Pastor Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Community Lutheran Church; The Appointment 02; Date: 26 April 09

For more sermons and other writings check out pastor’s homepage: http://www.geocities.com/mayeredgar

 

 

Peace Through Him

 

Cornelius – a man from Caesarea – a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment – he became the first believer outside of God’s nation Israel. God had set up a meeting with him – as God also wants to set up a meeting with you – and the way the meeting between God and Cornelius was going to take place was through the preaching of Peter (one of the key church leaders) who resided at that time in Joppa – a seven hour walk down the coast from Caesarea (from the place of Cornelius). Just imagine: All that trouble only to hear a sermon! Remember what happened: And angel had been summoned to speak to Cornelius in Casearea, the next day Peter fell into a trance in Joppa (during prayer and fasting), being in that trance Peter had a vision from heaven concerning Cornelius – heard a voice from heaven – and then had the Spirit impress on him guidance (that he was to go with the men that Cornelius had sent) – so much was going on and all of that (and more) to set up a preaching engagement! Just imagine … Take hold of this because you are – also – listening to some preaching right now. God is also wanting to meet with you.

What, then, did Peter preach? What would be the very first sermon that any unbeliever needs to hear? If you are a Christian or know something of the Christian faith – how would you start the message of salvation? This is what Peter did – Acts 10:24-36 – I read from the Bible: “The following day Peter arrived in Casearea. Cornelius was expecting him … As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself.’ Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: ‘ … May I ask you why you sent for me?’ Cornelius answered: ‘Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea. So I sent for you immediately, and it was good for you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God listening to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’ Then Peter began to speak: ‘ … This is the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all … ‘”

There! Before I read any further – did you pick up on how Peter began his preaching? What do you need to know before anything else? What does every person on this planet need to know? Peter said: “This is the message … telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ … “ Peace through Jesus Christ! Do you think that this is what you need most – peace? Can you buy anything with peace or make a name for yourself with peace? What’s the value of peace? We get to that.

This is how Peter continued preaching his sermon to Cornelius – Acts 10:36-43 – I read from the Bible: “This is the message … peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism which John preached [this was a baptism of repentance] – how God anointed [blessed] Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree [nailed him to a cross], but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name

Jesus was about peace but these few Bible verses portray that the road to peace was not easy. On the contrary – Jesus began his work by – so the Bible says here – “doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil”. (Did you know?) There is a devil and he is not nice and he has power and what he does to people needs undoing and healing. Then Jesus himself was killed. How could that happen? This is not evidence of peace on earth but confirms that we humans have it in us to rage at the wrong time – against God. But Jesus – then – beat our common enemy – death. There is not much peace thinking about death, but Jesus overcame death because God raised him up on the third day.

On the third day Jesus gained authority over the grave and then summed up again our situation – the basic lack of peace at the core of our existence – the reason why we are under the power of the devil, rebellion and death. I repeat words from the close of Peter’s sermon: “ … God raised him from the dead on the third day … he commanded us to preach and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead … everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his nameThis is what we need to hear. This is what we need to have resolved. There is going to be a day of judgement and Jesus will be the judge and the problem is that none of us here will pass this day of judgement unscathed – we will remain under the power of the devil and death – unless we believe in Jesus Christ and therefore receive forgiveness of sins through his name – peace with God through him. Do you have peace with God? Are you sure?

Dr Maurice Rawlings, a specialist in internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases, wrote a book on his findings from resuscitating individuals who had been considered clinically dead. One of his patients was a forty-eight-year old white male, of medium build, dark haired and with a personality that would please anyone. He had a cardiac arrest and dropped dead right in his office. A complete heartblock had occurred. After frantic treatment the patient began “coming to”. But whenever Dr Rawlings would reach for his instruments, the patient would again lose consciousness, stop breathing and die once more.

