“Prince of Peace”                  Isaiah 9:2-7                                January 1, 2012

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

This Christmas season we’ve studied the four throne names of Christ in Isaiah 9:6,

   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

These names speak of the extent of Christ’s authority and nature of his rule.

   They address particular ways that Christ alone addresses our need.

Sin makes us fools—we need a Wonderful Counselor.

Sin makes us weak—he is our Mighty God.

Sin estranges us—he is the Everlasting Father

Sin causes turmoil and chaos—he is the Prince of Peace.

   Let’s read this passage once more, as we come to the close of Christmas,

   and look forward with confidence at this new year.

 


 

INTRO:  His name shall be called Prince of Peace.

Allison and I went to Israel in 2001 on a Holy Land tour.

When you are in Israel, it’s very easy to say hello and good-bye,

   because it’s the same Hebrew word for both—Shalom. 

You say shalom to greet a person and shalom when you take your leave.

   When someone says shalom to you, the proper response is Shalom, shalom.

 

The way you ask a person how they are doing is, How is your shalom?

   Ma-shalom-cha.

Shalom, of course, means peace.  Freedom from conflict, turmoil, war.

   Both from outside enemies and from trouble within yourself.

And positively, shalom means prosperity, wholeness, health, well-being.

   Shalom is life as it’s supposed to be.  A rich, calm, good life.

 

Isaiah says that the Messiah shall be called Prince of Shalom, Prince of Peace.

   Jesus is the Prince of Life As It’s Supposed to Be.

Isaiah spoke those words at a time when life for God’s people was not peaceful.

There were troubles and conflicts on the outside—

   the immediate threat of civil war between the northern and southern kingdoms of

   Israel and Judah, the distant but more ominous threat of the Assyrian Empire.

There was the spiritual and political incompetence of King Ahaz.

 

Just let your eye scan the first five verses of this chapter and note all the

   very un-peaceful descriptions—gloom, distress, darkness, shadow of death,

   yoke, bar, rod, warriors’ boot, garment rolled in blood.

   That was their present reality.  That was the world they were living in.

Isaiah says:  Have hope, because a child will be born who will reverse these.

   No more gloom, dawning light, increase, rejoicing, harvest, enemies plundered,

   yokes of oppression shattered, implements of war burned. 

 

But, here’s the thing, he’s not born yet.  And Isaiah doesn’t say when he will be.

   He’s saying:  If you trust God, believe his promises, then even though the

   Prince of Peace isn’t here yet, you can, in your heart start to experience his reign

   of peace right now.  It’s so certain, that you can get a foretaste of shalom now.

 

And that’s the very same message to us today.

We live at a different point in redemptive history than believers did in Isaiah’s day.

   They looked forward to the coming Messiah with limited understanding.

We look back with clarity at the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We’ve just celebrated his birth and in a few months will celebrate his resurrection.

   We have the Gospel accounts of his life and teaching.

There are big differences between life in the Old Testament era and the New.

   But in a very important way it’s exactly the same.  It’s a life of faith.

The Prince of Peace has come but there are still wars and conflicts.

   There are still yokes and rods of oppression, still darkness and gloom and shadow.

I was just reading this week some information on North Korea and the terrible

   suffering of the people there, especially Christians, under that evil government.

   Why does Jesus allow this sort of thing to continue?

If the Prince of Peace has come, why are there still troubles in your life?

   Because his rule of peace is progressive.

 

Christ has made it clear that he’s not going to change everything now.

   For the rest of this age until his return he’s going to focus on changing you.

He’s going to extend his government and reign of peace in the hearts of his people.

   He’s going to enable Christians to overcome anxiety and live a life of peace

   even in a world that’s not the way it ought to be—yet. 

It will be when Christ returns.  But it’s not yet.

 

And he wants you to learn to trust him and experience his peace in your heart.

What about you?  Do you struggle with anxiety and worry?

   Are there conflicts and turmoil in your life within and without ?

We’re on the cusp of a new year.  Do you look ahead with apprehension?

   Do the uncertainties or even dark clouds on the horizon make you fearful?

   Or are you confident that 2012 will be for you another year of shalom with Jesus?

 

Let’s look more closely at the nature of this peace that Jesus gives us.

How can you, by faith in Christ, experience life as it’s supposed to be,

   even though you are living in a world that’s not the way it ought to be?

 

We’re going to study this under just two points for you notetakers.

These two points are going to sound familiar because we’ve studied before

   in different passages, but they are the heart of the Bible’s teaching.

1.  Through Jesus Christ you have peace with God.

2.  Through Jesus Christ you have the peace of God.

   Peace with God and peace of God. 

