Here is the lesson for “Blessed are the Meek”: blessed-are-the-meek-1
Tomorrow night at Vertical Church Burbank (a church plant in Burbank), I will be teaching the second lesson in a series for a Peacemaking Culture, Blessed are Those Who Mourn. Here is the first section:
Blessed are those who mourn
For they shall be comforted.
To mourn is to be blessed
What sort of mourning is blessed?
What hinders mourning?
What does it mean to be comforted?
How does this relate to peacemaking?
I. What sort of mourning is blessed?
A. You mourn when you lose something you love.
1. A lost coffee cup. You mourn little because you love the thing lost little.
2. A lost child: Jacob in Genesis 38: “No, I shall go down to Sheol mourning.” Jacob mourned greatly because he loved greatly. Other examples, David and Bathsheba’s son. 2 Sam. 12:16. Absalom 2 Sam. 18:33. Jesus and Lazarus John 11:35.
B. Mourning exposes the true treasures of our heart. It is easy to fake words, smiles, deeds. But one cannot fake true tears. Mourning is an x-ray of the soul, it exposes our true love. There is a direct line from the depth of the heart to our tears.
1. Not all mourning is for a good cause: 2 Kings 21. Ahab covets Naboth’s vineyard. When Naboth refuses to sin and lose his family’s land, Ahab mourns the loss of his wicked coveting. He was “vexed and sullen”. 2 Kings 21:4. Ahab’s coveting exposed the wicked coveting of Ahab’s heart.
2. Mourning is a truth-telling mechanism. The Proverbs warn us against the man who “winks with his eye.” Prov. 10:10. We can easily be taken in by pleasant shows.
3. Inside the church, the trick is called hypocrisy. Jesus speaks of the hypocrite who pretends to sorrow:
a. Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)
16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
b. Do you see what the hypocrite loves? He does not love the praise of God, but rather loves the praise of other people. What I want you to see now is that he can only pretend to mourn — he does not actually mourn. He wears mourning like a coat to pretend that he loves the praise of God.
4. We know that God will not bless Ahab’s mourning. Psalm 5 says that God does not delight in wickedness. We know that God will not bless the hypocrite’s false mourning.
C. Since mourning reveals the love and treasure of our heart, we know that God will only bless those who love the things which God loves. What love does God seek to reward: Note the shift: God does not reward because we are merely sad: otherwise Ahab and the hypocrite would be rewarded. God rewards us because our sorrow flows from a right love.
D. Context for the promise that God will bless mourning.
1. The immediate context: This promise comes between poor in spirit and meekness. Poor in spirit means to be completely empty of self-righteousness and self-importance. Meekness is to be led by God.
2. It comes after Matt. 4:17 which marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”It comes after John the Baptist’s call for repentance.
3. The Epistle of James can give us insight into the Sermon on the Mount, because it is largely derived from the Sermon. In James 4:6-10 we find the same combination of repentance, mourning and humility as the ground for God’s comfort:
James 4:6–10 (ESV)
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Here we see mourning tied to repentance.
4. In the remainder of the Scripture we see the relationship between repentance for sin and mourning:
a. Psalm 40:12 (ESV)
12 For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
b. The entire book of Lamentations works out this relationship between sin and mourning at great length.
5. Mourning in repentance will be blessed.
a. Since blessed mourning is the mourning of true repentance, we know that such mourning is a gift of God.
b. Thomas Watson on the proper object of spiritual mourning:
There are two objects of spiritual mourning—sin and misery.
The first object of spiritual mourning is SIN; and that twofold, our own sin; and the sin of others.
1. Our own sin. Sin must have tears. While we carry the fire of sin about with us—we must carry the water of tears to quench it! (Ezekiel 7:16). ‘They are not blessed’ (says Chrysostom) ‘who mourn for the dead—but rather those who mourn for sin.’ And indeed it is with good reason we mourn for sin, if we consider the guilt of sin, which binds over to wrath. Will not a guilty person weep, who is to be bound over to the penalty? Every sinner is to be tried for his life and is sure to be cast away—if sovereign mercy does not become an advocate for him.
The pollution of sin. Sin is a plague spot, and will you not labor to wash away this spot with your tears? Sin makes a man worse than a toad or serpent. The serpent has nothing but what God has put into —but the sinner has that which the devil has put into him. ‘Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?’ (Acts 5:3). What a strange metamorphosis has sin made! The soul, which was once of an azure brightness, sin has made of a sable color! We have in our hearts the seed of the unpardonable sin. We have the seed of all those sins for which the damned are now tormented! And shall we not mourn? He who does not mourn, has surely lost the use of his reason. But every mourning for sin is not sufficient to entitle a man to blessedness. I shall show what is not the right gospel-mourning for sin, and then what is the right gospel-mourning for sin.
