Christmas, Part 2

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I’m going to invite you to turn to the book of Ephesians chapter two as we continue this series together on the, uh, just the theme, the meaning behind Christmas. We’ve got just a couple of weeks before Christmas, is that crazy? Get a couple weeks before Christmas and um, and it’s 2016 for peace sake, who thought I’d ever be writing that date down. But today we’re going to study an important word as it relates to Christmas and next week we’re also going to do that. We’re going to talk about peace today and we’re going to talk about hope next week. And those words can culturally attach themselves in some pretty ambiguous ways. I don’t think there’s a person that really walks around and says, know I’m not a person about peace at all, like just destroying piece. And I hate hope like, but typically we talk about those words. We associate them with things that really don’t have a whole lot of root behind them.

Meaning people like to think that we’re hopeful and then we often say be be hopeful about being hopeful. But it’s really what the source of your hope roots in that provides hope. And so next week we’re going to talk about hope, but not in a, not in a fluffy sort of way, but in a way when things get difficult in life, how can you be a person that maintains hope and how does that fit into the Christmas message? We’re going to discuss that and likewise today we’re going to discuss the similar thought with the idea of peace as it relates to Christmas. I mean Christmas, Christmas and peace. That’s a, it’s a word that fits into what the Christmas seasons about. I mean, you’ve probably seen the song hark the Herald angels seeing the glory to the newborn King, peace on earth and mercy, mild God Hinson [inaudible] you know how it goes.

We’re in peace. It’s the, it’s the Christmas theme song and last week we looked at Luke chapter two and I’m going to, as we get to Ephesians chapter two, I’m going to set a background to why we’re going to talk about peace as it relates to this passage in Ephesians two and a, the Christmas theme of peace. But you really see it. Luke two where we were last week in, in chapter two in verse 14 remember if, if you were here last week, the angels appeared to the shepherds. Shepherds came before the Jesus or before, uh, uh, Jesus as he was born. And they shared with the townspeople the birth of Christ. And they come before the Lord and, and they’re just mesmerized or marveling at this story of Jesus unfolding. But Mary’s the one who really warships those moments in our heart and the shepherds are praising God, will leading up into this scenario where the shepherds come before Jesus and they’re praising and worshiping the Lord.

In Luke chapter two in verse 14, it gives us the message of the angels as they come to the shepherds and declare the arrival. Jesus and the angels sing this to the, to the shepherd. Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests. And so the way they’re seeing this gospel message unfold is that these these angels, as they’re looking over the, the, the forecast of what God is working in the course of human history. It’s that God is bringing, God is bringing peace in the lives of humanity that need the salvation of Christ. God is really bringing the gospel message in Christmas. It’s all about restoring us in our relationship with God that was lost in the garden of Eden when sin was introduced through Adam and Eve as they, as they particular the fruit and disobeyed God.

And from that point, we’ve needed a rescuer and Jesus in the turmoil of what sin introduced brings Shalom. He brings peace. And so the angels are praising God that the peace has arrived, that the coming of the Messiah has come. It is the Christmas story. It’s the gospel story. It’s the message of peace and it’s a beautiful message when you see it unfold in the Christmas story, that God is sharing this message with humble people. Just marry at a young age. People estimate could be as young as 1415 years old declaring this to the shepherds who are out in the field. Just just Lord, working through humble people and hung humble circumstances to bring this message of peace that he has purchased us and redeemed us with his blood, making his church. Then the tutor of the message of the gospel to display to humanity what we look at or what we look like at our best. We’re the place where literally heaven meets earth collides and the heart of God’s people to display to this world the beauty of this message of peace. Jesus as he was prophesied about in Isaiah chapter nine in verse six there are few titles that are given to him in this passage, but one of the ones I really want to highlight is this. His name will be called the Prince of peace. The Christmas message is a message of reconciliation that restores peace and peace is so important that I believe our soul craves and needs it in order to establish ourselves and build ourselves up in the identity for which God has created us to be. That brings us to a place of peace so that he can build in us through that relationship which we are created to have with him.

