That was good singing. Now, turn with me in your Bibles to the passage that we've been looking at for quite some time now, Matthew chapter 5. Matthew chapter 5, and we've now reached the seventh beatitude, and we'll read all of the beatitudes again.
Beginning from verse 3 of chapter 5: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God". This is today's: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" - blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Let us pray, just for a moment, as we ask God's help for His word today. Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy truth, we thank Thee that it is the word of God - we say it so often, but help us never, oh God, to take it for granted. What we hold in our hands, what is written upon these pages, are God-breathed words from the heart of Almighty Deity. Lord, we need Thy Spirit today, I need to be filled with the Spirit of God, we need to be touched and spoken to by the Spirit of God, each one today. Lord, we do believe - we have to believe - that this is Thy word for us this morning, so help us to receive it as Thy word. Lord, help us not just to receive it, but to believe it and to obey it, and to live it in our daily lives, we pray. In Jesus' name, Amen.
'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God'. It's true to say that almost everyone in the world wants peace, isn't that true? In war-torn countries, in broken marriages, in families where there's strife and contention, in all sorts of relationships and nations, people want peace. It's also interesting that people all over the world want to be called 'the children of God'. Isn't that true? If they believe there is a God, if they believe in a deity, in an Almighty God whom they worship - whether he's the right God or not, or whether he's the true God - they want to class themselves as the children of God. Of course, the clarion cry that comes from every corner the world today is that 'we are all the children of God' - no matter who we or what we believe.
This is, perhaps, the least contentious Beatitude in all of the Beatitudes that we will study in this chapter. Although it is perhaps the least contentious, it is the one with universal appeal, that almost everybody wants peace and almost everybody wants to be called a child of God. It's interesting that over recorded history of 4000 years, only 300 of those 4000 years have been without a major war. Some writer has been quoted as saying this: 'Peace is merely that brief, glorious, moment in history when everyone stops to reload their weapons'. Isn't that true? 4000 years of recorded history, we don't know what it was like before then, but there's only been 300 years where there has been comparative peace.
We don't need to look at the history books, we only need to look at the word of God. If we go to the book of Genesis and we look at this character Noah, we read in Genesis chapter 6 and verse 11 that the earth was filled with violence. That's why God had to come, and God had to bring a flood upon the world and destroy all creatures except for Noah and his family, because they found grace in the eyes of the Lord. You could go from Noah, and then you could go to David in Psalm 55, and he says: 'I have seen violence and strife in the city' - and it was probably the city of Jerusalem. You could go to Asaph in Psalm 73, and he says that violence covereth all things like a garment. The whole world, as it were, wears as its clothing violence! Ezekiel said it, in Ezekiel 7:23 he said: 'The land' - and our land - 'is full of bloody crimes'! Solomon, the wisest man, said in Proverbs 15: 'The soul of the transgressor shall eat violence'.
It's described as the clothing of our world, it's described as the land being covered in bloody crimes - that blood, like the rain, has saturated all of this world - it's described as transgressors using violence, and having violence as their daily meat and drink - it's their diet! We learnt some time ago that what we eat, we are. When we eat violence, when we feast with our eyes on the television, or on the videos, of violence we'll become what we feast upon - what we eat! Seventy times in the Old Testament Scriptures this word 'violence' is used. When we come to the book of Malachi, and it's the end of the Old Testament, and before the New Testament there are 400 years of interim - yet in those 400 years there were five bloody wars for the city of Jerusalem.
As the Lord Jesus speaks here in this sermon, He says to these people: 'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God' - what a message it was to them! It was so appropriate, it was so contemporary, they were looking on their Jewish history of war and blood, and they were looking on the past 400 years since God spoke to them last, and there had been five wars for the city in which they were in at this moment. Is it any wonder He said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers'?
Now note, before we go any further, what the Lord Jesus is not saying. He's not saying: 'Blessed are those who are of a peaceful disposition' - that's not what He's saying. He's not even saying: 'Blessed are those who yearn, or want, or desire, or whose aspirations are peace'. He's not saying: 'Blessed are those who are easy going - laissez-faire'. He's not saying: 'Blessed are those who want peace, or who would bring peace at any price', or, 'Blessed are those who would compromise', or, 'Blessed are those who would try to avoid trouble, not rock the boat'. It doesn't even mean: 'Blessed are those, or those countries, or those sects, or societies, or individuals, who have an appearance of peace'. You see, an appearance of peace may only be an absence of war - and that's not what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying here. And He's not saying: 'Blessed are those who live and let live, those who are tolerant in society and who say: 'Well as long as it doesn't harm me and my family, and I can get on with my life, well that's alright''. That is not what this verse means.
