The amazing thing about Christianity is that nothing has to change in your circumstances in order for you to find peace. We tend to think the situation if only resolved, if only healing, if only restoration, etc. and then we’d be at peace. But that is NOT the promise of the Bible, the promise is “Emanuel” I am with you, the promise is the presence of God, the promise is I will never leave you or forsake you… the greatest miracle of all: you can find peace in the middle of a storm.Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
The Need for Peace…
This room in which we sit is called a sanctuary. Clara Miller used to scold me when I’d run up and down the aisles. So did Nora. So did Billie? Back in those days, the carpet was only in the aisles, and under the pews, which were securely bolted to the ground, the wooden floor was waxed. We used to race on our backs from the front to the back and up to the front again, like the backstroke in a swimming pool. As an adult, now, I am supposed to do my own scolding when young people run in the church. The idea is to keep this place set apart, a place of peace. But sanctuary, at the most profound meaning, is not a noun, it is a state of being. I want all who gather together each Sunday to discover – a sanctuary, a place of peace, a place to rest, a place to put aside the troubles and cares of the world, to distance yourself from the drama of life, and find rest. One of the more profound songs we sing: “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true, and with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary, for you.”
There is a need for peace. The older I get, the more simple I get. I no longer try to change the world, I try to make a difference in our community... People have lots of real needs. I can do my bit to help in practical issues, but unless a person has the desire to change, its only a temporary solution, and tension quickly creeps back into life. We all have a need to be loved, relationships, purpose. May we be a sanctuary for others, people of peace, representing the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. There is a need for Peace. The angels visited the shepherds announcing the birth of Christ, and what did they say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men…” Luke 2:14. The first words of the angels:a call for peace. In a world of uncertainty and doubt, heartache and frustration, the need for peace is incredible. A craving for peace. A craving for a sanctuary, a place to rest, a place to be refreshed. Shalom.
In the past three or four months, I can think of 3-4 people whose lives have changed dramatically, or rather, I have become aware of changed lives, because they have discovered the peace of Christ. Peace is in degrees. It is possible to know Christ but to grow into a life of peace, to put into practice the peace that comes from Christ, a supernatural attitude that accepts, that does not enter into the tension, that chooses to respond differently from the way the world responds, willing to lose, willing to accept, no longer fighting, shedding the depression that comes when you cannot control the world. The Need for Peace is great.
Two aspects of peace: Peace that comes from Christ and Peace with Christ. Peace of Christ and Peace with Christ.
Peace with Christ…Peace with God (Rom. 5:1) Jesus brings peace between me and GOD.
Each of us because of the sin in our lives has a problem with God. Our sin has separated us from God. When we sin we do things He does not like. He wants us to follow His rules. He wants us to do the things He has asked us to do and when we disobey we create a barrier between us and Him.
The Bible says that we deserve punishment for our sin. In the Bible we are told that “God will not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:7) In fact, the Bible often refers to us in our lost and sinful condition, as the “enemies of God”. (Romans 5:10) Our sin separates us from God. Before we can have peace with God – something must be done about the sin in our lives.
God sent a Prince of Peace to deal with the situation. He sent a Prince of Peace to fix the problem. He sent a Prince of Peace give us peace with God. How did He do that? Look at Romans chapter six with me. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (HCSB)
Go ahead and circle the word “wages”. The word wages means that is what you have earned. When you work on a job you earn wages. It’s your pay. It’s what you deserve. The same is true about sin. When you sin – you deserve death. That is what you have earned. That is what you deserve.
Circle the word “but” -- the biggest word in the English language – “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We deserved death. We earned punishment. "But" God did something about it. "But" God fixed the situation. He sent Our Prince of Peace to take our punishment. Somebody had to do something about it and God did. Here is a fact:God does not IGNORE sin.
“The wages of sin is death.” Sin must be paid for. Sin must be punished. That’s what the cross of Christ is all about. Jesus went to the cross to take our punishment. Jesus went to the cross to take our place. He paid for our sin. He received the wages that we were due. He took the punishment that we deserved. Jesus is not only the prince of peace through his presence, but he is also the Prince of Peace by virtue of his going to the cross and taking upon himself the punishment for our sins.