In fact, I would say the opposite of that would be to declare that without peace it’s, it’s hard. It’s hard to really grow because there’s no foundation to solidify upon you in your own relationships and maybe you’ve experienced this in life. If you have no peace between you and your spouse, you don’t grow because there’s not that foundation for intimacy to build without piece being there. Peace doesn’t mean things are always perfect, but the part of your soul that needs to find rest in order to grow, discovers itself. And the piece that Christ’s communicates in this message that the angels declared in Luke chapter two in verse 14 Jesus in his first message that he, he shares with us in the gospels and in Matthew chapter five, peace is such an important part of the gospel that he, he says this, he says, blessing are the peacemakers. I don’t know why I always read this as blessing, like maybe it’s just church culture ingrained in me somewhere, but that is definitely the word blessed. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

And what Jesus is saying in this message is blessed are the peacemakers. So much so that that those that live as peacemakers in this world are emulating what God’s people are about. They are the children of God. It’s, it’s the gospel working itself out in our lives. And so he calls those people blessed and we give a little illustration or some colorful language to what this word blessed means. It’s a word that’s actually borrowed from the Island of Cyprus. You’ll know Cypress as as a place Barnabas was from, which was the companion that Paul traveled with on his missionary journey. Barnabas was from this land of Cyprus, this land, this word blessed was often used for people in this region because this was an agricultural society and it was considered a fertile land that the people that live there weren’t in lack of anything that they had their daily meal needs met. And so therefore they were blessed or it literally translates as happy. They find theirselves satisfied and the circumstances because it’s provided for them and he’s saying about God’s God’s children, that they’re happy in the circumstance of making a piece or being peacemakers, that they’re representing what God’s family is about. And in that representation, they’re finding they’re finding themselves satisfied and their identity before the Lord.

This communication of what he’s saying in Matthew chapter five verse nine is that God wants to use you to be a portrait of heaven on earth. Not that everything here is perfect, but that heaven came down and glory filled our souls right? And so we represent that as a part of God’s people and being peacemakers. In the gospel story in Luke chapter two when Jesus arrives, the declaration that he gives to people is that peace to men on whom his favor rests. As we find our identity in Christ, that the peace of the Lord, the reconciliation for which God desires for us is found on what Jesus presents to us through his life, redeeming us by his blood and then his declaration to people. In a Matthew, those that meet Christ in the peace that he brings to us then represents that peace in this earth.

You represent God’s people in that way. God wants to use us to paint a portrait of what he’s like in his grace and mercy. The first demonstrated our own souls being reflected in this world and blessed, blessed are you that demonstrate this.

How do we live life as peacemakers and how does that Christmas story intercede and interject in our lives to demonstrate what Jesus is communicating through this passage of scripture and if I, if I highlighted just one portion of the Bible that really communicates this to us, I think it’s Ephesians chapter two Ephesians chapter two we’re going to start in verse eight which is a popular place in scripture that you should all know. If you don’t know this is eight, nine and 10 I can tell you this morning, underline that, highlight it, circle it, whatever. This, this, these verses of scripture are powerful, significant to the Christian life. Every believers should know it. It’s going to provide the platform to where we’re going, but where are you going to see as we end up is this word peace starts to be communicated as you get further into Ephesians chapter two but he says this for us in Ephesians two and verse eight and nine maybe here it is for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It’s the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast. If you guys are looking for a Christmas, another Christmas word. Here it is in verse eight it is a gift. God gives you the greatest gift, which is is his life. It’s the greatest gift you have ever received, but this passage of scripture for, for the community in Christ is so often quoted that we sort of develop a calloused thinking towards what it says. Like I can tell you this morning, if you’ve known Jesus for a while and you could highlight maybe some important verses, you would say, Oh yeah, Ephesians two eight and nine and some of you could just quote it without, without even thinking about it. This, this passage of scripture and the impact that makes the Christian life, but what it’s saying to us and in the nutshell is that you don’t work for this gift, that God, you can’t earn this gift.

