Advent Week 2: Peace You Can Know
Today is the second Sunday of Advent, last week we would have lit the candle of hope, and when Sherri sent out the picture of the Advent candles as she does, I thought well next year I’m going to do a better job planning my sermons because I really want to do the Advent series, then I thought “I’m the pastor, there are no rules against starting on week 2” so here we go. Last week we would have talked about a hope is the cutting edge that we have that gets us through life. And we have a sure hope, an assurance of what God has done for us. He is ultimately faithful beyond compare. Hope carries us through like nothing else can.
The question is, will we trust Him? Christmas is not just the story of the baby in the manger, it is the story of God Himself, restoring our hope.
This week we take a look at the next candle of advent, that is the one that represents peace.
Just the word conveys wonderful concepts...
This is how it is described in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:
peace \ˈpēs\ noun
a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments
b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
c: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
d: harmony in personal relations,
e: a state of concord or tranquility.
In the Bible, the word peace is used to translate the Hebrew word Shalom (completeness, soundness, welfare, peace) and the Greek word Eirene (inner tranquility and poise of the Christian whose trust is in God through Christ)
Peace is a quality and virtue that is sorely needed in the world and church today. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean with the state of the economy, the state of relationships between men, riots, government corruption, hostility toward God and the Church, etc. In fact, if you don’t think the world needs peace, then you haven’t seen the news, have you?
Even though the constant theme of the Christmas Season is Peace on Earth, we know that very few enjoy true peace. Why?
Well the Bible makes it clear that not all are entitled to peace.
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
God straight up tells us that there is no peace for the wicked. I know what you’re thinking, “Pastor, that’s good news!” and yes it is good news. In fact, Isaiah tells us why this is.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Look at the last six words there: so that HE WILL NOT hear. It doesn’t say that He can’t hear- it says that he WON’T hear! Did you know that God will actually play deaf and give people the silent treatment? Well that’s what Isaiah is telling us! It is sin that has hidden the face of God from us. “But Pastor, I thought you said that He only hides his faith from the wicked?”. Yes I did, but I’m not preaching a sermon to the wicked, I’m preaching a sermon to the saint of God, but I ask you this, do you sin? Is it not a good idea to hear what the consequence to that sin is so that we can avoid it? Well then, let’s take a look at what the Word of God says about how sin affects our relationship with God.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We’ve talked about some of these severe character flaws before, let’s look closely at a few of them and tell me if they sound very peaceful. Verse 20: hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, and dissensions. Sounds really peaceful huh? It says that those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God! That is pretty harsh, but why is it so specific? Well, look back verse 19. What kinds of works are these? Right, works of the flesh. Now let’s be completely honest, how many of us are completely free from any of these works? We are not interested in flesh works. We are interested in works of the spirit. The closer we get to God, the less the works of the flesh are allowed to flourish and the more spiritually minded we become.
The thing is, sin prevents true peace of mind:
But the wicked are like a troubled sea, for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. “There is no shalom,” says my God “for the wicked.”
Sure, that’s the sinner, but what about us? What about Bible believing Christians, can we become troubled?
Anyone remember Martha? What did Jesus say to her when she was so busy being “busy”?
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
So we can and often do worry. Let’s stay with Martha, and look at why she lost her peace:
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Just like Martha, we can lose our peace when we fail to simplify our priorities. The truth is the Christian life is very simple yet we make it into much more than it needs to be. We add so many layers of works. We then turn those around and add them to others. Really, Jesus wants people to come to them just as they are. What was Martha doing that Jesus told us that she had not chosen the good part? Martha was busy trying to earn the approval of Jesus the way she knew how- with works. Mary on the other hand, just wanted to hang out with Jesus. Jesus is relational, which do you think He values most? Sure, Martha could get an attaboy for all her hard work, but it was Mary who was willing to sit and learn from Jesus that got what Jesus said, “could not be taken away from her”
Simplified priorities can also take the form of seeking the things the world has to offer.
