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    May 29, 2011

    The Gospel of Peace

    Passage: Ephesians 6:14-15

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Dressed to Conquer

    Category: Dressed to Conquer

    Keywords: peace, gospel, war


    This message looks at how, in a world of war and conflict, we are called to be bearers of the Gospel of peace, first peace with God and then the peace of God in every human relationship. It also examines how our fiercly holy God can be a God of war while being THE God of peace.


    The Gospel of Peace

    Ephesians 6:1

    May 29, 2011 

    Welcome to Mosaic Fellowship on this Memorial Day Weekend. It’s rather interesting that, on a weekend when we remember those who have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today, we are in the midst of a teaching series talking about spiritual warfare.   

          Do you remember where this letter was written from?  It’s one of the “prison Epistles” which means that Paul was in Rome imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel.  In our text for this month, Ephesians 6, Paul borrows from his own up-close and personal experience there in prison when he begins to talk about the spiritual body armor every Christian has available to them in the spiritual battle we are all in. 

          Every day Paul was seeing the Roman military guard in full battle-ready armor, up close, all night and all day.  I’m sure that he had plenty of time to study their armor from head to toe.  I’ll bet he even had a few conversations with the guards about that armor.  And, as he sat there in prison, Roman guards all around, I’ll bet God began to speak to him about how the military armor of his day was much like the spiritual armor of the Christian. 

    Now for some people today, even the use of war-related terms and imagery bothers them.  I can understand that.  I’ve only been on this earth 54 years and I’ve already lived through both of THE longest wars in our nation’s 237 year history.  Vietnam lasted officially 103 months.  And now, with the Afgan war, we are into month 116.  It’s not the bloodiest war we’ve been in but it is THE longest in our history.  Anybody else tired of war?

    Unfortunately, the odds don’t seem to be in favor of much peace in our lifetime. In fact, a group of academics and historians has compiled some rather exhaustive (and exhausting) data on war in the world.  They discovered that since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace!  During this period there have been 14,351 wars large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed.  The value of the property destroyed is equal to a belt of gold around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick.  Since 650 B.C., there have also been 1,656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war.  The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved. [Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, 6-19-92.]

    Media mogul Ted Turner once tried to see if anybody had come forward with a real vision and plan of a future world at peace and in harmony. Back in 1993, he admitted that his quest ended in disappointment. "With 10,000 manuscripts, we did not have one plausible treatise on how we could get to a sustainable, peaceful future," -- The Columbus Dispatch, 5-10-93, p. 2B

    Yet God’s word says in Ephesians 6:14-15, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

    How can the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord of Hosts, be promoting a “gospel of peace”?

    How can Jesus, who said in Matthew 10:34,“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

       “‘a man against his father,
       a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

    …how can he be “The Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6) and the “God of peace” (Rm. 15:33)???  This is the same Jesus who is talked about in Rev. 19:11-16 with these war-like words:

          “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire and on his head are many crowns.  He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.  “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

    How can we be called to fight a spiritual battle with the most powerful forces of darkness in the universe under the command of such a fierce God and then be told we must  have our “feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”? 

    It is because we serve the “Lord of peace” who, according to 2 Thess. 3:16, “gives you peace at all times and in every way.”  This is the same “God of peace” Paul talks about in Romans 15:33 when he says, “The God of peace be with you all.”

    God could not be the “God of peace” if he was not willing to wage war against evil.  The sad nature of evil is that it will never be content until it dominates and subjugates all else to itself. 

          Evil demands control. 

          Good invites loving submission.

    There have been and always will be until Jesus reigns evil people who will not stop or be content until they are pushing back the gates of goodness, righteousness and God. 

          So God must be a god of war if he is to be God at all.  He must restrain and even fight against evil if he is to remain Sovereign of the universe. 

          But his heart and nature is one of peace.  He is only the God of war when evil demands it.  He is always the God of peace for all who will receive Him and the kind of life He knows is good, holy and blessed. 

