Slap Happy: Peace Be With You

We are in a sermon series called “Slap Happy”.  We’ve been talking about this for a couple of weeks; talking about what makes us happy. I want to thank you for being here and express how great it is serving this church and serving this community, and being a part of such a wonderful, wonderful place that God has created just for us.

You’ve got to be happy, right?  We talked last week about what the world has told us, and what the church has told us, usually through someone with a mean look on their face, that God doesn’t want you to be happy.  He wants you to be what?  Holy, right?  We’ve been told that, and it usually comes from someone who’s not so happy. If God gave us the capacity for joy then God gives us an overwhelming capacity to be happy.  I believe God wants us to be happy.

So we are in this sermon series, the third part today. Just a test to see if you’ve been listening, let me just ask you this question. There are two answers, remember. “What makes you happy?”  (Congregation) “Absolutely no thing.”  Absolutely no thing; there is no thing that will make you happy.  That’s right.  There is only a “who” and not a “what”.   A “who” or two will make you happy.  When we were kids, we knew this.  We would rather be with our friends and play in the backyard than anything else.  Yes, we played with toys, we played with things, but things were not fun and did not make us happy until we were with the “who’s”, right?

Last week you learned what else made you happy.  “Sow.” I know, with an E it makes the quilting guild happy, but with an O we are called to sow and to reap the happiness; we sow and reap happiness. Happiness is not instantaneous; happiness is not immediately accessible.  Despite what you’ve heard, despite what that infomercial said you must have, despite what you’ve watched on TV, despite what section of the bookstore, and I’m not talking the coffee shop, I’m talking about where they have books, despite drugs, despite anything else, what makes you happy is not immediately accessible.  Happiness is a process; happiness is something we work toward.  But something that we learned from Jesus last week in reading the Beatitudes, happiness is ultimately accessible, you hear that? We can access or have happiness, but it is a process.  It is an ultimate goal to have it.

So, today I want to talk to you about something I talked about the first week.  Kathy already let the cat out of the bag.  “Thanks, Kathy”, and we are not supposed to greet one another here; we are supposed to be the unfriendly church. (laughter)  I’m just kidding.  One thing that every happy person has, and if you think back to the first week you’ll remember, they have peace.  Each happy person that you know probably has this, peace.  When you think about a happy person, you think about a peaceful person; someone who has peace.  No matter where they are economically, whether they are rich or poor, middle class or whatever, you know those people who have peace.  Maybe socially they don’t have a lot of friends, but they are content with who they do know.  Maybe they are not as good looking as someone who tries harder, and goes to the gym but is never really happy with the way they look, but they are happy and they seem to have peace.

In fact, I’m not willing to say all of us, but I’ll bet you most of us at one point in our life have said, “I don’t get it.  How can they be happy?  They have nothing.”  We don’t get it.  We may know kids, who others won’t associate with, or they have something terrible in their lives, and we think, “How can they be happy?” Or we go on a mission trip, or we see Sally Struthers talking on TV, or we go to a Christian concert, like our youth group did this week to go see Crowder, and the guy comes out to talk about Compassion International, and that we need to adopt children, or we need to sponsor children for surgeries to fix cleft lips and you see these videos.  You see their joy; you see happy children in these third world countries and we ask ourselves, “How can they be so happy?”  We don’t get it.  It is because they have peace.

Happy people are at peace with … usually the first thing is, themselves.  They are content with who they are. This doesn’t mean that they become lazy, that they say, “Hey.  I’ve reached my goal.  I’m just going to sit in my Lazy Boy and watch football all day,” which is my goal.  It is that they are content with themselves, even though they strive to do better and strive to become better.  They are happy with who they are as themselves.

Happy people who are at peace realize they are also very content and at peace with others.  It just seems like things don’t bother them, or they are more accepting of social conditions or things that may not be the norm in society.  They accept others.  Just like the principle this church was founded on, that God meets us where we are, we are to meet others where they are.  People with peace and happiness meet others right where they are, no matter where they are.

In most cases, happy people are at peace with God. They know that God is in their lives, they are dependent on God; they understand that they should be obedient to God.  God is large and in charge, and so they just, in most cases, understand that it is God that gives them this peace.  So really this “peace with God” thing is really what I want to talk about today and maybe focus on because I have this crazy idea that this should be our basic understanding of who we are in all this happiness, and how to have peace.

