02 September 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:9, Part 2)

Last week we talked about how if we follow in the footsteps of those who walked in the footsteps of Christ, and if we do those things that Paul says we have learned and received and heard and saw in him—which were things he learned and received and heard in Christ—and if we are seeking that eternal life that comes from Christ, then the God of peace will be with us. But if we are trying to gain earthly rewards by lying and treachery, that same God will not be a “God of peace” to us. He may actually fight against us. Today we look at what Paul means when he refers to God as being the “God of Peace.”

Philippians 4:8-98 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these, and the God of peace will be with you.

I love how the Holy Spirit puts Scriptures together. Because back in Philippians 4:6-7Let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Now he says, Philippians 4:9Do these things, and the God of peace will be with you. What we have in these two verses is a plan of how to train our minds and our bodies so that we may live a life that pleases God. If we fill our minds with things that are pure and which lead us into brotherly love and which make good things known, is God pleased with that? And if the life of the apostle Paul is a pattern for our own lives, would God be pleased with that? And if our lives show a pattern of holiness, then when we witness to those who don’t know Christ, they will know what kind of person we are before we open our mouths. As seen in the following Scriptures:

1st Thessalonians 1:6-9And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
2nd Timothy 3:10-11But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra.

BUT, is God pleased when we fill our eyes and ears with things that are profane? Is He pleased when we use our bodies in ways that are sinful? 2nd Timothy 3:13-14But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of. We cannot have the peace of God unless we are at peace with God. Isaiah 57:20-21The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. My God says, “There is no peace for the wicked.” But if the God of peace is with us, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Now, what does it mean that God is the God of peace? Well, if I had to explain this using 1 passage out of the 60,000 or so verses in all of Scripture, I would probably choose Romans 4:24-5:1—[Christ’s righteousness] shall be credited to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead…Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Man does not make peace with God—God makes peace with man. That principle is found all through the New Testament. (Colossians 1:19-21; Ephesians 2:12-17). All mankind deserved eternal Hell. Period, paragraph. But God—THE God—came and made peace with a bunch of people that couldn’t give enough, sacrifice enough, or do enough to have that very God show any mercy toward us and who, by all rights, should eternally be His enemy. And that principle goes against everything that was taught and believed by followers of the Roman pagan mythology that existed when Paul wrote this letter.

Because this Roman pagan mythology—and every other pagan mythology—had a bunch of different “gods” for just about anything you could think of. And in order for a “god” to be recognized as a “god” they had to go through the Roman senate for approval. There was a writer in the 2nd-3rd century AD named Tertullian. He was the son of a Roman government official. And he became one of the fiercest defenders of the Christian faith and he wrote volumes against the pagan worship which was sanctioned and mandated by the Roman government. And in his "Apology", which is by far his most famous writing, he said this about the practice of the Roman government thinking they had the power to elevate men to the status of a “god”:
“There was an old decree that no god should be [designated] by the emperor till first approved by the senate...among you divinity is [given] at the judgment of human beings. Unless gods give satisfaction to men, there will be no deification for them…Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received [news] from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal.”

Tiberius was, of course, the Roman emperor from the time the man Jesus Christ was about 9-10 years old until the time He was crucified. Pontius Pilate had sent word to Tiberius about this Jesus that Pilate could find no fault with, and who in fact had done many mighty deeds in the sight of the people. And no doubt when the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb came running to him and said, “Governor, you ain't gonna believe this” that he sent word to the emperor that this was more than a man, this is indeed a god. Tiberius agreed, took the matter before the senate, and the senate said, “Eh, not so much.”

And herein lies the difference between Christianity and Roman pagan mythology. In Roman pagan mythology, a potential “god” had to get the approval of men to be elevated to godhood. But the truth of the matter is this--Christ IS God. Why? Because He is. Period. And once a “god” was established, they expected to be worshipped. If you didn’t worship them, then you better be prepared for the consequences. In the Roman “Pantheon”—which was the term they used to refer to their collection of the many “gods”—they had different classes of “gods” and “goddesses.” And, time out—if you have a little girl, and she wants to call herself a “goddess” or wear a shirt that says "goddess"—don’t let her. That’s blasphemy. Pure and simple.

Anyway, there were at least 3 different classes of “gods.” There were “Major gods” which would be Jupiter (king of the gods) and Apollo and Ceres and Neptune and Mars and Diana. Then you had over 150 “Minor gods.” THEN you had over 30 “gods” that they adopted from other cultures that the Roman army had conquered. Then, on top of all that, the Caesar was expected to be worshipped as “god.” And the people that worshipped these “gods” didn’t know from one day to the next if these “gods” would have a hissy fit and throw a hailstorm their way because something happened on Mt. Olympus to ruin their day and they just had to take it out on someone.

