Christmas 2021 #1 First Peace With God


Christmas 2021 #1 First Peace With God

Luke 2:8-14 (MSG)

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger." At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

 As we prepare for our Incarnation Celebration we are going to consider peace.  The type of peace we are going to concentrate on is peace between people.  To have peace with people we need first to have peace with God.  In this series of teachings, we will discover how to have peace with God and stay in that peace, then we will move on to three types of distorted thinking that destroy peace between people.  

 The angelic choir sang: “Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”

The word translated for us as peace has been derived from the picture of binding or joining together something that has been separated.  This should be familiar to your ears when we look at humanity’s predicament with its estrangement from God.  Peace in this sense means the reconciliation of our relationship with God.

 From the Creation story, we know that the Adam was given one test of his fidelity, one test to maintain fellowship with his Creator.  We know that the Adam was created in the wild and then God planted a garden and gave the Adam the task to take care of it, to nurture it, to protect it.  The Adam created in the image of God was designed to be the Creator’s representative on Earth.  The relationship between the Creator and the Creature was one of harmony, a righteous rapport.  But the Adam decided it was wiser to be co-equal with God rather than the servant of God, so he did what God forbade him to do.  If you have ever been the victim of infidelity you may have an idea of God’s experience with the one He chose.  That trust betrayed created an estrangement, a break-up, a falling out, a schism between The Adam and God.  This estrangement is called original sin.  We know sin as anything that deters, damages or destroys right relationships. The human predicament is one of estrangement from God, there is no peace.

 Cut off from the source of life, the result is physical death.  Cut off from the source of truth and wisdom, each one must decide based on their own experience what is right, what is wrong, what is good and what is evil, what is wise and what is foolish, what is good and what is bad.  Human history is a sad commentary on our ability to do well with these types of decisions.  Cut off from the source of righteousness we don’t do relationships all that well.  In the Garden the Adam and the Eve were naked, the heart and soul transparent, each one caring for the interests of the other, trust, safety, that is no longer our default position with others.  We tend to compete instead of cooperating, exploit instead of enriching, take instead of giving; No peace.  There is no peace because humanity is estranged from the Creator, therefore they are estranged from one another.

 Because of this estrangement with God not only do we die physically, the Bible reveals we are dead spiritually and our destiny is spiritual death eternally.  The scripture reveals “lakes of fire” to describe outer torment and “worms that never die”   to describe inner torment (Revelation 20:14, Mark 9:48). In previous teachings, we have described spiritual death as an eternity in solitary confinement.  Since we are speculating there is an old Twilight Zone episode “A Nice Place To Visit” (1960) in which a mobster dies in a shootout with police and wakes up in a world where his every wish is granted …  he can have anything he desires. He's living in a beautiful apartment, never loses at the casino, and is always surrounded by beautiful women ("The Twilight Zone" A Nice Place to Visit (TV Episode 1960) - IMDb).  The script eventually reads: “I’ve been in this dump for a month and I can’t stand it anymore!... I’m bored!  “Bored.”  The closing narration reads: “ A scared, angry little man, who never got a break. No, he has everything he’s ever wanted and he’s going to have to live with it for eternity, in the Twilight Zone.”  It is doubtful if anyone knows what Hell is like.  But eternal destinies manifest in our experiences in the present.

 Estranged from God, estranged from one another, estranged even from our very selves, there is no peace.  Instead, there are broken relationships.  There is a shattered world.  We are left traumatized, devastated, and exhausted.  We are pervaded with a sense of meaninglessness and discontent.  What’s sad is that you usually don’t begin to realize that you are on a dead-end street until after you’ve made more than a few revolutions around the sun.  So much wasted time pursuing what turns out to be nothing more than vanity, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “a chasing after the wind.”

 The entire story of the bible is God reconciling this estrangement so that once again there is peace between Creator and Creature. 

 Gal 4:4 (NLT), John 3:16 (MSG), 1 Peter 1:18-19 (MSG), 1 Peter 3:18 (GW)…

“…when the right time came, God sent his Son…” “…He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”  “It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know.”  “…Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God.”

 And the choir of angels sang:  “Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”  Peace, what was once at odds is now brought together, where there was disagreement now agreement, what was estranged is now reconciled, where there was discontent now there is harmony.   Jesus said: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”(John 10:10 (MSG).

 This peace is given to all who please God.  It behooves us to figure out how we are to please God.  There are three words to remember when it comes to pleasing God:  Faith, Fear, and Follow.

