Peace | Advent: Week 2
So there are some classic, classic Christmas passages that relate to Advent, that relate to God actually entering our world. You’ve probably heard this before. If you’ve been in America and in any sort of religious. Or spiritual institution at all around this time of year, you’ve probably heard this verse and it’s worth hearing again. Let’s just read it. It comes from the book of Luke 2: 8-14, and it says this: And on earth peace. Boy, you just hear that word: Peace. You can’t really say it loudly. No one ever says peace! No, the go peace. The word peace. What does peace mean? Peace means wholeness. Wholeness. You know, when things are fragmented and when they are broken apart, there can’t be peace. There can’t be harmony. Pease is wholeness. It’s based on the ancient Hebrew word shalom. And when we think about peace in our culture, we generally think about our feelings. I don’t feel peaceful. Peace is not about feelings. We think about a spiritual aura. Well, there’s just sort of a peace around us. Peace is not a spiritual aura. Peace can impact our feelings. Peace can impact and be a very spiritual thing. But peace is about intentions. Peace is about deliberately intending to do specific things which will result in wholeness. Millennia ago, God deliberately intended to step into our world and bring peace, bring wholeness. The first Christmas, what’s so ironic about this, the first Christmas there’s really not a lot of peace at all. It is one cacophony after another. It is one stressful thing after another. It is one fearful thing after another. Let’s just start with this one. Mary gets pregnant having never had sex. And it’s God’s. Yes, it’s God’s. Imagine how that discussion went with her soon to be husband who was betrothed to her, engaged, Joseph. Of course he’s going to believe that initially. Of course he doesn’t believe it initially. There’s no peace in his mind about this. And then we have this visitation of an angel to Joseph, who has a spiritual experience. And the angel says, actually, yes, this is true. This is true, Joseph. It’s true. It’s true. It’s true. And Joseph understands that God is doing something supernatural and miraculous in this moment of time. If there was a God and He were to come to our world, we should expect that from time to time, normal things would be suspended or else there isn’t a God or else He doesn’t have any power. And this is one of those times. The stress and the fear continues for these guys because they enter into a place called Bethlehem to have their child. Bethlehem is the armpit of the world at that point. No one’s interested in Bethlehem. They’re escaping to Bethlehem. There’s people who are coming after them to find them and kill them. We have Herod the King at the time who’s wiping out little boys of the same age because he understands there’s a boy king that’s come on the scene. And he wants to eliminate him, but doesn’t know exactly who he is. That’s again, part of the cacophony that’s happening, the lack of peace that’s happening. When Jesus is born, they can’t actually find a room at the inn. It’s sold out. They stick them back in the stable. No birth, by the way, is ever peaceful. I don’t know how many births you’ve been to. They’re never peaceful. They’re never peaceful right beforehand and never peaceful during it. And definitely not peaceful after it. They’re just not peaceful. And then Jesus comes out and they take Him and they placed Him in a manger. A manger is a feeding dish for cattle. Jesus’s first bed is not a Pack ‘n Play. It’s a cow cereal bowl. And he’s placed in there. Slobber and who knows what else is all in there. And then he’s wrapped with swaddling clothes. And you and I think, “Oh, swaddling, that’s peaceful, swaddle.” Just turn the person next to just say swaddle, just tell them swaddle Oh, it just sounds so — swaddle. Except here’s the problem with swaddling clothes. Swaddling clothes are a makeshift solve because they didn’t have a full sized blanket. Swaddling clothes would have been the strips and the rags that would have been wrapped around the local lambs in that area that were getting ready to be shipped off to the temple. They wrap Him in swaddling clothes because they don’t have enough money for a full size blanket. There’s not a lot of peace in this situation. And while this is happening, up on the hill what we just read, shepherds have a miraculous visitation from the angels. The first thing the angel says is, “Fear not.” First thing they say is fear not. Why would an angel have to say the very first thing, “Fear not, not fear”? Why? Why would that be? I mean, who’s ever afraid of, you know, Roma Downey and Touched by an Angel? No, no one’s ever afraid of that, right? The reason they’re afraid of that is because that’s not what an angel — If you ever saw an angel, you would get jacked up. An angel is a warrior. It’s God’s heavenly warriors that remind us that there is a battle that’s happened between God and the arch enemy, Satan. And you and I are the booty. They’re looking to see who we will worship: the evil one and