My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link: http://www.sellwoodbaptistchurch.org/onlinechurch.html

Monday, December 28, 2009

“Looking Back, Looking Ahead” - (12/27/09)

INTRODUCTION:
There are certain groups of people for whom periodic evaluation and/or retesting has been deemed to be very important:
  • Commercial airline pilots – drug testing, med. exams, check flights, etc.
  • Public school teachers – continuing education, yearly evaluations, etc.
  • Police officers – weapons requalifying, yearly evaluations, etc.
  • Fire fighters – regular testing, drug screenings, etc.
It is important too for Christians, as well as churches, to periodically pause to evaluate their spiritual health, their progress in maturity, and their effectiveness in the Lord’s service. The last week of December is a good time to do this, to stop and reflect back over the events of the year and make the necessary course adjustments in our personal lives and ministries. Like hikers on a mountain trail who not only look ahead but also stop and look back once in a while just to see where they have been, we too need to maintain a panoramic perspective. It is always good to keep checking your tracks to make sure you are covering fresh ground, not merely going in circles. We are constantly leaving footprints in the sands of time. A good tracker can tell a lot about an animal by the tracks it leaves – burdened, injured, its gender, age, size, weight, etc. Our tracks tell a story too.

The average American almost never pauses in his hectic schedule long enough to do any kind of personal inventory or self-evaluation. It is a fact that lots of people feel very threatened by introspective evaluation. We don’t want to look too closely at our lives because we are afraid we won’t like what we discover.

This is true of pastors and church leaders as well. All too often leaders are afraid of evaluation because we don’t want to face up to the fact that serious changes may be needed in the way we are going about things. Evaluation always implies that we will take necessary steps to correct the problems so that we can do better in the future. That involves risk and leaves us open to scrutiny and possible criticism, things that nobody likes.

TRANSITION:
Then, as if these roadblocks weren’t enough, there are always a few “Super-saint” types who claim that evaluation is the antithesis [the opposite] of grace. Their argument goes something like this: “We live under grace after all, not under the Law. The kind of personal evaluation you are proposing sounds like “bootstraps theology” to me, a doctrine of works. We just need to do our best and leave the results to God. He does not call us to be successful, only faithful. We are only responsible to plant seed and water it. The Lord is the One who brings in the harvest, after all. And Jesus Himself said that the wheat and tares would grow up together until the very end. I think we should leave the examining, evaluating, and judging to God.”

Now this kind of rhetoric sounds spiritual but, in fact, it doesn’t square with the teaching of Scripture. Evaluation does not stand in opposition to the grace of God. God’s Word clearly reveals that personal evaluation of our lives and ministries is both right and mandatory. In fact, even the great Socrates, though not a believer in the true God, saw the need for regular self-evaluation and mid-course corrections. He is reported to have stated: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I think he was correct.

MAIN BODY:
In II Corinthians 13:5 Paul writes, Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” The implication is that it is better for us to test ourselves than to wait for someone else to do it. He goes on to say there should be no fear in doing this unless we indeed find that we are not in the faith. But in respect to eternity it is better that we find that out now while we can still do something about it rather than later.

In I Corinthians 11:26-28, in teaching about the importance of the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul makes it clear that we are to examine ourselves before we partake. Listen to his words: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” What does he mean by that? I believe he means that we are to make note of our attitudes, our overt sins and our sins of omission and then confess them to the Lord and receive forgiveness. This same examination or evaluation should lead us to make changes so that the problems do not continue or reoccur.

Brutal honesty in our self-evaluation is necessitated by the perversity of our natural state. We are sinners by nature as well as by choice, and the Bible says that we are rotten-to-the-core.
  • Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?”
  • An old familiar hymn puts it this way: “Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die. Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” Worm Theology is not popular these days. By far and away modern people prefer “I’m OK, you’re OK Theology.”
Understanding this fact, Paul gives a warning in Galatians 6:1-4 in the context of talking about us helping another brother to escape from the entanglements of sin. He writes: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work…” Paul is saying that each Christian is to carefully examine his own work in order not to be deceived about himself.

