What Does REAL Peace Look Like?

Pastor Jeff Struecker

Today we start a Christmas sermon series and talk about this church word called advent. Advent is a Latin word that really refers to coming. But most of the time, when people use the word advent, they think about longing, anticipation, or waiting excitedly for something. 

For a few weeks, we’re going to open up the Bible and study a very unusual passage of Scripture. But in advent, you recognize this excitement or this anticipation like a child waiting for gifts under the tree. So, we’re going to use that kind of language today and talk about a child waiting for gifts.

Now, if you were raised in church, you probably recognize the word advent because maybe in your house, you grew up with an advent calendar. Or maybe you had an advent wreath with advent candles. You put those out and lit those in anticipation or longing for something.

We’re talking about Christmas, but the subtitle for this sermon series is “live and in the flesh”. What was it like when the King of kings and God himself left his throne room and came “live and in the flesh” to be with people? If you remember back to what it was like when you were a child, when you were thinking about Christmas, and there were gifts under the tree, chances are, you can think back and remember how much you were waiting for or how excited you were about the day that you would get a chance to open up those gifts.

The greatest gifts are always given by the greatest gift giver. The perfect gift giver can give the perfect gift. God in Heaven can give the kind of perfect, priceless gifts that nobody else could ever give. And we’re going to take a look at four of these priceless gifts that come along with what’s in the package. 

But I don’t want you to mistake me today. The greatest gift on Christmas is the gift of God with us. Inside the box when Christians open up the gift of Christmas, it is God himself in the box. What God is actually giving on Christmas is the gift of himself.

Now, that gift is wrapped in some pretty spectacular packaging. You remember what this felt like, right? You were a child and you saw that package under the tree, or you saw that package that had this awesome wrapper and this beautiful bow. But what you really wanted was what was inside the package. Well, God himself is inside the box, but he wraps this gift of himself with four pretty amazing wrappings. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at the first one. This is called the word peace. You see, the greatest gifts are wrapped in priceless wrappings or a priceless package. God is giving the gift of himself, but he wraps that gift in peace.

God’s greatest gift is wrapped in a priceless package

Today we’re going to talk about this word, peace. We’re going to start studying through the book of Romans, in chapter five. I realize this is not the average passage of the Bible that people use for Christmas, but I need you to understand faith, love, peace, and joy. —the packaging that the gift of God himself comes in. 

Did you know (at least this is what one student put on an essay), in the entire history of the world, there has only been really 70 years of peace? Are you aware of that? I don’t think there is any truth in that statement whatsoever. I don’t know that the student who wrote that in the essay had any idea what he or she was talking about. But I do know this: Peace is really hard for us to understand. Peace is really hard for us to think about.

Think about it. If someone were to ask you, “What do you mean by the word peace?”, chances are, you would use something that peace isn’t. You would say, “Well, it’s the absence of fear, or it’s the absence of strife.” Yes, I know that’s what peace isn’t, but what would you say that would describe peace itself? 

I’m going to give you five things that, when you have all five of these, you really have peace. And if you have three or four of them, but not all five, chances are you don’t have the kind of peace that God is offering. You see, peace itself is a gift that comes along with the priceless treasure of a relationship with God. This comes from Romans chapter five.

We’re going to look at one verse, and then I’m going to use a few other passages of the Bible to describe this phrase that Romans 5:1 uses for us. Here’s how the Bible describes peace:

Ro 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Okay, wait a second, Romans. What exactly do you mean by this phrase “peace with God”? I didn’t know that there was a war between God and me. And so, why are you referring to this as peace with God? Well, I want to unpack the word peace. I want to list for you five things that, when you have all five of these, you have peace.

Like I said, if you have two or four, but not all five of them, you have some peace, but you don’t have the supernatural peace that Romans chapter five is describing for us. So let’s just go ahead and roll up our sleeves and look at a couple of passages in the Bible. We’re not just going to hop around. What we’re going to try to do is get an entire picture from the Bible of: What do you mean when you say peace with God? What does this word peace really mean? 