   Those two little prepositions are very important. 


 

MP#1  Through Jesus Christ you have peace with God.

Romans 5:1 says:

   “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through . . .Christ.”

This is where Christianity starts, with the fundamental assumption that we need

   peace with God.  That we are by nature, by birth, at war with God.

 

Have you ever seen a child having a temper tantrum in a store?

   Maybe you saw one while Christmas shopping this year.

Temper tantrums usually happen when the child sees something he wants.

   His mom says “No” and the child tries to die!

The child is too young to articulate his thoughts, but this is what is going on in mind

   I know what will make me happy.

   I am the only person qualified to know what will make me happy.

   That toy, candy is what I must have in order to be happy.

   This person, this hateful enemy, is standing between me and my happiness.

Doesn’t matter that person stopping him is his mother.

   that she loves him more than life itself and wants the best for him

   that she is older and wiser and has bigger plans

   none of that matters—he is just plain mad—she is in the way

 

That’s a vivid picture of the human heart.  People don’t change when they grow up.

   The objects of their happiness change, it’s not candy or toys any more.

   It’s having a certain amount success, achievement, recognition, or pleasure.

But the attitude of the heart same as child in the shopping buggy.

   I know what will make me happy.

   I am the only person qualified to know what will make me happy.

   If I am denied the object of my happiness, mad at whoever is standing in my way.

 

Rage expressed in different ways.  As people grow up, more control of emotions.

   Most adults don’t have screaming temper tantrums, some do.

   Usually their rage is suppressed and comes out in other ways.

   They become distant, sarcastic, frustrated, envious, irritated, skeptical, driven.

But what is most important, whether they realize it or not—

   is that the person they are really mad at is God.

Anger at a spouse, parents, boss, job, circumstances is ultimately anger at God.

   It’s raging at the life he has given you.

 

In another place in Romans Paul says:  “The sinful mind is hostile to God.”

   This is the natural bent of the unregenerate mind.

Another place Paul says.

   “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds

   because of your evil behavior.”

This is the sinful condition of every person—mad at God.

And that war with God that we have all been born with rightly earns God’s wrath.

   As Judge, God bears judicial wrath toward lawbreakers.

But the Gospel, the Good News, is that God looked down with love on His enemies.

He sent His one and only Son to earth to be born first Christmas morning,

   as a human being, “in the likeness of sinful flesh.”  He was the second Adam.

 

As the boy Jesus grew into a man,

   He loved, obeyed, and kept God’s law perfectly.  Then He was crucified.

As our representative, full wrath of God poured out on Him

   as punishment for our sins—Father went to war against own Son.

   That removed the cause of God’s hostility—Judicial wrath satisfied.

 

But that’s not the whole story.  That is what happened 2,000 years ago on the cross.

You were born in sin, born with a heart hostile to God.

   Even as a child, you had temper tantrums because of your sinful nature.

You disobeyed your parents because you wanted to be your own master.

   Your heart was in rebellion against God.

So God sent His Holy Spirit to wake you up spiritually

   to show you your hostility and sin and rebellion

   call you to repent of it, and turn to Him in faith.

And surrender to your former Enemy who is now your Friend.

   Because of God’s great love, Christ’s work, Holy Spirit’s presence—

   you can have peace with God.  All hostility has been removed.

 

Jesus Christ came into this world at Christmas to bring you peace with God.

He came to put an end to the warfare and to enable you to say,

   “I am at peace with God.”  “I have surrendered to the One who is my friend.”

   “I have surrendered to the One who loves me more than I can ever know.” 

   “I have surrendered to the One who desires my greatest good and happiness.”

 

And when you have peace with God, when that fundamental war has been settled,

   then it starts to flow out into your life in significant ways.

For the first time, you can enjoy the lasting and growing peace of God—

   peacefulness, calm, healed relationships—even in midst of troubles.

   We’ll talk more about the peace of God in a minute.

Now, Paul says in this passage in Romans 5 that there are two great objective

   benefits of peace with God.

By “objective” I mean these things are true whether you feel them or not.

   You might not feel peaceful, but these things are true none the less,

   because they rest completely on your peace with God through Jesus Christ.

 

1.  The first “objective” result is access.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through . . .Christ.

   Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Peace with God that means that you have access to God.

   God hears you, listens to you, and answers you.

   When you pray, your prayers are taken seriously.  Taken to the throne of God.

And God always answers your prayers.

   He either gives you what you asked for, or,

   He gives you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows.

Either way, He gives you what is best.

