A Peaceful HeartErwin W. Lutzer | August 6, 2000
Selected highlights from this sermon
“My peace I give you.”
How could someone who knew they were about to be betrayed and crucified speak such words to His disciples—and to us?
It’s because He was totally surrendered to His Father. And in the midst of His last night on Earth, He says that we, too, can have such peace. This supernatural, unearned gift is ours if we trust in Christ, and if we completely surrender to Him.
Everyone seeks for peace. The Sunday school teacher wants peace, the drug dealer wants peace, the alcoholic wants peace. We all seek for peace. The question is, where can it be found?
Now there are certain thieves that come to steal our peace. I’ve divided them into two categories. One is those inner thieves. I’m talking about the sense of guilt and regret–a sense of self-loathing or fear that arises within us.
Then there’s another kind of thieves. Those are the outer circumstances. The people with whom you live, the man with whom you married, the folks at work, the lack of money, the difficulty you have in adjusting to Chicago. All of that also can rob us of peace.
Have you ever been peaceful, and then you receive a piece of news, and it’s just like having a pebble thrown unto a still, tranquil lake? And suddenly all the ripples go on, and it seems as if they go on forever?
There are some of you who are couples who are not at peace because the person that you married did not turn out to be the person who is going to be committed to your happiness as you thought.
Some of you teenagers are going through those struggles because you have peers at school who are robbing you of your peace. Because they are forcing you, or at least putting a lot of pressure on you to do things you really don’t want to do. And after you do them, you feel that sense of guilt and betrayal, that sense of condemnation, and your peace flees from you.
Well today we are going to talk about peace. We are going to talk about how it can be applied to you, because some of you are skeptically saying, “It doesn’t apply to me because of…” Well, you wait until this message is over.
We are going to find how you can be peaceful and at peace, despite the turbulence within. And also, how God can track down some of those enemies of your peace, as well as the circumstances without, that are not in your favor.
Now when I talk about peace, I’m not talking about some sense of tranquility that is either artificial or avoids reality. It is sometimes peace in the midst of tears. Jesus gave His peace, even though He was going to go through the horror of Gethsemane. I’m talking about a sense of stability, a sense of being guided by God, and in my way of thinking, it is very close to another word. We call the word hope. That’s what can be yours today, no matter your circumstances. Let me emphasis that: no matter your past or your circumstances.
The text is the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel; actually it is verse 27, where Jesus makes this statement. And today I am going to have as my text only five words. I’ll read the whole verse, and then I’ll give you the five words. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. DO not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”
Five words: My peace I give you. That’s all. You say, “Well, is your sermon going to be longer than five words?” Yes, my sermon will be longer than five words, as it has already been a little longer than that, but it is based on just five words.
What are we talking about in this verse? Three characteristics of the Lord’s peace, and what you can do each time is underline one of those five words to highlight that characteristic of peace.
First of all, I want you to underline that little word “my” peace. This is the peace of Christ. That means it is a supernatural peace. It’s a peace that only He can give. It’s a three-dimensional kind of peace.
The first dimension is the peace that we have with God. Romans 5:1: “Being justified by God, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Sin makes God my enemy. Sin means God can’t fellowship with me, so I have a tendency to make up other gods who will. Sin means that I am cast from God’s presence, until Jesus comes, and He reconciles me to God by paying my debt and giving me peace.
And this, incidentally, is the answer to those inner thieves of peace that want to ruin us. The sense of regret, the crushing sense of defeat, the self-condemnation, which often times is brought about by sin and the devil. This kind of peace is the answer to that. Because, my friend, regardless of your past, regardless of your history, you can be brought into God’s presence, and you can experience the joy of reconciliation. That’s what Jesus does for people.
Now imagine being part of the New Age movement. Maybe there are some of you here who say, “You know, I’ve moved beyond Christianity to something deeper now, I’m into spirituality.” That’s what we have today. That’s a symbol, a sign of saying, “I’m not committed to Christianity, something deeper.”