Your relationships are right

Here’s the number one thing: It is when your relationships are right. Now if you’ve heard me in the past, the most important relationship is your relationship with God. The second most important relationship is your relationship with yourself. The third one is your relationship with others. Peace with God gets all three of those relationships back into their proper places.

You see, when we talk about the word peace, we struggle to define it. Usually what we do is, we use what peace isn’t as a definition. We say, “Well, when you have peace, you’re not at war with other people. When you have peace, you’re not struggling or have strife with other people.” And those are okay ideas, but they just don’t really describe the word peace. 

A better description is to look at what the Bible uses as a picture, a whole picture of the word peace. You want to see a great image of this in the Bible? It comes from 1 Kings, back in chapter 22. Let me give you the background for this one verse of the Bible. 

If you’re reading through the Bible, you know that there was a united kingdom. You had all 12 tribes of Israel as one nation. And then after a civil war, a prolonged civil war, the 10 northern tribes split off and created their own country.

The two southern tribes separated from the north, and they had a separate country. The northern tribes were referred to as Israel, and the southern tribes were referred to as Judah. There was this prolonged period of conflict between the northern tribes, the brothers in the north, and the two southern tribes. For much of your Old Testament, Israel is separated in this civil war. But you do have this beautiful period of peace referred to in 1 Kings chapter 22. Here’s what verse 44 describes it as:

1 Ki 22:44  Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.

For a very brief period of time, these were two different nations right next to each other, dwelling at peace with one another. If you wanted to know what this would’ve felt like in our day today, think about Korea: North and South Korea. Think about the demilitarized zone and this harsh separation between North Korea and South Korea. -same families, same ethnicity, two totally different countries, and two countries that are at war with each other.

But for a very brief period of time during King Jehoshaphat’s reign, there was peace in relationship between the ten northern tribes and the two southern tribes. 

If you’re more than 40 years old, you probably remember exactly what this Bible verse felt like if you were watching TV the night that the Berlin Wall fell. East and West Berlin that had been separated for decades because of different ideologies and differing styles of government. When the wall fell down, everybody, literally everyone in the world, watched it. And everyone saw this amazing experience of peace when two countries that were totally isolated and separated with one another started to become one again.

If you’re 20 or 30 years old, you probably have no idea what this was like worldwide the night that wall came down. But if you go to a museum today, chances are you’ll see a piece of the Berlin Wall because that’s how big of a deal it was when it came down. What God is saying is, “When I give my people myself, I also give them peace.” And now those broken, fractured relationships in your life, your friends, your family that you’re struggling with, you now have the ability to be a big boy or a big girl and to go and start to reconcile those relationships because the God of Heaven is helping you have peace between each other.

Your debts are paid

Here’s number two on the list: Your debts are paid off. Now, I need you to understand; we’re not talking about money right here. What we’re ultimately talking about is the sin debt, the debt that goes along with breaking God’s law, the debt that goes along with the breaking of the Commandments. Because there’s a penalty, there’s a price that goes along with that. Somebody has to step in and pay the price. 

The Bible says that the whole Christmas story was God taking the initiative, actually God himself writing the check to pay off your debt, writing the check to pay off your sin debt. You see, this is the way that it’s described in Luke 2 when the angels in Heaven announce to people on Earth that God has just done the thing that he promised he would do way back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve committed that first sin. In Luke chapter two, when the angels announce the birth of Christ, they say it this way: 

Lk 2:14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!

If you’ve ever been under a heavy load of debt, you know how much stress and anxiety there is in not knowing if you’re going to be able to pay the bills next month. You know the pressure of realizing if one thing goes wrong, if I have a flat tire, or if my transmission breaks down, if one thing goes wrong, I’m so much in debt that I can’t pay the bills. And if something goes wrong, I don’t know where that money’s going to come from. 

That kind of debt can just overwhelm you. In fact, Dave Ramsey made an international business out of helping people have financial what peace. He said, “That kind of stress takes your peace away, so I want to help people get out from underneath that debt. I want to help people have financial peace.”