The Beatitudes, Sermon 6.
c. True spiritual mourning will only come we have a love which is fixed upon the right object, and we realize that we have lost something we love. We mourn because we have sinned God, and thus rightly incur God’s judgment. We mourning because we have thrown away holiness, “without which no one will see God”. Heb. 12:14. In sin we have lost both God and our own life.
d. Even as believers we are still in a state where mourning is appropriate, because we still continue to sin and could even be said to presume upon the grace of God:
A man who truly faces himself, and examines himself and his life, is a man who must of necessity mourn for his sins also, for the things he does. Now the great experts in the life of the spirit have always recommended self–examination. They all recommend and practice it themselves. They say it is a good thing for every man to pause at the end of the day and meditate upon himself, to run quickly over his life, and ask, what have I done, what have I said, what have I thought, how have I behaved with respect others? Now if you do that any night of your life, you’ll find that you have done things which you should not have done, you will be conscious of having harbored thoughts and ideas and feelings which are quite unworthy. And, as he realizes these things, any man who is it all Christian is smitten with the sense of grief and sorrow that he was ever capable of such things in action or in thought, and that makes him mourn. But he does not stop merely at things he has done, he meditates upon and contemplates his actions and his state and condition of sinfulness, and as he thus examines himself, he must go through the experience of Romans 7. He must become aware of these evil principles that are with in him. He must ask himself, what is it in me that it makes me behave like that? Why should I be irritable? Why should I be bad tempered? Why am I not able to control myself? Why do I harbor that unkind, jealous and envious thought? What is it in me? And he discovers this war in his members, and he hates it and mourns because of it. It is quite inevitable. Now this is not imagination; it is actual experience and true to fact. Is a very thoroughgoing test. If I object to this kind of teaching, it just means that I do not mourn and therefore I am not one of the people who, or Lord says, are blessed. If I regard this as nothing but morbidity, something a man should not do, I am simply proclaiming the fact that I am not spiritual[.]
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed Are They That Mourn”.
E. A Mourning Mixed With Longing
The spiritual mourning which God blesses, is a mourning for the loss of the beloved — but also a mourning which moves toward the beloved. We mourn over our sin because it entails the loss of God, but that mourning clears our soul and moves us toward God. Repentance also turns from sin and to God.
True Gospel-mourning which God blesses is a mourning which desires God.
(Monet, Garden Gate, 1881)
Beginning this week, I have been tasked with teaching a series to help create a peacemaking culture in the local congregation. We hope that this will be something which may be of use to others in the future. Anyway, here is the series introduction:
The Goal of this Series
I have a garden. But nothing will grow there, if I do not plant and water; care for the soil, drive off pests, prune, support. Nothing I do makes the seed grow; but if I do not work, nothing will grow.
My garden takes constant care. If I fail to water, the plants will die. If I do not tend the soil, the plants will be weak. If I do not drive off insects and vermin, I will lose all my work. My garden may never be perfect; but if I do my work, my garden will be fruitful.
A congregation of God’s people, gathered for worship is a garden, a vineyard. God calls his people his vineyard from whom God expects fruit. And one of sweetest fruits, one with a beautiful color and a ravishing scent is the fruit of peace.
Paul begins each of his letter with a prayer for peace: “and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter prays, “peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2). If we must pray for it, then it is something given to us. And if it something which the apostles constantly pray that God will bestow, then peace must be very precious.
Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ….” (Gal. 5:22). Jesus says that he is the one who gives peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). Paul says that God is the “God of peace” (Rom. 15:33).
Jesus is “our peace” (Eph. 2:14). And so we have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), and there is also peace among men. (Eph. 2:14-15). Indeed, when the Son came into the world, the angels sang of the peace brought into creation:
Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased.
Luke 2:14. This peace of God, this peace which passes all understanding, is the divine gift of the sovereign God. Just as the gardener cannot make the seed grow, so the Christian cannot force the gift of peace.
