December 22, 2019

Advent 2019: The Proclamation of Peace

Speaker:
Series:
Passage: Luke 2:13-14, Romans 5:1-2, Ephesians 2:13-22

Have you had the sense, as I have, that something is not quite right? A deep sense that something is ‘off’ within yourselves? Maybe you might have trouble drawing out why. Have you found yourselves, as I have, running around, creating more activity, or buying more items, and say, “If I can just get such-n-such, or do-such-n-such, then everything will be good!” Have you said that to yourself? 

Maybe something is off, and you know why. Maybe there was a wrong committed against us, and we are holding it over someone. Or, maybe we are the one who has committed the wrong, and we must acknowledge, and apologize for it. And could it be that we have apologized for it, but that apology hasn’t fully ‘atoned’ for the sin?— this can be especially true for a spouse or close friend. You’ve said sorry, forgiveness has been granted, but there’s still an unspoken wall between you two. There’s no longer a visble barrier, but maybe a reef below the waters; there is not true harmony, or peace, things are not “whole” or as they should be.

Last week, I made the assertion that all people seek after joy. I want to make a second assertion this morning, similar, but not the same. Here it is: 

“All people yearn for a true sense of peace.” 

Let me describe to you what I mean by that. In the Scriptures, the primary idea of the word “peace” is completeness, soundness, or wholeness. The Hebrew word is shalom. Adam and Eve were created and put in a garden where everything was good — of perfect shalom. It’s the way things should have been; it was complete, and whole. That sense of wholeness — with the created order as it was meant to be, was our native environment. Animals paired by kind, fertile land that produced vegetation without much work, a perfect garden to live in— where legos and moji-mo’s were not left on the floor but put away in the box and stored neatly on the shelf, books were organized by title and author in their proper section, and socks were folded right side out, stacked neatly with topside up, and — with the appropriate pair! Everything is where it should be, as it should be! SHALOM! The OCD folks of our congregation would have been— literally and metaphorically speaking, in heaven!Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent here at Hope. We lit the PEACE Candle. So, what does the peace of God have to do with Advent? 

At the proclaiming of the birth of Christ, the angels declared “peace” to the people. Today, we look at that proclamation in the Luke passage. The main question we are answering is this: What did the angels mean in their proclamation? How does the Bible answer that question? And what is peace— shalom, on the earth?

So we will look at what the proclamation of Peace under the following headings:

The Kingdom of Peace

The God of Peace, 

The People of Peace, 

Jesus, our peace!

Let’s read:

Luke 2:8–14

[8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

[14] “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)

[Pray]

The Kingdom of Peace

Have you paused to consider the historical time frame in which Jesus, the Son of God, was born? Historians make an educated guess and date his birth between 4-6 BC. Herod the first, later dubbed, Herod the Great, ruled Judea. Octavian, who was given the name Caesar Augustus, was the emperor of Rome. And Rome, as an empire, was at the beginning of the height of the empire, with its greatest territorial extent, and largest populous — remember the census which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem? Historians called this period of time the Pax Romana, which is Latin for “Roman Peace.” It was dubbed a time of peace, but that peace was established by ruthless oppression. Though civil laws existed, it was a time of debauchery, and ruthless death by crucifixion and gladiator games. The people would go to arenas and watch men kill each other, like a sporting event. It was a kingdom of peace for the strong, where they ruled by might and oppression, and unrighteousness. It was not shalom.

It seems to be a pattern for God to save his people, a poor and needy people, when the rulers of earth are at the height of their power. This was the case with Ramses the Great— when Yahweh delivered Israel from Egypt. And what we see of Rome and the people of Israel not only mirrors the height of power of the foreign nation, but it is amplified. Rome reached peace through oppression and war. And notice, it was Roman peace, not peace on earth! It was peace for Roman citizens, but not for subjugated people. 

So consider the context: God sent a chorus of angels to announce the coming of His Savior, the Son of David, the King— to a subjugated people under the rule of the largest and most powerful empire history had known. And make no mistake, the angels proclaimed a Kingdom, as was read during our advent candle. The proclamation in Luke eluded to Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulder…” The angels declared to the shepherds, the needy and poor of Israel, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Ramses was called the “Great Ancestor.” Herod was later called “Herod the Great.” Octavian was given the name Caesar Augustus, or “The Illustrious One”

Jesus— the name above all names, the King above all kings, is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Names were given based on what the rulers have done, and His name was Prince of Peace. His Kingdom is a Kingdom of Peace. 

