This Sunday we’re beginning a new series at Beachside Community Church called “Creating Culture” looking at our life together and how we live out our faith (or not) by the culture we create in our midst. Will it be one that glorifies God and edifies His people, or one that frustrates and tears us apart?

Sunday we talk about “peace.” We’ll be starting with these verses from John 14:

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” John 14:27-29 (New Living Translation)

Peace is something God gives us through His Spirit. But what do we do with it?

As I chewed on the sermon, I called a friend and asked him some questions. At one point he said “And churches need leaders who are people of peace.”

While he didn’t ask “Chris, are you a man of peace?” that’s what I heard. When I preach, I’m preaching to myself along with everyone else. So the question is: “Am I a person of peace?” Can I preach this sermon and not let it turn back on me? Do I allow the Holy Spirit to work through me in a way that I bring peace, or not?

It’s a scary question.

It’s also an open ended question for me. A person of peace has to allow the Holy Spirit to work in spite of them. For a Christian it isn’t a matter of simply trying harder or doing better, now that we “know” the truth. That leads us into legalism and leads back into our own efforts.

Instead, we believe that as we become Christians, God fills us with his presence, the Holy Spirit. It’s a difficult concept for someone unfamiliar with Christianity. The Spirit’s presence doesn’t mean we don’t do wrong. Rather, we believe God strengthens and leads us to the extent that we surrender and become smaller. But when we try, under our power, to regain control, we stifle the work of the Spirit.

So am I a man of peace?

Sometimes. Sometimes I trust the Spirit and allow Him to work through me. But sometimes I try to retake control, and do it my way. I allow the the principles of the world – competition, rankings, anxiety, power, superficial concerns and the life associated with it – to be my guide. And when I do that, it doesn’t bring peace, it brings anxiety.

Ultimately, creating a Christian culture in our midst is about surrender to the Spirit. When we do that, incredible things happen. But when we walk in the ways of the world, we shouldn’t be surprised if even the church becomes a place of envy, competition, gossip and strife.