in the morning he was pacing up and down in the bedroom. His wife, she was so annoyed at him keeping her awake, and she says: 'What on earth is the matter with you?'. He says: 'I owe Sam next door £1000, and I have to pay him back tomorrow, and I don't have a penny of it. What am I going to do?'. Do you know what she did? She jumped out of bed, and she threw open the window, and she guldered next door: 'Sam! Sam!'. Sam got up and stuck his head groggily out the window, 'What is it?'. She says: 'You know that thousand pounds that my husband owes you that he's to pay you tomorrow?'. 'Yes?'. 'Well, he hasn't got it!', and she shut the window, and she turned to her husband and she says: 'Now, you let him worry about it and go to sleep!'. Now, we laugh at that, but that really, in essence, is what we're meant to do with God. The One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, what's the point in you staying up all night worrying, when He's up all night taking care of you? If you cast it on Him, it's His problem - and I say that reverently and respectfully, but that's what this means! Pray about everything!
Here's the third thing: be thankful for anything - that's a tricky one too, I know, but we have to cultivate thankfulness, particularly in prayer. Verse 6 says: 'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving' - this is praise-ful prayer. One great example of this within the scriptures is Daniel, and he found peace through praise. When the King announced that none of his subjects was to pray to anyone except him as a new deity, what did Daniel do? Good old Daniel: he went to his room as he always did, he opened the window three times a day, he got on his knees and he prayed as he always had done before. But we read in Daniel 6 specifically, listen: 'He prayed and gave thanks before his God'. So he was in this predicament, and he didn't just turn his cares into prayers, but his prayer was praiseful. He give thanks unto his God, and do you know what the results were? Perfect peace in the midst of his difficulty! What do we read in the story? Well, Daniel was able to spend a night with the lions in perfect peace, and do you know who stayed up all night and couldn't sleep? The King!
Faith does not flourish in the atmosphere of pessimism and gloom. You know there is something pervading a lot of our churches in these days, a real heavy depressive spirit that is not of God - it's not of God. You know, sometimes we can see all that's wrong in our world, and there's a lot wrong; and we can see a lot that's wrong in the church, and there's an awful lot wrong; and we can see an awful lot that's wrong in our lives, and most of the time it's the boy beside us, his life, that we see an awful lot wrong in; and we can constantly have a diet of negativity - when what Scripture requires of us is rather to be thanksgiving and praising! Because that will actually effect - you remember I preached a couple of months ago here on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness - someone has said: 'In a life full of care, if it is filled with prayer, and if that prayer is filled with praise, it will result in peace'.
Do you practice thanksgiving? Now it doesn't come naturally, and this is a common myth that we have: that you have to feel good to praise God - that's rubbish! If I waited until I felt good to praise God, God would never get praise! The order is: you must praise to feel good - that's right. Even today, I praised my way into feeling good. Do you do that much? This is the instructions on the medicine bottle: worry about nothing; pray about everything; be thankful for anything - here's the next one, verse 8: think about good things. 'Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things'.
Now listen: if you haven't already found out as a Christian, the battle that is on is a battle for your mind. That is the battleground where the enemy fights. You've got to work out the process of the human form, that is, listen: thoughts affect our feelings, and feelings affect our actions. So if we think that when we walk through the front door we're going to get run over by a bus, we will feel fear about seeing or meeting a bus, or crossing a road, and that will probably filter through to our actions where we won't step over the door. You see what happens? We can apply that in so many different scenarios, but the key to everything is the thoughts - and if you are continually having negative thoughts, you'll be having negative emotions and negative actions, or at least your actions and behaviour will be determined by what you think about and what you feel.
Now here's the danger: we think, 'Well, now I have to weed out these bad thoughts and emotions', and when you try to do that more come in their place. That's what happens, they actually multiply, because it doesn't say in the Bible: 'Wrestle these thoughts', because when you wrestle them you aggravate them. What it does say is: 'Cultivate good thoughts'. You will only push the bad out by pouring in the good - that's why Paul says here: 'Think on these things'. It means 'feed on these things', and that's how you renew your mind - and that is something that has been purchased by the blood of Jesus, a renewed mind. There's an awful a lot of Christians running around, and they've got renewed spirits but old heads on their shoulders. What you have to do is replace the negative with the truth, and that will lead to actions. I don't have time to look at these eight things that we're told to pour into our minds, look at the verse, verse 8, another paraphrase puts it like this: 'Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise'. But you've got to determine to do that, the will has to be engaged.