Although we know that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can so desire the good of peace and unity that we can try and force a peace. There can be a peace of silence and acquiescence, in which we are peaceful because we simply don’t care. There is a political peace, where we are peace in our actions but not in our hearts. It is a lack of fighting, and yet without any divine love. We can have a manipulative peace, or a fearful peace. We can have a peace which is based upon all of us getting along – but it is a peace which does not require Christ.
These false varieties of peace are like weeds growing bright green in the garden – they may even be strong and healthy, but there is no fruit. Or perhaps we could think of them like plastic grapes and silk flowers which look real from a distance.
And so we cannot obtain peace directly anymore than we can make the seed grow. Rather, to obtain peace we must learn to tend the garden of the church in such a way that peace naturally grows from the soil. We will have a great deal of work; we will need to water, and prune and support and drive off squirrels. But, we know from the promise of God and the constant demonstration of his work in the church, that peace – not perfect, due to our ongoing sin – will blossom and come to fruition.
In this series, our goal is to learn and live that sort of life which most naturally flowers into peace. To do that, we will work through the Sermon on the Mount.
As obvious as it may be to jump ahead to love one’s enemies, or turn the other check, we are going to start at the beginning. We will trust there is wisdom in the Scripture to teach us in the right order, to uncover our weakness and correct those thing which are twisted in just the right order.
Pride is the greatest master of misrule in the world; it is the great incendiary in the soul of man, in families, in towns, in cities, in all societies, in church and state: this wind causeth tempests to arise. Prov. 13:10: “Only by pride cometh contention.” The Holy Ghost singles out pride, as the only cause of all contentions, because it is the chief; though there be many in a riot, the whole is usually laid upon the ringleaders. Pride is the ringleader to all riots, divisions, disturbances among us. Prov. 21:24: “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.” Pride may be well indicated for the great common barrator, or wrangler, in all our towns and cities; it makes woful troubles wherever it comes.
Jeremiah Burroughs, Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions (New York: Carlton & Phillips, 1855), 7–8.
(The first draft of an introduction to series of lessons on how to create a peace. Church conflict is painfully and extraordinarily common.
We will go very wrong in thinking about conflict in the church, if we think that conflict is necessarily and always evil: even though the conflict we experience is almost always evil. Conflict springs from a desire for what is good, but sin perverts the longing for good and turns it to evil. That is why conflict is so strong — and especially why conflict can take such deep root in a congregation.
Conflict Seeks Justice
Conflict comes about because something is wrong and it must be fixed.
Imagine you see a man quietly steal another man’s wallet. There is no conflict: the victim doesn’t know his pocket has been picked. But you know the theft has occurred. You shout, “Thief!” At that moment you and the victim chase the thief. As soon as you acknowledge the evil, a conflict takes place.
Something wrong has taken place: your sense of justice has been offended. You immediately seek to change things. Yet, there is another person who does not agree with your change. Therefore, a conflict ensues.
The conflict may be unpleasant and undesirable, but the conflict is not evil when it seeks to change an evil state for a better state.
Conflict arises because one person seeks justice: there is something wrong and someone works to fix it even though others will not cooperate and may even fight back.
God Brings Conflict
While God is a God of peace, that is not all the story. Exodus 15:3 tells us that, “The LORD is a man of war.” The Egyptians had enslaved and oppressed the Israelites. God brought war against Pharaoh for Pharaoh’s wickedness. There was conflict, but the conflict was motivated by justice and obtained justice.
Jesus was the Prince of Peace. But Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51.) Jesus’ death upon the cross was an act of war (Col. 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22). The Christian life is a life of war (Eph. 6:10-17). God working in the world is an act of war, and that is not a metaphor.
The Engine of Conflict
At its heart, conflict springs from a sense that something has gone wrong and I must fix it. A desire for justice, for making things right, for fixing what is wrong drives conflict.
As long as my sense of justice continues and strength does not wear out, I will continue to prosecute the conflict.
If we do not understand that at its heart, conflict springs from a sense of justice, we will never understand how to respond to conflict.
Everyone in a Conflict Thinks Themselves Justified
Everyone in the war at some level justified their actions to themselves (even if it was a personal fear of punishment for not fighting in the war).
The same thing happens in personal conflicts: the people on both sides of the conflict are certain they are right. Imagine two men, one is peaceful and minding his own business. Another man attacks him physically or verbally. The peaceful has now been hurt. His sense of justice has been offended and he responds: he is right to respond, because a man has done him evil.
