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Finding Happiness (Part 7)

Matthew 5:9 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” (NKJV)

 This Beatitude does not say, blessed are the peace lovers; it says, blessed are the peacemakers.  There is a difference.  Most people want to live in peace; few are willing to fight to establish it.  On a geo-political level, some take up arms to make peace, others use nonviolent resistance methods.  The Jewish historian Josephus records that The Jews demonstrated in Caesarea because Pilate introduced Caesar’s effigies into Jerusalem.  The Jews were outraged because the graven images were against their law.  They interceded with Pilate, but to no avail.  On the 6th day, he ordered his army to prepare for battle.  The Jews returned to protest.  Pilate gave the signal and the soldiers surrounded them.  Instead of dispersing, the Jews lay on the ground, exposing their necks.  Josephus wrote that they would “rather take their deaths very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed.”  Their resolve touched Pilate and he ordered his soldiers to stand down and his workers to remove the graven images. (The Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews, book 18, chapter 3, p. 379)

 Most of us would agree that the use of force is reserved for when diplomatic and other nonviolent method are ineffective, but we also know that there are times when force is necessary. When the Enabling Act gave Hitler’s regime the dictatorial powers they wanted, Dietrich Bonhoeffer encouraged the church to take a neutral position, but later spoke out against the regime because Hitler’s views on race.  Bonhoeffer was conflicted because, like many liberals of his day, he was a pacifist.  Yet in April of 1934, he joined in with a group of pastors who opposed Hitler to form the “Confessing Church.”  At Bonhoeffer’s request, Reinhold Niebuhr found him a teaching position at Union in 1939 so he could avoid conscription into the military, but Bonhoeffer renounced the job a month later to return to Germany.  Upon his return, he helped to organize a plot against Hitler’s life.  Just before the end of the war, the Nazis hanged Bonhoeffer at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945 for his opposition to the regime.  Evil can become so bad, that even a pacifist like Bonhoeffer turns to violence.

 I think it is helpful to think about being peacemakers on the global scene before discussing peacemaking a personal level, which is the focus of this message. If we are to be peacemakers, we must:

 MAKE LIVING AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER A PRIORITY.  Matthew 5:23-24  says, "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (NASB)  When we read this reference to “your offering” we automatically think about the donation we made to the church this morning.  But in this cultural context, I don’t think Jesus was referring to charitable contributions.  If you are familiar with the Old Testament sacrificial system, you know that people gave sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins.  These people weren’t giving their offerings; they were presenting their offerings—a direct reference to the sacrificial system.  Leviticus 3 and Malachi 1:8 speak of presenting sacrifices.

 There is a tremendous significance here.  Instead of saying, before you give your tithe to the church, get your heart right with your fellowman, Jesus is saying, making things right with your fellowman takes priority over presenting a sacrifice to God to get your relationship right with Him.  In essence, Jesus is saying, I’ll wait; get it right with your enemy first. Another way to put it is that reconciliation with one another is a higher priority than worship.  But the scripture doesn’t stop there.  It is also a higher priority than sleep. Ephesians 4:26 says, "’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,” (NKJV) And the Bible is clear, that in the marriage relationship, peace in the home is necessary for a healthy prayer life.  1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”  (NKJV) 

 GIVE OTHERS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

 John Gottman, of the University of Washington, is a world renowned Psychologist who can predict whether a marriage will last, or whether it will end in divorce based on whether the couple engages in positive sentiment override, or negative sentiment override. He defines positive sentiment override as “where positive emotion overrides irritability.”  If a husband snaps at the wife after a long day, in positive sentiment override, she overlooks the irritability.  Her overall positive feelings about him override the isolated negative action. 

 Negative sentiment override does the opposite.  The negative emotion overrides positive overtures.  Gottman explains, “In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other. If their spouse does something positive, it's a selfish person doing a positive thing. It's really hard to change those states, and those states determine whether when one party tries to repair things, the other party sees that as repair or hostile manipulation.” (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell p. 29-30)

 Have you ever been in a relationship where you’ve thought “I can’t do anything right in their eyes?”  That is a relationship in negative sentiment override.  Do you also have relationships with people that tend to overlook your faults and love you for who you are?  That’s a relationship in positive sentiment override.  Or to put it another way, it is a loving relationship.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; [5] does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; [6] finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; [7] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [8] Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.” (HCSB)

 THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK There will be times when you can’t bite your tongue, when you have to speak up, but when you do, make sure you know what you are talking about.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “What a shame--yes, how stupid!--to decide before knowing the facts!” (TLB) 

 But there are other times when the best thing you can do is BITE YOUR TONGUE. Proverbs 16:28 says, “An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (TLB)  Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (HCSB) Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (KJV)

 In the movie about Johnny Cash, “Walk the line,” there is a scene in a country grocery store where Reese Witherspoon, who plays June Carter is shopping for a fishing pole.  After a conversation with some adoring fans she encounters another woman who has something to get off her chest.  She says, “Your ma and pa are good Christians in a world gone to pot.”  Reese smiles and says, “I’ll tell them you said that.”  The saleswoman continues, “I’m surprised they still speak to you after that stunt with Carl Smith.  Divorce is an abomination.  Marriage is for life.”  Instead of striking back, Reese replies, “I’m sorry I let you down, Mam,” and walks away. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Which side of that conversation do you most often fine yourself on?  Are you like the salesclerk who seems to never have an unspoken thought?  Do you feel it is your duty to inform everyone about everything you don’t like? Do you have a critical judgmental spirit? 

 Or do you often find yourself on the other side of that conversation?  Have you found yourself the recipient of undeserved criticism? When you are, how do you react?  Do you lash out, blow your top and let ‘um have it in return? 
 

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