Oh really. You may have a God who really does not even believe that evil exists like some of the New Age gods. You may have a god to whom you do not have to come for forgiveness. And I feel sorry for you, because there is something on your conscience, and you want God to be able to say, “Thou art forgiven.” And only a personal God can do that.
I think of Glenn Tinder, who belonged to a religion that is much like the New Age movement. He believed that there’s a god in heaven, and everything is right with the world, and there really is no great need that I have to seek his forgiveness. Because after all, we are all little gods traipsing around. But when he killed two Japanese soldiers in World War II, and he thought they were armed, and they weren’t, his conscience so bothered him that even the word “murder” came to his mind, and he could not seem to live with himself and his god. And until he studied the Scriptures and came to know Christ as Savior, was that sense of guilt taken away. Because only Jesus can reconcile us to a Holy God, only Jesus can say, “Thou art forgiven.” That’s the first dimension of the peace. Jesus gives the supernatural peace.
There’s a second dimension, and that is peace with one another. Ephesians chapter 2: “That He has broken down the barrier and made us one, Jew and Gentile.” And the Jews and Gentiles, the animosity between them was just like the Arabs and the Jewish people today, where it seems as if there is very little common ground and so much hatred.
And if Paul were writing today, he would say, “He hath both one, Blacks and Whites, Asians and Latinos.” Because if I am at peace with God, and if Pastor [Roy] Schwarcz up here is at peace with God, with his Jewish background, and I think he is today, is that right? That means that he and I are at peace too, or something has gone terribly wrong.
And if we aren’t, we need to be reconciled; we need to ask one another’s forgiveness, we need to humble ourselves. Because some of us have said, “Yeah, there are these Christians over here, and there are these Christians over there, but you’ve got all of this animosity.”
Oh, wait a moment now. If that’s true, it’s because there is a part of our life that we have not yet turned over to Jesus. And reconciliation, and unity and forgiveness is incumbent upon all those who have trusted Christ and made their peace with God.
There is a third dimension, and that is the personal dimension. Jesus Christ says, “I can give you peace within your hearts,” someone said regarding someone else, “He is a cauldron of civil war within.” Some of you are like that if the truth were known.
I was reading about personality disorders this past week, just trying to check myself out, I guess, (laughter) and they talked about obsessive-compulsive people. Now there may be reasons in your background if you fit into that category (and by the way I don’t,), but could I just simply say that you may just be a cauldron? You may just find it hard to sit in a worship service for an hour and fifteen minutes. Jesus Christ says to you, too, “There is peace…peace, be still.” He walks into the room of your life as He walked into the room of the disciples there in Jerusalem and says, “Peace I give to you.” Jesus can bring that restless heart to rest, He really can. It is a supernatural peace; “My peace I leave with you.”
Well, there is a second word that you have to underline in these five words, and that is the word give. “My peace I give to you.” It is a gift, the gift of peace. Isn’t that wonderful? Because a gift means it isn’t tied to circumstances. It’s not a gift that needs to connect with what is going on outside directly.
It’s something like an airplane flying over perhaps a desert, and throwing some food down on those below, giving them some care packages. It is a gift that is inserted in the midst of their circumstances, independently of how bad things may be or may not be, here it is. It is a gift.
I want you to notice the next phrase that Jesus uses here, He says, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” How does the world give? The world gives a peace that is based on circumstances. The world says, “I will be at peace when my husband finally leaves this house.” None of you, but I am just talking generally. Somebody else says, “I will be at peace when that court case is finally over, I will be at peace when I finally have the money for a new apartment, I will be at peace if I win the lottery.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I will be at peace IF these circumstances change.
Jesus Christ’s peace comes in the midst of those circumstances, even if they do not change. There is a gift of peace. It’s a peace that is unearned; it’s not as if we deserve it. Now if you go to a psychiatrist (and it may not be wrong to do that under certain circumstances, but if he is one who does not believe in God), all that he can do is to somehow draw out from you all that he needs to hope that you yourself have within yourself the resources for peace.
That’s not the kind of peace that Jesus is speaking about here. And he may end up driving you to despair, and that’s why you have so many escape valves today, whether it’s alcohol or drugs or whatever. You live in an oblivion of sexuality, whatever, because you can’t live with the quietness within because there is no peace.
