As a congregation this year, we are recognizing and learning about the season of Advent. Historically most Baptist churches have not observed Advent, but in recent times more and more have begun to do so. Though the New Testament Christians of the Bible did not practice Advent and it is nothing more than a church ritual, it still points us to Christ. The primary reason for celebrating Advent is to emphasize that Christians are expectantly waiting upon the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As stated last week, Advent consists of the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas day. Each of these has a specific theme attached to it. As we approach Christmas, we are highlighting these themes - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. The Advent wreath has 4 colored candles surrounding a single white candle in the middle. The colored candles represent the four weeks leading up to Christmas day. Each week an additional outer candle is lit, finally ending with the center candle, the Christ Candle, which is lit on Christmas.
Last week we began the Advent season by discussing hope. Just as the Old Testament saints hoped for a coming Messiah, we as Christians hope for our Lord to come again. Because Jesus already came the first time in a manger, we have assurance that He will come again a second time in the clouds. Therefore we hopefully await His return. Our hope is not wishful thinking, but rather a confident expectation that Jesus will come in due time.
Today is the second Sunday of the Advent season. Therefore, this morning we are going to focus our thoughts on the topic of peace. We are going to limit our message to only 4 points, but there are many applications of the word peace besides just these. Let’s begin...
I. PEACE BETWEEN NATIONS
Peace can refer to the condition of a relationship between two or more nations. It is usually understood as the absence of war. When nations are at peace with one another, they are not engaged in military conflict with each other. This does not necessarily mean that they are in agreement on all issues, but rather that they find ways to address their differences without resorting to violence. Peace between nations can be achieved through diplomatic relations, compromise, friendly trade, and so forth.
King Solomon reigned over Israel during a period of peace and prosperity. His father David spent most of his years as king in battle, fighting against and subduing surrounding enemies. When Solomon came to power, he inherited a strong kingdom without any viable threats from other nations. He didn’t have to be overly concerned with external conflicts or war. Because Israel was at peace, he was able to focus more on internal issues such as construction and infrastructure. Solomon was a great diplomat, but ultimately began compromising the things of God in order to appease the pagan nations around him. This ungodly practice led to Israel’s decline.
In the end times, Jesus will utterly defeat the Devil and those who follow him. Ultimately they will be cast into the Lake of Fire where they will dwell for all of eternity. Then the nations of the New Earth will be at peace with one another. There will be no more war. The hostilities between countries and peoples will cease forever.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10 ‘Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ - Psalm 46:8-10
II. PEACE BETWEEN PEOPLE
Peace can also refer to the condition of a relationship between two or more people. People live corporately or in association with others. In the context of our communities, our workplaces, our schools, our families, and so on we encounter and relate to people every day. Some of these relationships are very personal, close, and intimate while others are more distant. Regardless of the nature of the relationship, the Bible teaches us to live at peace with one another.
16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. - Romans 12:16-18
Peace does not require the parties to be in agreement with one another all the time on every issue. There can be genuine differences of opinion between people who are living in peace with each other. In these cases, there must be some level of mutual respect and appreciation. Peacemakers are considerate of other viewpoints and opinions - even those of which they themselves strongly disagree. On occasion, living in peace will require humility as one esteems another more highly than themselves.
There are non-negotiable stances that we as Christians must take. On certain morally and/or theologically absolute issues there is no room for compromise. We should never dilute or weaken our commitment to the truth in order to keep the peace. That said, to the greatest extent possible, we should never provoke or initiate hostilities with others. As Christians, we should strive to live peaceably with all people and in every human relationship.
III. PEACE WITHIN ONESELF
Yet another variation of peace is that which we can have within ourselves. Every person struggles to some degree with conflicting thoughts at emotions. The Devil whispers negative things to people that are damaging to their sense of self-worth and often lead to confusion or discouragement. The Holy Spirit counters with words of truth that build people up and edify their spirits. These voices are opposed each other, resulting in a fierce internal warfare that can cause people to become restless, agitated, and stressed.
Inner peace can only be found through Jesus Christ. When people rest in Him and listen to His voice alone, rather than the destructive lies of the enemy, they can finally find that sense of peace within themselves. Such peace has little to do with external circumstances. Though troubles may be rampant in a person’s life, it is still possible for them to have inner peace by submitting to the Lord Jesus.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. - John 14:27
A person that does not possess inner peace will face all sorts of difficulties. Their lives will be characterized by fear and anxiety. Jesus often commands His followers not to worry or be afraid. These two emotions are contrary to the peace that God desires for His children. Christians will never become all that God desires of them in this life if they fail to walk with an abiding sense of internal peace.
IV. PEACE WITH GOD
Finally, let us consider peace between God and man. The Bible teaches that sin is an act of hostility toward God. When people sin, they engage in warfare against the LORD. Any peace that may have existed previously is shattered. Sinners are the enemies of God. They are in open rebellion against Him, and are certain to lose the battle. This is why many Christians use the word “surrender”” to refer to one’s repentance.
Because all people are sinners, everyone is by choice and by nature an adversary to God. The primary reason that Jesus came was to deal with this conflict. Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus made peace between God and mankind possible. When a person places their faith in Christ, God forgives them of their sin and washes them white as snow. It is as if a ceasefire has been declared and the weapons have been laid down. Reconciliation takes place and peace is established.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, - Romans 5:1
People need to understand that there is no neutral position in terms of one’s relationship with God. Either they are at peace with Him or they are at war with Him. Either they are a friend of God or they are an enemy of God. Ultimately, all who reject the LORD by failing to place their dependent faith in Him will be defeated and destroyed. Salvation only comes when someone personally makes peace with God by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
In summary, when Jesus came during the first advent He gave His life on Calvary to make peace with God possible. By sending the Holy Spirit, God empowered Christians to live at peace with themselves and with others. When Jesus returns for His church someday at the second advent, He will crush and vanquish His enemies and usher in an eternal era of peace between the nations and all people.
Because the Lord is our Prince of Peace, we have great cause celebrate. During this Advent season, let us remember the peace that Christ has already made possible through the cross and the peace that He promises in the future. Next week, we will explore the topic of joy. Until then, may His peace be with you!