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Dec 26, 2021

Peace Incarnate

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Advent 2021

Keywords: sin, trinity, peace, god of peace, spheres of peace, soul-peace


This fourth Advent message looks at the Bible's teaching on peace and its relationship to Jesus' coming. God presents three central spheres of peace in human experience--peace with God, peace with people and soul-peace. This message focuses on the last sphere but develops its connection to the former two.


Incarnational Peace

Advent #4--December 26, 2021

With the hubbub of Christmas Day now behind us and just a matter of days to go to close the books on what has been one of the most peace-less years I can remember in our nation’s history during my lifetime, I thought it would be good for us to usher in 2022 seeing what God has to say about one of Advent’s major themes we didn’t get to prior to Christmas:  PEACE.  And, after spending the better part of yesterday with two dozen of our family and extended family—half under 8 years old—peace is a topic I’m giving a lot more thought to today.

            Let’s frame this peace-lessness in the cultural and world context we find ourselves in of late.  If you’ve been listening to the news, you know that 2021 saw…

  • record homicide rates in most major U.S. cities.
  • It saw sustained riots for months on end in our two largest cities in the Pacific NW—Portland & Seattle.
  • It saw the Taliban who we, the strongest military in the world have been fighting for 20+ years, re-take Afghanistan.
  • It saw our entire nation along with families and friends sadly divided over everything from Covid to vaccines and red-or-blue politics.
  • It saw more death, destruction and despair evidenced in opioid deaths than ever in our nation.
  • It saw more human trafficking at our southern boarder than we’ve ever had in our history.
  • It saw more people experience mental health challenges, more attempt suicide and more turn to mind-numbing addictions to deaden the peace-lessness of their souls than we’ve ever seen.
  • It saw the largest and fastest exodus from churches than we’ve ever seen.

Surely peace-lessness is a present epidemic of the soul that is gripping not only our nation but most of the world. 

            Over 350 times, the Bible uses various words for “peace.”  It’s not a topic that God has not given direction on.  Rather it is something God has a lot to say about, something which touches every conceivable area of our lives. 

            So, let me start out by summarizing how the Bible addresses this thing we call “peace.” 

            Essentially, we could talk about the biblical use of the word “peace” in three general categories:

  • Peace with God: the Bible talks about both individual and community peace with God as the foundation for all other peace in the world. Whether it has to do with whole nations either being at peace or war with God, whole churches or individuals resting in or resisting God, the Bible has a lot to say about the need we all have to be at peace with God. 
  • Peace between people: be it international or national peace that is the cessation or absence of war OR the peace of people living in harmony with one another in families, communities, churches and friendships.
  • Personal, soul-peace: I’ll use this term to refer to what most of us think about when we think of being “at peace” as people.  The Bible has a lot to tell us about how to cope with the lack of peace that may afflict our hearts due to any number of situations, problems or challenges.  This is probably the kind of ‘peace’ we are most often and most desperately in need of.

Each of these spheres of peace could consume multiple messages.  So today I want to focus on primarily the last sphere of peace, soul-peace.  But to do so, I have to build a bit of a foundation regarding some of the things God says about the other two spheres of peace—peace with God and peace with people. 

            From the biblical perspective, WHEN did peace in this world get disrupted?  The first record we have is, of course, when sin entered human experience in the Garden of Eden. It’s pretty clear that peace-lessness in human experience is due directly to sin.  That day of their first sin, Adam and Eve went to bed knowing for the first time what it felt like to be robbed of peace.  They had argued with each other and were not at peace in their marriage.  They had blamed Satan and each other rather than take responsibility and had experienced the rebuke, the natural consequences and the judgment of God due to their sin.  Banished from the Garden, they knew for the first time the bitter taste of being at war with the creation, their God, the demonic realm and even each other. 

            So, we can blame SIN directly for the lack of peace in our world.  That doesn’t mean that whenever you experience a lack of peace in relationships, be it in a family or in a war with another country, that it is YOUR sin that is directly responsible for the loss of peace.  Even Jesus said that following Him would not always bring peace.  In Matt. 10:34 and Luke 10:51, Jesus told us he didn’t come to solve all the conflict in the world.  In fact, in some ways, he came to increase that conflict.  “Do you think that I came to provide peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division….”  (Lk. 10:51, NASV)  There are times when we are actually called to be in conflict with evil and sometimes evil people in this world because of our relationship with God. 

            But the only hope we have in this sinful world of discovering peace between nations and other people is if people come to respect and live by the truth God gives us about himself and about life. 

EX:  The Bible tells us that when we choose greed, lust and selfishness rather than humility, generosity and love, we will end up fighting, quarreling, going to war, attacking and even killing people.  James 4:1-2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is the source not your pleasures that wage war in your body’s parts? 2You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

            Unless we either make peace with God’s eternal truth about life or make peace with God himself, we will inevitably end up being at war with each other, with God and with the eternal truths from God that govern all human life.  Not every human conflict is unavoidable.  But every human conflict has its roots in our sin against God and His truth. 