Each time he regained heartbeat and respiration, the patient screamed: “I am in hellHe was terrified and pleaded with the doctor to help him which in turn scared him to death. The patient then issued a strange plea: “Don’t stopUsually most patients – as soon as they recover consciousness – tell Dr Rawlings: “Take your hands off my chest; you’re hurting meHe is a big man and his method of external heart massage sometimes fractures ribs. But this patient was telling him: “Don’t stopThe doctor noticed a genuinely alarmed look on his face. He had a terrified look. Sheer horror in his eyes. Then still another strange thing happened. He said: “Don’t you understand? I am in hell. Each time you quit I go back to hell! Don’t let me go back to hell

Being accustomed to patients under this kind of emotional stress, the doctor dismissed his complaint and told him to keep his “hell” to himself. He remembers telling him: “I’m busy. Don’t bother me about your hell until I finish getting this pacemaker into placeBut the man was serious. He was in panic. After several death episodes he finally asked him: “How do I stay out of hellDr Rawlings told him that he guessed it was the same principle learned in Sunday school – that he guessed Jesus Christ would be the one whom you would ask to save you. Then the patient said: “I don’t know how. Pray for meThe doctor thought: “Pray for him! What nerveHe told him that he was a doctor, not a preacher. But he repeated his plea: “Pray for me” (Maurice Rawlings: Beyond Death’s Door, Bantam edition 1979, p1-4).

This is how the story continues. Dr Rawlings writes: “’Pray for me!’ he repeated. I knew I had no choice. It was a dying man’s request. So I had him repeat the words after me as we worked – right there on the floor. It was a very simple prayer because I did not know much about praying. It went something like this: Lord Jesus, I ask you to keep me out of hell. Forgive my sins. I turn my life over to you. If I die, I want to go to heaven. If I live, I’ll be ‘on the hook’ forever” meaning “I’ll remain faithful to you forever.” (Maurice Rawlings: Beyond Death’s Door, Bantam edition 1979, p5).

The patient survived and is now a strong Christian. After he had recovered he remembered the prayer and he also remembered that during one of the subsequent death episodes he was meeting both his mother and step-mother and other relatives who had died before. The meeting place was a gorge full of beautiful colours – brilliant illumination by a huge beam of light. In this after-death experience he “saw” his mother for the first time. She had died at age twenty-one when he was fifteen months old. This man had never even seen a picture of his real mother, and yet he was able to identify a photograph of her only a few weeks later. The face was identical to the lady he saw in his experience. Remarkable! What a turn around from his former panic. Oddly enough he no longer remembered any of his earlier impressions of hell but the experience was real enough.

What do you make of this? This man that died had a pleasing personality. People thought that he was a good man – but – unbeknown to him – he had no peace with God. When he was still breathing, he did not think much about God – was not anxious – did not worry – but when his heart stopped beating, he was going to a terrible place – the place that was not heaven. He cried out: “Don’t you understand? I am in hell. Each time you quit I go back to hell! Don’t let me go back to hellHe experienced the consequences of his lack of peace with God.

What about you? In a few years you will also die and then face eternity. You may not think much about it. We have ways of avoiding the issue but you will die – I will die. Are you ready? Do you have peace – with God – which then allows you entry into an eternal life with him? We can spend a life-time amassing things – money, houses, cars, jewelry – and we may be proud of our achievements – our reputation – or we may bum our life away – but in the end none of this matters. One day – in a moment – you will leave this earth – naked and alone – and then face judgement by a holy God. Do you measure up to his holiness? Will you pass the judgement because you have peace with him?

Let me backtrack at this point. The whole matter of peace with God may still not be on your radar screen – it may not seem practical enough (for today) – but the Bible teaches that any lack of peace even in your life right now – any anxiety, any family strife, any fear of the future, anything – can be traced back to your basic lack of peace with him. When God created the world, he made the world perfect. The Bible records – Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good … “ – very good – with no sin or evil. Then, God took the first human couple – Adam and Eve – and placed them in a garden and he said to them – Genesis 2:16-17: “ … You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from [this one certain tree over here. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.] … “ Life in that garden was perfect and they lived with God. Yet, both – Adam and Eve – disobeyed and did what God said not to do. They ate from the one tree – for whatever reason. Then, this is what happened. Life – as we know it – began. No peace, no peace, no peace.

