Whenever we sing Hymns, I like to research the origins and stories behind them. This time I picked up on Silent Night. While as with many of these accounts, some of the minor details vary. This video illustrates the most widely accepted version, and it is well produced. Please watch this as you think over the words we just finished singing.
Jesus is why we are here. Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus is the result of God’s desire to communicate with us, and His desire to help us get back to what He intended for us to be.
Don’t confuse that statement with one commonly expressed in many religions. You see Religion is about man’s attempts to get to God, and Jesus, rightly so, hates religion. God created mankind to be a pleasing expression of Him on this world. You see he had created the world, the trees & shrubs, mountains & plains, animals & fishes, birds & insects....all in a different way than He created man. For man, the biblical texts say, He created man in His own image, both male and female, that we would fill the earth and steward it well. But we, as man, created distance from God, a distance which intensified the longer we were away from His original intentions for us. By the time of the prophets, man had perverted our role and limited our potential so much, that God decided we needed a new way to get back to Him. You can read about the Flood, for those who know the story in genesis chapter 7, God hit a reset button, which He promised he’d never do again in the same way. So God needed a way to teach us how to communicate with Him again. In , in the second half of verse 37, Jesus says himself, “I have been born…to testify to the world to the truth”
In John Chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus, that God loved the people of this world so much that He sent Jesus, His only Son, to the world to show the way of peace and eternal salvation from death. God’s ways are peace and love. Without getting to “Jesus culture” about it, in some message about peace and love, let’s move onto an examination of the 4th week of advent and the subject of God’s peace, which Jesus brought to us.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
In this 4th week of advent, in the season of preparing and waiting for the coming of the promised savior, let us focus on the peace we receive when we receive God and His desires for us. His desire is for relationship with Him. Each of us has a choice at some point in our life, where we must make a choice if we want to be in relationship with Him or not. We can choose His model of peace, or our own, or even someone else’s. I’ll get back to that.
Paul never gets a break
Paul never gets a break
In Galatians, Paul who had just returned from an 18 month long missionary journey, hears that the Church in Galatia is in trouble. He’s frustrated, as he’s not received his sabbatical quite yet. No joke, after a trip like he had, a break is in order. But he didn’t get one, and the tone of this book is one of tough love. Once again the Judiazers, are seeking to steal what God is doing in these baby churches by demanding legalism. Why we as people keep seeking complex formulas and works based models to show the world just how good we are…while hiding our insecurities and inability to trust God on the inside. Well, without working our way through the entire book this morning, one of the the largest themes is the concept of walking by the spirit, and not giving substance to the desires of the flesh. He says in chapter 5, verse 24 that we need to crucify the flesh, and by placing our love in what God loves, we’ll find these fruits as evidence in our lives that we are loving like He does: These are referred to as the fruits of the spirit, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
To find calm, un-believers look for peace in removing bad thoughts. Getting rid of negativity, and refusing to allow bad in. While some may find temporary peace in this, the long term effect is that people using this method are refusing to face reality. They’re ignoring the gift, and ignoring the reason why God sent His Son to us.
Jesus came to show us what God’s love is like.
Jesus came to show us what God’s love is like.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son. In , Jesus’ brother tells us that every truly good gift, is a gift from God. He expresses this in an attempt to teach us God’s heart of love.
You see God wants us to know Him, He wants us to know His heart, He wants us to know how to love like He does. He wants us to enjoy true peace, which we have a right to, by way of His love. Let’s read a letter from Paul as he tries to tell another early church about how this peace and love thing is supposed to work. Turn with me to chapter 3 of Ephesians. Where we’re jumping in, Paul has just finished explaining how Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the church, He is the straight and perfect stone at which we take all measurements from, all reference points are to the corner stone, and nowhere else. That’s important, in the surveying world…these are called monuments.
You see God wants us to know Him, He wants us to know His heart, He wants us to know how to love like He does.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
In verse 17, when the greek says “dwell”, it means to settle down and be at home. Note that the text does not use the word “linger”, which would be very different. It ways dwell. We linger in places temporarily, we dwell in our homes, which we are comfortable with, and will defend. It is VITAL that God dwells in our hearts, so we can…when we are grounded in the ways of love (remember fruits of the spirit, peace being one of them?), THEN, and only THEN will we be able to comprehend the size and extremity of God’s love and fullness. There is such a huge difference between God’s love and Man’s love. Man’s love looks like lust, man’s version of love is imperfect because it is always looking to get something from the things it does to get love. Isn’t that the perfect definition of Lust? When we LUST after something, or someone, it is because we’ve discovered or found something or someone which we desperately WANT. God’s perfect love only GIVES. When we love like God, we give without expectation.
Saint Augustine said, “only love of the immutable, can bring tranquility” Only love of what cannot change, can bring true, lasting peace.
What is true peace?
What is true peace?
I want to share with you the true character of peace. Peace is the absence of fear which only comes from an absolute trust in the presence of complete protection. Think about that for a minute. When we say we are at peace, it means not just that our hearts are still, but that a deep level of calmness is present which is completely free of all anxiety. Some of you have been in places of danger before. Some of you, like me, have been in war zones and other countries where physical harm was a real possibility. Places which require a heightened sense of awareness against harm. These were places where peace was a challenged concept, places where an enemy was not just present, but was or was working to, challenge our protection. Let me share with you, that some people are more comfortable in these environments than others. It isn’t the people who look to substances to bring periods of peace. It isn’t the people who pretend that the danger doesn’t exist, because despite what existential philosophic followers say, the danger is real. Not just real to those in danger, but real to everybody. When the danger is gone, or you are in a place where the defenses are so absolute that the danger is essentially gone, only then can peace be true.
Do we have God’s protection? Is the world no longer fallen? No! Bad things happen to Good people, and horrible things happen to children, and bad people get ahead…IN THIS LIFE, IN THIS WORLD. That’s the key. There is not always justice in this life, sometimes there is, but not always. So how do we gain peace? That’s a fair question. Here’s what God says to us about that:
But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
We can know true peace by placing God deep in our hearts, that He would DWELL there, and not just linger. If you would like to invite God to dwell in your heart, you can begin to know true peace, today. In fact, Joel would you come up and play through some music, and prayer teams, would you come to the front here. If you want to know true peace that comes from the understanding of God’s ultimate protection, and perfect love, come forward here as we’re dismissing and these people want to pray with you, and give you an opportunity to let God do this in your life. Secondly, if you are struggling with finding peace right now, these people want to partner in prayer with you. Come forward and share your burdens, that we as a church would have practice in operating in God’s perfect love that gives, without expectation. Let me bless you and dismiss you, as the alter is opened up to you.