Well, what the Bible is describing for us at the birth of Jesus is, you and I were born under the sin debt. You and I have committed sins. You and I have that debt of sin that weighs upon us. And here’s the thing: You can’t work hard enough or make enough money to pay that debt off. So God himself takes the initiative. God himself pays off that sin debt for you, and he does it when he tells his son, Jesus, to leave Heaven and to come to Earth in the form of an innocent, helpless baby.

But of course, the manger that we recognize with Christmas, that manger really doesn’t carry a whole lot of meaning. It doesn’t have a whole lot of weight until you understand the cross on Good Friday and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. It’s God declaring, “Paid in full. I have now done everything necessary for your sins to be dealt with. You don’t ever have to stress. You don’t ever have to worry. You have peace with me because I have taken the initiative and sent forth my son. And now people who have a relationship with me have nothing to stress about.”

Your life is full 

You have peace with God because your debt is paid off. You have peace with God because your relationships are starting to get healed. You can have peace with God because now your life is full.

Have you ever heard people when they greet each other, greet with the word peace? Or maybe you’ve heard somebody who’s greeted another person with the word shalom if you were in Israel. Or chances are, if you were in an Arabic country, you heard people, the first words out of their mouth when they met one another was the phrase salaam alaikum. This is, “The peace of Allah be on you.”

When we use that phrase shalom, salaam, or peace, do you know what that phrase really means? In the Arabic world and in Israel, that word means more than just our notion of peace. It actually means that your life would be well, that your life would be healthy. It actually means that your life would be full. When people are greeting one another with the phrase shalom, or with the phrase salaam, or with the word peace, they’re actually wishing that you would have a full life. 

This is exactly what the Bible describes for us way back in the Old Testament when the prophet Isaiah was describing what this feels like to be in a relationship with God. Isaiah 32:17 says it this way: 

Is 32:17 The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever.

I’m sure you know somebody who is totally arrogant and likes to run off at the mouth at how awesome they are, how great they are. When it comes to confidence, they’re off of the charts, right? You know people like that, but they’re not really good at being quiet about how great they are.

Then my guess is you know people who are timid, shy, and quiet because they’re a little bit embarrassed or they’re a little bit self conscious. They have the quietness, but they don’t have the confidence. You know people who have the confidence, but they don’t have the quiet peace on the inside. Isaiah says, “Can I describe for you Christians and tell you what they’re like? They’re righteous.”

This word righteous just means that God has given you his moral perfection, that God has credited his moral perfection to you because of what Jesus has done. Because of what God has done, Christians can have both confidence before God and also this quiet, inner peace. They can be both confident and quiet at the same time. And when you find a person like that, you find somebody, typically speaking, when they’re comfortable with who they are, but they’re also able to be quiet and just simply not feel like they need to tell everybody how great they are, when you find people like that, you’ve found somebody who has peace on the inside. 

I’m betting that you can picture in your mind somebody who has that kind of quiet confidence. And if you think about them, they’re probably a gal or a guy with peace deep on the inside. I often wonder to myself, if you have to tell everybody how great you are, if that’s why you’re always spouting off all of the awesome things that you do, are you trying to make up for some shortcomings? 

Or the person that’s really timid and really quiet can’t really be comfortable with who they are. Is there something that’s still missing in your life that causes you to hold back a little bit? What Isaiah describes is when you have the gift of God, you have God’s peace. When you have God’s peace, you can be both confident and quiet at the same time and not be embarrassed or ashamed of who you are, and not feel like you need to jump up and down so that everybody sees and everybody knows it.

Your future is secure

Number four on the list: When you have God, you have peace. And when you have peace with God, you don’t need to worry about the future. In fact, most people all over the planet, because of the coronavirus, are freaking out just a little bit on the inside. They may not say it, but they’re kind of freaking out a little bit on the inside about what’s going to happen to them tomorrow, or what 2021 is going to bring. 

