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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Taste the Good Fruit of Peace Given to You by the Holy Spirit
Text:Galatians 5:22a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit
 
Preached:2008-11-16
Added:2009-04-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 147:4
Sing: Psalm 119: 62, 66
Sing: Psalm 85:1, 3
Sing: Psalm 34: 5
Sing: Psalm 122: 3

Read: Isaiah 48:17-22; John 14:25-31; Gal 5: 7-12

Text: Galatians 5: 22a
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:

How peaceful are things in your life right now? Was there peace in your home this morning as you got ready for church? Do you have peace with your family members – with your son or your daughter or your wife or husband or your parents or your friends? Or is your life full of conflict? Do you have peace of mind? Are you at peace with yourself? If you are, what does that mean? How do you define peace?

During the month of December we celebrate Christmas. It is about the Prince of peace. He came to bring peace here on earth. That’s also what Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, said in Luke 1:79, namely that his son John would prepare the way of him who will guide our feet into the path of peace.

But what kind of peace did he come to bring? The world defines peace as the absence of conflict. We live in a sinful world. Conflict is part of our lives. And so you might say that peace is that brief glorious moment when everybody is standing around reloading.

Is that what peace is all about? Is it the lull in between fighting? Or is it something else? That is what we will deal with in this sermon. Paul tells us that the third part of the fruit of the Spirit is peace. Peace is a gift from the Holy Spirit. God hands it to you. And as with any gift, you can either accept that gift or reject it.

When we started this worship service, God’s peace was proclaimed upon you with the words of the greeting from God our Father: Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. At the end of the worship service you will receive God’s blessing, namely that God turns his face towards you and gives you peace. If there’s one thing you want in your life, it is peace. But not just any kind of peace, God’s peace, for only his peace is true peace. The theme for this worship service is as follows:

Taste the Good Fruit of Peace Given to You by the Holy Spirit.

We will see:

1. Peace of God;

2. Peace with God;

3. Peace on earth.

 

1. God is known as the God of peace because he is without sin. There is no contradiction in him. He does not say one thing and do another. He’s absolutely constant in everything that he says and does. There is no deviation in him. That is also the way it is with him in our covenant relationship with us as his people. He is our faithful covenant partner.

Why then is there so little peace here on earth? Well, lack of peace, that is conflict, turmoil, pain and suffering, come about because of sin. And sin comes about because we do not keep the rules of the covenant. There is no peace because we broke the covenant. That is what happened in paradise when Adam and Eve sinned. They no longer obeyed the rules. And now only God can restore the peace that man has broken.

That is what Paul told the Galatians when he came to them with the gospel of peace. He told them about God’s faithfulness and truth through the Lord Jesus Christ. He told him how he fulfilled the law for them and how they must also put their faith in him. He told them that salvation is through grace alone. Although you must do your utmost to keep the law, you cannot save yourself by keeping the law. You can only be saved if you believe in God and in his mercy.

Brothers and sisters, do you know how liberating that message was for those people? Most of us have grown up in the Christian faith. We have been taught that you cannot appease God by keeping all the rules that he’s established. It’s impossible. But that is what all other religions do teach you. Those Galatians grew up being afraid, afraid of those gods in the skies, because they knew that they were not able to keep them happy. Don’t think that today is any different. For example, there are millions of Muslims all over the world and they believe that Allah is a God who needs to be appeased by doing many prayers each day, by facing the right way when you do pray, and by keeping the numerous rules and regulations that they themselves have devised. And if you read about how a Muslim lives then you will see that it is a horrible existence. They lead very repressive lives.

The gospel of peace sets you free from all this. Initially the Galatians were full of enthusiasm about that gospel of peace. That is why Paul also says to them in chapter 5:7, “You were running a good race.” But in the same breath he adds something. He asks, “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” In other words, something had happened in the meantime. The Galatians listened to the party of circumcision, the so-called Judaizers, who taught that you were saved by the keeping of the law.

He says in verse three, if that is what you also believe then you are obligated to keep the whole law. But that is impossible. Therefore he adds in verse 10 of chapter 3, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”And so the Judaizers did not come with a message of peace. On the contrary.

But that is not the only group which Paul addresses in this letter. There was also another group that gave great reason for concern. They went to the other extreme. To those people the law has been fulfilled, and thus has no real significance any longer. They appeal to the fact that they are saved through grace alone. They said to themselves, “We do not have to worry about sin so much anymore. Christ died for our sins, didn’t he? Did Paul and the other apostles not teach us that through faith we belong to him? We’ve got it made!”