Can I ask you tonight: what do you pour into your mind? Think of our television habits, what we read in the newspapers and magazines, music perhaps that we listen to - even, dare I say it, the news. I mean, the news would depress you, wouldn't it? Everybody is going bankrupt, the banks aren't going to give you a fiver out of the machine any longer, we're all doomed! What are we feeding our minds on? Listen to what someone said: 'Fear is the darkroom where many negatives are developed'.
Here's the fifth thing, not just think about good things, but verse 9 says 'Do the right things': 'The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you'. You see, if you're going to think right, you've got to do right. It's like the horse and cart in that order, the horse is the thought life, the cart is the actions. You've got to do what's right, if you know what that right thing is. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. There's a wonderful verse in Isaiah that teaches us that righteousness, behaving correctly, and peace go together - you can jot it down, Isaiah 32 and verse 17. Listen to it: 'The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever'.
You've got to do what's right, you see God's first concern is not peace but righteousness. In Jeremiah's day there were prophets who were crying 'Peace, peace', when there was no peace. You see, true peace cannot be based on unrighteousness. Listen, you'll never have the peace of God if you're playing fast and loose with sin, or compromising, or the self life is on the throne and not crucified with Christ. Isaiah says in chapter 57: ''There is no peace', says my God, 'for the wicked''. Righteousness and peace go together.
So you're to worry about nothing, pray about everything, be thankful for anything, think about good things, and do right things - and the wonderful result in verse 7 is this: 'The peace of God', beyond comprehension, beyond understanding, 'will guard your hearts and minds', the word there is 'garrison', it will mount a guard, it will stand sentry. Now picture this: if you do these things, abiding in the truth of Christ, the peace of God will patrol your mind and your heart and prevent, shut out, unhappy, unholy thoughts, and will create a wonderful haven and environment of safety out of which will flow righteousness and blessing. That's what God will do if you do what He tells you - isn't He the Prince of Peace? Peace with God, peace of God - do you know something? I haven't finished! And I'm not coming back next week! So give me 5 or 10 minutes, will you?
There is peace with God, peace of God, but if you have the peace of God, do you know what will outflow from that? Peace with man. You see, when our relationship with God is right, the Bible teaches that our relationship with men will be right. The two come together. If you go to the very beginning of the Book, Genesis chapter 3, God's relationship with man is severed in the Garden through his sin - and what happens in Genesis chapter 4? Man's relationship with his brother is broken, Cain slays Abel. The two are together, and if you're right with God - and wait till I tell you, if you've got the peace of God in your heart, you will be at peace with men. Now, I know what some of you are thinking, what Jesus said in Luke chapter 12: 'Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division' - but that was in relation to man's reaction to the Lord Jesus, how He came unto His own and they did not receive Him. But we know clearly from the annunciation of the angelic host at the first Christmas that He came to bring peace on earth and goodwill toward men, but they would not have this Man to reign over them. Now sure, of course, we will still feel the wrath of the enemies of Jesus today, but it is equally certain that, as believers, we are commanded, for instance in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 14: 'Pursue peace with all people, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord'.
Now it says there, and I believe when the Bible says 'all', it means 'all - 'Pursue peace with all men'. I believe that's unbelievers and believers, as far as is within you, follow peace. Warren Weirsbe says: 'The world doesn't need a definition of the word 'reconcile', what it needs is a demonstration of reconciliation in the lives of God's people'. You see, this is what we are to be known as: people of peace. Weymouth's translation of the beatitude is wonderful, I think it really gets to the root of the meaning, you know when the Lord said 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God', what it really means is how Weymouth translates it, listen: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for it is they who will be recognised as the sons of God' - that's what it means! They will be called the sons of God, because they will be recognised as such!