Christians, because we have peace with God, because we have peace with an all powerful, all good all the time God, we don’t have to worry about it because our future is secure. This is the promise of what would happen with God’s people when that baby was born supernaturally to a virgin, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Here’s this famous Bible passage about the Christmas story. It comes from Isaiah chapter nine, and it describes our peace this way:

Is 9:6–7  For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

Everyone on planet Earth wants to live in a nation that is at peace. When you are under a king that is a tyrant that brutally rules over his people, life is miserable. When you live in a land where two counties are fighting with each other, life is miserable. What the Bible promises is, when you get God, you also get peace with God. And because you get peace with God, you get the prince of peace who will rule, not just on the throne of David for a brief period of time, but who will rule forever. 

And by the way, I really need to remind you, because what Isaiah is stressing is  that this one will rule differently because there will never be a king that will be greater than him. There will never be a Lord that has more power, more land, or more possessions that him. He is the king over all kings. He’s the lord over all lords. You could call him the prime minister of all prime ministers or the president of all presidents, and his rule will never end.

And because of how good he is, because of how gracious he is, you can also call him the prince of peace. So God’s people have nothing to worry about, not the government, not the future. Your future is secure. And it’s secure not in your hands, and certainly not in Washington DC or wherever you live. Your future is secure in the hands of God in Heaven, and he’s got you right in the middle of his hand.

Your soul is satisfied

The fifth and final thing: The Bible description of peace is when your soul is satisfied. I chose this word satisfied on purpose because I really believe that every human being on the planet has a soul that is missing something. It’s longing for something. There is a God-shaped hole in that soul until you enter into a relationship with God in Heaven. He and he alone can satisfy your soul. It looks like this in the Bible when your soul is satisfied. Psalm 85 puts it this way:

Ps 85:10 Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace.

This is amazing and beautiful. Righteousness and peace will embrace one another. Now, when you see the word embrace, I don’t want you to think of giving a hug to a friend that you haven’t seen in a long, long time. That Bible word embrace really refers to the intimacy between lovers. It’s basically saying that righteousness and peace kiss each other. Whenever God’s people are joined into a relationship with him, when God’s people enter into a relationship with him, they have both righteousness and they have peace. And they have it to the full. 

They have an intimacy that most people can’t understand and most people will never grasp because it’s something that only the Holy Spirit of the living God can do in you when he satisfies your deepest longings.

I, as many of you know, I spent more than 20 years in the Army. Most of that time I spent going back and forth repeatedly overseas. When I was going to combat zones and separated from my family, I used to tell my friends when we were overseas, “You know what the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is? The very first thing when I get off of an airplane is I’m going to find my wife, and I’m going to go kiss her right on the mouth, and nobody can stop me.” 

And here’s why: because I love her, because she’s my wife, because we’ve been separated, and now the separation is over. And the way I want the world to know that separation is over is when I walk up to her right after getting off of that airplane on the tarmac of an Army airfield and embrace her and kiss her.

You see, what the Bible is offering today is all five of these things collectively when God’s people enter into this intimate relationship, this soul-satisfying relationship with him. I don’t know why anybody on the planet would turn down the gift of God if it comes wrapped up in the wrapping of peace. 

Here’s what the Bible is offering for us today: When you get God, you get relationships that are made right. When you get God, you don’t just get relationships, all of your debt, that sin debt, is now paid for. And you have nothing to worry about because your life is full and your future is secure. And because you get God, you now have a soul-satisfying relationship. 

But you cannot have the kind of peace that God is offering and control at the same time.

You see, the truth is, if you want that kind of peace, that soul-satisfying peace that God offers, you have to be willing to give up control. There’s no scenario out there where you keep control of your life and also get this supernatural peace that God is offering people. This kind of peace comes only when you surrender the white flag and say, “God, I’ve made a mess. When I try to control things, I mess things up. And when I try to control things, I don’t have peace. The more I try to control, the less peace I have. So God, here’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to turn control over to you because I want this kind of peace that you’re describing in the Bible today.” 

And when you do that, God says, “Now you get me. And because you get me, you get peace.” Please don’t mistake the gift for the gift giver. God says, “I’m going to give you myself. But when I give you myself, you’re going to also get peace along with it.”