We can now have peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is God’s gift to us. We were at war with God because of our sin. But Jesus - Our Prince of Peace gives us peace with God. He fixed the problem. He took the wages of sin to the cross so that we can have peace with God. We have a Prince of Peace -- his name is Jesus. He has come to give us the peace of God and Peace with God. Have you ever asked Him to come into your heart – into your life - so that He can give you peace? Now is the time… “Lord Jesus, for all who are struggling and searching and craving for peace…”
Peace of Christ….Peace comes to us when the Prince of Peace comes to us. Of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul said, “He is our peace.” During this Christmas season we prepare to receive him afresh into our troubled world, into our church, into our families, into our own hearts. The Prince of Peace is here now. For he said to us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19). Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The presence of the Lord is peace. 2 Thess. 3:16, "Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means."
Years ago, I heard a man speak, I was at a pastor’s retreat in Florida, and the main speaker was an author, a big man, perhaps 60 years old. The man told us about his grown son, at least grown in age, but his mental development was still in the early teen years. The Son was even bigger than the father. Every now and then, the son would get agitated and start to panic, a very strong man that could be quite destructive. And I’ll never forget the father saying that when those moments came, and he could see it build up, he’d put his son in a great big old bear hug and hold him, till he could feel the agitation subside, and once again his son would find peace.
That’s my picture of Christ, when we get agitated, out of control, uncertain of what’s going to happen, for him to put us in a big old bear hug until once again there is peace. The peace of God, from his presence. The nature of Christ’s peace brings a quiet conscience (Rom. 8:33-35), a restful mind (Phil 4:7), a surrendered will, and a hopeful heart (Is. 50:7). The peace of Christ passes all understanding, and guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Peace makes sense of the world, even when nothing changes. “Now I know” one person said to me who has discovered the peace of Christ, “before, when somebody talked about trusting God it made no sense, but now it does.” The peace of Christ cannot be explained, but it is accepted and changes your outlook and cleanses your heart and mind. Jesus is the prince of peace.
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Personal note as we end 2010: I cannot tell you how much I’ve appreciated this season, the wonderful people and opportunities, the generosity, the kindness...one of the important lessons of 2010 that I've learned is to think of the "church" as the community of Sumas and beyond. Not just the building, but the community.
(NOTE: the material below was edited out of the message because of the length).
Blessed are the Peacemakers… The word for peace is shalom, which means, "wholeness", "fullness", "completeness". The world produces a lot of incompleteness, dissatisfaction. Shalom means wholeness in the sense that no component part is missing, impaired or damaged. It means also that all parts are in harmony, order and unity. To those who are broken, it seems like Shalom is impossible. The good news: Shalom is yours through the Prince of Shalom. Shalom is often used in reference to personal relationships, and it means "wholeness" of relationship, ie a relationship with goodwill and harmony. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, which means the Prince of good relationships, knitting people together, bringing peace and wholeness. With the coming of Jesus Christ the way was opened for the restoration of the lost shalom to humankind. Again, the angels sang at Jesus birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2.14). Jesus Christ is the great restorer of shalom; the Christian church throughout history has proclaimed that he is "the Prince of Peace (“shalom".
When the Christian church proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, it is not simply an affirmation of faith, but also a clear call to action. As faithful followers of the Prince of Peace, the church collectively, and all Christians individually, are called to be "shalom-makers". In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5.9). Shalom is not only a gift of grace restored for us through Jesus Christ, but also a task and responsibility entrusted to all who are rightly called "children of God". Peacemakers are not simply peaceable and peaceful persons; they are those who actively and earnestly endeavor to "make" peace, shalom, here and now. “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary.” An active peacemaker. The church and Christians are called to be signs and instruments of shalom in this world still torn with strife and violence, warped with injustice and oppression, divided by hostility.
When you have shalom there is no feeling of harm or hurt. When you have shalom you are in a state of ease and safety. There is no fearing whatsoever. There is no worry. There is a sense of harmony and oneness. You know your purpose and you have a sense of wholeness and completeness. Everything is exactly the way it should be. Nothing is out of order. Your inner world as well as the outer world is in harmony. This is shalom – this is the peace that Jesus brings for He is – Our Prince of Peace.