So, what does it mean? Well, as we looked, we saw that in chapter 5 all of these beatitudes are a progression. They're like a ladder, they lead one to another - when you go up the first rung, you naturally come to the second rung and so on. The last Beatitude that we thought about, some weeks ago, was 'Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God' - and it would be natural, wouldn't it, to think that those who are pure in heart - and we saw that that meant pure in motive and sincerity, as well as moral purity - we would imagine that they would be people who would be peacemakers and could be called the children of God. We could say that peacemaking might come naturally from those that are pure in heart, but does it?
Let's look at the first thing that I want to bring to your attention this morning, it's this: the problem of peace. The problem of peace. You see, the congregation that the Lord Jesus Christ had at this message, at this sermon, many of them expected from Him a military, a national, a materialistic kingdom of Messiah that He would bring - that He would defeat the Romans, that He would set up His kingdom there. You remember in John chapter 6 that, after the great miracle that He performed, it says that they would've made Him a king. He spent so much of His ministry telling them that He wasn't going to be an earthly king in the sense in which they had conceived of, but He would be the King of their hearts - His kingdom would be in their hearts, that was the kingdom that He was establishing at that moment in time.
So why would these peacemakers be blessed? This is turning everything on its head again. They thought that He was coming as a man of war, to conquer their enemies, and to set up the society that they had longed for for so long - so how could peacemakers, in their eyes, be blessed? Well, to put it simply today: peacemakers are blessed because they are so much unlike everyone else. Think about that for a moment: so unlike the norm, the uniform in our society. Because peace making, although it's the thing that everybody wants, it's the most unnatural thing for the human race to have or do. Secular pacifists cry for it, they love to quote - I heard Clinton quoting it at our City Hall some years ago - 'Blessed are the peacemakers'. It's the clarion call of politics, of religion, of philosophy - yet it's the most unnatural thing for a human being. Many say: 'This is the real Gospel. This is the real good news, to love thy neighbour, to love thine enemy, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Blessed are the peacemakers - this is the real message!'. Yet it's so hard to do, and if the humanity that cried about it and agreed to it actually adhered to it, do you know what we would have? We would have world peace from corner of the earth to corner!
So, what is the reason, if everybody longs after peace and peace making, what is the reason for so much strife, for so much tension, bitterness, conflict, violence, bloodshed and war across our nation and across our world? Why is peace the most significant word in human vocabulary, yet it's one of the most elusive words in human experience? Why? I fear that the answer to this question is the answer to all the questions that we have heard week after week, as we have looked at this passage of Scripture. The problem of peace - what is the problem of peace? What is the question mark over the issue of peace? This: the human heart, the human heart is the heart of the problem!
Albert Einstein, he won the Nobel peace price for physics in 1921 - you remember, the theory of relativity. In one of his lectures in 1948 he commented on the threat of nuclear warfare, and this is what he said, and I'm quoting him: 'It is not a physical problem, but an ethical one. What terrifies us is not the explosive force of the atomic bomb, but the power of the wickedness of the human heart - its explosive power for evil'! Turn with me for a moment to James chapter 4. James typifies for us here exactly the real problem to all our problems, James chapter 4 and verse 1 and 2. He's asking the question that we have been asking here - where do wars come from? 'From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war' - he's asking the question: 'Where is all this strife, where is all this contention, where is all the battling and the bloodshed and war coming from? What motivates it? Where is the seed of its origin?'. 'It comes from inside you', James says. He uses this word your 'desires': 'Ye lust', verse 2, 'and have not: ye kill, and desire to have' - your desires, your wants, your lusts, your aspirations, that is the problem - the heart!
Now, as a Christian here - or as a non-Christian: are your desires not what you battle with from day-to-day? Is that not what the battle's with? Your desires that are within you, and there seems to be a world war day by day that is raging in your soul, in your breast. Evil wants to win, good wants to win - and continually there is this war going on! It's interesting that the Greek word that James uses for 'desires' is the word 'hedonis' - 'hedonis'! It's the word that we derive the word 'hedonism' from - and hedonism is simply the doctrine of everyone doing as they want to do, that self-satisfaction and gratification is all that is important. Isn't that what our desires are? The problem is 'I trouble' - 'I want this, I want that. I feel like this. I want to exhaust my desires, my passions, my instincts, on what I desire'. Is that not the cry of our whole world today? Every conflict in humanity - whether it be from a conflict in marriage, in a broken relationship, right to a world war - all of them stem from the same problem! The Lord Jesus - we've looked at it in weeks gone by in Mark chapter 7 - He said what? 'From the heart comes murderings, and adulteries, and fornication, and strife' - from the heart! It's not like you Pharisees say, it's not like the scribes and the religious theologians say: that if you take this, or you wear this, or you eat that, or you go here, or you think something, that that makes you sinful - He says that's not the case! It's not what goes into the body that makes a man defiled, but it's your heart, it's your heart, it's your heart!