   This is why Paul calls this “access to this grace”, grace is God’s favor, blessing.

People who are at war with God, hostile to Him, don’t have this access.

   Because you have peace with God you can know that when you pray

   God will hear you and answer graciously.

Let this answer your anxiety—God hears you.  You have access.

 

2.  The second “objective” result is hope.

We have access . . . “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

I know that “hope” doesn’t sound very objective. 

   Way we use hope and the way the Bible uses are very different.

Hope to us means a fond wish.  I hope this happens but it might not. 

   Hope in Scripture, looking forward to certain event.

The “hope of glory” is the very objective guarantee that you are going to spend

   eternity with God.  Your soul will go to heaven when you die.

At the resurrection, your body will be raised glorified, powerful, and shining.

   You will live and reign with Christ and all believers for eternity

   This is only true of people who are at peace with God.

Those hostile to Him will spend eternity in hell.

   It’s a fact.  Because you are no longer God’s enemy, not going to cast you off

   when you die.  He has plans for your future, glorious plans.

 

The Prince of Peace brings you peace with God.  The warfare is ended. 

   So you have access to God and the hope of glory. 

MP#2  Through Jesus Christ you have the peace of God.

Peace with God is objective.  It’s a change of status from enemy to friend.

   Peace of God is subjective.  It’s your experience of Christ’s shalom in your mind.

It’s a peace that you can cultivate and develop.  It can grow so strong that it   

   overcomes the most anxiety-producing situations and circumstances of life.

And, negatively, the peace of God can be shaken and even lost for times.

   But it can always be regained.

 

During the 1980s you may remember that a number of Americans

   were kidnapped in Beirut, Lebanon by Muslim terrorists.

   Some were executed, some were eventually released.

One American kidnapped was a man named Martin Jenco.

   He was a believer working for a Christian relief agency in Beirut.

 

Over the year and a half he was a hostage, his kidnappers frequently moved him

   so he wouldn’t be discovered and rescued.  When the moved him they would

   stuff a sock in his mouth, wrap his body in packing tape from feet to top of head.

They would only leave his nostrils open to breath. 

   Then they would stow him in a space under the bed of a truck. 

The first time he almost died of panic and suffocation.

   It was a dark, hot, claustrophobic space.  He was jolted around, his nose smashed.

   It began to bleed and the blood began to clot.

 

When he had been first kidnapped a button had come off his jacket.

   He held on to that button as a kind of symbol of his free life. 

   Captors had never found it.  Under that truck for the first time, suffocating.

He prayed and focused on that button in his palm.

   It keep him from utter panic, focused his mind, helped regulate his breathing.

 

As you can imagine, he got quite attached to that button—kept it close to him.

   Whenever he would be moved, wrapped in tape would pray and clench button.

During his captivity he remembered the passage in Philippians—

   “The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition

   with thanksgiving present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all

   understanding will guard your  hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

He started meditating on this passage—thinking about the peace of God.

He knew God was telling him something: 

   “I am with you always, even when you are bound and gagged and stuffed under a truck. 

   The next time they move you, I want you to let go of the button.”

He was being required to take a profound step of faith.

   To find his peace in Jesus Christ alone—not even in Jesus plus a little button.

Next time he was moved, opened his hand—let go of the button—

   with an open hand and heart he received an incredible peace—

   the profound assurance that the Lord was with him.

 

That’s what peace of God is for a Christian—quiet confidence that Lord with you.

   That he has control of your life and circumstances.

   And then it is obeying God, trusting him, until you begin to experience that.

The peace of God is a seed that Jesus puts in the heart of every born again person.

   It has to be cultivated. 

Let me put it in theological terms.

   Peace with God is connected to your justification.

   Peace of God is connected to your sanctification.

Do you understand the distinction?

 

Justification is that aspect of your salvation that has to do with your status.

   It’s who God has declared you to be.

   Through Christ he’s declared that you are now his friend not his enemy.

   So he hears you and has great plans for you.  Justification is by faith alone.

Sanctification is that aspect of your salvation that has to do with the kind

   of person you are becoming.  It’s what God is making you to be.

   Through the Holy Spirit he’s making you a more peaceful person

   because your confidence and trust in him is growing through obedience.

Sanctification is by faith and by obedience and cooperation with Holy Spirit.

 

So how do you cultivate this peace of God?

You’re going to love Paul’s answer—Pray about it.  Pray about your anxiety.

   I’m sure that there were people in Philippian church, as in this church

   Who say, that is a worthless, pat answer to problem of anxiety.

I’ve tried to pray and it doesn’t work.

   As if Paul knew that was going to be the response—goes into more detail.