It’s not done by works, but Jesus has given his life for you despite you that Christ has died for you as as Romans five verses eight to 10 tells us why you are an enemy of God. God’s love was extended towards you in that position. You didn’t make yourself lovable. Jesus loves you anyway. He gave his life for you as a gift. Not of works. The boasting isn’t in you, but in him. That grace is what saves you and so the challenge will be for your life to never get over what this verse communicates, to allow the truth of what rings through these verses to penetrate and impact your heart. For the rest of your life because this becomes the premise for why and how God uses you to be a peacemaker in this world.

Can I tell you my favorite song as the simplicity I think of what this verse communicates well, then I want my soul to cherish and rest in and sing with joy and worship every time I heard it here at express ready? Jesus loves me. This side I know for the Bible tells me so little ones to him be long. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, she’s sloughs me. Yeah, she’s sloughs me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. I’m going to cut my record later.

You think about that gift, this Christmas season, right? The greatest gift you could ever receive, the grace of God and his love being extended to you when you did not deserve, right. Ever received that kind of gift in life where you can’t fathom why someone would want to give you something. You know at a point in life where you’ve got nothing else to give back. I mean, Christmas is a time of season that makes you uncomfortable somewhat. If you’re the kind of person that goes out, if someone buys you a gift, you’re like, Oh man, I didn’t get them a gift. You’ve got to run to your gift closet real quick just to just to match them, right?

Jesus, his love is is far more abundant than that. But when you had nothing to offer to him, he, he gave everything for you in resting your soul in that becomes the premise to why we establish a peace and how we can be peacemakers in this world. But then he goes on and says this in verse 10 as if to kind of paint the picture. And then he explains that throughout the rest of this passage. But he says this, for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand. So we would walk in, you are gods masterpiece. And what it’s saying in verse 10 then is this, as it combines with verse eight and nine, when his grace connects to you, you become a display of his beauty. When people see what God has done in you and the response should be, wow, that is beautiful. And I want it.

It’s grace that rescues us, God renewing within us, an identity in him that makes us his masterpiece, his canvas, his beautiful image being portrayed in our hearts being displayed in this world. And then he goes on and says this, verse 11 maybe Sullivan, I’m sorry, verse 11 says, therefore, remember the formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh who are called uncircumcision by this so-called circumcision, which is performed in the flesh by human hands. You remember that you were at the time, separate from Christ, excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world but now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

This, this passage in verse 11 starts talking about the uncircumcised and, and for the Jewish mind to, to refer to someone like this was a, a derogatory term. It was a, it was a downgrade. It was a talking down to you. It’s, it’s, it’s sorta like the, the statement below just calling you a pig. Right? And so and so in this passage is saying, remember who you were. You were, you were the ones that didn’t belong. You were the ones that didn’t have a part. This is, this is the position that you were in and if you remember for just a moment what Jesus is getting to when he talks to us about Pete and peacemakers in Matthew chapter five verse nine he calls you peacemakers, right? Well, this is the thought of what Jesus expressing here is, is really important because oftentimes when we think about peace, where we would really align ourselves isn’t necessarily being peacemakers, but rather in being peacekeepers, peacekeepers, that kind of person.

When tension arises, you don’t want to discuss. You don’t want to rock the boat, so what you do rather is you sweep it under the rug to just kind of keep peace. I would say that that’s not healthy, but peace making is different. Peace making is an individual that looks at a circumstance that isn’t ideal, that calls us tension, turmoil, and you’re doing the leg work in order to bring reconciliation to that situation. It’s one that takes effort. It’s one that involves compassion and forgiveness and Jesus is saying in this passage of scripture that Ephesians two eight nine and 10 if you, if you carry this thought then into this verse, he’s saying in verse 11 look, therefore, so we saying that the statement that I’m about to make in verses 11 to 13 are a summary of everything I said in verses eight nine and 10 for by grace, you’re saved through faith, not of yourselves. It’s a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. You’re created in Christ Jesus as his workmanship, as, as, as his craft, as his art.