    ILL:  My father was one of THE most gentle men I will ever know. He modeled a man around whom you felt safe.  Safe because he was a man of strength.  He had grown up on a farm in Iowa as a boy and he learned to fight with other farm boys in the school yard.  I always knew he could land a blow (and he had stories of doing it as a kid)…but I never once saw him do it. He always treated my mother with utmost respect, kindness, even tenderness.  Despite being a lawyer who made a living off fighting battles in the legal arena, he was also known as a peace-maker. 

          But there were occasions when I found myself on the wrong side of this “gentle-man.”  If I sassed my mother…or picked on my sisters…or disobeyed a clear family rule…this “gentle-man’s” voice could thunder a command.  This man of peace would become, to me, someone to listen to, to quickly adjust my behavior to and to avoid in his anger against my disobedience. 

    And this is precisely what the “gospel of peace” is all about. First and foremost, it is about peace WITH God our Father.    

    Romans 5:1“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

          The more important the person and relationship, the more vital being at peace with them is, right? 

    • Does it bother you that we’re not “at peace” with, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of  Iran?  Personally, I’m not really interested in “peace” on his terms—the destruction of our nation, the subjugation of the world to Islam, having to live by Sharia Law where my wife and daughter would be wearing a burka, not going to college and not driving.  (That would put a real crimp in my schedule!)
    • How about being at peace with these guys (police officers).  Now it’s getting a little more important, right? 
    • What about being at peace with this woman?  (My wife!)  No question! 
    • So what about THE most important relationship in life the will last for THE longest duration possible with THE most important Being in life, it’s pretty important to be “at peace” with that one, right?

    Constant enmity in relationships that really matter are not a fun place to be, are they?  In fact, conflict between us and people who really matter in our lives is one of life’s most difficult challenges.  So one of THE best parts of the gospel of Christ is that peace—real, relational, lasting, forever peace—has been made between God and us through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

          That “peace” can only come when we as people who have been “at war” with God through our sin, agree to the surrender terms of the God of peace. 

    ILL:  The last two truly total “surrenders” in war that Americans have experienced were now over 66 years ago. 

    • VE (Victory in Europe) day was set as May 8, 1945, the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.
    • VJ (Victory over Japan) of VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day didn’t come until August 15, 1945.  The signing of the official surrender document happened September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri.  General Jonathan W Wainwright who had suffered the Batan Death March as a POW after surrendering to the Japanese along with 70,000 of his troops in the Philippines, was there to watch the ceremonies.   

    Those two unconditional surrenders meant that hostilities between Germany, Japan and their victor nations had ceased.  Their military-industrial complexes were dismantled, their armies, navies and air forces decommissioned and the Allies began the long, costly and fruitful work of rebuilding the nations of their former enemies

          What a picture of what has happened to God’s people.  At war with the King of the Universe, we could offer nothing but the rubble of our lives when confronted with the call to surrender and offer of salvation.  That salvation required an unconditional surrender on our part to the Lord of lords whom we had hung on the cross by the sins of our rebellion.  And to every person who has ever lived, that surrender means, not destruction for us, but the beginning of the most amazing rebuilding and restoration program ever known.  Whereas the rebuilding of Japan and Germany by their former enemies produced two thriving, strong, prosperous nations, the salvation of every surrendered sinner by the Lord Jesus Christ produces a far greater and eternal rebuilding, restoration and renewal of human beings. 

    This is what we celebrate in Communion.  This is our V-S Day memorial—Christ’s Victory over Sin Day.  While it reminds us of our failure and defeat under sin, it also reminds us of His victory and eternal commitment to peace with us. 

    Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, has written, “Peace is the result of grace.  It literally means, "To bind together."  In other words, the peace which comes from unmerited, unearned love can weave and bind our fragmented lives into wholeness.”  [Lloyd John Ogilvie Let God Love You,  (Dallas, Texas: Word, Inc.,1974]

    So this morning we are going to celebrate our surrender and Jesus’ work of rebirth and rebuilding in our lives through The Lord’s Table.  I’m going to ask that we do something a little symbolic. The elements for communion are in the back.  Someone will dismiss you row by row.  If you would like to take communion today, you can go back to the table on your side and receive communion.  In a way what you are doing is the same thing the Japanese leaders did 66 years ago when they stood on the deck of the USS Missouri and said, “We surrender.”     

