Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Easter 2017

Peace in His discipline. Along with Jesus instilling His peace within us through our status in Him and through His benefits to us, we encounter the idea of discipline as we prayed in the Collect prayer for this week. The Peace Jesus instills through discipline is through the type He uses to bring us back from our sins AND that of spiritual discipline that He cultivates in our lives of faith. Even for unbelievers, discipline for breaking the law and discipline to cultivate civil behavior or to stay in shape are understood as things to pursue. Yet, within all of us with the propensity to sin, we like to buy the lie of the world, the flesh, and the devil that discipline and service stifles freedom. True peace in Christ is bestowed upon us in His loving discipline. Today, let us look at how Jesus uses discipline for all of His people in their status as His and as part of His wonderful benefits.

To be Feared

        First, as Psalm 76 outlines, part of the peace God brings with discipline is the fear of God. The first 6 verses of our Psalm speak of the power of the Lord and our weakness as human beings. Verse 7 states, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” The fear spoken of here deals with that of discipline and judgment. Verses 8 states, “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still.” Now, sometimes we equate God’s fearful judgment with the sinful wrath of humanity. The sinful wrath of humanity does not aim to restore, but rather to destroy, to drive people to no hope. Verse 9 speaks to the goal of the fear of God that comes out of His judgment, “when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.” The proper fear of the Lord brings peace. It brings peace because we know He loves us enough to stop us to bring us back from our sinful rebellion. Verse 11 speaks of the proper response to God’s judgment, a response that fosters peace in the fear of Him, “Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.” As we will see next, discipline instills those godly disciplines of life that we rejected through sin. The fear of the Lord is a necessary component to peace and discipline. Without fear of God, we will fear humanity to the point of having no peace and no hope.

Discipline for a Season

        Second, as we read in Nehemiah 1, discipline for a season from God restores His peace within us. When we fall away in sin for a time, we reject God’s peace for our own methods of peace. In the context of Nehemiah, this loss of peace occurred decades earlier with the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to the Babylonian empire. Judah in the centuries before her fall sought her own ways over the ways of God. She rejected a proper fear of God for the fear of man through seeking deals and treaties with human kingdoms to ensure her peace and safety. These failed. Such appeasement while rejecting God continues to fail, whether on a large scale or on the small scale. We need God. We need His loving discipline when we go astray to bring us back to learn a deeper reliance upon Him. The nature of God’s discipline of us is a mercy, to protect us from hurting ourselves to the point of no return. Deuteronomy 8:5 states, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” If you observe a room with a few toddlers where no structure is given or when things get out of hand, all peace is lost until a parent or caretaker steps into the situation to administer discipline and correction. This is meant to steer the children to peaceful ways of playing.

        The years of discipline Judah underwent was needed to teach her how to live in God’s peace. The discipline in the first place only took place after centuries of the work of God through His servants to call the people to repentance from their chaotic, sinful lifestyles. The discipline we see coming out of being disciplined through their scattering to other nations was seen in our lesson in Nehemiah. Chapter 1, verse 6 states, “I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” Confession is crucial in a healthy Christian life. In confession, we learn the discipline of reliance upon God for our peace. In confession, we are assured forgiveness of our sins through Christ alone. Forgiveness brings peace. Yet, often the confession stage does not come until some sort of discipline occurs to call the sinner to repentance. Sometimes it just take a simply and gentle confrontation to tell the person that they harmed us. Other times, it takes a lot longer as it did with Judah in having to endure exile for a season before coming to repentance. In confession, we place all in God’s hands and receive His peaceful absolution. When we are disciplined, it is proof we are loved. Discipline is always meant to lead back to the path of relying on God’s grace to live disciplined lives as we see in our last point.

The Results of Loving Discipline

        The results of loving discipline bring us into an ordered life in Christ, into a life that seeks to repent rather than to run away into chaos. We saw this in our lesson from I Peter 2. One result of proper discipline of a room full of toddlers that were in a chaotic situation is that peace results. In such, the toddlers learn to play within the rules set by the caretaker. When they stay “disciplined” within the rules, the room is at peace and concord.

        In our lesson from I Peter 2, we read of four related areas that God’s grace instills through a disciplined or ordered life in Him. The first is abstaining from the passions of the flesh. Verse 11 states, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passion of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” There is peace when the passions of the flesh are abstained from in our lives. All of these sins when committed cause us to spin out of control into chaos. In this verse, the first indication of a peaceful discipline is tied to part of who we are in Christ, “sojourners and exiles.” Living as His people, we live forgiven lives loyal to Him as our God. As sojourners and exiles, we live according to Christ’s Commandments. When worldly commandments contradict Christ’s commandments, we are supposed to stick out for all to see that we are not part of this world. This verse speaks of a war waging for our souls. The passions of the flesh can exhibit themselves in all areas of life. In such terms, we must see the manifold importance of godly discipline in our lives to stay grounded as God’s children. See, discipline in Christ helps us when we are hit in the war against our souls not to fret or fear what man threatens. General George S. Patton wrote the following about worldly warfare that I think has application to the spiritual warfare we face, “Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle.”  In the chaos and excitement of battle and war, we sometimes are caught up to the point we forget our status in Christ and seek to fight back with worldly methods and thus cease abstaining from sin. Spiritual victories are not won through succumbing to the sins of the flesh in the thought that it is what is needed to defeat enemies. Spiritual victories are won by Christ alone through His grace that humbles us in abstaining from sins and to live in the next part of what I Peter outlines.