Therefore, remember this word for remember, it really defines itself in two ways. In Greek, it means either to call to mind, which is often when we think about for the word remember or it means this to think of and feel for a person. So if you said state the definition of what the word remember here means in this passage of scripture, what he’s saying is in order for you to be a peacemaker in life, in order for you to want to feel compassion towards people, to do the legwork, to see reconciliation exists in their lives, you can’t forget where you’ve been to rest your heart in what Jesus that’s done for you because it’s in the compassion and forgiveness that Christ is expressed in your own heart and life that gives you the compelling reason and the desire to then reflect that very nature back to individuals in this world that also need the same sort of reconciliation that you’ve experienced in Jesus. And so he says in verses 1112 and 13 remember what it was like being an outsider not belonging. Verse 12 at the end he says, having no hope. I mean if I asked the question this morning, who here loves being an outsider? Like somebody might like being weird, right? I mean that’s okay. And then weird, weird is the new cool, but even being weird. You like to belong with other people that are weird, right? I mean I get told I’m weird all the time, but I like to do that in the company and of other weird people. I want to, I want to belong. I want to be a part. I think so much so that we desire that even even in our lives when it comes to God and wanting to be a part of the Lord, we’ll even create theology that doesn’t even align with who God is just so that we can feel like we are accepted with with God.

Nobody likes to be an outsider and so he saying that this becomes the catalyst. Recognizing this in your own life, what Jesus has done as in meeting you as an outsider becomes the catalyst into your own life to be the inspiration to a peacemaker on behalf of other people because peacemaking requires someone to do the part, to give the effort, which is what Jesus was about, and then he goes on from here and uses an illustration. He uses this and I’m going to break it down for us in two ways, but he starts off here. He says, for he himself is our peace. There’s the word Jesus is our peace who made both groups talking about June tile into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall by abolishing in his flesh the imitate you, which is the law of commandments, contain the ordinances. Jesus himself fulfilled the law and therefore abolished the distinction between Jew and Gentile.

I think Jesus is illustration. If I could just use it by starting off talking about race for a moment and Jesus, his illustration is recognizing the distinction that’s taking place between ethnicities here and by the way, when you look up religion and race in scripture, the Bible does not ever talk about race. When the Bible talks about people groups in this world, it uses the word ethnos ethnicities of individuals. And so when the Bible acknowledges race, it only ever acknowledges one race, which is the human race. And we are all ethnicities within the human race that God calls us in revelation five, revelation seven, as, as his creative work together in him. And so what he’s acknowledging in this passage of scripture is that, that they’re, they’re individuals that ethnically have, have divided themselves. What Jesus has desire is for us to see ourselves as, as one people in him. And so the re the reminder is as, as long as you see people as an enemy, people beneath you, you’re never going to reach them the way God has called you to reach them with a piece of the gospel. Because there is only one.

And I think there’s, when I consider, um, church environments, if what I said is true just now for what I communicate to us as truth, if you read revelation five, I think it’s verse nine, revelation seven, verse nine, uh, all of God’s people as, uh, multiple ethnicities, all, all ethnicities coming and praising the Lord before the throne of the lamb. That’s the picture that’s painted in revelation. If, if that’s what’s true, if there one place that God’s community should look like multi ethnical groups praising the Lord, it is the church. I mean, if some of the sad things that you see within the body of Christ is divisions among congregations, even according to ethnicities and, and, and, and in the world, sometimes the world gives better examples of people getting along, then the church can.

But the communication in this message for us, I’m going to, I’m going to make better application for it in the end is, is to understand that what God desires for us to do is use no distinction in the way that we become peacemakers for the sake of the gospel. He starts this talking about ethnically, but I think it also practically relates to us religiously. I mean there’s, there’s the pagan Gentile world and there’s the Jewish community and religiously they’ve also made this distinction from one another and the gospel is this place of peace that brings reconciliation identity together in Jesus.