I read from the Bible – Genesis 3:7: “ … they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselvesAdam and Eve sinned and immediately suffered from shame – to the extent that they could no longer face each other without covering up. Ask yourself: What are we covering up from each other? What if people knew the real me? Feeling shame is not peace.

I read the next two Bible verses – Genesis 3:8-9: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” God was the first to ask the question which is bothering us to this day: “Where are you? Who are youCan we answer this question for ourselves: “Who am IBefore Adam and Eve sinned, this was no problem. They were God’s creations and loved by him and placed where he wanted them to be – enjoying what he designed them to be – tending a beautiful garden – satisfied with their given lives. But then sin cut them off from God and who they were in him.

And worse was to come. God challenged them about what they had done but none of them owned up to their guilt – which is a word that we also don’t use much any more. Adam and Eve lost their peace with God and then with each other. I read again from the Bible – Genesis 3:12: “[Challenged by God] the man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’” Adam blamed his wife and compounded the blame by even implicating God, saying: “The woman you put here with me – she is at faultWhat happened to Adam and Eve’s love? Instead of acknowledging her as his wife (cf. Genesis 3:23: “ … bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh … ”), Adam distanced himself from her. He sinned and then his wife became “the woman put here with me”. These two lost their harmony – their peace – their joy. And human history went from there. Even their first two sons – Cain and Abel – copied their behaviour. Cain suffered tension with God but then – instead of acknowledging his guilt – he killed his brother (cf. Genesis 4).

Shame, hiding from God, blaming each other, confusion over identity – “Where are you? Who are you?” – and more come from a basic lack of peace with God. Therefore, Peter began his sermon to Cornelius with these words, saying (preaching the good news) – Acts 10:36: “ … This is the message … peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all … “ “Peace through Jesus Christ” with God and then flowing from this peace – this restoration of our relationship with God – also peace in every other area of your life. Another Bible passage – Colossians 3:10 – talks about the peace of God ruling our hearts and Philippians 4:6-7 promises: “Don’t be anxious about anything … with thanksgiving, present your requests to God … the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ JesusThis is practical right now. Have peace with God through Jesus Christ and there will be peace – a sense of calm and rest – for every other area of your life – for all of eternity.

How then do you get that peace? Listen again to Peter’s sermon to Cornelius: “This is the message … peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all … They killed him by hanging him on a tree [nailed him to a cross], but God raised him from the dead on the third day … He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead … everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his nameThere is “peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all”. Therefore – right now – accept Jesus (the bringer of peace) as your Lord which means that you allow him to be in charge of your life. Then – and this is how Peter concluded his sermon – “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”. Believe in him which means: trust him and the power of his name and who he is and trust that he is providing what you need the most: forgiveness of your sins and therefore peace with God. This is by faith in him – not by fixing anything ourselves. Peace is through Jesus Christ (not through us) – through what he has done (not through what we have done) – a free gift for all of us. Accept Jesus as your Lord and believe in him. He is good and you will have peace.

In closing, I want to read another Bible passage to introduce Jesus to you further – Colossians 1:15-23. Peace with God is through Jesus Christ. We love him. I read: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel … “

If you want peace, look to Jesus. He was before all things – filled with all the fullness of God – and then made peace through his blood, shed on a cross. Because his physical body was put to death, you are – or can be – holy in the sight of God, without blemish and free from accuasion – if you continue in your faith that is: if you continue to trust him – Jesus Christ. Therefore, this is the message: Peace with God through Jesus Christ. Look to him. Amen.