        The second and related discipline that helps instill godly peace is our godly conduct. Verse 12 states, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Living by God’s grace through faith by His Word is seen in our disciplined conduct. The temptation when we are away from Christians in non-Christian settings is to live by a different standard of conduct. Yet, others know who we are as Christians and are looking, whether they say it or not. To live by a different code when thinking we are not seen is to forfeit in our minds our peace in Christ by seeking worldly peace through appeasement. Yes, this is hard. There is good reason we cannot do this alone or in our own power. We need the constant assistance of the Holy Spirit through asking for grace in our prayers to help us in the discipline of our conduct in all situations and in all places. As we pray every time we celebrate Holy Communion, “that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee.” Giving thanks at all times and all places is to live in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. Gratitude means to live with the mind and heart that our conduct reflects our King, our God. In such, the standard is God’s love as we conduct ourselves, and not the sinful love of this world. When we are living within the standards of the graceful conduct of God’s Word, peace reigns.

        The third discipline that helps instill godly peace is that of being subject or in submission to those God tells us to be subject to or in submission to in this life. Now, being subject is not to worship and serve to the point of rejecting Christ. Submission is obedience within the parameters of doing as we are required under the law of the civil authority ONLY as long as it does not cause us to disobey God’s Word.  As verses 13-14 state, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” The discipline of the Lord brings a peace to cease trying to save self through all the methods sinful humanity uses for self-salvation projects. It is to know we are saved eternally in Christ by His death and resurrection. In such comfort, we can be subject to the civil authority because it is no longer about our autonomy, but about what it means to serve Christ our King. He requires we live by His Word, not by how we want to live. When we resort to saving self through rebellion against His commandments, we will find no peace. Rather, we will find we are enslaved to sin. Our last result of God’s loving discipline is the solution to the lack of peace in this world.

        In peaceful discipline, Jesus brings us and keeps us in His freedom. Freedom is to live within God’s Word. The world, the flesh, and the devil try to deceive us to think that freedom is to live as we please. When we live as we please, peace is absent. Verse 16 states, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover up for evil, but living as servant of God.” In our service to Jesus Christ, we find His peace that passes understanding as He helps us to abstain from the passions of the flesh, to conduct ourselves according to His love and to be subject to the authorities He puts in place. In these, we are free in Him. We are free to no longer worry about our rights from a worldly perspective in terms of thinking they determine our eternal salvation. Such worries take our hearts off Christ. Such worries drive us toward chaos and the absence of peace. Our service to His Kingdom brings freedom. In such service, we find ourselves basking in His freedom of us from the slavery to sin and to trying to follow the Law without His help. As we pray in the Collect for Peace in the Morning Prayer service, “whose service is perfect freedom.”

        The lack of loving service to Christ is manifested in a lack of obedience through loving each other in serving the needs of each other. Service in Jesus that brings freedom means we are there for each other, beginning as a foundation through our participation in worship, through coming to partake of the Lord’s Supper. When one is absent, we all feel it. Often when we are undergoing things in life that are detrimental to our sense of peace, one important question we have to ask is this: am I serving Jesus Christ through serving others with my presence with my fellow believers and through all I can do to pray for them and do for them without asking for anything in return? Often, we lose our peace because we are seeking the allurements of worldly peace by seeking personal needs and making them priority over godly peace and the needs of others. We buy the lie that personal needs that are met bring freedom. Instead, making the meeting of my personal needs central is the epitome of using our freedom as a cover up for evil. We must be careful we do not mask our selfish desires at worldly peace in terms of serving self with Christian and Biblical language. We must always check our feelings and emotions that often destroy godly peace to give them to Christ to care for in prayer. Service in Jesus through serving others brings perfect freedom in peace. Service of self brings slavery and an absence of peace.

Conclusion

        We need discipline in our lives of faith. God disciplines us to remind us we are sustained by His grace, bringing everlasting peace. This disciplining saves us from destruction and instills the discipline of following His Word. Without a healthy fear of God, we have no peace. Without godly discipline to save us from destroying ourselves, we have no peace. Without the results of this loving discipline to help us live disciplined lives of faith, we have no peace. Let us pray.

“Almighty God, who showest to those who are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”