October 15, 2023 Philippians 4:4-7

Can you imagine the wonderful experience it must have been to be in the Old Testament Church. There you are in the Temple. Gold sparkles in the sun. Finely polished wood enamors the eye. Rich tapestries, exquisite engravings, and flawlessly hewn stone make up the Temple of God.

And just as memorable must have been the sacrifices offered within. Occasionally you would see and take in the incense wafting up into heaven and the smell of roasted lamb from the morning and evening sacrifices. What vivid reminders God gave to show that real forgiveness was being given for the sins of the people.

But those sacrifices of old did not forgive sins in and of themselves. They only forgave sins because they pointed forward to THE sacrifice of sins that Jesus would one day make on Golgotha’s stony slope.

And so God’s old-covenant people lived in hope. It was a hope that looked forward to the day when the Savior, the Messiah, would come and fulfill all the sacrifices they saw, felt, smelled, and experienced in the Temple.

But we, too, in the new covenant also live in hope. We live in hope, knowing the same Savior who once came to take away sins, will come back and take us to Himself in heaven. Jesus has already fulfilled the ancient hope, for He came and atoned for sins. Now He will come yet once more and bring all believers into His eternal kingdom.

Jesus wants us to live, eagerly looking forward to that moment. We are to believe and trust that Jesus is, indeed, coming, and that truth will bring us the peace and joy to live out the faith and keep us in His heavenly kingdom.

Our epistle reading tells us, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” That word “reasonableness” doesn’t fully give us the richness of what the Apostle Paul was getting at. When we think of reasonableness, we think of not going to extremes, of taking the middle road. But that’s not the idea here. That’s because one word in English can’t carry the richness of what Paul was getting at.

What then was Paul getting at? He meant gentleness, consideration, the opposite of being stern and overly harsh. He meant being gentle, kind, patient, and yielding to others. Psalm 103 describes this trait well:As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14).

That’s the love we are to show and live toward others--to friend and foe alike, especially to the weak and helpless. We are to be kind, generous, and thoughtful, not selfish, rough, or pushy.   This is an issue in our society and it has also destroyed many families and even churches have bullies that do not know when to back down and demonstrate compassionate love and attitude toward others. It has happened and continues to happen in this church and others.

But it’s one thing knowing that we should live such love toward others; it’s another to create it. The Law says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). But here’s the problem: the Law can’t make you love your neighbor; it can at most only change outward behavior. It can only threaten and punish you for not doing it.

Where then can such a spirit of gentleness and consideration come from? The Apostle Paul attaches the power right after he says how we are to live when he writes, “The Lord is at hand.” Jesus is coming soon. Not only has Jesus given His life for you to take away your sins and make you a holy in the eyes of God, but soon He will come to bring you into His eternal presence. The hope of heaven gives us the peace that passes all understanding, peace with God, and even peace with the world.

The hope of heaven overcomes worry. To worry is to be anxious about something, and it comes from uncertainty, not knowing how something will turn out. When that happens, we grab and fight to have our own way. We try to pile up money, position, and security, because who knows what will happen? And when we are selfishly struggling to get our way, we fume at others because they frustrate us. That’s what worry is. The Lord’s apostle says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”   But of course we are.

We look to the future, and the unknown frightens us. But Paul still says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Don’t worry about anything. God is not dead; Jesus lives! He rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God the Father, and everything is under His control--everything!

Whatever threatens, the Lord is your mighty fortress, a shield which cannot fail you. What then do you have to fear?

The Lord is coming! He is the same Lord who reigns victoriously in glory, with all power. And we share our inmost thoughts with Him through prayer, Prayer is calling to God for help like that, and our Lord wipes out our enemies according to His will.

So we read, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Often the problem we have with prayer is not that God doesn’t answer, but that we do not pray. We are to be in constant communication with God. We are but to direct our thoughts to heaven and tell our Savior what burdens us, and He will see that all things work together for good to them that love God.        Does something bother you?       Are you in need?    Are you thankful for anything?

Tell your Lord. Talk to Him, confide in Him; He understands. If it is not good for you, He won’t give it--but God won’t deny you anything that will be of eternal blessing to you. Pray and do not worry.

By faith, we are given the benefits of Jesus’ perfect and holy life. That’s the only reason we are heirs of eternal life. That’s why we are heaven-bound. For because of Jesus Christ, God is for you and not against you.

This peace we have is beyond the understanding of the world. This peace is foreign to those outside the faith. But even we, who have this peace, cannot fully understand it, because it is so deep, so strong, and so calm. It is a divine peace, a mystery beyond our understanding, for it is the peace of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Where do doubts, fears, worries, and temptations find lodging? In our minds, in our thoughts. If God’s gracious peace would not turn on the light in our minds, our thoughts would twist and pervert us and drive us in confusion like a thundering herd over a jagged cliff.

Indeed, we need God’s peace. We need Christ and His righteousness. We need God’s Word of absolution breaking into our guilt-laden souls. We need the read Word to bring us Jesus. We need the preached Word to preach Christ into our hearts. We need the Lord’s Supper to restore and refresh that peace.

That’s the peace that makes our hearts kind and gentle.

That’s the peace that overcomes worry.

That’s the peace that protects us from our own fleshly failings and the devil’s lies.

Our hearts and minds are kept “through Christ Jesus.” And it is Christ Jesus whom we receive when He comes to us in His Word--and in Him we have the hope of eternal life. Receive this peace. For God is at peace with you. Amen.