We are living at a time when the longing for peace is intense. Many of you have children or other family members who are at war in the fight against terrorism. You long for peace so your family can come home safely and soon.
If you turn on the evening news there is inevitably a story about conflict in the Middle East and in many other places around the world. There are stories of violence In our own communities. Many people live their lives frightened. The idea of peace on earth and goodwill toward men seems illusive.
We are living in hectic times. We feel pulled in a hundred different directions at once.
Sometimes the obligations are so numerous that we find ourselves paralyzed with indecision. We would love to know the experience of a “silent night, holy night” where “all is calm and all is bright”. In the last of the four titles of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is balled the “Prince of Peace”. He is the ruler of peace. He is the one who has the authority and power to dispense peace. And this realization should draw us to him like a magnet.
The word “peace” in the Hebrew is the word “shalom”. Shalom is a rich word that carries with it the sense of wholeness or completeness. This peace that Jesus brings is that illusive “something” that we have been looking for. The peace He: brings is that peace that can make you complete. This morning we are going to look at this peace. There are at least four different dimensions to the peace He brings.
HE MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO BE FRIENDS WITH GOD
Every good Jew understood that God is Holy and that we are not. They knew that we were dependent on God’s mercy to stand in His presence. Every good Jew longed to be accepted by God. You and I have heard the Jewish blessing for years,
THE LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace:” (Numbers 6:24-26)
In order to really understand the prayer of the Rabbi you have to think in terms of opposites. The people prayed that the Lord would bless you instead of curse you; that he would keep you instead of cast you away. They prayed that His face would shine when it looked at us rather than become dark in wrath and judgment. It was a prayer that God would turn His face toward you (rather than away from you) and give you peace instead of terror and distress.
We understand this from our own experience. When you meet a friend on the sidewalk or in the mall, they often greet you with a smile, a warm greeting and perhaps a handshake or a hug. When you see someone who doesn’t care for you the experience is different. They may look away and pretend not to notice you. They might glare at you or even say something nasty. If the hostility is deep enough they may even move toward you antagonistically. This Jewish blessing was praying that God would relate to us as a friend rather than an enemy.
This is something our heart desires as well. We want to be God’s friend. We want to be on God’s good side. But we don’t know how to do this. We work hard but still feel distant from the Almighty. Some of you may be close to giving up. You feel you are too deep in spiritual debt to ever get out. Some of you feel that you can never learn all the religious lingo that seems to be required to be a Christian. lf you feel this way, I have good news for you.
In the book of Romans in chapter 5, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)
Do you hear that? We have peace with God because we have been justified (or made right with God) through faith. Or to state it another way, the person who knows peace with God is the one who has been justified by faith. So, what does that mean?
We are made right with God not by the good things that we do, not by the words we memorize or the rituals we practice. We are made right, with God by what Christ did for us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace because He makes peace with God possible. He made a trade with us. He placed His goodness on our account and put our sin and failure on His account. When He died on the cross He paid off our sin debt.
We become right with God when we receive, trust, and rely on this work of Christ (that is the faith Paul talked about). We find peace with God when we stop trying to earn God’s favor and instead receive the mercy and the grace that He offers us in Christ. Of all the gifts you receive this Christmas, none can come close to the gift of God that is offered through Jesus Christ. Through Christ we are offered forgiveness and a new beginning. Because of Christ we can now be God’s friends. We can know His smile rather than His frown, His blessing rather than His wrath. It all starts with our willingness to! receive what He has done for us.
Have you become God’s friend through Christ?
HE BRINGS CALM IN THE TRIALS OF LIFE
But this is not the only dimension of the peace that Jesus brings to our lives. Jesus told his disciples,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
“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’. (John 16:33)
When Jesus said these words he was warning his disciples about his upcoming death. It was going to be a scary time. But He wanted them to understand that they could have peace in the midst of the trials and difficulties that were about to come upon them. He tells us the same thing through the Apostle Paul,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6, 7)
If we are going to experience this calm in the midst of trial we have to understand two things. First, this peace is different from what the world thinks of as peace. The peace of the world is an absence of conflict. The world’s philosophy is: If there is a problem, get rid of it. That is how you find peace.
- if you’re feeling stress, get a prescription
- if you’re relationship is a struggle, get a divorce
- if you feel overwhelmed, buy something
- if you feel guilty, keep searching until you find someone who tells you that you aren’t doing anything wrong.
- if someone is tormenting you, shoot them.
That is the world’s idea of peace. The Lord’s peace is different. It is a calm and confidence that comes in spite of difficult times. We can know peace and calm in the midst of trying times!
