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REAL peace  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:41
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This is the last part of our series on REAL peace. Overcome... Does it sound like we are out to win the conflict? Not exactly. Let's just quickly review what we have seen so far.
We all want peace. But what we want, and what we get are two different things. We have conflict. Everything from mild irritations, to full out war.
And though what we want is peace, the way we deal with conflict tends to lead to more conflict.
Remember the Slippery Slope?
Slippery Slope Slide
We try to escape, Peace-faking, but that does not end the conflict, in fact, it is unresolved and often comes up again.
We try to win, to attack, Peace-breaking, but when we do, that only escalates the conflict or alienates others.
That is how we typically respond in our own strength, and though what we want it REAL peace in the midst of this conflicted world, we end up adding to the lack of peace.
I heard of Ernest Gordon this week while preparing. Ernest was from Scotland, and joined the army in the War to End all Wars (World War II). He joined the fight to win the conflict. Fighting didn't work... He was captured. He was then put into a Japanese POW camp, and was a part of the Railway of Death, the railway the Japanese forced the POW's to build from Burma to Thailand.
What is the better way? What is the way to REAL peace?
God has shown us the pathway to REAL peace in His word. And He has demonstrated it to us.

Pathway to REAL peace

Go Higher - 1 Corinthians 10:31
Overlook - Proverbs 19:11
Imitate the Heart of God - Lamentations 3:22-24
Look Within - Matthew 7:3-5; James 4:1
Accept Responsibility - Proverbs 28:13
Gently Engage - Galatians 6:1
Forgive - Colossians 3:12-17, Ephesians 4:32
What if you do all of this and it doesn't end in REAL peace? What if the other person will not come around? What if they continue to mistreat you?
What if they purposely do things to hurt you, to show their contempt for you?
Personally, I want to strike back! Our natural response is to go back down that slippery slope, either avoiding or attacking.
But we already know that is not the pathway to REAL peace. It will not give us the peace that we so desire.
What do you do?
Once again, God has shown us what to do. That is what we are going to look at today. How to Overcome when others refuse to join us on the pathway to peace.
Our passage today is Romans 12:9-21.
Romans 12:9–21 NIV84
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let's pray and ask God to speak to us.

Love must be sincere

This reminds me of what Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28, 35-36.
Luke 6:27–28 NIV84
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:35–36 NIV84
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Remember Peter, Jesus' disciple? He learned this lesson through his life. Peter was the rough and tough fisherman. The one that said he would never leave Jesus. He was determined to fight for him. He even cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus the night he was betrayed. Peter learned what Jesus was talking about, and he said:
1 Peter 1:22–23 NIV84
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
Love sincerely. Love deeply from the heart. Paul learned this lesson too. He was the one who was violently dragging men and women who were followers of Christ, out of their homes, and beating them, throwing them into prison, even putting them to death. But he found Grace! And learned from Jesus, Love sincerely. Love even your enemies, sincerely.
What does that look like?

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Love does not just overlook evil. Love deals with it. Is not that what Jesus did for us?
Remember, we were enemies of God. We were not only sinners by birth, but sinners by choice. We followed our own evil desires, and continue to do what is wrong, even encouraging others to do what is wrong. Romans 1 is a great picture of who we were as enemies of God. But how did God deal with the conflict? He loved. He loved and sent God the Son, Jesus into this world.
Jesus came, He loved. He hated what was evil, calling a spade a spade, but clung to what was good. God does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He continually taught the truth, what is good, even to the Pharisees and others who opposed Him.
He sought to glorify God.
He overlooked, He showed mercy.
He did not have to look within, He was holy.
He did not have to accept responsibility, because He was 100% innocent.
He did gently engage.
He did forgive.
But, how did they respond to Him? They continued to taunt Him and crucified Him.
Was that the end? What did He do?
He sent the spirit on the day of Pentecost, and 3000 of those who said His blood be on our heads, and our children were saved! Including a number of priests!
He spoke to Saul, who was persecuting Him by putting believers to death! He hated the sin, but clung to what was good. The gospel that God wants to save, and can save and change lives!!
It is because of that hope of God who changes lives that we can cling to what is Good! We can

Be devoted to one another in love!

God has made us new creations, to partake His divine nature. To be like Jesus, looking at people through eyes of love.
Then, we can also see them as God does:
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV84
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
We can realize that God has us here to be ambassadors for reconciliation. If this person is not joining us on the pathway to peace, they are out of step with God! If they are a believer, they are out of fellowship with God! They are blind!
1 John 2:9–11 NIV84
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
Honestly, this kind of love is beyond you and me. This is something that we need Him to work in us. This kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit. I found this out over the last few weeks. God convicted me that I was not loving someone. I started praying, and asking God to change my heart to love sincerely, from the heart as Peter wrote. I saw God do that in me, where I still hated the wrong, the evil, but I started clinging to what was good. I started clinging to the hope of the gospel for them.
I think that is what Paul meant when he wrote:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

We need to keep our eyes on Him and what He can do through the reconciliation He offers through Jesus. We need to fix our eyes on Him, and realize that how I act toward this person is ultimately my act of service for the Lord. So it doesn't matter if this person notices my service, or accepts it. I am doing this for the Lord.
The next way to over come is:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

This person may continue to abuse us, to treat us improperly. But I must remain faithful in prayer.
I cannot allow my thoughts to be so crowded with them and what they are doing that I neglect prayer, and time with God.
I cannot allow their actions to stop me from doing what God has commanded--to pray for them!
He says to share with those who are in need, and to practice hospitality. We will delve into that a little later.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What is a blessing? A true blessing comes from the heart, and is an expressed good. It is wanting what is good for the other person. That is hard!
My heart so wants to cry out for harm on those who hurt me or those I love.
What is God's example? He gives blessings to those who are against Him, allowing His kindness to lead them to repentance.
We are to want, and do what we can for the good of the other! We are to:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

If good things happen for them/to them, we rejoice. If something bad happens, we mourn for them, with them.
We live in harmony with them, alongside through the highs and lows.

