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
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
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
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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