his ways, or God and His ways. And when this spiritual Navy Seal shows up, the first thing they have to do is say, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.” Why? Because if you saw an angel, the first thing you would be is you would be afraid because you wouldn’t want to get jacked up. They’ll jack, you up, seriously. Very few of us have ever encountered an angel, and known it. If you did, you would know it. There is fear. Now, this little diatribe I just went on in describing this part of The Christmas Story is something I did over 11 years. Eleven years and 225 shows and 500,000 people at Awaited. And when I share this with you and I recap it, you’ve got to know that I come into this series going like, (panting). Man, I’ve done a lot of Christmases. Man, I’ve done a lot of Christmases. And I come into it thinking I need to figure out some creative way, some creative spin. What’s the new thing that I can talk about that no one’s ever heard before of Christmas? And of course, that’s not what we want. That’s not what we need. Advent and these traditions are here because what’s represented in these candles, the key words, the things we’re trying to invite into our life that is entering our world are things that we need to be continually reminded of or hearing for the very first time. We can’t talk about peace too much, especially in our country. Because America is not the land of the free. We are the land of the fear. We have more fears and paranoias and stresses and anxieties. And there’s more ulcers in our country, there’s more ulcers in our country than any other country in the history of the world. That’s medical fact. The way we’re doing life doesn’t work. And it’s like there is a conspiracy of fear that comes our way. Even when you start talking about Christmas, which should be a time of happiness and peacefulness and credit card debts and you know, all that. So even during that time — That’s supposed to be funny right there, credit card debt. Even during that time, we should be going and buying gifts and it should make us feel happy. Right? Because we’re buying them for kids. Well, I don’t know if you know it or not. I don’t know if you know or not, but there’s an organization that’s trying to help you and I understand that gifts are not as safe as they seem. Yes, it’s very true. There is an organization called World Against Toys Causing Harm. Yes. W.A.T.C.H. World Against Toys Causing Harm has come out. There’s a whole Website. I saw news article on this. It’s all about helping you understand the things that you think you shouldn’t fear, you should actually fear. Fear them very, very, very, very much. Like, for instance, how many of us have actually ever used a Nerf gun? Ever use a Nerf gun in here? Any Nerf gun fans? Yes. Well, you think it’s all fun and games, but what you might not realize is (sound effect) potential for eye injuries. That’s right. There’s ever been anybody I’ve ever heard of or known of who’s gotten an eye knocked out. But be careful. Be very. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Or slime. Yes. Slime. Slime is awesome. This is a knockoff version of slime. They’re just some of the funnest things that they just like (sound effect). Come on. That’s just good living right there. That that’s just God bless America. You can’t help but not laugh. (sound effect) You can’t help it. It’s wonderful. Except you can really have too much fun with this. You can’t. (sound effect) Chemical ingestion and irritation. That’s right, be very careful about this. Some of us grew up and we did pogo sticks. Man, pogo sticks were amazing. They were these tall things. They’re really hard metal, old school American made in the USA metal. And you have to step up on these things. They were this high. And it was really hard to get on. You bounce around. Well, you know, we can’t have anything dangerous like that today. So we’ve come up with a pogo ball, right? Pogo ball seems like it’s a really good thing. It’s short on the ground, but pogo ball (sound effect). Yes, head and impact injuries are going to happen with the pogo ball. No, they’re not. You’re not going to fall eight inches and have head and impact injuries. You’re just not. One of my favorite words is four letters: Y-E-T-I, Yeti. Yes. God bless America. Yeti. Yeti was founded though on the ancient being known as the giant yeti. And there is actually a yeti doll that you can get. Who wouldn’t want a cute Yeti doll? (sound effect) You shouldn’t want it because ingestion and aspiration injuries could come as you inhale that fur from that yeti doll. Dudes, I’m not making this up. This is our country. We invent things to be afraid of. That’s like if we’re not afraid, then we’re lonely. Fear is our friend. Just think about all the things in our life right now that the peace needs to come to. How about the state of our government, the state of the election. Is there a market correction? Is going to be a market depression? Rising racial tensions are happening in our country? Who’s the next active shooter going to be? How often is it going to happen? Are