Peace with God paves the way for peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others.  Let me repeat that.  Peace with God paves the way for peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others.   You see, if we are not at peace with ourselves there is probably something from our past that we are dragging into the present.  There is something that we cannot forgive ourselves about.  When we make peace with God, God paves the way for us to make peace with others.

Here it is.  When you come to the conclusion that God has forgiven you, you need to also come to the conclusion that we need to forgive others. When we understand what God has done for us, how God has forgiven us no matter what we’ve done, and we will expand on this a little later, then we can understand that we can give that to other people. When we truly understand what we’ve received from God, we can express that to others.  You see, peace with God paves the way for peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others.  God paves that way.

And so God has forgiven you, so you lose the right not to forgive yourself.  God doesn’t hold your past against you, and you now have the freedom to forget your past.  Now some of us need to hear that repeatedly.  We have the freedom to be forgiven our past.  In all honesty, will we forgive it?  Yes, but will we forget it?  No.  It is my understanding, and I’ve been told that in forgiving ourselves, the past is like a wound.  That if we don’t forgive ourselves, we pick at it, I’m sorry for the grossness, and it just reopens and it reminds us of what we’ve done, what we did, and that we cannot forgive ourselves.  But, if we allow it to heal, and we understand that forgiveness comes from God and are able to forgive ourselves, we can look at the scar, but we know about the healing that has happened and we can smile.  We’ve gotten past that because of who God is and what God has done for us.  You see, peace with God paves the way for peace with ourselves and equips us to make peace with others.

You know the driving ethic of the New Testament is to do unto others as your Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ has done for you. The New Testament teaches us over and over again to do for others as our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ has done for us. So if we truly believe that God has forgiven us then we need to also forgive ourselves and others.  We are required to forgive, because we have been forgiven.  I know this is elementary, but folks how many of us have truly done that?  How many of us understand this simple concept?  We’ve repeated it. “Do unto others as God has done unto us.”  But to truly be forgiven we have to forgive ourselves. You see, if we talk about the peace with God there is an assumption here, that when we say peace with God paves the way, if we don’t have peace with God then you must have, what’s the word – conflict?

What’s the conflict here?  If we don’t have peace with God then Buck, what is the other side?  What is the conflict? Really there are two kinds of conflict in the world.  The first conflict that happens is sin and the second one is your sin or my sin.  I know I’m talking about sin today.  The first one is in the general sense.  The youth asked me about this on Wednesday night and I was no help to them, so I did a little research. I want you to think about this.  Think about, and this is no political speech, I know this is an election time and you have been bombarded by commercials and telephone calls, think about the nation you were born into. I’m not trying to drive the point on who is evil and who is not.  Just think about the nation you were born into.  I was born to be a US citizen; a United States citizen, and honestly it isn’t fair.  It’s not fair that I am an American citizen, because I didn’t get to chose.  Now on a side note, I thank God because any one of us could have been born anywhere else.  But, I didn’t get to chose.

In fact I was going to use the illustration that I’m a Texan, you know, but I still have that whole embarrassed thing and proud thing about Texas.  Embarrassed about those Texans that put long horns on the front of their Cadillac but also proud that they produced a great product like Buck Cueni-Smith. (laughter) It’s the same with being a United States of America citizen. We are both proud and embarrassed at times. Really it’s not fair for any of us, whatever nation that we were born into, because we didn’t get to chose. What I’m trying to say is that because we didn’t get to chose, sometimes just because it is not wrong, we feel that it is truth. Sometimes some things that are not fair are truthful.

Some things that are not fair are truthful.  Parents, you get this.  You get this.  Even though it’s not fair, because let me guess, you can’t do this and this and this.  I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but how many of you have heard, “It’s not fair!”  But that doesn’t mean it’s not true, right? It’s not fair.  You see, things can’t be unfair and true at the same time.

