Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
18 DECEMBER 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
In our preparation Bible verse for this morning, from John 14:27, we heard a message of peace:
27. "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, nor let it be fearful."
Jesus said this to His disciples almost 2,000 years ago; and within a week of
saying it, He was killed, buried, and rose from the dead.
Ever since that time and even before, the world has not had peace.
What then was Jesus talking about?
The peace that comes from freedom from wars is the peace that the world gives, and He told us that He was not giving us that kind; and the world hasn't been doing a very good job of giving us peace, either.
So what is Jesus talking about?
He is talking about an inner peace, a peace that we get from our assurance that God is still in control.
This inner peace also comes from the assurance we have that God is faithful to perform all that He says He will do.
The prophet Isaiah had this inner peace, and in chapter 61 he tells us the reason for it. Isaiah knew that God would do all that He said He would do, for He believed God.
So about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, he records the message he received concerning the Messiah's ministry of peace during both Advents.
Let's take another look at these verses.
1. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives,
And freedom to prisoners;
2. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
The day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3. To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
At the time Isaiah came forth with this prophecy, Israel had already been led
captive into Assyria, and Judah was declining.
The nation of Israel, which had been in the presence of God and had seen so many of His miracles, had also been turning further and further away from God.
Thus they had also lost their peace.
Yet in the midst of this time, God still expresses His love to those who follow Him and to all who will turn back to Him.
He is telling them not to lose hope; peace is on the way. Their Messiah was coming to bring peace.
And then God tells those who believe, His message: that they will be considered as being righteous; and because of their hope and trust in God they would appear to be strong.
They would be as oaks of righteousness firmly planted in the garden of the Lord, so that He might be glorified through them.
This message was not meant for everyone. It was sent to the nation of Israel, a people who should believe in the Lord their God.
And by speaking to Israel of the inner peace that would come with Christ's first coming, He is also speaking to the Church today, and He is giving us the same message; but now He has combined the message for both Israel and the Church.
Christ came, and most of Israel did not recognize Him.
When he comes again, it will be for the entire world; yet it is also prophesied that most of them will also not believe.
But there is hope, for the Prince of Peace will come again to reign over the earth for a thousand years.
How will it be then? Isaiah gives us a glimpse of that time as we continue with verse 4.
4. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations,
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
All that was lost to the devil will be restored.
The righteousness of God and the faith of those who follow Him will be seen by the entire world, and they will come to serve the believers.
5. And strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
They will come not as forced laborers, but out of good will, just to be in the
presence of God.
Why will they do this?
6. But you will be called the priests of the Lord;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat of the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
7. Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
The nation of Israel, the Church as a whole, will be spread throughout the entire world, under the rule of Jesus Christ, and all believers will have everlasting joy; and because of their enthusiasm over the word of God, they will appear to be as priests.
This is our Advent of peace. This is the Advent we are celebrating today. Christ will come again.
8. For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering;
And I will faithfully give them their recompense,
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9. Then their offspring will be known among the nations,
And their descendants in the midst of the peoples.
All who see them will recognize them
Because they are the offspring whom the Lord has blessed.
God is telling us that He does not want animal sacrifices or burnt offerings; He wants our obedience and our living in His unconditional love.
He wants us to live in such a Godly way that there would never be any need for repentance or a sacrifice, and He has given us the ability to do so.
He wants is to return to the peaceful ways He created the world to be, where all humans and animals only ate plant foods, and no one harmed another in any way.
He wants us to help restore His peaceable kingdom.
He wants to give us true and everlasting peace.
This is God's future Christmas gift, and it is reserved for all believers and
doers of His Word.
Then the prophet expresses what we feel like when we accept God's gift.
10. I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in My God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
And so that all today would not pass up the truth of this passage, and believe and accept God's gift, He gives us a sign (Luke 2:12-20).
12. "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths,
and lying in a manger."
13. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14. "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Jesus Christ's birth and the conditions surrounding it was a sign to the
shepherds that He indeed was their Messiah.
And His birth, life, death, and resurrection have been a sign to us that indeed our Savior has come, and an encouragement that He will come again.
He came because of the grace of God.
His coming was to give us hope that He will come again.
In that hope, and our acceptance of Him, we will have joy.
And just as the angels told the shepherds, His coming would bring peace among men.
And it did, but all of us know that the world is a long way from being at peace with each other.
The key to our understanding this is in the remainder of what the angels said: "with whom He is pleased."
God is pleased with all who believe in Jesus Christ and desire to conform their lives to His will; and in that conforming, we are filled with the love of God.
It is a love that does no harm to any part of God's creation, but instead
protects it from harm.
It is love that lets us see through the sins of each other to the person that God desires us to be, just as we also want to be accepted.
And when we look upon each other in this way, we will be at peace with each other.
And when we look upon the animals in this loving way, we will once again be
at peace with them.
This is one of God's Christmas gifts for us. Are we willing to accept it?
Peace is something we must share with each other in order to experience its true value, and that is exactly what the shepherds did.
15. And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that
the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem
then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
16. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
18. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
The heavenly appearance of the angels had left the shepherds in a state of awe
and wonderment, and they conferred with each other to confirm that they had all
experienced and heard the same things.
And having confirmed that it in fact was true, they proceeded immediately to confirm what they had heard, and to share the message with others, since in fact it was true.
The Church, the body of Christ, has heard much about Jesus Christ; yet we do little as individuals to truly live the good news, or to share the good news with others, and thus we also miss much of the blessing.
This was not so with the shepherds, for when they had in fact confirmed that all that they heard was true, they shared what they were told with all who were there.
And as the shepherds left, they were glorifying and praising God because their own blessing had been increased; for in the sharing and passing of the peace, they had their own multiplied by the grace of God.
But to Mary, who had been told of all these things before, it was a confirmation, a reinforcement of her own faith, that she just might have needed at this time.
Have you heard a message from God that you have confirmed in the Bible?
Have you shared it with someone?
Maybe that is exactly what they need also, and you are the very one to do it.
We have in our own possession the greatest of all Christmas gifts, the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; and if we have received it, then we have Jesus also, and are filled with the Holy Spirit.
However, we can never experience the true fulfillment of God's peace within us until we also begin sharing it with others.
This is a Christmas gift you can freely give to as many as you wish, and it will cost you nothing.
You don't have to stand in lines to receive it, and the more of it you give away the more you have left to give away.
Let's start putting Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, back into Christmas, and stop worrying about the hustle and bustle and money concerns that come with this season, and truly share the love of Christmas with each other.
And extend this peace to what you put in your meals and on your plates, so
that all the animals can once again share this peace with us instead of the
horrible suffering that this season has traditionally brought them.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Then we will know what it means to have a truly Merry Christmas.