You see they go for a cheap grace. There are a lot of evangelical churches that go for that too. They don’t read the law anymore; they don’t want to talk about their sin and misery. They emphasize the freedom which they have in Christ because of the forgiveness of sins. People who believe this message, both then and now, say that they no longer need to fight against their sins. Christ had done it all for them, so why should they worry? But is that what the Bible teaches? Of course not. Paul warns in chapter 5: 13 not to use freedom to indulge in the sinful nature. For then you are not really free at all, but once again slaves to sin, slaves to the devil. And when you are a slave to the devil, then you are as far removed from freedom as you could ever be. Then there is no peace in your life. Then your life is full of discord and turmoil. For then you are in the grip of Satan. You are again acting in accordance with your old nature. And then you too, just like the Judaizers, stand condemned before God. 

For that reason Paul gives the Galatians the same warning as he did to the Ephesians. He said to them in Ephesians 4:22, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” That is what every believer must do if he belongs to Christ.

What exactly is that old nature that we are to put off? Just prior to our text Paul tells us what that is. He describes what that life is like. He says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These are the qualities man has outside of God. There is nothing peaceful about these qualities. Indeed, they are all opposed to a peaceful existence.

But now, let us look at ourselves. Do we not also experience these desires of the flesh? Does our old nature not also continue to want to assert itself? We too are often at odds with each other. We often see these qualities in our relationships with each other. 

This is most evident when we observe children. If you want to learn anything about yourself, then look at your own children sometime and see yourself. Children have not learned to mask their true feelings as we as adults have. What you see is what you get. You see jealousy. If you give a new toy to the one child, then you had better not forget the other. Or else you will have a sulking child on your hand. The child will not hide his feelings. He or she will let you know how he or she feels in no uncertain terms. 

At the same time you see enmity. Children are constantly in competition with each other. They look out for themselves first, at the expense of their siblings. Children are by nature selfish. They make sure they get the biggest or the best first. It is a constant struggle for parents to teach children not to be at odds with each other, to live in peace with their brothers and sisters. 

By nature, we as adults are not any different. We tend to look out for own interests first. Never mind the other guy. Me first. By nature we are not a very peaceful people.

It was not always like that. Before the fall into sin there was absolute peace. When you read through the first few chapters of Genesis, you are immediately struck by the peaceful conditions which existed at that time. Then man was at peace with God, with nature, and with himself. There was no conflict. Adam and Eve were at peace with God, each other, and the world. 

But what happened to change all that? Sin came into the world. Adam and Eve, and we in them, deliberately rebelled against God. As soon as that happened, our whole nature changed. Man, being good, now became evil. Man set himself up as the adversary of God. There was no longer any harmony between man and man either. Eve tempts Adam, and Adam blames Eve. They too are now at odds with each other. 

Man himself broke the peace. Now instead of harmony, there was hostility. Man abused the independence and freedom God gave him and sought happiness, peace, and harmony on its own terms. 

The only problem is, what was true before the fall, is also true after the fall: there is no peace and harmony outside of God. God reveals himself in the Scriptures as the God of peace. Only through him can a man find true peace and harmony. But the man who is dominated by his old nature does not want anything to do with God. He wants to seek peace and happiness outside of God.

 

2. How then does God break through that old nature of ours? We come to the second point.

God says to man, “I do not want you to live in enmity with each other any longer. I want you to be at peace therefore I will make a covenant with you. I will make with you a covenant of peace.” For that is what he calls his covenant in various places in the Scriptures. Through the establishment of his covenant, in spite of man’s breaking the bond of peace with his Creator, the Lord God wants to restore man so that he will live in a peaceful relationship with him. He re-establishes his covenant with man. But, he says, if you truly want to live in peace with me and your fellow man, then you must hate sin. For sin breaks down the covenant. If you do not want to deal with sin in your own life, then you will never live in peace. You cannot find peace in life if you do not want to deal with sin. No one can have any true understanding of sin unless he realizes that all wrongdoing is sin against God. 

If we put ourselves, our own interests and desires, before that of another person, then we sin against God. If we put ourselves first, then we place God and others on the backburner. For then we follow our own spirit, rather than the Spirit of God. Then we are like the false prophets Ezekiel spoke against in chapter 13, which we read together. He says to them in verse 3, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” And he says further in the verses 9 and 10, “My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash.”

Throughout the Old Testament the word for peace, shalom, is very closely connected with the word salvation. We could also see that in the psalm which we sang together earlier: “He (the Lord) will proclaim his steadfast words of peace. From chains of bondage he will grant release. For surely his salvation is at hand.”(Psalm 85, stanza 3). Salvation is the deliverance from sin. That is what the Lord promises in his covenant of peace with us. 