I’m a United State’s citizen, that is true, but it is unfair because I didn’t get to chose. The reason I think it is unfair and the consequence of being a citizen of the United States of America is, I don’t know about you, but I speak only one language. I know some of us tried to become French.  Some of us on a ski trip in 1988 tried to become Australian (using Australian accent), and fool people on the slopes of Colorado.  Yeah, that didn’t work so well. She left. (laughter) But anyway, think about it.  When we were over in England, we went to see this play one time and it was interesting because you’d think that in England they spoke English, but where we were was in the Black Country, where they spoke their own type of English. “How Beenya” meant “How is it going?”  How Beenya to us would mean how was I doing five minutes ago.  Isn’t that past tense?

Then we went and saw the play and it was in English, except the German officer spoke German and then the French officers in this play spoke French.  You know what?  I only got one third of the play. I didn’t know what was going on.  Sometimes you meet someone and you recognize the accent, even though they speak plain English to you.  You ask them where they are from.  They might say Austria, France, Germany, or Japan. How many of you have asked them how many languages they speak? Well I speak one.  You talk to someone else; the guy from Austria spoke five! -Five different languages; that just blows my mind. So, it’s unfair.  It’s unfair that I’m a United States citizen and can only speak one language.  I almost said United Methodist citizen; they’ve really got me, don’t they?  (laughter) It’s true, but it is unfair.

The bible tells us that we were born into a nation of sin. It’s true but it is unfair, that we were born into a nation of sin.  All you have to do is look around and by birth we are a sinner. That is what the scriptures tell us.  We were born into a nation of sin. Here’s what the Apostle Paul said about this is Romans chapter five, verse 12. ‘Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man.’  Now that one man could be Adam, but what it is saying here is although sin may have entered the world through one man, God did not impose it upon us.  It was one man, one person who discovered what sin is, so we have to live with it. That, because of one man we are born into this sinful nation, and we have ‘death through sin.’  I don’t want to sound like that preacher on TV, but sin kills. Because, many of us know, sin killed a relationship. Sin killed an employment opportunity; sin killed a relationship with maybe our children.  Sin got in the way and interfered and a fight broke out without forgiveness and without understanding. Death and sin, some of us are killing our bodies.  It is trough that sin.  I did a sermon series once on the Seven Deadly Sins; I think people enjoyed it, but not really.  We remember, and we get that.  We know that sin brings death.   Not just that Adam and Eve died, that we die and then go to the sweet by and by, or the afterlife, but sin actually kills things like what we just mentioned, it kills, relationships, bodies, love, forgiveness, understanding.  Sin kills understanding. ‘…death through sin. , and in this way death came to all people.”  That’s how Paul talks about why we are in the nation of sin.

Basically this was in every tract that you were ever given on a street corner, wasn’t it?  You know those little pamphlets that tell you how to become a Christian? The worst one was the one that looked like a twenty dollar bill; Oh, I hated that one.  I was always a sucker to pick that one up.  You opened it up and it usually had this verse in it.  ‘Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.’  Then it usually had a picture of a cliff or the Grand Canyon, and it had you on one side and it had God on the other.  God was separated from us because of the sin of one man that entered the world.  Then you turned the page and it said that only if you believe in Jesus… then all of a sudden it showed this cross, bridging the gap between you and God on the other side of this canyon.  To be honest with you, the founding of this church was on a tract, that’s why our moto is to Bridge the Gap.  Not really!  I didn’t think about that until later.  We were in sin in one side, killing on one side, death on one side, until Jesus came and brought us to God.  Jesus came to build and to bridge the gap for us to the Kingdom of God.  So if we are from the nation of sin, and I’m not saying the United States of America, I’m saying, it is true. It’s unfair, but it is true.

It makes sense when Jesus tells Nicodemus he has to be reborn.  Now I’m not going through the rest of that tract that says we have to be reborn, but what Jesus is telling Nicodemus is that he has to become part of another nation.  We have to become part of another kingdom, and in fact it is an incredible kingdom called the Kingdom of God. That’s what it means.  We can say that we are in this nation; we can say we are United States citizens or we are Austrian or Canadian. Good gosh, we might as well be from Canada, and then we’d be happy all the time, right? Aye? But we cannot be of another country, what we are learning here is that Jesus came that we could be part of another nation, a Kingdom of God.

