He Came To Bring Us Peace
Rev. Kit Billings
December 4, 2005
Reading from New Church Doctrine
Apocalypse Revealed n. 306
By “peace” are signified all things in their aggregate which are from the Lord, and thence all things of heaven and the church, and the happiness of life in them; these are of peace in the highest or inmost sense. It follows therefore that “peace” is charity, spiritual security, and internal rest; for when someone is in the Lord, he is in peace with his neighbor, which is charity; he is in protection against the hells, which is spiritual security; and when he is in peace with his neighbor, and in protection against the hells, he is in internal rest from evils and falsities.
The Season of Advent is our time of preparation for celebrating Christmas—the birth of Immanuel, “God with us,” into our world some 2005 years ago in Jesus the Christ. That is the historical Christmas and historical Advent you might say—God’s infinite power of Love penetrating into and “infecting” all life like never before. No wonder that God’s ancient prophet, Isaiah, was blessed to hear and preach those awesome words long before the Messiah’s birth happened, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.”
There are many great effects from God’s promise of His Messiah coming true—like a renewing feeling and perception of HOPEFULNESS about life. This morning we are reflecting together about another marvelous effect—PEACE—God’s peacefulness actually moving into and joining itself with our hearts and minds in a very deep and awesome way. The Lord’s Word speaks about the peace of God that passes all our human understanding because it runs that deep, and it can powerfully influence and help us in all manner of situations.
So this morning, my friends, it is my joy to share with you about peace. I am going to address only one form of it, the spiritual degree of it, what some have referred to as soulful peace. And as I share with you about it, please remember that there is an entire other degree of peace God’s Word cares much about, the worldly kind of peace and love, peace between people and nations—the kind of outward peace that grows out of the development of righteousness and justice in towns and cities, in whole societies and perhaps one day in whole nations. For throughout the books of the major and minor Prophets in the Old Testament, not to mention much of Jesus’ message in His New Testament, focuses on God’s passionate concern for peacemaking growing out of fairness and support of the poor and the oppressed. I plan on addressing that aspect of peace with you down the road, after we’ve entered the New Year. But this morning, let us look carefully at the more internal degree of peace, which is not so dependent upon outward circumstances and forces.
As our theology reminds us, the celebration of Advent and Christmas most deeply serve us when we discover and internalize that the Christmas story is more than glorious history—it is a wondrous parable about how the Lord intends to make not one, two, or even twenty advents into our lives, but hundreds or even thousands of them. I’m talking about the myriads of new “spiritual births” reserved for you as you grow, heal and transform inside within the grace, truth and power of the Lord. And just as the natural birth of the Prince of Peace into the arms of Mary and Joseph brought a great new emanation of God’s force of peace into our reality here on earth, so also does every spiritual advent of the Lord’s Spirit into our hearts and minds bring us new experiences of Jesus…new experiences of God’s peace penetrating into the sometimes dark and bewildered regions of our natural minds!
Indeed, the true story of God being born into our world as the baby Jesus when our world had hit its lowest ebb in history, when spiritual darkness had begun to overwhelm the forces of Heaven in our world (when everyday people had lost touch with simple love and goodness for one another), reminds us that when we commit ourselves to God, His commitment to us births a new power and presence of Jesus inside where it really counts! Why? Because the PRESENCE of the Lord Jesus Christ protects our hearts and minds from any attacking influence from Hell calming internal storms within.
God’s Word has many passages and stories in it that teach of God’s amazing gift of spiritual, internal peace which accompanies His presence as we open up to His new births within. I’m thinking now about the great Old Testament story of Daniel being thrown into the lions’ den and how his faith in God kept him safe in that room full of ravenous lions as God’s angels literally shut those terrifying lions’ jaws. That story is also a parable about how safe we really are in spirit when we trust in the Lord’s saving powers. In Psalm 85:1-10 we read: “Lord, You showed favor to Your land; You restored Jacob's prosperity. You took away Your people's guilt; You covered all their sin. Selah I will listen to what God will say; surely the Lord will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways. His salvation is very near those who fear Him, so that glory may dwell in our land. Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace.”
