A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on August 26, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether Truth Is More Important than PeaceLuke 12:49-53Which is more important, peace or truth? One of the most popular Beatle songs ever written was John Lennon’s Imagine. Here are the lyrics: Imagine there’s no heavenIt’s easy if you tryNo hell below usAbove us only skyImagine there’s no countriesIt isn’t hard to doNothing to kill or die forAnd no religion tooImagine all the peopleLiving life in peaceBased on these lyrics and this song’s popularity, I’d say there are a lot of people who agree with Lennon that peace is more important than truth. And now let’s compare Imagine with what Jesus says in our text, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." Jesus would say that truth is more important than peace. In fact for the sake of truth, Jesus is eager for the fires of division, even when it’s with our closet family members. Wow, let’s slow down here for moment. How many wars have been fought, how many people have died because of religious differences? Only God knows that; and it’s happening today! This week on CNN there was a three part series called God’s Warriors. It was about how Jews, Mohammedans and Christians are willing to fight and die for their faith. However, this is the very thing that offends many Americans. They ask, “Why can’t people from all religions just get along; and for that matter, why does there even have to be all these denominations?Where do you stand on this? Is peace more important than truth, or is truth more important than peace? Before we each answer that for ourselves, let’s dig a little deeper and see why Jesus spoke the way He did in our text. Truth Is More Important than Peace because I. There is only one truth that saves. II. Truth calls sinners to faith. III. God uses conflict to strengthen faith.The reason many feel peace is more important than truth is they don’t believe truth even exists. For them, truth is whatever each person thinks it is, and that all religions worship the same god. Let’s see if that’s really the case. According to that CNN special, militant Jews believe that when they possess all of Palastine, and when all Jews are living according to Jewish laws, the Messiah will come and make this world a better place to live. Islamic militants believe that when they have taken over all the territories that at one time have ever been under Islamic law, their version of the Messiah will come to conquer the rest of the world. This little chart shows the similarities between these two world religions. Judaism keep laws messiah comes Islam keep laws messiah comesAnd now let’s compare this with Christianity. Incidentally, Old Testament Judaism is actually part of Christianity and has little to do with what Jews today believe. Anyway, we believe that when man’s first parents fell into sin, all become sinful. Because all are sinful, it’s not possible for anyone to keep the Law well enough to be pleasing to God. But God the Son became also true man, so that He could be man’s substitute in the fulfilling the Law and in man’s place suffer for all sins. Finally, through this very message, the Holy Spirit gives faith to believe it, so that everyone who does believe it, has eternal life; and all who rejects it will be condemned. And now let’s complete this little chart. Judaism keep laws messiah comes Islam keep laws messiah comes Christianity Messiah came Law fulfilledWhat a difference! And this is why Bible says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved – Acts 4:12." Since there is only one truth that saves, truth is more important than peace. However, there’s also another reason why truth is more important than peace. Truth calls sinners to faith. St. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad – II Corinthians 5:10.” It’s good that we each think about this for ourselves. When we die, we are going to have a face to face with Jesus; and when we do, our spouse is not going to be by our side, nor our children, nor our parents or friends. This meeting is going be just between Jesus and us individually. Now, what do you think is going to happen at this meeting? Is Jesus going to buy any of our excuses of why we didn’t what we should or did things that we shouldn’t? Deep down we know that God is a holy and impartial judge.The reason I’m bringing this is up, is I pray that we will all experience the power of God’s Law. Again, Paul writes, “By the Law we become conscious of sin.” Speaking for myself, there is no time that I’m more conscious of my sins, than when I think about having to account for all of my thoughts and words and actions. On the other hand, I know that I am going to get through this accounting and be received into God’s kingdom, not because I tried hard or have been good enough. I’m going to get through this, because Jesus was perfect for me, and for the sake of His own merits, He has said to me in His Word, in my Baptism and each time I take the Lord’s Supper, “I will remember your sins no more.” If you had any feelings of apprehension as you thought about giving an accounting to God for our life, may the Spirit now comfort you with Jesus’ word of truth! Truth is more important that peace, because it has called us, sinners, to faith. Furthermore, as we share His truth with others, it will call them to faith also. Unfortunately, not all sinners will receive the truth. And that causes conflict. However, Jesus actually sees this conflict as a good thing. Again we read in our text, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” When is our faith more at risk? When unbelievers are leaving us alone, or when they’re attacking us for our faith? We might at first think that our faith is more at risk when we’re being attacked, because then we can be tempted to deny our faith, as Peter did, rather than deal with whatever pain we might be facing. But actually our faith is more at risk, when the world is leaving us alone. You see, because of the sin that still lives in us, it’s easy for us to become complacent and start giving in a little here and there; and if we become complacent about sin, we’ll also become complacent about what Jesus did for us and about hearing His Word. On the other hand, when standing up for the truth leads to conflict, we are driven deeper into the Scriptures for answers, and that’s always a good thing. But sometimes the conflict becomes more than a verbal discussion over truth. Since, the truth stirs up people’s consciences and if they reject the peace Jesus wants to give them, they will feel threatened by us. And so, they might accuse us of being bigoted, or unloving, or even un-American. They might also gossip about us behind our backs, and that hurts when we find out about this, especially if it’s someone we thought was our friend. However, whenever this kind of thing happens, it’s nothing new. Let’s look again at our Epistle lesson. “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Here in America, we don’t have persecution that bad. Also, whatever we do suffer for our faith, God is using that to purify our faith even more. Reading on from our Epistle lesson: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."Why does God discipline us? Because Jesus hasn’t paid for all of our sins? No way! Christ has indeed paid for our sins. But we don’t like letting go of the things of this life, and that’s why we all need discipline. On the other hand, here’s how we can learn to live with discipline. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus.” Let’s keep examining our hearts and lives in the light of God’s Law and then keep holding to Jesus’ promises in the Gospel. In doing this we will grow in faith even more and we will see even more clearly that truth is important than peace, so that we will gladly endure whatever conflicts we must, in order to live that truth and get it out to others. However, while God always turns conflict into blessings, we’re not to be the start of it. And so, here are some things the Bible urges us to do whenever we speak the truth: + speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25) + pray for the Holy Spirit to speak the truth boldly (Acts 4:29) + put away the sword; physical fighting belongs only to the government (Matthew 26:52)But what if the government isn’t stopping the persecution or is even the cause of it, as in the days of the early Christians? Then Jesus urges us to: + flee, if possibleAnd if that isn’t possible, Jesus urges us to:+ commend ourselves into God’s hands (I Peter 2:21-23)because why give up the peace of the Gospel, just for the sake of peace with this world?Would you agree with me that our text this morning isn’t everybody’s favorite part of the Bible? Deep down we want truth AND peace with everyone around us. But when we can’t have both, and we’re tempted to choose peace over truth, may God purify our faith! Then we won’t be afraid to live our faith. Then we will keep sharing our faith and persevering in our faith, until one by one we stand before Jesus, but not to offer Him our strong our faith was and how good we were. Rather, like St Paul, may we offer to Him as our defense only this, that He was holy for us and that He died for us. And that’s the truth!

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