            Until we understand that we won’t be able to obtain peace in the ways we most desire in this world:

  • On an international level, countries that seek to treat people like God says they are to be treated (valuing human life, loving rather than using people, etc.) will always be at war with nations that devalue human life, kill others and use others for personal gain. This is why simply caving to evil regimes and letting them run the world will not lead to peace either.  Good must triumph to some degree over evil or else more and more people will simply live under more and more evil and thus less and less peace.  Sadly and biblically, more righteous nations must often wage war against very evil nations in order to bring some measure of peace on the international level. 
  • The same applies to relationships with people. People who hate God and His truth are usually the most difficult people to be at peace with.  But people whose lives are dominated by Jesus and actually live in submission to His Word are THE most peace-loving, peace-filled and peace-spreading people to live around. 

Let me show you one O.T. example of how God promised peace to the nation of Israel IF they walked with Him and obeyed His truth.  Peace in Scripture is always linked with right living. 

Leviticus 26--

If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing season will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. So you will eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down, with no one to make you afraid. I shall also eliminate harmful animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. Instead, you will chase your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand; and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. 

Psalm 34:14--Turn from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

Turning from evil and doing good goes hand-in-hand with a life that pursues peace. 

Psalm 85:8, 10

I will hear what God the Lord will say;
For He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones;
And may they not turn back to foolishness.
10 Graciousness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

The reality of human existence is that you cannot really have righteousness/right living without peace and you cannot have peace without righteousness/right living. They are inextricably linked.  

            Which is why God is always about the business of seeking to reconcile sinners to himself.  He knows that unless we ‘make peace’ with Him, we will never find peace in our souls or with each other.  Proud people and nations are always at war.  But people in humble, right relationship with God will avoid sin always be seeking peace with righteousness. 

            This is why Paul says in Romans 5:1,“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….”  Until we have made peace with God through the only possible provision of peace—Jesus Christ the Lord—we will be forever at war with God.  And, as St. Augustine so famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord., and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” 

CALL:  Have you made peace with God by accepting His only provision for our sins, the death of His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord? If not, you have no hope of ever being truly at peace.  Your soul will be forever restless and peace-deprived.  It is in surrendering your life and sin to Christ that we find true life and the righteousness that leads to peace.  If you hear God calling to you today, don’t harden your heart.  Rather RESPOND in faith with a simple prayer of repentance and belief.  (Give one.)

            Now we come to the sphere of peace that all of us perhaps think most about—personal peace, peace of heart and mind, soul-peace.  I’ve taken the time to connect peace with God himself with this kind of peace because this is where all of the biblical discussion of peace goes when it talks about how we can overcome peace-killers like anxiety, restlessness, fear, anger, hatred, frustration, etc. Those peace-robbers so often still springs up in our souls, even when we have been forever put right with God through saving faith in Jesus. 

            The Bible numerous times presents our God as “the God of peace” (see Isaiah 9:6; Romans 15:33, 16:20; I Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; I Thess. 5:23).  Since human beings are made to become like the gods we choose, when we choose the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we are choosing the ground and source of all human peace.  He is THE GOD of PEACE…not ‘A God of Peace.’ 

            So it stands to reason that whenever our hearts are restless, it is a God-problem of our soul.  Something has taken hold, some thought has taken charge, other than God himself.  It is frankly hard to find a verse in the N.T. about peace that does not have to do with our relationship with God first and foremost.  Look a just a handful of examples.

  • John 14:27--Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.
  • Romans 8:6--For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
  • Romans 14:17--for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:3--Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Galatians 5:22--But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….
  • Philippians 4:6,7-- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15--Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful.

Peace of heart and mind is clearly God’s desire and heart for all of us.  But our reality day-to-day is so often much different. 

ILL:  I’ve been waking up for the past 6 months with various worries and concerns related to our housing situation. It’s not that I don’t have options as some of you and too many in our community don’t have.  It’s that the housing landscape is rapidly changing just as I am trying to solidify our housing for the next chapter of our lives. 

            So, what do I do?  Well, I do what God says to do and I pray about it…and sometimes I can go back to sleep.  I do what God allows me to do and I work actively on solutions for it, and sometimes I make some progress.  I try and fill my mind with truths from God’s word about housing, things like…

  • “Don’t lay up treasure for yourselves where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Mt. 6:19)
  • “Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?27 And which of you by worrying can add a single day to his life’s span?” (Mt. 6:26-27)
  • 8:20 & Luke 9:58—“The foxes have holes and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” If Jesus lived his life without a home, then peace in this life must not depend on having a home, right?

I tell you this because I just want you to know that ALL of us wrestle with various issues at various times that rob us of peace. 

  • If you’re a student it may be a class or grades, peers you have or college bills you’re trying to pay.
  • If you’re a working person it may be a boss or sales quota or clients or taxes.
  • If you’re a parent it may be a child or your marriage or the bills or the incessant demands.
  • If you’re retired it may be your health or a fixed income or loneliness and isolation.

We all have “peace-robbers” in our lives.  The question is not IF but HOW will we deal with them.  We will either keep trying our own strategies that may or may not work OR we can identify God’s strategies and seek to make them ours more and more.  I vote for the latter! 

