Peace On Earth

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Peace On Earth.

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 15th December, 2019

On Friday morning I gave out our first Christmas Gift Card to a man who was in desperate need of some support.  I sat down and had a chat with him in front of Woolies.

He’s making some good choices in getting his life in order…  You wouldn’t pick him out of any of the other well dressed, well groomed people walking around Ballina.  

He was so grateful for our support.  He even texted me later that morning to thank me again.  

He shared with me very briefly his experience growing up with an alcoholic mother who passed away too early, and a home filled with domestic violence.  He has a chronic lung condition, and he struggles to breathe…  

He said He believed in Yeshua. He’s even got testimonies to God’s healing and intervention in his life… but he recounted a few very ordinary experiences he’d had with churches and with ministers.  

He said he had to stop reading the Word.  He suffers from anxiety and fear, and because he knows he sees the world through a tainted and damaged world view, he found the Word of God was just too difficult to comprehend – and caused him even more anxiety.

I just felt is was important to simply listen to his story without judgement – without telling him what to do…  without condemning him or giving him advice about his past choices in life, which is what other ministers have apparently done. 

In the end, I invited him to join us men for coffee on a Wednesday morning, just to have somewhere where he can connect…  

At first he said – my heart really wants to – but I’ve learnt that I can’t trust my own heart. 

Out of all that he shared with me, that was probably the saddest thing of all.

But he did text me later as I said, and agreed to catch up with me for coffee some time.  

I felt the Holy Spirit say to me – this man is just one of a multitude walking in your midst, who are feeling anxious, afraid, lonely, rejected, broken and battered by life – and you walk past them, and nothing on the outside would give you a hint of what’s going on, on the inside.

We’re leading up to Christmas, and I’ve been prompted to read again the story surrounding the birth of Jesus.  I think about those shepherds out in the field – those few men who were pretty much outcasts of their society, rejected by the main stream of humanity… ones who didn’t seem to fit in with regular people…  who would be shunned when they walked into town.

They are minding their own business, when all of a sudden, an angel appears and tells them not to be afraid…  and this angel shares with the shepherds the good news that the Christ child has been born…  and out of everyone – they get to hear about it first and are given directions as to where to find Him.

Doesn’t that say something about the heart of God?

Luke 2:13-14,  NKJV,  “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

It’s seems that it only takes one angel to declare the good news – but it takes the host of heaven to bring an appropriate response of glorifying and exalting God for what He has done.

Now that was in the NKJV translation…  however a number of other very credible and respected translations say this:

Luke 2:14,  (Amplified) “Glory to God in the highest [heaven], And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.”

Luke 2:14,  (NLT). “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

In fact, all of the other versions that I would normally go to, follow this same translation – not “goodwill to men” – but “peace to those with whom God is pleased…”

Is it important?  Yes, it’s very important, as we’ll see in a moment.

When I replied to the Thankyou text from the man I met at Woolies – I felt to say:  “I hope you experience some moments of incredible peace this Christmas.”

And I want you to agree with me, that this man, and the many others that we encounter who are troubled and anxious – or distressed because of the burden of circumstances that they have been dealt in life – or have brought upon themselves for whatever reason – that these ones will find peace on earth, just as the angel proclaimed!

How is that going to happen?  How does it happen for any of us?  Is the world at peace?  

No!  The world is far from a peaceful place.  There are wars, and rumours of wars.   There are earthquakes; and as we’ve seen this week, even volcanoes that are erupting and people have lost their lives…  there are shootings – even becoming more common in Australia – we have our own bushfires burning all over our nation – destroying homes and lives in their path…  while in other parts of the world people are being washed away by floods…

When you bring it down to an even more personal level, you only have to be on social media and read some people’s responses to things to see they are anxious and fearful, some full of rage, offence, others with huge chips on their shoulders… full of judgement and persecution…  wars rage in people’s hearts…

People in general in this world are not at peace – they are at war…  at war within themselves, at war with others, at war with the government, at war with life!

Here’s the thing!  When the angel made that prophetic declaration – it wasn’t two separate statements – it was one!   Glory to God in the highest – and peace on earth to those whom God is pleased…  It’s not an either or…  It’s not one without the other.

The ones with whom God is pleased are those who give glory to God.  And those who give glory to God are those who experience His peace.

