…[Y]ou will observe that the text not only says he is blessed; but it adds, that he is one of the children of God. This he is by adoption and grace; but peacemaking is a sweet evidence of the work of the peaceful Spirit within. As the child of God, moreover, he hath a likeness to his Father who is in heaven. God is peaceful, longsuffering, and tender, full of lovingkindness, pity, and compassion. So is this peacemaker. Being like to God, he beareth his Father’s image. Thus doth he testify to men that he is one of God’s children. As one of God’s children, the peacemaker hath access to his Father. He goeth to him with confidence, saying, “Our Father which art in heaven,” which he dare not say unless he could plead with a clear conscience, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”–Charles Spurgeon
Read the full sermon text at the Spurgeon Archive
I started this series back in February because I wanted to explore this particularly famous passage in Matthew, and in the aftermath of reading R.C. Sproul’s “The Holiness of God.” All that finally wraps up in this last episode of the Beatitudes series, and as I’ve gone through it (admittedly, very slowly), God has certainly been at work in my own life. He has been constantly sanctifying me and blessing me in ways that have led me here and to this last sermon, and how the words our good brother preached so many years ago apply to us today, as we seek to unpack the Scriptures.
But first, a bit of background
The last sermon on the previous verse was sermon number 3158. This sermon was number 424. That is a pretty big jump back, but it’s made necessary by the fact that Charles didn’t preach through whole books in general, at least not for his recorded sermons as I’m going through them here. But while this sermon was given by a much younger man than the preceding one, a man who had been through much less suffering and experienced a lot less of life than the one who delivered the sermon on the blessings for the merciful, the truth he preached did not change.
All of Scripture should press on our hearts as Christians. It may be in different ways, since while God’s truth is constant our lives are not, and the work of the Holy Spirit continues. I mentioned that this passage felt very important to me in the aftermath of reading “Holiness of God,” and it continues to. The truth is that in the West, and especially in the US, for a lot of people you become a Christian by saying a certain prayer…and that’s it. That’s the end of worrying about your relationship with God, and so many people do that with the belief that once they’ve said the magic words, it’s all good and they can go on back to life as it was.
Dissatisfaction in a lifeless walk
God’s mercy to me, thankfully, was that He did not let me roam through life believing that I could conjure and control Him through words, but to show me the same things we’ve seen as we’ve passed through this passage of Scripture together: He showed me that I had nothing that was not from Him and did not point to His glory, and that by contrast He was my immensely generous and loving Father. He showed me that my debt was likewise immense, and my guilt deep, and I felt the weight of them. I mourned the many, many ways I had sinned against God, the ways I had harmed others, the ways I had taken the good things He had given me and abused them for my own selfish desires.
When faced with that, when God opened my eyes to the reality of who I was–not who I wanted to imagine I was–there wasn’t room for anything else but to be on my knees. At the same time though, God began the process of transforming me, granting me a renewed heart and, step by step, changing my desires and tastes. The hunger for righteousness in the face of my great lack of it has been strong.
And I felt convicted to reexamine a lot of my ways of thinking and talking from over the years. I had been unkind to a lot of people. I had prioritized being the smartest, being the rightest, the most prepared adversary and the most talented man in the room. The result was that I was very unmerciful in a lot of ways, in the ways I thought of others and spoke to others. I certainly was not pure of heart, either in the ways I spent a lot of my private time or in the motivations I had for much of life. I certainly didn’t value peacefulness except insofar as it served to keep my life comfortable.
So when God broke my heart over my sins, He didn’t just leave me on the ground and say “Clean yourself up.” With that realization of my poverty came the truth that He has made me an heir to His kingdom–not because of anything I had ever done, certainly not! If anything it was in spite of everything I had ever done. It was pure love that led me to love in turn, and that has allowed me to love in ways I never could before. It is mercy shown that lets mercy show through me, as I remember the debt of grace I owe to my fellow man.
And so, I value peacemaking and peacefulness in a way that is rooted in the fact that God first made peace with me, by the blood of Jesus on the cross. I am not looking for some sort of humanistic “lack of conflict” peace, because such a peace is never really peaceful. What I desire is a true peace, under the rule of the true King. A peace where mercy has triumphed over judgment, with liberty for the captives and freedom for the oppressed. That is not something that will be known on earth apart from the name of Christ.
From peacemaker to persecuted
But the man who would see such a peace must also be willing to endure the persecution and hatred of the world. I’m not talking about the kind of “persecution” that gets Christians in America in a tizzy, but the real kind that involves suffering, loss, and worse. It’s the kind that will require us as believers to make hard choices between comfort and faithfulness. But my brothers and sisters…my faith rests in Christ for that day. My faith is in God, who has proven over and over again that He is faithful, that He will prove in the darkness what He has in the light.