Listen, this is a supernatural gift. It is a supernatural peace. It is a gift that only Jesus could give. Could you imagine Krishna saying, “My peace I give to you,” or Buddha saying, “My peace I give to you”? No way. Only Jesus can say, “My peace I give to you.”
Let’s look at a third characteristic, and that is it is a personal peace. “My peace,” supernatural, “My peace I give,” it’s a gift, “My peace I give to you.” That’s the word to underline now, I give it to you. And so, from here on, this message is between you and me.
You folks sitting in the balcony whose eyes I find it difficult to see, I just want you to know I’m talking to you. Those of you who are on the lower floor, I’m talking to you. I’m talking to those who are in the back, and special blessings to those who are near the front, I’m talking to you now, (laughter). Remember, I say it to you from time to time, that front row on earth, is front row in heaven. Keep that in mind. (laughter) I don’t know what that says to those of you in the back of the room, except this: I do know that you wanted to come to the front, but it was already full, so you’re forgiven. (laughter)
Jesus said this is peace for you. Now we’re going to talk about you. You know when He says this, He knows your circumstances. He knows your past history. He knows what you’re going through, and He knows what you’re going to go through tomorrow. He knows all of the contingencies, all of the possibilities, and He also knows how it’s all going to turn out.
So, it’s not as if your circumstances are so unique that Jesus in heaven says, “I can’t believe it, I made this promise, but when I think of so-and-so, it just doesn’t work because I didn’t take their life into account.” No, this is a peace for you.
You think of what Jesus was going to go through. The next day He was going to be crucified, but before that, He was going to have to go through the agony of Gethsemane. This very night, He was going to have to experience the treachery of Judas, the betrayal of Peter, and all that agony. Then to be nailed on the cross, and be declared sin for us. All of that horror lay before Him. And yet He’s saying, “My peace I give to you my friend, no matter what your future holds, no matter what crosses lie on your path.”
You say, “Well, how do we receive this peace? How do we make it ours?” First of all, we have to look at Christ. Positively, Jesus focused on the Father, didn’t He? You read this upper room discourse, and constantly He’s talking about, “The Father has given to me, the Father has given to me…the Father, the Father.”
And in focusing upon the Father, and the Father’s will and His promises, Jesus was able to almost block out all the pressure that must have been upon Him as He thought of what awaited Him that evening and the next day. Because He knew as we do, (of course the book of Isaiah had already been written for hundreds of years when Jesus was on earth.) that “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
So, the memorization of Scriptures, the singing of hymns, very important (All of us should not only be learning hymns but memorizing them and using them in our devotional time.). That is the very means that God uses to keep us focused on God and, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.”
You say, “It’s not true.” You say, “Pastor, have you never had circumstances in your life where there was no peace no matter how you focused on God?” The answer is yes I have.
Years before I married my wife, before I had that good sense, I was in love with another young lady that I thought was a match made in heaven. You know what God’s response was? He said to me, “You know, you may think that that match was made in heaven, but what I’m going to do is to show you what hell looks like.” (Laughter) Seriously. I don’t use that word lightly.
He gave me such a sense of unrest; it was like two rivers trying to both go thru my spirit at the same time. It was such agony, that there were times I couldn’t have gotten out of bed in the morning. I tried to focus on Jehovah. I remember singing that song: “Stayed upon Jehovah, there is perfect rest.” I kept saying it over and over and over again, and the deep, unrelenting agony was so great, I wondered whether I was able to make it through the next day. It was the most awful, horrendous, experience I’ve ever experienced in life. Even worse than I am really telling you about, frankly.
What about this verse? You know what God was saying in heaven? You know what He was saying, don’t you? “Erwin, between you and me, you think this match was made in heaven, but guess what? It wasn’t, and you had better get the message. And I will not give you peace, until this relationship ends.”
And I am so slow to catch on, it took a couple of months before that message came through with unutterable, apodictic clarity. (I’ve been waiting years to use that word, apodictic. (Laughter) Not sure exactly what it means, but it seems so appropriate.