This is the message of the sermon on the mount. And if I've preached eight messages by the end of this and you haven't got this message, I have failed! What God is saying, and what the Lord Jesus was bringing to these Pharisees, was that the heart is the heart of the problem! Unless you sort out the heart, you still have the problem. In Galatians 5 we have a list of the fruit of the Spirit, but we also have a list of what Paul says are the works of the flesh which are manifest. The works of the heart, the things that the heart conjures up, but they're manifest in the flesh - you can go home and look at them in Galatians 5, and they're the direct antithesis of everything that is of the Spirit of God, they're the opposite! After Adam sinned - this is what it all goes back to in the garden of Eden, after he disobeyed God and he took of that fruit from his wife and he ate of it, the Bible says that sin and death came upon all men - but in the same way as when God made him from the dust, He made him in His image...after Adam had sinned every man, woman, boy or girl after that was made in likeness of Adam, and in the image of Adam! Every lineage and every genealogy since, every boy and every girl, every baby - no matter how young or seemingly innocent - the tragedy is this: every one of them since then, humanity has been a continual river of rebellion ever since - and man was a trouble maker from the beginning, and he will be a trouble maker ever since! Why? Because the problem of peace is the problem of the heart.
Now, let's deal with something here - I think this is important. We hear talk about 'free will'. The question is this: does man have free will? Think about it, does he? Does a sinful man, or woman, or boy, or girl really have free will? Now, let's think about it, because do you know what free will is? There is a law in this universe, one of them is gravity - and I could get up into the choir box, and I could jump off it and flap my arms as hard as I can, but I'll not fly! Now, I've never tried it (and I'm not going to), but I guarantee you that I'll not fly. I'll not fly, why? There is a law in the universe that matter must go down, a force. So, I have not free will to do I want in that regard, isn't that true? There are laws in our universe which we cannot apprehend, we cannot across certain lines that God has drawn. It's exactly the same in the spiritual world - and to a certain extent there is no free will because a man is not totally free to choose his actions, but he is forced, just like the natural laws, he is forced by the spiritual laws within him and the laws, spiritually speaking, in the world to behave in certain ways.
Is that not what Paul said in Romans chapter 7, you don't need to turn to it for a moment, but listen to it. Romans 7:23, he was despairing because was something in him that made him do things, and he said: 'But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members'. Oh, there's no free will for a sinner. Have you ever seen a sinner stop sinning? Many of them wanted to, didn't they? They've tried to, and they've done everything to do it - but Paul says, and God says, that there's a law which means that we do even things that we don't want to do, it forces us to do it! I've said it before on Sunday evenings, this is a fact, in the same way as a sinner can't stop sinning - no matter how much he tries, the word of God says he's a slave to sin - in the same way, the one who is sitting and God is speaking to, don't you think for one moment that he is obliged to call on God when he wants! Maybe you're here this morning, and maybe you're not saved, and perhaps you're unconverted, and perhaps you've heard the Gospel over and over again, and you believe in your heart: 'Well, I'll get saved when I want to. I'll get saved when I feel like it. I'll get saved when everything is right for me to get saved' - but the word of God teaches that you have to get saved when God is calling! You can only answer God when God speaks to you!
The problem is the problem of the heart. The heart is the problem of all things, and as we look at this Beatitude we can see that it's absolutely fatal, as we've looked week after week, to think that we ourselves, of ourselves, can do these things, that we can perform these things, that we can achieve things for ourselves. Remember we looked at hungering and thirsting after righteousness? We saw that if we tried to pour righteousness into our life - like the Pharisees, which was an external righteousness, we do good works, we say prayers, we sing hymns, we try and act all 'holy' - but if we do that we're not hungering and thirsting after righteousness, because to hunger and thirst after righteousness means that only God can satisfy your righteousness! Only God can make a peacemaker, and only God can make peace with men - because if we're to have peace outwardly, we must have peace within our hearts. That's the point, that's the whole point of the Beatitudes: that if we're to have anything from God, if we are to have anything in life that is divine or is spiritual - 'I' must die! Oh, that we would get that! Do you see if you got that, child of God, you would soar to heights that you couldn't even imagine! If you realised that there's to be another cross to the cross of Christ, where you are nailed!