“In everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known unto God.”

 

Let’s look at each element of his teaching.

1.  “By Prayer”  Prayer is a general biblical term for communion with God.

   Means coming face to face with the living God and worshipping Him.

Very first thing you do, have this problem, anxiety, is you in a sense put it aside.

   Ok—who am I talking to?  I’m talking to the God of all the Universe.

King of kings, Lord of lords.  Talking to One who is glorious, sovereign.

I’m also coming face to face with my Father in heaven.

   That is the way Jesus taught His disciples to pray—our Father in heaven.

Do you see what that does—if pray properly.

   It immediately lifts you above the earth and into the presence of God.

   Puts things in perspective. 

Martin Luther—if could perfectly pray first words, Our Father in heaven,

   could stop there, would never have to pray another word.

 

Prayer doesn’t come easily—not just bowing head and asking God for things.

   Awareness that you are in His presence.  Gazing at Him.

   Martin Luther had a dog, would sit and stare at him whole meal, waiting for scrap.  Luther said:  If only I could pray like my dog!

   Doesn’t come naturally.  One reason God gave us the Bible, stir self up.

   Martin Jenco.  It was remembering this passage.  Meditating on it.

 

2.  “And Petition”  We know what a petition is.  Tell God, this is what is happening.

   This is what I need.  We’re usually good at that.

3.  Then Paul adds, “With Thanksgiving.” 

   Now this is truly the key to petitioning God.

Means that with every petition you say these words and have this attitude:

   And Lord, whatever your answer is, I will be thankful.

 

If You answer, “Yes.”  Obviously I’ll be thankful.

If You answer, “Wait.” (even for a long time) I’ll be thankful for perfect timing.

If You answer in a way that is completely different from what expected,

   I’ll be thankful for your wisdom.

If you say, “No.”  I’ll be thankful that you know what is best.

   Can only pray that way by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

But if you do—what is the promise if you pray this way?

   Not a promise that circumstances will change, things work out.

   “and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

   will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Promise that you will be filled with confident, quiet rest in Lord’s presence,

   and his wise control over your life.  

Furthermore, it’s going to be a peace that you can’t imagine.

   It will come upon you and you will enjoy it. 

Furthermore, it will be a peace in Christ Jesus the Prince of Peace through union.

Have you ever known the peace of God? 

When you are anxious, do you say, I’ve prayed and it doesn’t work.

   But what has your prayer been?  God change this.  Fix this.  Do something.

   Or have you patiently, fervently prayed with thanksgiving as Lord teaches?

This is not a psychological tool pull out and say—pray and make self feel better.

   Pray, think about God, won’t be able to think about my problems.

This is a promise that God Himself, will respond to the prayers of His people,

   and in His time, will fill them with His peace that transcends understanding. 

 

What about you?  Are you anxious? 

   What are the buttons that you hold on to give yourself some sense of control.

Peace comes in knowing that the Lord is with you, your life in his hands.

   Because your life is in his hands, he can give you an experience of life as it ought

   to be, even though you are still living in a world that is not the way it ought to be.

When you know the reign of the Prince of Peace in your heart, it’s a great thing.

 

One more story, appropriate for the end of Christmas, a story about the fifth

   general of the Salvation Army, and his wife, George and Minnie Carpenter.

You’re familiar with the Salvation Army buckets during Christmas. 

   It’s actually a denomination started to focus on mercy ministries.

Church government organized with this military terminology. 

   The presiding bishop called the general.  Mr. Carpenter was fifth general.

 

They had a grown daughter who had answered the call to be a missionary in Asia.

   She caught typhoid fever and was close to death. 

The Carpenters began to pray, but then both of them had the impression,

   they couldn’t explain but they both believed that they should not pray for

   their daughter’s recovers. 

They kept praying, but their prayer was:  Thou canst heal her if Thou wilt.

   They prayed like that for six weeks, and then their daughter died.

 

The morning she died, John Carpenter said to his wife, Minnie.

   “You know, I am aware of a strange and curious calm within.”

Mrs. Carpenter replied, “I feel exactly the same.”

   Then she said to him:  “This must be the peace of God.”

And it was the peace of God.  What’s interesting to me about this story is these two

   believers amazed, almost saying, what’s wrong with us, why are we feeling this.

We should be agitated, we should be falling apart—but we aren’t, we can’t.

   It was nothing less than the work of the Prince of Peace.

You can have this peace to—peace with God, peace of God through Jesus Christ.

   What a great gift, to move ahead into this new year with hearts at peace in him.

   Make it your great goal and aim.