I believe that there are times when God directs us by a lack of peace. And there are people who are not listening to that voice. They are slow, just like I was, except perhaps that God is not as gracious in hitting them with this tremendous restlessness and this lack of peace. But that was God, and how I thank Him over and over and over again for that. Because I tell you, if I had married this “match made in heaven,” I won’t go into details, but I probably wouldn’t be here today.
You had better listen to God. No, you can’t have peace in every circumstance. But if you finally surrender it to God and say, “God, this is your dilemma,” then the peace of God which passes ALL understanding fills your heart. And it filled mine once I made the right decision. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest, just as He promised, giving peace and rest. How did Jesus endure it? You focus on God. That’s the positive.
Let’s look at the negative. You’ll notice what Jesus says in verse 29: “I have told you now before it happened, so that when it does happen, you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming, and he has no hold on me. But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”
What Jesus is saying is that Satan wants to disrupt my peace. But the prince of this world has no hold on me; there is nothing within me that responds to his overtures. He cannot get within me to enhance the struggle. And so what we need to do is to recognize, folks, very clearly that we must say “no” to the devil, who wants to work us into a lather. He wants to destroy our peace, so that we focus on circumstances rather than God. And we must recognize that it comes from outside of us at times, and that the devil must be sent back to his place.
All the water in the world, however hard it tried, could never sink a ship unless it got inside. All the evil in the world, the wickedness and sin, can never sink the souls craft unless we let it in.
Positively, we focus on God. Negatively, we say, “The price of this world has nothing in me.” I refuse to allow him to gain entry. I refuse to allow him to so disrupt my peace that I can’t write a letter. I refuse to allow him to so disrupt me that I’m worked into this frenzy where I cannot sleep, and where sleep passes from me, because the events are so overwhelming. You must say, “Be gone, for it is written, that if we pray prayers and petitions, that the peace of God which passes ALL UNDERSTANDING will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
There’s a third point: how we receive it. Positively, focusing on God; negatively, saying no to the devil. And third, we must realize that receiving peace is both an act, but it’s also a process.
You have to receive peace over and over again. It’s not just a one-shot deal. You don’t just get on your knees and give your problem to God and receive His peace and say, “Well, that’s it for that.” No. It may be daily for some of you who are under a tremendous amount of pressure and who have lived with anxiety an awfully long time. It may be an hourly battle, but you keep affirming the peace of Christ.
You know what our problem is? Sometimes we don’t want peace. Oh, you say, “Of course we do!” No. Many years ago, there was a man whom I knew with whom I had done some work who I felt wronged me. Looking back, it was so incredibly minor that I just marvel at the fact that this so disrupted my peace. I felt that he took advantage of some of the help that I had given him and had said some things that were not exactly critical but maybe not so favorable either. And I thought, “You know, I deserve better than this.”
But, you know, I was out on a speaking engagement, and it’s hard to preach these sermons if you yourself have not applied them? Did you know that? I’ve tried it. Some of you folks have put up with it, but it’s so much better that if you’re preaching on peace that you’re at peace. So what did I do?
I lay on the bed, knowing what I had to do. And that is to just let go of it. But I couldn’t because I didn’t want to. The last thing I wanted was God’s peace. Because I knew right well if God gave me peace, there would be no way I could get even with him. I didn’t want peace, I wanted justice. (Laughter) Be gone with your peace.
But God, as He often does in my life, would not let me go. He would not take that for an answer. It was at least 15 or 20 minutes of struggle. It was almost as if there was some evil within me that had to be extracted because I wrestled so much. And finally, it was over.
Now, I need to tell you something. Not only do I love this guy, but we’ve had fellowship since, and I look back, and I say, “You know that was so incredibly trivial. How could I have been so worked up about this?” I think the devil was involved, personally.
You say, “Now wait a moment. Are you saying that if we yield fully to God, we can be at peace?” Yes, listen, those of you who are filled with anxiety (I won’t ask you to raise your hands, now I’m talking about you), did you know that that anxiety is like a warning light on a car? It highlights that which has not yet come under God’s complete authority. You have not yet fully cast that care upon God.