Second, this peace comes from trusting God rather than from our ability to understand. God’s peace does not require that we understand why things happened, what God is doing, or how we are going to survive. Sometimes we don’t understand these things. Our peace in these trials comes from our confidence in God’s character and His ability. We have peace because we know that God is all-powerful. He is bigger than any circumstance. We have peace because we know that God is all-wise. His plan uses things that we consider to be bad to accomplish good ends. We have peace because we know that God loves us. When we are God’s friend through Christ we know that “all things will work together for the good.” We have peace because we trust God, not because we understand why things happen the way they do.
HE HELPS US RECONCILE WITH EACH OTHER
The third element of this peace is that Jesus brings people together. Jesus had a remarkable effect on people. He brought folks together from all races and backgrounds.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Lord not only brings Christians together. . . He also brings antagonists together. In the letter to the Romans Paul gave us the philosophy of the Christ-follower,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited .
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for Gods wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay:’ says the Lord. . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21)
Jesus brings people together and there are several good reasons for this. First, in Christ we recognize that we all share a common problem. A shared problem brings unlikely folks together. People who see each other regularly for cancer treatment often become friends.
Guys who go through boot camp together often become friends because of their shared experience. The people who attend the same AA meeting may become friends. Why?
Because they share a common problem. People who may have never been friends under different circumstances become friends now because of a shared problem.
We are all sinners. We are all in need of mercy and grace. We all stumble and fall. . .even though we mean well. We share a common need with everyone around us. Christ helps us see that the people around us may not be mean. . . they may just be lost.
Second, we see that we all find a solution to our problem the same way. Salvation is not reserved for the rich or the poor, white or the black, men or women. . . it is available to all no matter what your background, appearance or bank account. There is no reason for pride or arrogance. We are each saved by the same Savior. In truth we are simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.
Third, we learn from Jesus what it is like to be forgiven. Having been forgiven we are more willing to forgive. Our Lord Jesus gives us the power to let go of past hurts. He gives us the strength to love even those who are tough to love. He helps us see others with the eyes of compassion and grace. It isn’t easy to love others and to reconcile with those we have always seen as antagonists. But when we experience the change that comes from God’s grace, we want others to know that transformation too. We forgive because we have been forgiven.
HE WILL ULTIMATELY BRING AN END TO CONFLICT AMONG THE NATIONS
The angels proclaimed to the Shepherds, “peace on earth, goodwill to men” But we have not seen that promised peace. Nations rise against nation. Our news reports are filled with reports of murders, assaults, and attacks of many different kinds. There is no peace in the land. But it will not always be like this. Later in Isaiah
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the vipers nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 1-9)
There is coming a day when the peace of God will flood the earth. It will not only bring people together, it will bring all creation together. Animals that devoured each other will now be companions. Animals that used to make us fearful will now be gentle and kind. It is a powerful picture that we are told will be made possible because of Christ. When He returns and takes His rightful place as Lord of the Universe we will see this element of His peace come to pass.
The prophet Micah also speaks of that future day,
He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:1-3)
Micah sees a day when people will finally and fully submit to the Lord. There no longer be a reason for guns and other weapons. There will be no need for missile defense systems or military training. There will be no more Christmas seasons with children fighting in other lands. No more threat of terrorism. No more guns in school or threat of biological contamination. There will be peace. In that day we will no longer worry . . . we’ll just enjoy.
We’re not at that day yet. But the knowledge that this day is coming helps us face the trials of the present. Jesus brings peace: spiritual peace, peace of heart and mind, relational peace, and some day He will also bring peace to every element of salvation. He is indeed the Prince of Peace.
Which manifestation of God’s peace do you need today? Are you searching for something? Do you long for the Shalom that will fill your soul with meaning? If so, then it is time to stop running. It is time to stop running to other people, to more stuff, to more education, to all the schemes we devise to “find happiness.” What we are looking for is found only in the Prince of Peace. Stop running and try looking to Jesus.
Do you long for peace with God? Do you want to know His smile in your hear1 and life? If so, then you must turn to Him. You must receive the Christmas gift that God offers to you.
As you approach Christmas day it would be terrible to leave this most important gift unopened. Trust Jesus for Heaven and know what it is like to have God as your friend.
Maybe you are going through turbulent times. Don’t give up and don’t despair. The fact that times are tough does not mean that God is mad at you. He will give you peace IN the storm. Anchor your confidence in his promise not your understanding. Trust Him and trust Him fully.
Maybe your problem is another person. This person “pushes your buttons” over and over again. Please look at these people as Jesus does. See their unhappiness. Understand their need. Realize that you have more in common with this person than you think. Ask God for the strength to extend grace and forgiveness. Maybe God will use you to show your antagonist the One who can set them free.
And finally, you may be worn down by the conflict in the world around us. You may long for a peace that will bring an end to hostilities. This peace can be gained only as His message gets out. And the message of Jesus will only get out as each of us shares it with those the Lord brings our way. The peace we desire will not be found through treaties and in well-intentioned promises. It can only come through Jesus. If we are going to see peace in the world, it will have to come into the world one person at a time.