The OT has many passages that challenge us to put our own hearts to the test, to carefully weigh our motives.
  • Lamentations 3:40, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”
  • Proverbs 14:15, “The naïve person [lit. simple] believes everything, but the prudent man [i.e. wise] considers his steps.”  
  • Revelation 2:4-5, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first."  
Self-evaluation is always to be done under God’s supervision. We are not capable of being totally objective, so we need His help.
  • Psalm 26:2, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me. Test my mind [seat of our thoughts/intellect] and my heart [seat of our feelings/emotions].”
  • Psalm 139:23-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way" [i.e. the way of eternal, not temporal things].
The idea of all this is that a wise person will not only see the problems but do something about them (cf. James 1:21-27).
  • Psalm 119:59, “I considered (= scrutinized) my ways, and turned my feet to Thy testimonies.” 
CONCLUSION:
Today, like Joshua and the Children of Israel, we stand on the edge of the Jordan of 2009 looking across to the Promised Land of 2010. We have come through many things in this past year. We can look back and, by our footprints, see where we have been.

For some of you this year has been the most difficult wilderness experience of your whole life. For others it has been a year of blessings and wonderful things. But hopefully, for all of us it has been a learning experience and an opportunity to sink our roots deeper into the grace and goodness of God and to grow in Christ.

If we insist on going blindly through life, bumping into things, and yet never stop long enough to examine what we keep bashing our shins on, then we are as ignorant as beasts and, moreover, doomed to continue being wounded time after time. This morning, on this the trailing edge of the year AD 2009, before moving into 2010, I am challenging all of us to invest the necessary time and energy to take a perhaps painful look at our lives and our relationship with the Lord to see whether or not things are truly in order. If we find that course adjustments are needed, then let’s covenant with God to claim His divine power to make the needed changes and get our spiritual, personal, family, and even financial life back on the right track headed in the right direction.

[Note: Following is a self-evaluation tool that we used yesterday, allowing 10-12 minutes for people to work on it just before the close of the service with a plea to complete it later at home. I hope that you, too, find it helpful.]

Personal Spiritual Inventory

Take a few moments to pray before you write anything.  Ask God to clearly show you areas of your life where changes are needed.  Then please respond honestly to the following questions.  I highly suggest that you write out your answers because it will help you organize your thoughts.

1. Why do we always feel so reluctant to evaluate our personal and spiritual lives?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

2. Are there certain sins in your life that you commit regularly or habitually, sins that perhaps you have tried to excuse or shrug off saying, “That’s just the way I am”? [Name them one by one]
  • _________________________________________________________________
  • _________________________________________________________________
  • _________________________________________________________________
  • _________________________________________________________________
3. Has the Holy Spirit been convicting you about these things?  Do you know for a fact that God wants you to repent of them and to turn them over to Him to receive His forgiveness and cleansing?
Yes    No    I’m not sure  (Circle one)

4. What are the factors that have been holding you back from being fully surrendered to God in these areas of weakness and defeat?  [Be specific] _______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________

5. Are you now ready to turn these areas completely over to the Lord and ask Him to give you complete victory over the sins which have been robbing you of joy and side-tracking you in your service for Him?  If so, then write out your prayer to the Lord, confessing these things as sin, committing them to Him once and for all, claiming His promises of complete forgiveness and of His divine enabling, so that you can finally begin to walk in victory rather than in defeat.

“Dear Lord Jesus…
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________

Monday, December 21, 2009

"The LOVE That Surrounds Us" - (12/20/09)

NOTE: I preached this message back in December of 2002. I'm including it here in order to complete this series on the four great themes of Advent; namely, HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. Rather than me give the Christmas Sunday message this year as I usually do, I asked three of our elders to team-preach the message, which we entitled, “Three Faces of LOVE.”  They did a great job but their comments were not manuscripted so it makes it hard to share them with you. Instead, I'm giving you this blast from the past. Have a blessed Christmas.

INTRODUCTION:
Christmas is a season when we talk a lot about love. The jewelry stores play on this theme to try and get us to buy diamonds for our sweethearts. The car companies show loving people giving new cars as gifts, all wrapped up with a big bow, sitting in the driveway. We think to ourselves, “Wouldn’t that be a wonderful loving gift to give? Surely a new Lexus or a $10,000 diamond tennis bracelet says “I LOVE YOU” loud and clear.

TRANSITION:
However, the greatest expression of genuine love at Christmas time is not seen in the gifts we give to one another, no matter their dollar value, but rather in the gift that God Himself gave to the whole world. John 3:16 tells us of this marvelous love. It says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” The Apostle Paul, speaking of this love says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

We notice in both of these verses that the love God felt toward us led Him to do something. True love always acts in loving ways. It manifests itself in loving behaviors and practical help. God so loved…that He gave! God so loved…that He offered up Christ as the sin sacrifice to demonstrate His love for us!

