Saturday, December 8, 2018

THE GIFT OF PEACE


SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT - THE GIFT OF PEACE
CONNECT How do you picture God? When you think of Him, what image come to mind? In my first pastorate I had a full beard. One of our families had young twins and they thought I looked like God! One morning I was holding court and raising my voice and one twin said to he other, “Ooh, God’s mad today!” Them looking up she hollared, “Don’t scream at us; we didn’t do anything!”
TENSION Let me ask you a question. Do you ever see God as worried or fretful? Sometimes when talking to families in the midst of crisis, I will make the observation that God didn’t get up this morning wringing His hands in worry and fear over what has happened. He knows about it and has plan for dealing with it.
SOLUTION There are many qualities attributed to God in the Bible. I am sure that some come to mind almost instinctively. John used a trinity of terms: God is love, God is light, God is holy. Then there are the “omnis”: God is omnipotent, God is omniscient, God is omnipresent. God is described as great, secret, glorious, everlasting, exalted, awesome, incomparable, marvelous, and jealous. His titles include Creator, Judge, King, Defender, Preserver, Shepherd. He is called God, Lord God, Most High God, Lord God Almighty, Everlasting God, God Almighty, I Am, Eternal God, Living God, God of Hosts, Lord of Hosts, Holy One of Israel, Mighty God, God of Heaven, only Potentate, Father of Lights.
The name I want to focus on today is part of the Christmas story. It is really one of my favorite parts. Today I want to talk about the “God of Peace” as He is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace”.
TEXT Luke 2:8–14 (NKJV) Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”
INSTRUCTION Five times in the Bible, all in the New Testament, God is referred to as ‘God of Peace’.
  1.  Romans 15:33 (NKJV) Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
  2.  Romans 16:20 (NKJV) And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
  3.  Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
  4.  1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  5.  Hebrews 13:20–21 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus was predicted as the One who would bring peace.
Isaiah 9:6–7 (NKJV) 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. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
One thing I know for certain this morning: God wants you to live in peace.
Jesus said one of the distinguishing marks of a believer is peace.
Matthew 5:9 (NKJV) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
This is the only time the word ’peacemakers’ is used in the Bible. And Jesus said that when we are peacemakers, people will call us a mature son of God. Think about our opening question: Is God ever worried, or is He always at peace?
Pastor Craig Groeschel from LifeChurch in Oklahoma City wrote a book several years ago called “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist”. When we don’t live in peace, then we are not reflecting the God who lives in us.
Matthew 5:43–45 (NKJV) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Vines Expository Dictionary The Lord Jesus used ’huios’ in a very significant way, as in Matt. 5:9, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,’ and vv. 44, 45, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be (become) sons of your Father which is in heaven.’ The disciples were to do these things, not in order that they might become children of God, but that, being children (note ‘your Father’ throughout), they might make the fact manifest in their character, might ‘become sons.’
INSPIRATION Of course this brings the question: How do we live in peace? Let’s look at what the Bible teaches us…
1.  Jesus gives us His peace as a gift. We don’t have to earn it.
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.
2.  When we get saved, peace comes with the package.
Romans 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
3.  He, Himself, is our peace. Peace is already living in us.
Ephesians 2:14 (NKJV) For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
4.  Jesus made peace available to everyone by shedding His blood at the whipping post and on the Cross.
Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Colossians 1:19–20 (NKJV) For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
ACTION STEPS So we see that peace, supernatural peace, is available to us. How do we appropriate it?
1. I’m gonna get my motive right!
How do I define peace? Why is peace important to me?
Let me give some examples of what peace is not.
a. Peace is not passive.
Psalms 34:14 (NKJV) Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
b. Peace is not pacivity.
Matthew 10:34 (NKJV) Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
c. Peace is not prosperity at any price.
Deuteronomy 23:6 (NKJV) You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.
Some would say it is a feeling of calm; for some it is rest from struggle; one may define it as no war with our enemies.
I would offer that we may not be able to fully define it, but we know when we have it and when we don’t!
Colossians 3:15 (NKJV) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Rule means ‘to umpire’. The ‘peace of God’ tells us when we are in the will of God. When the peace leaves, we have violated a rule of the game and umpire blows His whistle! The peace returns when we return to following the rules, the direction, the leading, the instruction.
2. I’m gonna get my mind right!
Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…
Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
Romans 8:6 (NKJV) For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (NKJV) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Who am I listening to, God or the enemy?
You’ve got demons on one shoulder and angels on the other and both are whispering in your ear! The news and social media are either filling your mind with all kinds of doom and gloom, or in the words of Jeremiah the prophet, proclaiming peace, peace when there is no peace!
3. I’m gonna get my mouth right!
Matthew 12:34–37 (NKJV) Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Now, I am not talking about some hocus-pocus mind games. I am talking about getting my mind and mouth lined up with the Word of God and His promises.
Psalm 19:14 (NKJV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
Some practical things:
a. Memorize Bible verses about peace and God’s care for you.
b. Post faith verses in prominent places so you will see them and be reminded of God’s faithfulness.
c. Remember times of God coming through for you.
d. Plant seeds of peace in your life.
Why is this important? Because peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) and we must plant seeds if we want to see fruit!
James 3:18 (NKJV) Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What are some seeds of peace?
1) Sow peace in the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 6:8 (NKJV) For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
How? The Holy Spirit is a person, not a thing. Develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit: talk to Him; listen to Him; be sensitive to Him; obey Him.
2) Sow peace into others: spiritually, physically, financially.
3) Sow peace with others. Ask and give forgiveness. Restore relationships.
INVITATION Pray about everything.
Philippians 4:6–7 (MSG) Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Where is peace lacking in your life? Can we just pray about it right now?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

THE GIFT OF HOPE


*FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT - THE GIFT OF HOPE

CONNECT What was it like when Jesus came?
Politically - Greco Roman Empire
Economically - Rich and poor
Socially - Slavery, Immorality
Religiously - Pluralism
Ephesians 2:12–13 (NKJV) that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But there was hope in One who was to come, the Messiah. The Jews had longed for Him but were becoming doubtful of His coming.

TENSION
You may feel your world today is like ancient Israel. You may feel oppressed by something out of your control. Your economic future is uncertain. You may feel enslaved by something or immorality is making your life miserable. You may have doubts today as to what to believe because of the plurality of religions surrounding you. You may feel like God is never coming through for you.

SOLUTION
I have good news for you! Now is the perfect time for Jesus to show up and show off in your life!
Galatians 4:4 (NKJV) But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Right now we are longing, even groaning, for deliverance. This is true of all creation.
Romans 8:20–25 (NKJV) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

INSTRUCTION
How do we access this hope?
1. By the Holy Spirit…
Galatians 5:5 (NKJV) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Romans 8:26 (NKJV) Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
2. By faith…
Romans 5:1–2 (NKJV) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
3. By tribulations…
Roman 5:3–5 (NKJV) And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
4. By the Bible…
Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
4. By Jesus in us…
Colossians 1:27 (NKJV) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
5. By resurrection power…
1 Peter 1:3 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

ACTION STEPS
Romans 12:12 (NKJV) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

INSPIRATION
Hebrews 6:17–20 (NKJV) Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

BENEDICTION
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.