In John 17 the Lord prayed that they, His followers, 'may be one in Us', Father and Son, 'that the world may believe that You sent Me'. I've heard all sorts of arguments about the church invisible, and He's praying about the church invisible, that they would be one, and they are already one. Well, how are people in the world going to see the church invisible that they might believe in Him? There's a wonderful verse, and we'll not take time to turn it up, but jot it down, 1 John 4 and verse 12. John says: 'No one has ever seen God at any time', but listen to what he says, 'If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us'. Now, to paraphrase, what that means is: 'Nobody can see God, because God is Spirit, and Jesus has gone to heaven - but they will see a manifestation of Divinity when believers dwell together in love and unity and peace. They will see God in us'.
Well, how much of God are they seeing? One respected Bible teacher said: 'If there's anything that would keep me away from Christ, if I was lost, it would be the attitude of Christians toward one another'. I say 'Amen' to that. We need peace among Christians. Are we endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Are we known as people of peace? People of gentleness? People of love? Or are we known as angry people, aggressive people, an intolerant people? Now don't get me wrong: you should be angry, the Bible says 'Be angry and sin not'; and you should be intolerant of a lot of things that are going on in our world, morally and spiritually; and you should be frustrated and aggressive in a sense with your holy zeal - but listen, the Bible is very clear that we are not to be known for those things supremely, those things are not meant to define us in the eyes of people, but love and peace are.
The disciples really struggled with this one, didn't they? There was a guy casting out devils, and he wasn't one of them, he wasn't in their denomination, he didn't belong to their assembly! They said: 'Lord, should we forbid him? Should we forbid him?'. They had this partisan mentality. Do you remember on another occasion where the Lord Jesus came to a village, and the village refused to welcome Him and be hospitable to Him - and what did the disciples want to do? They wanted to call down fire from heaven! Are we sons of thunder, or sons of peace? Now, please, I'm not talking about compromising the truth. We cannot compromise the truth, but we are to speak the truth in love. Warren Weirsbe says: 'Instead of being peacemakers, so often we are troublemakers'. Jesus said: 'By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another'. As I was meditating upon this in the last week, I thought to myself: if the Holy Son of God, as the Christmas Carol says, was pleased as with sinful man to dwell, how can I not dwell with my brother?
But the final peace - this is a short one - there is a peace with God, peace of God, peace with man, and peace on earth. Peace on earth, and goodwill to all men upon whom God's favour rests - that's what was announced at that nativity. Today there is peace in heaven, praise God, for the saints through the blood of Jesus. There is peace in the hearts of those who have received a little deposit of heaven in the Holy Spirit. But there will never be peace on earth until the Prince of Peace returns to rule and reign. In verse 7, of course, of Isaiah 9, we read a little bit about that: 'Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forevermore' - and that has never happened. The Bible teaches there will be a thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth, and we can read in Isaiah himself, chapter 11:35, and many other places, of the wonderful idyllic conditions that will take place through even the animal kingdom during that time.
But what I want you to come back to tonight is to see this Prince of Peace. Imagine after the turmoil and anguish of Him leaving the disciples to go to the cross, and they knew what happened to Him, bleeding and dying, Jesus comes in His resurrected form to them, and He reveals Himself to them, to these troubled spirits - and what does He pronounce to them? Can anybody tell me? What does He pronounce to them? 'Peace be with you', and then what did He do? Can you remember? He showed them His hands, and He showed them His side - that's where the peace comes, through the precious blood, through what He suffered for us that we might have this supernatural peace. Do you know what He did next? What did He do next? He breathed on them the Holy Spirit, because He's the only One who can bring that peace. Is He not Wonderful?
Warren Weirsbe has a marvellous write up on this whole verse, but sums it all up - I gave it to you the first week - the whole verse like this: 'He's Wonderful, that takes care of the dullness of life. He is Counsellor, that takes care of the decisions of life. He is Mighty God, that takes care of the demands of life. He is Everlasting Father, that takes care of the dimensions of life. He is Prince of Peace, that takes care of the disturbances of life'. Listen: if the government of your life is on His shoulder, you will experience the wonder of His name.
Father, we just now ask that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and His peace may go with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at the Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'The Wonder Of His Name' series, entitled "Prince Of Peace" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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