It’s interesting when you study, you Feagins and you look at what’s taking place in the Jewish community at this time because outside of the temple when Israel would worship, there was a sign that literally hung outside of the temple. There was the outer courts, which was the place of the Gentiles and so the Gentiles that were the non Jews were allowed to go into this region and sort of somehow participate in the worship that was taking place around the temple to get to see what the Jewish community was about. So they had this outer core area. But then as you went further into the temple where the Jewish people were allowed to go, there was the sign that was tacked. It was written in both Greek in Latin, which I know both. Everyone here can read this. This morning. I typed out so well on this rock for us, but, but the summary of what this says in both Greek and Latin says, if a Gentile passes beyond this point, you will die.

How welcome does that feel? Thank you for invitation to church today. I want to be in the parking lot while you guys were right, but Jesus, Jesus, if you remember the stories of Christ in the gospels, there were a couple of times where Jesus goes into the outer courts and he comes with a whip in his hand and he’s flipping tables over and you see angry Jesus in the gospels. You’re like, where did this Jesus come from? Air? Every picture I see of Jesus walking around, he’s like, all white. His hair is perfectly halo on his head and he’s like this whole it. Just hear that music, right? And then all of a sudden there’s like the Hulk Jesus that just tears tables up. Why? Why is Jesus so passionate about tearing tables up? When when you study the context of this passages, Jesus is in the court of the Gentiles and what the Jewish community had done when, especially during celebrations and festivities, they would set up tables in the court of the Gentiles to sell animals so the Jews could go into the temple and make sacrifices or they would exchange money for people that were in Jerusalem and they were gouging prices.

And Jesus got frustrated. He’s like, the only place the Gentiles have to even come and hear this message is the, is this court? And rather than invite them in, and rather than encourage them to me, you’ve set this area up for just monetary gain. And Jesus was furious over this. In fact, Jesus said this in Mark 11 verse 17 he began to teach them and say to them, is it not written? My house shall be called a house of prayer. Look for all the nations. Jesus has indication for his people. It’s to understand what this idea of peace being brought to us means being lived out in our lives. Blessed are the peacemakers. And I would say that the most practical sense when enemies become friends, that that is the indication that the gospel is at work. When you care about them, pray for them.

Blessed are the peacemakers in our mentality of structure. Culturally, this is, this is how we’re taught to think as far as Hercule structures get her right. There was someone in charge and they’re the people beneath them, right, and it rolls down Hill, but in Christ community, Jesus and using the word peacemaker paints it this way. Jesus was King is King kingdom as a servant to bring to you reconciliation and your relationship with him. That is establishing peace, that in peace you could grow in depth in your relationship to him. Peace provides the foundation to go deeper and intimacy and through the strength of that relationship, God puts you in a position to leverage your position in Jesus to serve those.

It’s like if I use the example of a pastor in the church, pastor, the church or elders within the church, they’re not the top of the church that the bottom, in fact, Ephesians four 11 says that God gifted churches with certain individuals for leadership, uh, capability or giftedness for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. It’s really the shoveling of the maneuver to give the church the platform to continue to do what God has called them to do. I love being a pastor. Okay, so I guess I’m saying maneuver makes me happy, but, but I enjoy that. But what the picture for us is in our mentality is now I get to this position so I can be on top of rather God has given me a place that I can serve for his kingdom and glory. Have you ever thought the way that God has worked in history, you could just consider out of all the nations God could have picked out of all of the people groups God could have worked through? I mean, why did he pick the Babylonians and their architectural ability or why did he pick the Greeks in their great philosophy or why did they pick the Romans or the Egyptians in their power?

Why did he pick Israel? [inaudible] tech slaves, right? In Deuteronomy seven seven tells us, Micah five two it tells us even not only picks Israel, but he picks Bethlehem as a place where the Messiah would be born. The smallest of all. I mean, Bethlehem was so Podunk. People are saying to themselves that Jesus, even from Nazareth, I mean they’re looking at the situation. They even say can Nathaniel says in the gospel is can anything good even come out of Nazareth? I mean, Jesus didn’t pick the prime real estate. I think it’s a display of the mentality that he has to use the servants that carry in humility the work of Christ in this world so that in our weakness, the glory of God could be displayed.