we on borrowed time for the next rampant virus? Yes, we are way overdue for next influenza or the next polio or the next black plague or whatever is way overdue. Like you come to church and you’re learning new things now. You’re learning new things to be afraid of. These are national abstract things. But there’s other things that you and I think of regularly that means that we don’t have peace. And when we think about these things that cause us to not have peace. Am I going to get into the right school? Am I going to get the right grades in this school? Coming out of that school, can I get a job at the right company? Am I going to be the first generation that doesn’t under earn their parents? When I get into that job, am I going to be downsized or rightsized? Am I going to meet the right person to marry? I’m afraid or I’m concerned about that. When I find that person and I marry them, are we going to be able to conceive? Because infertility is rampant. If we do have a child, is it going to be healthy? And and then if it’s healthy, are they going to do well in school or are they going to get into the right school? Are they going to be out earning me? What is the economy going to be? And we go on and on and on and on and on and on these things go. And that’s just on one mindful topic. The topic’s abound, friends. I’m just telling you, we are not well emotionally. We are not well physically. We are not well spiritually. Will the Bengles break their playoff drought? Will Ohio State choke in the playoffs? Will UK be able to get to the final four finally? Yeah, like it’s been a whole three years for UK. It’s like, Oh, my gosh, we haven’t been there. The number of things that we stress out with is just not rational. And it’s because there’s an actual enemy and there’s an actual war that is looking to take our peace. In the Book of Philippians 4: 6-7 it says this: That started off by saying: Do not be anxious about what? Do not be anxious about anything. That means don’t be anxious about the economy. It means don’t be anxious about your kids. That means don’t be anxious about the toys you might buy your kids. It means don’t be anxious about the job you might get. It means don’t be anxious about Ebola virus. It means don’t be anxious about your football team. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be anxious about your doctor’s appointments coming up tomorrow. Don’t be anxious about anything. Because there is a Prince, a Prince of Peace who has come into this world and has come to bring wholeness and to alleviate the things that are not right. This is a literal command in the Bible: Do not be anxious about anything. I tend to be very happy person, at least people tell me that. They tell me I’m happy and they tell me that they never see me carrying stress. And you know why that is? Because I take this verse literally and I take this verse as seriously as thou shalt not commit adultery. I refuse to be anxious about anything. And you can’t do this. The Bible says take every thought captive. When there is a stressful moment I have where anxiety comes, I feel, huh-uh. Stop it. I grab that. I grab that thought in my mind. I grab it and I look at it and say, wait a minute. Is this happening right now? No, it’s not happening right now. So I’m not going to pre-pay interest on a debt I may never have to pay. I recently really had a legal situation with me resolved and it was all fine. No need to ever stress, but it was going on for quite some time. And there was all kinds of reasons that I was telling other people about this situation. They’re like, “Oh, man. There’s all kind of reasons to be freaking out.” I was like, “No, this is right now a legal matter and there’s an attorney, a friend of mine who’s handling it. And I’m not going to.” Jesus says don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow has enough worry on its own. Worry about today. If there’s something that I have to do today, it’s right from my face, OK, I’ll take a little stress then because it’s right here. But I’m not going to worry about something tomorrow. Nothing. Nothing. Things that we are anxious about and stressed about and we’ve been stressed about them for a long, long time. You’re stressed about them for a long time. How can you be stressed about something for a long time? Because it’s never happened. It’s never happened and you’re wondering if it’s going to happen or not. And Christmas is about the birth of a prince, of a king who is to bring peace. The Book of Isaiah 9:6 — Actually, excuse me, before I go there, John 14:27, here’s what Jesus says. He says: That’s another way of saying not as the evil forces in the world give do I give. