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Unbroken Peace [12-18-22]


December 18, 2022

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

"Unbroken Peace"


Hard to believe we are wrapping up our series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Next Sunday, Christmas worship, will be bathed in song and prayer and Scripture. Today, we finish up 2 Thessalonians.


2 Thessalonians, only three chapters, is shorter than 1 Thessalonians. Nevertheless, its three chapters are filled with confrontation of false teaching, confusion over the return of Jesus Christ, and a smattering of lazy, undisciplined Christians. In fact, Paul calls some of them "busybodies." Paul deals with it all openly and honestly, not holding back when confronting sin. We would expect nothing less from him.


One writer sums up this second letter, saying, "It is a tempestuous epistle." But here's the best thing. Paul loves these people fiercely. He does not patronize them by pulling punches. As turbulent as the letter is, he closes with the calm that follows a raging storm. The Thessalonians have been tormented by persecution. They've been tossed about by false teaching. They've been fearful and confused. Through it all, Paul has provided the steady hand of solid instruction.


And so he comes to a beautiful conclusion:

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

- 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18


Here's the thing. Paul knows troubles don't go away. Just because you are rooted in Biblical truth doesn't make problems disappear. Just because Jesus Christ has called you to follow him doesn't mean the road will always be easy. Living faithfully in your own life has little control over what others think, say, or do. There will always be difficulty in life. Hardship…tragedy and loss. There will always be something negative lurking around the corner for us. But, as Paul promises in today's passage, we can have peace in all things. Remember what the angel said to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-11:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."


At every point in our lives, it is God's desire that we be not afraid…that we be at peace in all things. It is something we cannot do on our own. We cannot find lasting peace outside the power of God. That's why Paul says earlier in verse five, "May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ." In other words, Paul is calling on God to enable them to be what they need to be. We know we are sinners. We know there will be turmoil and trial and tumult in our lives. Yet, Paul says, through the power and presence of Jesus Christ, we can have the peace and harmony that is pleasing to God. "Now may the Lord of peace himself

give you peace at all times in every way."


Make no mistake. We don't have the power within ourselves to have peace which passes all understanding. So, in expressing the desire of his heart for the people he loves, Paul says he's praying that they have peace in their lives. And so, by extension, we need to pray and thank God for supplying the power for having peace in our lives.


The first thing we need is a working understanding of God's peace. Paul's deepest desire is for the Thessalonians to experience God's peace. God has promised it to us. And so we pray, like Paul does, to know and have this peace.


What is peace? As the world defines it, we might think of peace in these terms:

  • Calm

  • Tranquility

  • Bliss

  • Contentment

  • Quietness

  • Absence of violence or hostility

We might think of peace as a place of calm feelings…a sea of tranquility…a quietness where everything is exactly the way you'd like it. How achievable is that kind of peace? And how do you find it or make it happen in your life?


If you could create a pill that would 100% guarantee that kind of peace without any side effects, the world would beat a path to your door.


Here's the peace Paul prays for. It is the only true peace, because it comes from the promise of God, through the power of God. It has nothing to do with our actions or circumstances. It cannot be dispensed in pill form. Daily life is a threat to peace as the world defines it. God's peace is unshakeable, unbreakable, and eternal.


First, peace is an attribute of God. God lives in perfect tranquility. God is never not content. Why? Because God is sovereign…He's in charge of everything. All things operate within His perfect will. There is nothing that goes on in the universe that God doesn't know about. Nothing can thwart His purposes. Nothings surprises God. There is no sinner who is beyond God's grace. Here's how Martyn Lloyd-Jones described it:

"If we ever lose our sense of wonder at the fact that we have ever become Christians, we are, in a sense, already victims of this disease of pride. We must never lose this wonder. Why are we different? There is only one answer: it is entirely the result of the grace of God."

There is no threat to God's plan to save you and keep you in His peace. We have peace because God enjoys perfect and eternal harmony within Himself.


So, first, our peace is rooted in this eternal attribute of God. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:33, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace."