Once again, Paul in Colossians chapter one, verse thirteen said this, ‘For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness’ or the nation of darkness, the nation of sin. So Christ has ‘rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.’  Let’s go back to Romans chapter five, verse one, where it says, ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith’, that’s justification, which I have taught you means, it is just as though I have never sinned. Hey, that is big time forgiveness. So, since we have been given a sinless life, forgiven everything just as if we’d never sinned, ‘through faith, we have peace with God.’ There it is.   ‘Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’.  Peace with God begins with faith in Christ. If we understand what truly was done for us, then peace with God begins with faith in Jesus Christ.

So, if we went back to the conflict and we understand that though we are born of a nation, a nation of sin and that sin is in all of us, it encompasses the entire world, then peace with God begins with faith in Christ.  So, the conflict we live in is not only everyone’s sin, but it is your sin and my sin. This is how we need to think about our own sin. As a child you were not at peace with your parents, what?  One time, two times, some of you never?  There was a time in my life when I was not at peace with my mom and dad.  My mom and dad would say to me things that would make me mad.  My dad was the worst.  Friends would call, I would hang up the phone because it was attached to the wall back then, I’d run in to see my dad and I would say, “Dad, can I go out with friends tonight.”  You’ve got to know my Dad, but he’d say something like this. “I guess so.” Which meant, I would disappoint my dad if I went out tonight, so I’d stay home?  Not all the time.  Hey, I want to do this, and my mom would say, to be honest with you we knew.  We knew which one to go to first, the one who said “Yes” more.  We didn’t like the answer to go and ask the other one.  We didn’t like that answer at all, because we already knew what the other one was going to say.  So as a child, we were not at peace with our parents; if our parents would just say yes, we would have peace. Now that some of you are parents, or have been parents, you think if I say yes I can have peace now, but then I’m going to have problems later.  Oh that toy isle in the grocery store.  It’s only $1.99. If I just have peace now.  If this kid would just sit in the cart and shut up and play with this thing, I won’t have any problems or regrets later. Except it was so cheap, when you got home it broke.  Then you’d have to go to the grocery store again.  No peace.  It is the worst feeling as a father to know that my words, out of my mouth, are going to destroy peace between me and my kids. Are you with me?  It is the worst feeling of all.  You know that sometimes spiteful words come from that mouth, that mouth that you created.  Now I know why Bill Cosby said, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.” But it is the worst feeling in the world knowing that you are going to save a life, you are going to save problems, and you may even save them the biggest regret they will ever have.  It is difficult. We as parents live in that tension of what is best for them or best for me.  Usually what is best for them me is peace now, and then a little problem down the road.  The awesome thing is that you have a heavenly father, just like us parents, whose love is too strong to simply go along.

My parents’ love was too strong to simply go along, to keep the peace.  We know there will be problems, so the incredible thing for us to learn today is that God’s love is too strong to simply go along.  God’s love is too strong to simply go along. There is that tension here; tension between us and God, because God is a good father.  God wants the best for us, wants peace with us, and doesn’t want us to fail in the future. You see, Jesus says that this is the best way to view God.

You know we did a sermon series a few weeks ago on not being your judge, and we learned when Moses said he wanted to know everything about you, God.  God said, “You can’t handle the truth.”  So, God showed Moses just a little sliver of who God was and it buckled Moses’ knees. Jesus was the same way.  He came to reveal who God was, but he said the best way for you to know my Father is a very, very, very good parent that loves you and cares for you; that loves you so strongly that he simply can’t go along and give you everything you’ve ever wanted.  This view of the perfect parent is difficult, because yes, some of us have strained relationships with our parents.  Some of our kids have strained relationships with you all, with their parents.  But we understand when Jesus talked about the perfect, most heavenly father, because God’s love is simply too strong to just go along.  If I could just get you to understand this today, peace with God begins with faith in Christ.  It is that bridge between the canyons, it is that bridging the gap that this church was built on; God to people, people to God, and people to people.  I pray that we find peace.  To be honest with you, we first have to look for peace with God.  When we understand who God is and we are at peace with that, then I seriously think that peace with ourselves and peace with others will just fall into place.  To understand who God is, is to understand who we are; it gives deeper meaning to accept others, to forgive, to love as God has loved.


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