          Taking communion is an act of surrender.  And it is an act of recognition that we are people now “at peace” with our Creator.  We are no longer his enemy but now his sons and daughters.  We come simply with our sin-ravaged lives and wait for him to do the work of renewal, revival and regeneration.  “Salvation,” a word that in Scripture speaks much more about the life-long work God is doing in us than simply being “born-again” at the beginning, is what we are celebrating and affirming today. 

          And it IS a celebration.  Just as V-E and V-J Days were a time of celebration, so remembering God’s “signing” of our redemption is cause for celebration.  So don’t be afraid to let a little jubilation and joy spill out at a time like this either.




    Not only is this “gospel of peace” a gospel of peace WITH God; it is a gospel of peace OF God.  The more we become captivated by this “gospel of peace”, the more the peace of God will be what characterizes our lives.  It’s not a “peace-at-any-price” sort of peace.  It is a peace of great strength, a peace of righteous living, a peace that seeks to live at peace with others.   

          As God said in Romans 12:18—“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” 

    God intends his children to take that relational peace we have found in Him back into every relationship possible in this world.

    Of course, it isn’t always possible to be at peace with everyone around you.  As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the gospel itself brings conflict where there was none before.  Because surrender to Jesus Christ means that we are “changing side” and serving a new master, doing so will sometimes put us IN conflict with those who continue to serve the enemies of the Living God be they self, false religions, the gods of our age or any number of rebellious choices at war with God himself. 

    But the older I get, the more I see how much of the conflict I generate with people around me is not due to my love for or allegiance to Jesus Christ.  It’s usually traceable right back to my selfishness, my defensiveness, my pride and my underdeveloped or immature character.  Where God wants me to take the peace of Christ into relationships, I too often take the pride of John in.  It’s usually not about what is right and good in a moral or spiritual sense; it’s about what is preferred and demanded in a selfish sense.

    If we are to “lace up these boots of the gospel of peace” wherever we go, it will mean that we will have to put on the same kind of humble, costly, sacrificial living and dying that our Lord Jesus did.  We will have to enter the arena of human relationships determined that WE will be the ones who will pay the price to bring peace to a relationally conflicted world.

    ILL:    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was such a man in WWII.  A German Lutheran pastor who could have stayed in the safety of England or America while Hitler was rising to power, deliberately chose to move back to Germany in order to pastor the people of God under the brutal Nazi regime.  Eventually arrested and imprisoned, he was executed by hanging in April 1945 just 23 days before the Germans surrendered to the Allied forces.

    Before he died, he wrote this about the costly peace-making heart of God demonstrated to us in Jesus.  “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christian History, no. 32.]

    ILL:  Telemachus, a monk who lived in the 4th century A.D., was just such man. A monk actually living in a cloistered monastery, he sensed God saying to him at one point in his ministry, "Go to Rome."  So he put his possessions in a sack and set out for Rome.

    When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked why all the excitement and was told that this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting and killing each other in the coliseum, the day of the games, the circus. He thought to himself, "Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other, for enjoyment?"

    He ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators proclaiming, "Hail to Caesar, we die for Caesar.”  And he thought to himself, "this isn't right."

    He jumped over the railing separating the blood-thirsty crowd from the gladiators on the field and went out onto the middle of the coliseum.  There he got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said "In the name of Christ, forbear." The crowd protested and began to shout, "Run him through, Run him through."

    So a gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand.

    He got up and ran back and again said, "In the name of Christ,

    forbear." The crowd, now more incensed than ever, increased the volume of their cry to "Run him through."

    At that, one gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk's stomach.  Telemachus fell onto the sand of the coliseum’s floor and his blood began to turn that sand crimson as it spilled out onto the ground.

    One last time he gasped out, "In the name of Christ forbear." Then a strange thing happened which had never happened in that coliseum before.  A hush came over the 80,000 people in there. Soon one man stood and left, then another and another.  Within

    minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena in silence. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

    The Gospel of peace can be very costly for any who chose to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords.  But that is what we are called to do:  enter a world at war with itself in order to bring the gospel of Peace with God. 

    APP:  Take a moment to let the Holy Spirit speak to you about the relationships and realities He has put you in in life. 