Christmas LOVE is all about how God came down to earth in the person of Christ to live a sinless life among us and go to the cross to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins, trespasses, and iniquities. This Christmas LOVE is real! It surrounds us!

MAIN BODY:
In old cowboy movies or war movies we often hear someone say, “They’ve got us surrounded!” But being surrounded isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It depends on what you are surrounded by.
  1. AIR surrounds us right now, and I’m kind of glad for that fact. We can’t see it but we know it’s here because we can breath. We really only notice air when we aren’t getting enough of it.
  2. WATER surrounds the fish. They probably don’t spend a lot of time analyzing the water but without it they would be in a world of hurt.
  3. SOUND WAVES surround us. We are constantly walking through a stew of different kinds of electromagnetic signals including AM and FM radio signals, cell phone transmissions, TV broadcasts, CB and Ham radio, etc. Those signals are all around us but we don’t hear them unless we have a special tuner.
  4. LIGHT surrounds us as well. Light, like sound, travels in waves. Alpha and gamma rays, infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light rays constantly bombard us. Light is all around us, even on the darkest night. Even when we can’t see it.
  5. TEMPERATURE surrounds us as well. In our bodies we register heat and cold as physical sensations. In reality, from the standpoint of physics, temperature is just an index of how actively the molecules that touch our skin are vibrating. At –273.15 degrees Centigrade all molecular vibration ceases and thus no heat is present. This is referred to as Absolute Zero on the Kelvin scale.
These are all things that surround us but they are also things that sustain us. We cannot live without any of them. Without air we would quickly suffocate. Without sound waves we would languish in a totally silent world. Without light we would not only be blind but would soon die. Without heat our bodies would soon stiffen and freeze.

In the same way, without the love of God, which surrounds us, we could not survive. It is by God’s love and grace that we even possess life in the first place. It is His amazing grace that provides every breath we inhale and every beat of our heart.

It is also equally true that not all men acknowledge God or His good and gracious gifts. Many people are not even aware that God truly loves them and that He genuinely cares what happens to them. Yet the God of the Bible is a loving, merciful God who is constantly reaching out toward us lost sinners, even though we certainly do not merit such love.
Psalm 139 records David’s thoughts concerning the love of God that surrounded him: O LORD, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in--behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with You… [Verse 23 continues...] Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

David recognized that he was surrounded by God’s presence and that God had detailed, intimate knowledge of him. Yet that fact did not cause him fear, but rather was a source of comfort because he had a loving, intimate relationship with God.

In Psalm 34:7, speaking out of his own personal experience of witnessing God miraculously deliver him from the hands of his enemies, David states, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him [God], and rescues them.” It is obvious that David was overjoyed by the fact that God’s loving care surrounded him.

One other passage from the Psalms comes to my mind. Psalm 125 is a Song of Praise that was traditionally sung by the Israelites as they journeyed toward Jerusalem for the holy festivals, such as the Day of Atonement and Pentecost. The first two verses say, “Those who trust in the Lord [Yahweh] are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord [Yahweh] surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” Again, to be surrounded by God is clearly seen as a very good thing, because God loves His people.

The only people who hate the idea of being constantly under God’s gaze are those who are in rebellion against Him. Sinners always seek out the darkness in order to not be noticed by Him. But, of course, we know that doesn’t work. No one can hide from God. He is all around us just like the air we breathe. He knows our every thought. He sees our every action. Yet, He loves us in spite of all that. How amazing!

My favorite Bible passage about the love of God is found in Romans 8:35-39. Listen to this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” These words tell me that the love of God surrounds me in such a way that nothing can ever remove me from His presence and His tender care.

CONCLUSION:
Love is one of the central themes of Christmas. It was love that sent God Himself to earth to be born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and to live among us as one of us, and then to die for all of us at Calvary. It was God’s love for you and me that caused Him to choose to redeem us rather than simply condemn us. Had He chosen to send the whole human race to hell He would have still been good, and just, and holy. However, He is also merciful. He chose not to give us what we deserve but rather to offer us what we could never merit – grace, and mercy, and a way to come to Him through the cross.