They would burn sacrifices and cry out, “Oh, Apollo, make the sun to shine for us today!” You might as well talk to that wall. “Oh, Ceres, make our crops to grow!” “We’re sorry, that number is not in service!” These “gods” were nothing! They were powerless to do anything for one reason—they didn’t exist! You could burn all the sacrifices and incense you wanted. But who would you be talking to? NOBODY!! 1st Corinthians 8:4We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. Tertullian went on to say this:
“You tell me that the Romans rule the world because of the gods, and we ‘endanger state security by our failure to worship them, risking their anger.’ Well, since you captured those gods from foreigners, whom they failed to defend, it doesn't seem as if their help is worth much! So our refusal to worship them doesn't hurt you. On the contrary, we ask the Creator to help the empire. A real God is rather more useful than a fake one.”
That’s why God is the God of peace, because He hears the prayers of those who belong to Him. 1st Peter 3:12 [NASB]For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer. The Roman pagans had the “god of the sun,” and the “god of the moon,” and the “goddess of the hunt,” and the “god of this” and the “god of that”—they even had a “god” for each of the 4 winds! They had a “god” of the north wind, the south wind, the east wind, the west wind. And all they could do was hope that they were doing every little thing right in the temple to please these “gods” and “goddesses.” But we know the God of all creation. And all we have to do to know if we are pleasing Him is to read His word! And all we have to do to have His peace? A whole bunch of complicated rituals? No. Just take your needs to Him. Philippians 4:6-7By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Listen to some of the “gods” they worshipped:
  • Devera—Goddess of brooms used for purification.
  • Discordia— Goddess of discord and strife.
  • Febris—Goddess who protected people against fevers.
  • Fornax—Goddess of bread baking and ovens.
  • Fulgora—Goddess of lightning.
  • Furina—Goddess of thieves.
  • Indivia—Goddess of jealousy.
  • Mefitas—Goddess of poisonous vapors from the earth.
  • Mellona—Goddess and protector of bees.
  • Mena—Goddess of menstruation.
  • Subrincinator—God of weeding.
  • Summanus—God of night thunder.
But there is one “god” they didn’t have. They didn’t have a “god of peace.” We do. I was looking up the places where God is called the “God of” or the “Lord of” or the “Father of” something:
  • 7 times He is called the “God of peace” (Romans 15:33, Romans 16:20; 1st Corinthians 14:33; 2nd Corinthians 13:11; 1st Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20).
  • Psalm 109:1—God of my praise
  • Malachi 2:17—God of judgment.
  • Acts 7:2—God of glory.
  • Romans 15:5—God of patience and consolation.
  • Romans 15:13—God of Hope.
  • 1st Peter 5:10—The God of all grace.
  • 2nd Corinthians 1:3—The Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
  • Ephesians 1:17—Father of glory.
  • Hebrews 12:9—The Father of spirits.
  • James 1:17—the Father of lights.
  • Ephesians 4:5—God and Father of all.
  • Ezra 7:12; Revelation 11:13, 16:11—The God of Heaven.
  • Revelation 11:4—the God of the earth.
Speaking of Christ:
  • Isaiah 9:6--Prince of Peace.
  • Matthew 12:8—Lord of the Sabbath.
  • 1st Corinthians 2:8—Lord of glory.
  • 2nd Thessalonians 3:16—Lord of Peace.
All that in ONE GOD!

So, what does it mean that God is the “God of peace?” It means this: if there is peace, it was God that made that peace. God is the source of all peace. How do men negotiate peace? “You give me something I want—I'll give you something you want.” In the Middle East, for example, if Israel gives the Palestinians the West Bank, then the Palestinians will promise to stop blowing up Jews. Problem is, the Palestinians don’t stop blowing up the Jews, and then they blame it on Israel. If the union goes on strike, how does it get settled? One side says, “Give us X and we’ll give you Y”; the other side says, “We’ll give you J if you give us L.”

But here’s the difference between man’s “peace” and God’s true peace. When God makes peace with a man, He takes from us something we didn’t know we needed to get rid of and gives us something we didn’t know we needed to have. He took something He didn’t want. He gave us something we didn’t want. Christ took the curse of the Law upon Himself, and gave us His righteousness. Galatians 3:13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us. 2nd Corinthians 5:19-21God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Let’s make sure we have this straight: God sent His beloved Son, who took our sins from us as He hung on that cross and died, became a curse for us, so that those who believe then become the righteousness of that dear Son? In other words, for us who believe, Christ takes our sins, and we get His righteousness? Next time someone tells you that God isn't fair, point them to 2nd Corinthians 5:19-21 and tell them, “Yeah, you're right.”

We weren’t looking to make peace with God—we didn’t know we needed to. Or, perhaps, we didn’t think we needed to. We cannot have the peace of God unless we are at peace with God. And if we are at peace with God, He then becomes to us the God of peace, and we can then have the peace of God. And God offers us that peace that we don’t know we need, and He offers it when we don’t know we need it. Romans 5:8 [NASB]But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Psalm 119:163 [NASB]I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law. We human beings have a problem: we are born with a spirit that does not love the Law of God or any other kind of laws for that matter. In fact, we tend to develop our own laws, and live by them. We don’t think we need the law of God. We think we’re just fine the way we are. “Naw, I'm OK with God; He’s OK with me. I don’t do anything bad, I don’t hurt anybody. What’s that? Yeah, I sleep with my girlfriend and we like to get high on the weekends. But God understands me; He doesn’t care about all that.” Think again! We are born with a sense of right and wrong. Problem is that sense of right and wrong only extends to other people. We may have a vague sense of sin—but we really don’t think we need to do anything about it. Our own, natural, human, fleshly minds will not convict us of our sins. We don’t think we’re doing anything wrong. We can't know we’re doing anything wrong unless God shows us. The way God shows us is by the Holy Spirit. John 16:7-8, 13“It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.”

The reason we use so much Scripture in witnessing to people is because the Scriptures were spoken to the writers by the Holy Spirit (2nd Timothy 3:16; 2nd Peter 1:19-21). And when the Holy Spirit witnesses to us, and convicts us of our sinfulness, and shows us that no, we are not “OK with God” and that we are, in fact, at war with God, then that same Holy Spirit will cause us to love the Law of God. Psalm 119:165 [NASB]Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.

There is ONE God. One and only one. It ain't the god of the Mormons. It ain't the god of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It ain't Allah. It ain't Buddha. His name is YHVH. God. Almighty God. Ask yourself this question: Is He the God of Peace who is with you? Or is He your enemy? Do you love His Law? Or do you think “Eh, I'm OK.” If you walked out of your house right now, and out of nowhere, here comes a bullet “POW!” Would you stand before God as His friend? Or His enemy? That’s the question you need to answer.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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