Second, our peace is a gift from God. It is a gift springing from understanding our true condition as sinners in need of salvation. Christ and Christ alone rescues us from sin and death. So there is no sense of making ourselves worthy to receive this gift. It's by God's grace alone. I love how

verse three of Lo! How a Rose E'er Blooming captures it:

This Flower, whose fragrance tender With sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor The darkness everywhere. True man, yet very God, From sin and death He saves us And lightens every load

Because Jesus died on the cross, we have peace with God. And because we have peace with God, we have God's gift of peace. Amen?


Third, true peace is always available. That's the meaning of peace at all times in every way. Here's something you might want to write down:

TRUE PEACE CANNOT BE INTERRUPTED.


Here's what people do. Sometimes we let doubt and fear and anxiety creep in, threatening our peace. We know the world can be messed up. Life is full of surprises and unknowns that can shake us. Then there is disease and death. Think of all the people who were shaken by the pandemic. Any of those troubling things can undermine the peace of weak Christians. Don't let weakness interrupt the divine gift of peace. Don't let anything shake you from the deep-down, permanent, unalterable, eternal condition in which we live through an unfailing God who will bring us to glory. When you base your happiness on that, you will have peace at all times in every way.


Our peace is an attribute of God. Our peace is a gift from God. Our peace is always available. And finally, our peace is not subjected to situations or circumstances.


It's hard to imagine why anyone would allow circumstances beyond their control to undermine the peace promised from God. As Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." Outward effect is irrelevant to our peace. So are human relation-ships. Our peace is built on an unchanging, divine relationship and a divine plan and a divine promise from God. It is God who determined to secure you in His peace forever and ever. I hope that makes sense to you. No matter what happens, in Christ, you have an internal quietness and calmness and tranquility that are unassailable by anything in this world. Paul says God gives us that perfect calm. And nothing can shake it.


I love how the hymn, "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light," reflects this Biblical promise of unbreakable peace:

Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,

and usher in the morning;

O shepherd, shudder not in fright,

but hear the angel's warning.

This child, now weak in infancy,

our confidence and joy shall be,

the power of Satan breaking,

our peace eternal making.


Come, dearest child, into our hearts,

and leave your crib behind you!

Let this be where the new life starts

for all who seek and find you.

To you the honor, thanks, and praise,

for all your gifts this time of grace;

come, conquer and deliver

this world, and us, forever.


Do you have a peace which perseveres in all things? Here's how Jude 24-25 captures it:

"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

Peace is never fleeting. Paul sums it up this way in Philippians - "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Because of that, here's something else you might want to write down:

GOD GIVES US STRENGTH FOR PERSEVERANCE, SECURITY, AND ENDURANCE.


Remember what we say about grace and mercy? Grace is getting what we

don't deserve and mercy is not getting what we deserve. The peace we get from God is an expression of His grace. And because God pours His peace into our lives and not the punishment we deserve, that is mercy. It is such a beautiful thing. And more than anything else, that is Paul's desire for the Thessalonians. He wants them to have God's enabling grace so they can make it through any trial with their peace intact. He wants them to be effective in ministry. He wants them to grow in Christ. He wants their love for each other to be strengthened. He wants them to abound in generosity. And so, Paul assures them, through God's grace, these manifestations of His peace are unshakeable.


In the end, Paul doesn't say this is a perfect church. There remains sin and brokenness in their lives. Sounds a lot like us, doesn't it? Yet God's peace isn't determined by us. It is a gift of God's grace. There was so much love and joy in that church. Just us there is wellspring of love and joy in Covenant Church. It is such a beautiful thing.


Our closing prayer is based on Ephesians 3:14-21. Let's pray:

FOR THIS REASON WE BOW OUR KNEES BEFORE THE FATHER,

FROM WHOM EVERY FAMILY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH IS NAMED, THAT ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY HE MAY GRANT US TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER THROUGH HIS SPIRIT IN OUR INNER BEING, SO THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN OUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH - THAT WE, BEING ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN LOVE, MAY HAVE STRENGTH TO COMPREHEND WITH ALL THE SAINTS WHAT IS THE BREADTH AND LENGTH AND HEIGHT AND DEPTH, AND TO KNOW THE LOVE OF CHRIST THAT SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE, THAT WE MAY BE FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF GOD. NOW TO HIM WHO IS ABLE TO DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK, ACCORDING TO THE POWER AT WORK WITHIN US, TO HIM BE GLORY IN THE CHURCH AND IN CHRIST JESUS THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS, FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.





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