But we all know that there are two sides to that covenant of peace. As covenant children we are to flee from sin. We must hate and detest it, and do everything to eradicate it from our lives. That is why the psalmist also adds, “prepared for those who honour his command.” 

God’s peace is only for those who take their covenant responsibilities seriously. And those false prophets were not willing to do so. They wanted peace without dealing with sin. They ignored the sins of the people. They wanted to deliver themselves from their enemies. They wanted to rely on their own strength. So they put up a wall to keep out the enemy. 

They did the same thing with sin. They put a wall around themselves, and fooled themselves into thinking that they did not need the Lord God for their deliverance from sin. They wanted to keep God out, and they refused to be convinced of the strength of their enemy. They refused to listen to the voice of God. Therefore they did not speak out about the many ways in which they sought their own interests rather than God’s honour and glory. They ignored their own sin and the sin of the people and therefore they did not interpret the dark political scene during the exile in terms of the judgement of God against the apostasy of the people. 

That is why in chapter 34 Ezekiel tells them about the real salvation from God. He tells them about the coming shepherd. He will bring peace. In him that covenant of peace will find its fulfillment. 

And when Christ is born, Zechariah sings of the peace that will come with that good shepherd. He prophesies of the coming Christ, that he will “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79, ESV). The prophet Isaiah also prophesies his coming. He says in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Why is he called Prince of peace? He is called that for no other reason than that he deals with sin in a most radical way. Sin was nailed on the cross with him. That is God’s gift to those who believe in him. He gives us his Son, the Prince of peace.

But what then does the Lord our God expect from us? He says, “I have done it all for you. I have brought you peace. I have brought you my Son. But if you accept that gift then that will also show that in your life. It cannot be otherwise.” 

How does that show? It shows in the way that you deal with sin. You hate it. You struggle with it every day of your life and you help others in their struggle against sin. Now you can also understand why Paul uses such strong language in his letter. To an unbeliever it would seem that Paul is anything but a peaceful man. He says about his opponents that he wishes they would emasculate, that is, mutilate themselves. And he berates the Galatians in no uncertain terms. He chides them for allowing the word of God to be perverted. He even calls them names. He uses some very strong language. He says in Galatians 3:1, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”  

“Does that sound like a man of peace?” you may ask. But yes, congregation, Paul loves peace. It is clear that Paul hates sin. He wants nothing to do with sin. Sin breaks the bond with God; sin breaks down the covenant. Paul wants nothing to do with the desires of the flesh. That is clear from this letter and from all the letters that he has written.     

That is why he also realizes how much he needs God, how much he needs the Holy Spirit, how badly he needs to be redeemed. For listen to what he says further in chapter 3, in the verses 2-5: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Do you notice that Paul does not expect them to be able to overcome sin in their lives on their own? No, Paul speaks here about being supplied by the Holy Spirit. And he also speaks about the gift of faith in that connection. He tells them they cannot depend on the works of the law. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. If you accept that gift from God, then you will also accept the fruit of that gift, including the fruit of peace. 

Remember, brothers and sisters, God has made you part of that covenant of peace. He has given the sign and the seal of that covenant on your foreheads. Now Paul says, show that you are covenant children. Deal with sin in your lives. Be a peacemaker. We come to the third point.

 

3. How do you bring peace on earth? First of all you do that by allowing the peace of God to come over you. You accept his message of peace in your life. You acknowledge the fact that you are a terrible sinner and in need of the redemption through the blood of Christ. You realize that you desperately need the forgiveness of sins. You accept all of Christ’s benefits. A person who accepts the gift of the fruit of peace is someone who is not afraid to take a close look at himself. He does not mind criticism for he wants to know how he has wronged God and his neighbour, and how he can become a better person. He hates the sin that clings to him.

Time and again he comes to the same conclusion as Paul did when he says in Romans 7 “What a wretched man I am!” He knows about the battle of sin in his own life. He asks himself time and again, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” He truly hates his old nature of jealousy and envy and strife. He knows that nothing good dwells in his flesh. He actively and consciously flees from sin in his own life. He does not just say to himself, “How glad I am that I have the forgiveness of sins” or “How good it is that I belong to the true church.” For if that is where we leave it, if that is all there is to it, then we are still in our sins. Then we are fooling ourselves. For there is more to it than that. 

Indeed it is true, and we must be fully convinced of that, that Christ has delivered us from this body of death. We are a part of the covenant of peace. But that does not mean that we now just lie back and soak it all up like a sponge soaks up water. No, the Lord puts us to work. We must also actively seek the peace. And that means actively fighting against sin and the devil. 