Sometimes our sense of need can justify our conflict. A poor man is starving. He sees a richer man with food. The poor man attacks the rich man to steal the food. The poor man may not think it is wrong for the rich man to have food, but the poor thinks it is wrong that he does not have anything to eat. Justice demands that I eat, that I not die, thinks the poor man.
My Sense of Justice is Broken
It is completely true that conflict takes place because I think something is wrong. The trouble is that my sense of right and wrong, my sense of justice, is broken. I willingly fight for the wrong things.
I’m an American, and I grew up knowing that the United States defeating the Nazis was an unqualified good thing. The Nazis were completely wrong and we were completely right. The problem is, someone on the other side of the war was certain they were right.
The Germans and the Japanese in World War II were the exact same kind of human beings as the Americans (in fact, plenty of Americans fighting in the war were descendants of Germans and Japanese people). The people fighting against the Allies were as certain they were right as the Allies were certain.
At least one side of the conflict takes place because someone’s sense of justice is broken. If everyone had precisely the same sense of right and wrong, there would never be conflict between human beings. But we don’t have the same sense of right and wrong in every circumstance. Therefore, either there is no absolute right; or, something has caused our sense of justice to be broken.
Why Our Sense of Justice is Broken
Sin has ruined our ability to think and feel correctly; sin has disordered our desires. Sin makes us stupid and needy.
Romans 1 explains that human beings have refused to acknowledge God and be thankful to God, therefore, human beings have become “futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom.1:21). Human beings “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25). Human beings have been turned over to debased desires. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28) This sorry state is called the “noetic effect of sin” – that means sin has twisted-up our mind, our desires: We cannot think straight and we do not want the right things.
Our sense of justice, or right and wrong is out of whack. But our desire for justice, our desire for things to be right has not gone away. We know the world is wrong, and we desire it to be different, but we can’t fix it.
Imagine a carload of drunks whose car breaks down in the desert. They know their situation is completely wrong. They know they have to get out of the desert or they will die. But due to drunkenness and ignorance, they can’t fix the car and can’t formulate a good plan to save themselves.
Human beings have precisely that problem. Sin has made us ignorant, foolish and perverse.
Sinful Conflict is Conflict Without Justice
We know that God brings just conflict against sin.
We know that sometimes conflict is good and right when conflict is used to bring about justice. God was just to bring war against the Egyptians. David was right to kill Goliath.
But we also know that most conflict does not flow perfectly from God’s justice.
Even right knowledge about God’s justice is not sufficient to cause of to desire the right. Cain killed Able immediately after God told Cain how to be right. In fact, it was knowing God’s just demand which provoked Cain (Gen. 4:7-8). Saul hated David because God was with David (1 Sam. 18:11).
Sinful conflict comes about when a desire for something other than God’s perfect will drives our actions:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:1–4. Sinful conflict comes about when our personal, selfish desires drive us.
Sin Hijacks Justice
But here is the dangerous part: Remember when I said that conflict comes about because of our sense of justice has been offended? Our sense of justice perverted by sin merges with our selfish desires and we mistake our selfish desire for justice. Since we experience our selfish desire as a just and right desire, we war and we know that we are in the right to fight for our desires.
Conflict is so powerful and dangerous because the injustice of our actions is hidden from us. Sin uses an illusion which causes us to think that our selfish desires are just desires. James calls this sort of “wisdom” “demonic”:
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Our Brokenness Persists Even After Salvation
If the broken sense of justice comes about because of sin, then shouldn’t the church of God’s elect be freed from sinful conflict? Sadly no. Even after we are regenerate, we are imperfect. Our life after salvation is a life of sanctification, of gradual conformity to Christ. But perfect peace among the people of God belongs to glorification, which is to come.
Paul’s letters to Corinth (two letters), Rome, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon deal with church conflict, at least in part. 1 Peter, 1 John and 3 John, as well as Jude and Revelation also imply or directly address conflict in the church.
This is where the danger becomes acute: After we have become reconciled to God and know the truth, we can become even more certain that we are right about everything. When sin attaches itself to our heightened sense of being right and justice, the potential for conflict is even greater. Christians who have been deceived by their own sin masquerading as justice and truth can be greatest devils on the earth.
Our Conflict Ought not Be:
Now comes the sobering part. Jesus goes on in 17:21 to say something that always causes me to cringe. If as Christians we do not cringe, it seems to me we are not very sensitive or very honest, because Jesus here gives us the final apologetic. What is the final apologetic? “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” This is the final apologetic.
In John 13 the point was that if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian. Here Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound: we cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.