It’s interesting that later on in Luke, Jesus sends His disciples out into the world with the good news of the kingdom… but He says this to them as they go:

Luke 10:5-6,  NKJV,  “But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.”

The offer of peace is to every household – to all people.  But it’s only those who are a son of peace, who will be blessed with God’s everlasting peace.  A son of peace is one who receives and accepts the truth of the gospel – those who receive Christ Himself.  If the truth is rejected – the peace of God is returned to the one bearing the Gift.

The one that is open and willing to bring glory to God with a surrendered heart, that is the one who will also know the peace of God.

You know, we can’t of ourselves, remove the brokenness from people’s lives…  we can’t take away their pain – we can’t change their circumstances – certainly not the circumstances of their past…  

But what we can do is lead them to the One Who is called, the Prince of Peace.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV),  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Peace comes by faith…  faith in Jesus – believing in the Son of God – the Saviour of the world – the Prince of Peace.

Romans 5:1 (NKJV),  “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

From a peace with God comes the invitation to be at peace with ourselves.

Are you at peace on the inside?  Are you at peace within your mind?  In your emotions?

I suspect that the place where we are robbed of peace in actually not so much in the circumstances that we face…  although I’m in no way discounting or denying the suffering that can come because of trauma or heartache suffered from life’s unpredictable twists and turns.

There’s a term that particularly the more mature generations amongst us have used regarding the various places where wars have occurred around the world.  They speak about the theatre of war.

Well there’s a theatre of war that is located within each one of us.  And the enemy might be different for each person.  For one it might be guilt.  Another – shame. Or perhaps regret, disappointment, unresolved grief – or maybe something like the fear and anxiety that I’ve already mentioned.

These things war against our mind and our heart – sometimes becoming enemies of our physical body.  The strongholds that are set up can be soul destroying – and body destroying.

I’ve shared this story with you before, but it’s a powerful true analogy of what I’m talking about.

On December 26, 1944, the Japanese army sent Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda to the Philippine island of Lubang. His orders were to fight on indefinitely. Word never reached him several months later when World War II ended. For thirty more years, he went on fighting in the context of a war that existed only in his mind. He lived in hiding, came out at night to steal food from the villages, and even shot at people now and then.

Ten years into hiding, he found a newspaper article about himself, but he thought it was a trick to get him to surrender. The Philippine government dropped leaflets into the jungle, asking him to come out. They brought loudspeakers in and shouted, “Onoda, the war is over.” One day his own brother stood at the microphone and begged him to give up, but he wouldn’t believe it. Onoda fought on until 1974, when the Japanese government sent in his old commanding officer, who ordered Onoda to surrender. He finally gave up.

Onoda was trapped in the year 1945; he shut out the good news of peace, and lost thirty years of his life hiding in jungles, loyal to a lost cause.

We can be like Onoda today when we trap our thoughts and feelings in a war that God ended long ago.

The night Jesus was born, the angels stepped up to the theatre of the world and declared, “Peace on earth” (see Luke 2:14). For two thousand years, God has been dropping leaflets of the good news into our jungles. Through His cross, Christ won the victory. Isn’t it time for us to come out of hiding, and start fully living again?  To cast all our fears and struggles and the things that battle within – on to the cross of Jesus?  And to walk free!

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV),  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

The peace of God on earth that the angel proclaimed, was not about absence of wars, absence of conflict, absence of difficult circumstances.  But it was the release of a supernatural peace in the hearts and minds of men and women which surpasses natural understanding.

It’s a peace that brings with it a guard and protection around our lives.

It’s a peace that isn’t just about the absence of conflict.  God has so much more than that for us.

In different languages and cultures around the world, peace is translated into nice expressions and concepts.  For example in Ecuador – is means “to sit down in one’s heart.”  In Mexico it’s to have “a quiet heart.”  In Guatemala it’s “quiet goodness.”

But what is most relevant for us is what the bible means by peace.  And as most of you would already know, in the Hebrew language peace extends way beyond quietness of heart and goodness.

The word Shalom certainly means peace – and I have to be pretty careful here because some of you are much more in touch with certain Hebrew words than I am.