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t let it be afraid. You let — you and I can let ourselves be troubled. We can let ourselves be stressed. We can let ourselves be anxious. We let ourselves become that way. Jesus says don’t let that happen. And when He tells us this, He tells us this as the Prince of Peace. He is born in all of this cacophony of stress that’s happening around Bethlehem and are happening in that point and cosmic history. But that point was actually prophesied about hundreds of years earlier in the Book of Isaiah 9:6. It says this: Here’s the money phrase: Prince of Peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He has brought peace to our world. And if you remember what He said to the angels, that first verse I read, peace to those upon whom His favor rests. Jesus doesn’t bring this blanket of feel-good feelings that comes over our world and just makes us feel content. He brings a specific plan to bring you and I wholeness, to bring you and I unity, to bring you and I a sense of oneness and a sense of serenity. And what He does is He brings Himself. Author Tim Keller says:. The coming of a Prince of Peace. The coming of one who will alleviate tension in your life, who will alleviate spiritual stress in our life. And his government, as it said, will increase. The more you allow Jesus’s government to increase in your life, the less stress you will have in your life. The less, or another way to put this, the less control you give God of your life, the more stress will increase in your life. You can either have the government of God which will govern stress and govern fear because you will allow yourself to slot under Him and His ways. And you’ll get all the benefits of that. Or you’ll put yourself under the government of the normal ways of this world, and that is fixating, stressing, fearing, imagining things that could go wrong. And you’ll experience God less and less. And peace will be a distant fairytale notion for you. The only way we get a peace that passes understanding. The only way we get to experience the wholeness that comes from the Prince of Peace’s regime is when we allow His government to increase in our life. And one of his articles of confederation or articles of institution we read earlier is don’t be anxious about anything. Anything. And to believe that we were a victim of anxiety is to prove that we were outside of His government because his government doesn’t work that way. We’re not victims. We are people who can make decisions and choose to receive the Prince of Peace and to walk in the Prince of Peace’s way. Now when we do that, there’s three tangible realms I want to hit really real quickly here. When this happens, we have peace in three areas. One, we have peace with one another. Peace with one another. Yes, that’s right. People on the right and people on the left. Yes, that’s right. The rich and the poor can have peacefulness with one another. That’s right. People who are white and black. People who are black and Korean can have peace with one another. Peace comes because we have the ability to make a decision to think and act differently. I’m part of a HOA where Lib and I live. There’s rules that kind of govern this tract of land where we are in and the neighbors that are around. And you’re not allowed to hunt on our land. And so I thought that I was — I was hunting just off the land, but off the land. And I talked to the police. They said, yeah, that’s fine to hunt deer and all that kind of stuff. Well, the neighbors didn’t like me hunting there at all. And so, boy, I tell you what, when you start interacting with the board of the H.O.A. Homeowners Association and there’s e-mails going around, it’s generally not a good thing. It’s generally not a peaceful thing. It’s generally not a harmonious thing. And somewhere in the midst of this, I’d just like, God just said, “Just give them what they want. Just roll over.” OK. Ok. Is it really that big of a deal to like have this little? There’s plenty of deer other places I can kill, plenty of them all over the place. God bless America, plenty of them. OK. I don’t — It’s not worth unharmonious unpeaceful friendships, relationships. Romans 12:18 says this: There are some people it’s not going to be possible to live peaceably with. They’re not going to have any part of it. But if it is at all possible, if at all posible. And if you can do anything with it at all, then make whatever sacrifice you can. Why? Because Jesus made an ultimate sacrifice. Jesus tried to restore our hostility with God by coming and living a perfect life. God took on flesh. God was born in Bethlehem. And only God could go His whole life, not just as the greatest teacher, not just the greatest moral example, but as the only person who ever walked planet Earth who never did anything wrong, who never ticked God off, who never had a mistake, who never sinned. And He does this and He goes to the Cross so that any ramification for your rebellion and my rebellion, any ramification that might have to come in the cosmic realm in the future, Jesus takes this. He takes this so that we could have a good relationship with God. He rolls over so we can have a good relationship with others. And this is what we need to do. It’s why Jesus says in Matthew 5:9: or daughters of God. Those who are about peace will be so unusual. Those who aren’t bound by fear of somebody who looks different and earns different money, votes differently. Those who, someone who is different and doesn’t