Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fruit of the Spirit - Peace

Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (ESV)

 The theme verse for the 2011-2012 academic school year at St. Paul’s is a familiar verse for many of us. We have heard often of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” These “fruit” will be what is used to find our “Student of the Month.” Each month we will be looking at one of the “fruit” and will be considering the student that best fits that “fruit.” In order for us to be prepared to make this decision, it would be good for us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest these words for ourselves.

November – “PEACE”

 As we continue with the fruit of the Spirit we come to the one that seems hard to pin down when you try to apply it into a student’s life. Why is that? Is it because we are trying to find the one student who is so “peaceful” in all that he/she does? Perhaps we can find the one that always works to keep arguments or fights from breaking out. But that doesn’t seem to work either. As I struggled to get my mind around “peace” for the Student of the Month, I found myself turning back to the Word of God and trying to understand what is meant by “peace.”

 I asked myself, “What is this peace we are talking about?” The answer that I found began in John 14:27 where Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” (ESV) So the peace we are looking at is not what the nations try to find as they struggle with war day after day. Nor is it the peace that we try to come up with as Occupy Whatever comes in and tries to get its way even as the cities struggle to uphold some sort of worldly peace in their community. This peace is the deepest peace that comes to the heart of the believer, not by their own desire, but by the power of the Spirit that works through the faith given to each person. This peace must begin in the heart of God.

 And it does. We are fast approaching the Christmas season. That season brings the true sense of peace into our hearts and lives. It is a challenge to find that peace as we hurry and scurry about trying to accomplish our list of things which need to be done before the day of Christmas breaks upon us and we can breathe a sigh of relief that it is over once again. The peace is found in the manger, in the song of the angels, in the visit of the shepherds and in the stillness of the night. The angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is please!” (Luke 2:14 ESV) Peace on earth! There it is – beginning in the heart of God that brings peace into a world that tears itself apart day after day, a world that has its very fabric torn apart as Adam and Eve eat fruit from a forbidden tree. Hiding from God, they know no peace. In the Christ-child, there is no hiding from God. There we know true peace.

 For this peace is the eternal peace that is brought from the heart of God to the believer. We find this as the 3rd of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists. There is no mistake there. You cannot have peace until the love of Christ fills your heart and life and the joy of salvation touches you in that special way that changes how you face each day. With love and joy giving you new glasses through which to see the world, peace comes rushing into the heart and life and guides the believer into a true sense of peace that begins in the relationship with God and carries over into every aspect of life itself. This peace looks upon the cross and sighs contentedly because it knows that right there, in the midst of that terrible, cruel instrument of torture and death, Christ brings peace in a way that is completely different from the world. The world would say, “Come down from the cross and show us how to live our lives.” The heart of faith rejoices to see Him remain on the cross and bring peace with the heavenly Father once again, a peace that had been lost since the Garden.

 That is the peace that is the fruit of the Spirit. After we see that it is that which we have from God as our relationship with Him is changed from Sovereign Judge to Loving Father, we begin to know what Paul writes, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV) This peace gives peace of mind. As we look for the student of the month, we look for one that exhibits this peace of mind in his/her relationship with God.

This peace of mind then leads to peace in relationships. We can see this in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone…” (ESV) and 1 Peter 3:11 “…let him seek peace and pursue it.” (ESV) The believer that knows the peace of God then makes it his/her goal to be at peace with those around him/her. He doesn’t try to create problems but instead “…puts the best construction on everything” (as we learn from Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment). We follow the direction, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” (Colossians 3:15 ESV) This peace of Christ rules the heart of the student that exhibits this fruit of the Spirit.

 So what do we look for as we look at the fruit of the Spirit? We look for a student that knows the peace of God in his/her heart and that allows that peace to touch the lives of the students around him/her. It is a student that faces the challenges of the day (from school to home to heart) and still shows that he/she is filled with that wonderful, life giving peace that passes all human understanding.

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