In the New Testament we find so many passages that make it clear to us that the Lord is deeply serious about His desire for us to find and know His gift of internal peace, which we are designed to find especially after some tough spiritual temptation battles have been won through God’s love and truth. I will refer to just three of them. In John 16:33 we read: “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.” Then in Matthew’s eighth chapter we read about the Lord’s power over Mother Nature and His ability to calm even natural storms, which shows a crucial inner truth to us about His power over inner storms and rough waters in our minds at times: “As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to die!" But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, you of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” (vs. 23-26) We should not forget that this story has the stormy initial part of it, reminding us that part of spiritual regeneration is the inner battles between angels and demons grappling inside of us. Yet when we turn toward and have faith in the Lord’s power to overcome in temptation, victory and eventual peacefulness within us will always be our blessing. I refer also to I Peter 5:7 where that apostle wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
The essential spiritual reality and truth we need to grow into for many years is, don’t worry. Let God handle it. We have our minor but critical role in living a good and orderly life, and the Lord has His enormous role. In Ephesians 3:16 Paul writes, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” And Paul is saying that even while we’re wasting away on the outside, if we’re a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ we’re being strengthened and changed on the INSIDE.
Someone has observed that worry is the Christian’s most popular sin because it is one that we don’t even try to disguise. Worry is so common in our lives that we’re not even particularly ashamed of it. But still, worrying is not being in a close and trusting relationship and connection with our Lord. As Christ, the Prince of Peace, says to us Himself, “…do not worry about your life.” In short, God loves to carry our burdens for us, making them very manageable and not something to be afraid of. And His love and power enable us to keep the hellish tendency to want to worry about what lies ahead at bay.
About 20 years ago Time Magazine featured a number of missionary families on its cover, thanking them for their exemplary service and support of others. One of them was the J. Russell Morse family. Russell’s family worked on the border of China. At one point Russell was imprisoned by Communist Chinese soldiers. In his memoirs he remembers the steely eyed men with guns coming to him and saying, “Come with us.” He asked, “Can I take some clothing and bedding with me?” They said, “No, you won’t need anything. We’ll take good care of you.” And Russell knew that they weren’t telling the truth. For 18 months he was held in a communist prison, with 15 of those months spent in solitary confinement. His small cell had no window, only a small hole high up to let in a little bit of light and air, and no bed, just filthy straw on the floor. For 15 months he was never able to see or speak to anyone. Just once a day a small panel was opened at the bottom of his cell door and a bowl of food shoved through. He had no Bible, nothing to read. They had even taken away his glasses, so that he could barely see.
In his memoirs, Russell later wrote, “The only thing that helped me keep my sanity during that period were the Bible verses and hymns I had memorized. And the one verse that kept me going the most was Philippians 4:6: ‘Don’t be anxious about anything. Pray about everything, and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’” Russell continued to write, “If there was ever a time to be anxious, it was when I was in that prison. And if there ever was a time when it was difficult to pray and be thankful, it was then. But I kept repeating those words in my mind over and over again.” When J. Russell Morse came out of the prison, he didn’t have to be deprogrammed because God have him the peace that transcends all understanding.
Now, I don’t know how you felt as you came to church this morning. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of the world and everything is going our way. But probably, most of the time, we don’t come to church feeling that way. Did you come this morning carrying a heavy burden? Maybe you’re worried about something. Maybe there is a problem in your life that just doesn’t seem to go away. Maybe you feel guilty because of some sins you have committed. Perhaps you’re concerned about finances, or you’re frustrated because you’re trying to get something accomplished and you can’t seem to get it done. Whatever the reason you may be feeling “UN-peaceful” this morning (if this is your lot), I pray that you may meditate deeply upon any of God’s great love and wisdom revealed in the Scriptures, and also within the fine doctrinal wisdom we read together earlier that reads: “‘peace’ is charity, spiritual security, and internal rest; for when someone is in the Lord, he is in peace with his neighbor, which is charity; in protection against the hells, which is spiritual security; and when he is in peace with his neighbor, and in protection against the hells, he is in internal rest from evils and falsities.’”
Without a doubt the only protection against internal unrest and the vicious inner attacks (those “slings and arrows” that Shakespeare wrote about!) is being in the goodness, love and truth of God, which for Christians is most powerfully known in His glorified Human, Jesus Christ. Any demons from Hell who may want to approach and attack your heart and mind will always run the other way from the power of the Lord and His Divine Love emanating from Him. For He is the living, almighty God of strength and Light, whose Light shines into the darkness although the darkness does not understand it. Or as Isaiah’s great words given to him by the Lord express it, “and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful, Counselor, Hero God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Practically speaking, I hope that we each can make room every day for ten minutes of prayer and meditation upon the Lord, who came into our world to bring us His grace and peace.
May your journey into the Holy One, the King of Heaven and earth, be steady and deeply real for you. And may your faithful openness to God’s spiritual entrance into your inward being this Advent Season be innocent and easy, full of joy and peace, the way that a little girl or boy warmly embraces their mommy or daddy in the morning at the sun’s new day! Amen.