Today, if you don’t know the Savior in a personal way, if you have never turned your heart and life over to Him, I plead with you to do it today. Confess to Him that you are a sinner. Ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you completely. Lay your life in His nail-scarred hands and then release it to Him once and for all. Trust Him today. Let His love not only surround you, but fill you as well. That is the Christmas gift Jesus came to give to you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The JOY That Satisfies Us" - (12/13/09)

Note: This is the sermon I was planning to give this past Sunday but we had a change of plans and ended up doing a combined service with the Korean church that meets in our facilities. Pr. Ken Cho gave a fine message but I don't have his manuscript or notes so I'll include this message as a continuation of the Advent Series. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful and encouraging.
 

INTRODUCTION:
We read in Luke 2:8-11: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.'”

Notice the 4 main points of the angel’s message:
  1. Good News = “Gospel”
  2. Great joy = unbounded and glorious
  3. For all people = universal, not just for a few
  4. A Savior = not merely a mentor
TRANSITION:
Today I want to talk about the things in life that can truly satisfy the human heart, the things that bring genuine joy. For you see, joy goes way beyond mere happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances. But joy can be present and abounding even in the midst of pain, sorrow, and isolation. Happiness, like water, quickly evaporates when the heat is turned up. Yet real joy, like gold in a fire, endures even when times get hard. Happiness is experienced by practically everyone. Genuine joy is a gift from God that unbelievers do not possess.

MAIN BODY:
The Bible has much to teach us about the kind of joy that really satisfies. Moreover, Christian music is filled with references to joy and rejoicing. God’s people discovered long ago the truth expressed by the prophet Nehemiah in Neh. 8:10, “The joy of the LORD is our strength.” It has been that joy that has seen Christians through fiery trials of every sort and description.

In the OT ten different Hebrew terms express the various facets of the word “joy.” In fact, no other language has as many synonyms for joy and rejoicing as Hebrew. One of the most common of these words is gil, which also serves as the root for several of the other words. It means to leap, or spin around with pleasure. It is beautifully illustrated by the story of King David in II Samuel 6:12-16 when he danced with joyful abandon before the Ark of the Covenant as it was carried to Jerusalem through the streets of the city. The most common word for joy in the NT is cara. Closely related to it is the verb chairo, which means, “to rejoice.” Both of these words are found extensively throughout the New Testament.

The concepts tied up in the word joy seem to fall into several distinct categories. These are sometimes summed up by theologians as “natural joy,” or the human side of joy.
  • When joy is moderate it is often called gladness. 
  • When it is intense it is called exultation or transport. 
  • When it is tied to possessions it is termed contentment. 
  • When it relates to high desires accomplished it is satisfaction. 
  • When it refers to vanquished opposition it is called triumph. 
  • When it has permeated into the character we call it cheerfulness.

However, there is another side to joy and that is the spiritual side. The NT regards joy as essentially a divine gift. In Galatians 5:22 joy is listed as a “fruit of the Spirit.” Philippians 1:25 declares it to be a result of faith. Pure joy is joy in God, as both its source and object. Did you get that? It means that God is not only the Giver of joy, but also the One in whom we take the greatest joy. David in Psalm 43:4 says it beautifully, “I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the harp, O God, my God.”

Our God is a God of joy. Psalm 104:31 tells us that He Himself rejoices in His own works. As He viewed His finished creation He said, “It is very good!” You can hear resounding joy in those words.

Believers also find great joy in the promises of God’s Word. In Psalm 19 David says that the Word of God is sweeter to him than honey and more desirable than fine gold. This is the testimony of countless Christians down through the centuries. In John 15 Jesus shared with His disciples the Good News of God’s salvation and then He said in verse 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Two chapters later in His prayer recorded in John 17 He said to the Father in verse 13, “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”

As I stated earlier, as a gift of God, joy is unknown to the world, but paradoxically the believer may rejoice in afflictions and sufferings with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Look at Acts 5 for example. Verse 40 says, “And they [the elders of the Sanhedrin] took Gamaliel’s advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

The world cannot comprehend this kind of joy. Obviously no one in his right mind would be happy about being beaten half to death. Paul was no masochist and he is not saying that they were happy to be hurt, but in II Cor. 6:10 he describes their sentiments as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

Some of my favorite verses about joy are found in the book of I Peter and they are all in the context of Christians suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
  • I Peter 4:12-14 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
  • I Peter 1:3-8 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
CONCLUSION:
Let me ask you today --- have you ever experienced this kind of inexpressible and glorious joy? Would you like to? In Luke 2:10 the angel of the Lord told the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
  • Great joy is not found in Christmas shopping
  • Great joy is not found in family gatherings
  • Great joy is not found in receiving more presents
  • Great joy is not found in cultural and religious holiday traditions
  • GREAT JOY COMES FROM KNOWING JESUS!!!
That joy is for all the people, including you! And it is all tied up in the Good News about a Savior who came to be born, to live, to die, and to rise again from the tomb, ALL FOR YOU! Won’t you invite Him into your heart today?

