Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 23, 2018
23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. 25 "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 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. 28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
— John 14:23-31, ESV
All four Advent themes are found running through all four New Testament Gospels. This year we have looked to Matthew for hope, Mark for love, Luke for joy, and now we turn to John for peace. We need all four of these things, to be sure, and all of them are provided for us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But of the four, has there ever been a day and age like ours, when the people of world and the members of the church more desperately needed peace?
Our globe is filled with wars and rumor of wars. Our body politic in the United States has never been more fractious and divided. The church at large cannot agree on the veracity of Scripture and the most basic fundamentals of the faith. Our schools and streets are not safe for our children anymore. All around us, husbands and wives are fighting in one house while next door a single, or single again, person has never felt more alone.
God could, if He pleased, wave His hand over the whole world at once and forcefully eradicate evil and unbelief and bless His people with peace. Actually, He will, one day. But today, He forces peace on no one, yet offers peace to everyone, one person at a time.
“If anyone …,” Jesus begins in this passage, will come to God on God’s terms, then “my peace I give to you.” As our Lord was transitioning from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane, as He was taking His courageous and calculated walk to the cross, He used the word “peace” for the first time, twice, as recorded by John. In this word, “peace,” and the words surrounding it, Jesus offers a present and permanent promise of peace, gospelpeace.
Peace comes to those who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
“If anyone loves Me …”
Do you love Jesus? Who doesn’t? What’s not to love? He raised the dead, healed the sick, made the blind to see and the deaf to hear. He loved children, liberated women, and lit up the whole world with His love. How could anyone not love Jesus?
You cannot love anyone your really don’t know and you certainly cannot love someone you don’t respect. I cannot say I love my wife if I really don’t know her, haven’t studied her history and heritage, likes and dislikes, personality and preferences. I cannot say I love my wife if I disrespect her opinions or disregard her simple and reasonable requests. But I know her, I respect her; therefore, I love her.
Do you dig Jesus because you have taken the time to dig into who He truly is and what He has really done? Do you know Him as, in the words of the Nicene Creed, as “The only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father?” Do you believe He is God? Do you trust Him as Savior? Do you respect Him as Lord? Do you really know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and does this knowledge and love give you gospel peace?
There is one way to know.
Peace comes to those who obey the word of God.
“… he will keep My word.”
Love without fidelity is hypocrisy. Love is almost always a verb, too, at least in the Gospelof John. It is taking action to honor and obey the one you love. Such love, such action, brings peace to the heart.
People who love their jobs tend to be better at them. Marriages where spouses understand that love is not a mere feeling, but ongoing action to honor and love their spouse, work to keep the commitments made to their spouse. So it is with peace, gospel peace, the gift that works.
If you want to know whether or not you have, in the important words of the Apostle Paul, “Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ref. Romans 5:1), then ask yourself an important question. Do you keep and treasure, do you value and esteem, do you listen and study, do you do your diligent best to obey, the word of God? In his stellar book, The Gospel According to Jesus, John MacArthur writes, “Obedience is the only possible proof that a person really knows Jesus Christ.”
Such obedience cannot be Pharisaical. Such obedience will never be perfect. But gospelpeace comes from loving God, trusting in Christ, and obeying the inspired word of God, the Holy Bible.
By the way, this is hard. We need help. As a matter of fact, we need a Helper, the one promised by Jesus in this Gospel, Who works within us to assure gospel peace.
Peace comes to those who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
The salvation the gospel gives comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But the gospel peace wrought by the assurance of obedience comes by hard work. Discipleship is work, blessed but often difficult work. It requires keeping appointments for public and private worship. It requires long hours of Bible study, memorization, and application.
You need a solid faith, you need pastors and teachers, but most of all you need and you have the Holy Spirit. He is God, He saved you, He indwells you, and He will never leave you. Once you are born again as a Christian, the Holy Spirit’s principle roll is to guide and teach. He helps you interpret, He helps you remember, He shows you ways and means to apply the words of Scripture to everyday life.
The objective voice of the Spirit is often plain, as plain as the words in a text of Scripture. The subjective voice of the Spirit is harder to hear, admittedly, but nevertheless true. When you know that, as a result of trusting Christ as Lord and Savior, and as a result of committing yourself to hearing and obeying the word of God, and as best you can tell, you have let God guide you in your decision and action, and not your own selfish desires or another person’s pressure, then you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and the filling of the Holy Spirit brings “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (ref. Philippians 4:7).
To keep this gospel peace in your mind, heart, and will, you have to balance a life lived in between two worlds.
Peace comes to those who are not enamored with this present world.
“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.”
The Scriptures teach plainly that those who would win the peace of Christ have three obstacles to face. They are the world, the flesh, and the devil, and they are dreadfully related. The devil is “the ruler of this world” Jesus referred to here. The devil appeals to our “flesh,” our selfish lusts, and he promises us the “world.” Sadly, most people, even a large segment of the professing Christian population, seek fortune and fame rather than the gospel peace of God.
Jesus faced the devil at the beginning and end of His public ministry. He opposed him with the word of God in the wilderness, and he seemingly gave way to him at Golgotha, although the empty tomb reveals Who really won that battle. The human Christ could have claimed kingship over any earthly power, He could have had riches untold, He could have avoided the curses of the populace that called for His crucifixion and been the most popular person on the planet.
But Christ did not come the first time for worldly fortune and fame. Those who follow Him do not clamor for it, either. For gospel peace is something that cannot be purchased with worldly currency.
Peace comes to those who wait for a better world.
“I am going to the Father … Rise, let us go from here.”
Delayed gratification is a foreign concept to this present world. We eat fast food rather than healthy, home-cooked meals. We go head over heals in debt to get what we could otherwise wait and save to buy. We don’t hold out until we get married to have sex. We listen to religious idiots who promise us health and wealth and our best life now. This is how this present world and false prophets suck us in, reward us with worthless trinkets, and rob us of rich, gospel, peace.
Christ the Son has long ascended to God the Father. His great reward is with Him, He’s been holding it for two millennia, waiting to share it with those who are waiting for Him. This is where real gospel peace comes from. It comes from working, watching, and waiting for the Lord. It arises from grace passes time with faith. It believes in a better world, a new heaven and new earth to come, at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Those who have it know it. When trouble comes, they look to Christ. When death breaks in, they look to Christ. When they get down, they heed the words of Jesus, “Rise, let us go from here.”
When Ray Kinsella was about to give up the farm in Field of Dreams, Terence Mann gave him peace, by showing him the way to give peace to others: “People will come, Ray. ‘Of course, we won't mind if you look around, it's only $20 per person.’ They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack.”
People lack peace today. But it is not the voice of James Earl Jones they need to hear, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe it. Share it. Embrace the gift of gospel peace and let us take to others and lead them to a better world.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org