Now that is frightening. Should we not feel some emotion at this point?
Look at it again. Jesus is not saying that Christians should judge each other (as to their being Christian or not) on this basis. Please notice this with tremendous care. The church is to judge whether a man is a Christian on the basis of his doctrine, the propositional content of his faith, and then his credible profession of faith. When a man comes before a local church that is doing its job, he will be quizzed on the content of what he believes. If, for example, a church is conducting a heresy trial (the New Testament indicates there are to be trials in the church of Christ), the question of heresy will turn on the content of the man’s doctrine. The church has a right to judge—in fact it is commanded to judge—a man on the content of what he believes and teaches.
But we cannot expect the world to judge that way, because the world cares nothing about doctrine. That is especially true in the second half of the twentieth century when, on the basis of their epistemology, men no longer believe even in the possibility of absolute truth. And if we are surrounded by a world which no longer believes in the concept of truth, certainly we cannot expect people to have any interest in whether a man’s doctrine is correct or not.
But Jesus did give the mark that will arrest the attention of the world, even the attention of the modern man who says he is just a machine. Because every man is made in the image of God and has therefore aspirations for love, there is something that can be in every geographical climate—in every point of time—which cannot fail to arrest his attention.
What is it? The love that true Christians show for each other and not just for their own party.
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, “The Mark of a Christian”, vol. 4 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 189–190.
We Can Do Something About Church Conflict
Look back at that list of New Testament references to conflict in the Church. That tells us two things: We know to be prepared for sinful conflict.
Now here is the hopeful part, we also know that God expects us to do something about conflict. We have a mountain of instruction and help available to us which was not available to these earliest Christians.
When conflict first broke out in Corinth, the Corinthians did not have 1 Corinthians from Paul. But we have the letters of Paul, Peter, John, Jude, Jesus – we have the entire canon of Scripture for our help. We have the gift of the Spirit. We have what we need “for life and godliness” – if we would only make the effort to use it.
Letter V: Advice to a Young Minister
Humility is the secret of fellowship, and pride the secret of division.
The fifth letter is ministry advice to a young man who has set into ministry. The man has asked Newton what to expect in ministry. Newton’s advice should be heeded by anyone who has or will enter into ministry. And, while the letter is directed specifically to the preaching pastor of a congregation, the observations, warnings and encouragements are use to anyone involved in Christian ministry at any level:
Greeting & Commendation
I. You Will Meet With Difficulties
A. Have you prayed?
B. Don’t be naive.
C. Sweet then bitter
II. Three Difficulties You Will Meet
A. General Observations
2. Two temptations.
a. The temtpation of anger and bitterness
i. Ruin your work
ii. How to respond.
b. The temptation of self-importance
1. A danger few will avoid
2. Do not mistake gifts for grace
3. How God protects us.
D. Spiritual Weakness
2. Never preach again.
Here is the letter with analysis:
This is a curious introduction. Newton is writing to an (apparently) young man who has recently been ordained to the ministry. However, he does not merely praise young man; he also includes a prayer:
I hope he has given you likewise a heart to devote yourself, without reserve, to his service, and the service of souls for his sake.
As Newton will make clear, the work of a Christian minister can be brutally difficult. Only a man whose heart is devoted to Christ’s service will complete this work.
I. YOU WILL MEET DIFFICULTIES
The body of the letter concerns the difficulties which a minister will meet. Newton first begins with a general statement.
A. Have you prayed?
You have, doubtless, often anticipated in your mind the nature of the service to which you are now called, and made it the subject of much consideration and prayer.
As Newton will make plain, the difficulties of ministry are supernatural: they are snares and temptations, and “natural” responses will only make things make things worse.
B. Dont’ be naive.
I remember being in law school, thinking I had some idea what being a lawyer would be like. I quickly learned, I had only learned enough to later learn how to be a lawyer.
Likewise with pastoral work: One can train, but even those most closely connected to a pastor cannot quite understand the nature of the burden. There is something unique in the weight of ministry:
But a distant view of the ministry is generally very different from what it is found to be when we are actually engaged in it. The young soldier, who has never seen an enemy, may form some general notions of what is before him: but his ideas will be much more lively and diversified when he comes upon the field of battle. If the Lord was to shew us the whole beforehand, who that has a due sense of his own insufficiency and weakness, would venture to engage?
