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Sunday, December 20, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Peace on Earth"

“Peace on Earth”
December 20, 2015
Luke 2:14

I know that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I’m in love with our memory verse right now--John 16:33.

I’ve shared John 16:33 at two funerals in the last two weeks. I’ve talked about John 16:33 in my prayer letters that have gone out and in counseling sessions in my office.

When I talked to the FCA Bible Club on Tuesday with Mr. Learish, John 16:33 was what was on my lips for those students.

On Wednesday at the Family Bible Night Christmas Program, there I was on stage quoting John 16:33 again.

We’ve already said it together this morning, and it’s been read once more by the Hayles in our Advent Readings. John 16:33.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There’s one little word in there that I want us to focus our attention on this morning.

It’s the word, “Peace.”

If there is a present that I’d like for Christmas this week, more than anything it would be “peace.”

When the angels appeared to the shepherds and sang the first noel, the first announcement that Christmas had happened, they sang about peace, peace on earth.

Because the Prince of Peace had been born.

I don’t think we can imagine what it was like to be one of the shepherds hearing those angels sing.

An entire army of angels praising God together and saying, “Glory to God in the highest...”

Gloria In Excelsis Deo!

[Though I don’t think they said it in Latin.  Those shepherds probably didn’t know Latin. They were probably singing in Hebrew or Aramaic.]

Praising God because God had sent His Son.

V.11 “A Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.”

That’s a reason to bring glory to God if I ever heard one!

But the angels said something a little more. They said that this gift of a Savior also brings, “on earth peace to men on whom [God’s] favor rests.”

PEACE.

That’s so important!

Because peace is in such short supply.

Last week, we learned about a war that’s been going on since almost the beginning of history.

We learned that you and I are living in a war-zone.

That’s the story that we’re living in.

There is a perpetual spiritual conflict raging in this world and it affects everything.

That’s the story we are living in.

By the way, The Gospel Project, our upcoming new Sunday School class, is all about that story, understanding the contours of that big story from Genesis to Revelation.

I’m hoping that many of you will join us on that journey we’re going to start in a couple of weeks through the whole Bible.

But that war that’s been going on for centuries means that peace is in short supply.

Peace.

Doesn’t that word sound so good?

It seems like every time we turn on the news there is a new conflict.

Syria. Iraq. Afghanistan. Nigeria.

And not just national conflict, but conflict within nations.

Our nation is so divided right now. We don’t have a civil war going on, but there is so little that our people do agree upon.

My heart breaks when I turn on the computer and see the deep divisions in our country.

And not just among the general population, but even in the professing church.

There is so much infighting among people who call themselves Christians in America.

And in families.  So many break-ups and divorces and abuse.

So much brokenness, and not very much peace.

But into a world at war, the Prince of Peace was born.

And these angels sang that He was bringing peace on Earth.

You need to know that peace (in the Bible) is more than just the absence of conflict.

It’s better than that.

Peace in the Bible is a wholeness, a wellness, a rightness in relationships. The Hebrew word is “Shalom.”

“Peace” is not just “I’m not mad at him.”  Peace is “He and I are right with one another. We are reconciled. We are together. Everything is okay between us.”

And Jesus was born to bring that kind of peace.

To whom?  V.14 “Peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I used to think that Jesus brings peace to all men. But the NIV renders this verse perfectly, I think: “Peace to men on whom God’s favor rests.”

That means that Jesus brings peace to those:

- Whom God has chosen.
- Peace to the children of God.
- Peace to those who have exercised faith in Jesus Christ.

So the saying is right: “No Jesus, No Peace.  Know Jesus, Know Peace.”

Because Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that IN ME you may have peace.”

In Jesus, we get that peace.

And nowhere else.

If you are outside of Jesus, there will be no peace.

Jesus is where the peace comes from.

As I was thinking about it this week, there are essentially three kinds of peace that Jesus brings.

The first is the foremost:

#1. PEACE WITH GOD.

If you don’t have that, then you won’t have peace in any other meaningful way.

Jesus came to bring us peace with God.

Remember what we learned in Romans chapter 5, verse 1 last year?

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus Christ, then you aren’t justified. You don’t have a righteous standing with God.

God is, in fact, your enemy.

You may not know it or acknowledge it, but the Bible says that it’s a fact.

John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”

That’s a scary place to be.

But hear the angels sing!

Peace is now possible between you and God.  The baby born in Bethlehem was born to die as a ransom for our sinful rebellion. He was our “peace child.”

1 Peter 3:18:  “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Come to Christ this morning. Lay down your weapons and surrender to the Prince of Peace.

Maybe your heart has been prepared for this morning. This is your morning of decision.  This is the day that Christ becomes King in your life.

Decide now to trust Him.  Tell Him that you are sorry that you’ve sinned against Him and now want to belong to Him.  He will not reject you.  He will receive you with open arms and bring you peace.

Become a faith follower of Jesus Christ today.

Because in Him you may have peace.

And if you have that kind of peace, then it will lead to peace with others.

#2. PEACE WITH OTHERS.

It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

And of course, it’s a two way street, but peace with God can lead to peace with other people.

Remember what we heard in Romans 12:18?

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Are you living at peace with others this Christmas?

So often, it boils down to forgiveness.

Christmas is about being forgiven.  And being forgiven unleashes an amazing power within us to forgive others.

Is there someone you are in conflict with this Christmas? Make it right with them.

As much as it depends upon you, take advantage of Jesus’ peace and take Jesus’ peace to them.

And the third of kind peace is one that I have been leaning hard upon Jesus for these last few months.

#3. PEACE WITHIN.

Jesus said, “Take heart!”

That’s our inner choice to believe in Him and experience the peace that comes with it.

“Take heart!” Jesus has overcome the world.

Inner peace is basically the absence of fear.

If you are right with God, what place does fear have in your heart?

If God is for you, who can be against you?
If God is your helper, what can man do to you?
If God is at peace with you, what is worth worrying about?

Hear the angels sing!

Peace with God is yours in Christ. And if you have that then you have nothing to fear.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

What are you afraid of?

Cast it upon the One the angels sang about on the first Christmas morning.

It seems to me that there are only two ways for there to be peace when there was a war.

One way is for one of the warring parties to win and the other to lose.

For there to be a conquering.

When Jesus says, “I have overcome the world,” the Greek word for overcome is “nenikayka.”

And it comes from the root word, “Nike.”

To overcome. To win. To be victorious.

And one day just like the Hayles’ read, Jesus’ victory will be complete and spread throughout the universe.

And those on His side can rejoice in that.

We don’t see the peace yet, not in full.

But we know it’s coming. Because He was victorious on the cross and at the empty tomb.

He has overcome the world, and we saw last week in Romans 16:20, Jesus will soon crush Satan under our feet.

And that’s good news if you’re on His side.

But bad news if you are not.

He will bring ultimate peace by destroying His enemies.

But there is another path to peace. Not just victory but reconciliation.

That’s when the two warring parties go from being enemies to being friends.

And that’s what Jesus did for those who will repent and trust in Him.

He became our peace.

That’s the point of Christmas.

Peace on Earth for those who trust in Jesus.

Peace now and peace forever.

So, take heart. Jesus has come so that in him we may have peace.

In this world, we will have trouble.

But take heart! Jesus has overcome the world.

Or as our closing song says,

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old.
When the ever circling years shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

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