I want to show you a few Scriptures that speak to this, and warn you now that the people of Israel were, in large part, blind the glory of this kingdom. They were looking for a Prince of war, and they were the victors, parading their power over other peoples. They were looking to be like the nations, to raise up and rule the earth by their own might, and yet Jesus came preaching a Kingdom of peace, one that arrived through different means. 

Jesus, recorded in Matthew 5, spoke to this kingdom:

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

[10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)

Poor in spirit, meek, merciful, peacemaker, persecuted— what kind of kingdom is that!? The kingdoms of the world rule by power and might, force and subjugation. These are the honored ones. The Kingdom Jesus proclaimed arrived in humility, and it honors those in spiritual poverty, in mourning, in meekness, righteousness, in mercy, in purity, in peacemaking, and in persecution. 

Friends, this is how the gospel of the Kingdom of God will spread. We cannot use the weapons of the world to spread the Kingdom of God! We renounce disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word! 

Instead, we walk in the law of the Kingdom:

[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

As the Christmas song declares, “His law is love, and his gospel is peace!” 

His is a Kingdom of Shalom, of peace. And that peace is established by God, between God and man, for He is the God of Peace.

So we move from the Kingdom of Peace, to…

The God of Peace

The pronouncement of peace implied there existed enmity, or war, between two parties. In our studies in John and in Genesis, we have seen firsthand the enmity between God and man. This enmity was the result of man’s rebellion. We are the guilty ones who broke covenant with our Creator! And as we’ve seen on John and Genesis, mankind loves the darkness. Thus, we see a propagation of evil, a continuation of sin.

In a conversation with one of our own here at Hope, it was said, “Why does God even bother?” In other words, if we are as sinful as we are, and He has known before time that this would be our direction, why did God even create us? Why does he strive with us, and have patience for us? The answer, in part, is that our rebellion gave opportunity for God to show His grace. If man had not sinned, if there was not enmity between God and his image bearers, God would not have had the opportunity to show what was true of Him: that He is The God of Peace. And this is what the angels praised him for!

The pronouncement is one of peace on behalf of God to His people. Listen to the proclamation again with me: First, Verse 10 I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. then, [14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)

God is being praised in the heavens— that is the meaning of “glory to God in the highest.” The angelic hosts look down and see the beauty, the majesty, the wonder of what God was doing in sending his glorious Son to the earth, and they praise him for it! Why? Because this amazing redemption originated in the heavens, and streamed down to the earth in a declaration of peace. Peace was initiated by God.

Isn’t this a strange way for peace to come to the earth? When two parties come to terms of peace, is it because one nation has triumphed our the other, and thus, the defeated nation recognizes their defeat and submits themself to the prevailing kingdom. Isn’t it the losing side that would declare a cease fire, and ask for peace?  And yet, that is not what we see. Instead, God took initiative, and he declared peace to the people who were blind to His glory. 

They were blind to the means of peace. Jesus echoed this sentiment in Luke 19 when he wept over Jerusalem: 

‘“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” Peace is declared and achieved by God. He is the God of Peace. And His peace was granted to His people. And we who believe are…

The People of Peace

The peace the angel declared was a specific peace to a specific people. Look at verse 10: I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 

There is an article in the greek after the word all, and before the word people. This means it was designated for all of a specific people; not all people of the world. This is consistent with Scripture: there will be peace for the people of God, for those who are the poor and needy of the earth, as we learned last week. But for those who remain in rebellion against God, there is no peace. The peace terms have been offered, but there are stipulations to this peace. Look at verse 14

“and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)

Where is this peace found? Among those with whom He is pleased. What might that mean? For there is no one righteous, no not one! We all have turned away from God! This is the path of the entirety of humanity! In and of our own selves it is impossible to please God. So, with whom is God pleased?

Hebrews 11 gives us the answer. Christian Scholars call Hebrews 11 The Hall of Faith. Turn your Bibles to Hebrews 11:5-6

[5] By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. [6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

So, we know it is our faith that pleases God. But faith in what? Faith in whom? How does faith, or trusting in God, please him and save us? Paul gives us the answer in Romans 5. Turn there with me:  Romans 5:1–2

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Peace with God was declared at the birth of Jesus. Why? Because the birth of Jesus was the beginning of His perfect earthly life, in which he always pleased God. It was proclaimed at his baptism in Matthew 3:17: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus was asked:“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (ESV) What is the work of God? BELIEVE in the One whom He had sent! And we who have faith in his perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection are the People of Peace.