But my understanding is that Shalom means not only peace, but wholeness, completeness, harmony, prosperity, welfare, tranquility and security.  When you greet someone with “Shalom”, you are basically speaking a beautiful blessing over their whole life.

Jesus says in:

John 14:27 (NKJV),  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The peace we have been given is the peace of Jesus Christ.  It’s supernatural peace.  It’s not worldly peace.  It’s not related to what is going on in the world around us.  

It’s not just the absence of conflict.  It’s way more…

The Passion translation says:

John 14:27 (The Passion),  “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!”

I love that!  I love it that Christ’s peace isn’t passive – it’s bold – it’s powerful – it’s courageous!  And It’s perfect!

And when you think about it – the peace that the Prince of Peace brings to our hearts and minds…  it might have started out with a proclamation to a bunch of shepherds on a hill near Bethlehem… but it was made perfect by the sacrifice of Jesus’ own life!  It is a peace that comes with the price tag of His own blood.

At the end of Colossians 1:20 it says, “having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

Let’s not underestimate or overlook the cost and the power of the peace that has been declared over our own lives.  It might have been spoken over 2,000 years ago, but it’s as relevant and as powerful for us today as it ever was.

Jesus took our sin – our weakness – our rebellion – everything ungodly about our lives – and paid the price of death that we were accountable for.

He did it to reconcile the world to God.  He suffered the shame, the pain, the rejection, the abandonment, the separation from His Father in that moment of time.  He literally died to self for us.

Which leads me into my last point this morning.  A point that flows out of our peace with God – out of our exaltation and glory of His name…  our healing and wholeness – and the “Shalom” blessing that is our own inner healing and restoration.

I’m talking about the journey of total peace with one another.

The peace that Jesus gives includes reconciliation and peace within our relationships.

Just think back for a moment about that Japanese soldier – Onoda.  He was locked in his mind and heart in a place that wasn’t real – he was in a prison of his own making, because the war that took him there no longer mattered…  in fact, it no longer existed.

Why do we hang on to tensions and emotional hurt – offences – disappointments with others – when we have the power and the means to experience reconciliation in relationships?

Jesus bought us peace through the gift of His own life, death and resurrection.  It’s called the gospel of reconciliation.

When we deliberately hold on to hurts with others…  when we refuse to walk out of the jungle and walk free of the things that have bound us – aren’t we denying the very gospel that we proclaim to believe in?

The bible says:

Romans 12:18 (NKJV),  “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Many of us dream of a powerful move of the Holy Spirit – a revival in the church and in the land.  We’re waiting for God to do something supernatural – something super spiritual!

But do you know what I think God dreams of?  I think He dreams of His children – the one’s He loves – the one’s He gave His life for…  I think He dreams of us truly becoming one – and exhibiting to the world what Christ’s love really is all about.  A people of grace.  A people of forgiveness.  A people of reconciliation and healing.

I believe He wants our hearts to be changed.  He doesn’t look at the outer…  We could be all rolling on the floor in laughter and tears…  but He looks at the heart…  what’s going on in the heart?

Ephesians 4:31-32, (NKJV),  “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

And this point is so important, I want to read it from The Passion Translation as well.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (Passion),  “Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.”

We all need forgiveness.  We’ve all made mistakes.  We’ve all let someone down, failed to live up to their expectations, allowed our own brokenness to inflict hurt on another.  None of us are in a position to stand in self-righteousness over another.

If you want true peace in your own heart, then you need to know that you’ve done all you can – as much as it depends on you – to love, to forgive, to live peaceably with others, to be kind, to be tender-hearted, to be gracious…

When the angels declared peace on earth to those in whom God is well pleased, they weren’t saying there would no longer be trouble or conflict or difficult seasons of life.

They were saying, there’s a supernatural peace – peace firstly with God – a priceless gift of the Spirit that you can carry in your heart because of who He is – because of what He has done for you through Jesus Christ His Son.

And you can have an inner peace in relation to yourself – knowing that you’ve been forgiven, healed, cleansed, washed, set free from your sinful past.

And finally, you can have peace with others – you can be gracious and forgiving to others because God Himself has been gracious and forgiving towards you.

So as we step into this Christmas season – don’t wait for peace to come to you…  you already have it.  It won’t come from a present under the tree…  It has already come in Jesus Christ your everlasting Prince of Peace!

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