(I’ve been studying reconciliation and how to address it. Here are some more thoughts on the topic. Sadly, the need to reconcile is an all too common feature of the Christian life; although we should not be surprised when the Church requires us to live in such close proximity. We are bound to sin against one-another, and thus be ready, willing and able to quickly overlook — and where such is not possible, to confess and forgive):
To be spiritually minded is peace — and Christ is our peace. (Rom.8:6; Eph. 2:14). Not all confrontation is godly (Gal. 5:14-15 & 20). It is only the operation of the Spirit which produces the necessary grounds for peace (Gal. 5:22-24).
When we [note that true God-glorifying reconciliation will require a Godward heart on both sides; secondly, courtesy tends to be attractive, therefore “we”, not “you” or “I”] consider Hebrews 1:1-4, we see plainly how Christ makes the place for peace.
First, conflict arises from our heart (Mark 7:21-23) as a desire for something we do not have (James 4:1-5). But here in Hebrews we see that God has spoken to us in the Son who is the “heir of all things”. Now, since we will inherit with Jesus (Rom. 8:17), all things are ours (1 Cor. 4:21-24). Therefore, there is no longer any ground for you or I to quarrel over some-thing whether it physical or otherwise (such as status or honor). If you and I have all things, what more is there to fight about?
Second, we quarrel because we seek justice. But we see in Hebrews 1:3, that Jesus has already made the purification for sin. In 1 Peter 2:18-25 we see how Christ answers for any injustice we suffer, and how this leads to peacefulness even when we suffer wrong. That is why the only option open to either you or me when we suffer is to bless and forgive. But what if there is injustice done? Then it is given over to the Judge of all. If there is a need for punishment, he will punish. If there is correction, he will correct. But what if the one who has done me wrong is a Christian, then he will not be punished! In such a case I must rest in the knowledge that Christ has suffered for the sins of a believer even when those sins have been rendered against me.
Since we are in this world, a constant element of life within the Church will be peacemaking, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation. Here is a form letter with some elements of one brother seeking reconciliation with another.
Think of that _______: When God turns Adam and Eve from the Garden the flaming sword guards the way in. God is utterly beyond our ability to see or hear — unless God first comes to us. What if God had never spoken? What if God had left us alone? The heavens could have been bronze, metal and judgment for all time. Even now when God has spoken the majority of the world never hears a word. God spoke — even to us. God invaded His privacy, God disclosed the love of Father and Son and Spirit, God has invited us into the infinite joy of His communion. We have been invited into fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
________, stop for a moment and serious consider — God had every right to ignore you, to leave you alone to your own heart, to seal up joy and love and mercy — but it was disclosed to you and I, to those men who did not and do not deserve it. So often we are like children, fighting over toys which will soon break, angry over who gets to sit in that particular seat of the car while ignoring the trip to Disneyland. What fools we can be! We have been given infinite wealth, an unending supply of mercy and love, hope and joy: The Father is an unending fountain of love.
Ecclesiastes 1:1–11 (ESV)
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
That is what we would have had God not spoken. Let those words sink into your consciousness. You know your body is already betraying you. You’re at retirement. All your money, your work, your reputation are less than vapor. Very soon, no one will even know your name. Your house will be gone. Given time not even Los Angeles or the United States will be easy to find. Great Babylon lies under the dirt. You are worm’s food; your work nothing; your life a mist — all of this is so if God does not speak. Do not live as the one who has not heard:
Hebrews 10:26–39 (ESV)
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Focus your heart upon the treasure which has flowed from the infinite mercy of the Father who has spoken. Stay there until your heart is raptured with joy:
Ephesians 1:3–14 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
And here then should be our prayer for one-another
Ephesians 1:15–23 (ESV)
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
____, if the eyes of your heart are enlightened, that you may know the hope of our inheritance, why will you not speak of it with me? Come bless me. If I were your enemy, it would be your duty to bless me. Exodus 23:4–5 (ESV)
4 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
If I have sinned against you, you are called upon to overlook by sin and forgive it. Pursue me with mercy that you may be blessed. I have offered you forgiveness and mercy. You have my blessing and love: Think of it, our forgiveness, mercy, love are all spending the love, mercy and forgiveness of Christ: God has spoken and has lavished blessing upon us. What madman would hoard such wealth which only increases as it is spent! The mercy of God is like manna, it spoils if it is not used (Matt. 6:15).
1 Peter 3:8–9 (ESV)
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
[Making peace is to pursue to a blessing. There is a holy seeking of one’s own good in peacemaking. Matt. 5:9.]