That means that you must first take a close look at yourself. If there is a lack of peace in your life right now, if you are at all kinds of conflict with people in your life, then the most likely cause is you yourself. In one way or another, you and I are always part of the problem. That’s what you have to look at first. That’s the only way to peaceful relations with others.

You also don’t bring about peace by being a pharisaical zealot. No, the Pharisees did not bring peace on earth by their zealous and aggressive methods. They brought discord.

How do you bring peace? How can this congregation be a peaceful congregation? It is not by encouraging phariseeism. It is only through humility and gentleness. 

James says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (chapter 1:19). But that is not our nature, is it? We are much more inclined to speak out against others and to tell them how wrong they are. We feel like speaking our minds, telling it like it is. We do that because we are all such poor listeners. And we come so quickly with our judgements. But before we speak out we must ask ourselves whether we do it for the sake of the true peace of God, or whether we do it because we fulfill our own needs by doing so. Do we speak out because we are genuinely concerned that God is offended or is it because we are personally irritated by other people’s behaviour? Think about that the next time you show your disapproval to others. What are my true motivations? A peacemaker does not speak out too quickly. He does not right away speak about what is on his mind. He listens to the other side of the story.

On the other hand, when he is truly concerned about sin, then he does not keep his mouth shut either. A lot of people think that a peacemaker is someone who avoids trouble at all costs. He talks along with people and pats everybody on the back. But that is not the picture you get as you study the Scriptures either. If that were true Paul could not be known as a peaceful man either, for he certainly does speak out. He exposes sin and wrong lifestyles. For remember, true peace can never be found by ignoring sin. 

And yet there are those among us who do not dare to speak out when things are wrong because they do not want to cause trouble. They don’t want to “rock the boat” so they choose not to say anything. They may do this even with their own families, with their own children. And that is often because they have not properly dealt with sin in their own lives. They have not been honest with themselves. And so they do not dare to be honest with others either. But you have to know when to speak and when not to speak. If you want to be a true peacemaker then you sometimes need to call a spade a spade. You need to deal with the truth. You have to teach others to be honest with themselves and you can only do that if you are first honest with yourself.

The Lord teaches us to be watchful. The apostle John records the words of the Lord Jesus in chapter 14: 27 when Christ said just before his death and resurrection, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He says further that the ruler of this world is coming but that he has no power over him. Indeed Satan has no power over Christ. He defeats the evil one. And he has done so for us. That is why he can leave us his peace. Satan has no dominion over him, and therefore Satan has no dominion over you and me either, as long as we remain in the vine, in Christ, through faith. If you truly believe, you too do not have to be afraid.      

Peace indeed is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and as a fruit must continue to grow on the tree before it can be harvested, so it is with the fruit of peace. In this life we have only a small beginning of the obedience which God requires from us. But there must be constant growth in our lives. We must constantly be on guard against sin. We must constantly learn how to deal with sin. Again, this means that you must constantly look at yourself. Ask yourself: Is there turmoil in my life? Am I constantly angry with others? What is my part in it? Then you can also humbly walk with your brother or sister.

God is the God of reconciliation. He reconciles us to Himself and to each other. Listen to what Paul said to the Colossians as to how he has brought that about. He says in Colossians 1:19-20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (that is, Christ) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Let me ask you once again, brothers and sisters, is there peace in your life? Is there peace in your household, with your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Are you at peace with them? Or do you have a hard time forgiving others? Do you keep bringing up the same sins?

In order to gain peace, you must be able to forgive other people their sins. Think about your Lord and Saviour, brothers and sisters. Remember Christ, who brought peace into the world through the blood of the cross. He did that by completely denying Himself. Christ was the most unselfish man who ever lived. He did not insist on his own rights as God, but he humbled Himself for us, so that we may share in the peace of the cross. When he was reviled, he did not retaliate. When he was threatened, he did not threaten back but committed all men to the righteous judgement of God. His aim was to win others over, rather than turning them away. That is the true quest of peace. 

And so we too, as bearers of the fruit of peace, must deny ourselves and put off our old nature with its fleshly desires and seek the promotion of God’s kingdom of peace. For Christ is coming again. And he will judge us. He will look at us to see if we are truly fruit bearers. He will look at us and he will see whether the fruit of peace is present in our lives. For a tree is known by its fruit. What will Christ say about you when he comes again? Will he see the fruit of the Spirit in you? Will he see peace or will he see bitterness?

The Gospel of peace, as Paul calls it in Ephesians 6, has been proclaimed to you again this day. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in this. Allow yourselves to be led by that Spirit. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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