demonize somebody else will be known as being so unusual, like you must be a son of God. You must be a daughter of God. You’re operating at a different level. I don’t know if I’m operating at a different level, but I’ve got a different government inside of me. There’s a different rule with an increasing of government that’s happening to increase in degrees in the heart of anybody who receives the Prince of Peace. This is one realm, the realm of peace with others, with one another. Another realm that His government starts interacting with is peace with our past. The holiday season can be a painful time for many of us because we’re reminded of mistakes we made in the past. Some of us are single and we don’t want to be single and we’re reminded of the one that got away somehow. We’re reminded of painful choices I or others made in our childhood that actually makes this holiday a bit more painful for us. If it’s not this holiday, it’s a variety of things that we have in our mind that we remember. “Oh, no, if I go meet God right now, I’m freaked out about meeting God right now.” You can get to the place where you have zero fear at all about meeting God. Zero. You can. It’s wonderful. And the way that happens is you receive Jesus and you’re like the Prince of Peace comes in your life. And you allow Him to reconcile you to God because He’s taken all the pain that needs to be taken when He’s on the Cross. And this is a real spiritual sensation that you can have. I have zero concerns over my past. I don’t have any fears of going before God and having to talk about when I blew up Mr. Burl Ball’s mailbox, my chemistry teacher in sixth and eighth grade, whatever grade that was, or ninth grade. I have no concerns about what’s gonna happen when I told lies about Diane, who I’d said I did things with sexually, that I actually didn’t do things with her. I made those things right by her decades ago, by the way. I have no concern about what God’s going to do. Because the Bible says in Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those around Christ. No condemnation. Therefore, I’m at peace with all the things I’ve done in the past because Jesus has taken place. So I’m not concerned about this. I’m not concerned about going before God and having to justify why I used my communication skills or haven’s used my communication skills to win an argument and hurt my wife. I’m not afraid about that. I’m not afraid of going before God, at peace with it. Even though I’ve done pornography more recently than I care to admit. You have anything in your past that you really don’t want to admit that you know in that moment God wasn’t a fan of? How do you feel about that? How’s that? How’s that working in your heart mind? When you are giving yourself to the government of God and saying the past is the past. I intend not to do that anymore and I am moving on. And you allow the Prince of Peace to come in, something powerful, transcendent.
Your heart actually becomes whole. Shalom starts coming inside. In the book of Colossians 3:15 says: Let the peace of Christ rule. Friends, we’ve got to let it rule. We can’t just hear a sermon on this go, “Oh, interesting.” We’ve got to let it rule. We have to let His government rule in our lives. We have to — When He says He’s over it, we’ve got to be over it. Why? Why do we hold our standards to a higher standard than God holds us to? If God God’s over it, who are we not to get over it? Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what it is, go before Him. Just lay it at His feet, confess it to Him. Be done with it. Allow the peace of Christ to rule, allow it to rule in our hearts. And the third realm is our peace with God. Our peace with God, not just our peace with past, but our peace with God. Relationally to sense right here and right now that God’s good with me. And what that means too is I don’t need somebody else to approve of me because God approves of me. I have peace knowing that God approves of me. If you’re on the right and you’ve got Uncle Bernie Sanders at your Christmas thing. And he doesn’t approve of you, that’s OK. God approves of you. If you’re on the left and you have Uncle Donald Trump at the table with you. And he’s making — you’re feeling like you’re less than — It’s okay, Uncle Donny and Uncle Bernie, they may not approve of whatever you believe or what you’re doing. But if you feel and sense the approval of God because you’re in His government and the Prince of Peace has come to you, you are a good, man. You are good. Man, I have more people who dislike what I say than the average person. I do, just because I have more opportunities to say it, to speak than the average person. I more opportunities for more people to hear things I say than the average person. So I’ve a higher hit rate of stupid things or things that people don’t like that I said. But I’ve got to tell you, I’m okay if someone isn’t okay with me because I know God is okay with me. And you can be that way, too. That’s the peace. