What could be more important that life, death, and peace? Well, the language of the NT makes it clear that Christians are in a spiritual battle:
- A Christian has the Holy Spirit of God within, working to make the person more and more holy (sanctified).
- And yet the Christian is also surrounded by temptations and often gives in to them.
- And we live in a world fundamentally opposed to God and his rule.
For all that, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Peace, and angels proclaimed his birth as a means to Peace on Earth. How are we supposed to have peace in the middle of a battle?
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Look at 1 Kings 2:1-4. The scene here is the old king David giving final instructions to his son Solomon. He’s handing over the reign of God’s people. The first 12 verses ends “Solomon became king and sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.” The whole chapter ends “So the kingdom was now firmly in Solomon’s grip.” The purpose of the chapter is to demonstrate that the kingdom has passed to Solomon’s hand firmly. We’re also told the two things that make that happen. The first thing is, in a sense, easy to say: Read v2-3.
Long before Israel even had a king, there was a law given for whenever they did: Deut 17 19 He must always keep [the law] with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees.
The king himself was to read the law, fear God, and obey the law. And, obviously, he was to rule the nation under God’s law. So David was passing on the solemn responsibility to his son. But there was more: Read v4.
- God made a covenant with David that he would always have a descendant to govern God’s people.
- But the blessing of that covenant was subject to the kings’ obedience to God.
Now a king has authority over his own people, but he himself is under the overall authority of the King of kings. There is one God and king over all humanity, and all rulers, kings, presidents, PM’s, dictators, and governments are accountable to him. A kingdom ruled by those kicking against the authority of God is going to run into trouble.
King of Kings
God has appointed Christ as King of kings, with all power and authority given him.
- Nation after nation is subject to him; any nation in harmony with his “decrees, commands, regulations, and laws” will be in harmony with God himself.
- But Israel’s kings weren’t. Remember the spoiler: 1 & 2 Kings ends in exile as punishment for sin.
- More worrying for us, our Government rejects God too. So does our media and social media.
- Should we expect God to bless our country?
But we can go further. Not just countries, but any church, or family, or individual in harmony with his “decrees, commands, regulations, and laws” will also be in harmony with God. David was speaking of the “decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the law of Moses”.
- We’re not under OT law, but under the law of Christ.
- He has commanded us to love one another; go and make disciples; submit to one another; pray continually…
- The one who hears and obeys him is like a man who built his house on a rock, so obedience is good, wise, and expected.
We’re all part of it
In Jeremiah 13, judgment is declared against the nation of Israel for their sin: But it’s pointed out that that sin has happened person by person. One person’s disobedience affects the whole church. For a church to be blessed by Christ, we must all submit to his rule, his law – individually and corporately. Same for families, in the workplace, anywhere.
Christ’s kingdom is firmly established; you’re subject to it. But this gives Christians and churches a tension. Christ is King; our Government is accountable to him, but rebels. We are under our Government, seeking to obey God. That means we will inevitably attract negative attention from the Government, culture, and society at some point:
- Harmony with God means dissonance with the world.
- But the way of God is life, and we will choose it.
We’re thinking about life, death, and peace. We choose life because Christ has conquered death! Let’s look at 1 Kings 2:5-12.
David gave Solomon two instructions about how to firmly establish his kingdom. The first was to choose life by ruling his heart, his home, and all the people under submission to God’s law (they were God’s people, after all). From v5, David explains the second part: Remove your enemies.
David gave instructions to execute Joab and Shimei, and to bless Barzillai. In the rest of the chapter, we find:
- Adonijah (Solomon’s brother who declared himself king last week) asks for David’s concubine, Abishag – an offence to Solomon, undermining the throne. So Solomon had him executed.
- Abiathar the priest was expelled and replaced.
- And, in time, Joab and Shimei were executed too.
- Threats to the throne eliminated. That’s how you secure it.
In fact, that’s what modern leaders do to different degrees.
