Christmas has arrived. And from the entire team who serves at Desiring God, and from Pastor John and from myself, we all want to wish you a very merry Christmas. The incredible Christmas story of God breaking into this world is true, and it is incredible. God taking on humanity is a story that rings of God’s glory and rings of a new peace that is given to the globe. We saw that yesterday. But it all raises the question: How do I enjoy the Christmas peace of God right now, personally? Today John Piper explains in a clip from his 2011 Christmas sermon, explaining Luke 2:14.
When I say “peace,” I don’t simply mean the absence of conflict or animosity. I mean the presence of joyful tranquility and as much richness of interpersonal communication as you are capable of: a back and forth richness and sweetness, open, free, sweet, eyeball-to-eyeball, no-agenda peace. That is what we are after.
So let’s look at these. Let me start with the key. There is more than one. The key to each of these three relationships of peace is keeping together what the angels kept together. Glory to God, peace to us — together (Luke 2:14). If you say: I don’t have any interest in, love for, admiration of, treasuring of the glory of God — I just want the peace — then you won’t get it. You can’t separate the two. The angels won’t let you. God won’t let you. God’s purpose is to give you peace by being the most glorious person in your life.
Five times in the New Testament, God is called the God of peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). And Paul said, “[Jesus] himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Therefore, if you say: I want the peace; I don’t want the glorious God — I want the peace; I don’t want the sovereign Jesus — then you won’t have the peace. He will be our peace by being our God. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.” The angels have it right. The angels keep it together. If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. He is our peace.
So the key to peace is glory to God and peace to men kept together. A heart bent on showing the glory of God will know the peace of God. What holds these two together: a heart that is bent on glorifying God, making much of God, displaying the beauty of God, admiring God, treasuring God, cherishing God, hallowing God’s name, and enjoying tranquility and peace and candor and openness and readiness to forgive and receptive hearts — not pushing people away, but welcoming people in, even long-lost enemies? What keeps those together? Faith. Believing the promises of God bought by the blood of Jesus. And there is a key text. It is so precious in my life. I love this text — just a little simple verse from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”
I don’t think it could be much clearer. How will I enjoy joy and peace from the God of hope? How will I? What connects me to that God and his peace? In believing, by believing, through believing the promises bought by the blood of Jesus. That will be another key as we look at each of these relationships. So here we go:
1) Peace with God. This peace, this peace right here is foundational to all other peace. If you try to make peace with your mind and your heart and all the guilt and anxiety that comes again and again without that peace, and if you try to hold a family together and to make peace at work, you will maybe achieve some brief superficial measures, but it won’t last — especially into eternity. All peace inwardly and peace outwardly is based on this vertical experience of: Do I have peace with God? Is it open and clear with God? Are we friends?
The key text, as you might guess where I would go, is Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith [there it is: “by believing”], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Having been justified by faith — believing, trusting him and all of his promises to me — I have peace.
So just a word on justification again. Justification, being justified, means God declares you just. God declares you right, righteous, pure, perfect, acceptable. He does. He declares you that. How? I am not just. No, that is the gospel. Through faith. Faith in Jesus, the foundation, the purchaser of the blood and provider of all the promises. I believe in Jesus, and when I believe, I am united to Jesus and what Jesus was, he was for me — and God looks upon his righteousness as mine and his punishment as mine. Therefore, in spite of all my sins, God is my friend.
This is the difference that it makes when Christ comes into the world, dies for our sins, provides our perfection: We believe. We trust him. God says: justified, peace.
Lots of people come to church on this weekend who don’t usually come to church. They are not interested necessarily in Christ and the Bible and salvation and justification, all these things. I just want to say something really clear after trying to say what that peace with God is through Jesus. It is not by our deeds. It is not by our tradition, whether Baptist or Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist or Presbyterian. It is not by baptism. It is not by church membership. It is not by piety. It is not by parentage. It is by faith alone.
This is the core of our gospel: Christ died in our place. Christ provided an alien righteousness for us that is not ours, and Christ bore our punishment and he offers it to every single human being — and it is received by faith alone. And when that faith happens, we are united with him and his righteousness is ours — we have peace with God. And there isn’t anything sweeter to go to bed on.