So, let’s look at 2 passages that can definitely guide us with how to experience peace from and of God when life is holding us at gunpoint.  The first is the last verse I read:  Colossians 3:15--Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful.

            That word “rule” here literally means “to act as umpire or arbiter.”  Anybody ever been to a baseball game?  Who’s the most important person at the game?  It’s not the pitcher or the peanut-vender.  It’s not the team captain or the fans in the stand.  It’s actually one man called “the umpire.”  You know why?  Because any baseball game will deteriorate into pandemonium in a matter of pitches if you don’t have an umpire.  Just imagine the World Series with 50,000 fans all trying to decide every strike and ball thrown!  It just doesn’t work. 

            But when one man, the umpire, makes the call, the game keeps moving.  Half the fans may not like the call, but the game keeps moving. 

            So, who’s the “umpire” in our hearts? If it is our thoughts and our wisdom and our feelings and our hunches, my guess is our lives are going to be in a lot of peace-lessness.  Why?  Because I’m a sinner whose judgment is impaired, whose wisdom is limited, whose mind is flawed (and sometimes disturbed), whose heart is often restless and whose emotions are variable and unreliable. 

            But God has given me His Holy Spirit that abides in me.  At part of the fruit of the Spirit is peace.  This verse tells me that God desires that the peace His Spirit brings is to operate as an umpire in my soul.  Just how does that work? 

ILL:  Financial decisions:  will I cut corners on my taxes or reporting of income or integrity with clients OR will I listen to that still, small voice in my soul that says, “John, don’t overstate the value of that deduction.  Don’t miss reporting that honorarium you got for a funeral or wedding”? 

ILL:  What about making a career decision?  (Choosing to fight to stay in some position or letting go and following what you know God has called you to do and be?)

ILL:  Choosing a spouse? 

  • NO other decision in life has the consequences of this one.
  • Truth of God about marriage triumphs feelings. If we’re walking in the truth we’ll get to the right answer.
  • Truths that should shape a decision like this:
    • We’re all sinners in process. Don’t expect perfection.  In fact, wonder if you don’t see some faults and failures.
    • A person’s relationship with God will influence everything. Humble character that is strong in the Lord is your best insurance.
    • Don’t be unequally yoked. Don’t marry unbelievers.  Don’t expect to marry a sp. giant if you are a sp. midget.
    • Don’t be contentious.
    • Don’t let premarital sex mess it up. It often will… on both ends of the spectrum (doubts and obligation).
    • Do acknowledge gender differences and roles in marriage.
    • Don’t let fear be your master.
  • The Spirit isn’t impatient, so learn to WAIT. Our greatest mistakes in life often happen when we get impatient with God.
    • Numbers 14:39-45—Kadish Barnea
    • 1 Samuel 13:8-14—Saul waiting for battle

Why does God delay in giving us directions when we desire them so much? Isaiah makes one suggestion. “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment; blessed are all they that wait for him.”  (Is. 30:18) The longer he waits and the more desperate our situation becomes, the more gracious and powerful is his deliverance and the more gloriously is he exalted. He waits so that he can demonstrate his mercy more dramatically and thereby magnify himself. Long delays are often followed by spectacular answers.

Periods of waiting can also be times of great spiritual growth, times when our faith is stretched and strengthened, when we get to know God more intimately. Baxter suggests that through the delay God may be trying to teach us something which is better even than the answer we are looking for. His delays always have a purpose. Although we may not know what the purpose is, he asks us to trust him and wait.

One more passage about peace—Philippians 4:6-7.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all

comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Three words are used for prayer here.  (Walvord)

  • The first is a reference to prayer in general (Gr. proseuche). Prayer itself is an approach to God which recognizes His infinity, His power, and His majesty. Prayer is an act of faith that says “I need you, God, and I don’t have what I need without you.”  Failure to pray when we’re unsettled/un-peaceful about things is a decision to live independently of God in that situation.
  • To this is added “supplication” (Gr. deesei) which has the thought of asking for specific things or the presentation of our needs. APP:  Be specific…and persistent.  Give God the opportunity to show his involvement.
  • The third word, “requests,” (Gr. aitemata) is a word which sums up the items included in the two previous words for prayer and implies that divine action in answer to prayer is anticipated.

The extent of the prayer life is defined by the phrase “in everything,” constituting an important reminder that lack of peace often results from lack of involving God in the little things—that which mostly constitute the frustrations and annoyances of life. It is only as every need is presented that God is given proper ground for granting peace in every respect.

Capping off this kind of prayer, however, is the spirit of praise indicated in the phrase “with thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving in prayer before it is answered is an expression of

a.) a spirit of submission to the sovereign and wise responses of God regardless of whether or not I get what I want, and

b.) an expression of faith that the God who has answered prayer in the past will continue to answer prayer in the future.

            WHY does this matter?  Because the process is, in this case, often the product—the path itself to peace. 

CLOSE:  Testimonies of God’s peace in this past year? 

Hebrews 13:20-21--20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.