 Faith is trust and confidence that motivates action, faith dictates behavior.  It’s impossible to please God without it.

 Hebrews 11:6 (MSG)

It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

There’s the question for modern humanity:  Is there a God?  Does God exist?  No one can answer that question for you.  You must decide.  As you decide, remember there is no proof one way or the other, after all, faith is subjective confidence that what you believe is right.   Funny, regardless if you decide yes that God exists, or no there is no supernatural Creator, you are going to exercise faith.  You don’t search out to find what you know doesn’t exist.  But you can decide to seek out what, or in this case, who, you know exists.

 If you decide that God does exist then do you know that God cares about you?  The scripture reveals that God loves you, that He has gone to great lengths, at great cost, to make it possible for you to enter into a right relationship with Him.  Be convinced that God cares, for no one would seek out someone who meant them harm.  If you are convinced that the Creator cares for you, would you want to seek Him out, to be at peace with Him?  If so, be wise and do all you can to draw near to Him.  Seek Him, make it your desire, seek Him with your whole heart and He will find you (Jeremiah 29:13).  God takes pleasure in your faith in Him.

 Faith pleases God, God’s pleasure in you results in peace.  The next behavior that pleases God is a little harder to get your head wrapped around.  It’s fear.

 Psalms 147:10-11 (NIV)

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

 God takes pleasure in those that fear Him.  Our common use of the word fear is what makes this verse hard to understand.  When we think of fear we are usually referring to an unpleasant emotion that something bad is about to happen, or that someone is dangerous to our well-being, a situation is threatening.  This is not exactly what the word means in the context of the 147th Psalm; consider verse 3 that describes God as the healer of the brokenhearted and the one who binds up wounds. Fearing a healer doesn’t sound rational, but we can’t dismiss this idea, we need to add to it.  The Hebrews “yaw-ray” describes being fearing or afraid but also reverent.  To feel reverence is to feel deep respect and admiration.  Words like worshipping, adoring, and devoted fit here. Have you ever experienced something totally cool and totally dangerous, a mixture of excitement and apprehension?  This could kill me but I am so attracted to it. Awe may be a better word to describe this feeling that motivates behavior. Think of the fear of God as a feeling of deferential awe.

A continual feeling of deferential awe keeps us loyal.  We know God loves us.  We know we will give God an account of the way we spent our lives.  Deferential awe keeps us obedient.  We know God's favor is upon us.  We know that God does not tolerate sin.  Deferential awe keeps us faithful.  We know we have been adopted into God’s family.  We know that God disciplines His children.  Deferential awe puts our perspective of the relationship we share with God in proper focus.  He is God, we are not. He is Creator, we are creature.  He is Savior and we are the saved. Deferential awe, that fear of the Lord keeps us loyal, obedient, and faithful.

 We have found out that faith and fear please God. God also takes great pleasure when we follow Jesus.

 Luke 9:35 (MSG)

Then there was a voice out of the cloud: "This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him."

 “Listen to” means more than just hearing the words, it means to do the words. When we follow Jesus' example in how to do life we are following God.  To follow Jesus' example is to boldly if not furiously love.  Jesus' example is one of sacrificial love. Love for God is demonstrated by our obedience.  Love for others is giving out of our abundance to meet another’s need.  Love for the Earth is being a good steward of all the material resources you have been blessed with.  Love for self, oh wow, wait a minute.  Love for self?  

 The bible does warn us of being lovers of ourselves (2 Timothy 3:2-4) we are not to usurp God's place as our first love substituting our self.  After all, that’s humanity’s basic problem.  It’s best to think of Love for self as creating an environment of well-being for yourself.  When we keep in step with the Spirit, we are learning how to be well.  The Spirit guides you into well-being.  The path is counter-intuitive.  Jesus said:

 Mark 8:34-35 (MSG)

"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.

Maybe the best way to understand self-sacrifice is you make that sacrifice when you do what pleases God instead of what pleases you.  You are confronted with a choice, one decision you feel is squarely in obedience to God, the other decision is not.  When you choose obedience you are following Jesus.  Following Jesus pleases God and the result is peace between you and Him.  This will set off a series of events that will allow you to find peace with yourself and peace with others.

“Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”  Peace, uniting what once was divided, reconciling what once was estranged.  Peace is God's gift to those that have faith in Him, Fear Him, and follow Him.  In our season of celebrating the  Incarnation, you can know the peace of God.   Choose to do what pleases Him.


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