Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. (Luke 2:14)
What in the heavens were the angels proclaiming about the birth of Christ that would bring peace on earth?
As I am writing this blog, I am getting notifications from my news app saying that there has been a shooting this same day in San Bernardino, CA where many have died and are injured.
Other headlines say, "Is The Third World War About To Begin Over The Russian Turkish Crisis?" Then there are articles about how to defeat ISIS, and Iran's ability to build atomic bombs, and the aftermath of the Paris terrorists’ attacks. I haven't yet mentioned the threat of North Korea or China, and, of course, conflict surrounding Israel.
What is this peace on earth? Is it something that we haven't seen yet, a fairy tale or a heavenly hoax?
The cover page of the above newspaper shouts the sentiment of many critics:
"GOD ISN'T GOING TO FIX THIS!"
You may have just come from a family reunion on Thanksgiving Day that could be described as anything but peaceful. You're not even sure if Christmas will be worth the celebration when yuletide hell breaks loose among the insecurities, self-centeredness, and personality conflicts of your family's dysfunction.
Peace? What peace?
In the old Christmas hymn, 'I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day', this verse sums it up:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
The whole idea of a messiah coming among the Jews was to bring deliverance from the enemies of God's people and the establishment of an earthly kingdom where the messiah would rule and reign and therefore bring peace on earth. Even the disciples of Jesus became disillusioned about their hopes for peace when they saw that Jesus was not going to be rescued from, but rather crucified by, the power of the Roman empire.
In the end, it seemed that peace lost out. The warring factions of the enemies of peace had once again suppressed all hope.
But Jesus did not come to bring the kind of peace that they were anticipating.
In Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth...."
Without reading and understanding what Jesus meant by peace in His teachings, the bible seems to be contradicting itself.
Listen to what the Bible says about the peace that Jesus brought through the cross, resurrection, and Pentecost.
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." (Romans 5:1)
"...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)
"Let the peace of God rule in your hearts..." (Col. 3:15)
I know you think I am going to over-spiritualize this and speak of a heavenly bliss that we will someday have after we die, or a contained inner peace that gives me comfort but does not really impact the rest of the world.
We need to expand our vision for "peace on earth."
So, yes, it does begin in the heart. Your personal peace through Christ is the bottom line hope of peace on earth. Now multiply that by the millions, even billions, who profess to be Christians.
Make no mistake, there will be conflict as long as there is an enemy, the devil, roaming about like a roaring lion. Even Jesus, said that He did not come to resolve all relationship problems with the waving of a wand. In fact he promised that you will have conflict as long as you are in this world.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
But peace is more than a calming spirit or a spiritual drug to soothe my many pains in life. It is a spiritual weapon of warfare. It is listed as one of the pieces of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. In verse 15, it says, "And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace..."
That inner peace that you know of, if you are a believer, is a peace that can change the world.
I know that your "end times" theology may not allow for you to hear what I am saying. But sometimes, we need to let the "whole counsel of God" (that means the whole Bible) over-ride denominational interpretations. I don't have space to go there right now. But suffice it to say that God actually intends for us to disciple nations. The impact of His peace deep in the hearts of His people has only just begun to be felt and to be received by many on this planet called earth.
Here is an incredible story some of you may remember from my first blog post in June. It demonstrates the point.
As you know, ISIS is targeting Christians for persecution, killing them by stoning, beheading, hanging, and other violent acts... not exactly an example of peace on earth. But in the middle of total chaotic evil, in the darkest of places, God has demonstrated His version of peace in a powerful way.
An Islamic State militant, who we will refer to as "Saul", was known for his brutal killing of Christians - even enjoying the massacres. But Saul would see Christian after Christian not deny their Lord after being given the opportunity to reject their Christianity. Instead they willingly sacrificed their lives for Him, dying with an unnatural atmosphere of peace about them as He severed their heads.
Saul began having dreams at night of this "man in white" who would come to him and say, "You are killing my people!" He began feeling sick and uneasy about his deplorable acts.
Then one day, just before brutally taking the life of another Christian, the victim declared, "I know you will kill me. But I give to you my Bible." Saul finished his slaying, but actually took the Bible and began reading it.
Then that "man in white" showed up again in his dream and asked him to follow Him! Now he knew who this man was. Saul sought out a missionary in the region, became a follower of Jesus Christ, and discovered for himself the powerful overriding peace that conquered the evil hatred in his heart.
The peace of Christ which this militant tried to eradicate from the earth became the very anecdote for the war that was raging in his own heart!
(You can find this story here.)
Let God's peace rule and reign in your heart today. Let it overflow in your personal atmosphere and gain influence in your world.
Yes, there is peace on earth in a kingdom where Christ rules and reigns. We now understand the teachings of Jesus as He meticulously shifted our thinking from this world to "His world in this world", which does not operate from the outside in, but rather from the inside out.
We want someone to fix the circumstances. Jesus came to fix the heart.
He said it this way, "For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
I leave you with the other part of the song (I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day). It says it all:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”