And so he says in chapter two verse 15 then that in him he might make the two into one new man and thus establishing peace. God would work there. His community to reach the world. God would work through a team, not just one, but he would work through all of his people paying the beauty of who Christ is and our interaction with one another. That we find this peace that not only affects our relationship with God, but it impacts our relationship with each other. And then he says in verses 16 and 17 and might reconcile them both into one body to God through the cross by having put to death the enmity, and he came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those you weren’t there.

God would do this amongst us together. The Bible tells us taste and see that the Lord is good. Never consider how someone might taste. How do you eat Jesus? Can I tell you the primary place that this works itself out? It’s the place where heaven meets earth. That’s the place where God’s story impacts the heart of his people to transport, transform their lives, to impact the world around them. It’s in God’s community, multi ethnicity, coming from different backgrounds, have of labeling ourselves, maybe even religiously, but losing all of that to put identity in Jesus alone that we could end that cultivate such a beautiful picture that when people want to see the glory of who God is radiating in this world, they, they see God’s people permeating that into this world and they can say, yeah, that’s good.

So when we come together as God’s people, now I think it’s okay to talk about things that, that maybe don’t fit in the identity of, of the Lord or things that we’re not for. But man, I think the ultimate thing that I, I just would rather shape ourselves in isn’t what we’re so much trying to avoid, which, which we would, we will naturally avoid things in Jesus, but it’s where we’re going together now. Put her eye on the target and if I would just share this morning, things that we get to be champions of because of what Jesus has done, where we get to live as champions over death, as champions over life, as champions of truth, as champions of unity and love. That’s champions of peace as champions of all of God’s people as one human race celebrating the beauty of Christ this season, every season because of what he has done, where there’s pain division, God would use us to make peace, to help the world, make peace with God because Scott doesn’t call us to be peacekeepers, but peace makers. So I’m talking about peace in diversity. Let me just give you a few things to think about for application.

For us as church, we live in an area that is the least ethnic diverse place that I have ever seen in the United States. It’s minimal in comparison to other places I’ve lived and so for us, I think the encouragement becomes not not to forget about it because there’s less ethnic diversity, but actually the opposite, which is to work harder at helping or helping those that may feel like they are outside, be a part of the inside. Second is this, when you consider the way that culturally we can divide Paul’s using the illustration of division as an example that Jesus wants us to make peace, but you consider the state of the American church today, the American church is older by nature, but you consider Alpine Bible church for a moment. This give me a place to rejoice in what God’s done. Just being thankful to the Lord that our church is predominantly made up of younger generations.

Now, it’s not to say that we’re against any sort of age group within our church, but when you consider the American church, by and large has an older generation and we’re leaving behind the younger generation and we’re one generation away of just becoming an agnostic atheistic America. When you have younger people within the congregation, your congregation not just transcends ethnicity, but it transcends ages and there’s a place to be thankful in the Lord for the way that he’s doing that. Because I, I’ve seen this in an older churches, they, they want to reach younger generations, but they don’t want to change to do that. My interest in in my life is whatever it takes short of sin. I just want to reach every generation for Christ to be a peacemaker for what God has called us to do.

Well, I think the last is this, and maybe this is the most pertinent to us as we think how how peacemaking relates. I mean, it could, it could fit into your family, it could fit interpersonal relationships right now, but on a larger scale. For us, it’s, it’s to get rid of the defensiveness of any sort of us versus them mentality. You know, Paul is listing this, one is ethnically and second is religiously. And when we consider what it means to be a peacemaker, it is to get rid of the us versus them mentality and to go on the offensive and being able to, to establish peace. God doesn’t call us to be against anyone. Brother. God has called us to reach everyone for the sake of the gospel and by becoming defensive by it and by not extending piece, by, by matching tit for tat. Well, never live out what the gospel calls us to do.

Remember verse 11 of Ephesians. Therefore, remember you were once alienated, but Jesus being an enemy of God, did the lab work for you, for you to be reconciled to him? He wasn’t defensive, but rather went on the offensive to reach people and to bring peace into their lives. So we talk about the Christmas message being one of peace message of that peace moves forth and God’s people not as they just say the word, but they live it out and the demonstration of what God desires in their lives.

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