“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” --Luke 2:14
I took part in a short Bible study this year entitled The Purpose of Christmas, by Rick Warren. It is a study which describes Christmas as a time for celebration, salvation, and reconciliation. I was particularly ministered to as I studied the chapter on Christmas being a time for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the restoration of a broken relationship. It is peace on earth, good will toward men. Rick Warren runs down the progression of peace this way:
We will not have peace in the world until we have peace in nations.
We will never have peace in nations until we have peace in communities.
We will never have peace in our communities until there is peace in families.
We will never have peace in our families until there is peace in individuals.
And individuals will never have peace until they invite the Prince of Peace to
reign in their hearts, and Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
"Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)."-- Romans 5:1 ( Amplified Bible).
Peace begins with us, the individuals who know the peace of Jesus and who are very aware of the transformation He has done in our own lives. It’s not what we’ve done in us; it’s what He’s done in us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith.”-- Ephesians 2:8 (NIV).
I attended a wonderful Celebration of Life service recently. I had never met the man who had died. He was the brother of a co-worker. There had obviously been a time in his life when he was involved in some events in the community that did not produce peace, but a lot of strife over a period of time. It was important to hear that part of his story, but that was not the focus of the service. The message of the service was who this man was after he came to Jesus and received His forgiveness and peace. There was a picture in the program of him coming out of the water after his baptism with such joy on his face. His pastor said he worshiped God on Sundays as if it were only he and God in the sanctuary. It was said he always had a smile on his face and a song in his heart because of Jesus. Oh how he loved Him! Over and over his family members, young and old, talked about how they’d find him each day at the kitchen table with his Bible, a pad of paper, and a cup of coffee. A few days after he died, one of his family members gave his life to the Lord. Praise God!
I had to leave the service early, but just before I left one of the pastors asked if anyone in the sanctuary, who did not know Jesus, would like to stand, come forward, and receive Him. As I sat there knowing there were people there who had known him in his former life, I thought surely someone would stand. And so they did. When I left, two men were headed down to the altar, and I prayed for them as I walked to my car. I thought about the celebration I’d just been to and the party that was going on in heaven!
"It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open." -- Acts 10:35 (MSG)
God has given us the ministry and the message of reconciliation, which is helping others find peace with God and with each other. We cannot do this without realizing the unconditional love we are given and the forgiveness we have and continue to receive each day. Jesus has forgiven you, but have you forgiven yourself? The truth is, unless you do, how can you share the gift of His grace? Where is the strife in your life? Can you work toward exchanging it for God’s peace as we begin a new year, so others will want what you have?
“God… reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors."-- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NIV)
Let’s do it!