Monday, December 7, 2009

"PEACE That the World Can't Give or Take Away" - (12/06/09)

INTRODUCTION:
Have you notice? The Christmas season is a time when there is always renewed interest in the subject of angels due to the role they play in the Christmas story.
  • You see them on decorations, pictures, nativity scenes, etc.
  • Decorations in the malls
  • Books by wacko New-Age groupies about their “guardian angels”
  • Usually depicted as beautiful, blond female angels, or winged-babies
TRANSITION:
The first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke record some of the most remarkable encounters between angels and humans, all having to do with the birth of the Lord Jesus.
  • Gabriel with Zacharias, announcing the birth of John
  • Gabriel and Mary, announcing the birth of Jesus
  • The angelic host and the shepherds out in the fields
It is especially this last encounter that we want to focus on today. Let’s read this familiar passage once again. It is found in Luke 2:6-15.
While they were there, the time came for the Baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” [lit. “of (His) good pleasure.”]. 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
MAIN BODY:
This morning I want to focus on basically one word from Luke 2:14, the word “PEACE.” The Greek word for peace is “eirêne.” It gives us the female name, Irene. It is used approximately 100 times in the N.T. and is a very important word. It has various shades of meaning. It often is used to simply mean the cessation of hostilities, the opposite of war. But it also carries the idea of harmony and order. It corresponds directly to the Hebrew word “Shalom” which means not only peace, but health and welfare also. To pronounce a blessing of Eirêne or Shalom on a person, a family, or a home includes all of these things.
But where is this peace to be found? What is its source? Where can we get it? These are the questions we want to examine today.

I. God is the AUTHOR of peace. — He is the architect, source, and supplier.
  • Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” 
  • II Corinthians 13:11 – “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 
II. God is the INITIATOR of peace with men. — He chose to make peace with us, even though we are sinners by nature and by choice, and have been in rebellion against Him since the Garden.
  • John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
  • Romans 5:1, 8 – “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • II Corinthians 5:18-19 - “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 
  • I Peter 3:18 – “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 
III. God is the GIVER of peace. — It is His gift to those who belong to Him.
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed [steadfast] on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. Trust in the LORD forever, for YAHWEH, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” 
  • Colossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” 
  • Psalm 4:8 - “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” 
  • Psalm 29:11 – “The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace.” 
  • John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 
  • John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 
  • Philippians 4:4-7 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 
In this last passage the Greek word translated “guard,” or “keep” in the KJV, is a fascinating word. It is the word “phrouréo.” If you look it up in a Greek dictionary you will find that it is a military term, which means “to keep by guarding, to keep under guard, as with a garrison.” It is used of blocking up every way of escape, as in a siege. And it is also used of providing protection against the enemy, as a garrison does.

The peace of God puts a strong wall of protection around out heart, which is the center of our emotions, and around our mind, which is the place from which our thoughts come. God’s peace is like a 24-7 armed guard over the two things that Satan uses to frighten us and rob us of peace and joy.

CONCLUSION:
Do you have this peace in your life today? Have you asked the Prince of Peace to come in and be your Savior and Lord? With the world in constant uproar with wars and rumors of wars, I pity anyone who does not know Christ in a personal way. Knowing about Him is good — it’s the starting place. But actually knowing Him is something else altogether. If all you have this Christmas is the story of Baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, then you don’t have the package. The whole reason He came was to finally go to the Cross to pay the price for your sin, and mine. Won’t you open your heart to Him right now, and ask Him to forgive you and save you and abide in you forever?

One of the sad things in the Christmas story is the fact that Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. If the people of Bethlehem had only understood who He was and the incredible miracle of that night, that “unto you is born a Savior”, every door in the city would have been open to Him. Unfortunately, people were so caught up in their own lives that they failed to see and understand what was happening. The same thing happens now every day. When Jesus knocks at the door of people’s hearts they are often too busy to hear, or too cold-hearted to answer the door. They simply hang out their sign which reads, “Do not disturb! No room in the Inn!” I hope you won’t do that. I hope you will hang out a big “WELCOME” sign and invite Him in today.

About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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