John 14:1-11, 27; Romans 5:1

All of us know that even with all the hope and promise of a wonderful New Year that a little rain is going to fall in all of our lives in the year 2017. And it is probably true that for some it won’t be just a little rain; some of us are going to have to endure storms. When, not if, but when the rain begins to fall or the storm threatens, more than anything else, we will desire peace in our lives.
If that be true, then you’ve come to the right place today as we are going to begin a month-long emphasis on how to acquire peace in our lives such that when it begins to rain or storm, we’ll remain calm.

And we will begin today by taking a cue from Jesus, whose goal it was to measure some peace into the lives of His disciples in the Upper Room immediately after serving them their first communion. Therefore I call this communion meditation A Peace Meal.

First, let’s look at the context. He knew that they needed a little peace, as a storm was about to break not only upon Jesus but upon them also. They sit huddled together in the Upper Room. It is their last night; in the distance, flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. In 24 hours, Jesus will be dead. He knows the dark clouds are gathering. Death will not take Him by surprise. He entered Jerusalem earlier in the week knowing full well what would occur at the end of it. He is ready. But His disciples are slow to comprehend.
Soon, they will be in the dark garden of Gethsemane with the ugly cross and somber tomb not far behind. Soon, they will be panic-stricken and flee for their lives! But for the moment, there in the Upper Room, it is the calm before the storm.

He is beginning to say goodbye to His friends, and He leaves them with a wonderful gift, a precious gift: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. Not the kind of peace offered by the world, but His peace.”

“Not as the world gives.”

Not the Pax Romana which began after Octavian defeated Antony in the Battle of Actium on Sept. 2, 31 BC. This Peace of Rome began to be recognized and proclaimed throughout the Empire in 13 BC or for about 38 years when Jesus offers His peace.

Not the peace the disciples of Jesus were looking for, hoping that He would take the role of a warrior king to oust the Romans who had been ruling Palestine since 63BC and return the nation to the 100 years of peace the Jews enjoyed prior to that time.

In the later part of the 19th century, the church in America was under the illusion that it was bringing a new sense of peace to the world through its efforts of mission work. Until the outbreak of WWI burst their bubble.

In the early 80’s a couple became increasingly alarmed by the threat of nuclear war, so they undertook a serious study of all the inhabited places on the globe, with the goal of discovering the most peaceful place on the planet. They studied and traveled, traveled and studied; finally, they found the place. On Christmas of 1981, they sent their pastor a card from their new home in the Falkland Islands just prior to the outbreak of war between England and Argentina.

A few years ago, insurance companies of America undertook a study to find the most peaceful place to live in the United States. Basing their criterion on where there was the least chance to experience tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and forest fires, they actually discovered that our fair State of Ohio is one of the best locations in the nation.

We could withdraw from the world, decide to become a hermit, dig a cave, live off the land, remove ourselves completely from any outside contact and presumably any situation that might disturb our peace, and still not be at peace because above all, we need peace with God.

Even hermits live knowing that they are someday going to die. And until a man or woman comes to grips with what is to become of them after they die, there is no peace. It is my contention, after not only experiencing this anxiety myself but also listening to many describe the same thing, that many of us learn to live with a restlessness in our souls and have come to accept this apprehension as part of life.

The great Christian mystic, Sundar Singh, once said, “As water is restless until it reaches its level, the soul has no peace until it rests in God.”

How do we receive this peace with God? That’s exactly what the great Apostle Paul is answering in his letter to the Romans. Following his 17 verse introduction, Paul begins his very logical argument in Romans 1:18 laying out his case against sinners: “For the wrath/anger of God is being revealed against all who sin.” From here to the end of chapter 2 he makes his case against obvious sinners. From 2:1-6 he exposes those who think they are above sin as sinners. And beginning in 2:17, he warns religious Jews, who believe that God is going to wink at their sins because they attempt to keep God’s Law.

After including every possible case, Paul concludes this part of his argument in 3:23:

“everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

How is God’s anger being revealed against all who sin? Beyond the obvious negative consequences that occur in this life, there is Romans 6:23: “the wages of sin is death.” Death, in this case, is not only the cessation of biological function but also implies being separated from God forever.

Geez! Is there any good news here, preacher?

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:21-25).

In the NLT, verse 25 loses some of its panache. Whereas it says in the NLT “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin,” the NASB has it “whom God displayed publically as a propitiation,” where the word ‘propitiation’ was deliberately chosen by Paul because it means ‘to avert God’s wrath/anger.’ It takes us back to the topic sentence of this entire section where God’s wrath is being revealed against all who sin. Now here God’s wrath is being averted. Averted from whom? All who put their faith in Christ’s death upon the cross.

Notice we avert God’s wrath, not by keeping the law, but by faith.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. (Romans 3:27-28).

Then in chapter 4, Paul illustrates this last point by pointing to the life of Abraham:

Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. (Romans 4: 1-5).

Finally, Paul comes to his marvelous conclusion about all this in 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”

The Father sent the Son to patch up the broken relationship between us and Him that exists because of our sinfulness. Before the relationship is repaired, there is separation; alienation, between us and God. This separation causes in the human heart a perpetual anxiousness, a fear, a wondering about the existence of, and our place, in the next life.

This is what Paul was teaching in his letter to the Ephesians: “You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12b-13).

“It used to be darkness without Him, we lived our lives in blindness but now we’re found.”
Is it any wonder that we want to “sing, I love you so, and we’ll sing because the world can’t take away His love.”

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”

This peace with God is the key that unlocks the door to the peace of God, which is another, but different blessing. The peace of God has to do with facing the storms of life, knowing God is with us, that He can and does identify with our sufferings, that His love is a shield about us, that His strength helps us hold our heads up high no matter how deep it gets. And for the next four Sunday mornings, we are going to talk about how to obtain the peace of God.

I don’t claim to be a prophet. I don’t have to be. I know that bad things are going to happen to good people in this coming year. It could be you, it could be me. Could be today, could be tomorrow. Are you as prepared as you can be for the storm to break?

Matthew Henry, in his Concise Commentary on the Bible said, “When Christ died, He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothing to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, not silver or gold, but something far better: His peace!”

What Jesus spoke to His disciples in the Upper Room, He speaks today. “Peace, My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, not peace in the midst of calm but peace in the midst of the storm.”

Have you made your peace with God through the blood of His cross? For when we have we can begin to experience the peace of God that will see us through our earthly existence until our name is called up yonder.

In an article titled, The Answer to Fear from two Easters ago, Billy Graham writes, “We are a fear-filled people living in a fear-filled society. Many of our fears are well founded: Parents fear allowing their children to play in parks or walk to school unattended for fear of abduction or molestation; inner city residents fear gang violence; workers fear unemployment in the face of an uncertain economy. The fear of death is a universal phobia, with nearly three-quarters of the population admitting to it. What is the answer to this stifling fear?” “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). The answer to our individual fears is found in a personal faith in the living, glorified Lord. The answer to our collective fear is a corporate faith in the living, glorified Lord. The answer to national and international tensions and fears is for the world to know Him who is alive forevermore. Peace to you this Easter! Jesus is risen. What is there to fear?”