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The peace of God. Awaited is coming to Cincinnati. It’s coming to the Aronoff Theater. If you’re in another part of the country, your first time in Cincinnati, basically Aronoff is like the Carnegie Hall of Cincinnati. And I hope you can go. It’s be awesome if you can go. And some of us will not be able to go because it’s expensive. It’s outside of our budget. You know, that budget for that show. That’s actually what it’s always cost. Like, oh, my gosh. Yeah, I know. It’s one of the reasons we stopped it a couple of years ago. We couldn’t afford to do it any longer. We’re like redeploying hundreds of staff members who are doing other things in Kids’ Club and stuff. Take them out of their normal job to try to pull that thing off. A massive, massive amount of money there. And when we were pass a bag, we never got enough in a bag to just — in a bag from one service to cover a camel costume. I know it’s a lot of money. It is, it’s a lot of money. And there’s a lot of other reasons. And that’s why we were excited about it’s still possibly being able to live on in an environment that it was designed for in the arts. And I, man, I hope it goes big. I hope it goes big. I hope it goes — I hope it makes Crossroads a lot of money. I hope — Why would that be? Because that means more peace can get to more people in other cities. That’s why. That’s why. Because that kind of model means peace can spread. When we have resource here, we’re all about spreading peace. Because I’ll tell you what, Christmas Carol might bring a very brief shot of emotion to you. But it’s not going to bring you peace. The government of God is not going to increase in your life. Nutcracker will definitely not do it. But when God gives us something to spread peace, we need to be spreading and making peace happen. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. One more verse I’ll give us, Ephesians 2:14-16: He is peace. The dividing wall of hostility exist between us and God and us and others. This is why knowing God is so critical. Having the meaning of Christmas rule in our hearts is a game changer. You might have seen it on bumper stickers. And if you haven’t heard it like a whole half hour on this, I’m kind of giving you a deep theology of what Christmas is about. If you haven’t heard this, it’s such a cheese ball, bumper sticker, it really is. But it actually, in the context of I said, it actually makes sense. It goes like this: if you know God, you can know peace. If there’s no God, then there is no peace. Otherwise, peace is just you convincing your mind of something. It’s you trying to change your emotions. I’m not talking about changing your emotions, friends. I’m talking about a real entity that can enter your life. I’m talking about a Prince of Peace that is a game changer that equips us and makes us whole, that brings us to Him. Some of us right now, we may want to receive Him as our Prince of Peace right now. You may want to allow His government to come into your life right now. Just go ahead, I just encourage you, go ahead and bow your heads, Let’s close in prayer, bow our heads. Man, if there’s anybody here with our heads bowed, you’re saying, “This makes sense to me. I need peace. I need the Prince of Peace in my life. I need forgiveness. I need something new. I need a new government in and over my life.” Just wherever you are right now, just raise your hand. Just raise your hand. Come on. I know we’ve got hands there. There we go. There we are. Yes, that’s right. Yes, Amen. Yes. Mm-hmm. Yep. All right. Just pray this right now, just mumble it so God can hear it. Say, “Jesus, I need you. Prince of Peace, I need you coming into my life. I ask forgiveness for my sin. I ask You fill me with Your Holy Spirit. And I’m going to submit to Your government. Thank you.”. Man, that is the beginning of some good peace. So, as we come over here to our — Hey, let’s welcome all those people into the family who just came in. [applause] Yes. Good stuff, huh? So here we have the next candle of peace. You have a card if you came to a Crossroads site today or if you’re not at a site, if you’re at a coffee shop, just go ahead and grab a piece of paper. And let’s just take a moment and write on her what was said that you feel was the fingerprints of God on your mind you need to capture about peace. Just write that down. Something you want out of peace or something you cannot let be forgotten about peace. Just take a moment and just write that down and you can take that with you. And we light our candle of peace. The nation of Israel, the ancient nation of Israel, even before the prophecy of the Prince of Peace and His government coming, was looking for their version of peace that was the Promised Land. And there was a way that the leadership would put a blessing on them again and again to have them know that this wholeness, this shalom was on its way. This is not something that can just live in our life right now. It’s something that also is coming on its way in physical ways in our world as God’s government increases. I want to send you away with that ancient benediction: Have a great week and we’ll see next weekend.