An old monk was asked on one occasion: 'What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?'. And he answered it like this - and he was a believer - he said this: 'A man who is crucified is facing only one way - and a man who is on a cross, someone else makes their plans for them'. Is that the way you're living? For that is the way we can only live if we're to be blessed of God, for God says: 'Blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed are all these types of people who die to themselves and live unto God'!
The word for 'peace' is the word 'Shalom' - you might have been to Jerusalem and got a wee piece of wood with 'Shalom' written on it - it means peace. It's more than simply the absence of war or strife. It's not just a negative thing, that there's no fighting or no bickering, but it's a positive thing. It means not just the absence of war, but the presence of something special, a wholeness, a feeling and an attitude of absolute well-being. When you look at the state of man, is there not a need for this? Is there not? Peace for broken, tormented minds. Peace for terrible, ripped apart homes. Peace for reputations that have been smarted through lust and degradation. Peace [for] lands that have been ripped by ethnic cleansing, and sectarianism, and murder, and rape. Peace for a world that is dying! Oh, sure, we need it more than ever!
But ever since man's declaration of independence from God, the word of God says that he has been God's enemy. There's been no peace between God and man since Adam took of that fruit in the garden - and the book of Romans testifies to it, that the carnal mind is enmity against God. But it's worse than that, because not only have we declared ourselves the enemies of God, but God declared Himself the enemy of man. That's the truth, that our sins and our iniquities have separated between us and our God, we have become - through the garden of Eden, through our forefather - the object of divine anger, divine wrath, divine hostility. And we, as we sit as a sinner unsaved, we're totally depraved in every area and every facet of our lives. Every area is not depraved as it might be, but every area is tainted by sin. Do you know what Jonathan Edwards said? He said: 'The unconverted man would kill God if he could get his hands on him' - isn't that right?
The problem of the heart is the problem of peace, but I want you to see that there is the Prince of peace! The Gospel, the good news, the glorious message of a Redeemer, of a Saviour, is the wondrous solution to a heart that is beyond remedy, to the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, to the heart that has the enmity and the wrath of God abiding upon it - the Gospel is the only answer! Turn with me quickly to 2 Corinthians and chapter 5, 2 Corinthians and chapter 5 and verse 19. This is the message, what a problem we are all in until we realise, like the man going to the doctor, that there's something wrong - he finds a lump, or he has a sore head, or he has a limp, or he has a pain in his chest - until he feels that and he knows something is wrong he can't go for the remedy. But God says in 2 Corinthians 5 verse 19: 'To wit', to know, 'that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation' - can you see it? This is beautiful: we are the enemies of God, and because of our sin God has become our enemy, but because the love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell, because it stretches to the highest heaven and reaches to the depths of hell, God - now grasp this - God our enemy was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. He came in the form of flesh, that we're remembering at the moment, He clothed Himself in the likeness of sinful flesh, and came to humanity to die - not imputing your sins to you, or my sins to me, but imputing the sins of a rebellious world at enmity with Him unto His beloved Son. Boy, can you grasp this?
'Jesus loves me - never you forget that, child of God
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so'.
This is wonderful, because if you go into the word of God and you go to Colossians - you don't need to turn to it, we haven't time - but if you go to Colossians in chapter 1, you read about it. What has happened through the cross, verse 21: 'And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled' - what a peace process that is! - 'reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight'. In 2 Corinthians 5, we'll read again, verse 20 and 21: 'Now then we are ambassadors for Christ', verse 21, 'for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him'. Then in Ephesians, we read it again, Ephesians 2 and verse 14: 'For he is our peace', He is our peacemaker, 'who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man...that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby'.
Can I say this to anybody who's here, and you're not saved: do you see what Christ has done for you? Do you? Do you see the love of God for you? How Christ came, and God was in Christ, to bring you who were away from Him, who were damned by Him, to bring you to Himself and to love you as His Son. Oh, it is wonderful, it is too wonderful to be! The word of God says that, because of that, every type of barrier, every type of wall in the church of Jesus Christ is gone. There's neither Jew, there's neither Greek, there's neither bond, there's neither free, there's neither male nor female - ye are all one in Christ Jesus! That doesn't mean everybody does the same thing, but what it does mean in regards to salvation, and in regards to how far you can go with God: no-one is barred. It's no wonder, on that first Christmas Day, that they came and they said - what did the angels say? 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom God's favour rests'.