    • Are there conflicts between people God is calling you to enter into in order to become His peacemaker?  Jesus said in Mt. 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  It is high time that we, God’s children, live out our calling as sons and daughters of God to become peacemakers, not peace-breakers. 
    • Are you in some conflicted relationships that are that way because of your own selfishness, your own ego, your own expectations and demands?  How is God asking you to humble yourself in order to seek peace “as far as it depends on you” (Rm. 12:18)?


    Spiritual strength in battle always depends upon ready foot-wear.

    “Combat readiness” is a basic military term bantered about now days.  Perhaps one of the most important pieces of combat readiness is footwear.  Historically, far more soldiers on the battlefield have been immobilized by foot problems than have gone down from bullets. Whether it is foot-rot from boots that won’t drain and breath or blisters from miles of marching, you’re not ready to fight unless your feet are healthy and ready to stand. 

    Paul’s point of emphasis in this part of the metaphor is the issue of preparedness…readiness.   Just what kind of “readiness” or “preparedness” comes from “the gospel of peace”?

          Well, Paul answers that with his own personal request for prayer that follows this teaching.  Look at what he says in vs. 19—“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” 

    The question here is, “Am I prepared, determined, in shape, equipped to share the Gospel of peace every time I open my mouth around people?  Am I deeply convinced that this gospel of peace has the capacity to take someone who is an enemy of  God because of their sins and turn him/her into a friend and child of God?

          This is effectively taking the battle to the Enemy, invading the territory of him who is on the attack against us daily.

          One war strategist has written, “In physical war, if a nation [is] continually under attack and on the defensive we [can] prophesy [their] ultimate defeat, surrender or destruction.” [Jim Wilson, p. 71, Principles of War] Unless the initiative switches form defensive maneuvers to offensive attack, victory will never come to the defenders.  No war is ever won by defensive maneuvers alone.

          I think that in too many Christian’s minds, a defensive position in the spiritual life is considered a virtue while an offensive position a vice or even sin.  We pride ourselves on being defenders of the truth instead of taking the offensive for truth, justice, holiness and powerful personal witness.  The problem is that without an eventual offensive, defense only anticipate ultimate defeat.    

    If Paul asked whole churches to “pray also for [him] , that whenever [he] open[ed his] mouth, words [would] be given…so that [he would] fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…”, how much more should WE be praying for greater boldness to be on the offensive with the gospel of peace. 

    VIDEO:  A couple of weeks ago in one of my Moody classes, some students introduced the class to a rather humorous take on Christians who fail to take seriously their calling as ambassadors of this “gospel of peace.”  While we won’t be hiring this guy at Mosaic anytime soon, I think there is some element of truth in this clip about how the Holy Spirit is calling every one of us to “get in the game” of bringing the gospel to people all around us who will be eternally separated from the love of God unless this “gospel of peace” become their own. 

    Enjoy!  [Play “The Evangelism Linebacker” clip found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewKTIijAdpk]

    Thank God the Holy Spirit isn’t like that!   But He is, I believe, calling, encouraging and convicting every child of God to “suit up” with the gospel every day and take it into every relational encounter he gives us. 

          There is nothing like this gospel!  Nothing brings such genuine peace!  Nothing holds greater promise to defeat the evil of the human heart than this!  Nothing! 

    So…where and in what relationships is God nudging and calling you to be a bearer of “the gospel of peace”? 

    • What conflicted relationships are you in to which God is asking you to take the high and humble road of peacemaking?  WHEN will you do it?  WHAT is God asking you to lay down in order to lace-up the role of peacemaker?
    • Have you been neglecting putting on the footwear of the Gospel?  Have you stopped carrying this ‘gospel of peace’ into every relationship you have?  Have you stopped asking God to fill your mouth with words that “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel”?  Is it time to not only take up that prayer for yourself but ask others to pray that for you just as the Apostle Paul did?

    The church of Jesus Christ desperately needs to move from defense to offense.  People’s future with God depend upon us.  God’s work in this world depends upon us.  The influence of this ‘gospel of peace’ in the world depends upon us.  The greatest power for peace in this world and the human heart resides in us.  Let’s make Paul’s prayer our prayer on a daily basis and see just what God can do to make us peacemakers in a world of conflict.