I’m not talking about the fact that there can be no tears in the midst of peace. Of course there can be. Look at Jesus. I’m talking about those of you who do not have that sense of well-being and stability that comes because you know that your life and your circumstances are in God’s hand and not your own. Anxiety reminds us that there is some corner of our lives that is not yet surrendered.
I preached a message similar to this one. Actually, it was on the sixth chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says that our hearts should not be troubled. He goes on to say that, “Consider the flowers of the field…be anxious for nothing” and so forth, and I preached it in a church here in Chicago. And it’s one of those few times that I received a very stinging letter. It was very strong. It was just zinging in my direction.
What this woman said is, “I can’t believe you would stand up there and tell us all these things,” she said. “I’m going through a divorce because my husband has been unfaithful, and you expect us to be free of anxiety and to have peace. How unrealistic can you possibly be?” And she just really sent it to me.
And I read it, and there was a part of me that said, “Okay, maybe I overstated the promises. Maybe I am too theoretical. Maybe I wasn’t empathizing with the people who have problems like that in their lives.” But then I look at the text again, and I look at the Scripture again, and I say, “Well, Lord, I’m sorry, but I thought I was preaching what you revealed.”
You say, “Even in a situation like that, can there be a sense of well-being?” Yes. Because what you must do is to so give that situation over to God, and so put it into His hands, that quite literally, it is no longer yours. And people have done that in the midst of awful situations because He does care for you, casting all your care upon Him, He really does care for you.
And some of you, bless you, you do just like I’ve done. And we hang on, and we hang on, and we hang on, and we hang on. And we bear a burden that we are not qualified to bear, and God never intended us to bear, instead of simply saying, “God I give up. At any cost, your peace. This is no longer my situation. I back off, this is yours.”
Now can that be done in just a second? No, no, no. If I wrestled for 15 minutes or 20 on that bed over this small issue, you may have to wrestle for an hour to finally give it up, or two hours. But finally, the peace of God, which passes all understanding.
I don’t know how else to read that text. I forget what I wrote back to that woman, but I almost felt like saying, “Lord, forgive me for having believed your Word.” I mean, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your heart and mind.
If you were to go to Waterloo, where the great battle of Napoleon was fought, I understand that there you would see a huge, bronze lion that was taken and actually made from the guns that the British captured in that great battle. This huge lion snarls with his mouth open and his teeth very evident as he looks over the battlefield.
A tourist noticed one day that a bird built a nest in the lion’s mouth, twigs all wrapped around his teeth. And little birds, (I don’t know what you call little birds) were chirping there, right in the midst of those teeth, and that angry snarl.
For some of you, the lion is in the cage, and you’re looking at the lion, (You’d be better off to look at the bars, by the way, when you go to the zoo.) and you say, “I am right there, right there in the jaws of a lion.” Well, I am here today to tell you that there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God. There is a place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God. Oh Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God. Hold those who wait before thee, near to the heart of God. I’m not making it up. It’s the words of Jesus: “My peace I give you.” Supernatural peace, the gift of peace, personal peace, and it can be yours if you really, really get serious with God. Let’s pray.
“Father, I think of all of the anxieties that we all bring to this experience. I think of those, Father, who face things tomorrow that are fearful, things that seem to be out of their hands. And I pray, oh Father God, that through this auditorium and for all who should ever listen to this message, that there might be deliverance and freedom, and that you might be winning all kinds of victories.”
Before I close this prayer, why don’t you talk to God? Those of you who don’t know Christ as Savior, you’ve never trusted Him with your soul, how can you trust Him with your future? Would you reach out and trust Him at this moment? Those of you who are Christians, but you’ve lived with anxiety, and you say, “How can I get this off my back?” Would you talk to God, if He’s talked to you?
“Father, if we’ve been spoken to, help us to realize that this is not the end of Your work, it is the beginning of Your work. We pray for the many who should spend an afternoon in your presence, finally, finally laying it all down. We ask today, Father, that victories that we shall never even hear about shall be won because of the power and the promises of the words of Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.”