But let's look quickly at the pain of peace. We see the precedent for peace, who is the Prince of peace, He's our example, He's the one whom we ought to follow - but there is the pain of peace. We read in 2 Corinthians 5 that because of the reconciliation that has been made for us by God to bring us to Himself, we ought to be ambassadors of reconciliation. What does that mean? Isaiah put it like this: 'How beautiful are the feet of him that brings good news, who publishes peace' - isn't that right? Whoever brings the message of the Prince of peace is publishing the message of peace, and you're an ambassador of reconciliation. That will cause pain, because there is pain in peace, and the Gospel has to wound before it can heal. In other words, you've got to go to the law - that schoolmaster that'll knock you into shape to realise that you can't do it, and all the sins and iniquities of your past and your present have to be raked up till you face them, and the Holy Ghost does that - furrowing the ground in order to put the seed in. So there has to be, before peace, there has to be a fight.
You see, this isn't peace at any price, this isn't a papering over of the cracks, that when the rain comes and when the water runs down the wall it'll all cave in - that's not what it is. But this is breaking up that plaster of that wall, and plastering it over again - making a new creation in Christ Jesus! That's what it is, but it's painful. Not only is that process of salvation and sanctification painful, we're not only to be reconciled to God, we're not only to take the message of reconciliation to a dying world, but we're to be reconciled with one another. See that passage that we read from, 2 Corinthians 5? It's often preached on, verse 21 and 22, as a gospel message - and that's OK, you can do that. But do you know what the primary meaning of this passage is? The Corinthians were torn asunder, not through reconciliation, but through war and strife and bickering and fighting and backbiting! Paul was coming to them and saying to them: 'Listen! Be reconciled to God, and be reconciled to your fellow men'.
Oh, we'll say 'Amen' to the message of reconciliation to God, won't we? But it's painful to go to somebody that we've hurt, and it's painful to go to somebody that we've talked about, and it's painful even to go to somebody who we know has been talking about us, and have reconciliation with them and put peace between us, and be peacemakers - and as Philippians says, esteem one another better than ourselves - why? Because it is putting to death ourselves, and that's painful, it's not natural! The old puritan Cotton Mather (sp?), he received a bundle of letters - poison pen letters - do you know what he did? He put them up on his shelf and he wrapped around them this label: 'Father forgive them'. Are you a peacemaker?
Quickly, as we finish, do you know how you can be a peacemaker? You find it in Colossians 3 and verse 15, we read this: 'Let the peace of God rule in your hearts'. You see that wee word 'rule' in the Greek, do you know what it's the word for? It's the word for an umpire within sports. Now, what does an umpire do? An umpire is not seen or heard until the rules are broken, isn't that right? Therefore in the Christian life, in the Christian walk, when we are walking in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, when we're walking in peace with our God and peace with men and women around us, the whistle of the referee won't blow! But when the whistle blows, the peace is gone, and we're not a peacemaker.
You see, there's the problem of peace which is the heart. There's the Prince of peace which is the Saviour. There's the pain of peace which is the cost. But look at this: there is the paternity of peace - 'they shall be called the children of God'. Now, that should be translated more accurately: 'the sons of God', because in the word of God to call someone your son means this: that they are a bearer of your image. If you're a peacemaker, child of God, and you have made peace with God, if you publish peace through the word of God and the Gospel day by day, if you make peace with one another and brethren that are in schisms and broken through argument - you're like your Father in heaven!
Can I ask you, as I close: have you made peace with God? Christian, are you publishing the peace of God? Believer, are you practising the peace of God? The writer to the Hebrews concludes it all like this: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord'.
As your head is bowed, consider the question: are you reconciled with God? He has done everything to reconcile Himself to thee. What have you done for Him? Are you publishing the message of peace? And are you practising the message of reconciliation? I know that there are so many Christians, and they have been turned off the gospel of Jesus Christ because of bickering brethren. I wonder has God touched your heart today about something that's not right with your brother or sister in Christ? May God help you and give you the grace to obey His word.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the peace of God that passeth all understanding, that was bought through the sacrifice of His peace on the cross of Calvary. What pain He endured, what sorrow He bore, that we might have the peace, and peace with God. Lord, we pray that we would take the exhortation of Thy servant John: 'Brethren, love one another, even as Christ has loved you'. May we go in love, and may the world look at us and see the love that is in us, and see the love of God for them in Christ Jesus. So we ask Thy blessing as we part one from the other, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the ninth tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "Blessed Are The Peacemakers" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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