When Jesus was killed, it looked like he was defeated. But then he rose! And he could say to his disciples “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth,” he said.
Christ’s kingdom firmly established through death
- He was victorious over Satan, over temptation, over sin – even over death.
- There’s still death in the world, but Christ is risen as the firstfruits to show that one day all will rise and death will end.
- On that day, Satan, hell, death and everything and everyone opposed to God will be thrown into a lake of fire – the second death – permanently separated from all that’s good and lovely forever.
- 1 Corinthians 15 is helpful:
- 20 Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died… 25 Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. 26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.
- By his resurrection he has already defeated death – and one day he’ll remove it forever.
Solomon firmly established his kingdom by defeating all enemies.
Christ has done the same – except his enemies are beyond our ability to defeat! Only the Son of God in human flesh could have! Now if you’re a Christian, you’re in the kingdom of heaven.
- The death Christ died, he died for you.
- The punishment you deserved, he’s taken for you.
- You’re not accepted into the kingdom because of what you have done, but on what Jesus has done for you.
- You’re not marked “good enough” – you’re forgiven.
- Your sin is credited to him; righteousness is credited to you.
If you’re not a Christian, you’re rebelling against the God who has done all this for you to be saved.
- You might as well shout into a storm to try to stop it.
- But he invites you to stop fighting him, repent of your sin, ask for forgiveness, and be saved. You can.
Christ’s patience in life
David told Solomon to execute Shimei, but he didn’t do it straight away. Shimei was given opportunity to submit to the king.
- He broke the one rule given him, and was executed.
God is patient with you; but you can’t mock his patience. Turn to him. Then, as a Christian, you’re united to Jesus by faith.
- When he died, your old self died too.
- You’re alive in Christ; he lives in you.
- That means the victory he has won is a victory you can participate in.
- When temptations come (as they do), you find your delight in Christ instead.
- When illness comes, sapping and consuming your energy, his presence is with you; your future with him is secure; his people will love you, care for you, pray for you.
- When you fear what people will say or do to you, you remember it was the same for him. He calls you to persevere in him – look ahead, look up, keep going.
- When death itself looms, you follow the one who has gone through death and promises you an eternal resurrection body: Then you’ll sing “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Christ has defeated the enemies that will rob you of Christian peace. So put to death the sins and temptations that keep you from joy in him.
Grow in him; be sanctified by the Spirit; cast off entangling sin.
War & Peace
See what we’ve got here, as we think about life, death, and peace?
- Solomon was to live under God’s rule and bring death to his enemies.
- Christ has done that perfectly, spiritually, cosmically.
- And, in Christ, you can do likewise.
- Live in Christ; put sin and temptation to death.
This may well lead to conflict with the world – but Christ has overcome, and he will enable you to do the same. But suppose you don’t submit to God’s law; suppose you don’t put sins to death? Then instead of being in harmony with God, in step with his Spirit, you’ll experience conflict, not peace:
- Romans 7 describes that perfectly: 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
So we want to enjoy Christ – life in him, death to sin.
- Peace of heart and mind.
- Peace with God rises as you live more in Christ, putting sin to death in your life.
But we see the world around us in turmoil – and our compassion naturally robs us of some peace.
Peace within, turmoil without
- The fact that you’re ok doesn’t mean you won’t be deeply concerned for others.
- How can they know peace?
- We need to remember we’re a “kingdom of priests” – you’re a priest in God’s kingdom.
- That means you are to pray to God as you represent this sinful country, your unsaved friends and family – cry out to him, intercede for them!
- And you’re also to make God known to them – by actions (holiness, love, care) and words (testimony, purity, truth).
The turmoil in the world won’t be fixed by a vaccine, a new Government, education, economics or an end to social distancing. The world needs the promised peace on earth. It needs to know there is hope in the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Peace, Christ himself. He has conquered! He is victorious!
And he has sent his Holy Spirit into you as he works his kingdom purposes out in the world.
- Your kingdom come; your will be done.
- Take life into the world; peace on earth with God in Christ.