Luke 8:14 (NKJV)
Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
When we focus on the cares of this world, we are deceived into forfeiting our peace because the world’s rewards are fleeting.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. So then if God owns everything, why do we break our necks trying to get it all? Have we not figured out that God takes care of us? He really does, we see it week in and week out amongst our brothers and sisters here in this little church! We might be small, but our God is not! In the end it’s about misplaced faith, we put our faith in our finances and not in God. How many times have you heard it said, “if only I had more money, a better job, a nicer car, a more handsome husband…” whatever it is, somehow we think that we are better versions of ourselves when we have the “stuff”. There is no doubt about it, God will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory, but His provision is just stuff. We don’t put our faith in stuff; we only put our faith in Him.
What causes us to lose our faith? Well, Paul identifies two of these impediments in the book of 2 Corinthians, conflicts and fears:
2 Corinthians 7:5 (NKJV)
For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.
Sometimes we lose our peace out of genuine concern over someone else.
Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
But as well-meaning as his distress was, Epaphroditus was still exhibiting a lack of faith of sorts.
His distress was because the brethren had heard a bad report about him, it wasn’t the only time the early church distressed at the curves life threw at them. Remember when Paul left Ephesus? Look at the book of Acts.
Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
The people were weeping and kissing Paul, they knew they weren’t going to see him anymore. In fact, just prior, they attempted to keep him from leaving at all.
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.
Paul knew about these things that were about to happen to him yet He had peace.
Even the most dedicated servants find themselves in need of God’s peace. But that is what the Christmas season is all about. It is about the good news that God came to bring peace.
Looking at the various prophecies about Messiah we see that Jesus’ peace was foretold to Isaiah.
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Zacharias, Mary’s uncle was also told.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Finally, the host of heaven declared the Peace of God on earth.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
There is a catch and it is found in the last line in verse 14. And on earth, peace goodwill toward men can also be translated as “And on earth peace, toward men of goodwill” I think this is a more correct translation, and in fact a couple of other translations do as well.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom to men of good will.”
Isn’t that interesting? It’s not good will toward men, it’s shalom, or peace, to men of good will. Let’s look at the NIV
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
So in order to have the peace of God, we must be men of goodwill, or to have his favor rest upon us. The reason for this is that the peace that God gives is not given the same way the world gives it.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The only way we get that peace is through Jesus because tribulation comes through the world. The problem is that we are unable to overcome the world, only Jesus can. The good news is:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The apostles taught this as well:
Acts 10:36 (NKJV)
The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—
The bottom line is this, only the Prince of Peace offers peace that the world cannot give!
How is it different than the peace the world gives?
The most basic and fundamental peace – the peace from which everything else flows is peace with God. Only Jesus makes it possible for us to be a peace with God.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Without peace with God, no real peace is possible.
Peace with each other
Peace with each other
Once we have peace with God, we must move on to having peace with each other.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In a world in which class warfare and racism runs rampant despite our most sincere efforts, it is not hard to see that the only way these judgments can be overcome is by the peace that only Jesus can bring.
Peace with yourself.
Peace with yourself.
Finally, there is a peace that one must learn to make with oneself. I think this is the hardest level of peace to achieve. Only God knows the real us, but next to Him, we are the ones who know our faults best. So much of our inability to relate to each other and to God comes directly from our inability to make peace with ourselves. We are very good at punishing ourselves for our mistakes. In fact, long after God has forgiven us, it is not uncommon to find that we cannot. This is an affront to God because He is the only one who can forgive sins. If He forgives us, then who do we thing we are refusing to forgive the sins He has already paid for?
It is this inner strife that often keeps us from believing that we are worthy to receive God’s forgiveness and by extension His peace. It causes anxiety within us. If we just remember to do what the Apostles Paul admonished the Philippians then we get a very special blessing.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Pastor, you preach that scripture a lot! You’re right I do, and there’s a reason for it. It is so key to having a healthy Christian walk. Jesus came for a reason, and it was proclaimed by the hosts of heaven. We talk about it and give it good lip service during this season, but do we live it?
Do you have God’s peace? Or has sin prevented you from finding peace? Maybe misplaced priorities have robbed you of your peace? Have Bona fide concerns filled your heart with anxiety?
Well I’m happy to tell you that this holiday season, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is willing to give you His peace. As Paul prayed...
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.
Let us pray…