We have peace with God. Why? Because we have been justified by faith. How? Through the life and death of Jesus. This is the gospel: that God has declared peace to us through His Son. That which stood between us, that rift, that unbreakable barrier because of our sin and His holiness, has now been torn down through the death of His Son. Our relationship is restored! We are no longer under His wrath, but His grace! That overwhelming feeling of unsettledness, of something being “off” with God, that there is some wrong committed that I have to work off, atone for, has now been removed for those who trust in Jesus. And we now have peace with God… Shalom. For we have been justified. 

What does it mean to be justified? It means things have been made right! Complete! Whole! Shalom in our relating to God! It is as it should be!

Justified to what? We have been justified into His grace, and our access through Jesus, our justification by his atoning death, is so sure that Paul says we STAND in this grace! 

Friends, when you come into the presence of a King, especially one you have wronged, whom you have fought against and by whom you have been defeated,

it is expected that you kneel, for you are there at His bequest, and you can be banished in a moment. Paul says we STAND in grace with peace in the presence of God! And this based on the work of Jesus— it is so sure, God is so pleased with us, that we STAND in His presence!

The People of God are a People of Peace because the Son of God has signed the peace treaty with his own blood, and secured it for a people who would please God by trusting in His Son! 

This brings us to our last heading this morning:

Jesus Is Our Peace!

This peace afforded us through Jesus extends to every aspect of our life! And all this is from Him and to Him and through Him!

Would you turn to Ephesians 2:13.

[13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

So, because of Jesus, we have peace with God. Paul boldly states that Jesus, himself, is our peace! God is love. God is peace! He is the source, and the one whom provided peace for us! Also notice he spoke in the plural form— he might reconcile us both… 

[17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 

He was speaking to Gentiles who had been excluded from the people of God, the people of Israel. He was saying God had torn down the walls that divided them, and has created in Himself one new man— one new people of God, composed of all nations, composed of those who believe God, who abide in Christ, and please Him by faith.

[19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 

We, a people of God, are being built into His temple, the dwelling place of His Spirit. And we have peace, shalom with God. We have peace, shalom with our neighbors. And we have peace, shalom, in ourselves because we have the peace of Christ.

When the sermon began, my aim was to stir up in you your desire for personal peace. Our spirits search for it. Our hearts know when it is lacking. Shalom has been broken, and we know it. And moreso, we need it!

We need peace when we are at war with our spouse, or our co-worker, or ourself. We need peace when we are parenting, and our frustration rises, we are embarrassed, and our pride is attacked. We need peace when our soul is lost in busyness, and it seems life is moving at a frantic pace. We need peace when we are distraught, at our wits end, not knowing what is right and wrong. We need peace when our circumstances are beyond our control, and we are afraid for our well-being. We need peace when death is knocking at the door, and has pushed its way in. We need peace in our heart and mind, for we we were created in such a way that shalom would be our dwelling place. And this peace is only found in Jesus.

I want to leave you with this: John 14 and 15 records Jesus’ last teachings to His disciples. In John 14 Jesus promised the Spirit of God would come to His disciples. In that context, he said, [27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (ESV)

Jesus is our peace. And he calls us into His peace. We experience this peace, this shalom, only when we abide in Him. We will have no peace unless we abide in Him.

 [9] As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. [10] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. [11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (ESV)

The peace of God, the shalom of God, is for the people of God who have placed all their faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and abide— make their dwelling place, with God. Jesus is their righteousness, and they, by the power and Spirit of God, live out the Kingdom of God’s peace — shalom. If you’re having trouble experiencing the peace of God, might it be that you are not living in peace of God, trusting in His provision for your sin, and your life, and abiding in His presence? Peace is for the one who believes and trust Jesus, and walk in His ways. God will not give a false sense of peace to His children. In fact, the sense of being unsettled may be the way He is calling you into His peace. We please God when we repent of our sin, turn away from it, and trust wholly in the means of Jesus — for every aspect of our life, for He is our peace.

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