Do not be proud... Do not be conceited.

It is so easy to fall into a holier-than-thou attitude. I want to do what is right. I have pursued REAL peace the way God says, and yet they...
Easy to be proud, conceited, and not want to associate with them.
But did Jesus associate with sinners?

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Don't our hearts just yearn for payback? Don't we just long to get even? I tried to do what is right, and what did they do? I'll show them. They deserve...
And when did God treat me as I deserved?

As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Here's the reality. Though we strive for REAL peace, others will not respond.
Does God hold us accountable if we are not reconciled? No. But He does hold us accountable for our actions. We are never responsible for reconciliation. We are 100% responsible for our pursuit of REAL peace.
So, how should we act... We
Go Higher,
Look within
Accept Responsiblity
Gently Engage
Then, we continue to do what we can to be at peace, and...

Do not take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath

He will deal with them. Just as He will deal with us. Peter wrote that we have a Father who deals impartially. Therefore we should live our lives in reverent fear.
1 Peter 1:17 NIV84
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
He will judge us, and them. Let Him deal with the revenge.
Remember, Bitterness and revenge are the poison we swallow hoping they will suffer...
Instead, let us Go Higher and Overcome.
If they will not join us on the pathway to REAL peace, let's find REAL peace through Forgiveness and Overcoming.
Romans 12:20–21 NIV84
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Overcome, to me, is to defeat the evil which lurks within me. The Evil that wants to have me, and control me. The evil that wants to destroy me from the inside out with the poison, the rot of bitterness and hatred. The evil that hates my brother, and thus does nothing of eternal consequence to him, but destroys me by separating me from my God!
So instead of being Overcome by evil, the way to stay in that place of REAL peace is to Overcome the evil within, and to Love, to do good to those who do wrong to us.
So contrary to our nature, but so in tune with the divine nature isn't it!
So impossible on our own, but we are not on our own are we?
Back to Ernest Gordon.
POW's treated so harshly
poor diet
forced to work
denied medicine
denied food when they did not work
forced to complete a 5 year project in 12 months
watched their comrades beaten to death
while incarcerated, they had hatred for the Japanese.
and they would turn on each other to survive
but, Ernest found Christ.
While sick in the death house, two believers took care of him, giving him some of their own food.
He recovered and became a believer.
He prayed.
He sought the Lord
He saw the Lord change his heart, and the hearts of those around him as they learned and studied God's Word
Later while being moved to different prison camp they came upon Japanese soldiers who were ... well here are his words...

They were on their own and without medical care.… Their uniforms were encrusted with mud, blood, and excrement. Their wounds, sorely inflamed and full of pus, crawled with maggots. We could understand now why the Japanese were so cruel to their prisoners. If they didn’t care for their own, why should they care for us?

The wounded men looked at us forlornly as they sat with their heads resting against the carriages waiting fatalistically for death. They were the refuse of war; there was nowhere to go and no one to care for them.…

Without a word, most of the officers in my section unbuckled their packs, took out part of their ration and a rag or two, and, with water canteens in their hands went over to the Japanese train to help them. Our guards tried to prevent us … but we ignored them and knelt by the side of the enemy to give them food and water, to clean and bind up their wounds, to smile and say a kind word. Grateful cries of “Aragatto!” (“Thank you!”) followed us when we left.…

I regarded my comrades with wonder. Eighteen months ago they would have joined readily in the destruction of our captors had they fallen into their hands. Now these same men were dressing the enemy’s wounds. We had experienced a moment of grace, there in those blood-stained railway cars. God had broken through the barriers of our prejudice and had given us the will to obey his command, “Thou shalt love.”3

I do not expect us to go through as harsh treatment as Ernest and his fellow soldiers endured. Even as they tried to do good, and serve the Japanese, they were often further beaten. However, they found true Grace, Faith, Hope, Love, and REAL peace in the midst. They learned to Overcome evil with good.
I pray that we will learn to Overcome evil with Good.
Read Romans 12:9-21. Ask God to speak to you this week about how to Overcome evil with good. Ask God to show you who, if anyone, you are not loving sincerely from the heart. Begin asking God to give you sincere love.
Read Romans 12:9-21. Look around you. What evil do you see in the people around you? When commanded to cling to what is good, what do you see that is good? What does God see and desire for those around you? How will you pray for them? How will you be devoted to them in love? Be specific. Ask God to work this love in your heart.
Read Romans 12:9-21. What does it mean to be joyful in hope? How can you show your joy and hope to those around you? What affliction do you face? How will you be patient in light of that affliction? Are you being faithful in prayer? How are you praying?
Read Romans 12:9-21. How can you bless others around you? What can you do to 'feed' your enemy, or 'give him something to drink'? What can you do that would tangibly show love to them? Come up with a few options. Begin carrying it out, and record what happens.
Read Romans 12:9-21. Memorize Romans 12:21. Compare Romans 12:21 with Genesis 4:6-7. When commanded to overcome evil, is it speaking of the 'evil person' who is treating you badly, or what is the evil? Where is this evil? What has been done about this evil? What are you responsible to do about this evil? How will you overcome evil with good this week?
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