“GOD OF PEACE” (1 Thess. 5:23)
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT Dec. 10, 2017 10:30 AM
FBC Earlville, NY J B Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S SPECIAL: “A Tradition Funny” (an oldie but goodie)
The teacher asked young Malcolm: “What do you do at Christmas time?”
Malcolm addressed the class: “Well Miss Jones, my twelve brothers and sisters and I go to midnight mass and we sing hymns; then we come home very late and we put mince pies by the back door and hang up our stockings. Then all excited, we go to bed and wait for Santa Claus to come with all our toys.”
“Very nice Malcolm,” she said. “Now Jimmy, what do you do at Christmas?”
“Well, Miss Jones, my sister and I also go to church with Mom and Dad and we sing carols and we get home ever so late. We put cookies and milk by the chimney and we hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep, waiting for Santa Claus to bring our presents.”
Realizing there were Jewish boys in the class and not wanting to leave them out of the discussion, she asked, “Now, Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?”
Isaac said, “Well, Miss Jones, it’s the same thing every year – Dad comes home from the office, we all pile into the Rolls Royce and drive to Dad’s toy factory. When we get inside, we look at all the empty shelves and begin to sing ‘What A Friend We Have in Jesus.'”
Like last week’s “hope”, the word “peace” is often in Scripture – in fact, almost 250 times. It is significant that with the coming of the Savior, true peace can be offered to a world weary of war both without and within.
Our text today will take us to a prayer that Paul has – not only for the people of the church at the Greek city of Thessalonica, but also for his future readers as well.
May the Lord help us this Christmas season to appreciate in a fresh way the God Who offers a weary world His peace.
#1: THE THREE DISTINCTIONS
a. Peace with God
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Paul is in the great section of Romans where he is discussing what happens the moment a person comes to trust Jesus as Savior. He is no longer an enemy to God – rather, he is a friend, a child of God; he belongs to God through faith in the cross and the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior.
He has peace with God, because until he comes to Christ, he did not have that peace. In fact, he was without God and without hope. But now being justified – being legally declared righteous by the Father through the finished work of Christ on the cross – he has peace with God. He is no longer an enemy to God; and God is no longer a foreigner to him. Peace with God!
b. Peace of God
Phil. 4:6,7 say, “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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”
* See any distinction from the “peace with God”? Here the believer is in the midst of trial. He is seeking God’s face, God’s leading, God’s purpose. He is trying to honor the Lord in his life, even if he doesn’t know how his situations in life are going to follow through. And in the midst of it all, he has God’s peace: the peace of God.” That is God’s special rest which He gives His children, a rest not based upon circumstances, but once again upon God Himself coupled with the believer’s trust in Who God is.
c. God of peace
Our text is one of several passages in the Scriptures which show God in a fresh light.
There are 5 passages in Scripture which use this phrase: Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:20; and our text. All 5 of them are voiced in prayer. All 5 of them are an expression of the writer who desires the best for his readers.
The first 4 are for you to study on your own, if you’d like. Let us look more closely at Paul’s prayer in 1 Thess. 5:23.
#2: THE TWO BURDENS
The first burden is a direct result of the nature of Who God is. God is the God of peace. He is the One Who can change a heart to make it right with Him – when that heart comes face to face with the Lamb of God Who gave Himself for sinners at Calvary. He is the One Who can give that same heart a calm assurance that the God of peace can make peace for His believing child no matter in whatever storm, situation, or decision of life which comes his way.
The first burden or prayer of Paul’s is for the sanctification of the believer. He is literally praying that the God Who is the God of peace make complete peace both within and without for His child.
“Sanctify” means “to make holy”. So here Paul is praying that God’s child will be both inward and outward exactly like his heavenly Father is – holy inward and outward.
Notice Paul prays that the believer be sanctified “through and through”. That gives the idea that in his identity with his new heavenly Father, the believer will first of all be set apart for all the eternal purposes which the Father has for His new child as a result of his coming to the cross. Eternal purposes! And we thought we were simply praying a prayer of faith! God is bigger than just a simple prayer of trust. God sees the BIG picture, the eternal picture, the one that will best bring glory to Him.
ILLUSTRATION: In the bulletin is a picture of two believers heading toward the same goal. The top believer sees the goal. In his own mind, the best way to reach the goal is the simplest – just go for the goal straight ahead. This picture illustrates the believer not trusting His Savior but trusting his own wisdom and designs for his life. But the bottom believer also sees the goal. But between the start of his journey and the goal, he will encounter many highs (mountains) and lows (valleys), many clear days and many storms. The goal is the same as the above self-willed believer. But in the bottom picture, the believer is steadily guided by the faithful hand of the unseen God. And the end result is not just the goal – whatever that goal is – the end result is the setting apart of the child of God for God’s intimate trust and purposes, bearing eternal fruit for the glory of the Father.
Which picture best represents you?
I like what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 56:13: “For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?”. And how about the familiar Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Both verses tell of that special encouragement of God’s presence in the midst of that journey, the “BIG picture”. God is so faithful, isn’t He?
The second burden is one of preservation. God is in the keeping business. But the Father wants to preserve not just part of the believer – He wants to maintain His child in such a position that the whole being is one of active maturing before the guiding hand of his Father.
Simply put, the spirit, soul, and body of the believer are all the components that make up the finished work of the sanctification of the child of God. Remember, this is the God of peace at work! He Who has made peace within is making peace throughout.
And we should not be surprised. This is not a “once for all” surgical procedure. No, no! It is like the skillful jeweler who cuts the rough cut stone and creates a finished gem which is of greater worth, beauty, and usefulness than the original vessel which is of little value or use.
Are you being preserved daily? Are your rough edges being skillfully polished by the Master Jeweler Himself?
Note how the writer ends. This work of the God of peace is long-term; why, it is all the way until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is the new creation of a vessel of integrity, one that will have eternal worth. Note that Paul doesn’t set a date for that return; rather, having an open-ended timeline reminds his reader that God’s work in His child is purposed to have an eternal vision – with a daily action.
May this prayerfully represent each of us today!
Close in prayer