Prince of Peace

Know That Jesus Is Our Peace Can Bring Us Great Comfort.

George Wright
Dec 23, 2020    33m
Who can we turn to to find peace in this uncertain and chaotic world? This Christmas message of hope reminds us that when we surrender our life to Him, Jesus is our peace. He is the Prince of Peace who came to bring peace and restore our relationship with God through his perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.


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messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Thank you for being here with us this evening. Merry Christmas to you, so glad to see you, we're glad you're here tonight. Thank you for joining us in this very special time. I'd like to encourage you, if you would, to grab your Bible or pull up the Bible app on your phone, if you have it there, and let's turn together to the book of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 9 is where we will get started tonight, and then we will turn our attention from the Old Testament to the New, in Ephesians chapter 2.

George Wright: 00:31 But we begin in Isaiah chapter 9, and over the last few weeks together here at Shandon, we've been looking at some of the prophecy of Isaiah proclaiming who the Messiah would be, and how he would come. And here in chapter 9 verse 6, we see what Isaiah says specifically about this Messiah, who his name really is. So let me encourage you, if you would, to stand with me as I read from God's Word. This is something we do when we gather at Shandon, at the beginning of the message, to remind us all that the Word of God is the foundation for the people of God. The Word of God is what the church stands upon. What God says is right, and good and true.

George Wright: 01:22 So this is the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, chapter 9 verse 6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." And it's that final portion of this verse, where we will spend some time this evening looking at the Prince of Peace and what he has come to offer to you and to me.

George Wright: 02:05 So would you pray with me as we now turn our attention to God's Word here for this special time together
at Christmas, let's pray. Heavenly Father, what a gift it is in the midst of all the busyness of this season, in the midst of all the strangeness of this year, to have an opportunity just to stop for a moment and to have an encounter with you. And so I pray tonight as we gather in this room, and as many join us online, wherever they are, Lord, would you speak into our lives, what we need to hear? Show us the beauty of Christmas, show us the gift of what you have provided. And, Lord, please open our eyes to see what you desire for us to see in the midst of this Christmas celebration. We thank you for this time, we thank you for the privilege of turning our attention to your word, and we pray that your word would speak into our lives in the power of your Spirit. We ask this in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing with me.

George Wright: 03:28 Well, 2020 has certainly been an interesting year, a fascinating year, a challenging year. Is peace truly something that is possible? The prophet Isaiah says, as we turn our attention to Christmas, as we celebrate the arrival of the Son of God, who has been given to us, his name is Prince of Peace. You may or may not agree with this, but I believe all of us share a common longing for peace. This is something we desire, this is something we searched for, we want it in relationships, we want it in our finances. We want it at work, we want it at school, we want it in our culture, we want it in this nation, we long for peace. And everyone knows, every supermodel wants world peace, right? We all have a desire for peace.

George Wright: 04:34 And yet, as we've been reminded in many harsh ways this year, and as you've certainly been reminded time and time again in your life, peace is something that is very difficult to grab a hold of. In fact, you may be here tonight, having experienced such difficulty in your story that you think about peace, then you just think what a naive idea, that someone could really have peace in their life in the midst of all the hardship of this world, in the midst of all the struggles and difficulties, what a naive kind of thought. So let me ask you, is peace truly possible? Is it possible that you can have peace in your life regardless of circumstance? Is it possible that peace can be a real aspect of your story? For what we celebrate here at Christmas is what the Word of God says is the arrival of the Prince of Peace.

George Wright: 05:52 In the midst of all the headlines, and all the stories that have happened in 2020, there have been many challenging stories that have taken place. One that has been interesting to me, that honestly kind of got lost in the shuffle at the end of the summer, beginning of the fall, is the amount of wildfires that have ravaged the West coast this year. You may or may not realize this, but it has been a record breaking year for wildfires in this country. Over 8 million acres of land has been burned and destroyed on the West coast in California, and Oregon, and Washington, and then up into Canada, this is a devastating season of wildfires. In the midst of all the fires, in the midst of all the loss of personal property, and even the loss of life at times, there has been a concern that many people have had as it relates to specific areas of the forest in California. For one of the areas that was hit the hardest by these wildfires, is an area where the redwoods grow. In fact, in Santa Cruz state forest, many redwoods have been in the midst of this wildfire. And many people have been concerned about these historic, ancient trees, the oldest trees in North America. Are they all going to die?

George Wright: 07:26 And if you look at them today, what you would see is a bunch of trees that have been burned from the floor to the ceiling, from the soil to the sky, these trees have been charred, they've been stripped of every evidence of life. And many people in California began to question, are these trees destroyed? Are they going to make it? Is this the end of these historic forests? But scientists have been quick to note, that these redwoods have actually been through many fires before, these redwoods are hundreds and hundreds of years old, and these redwoods have bark that is fire resistant. It's pretty interesting. The bark on some of the older trees, is over a foot thick. It provides a fire barrier that protects the tree, and scientists say that within a year of the wildfire happening, even though the trees look chard and dead on the outside, new buds will appear, new limbs will start to grow, new evidence of life will be seen, they're covered. I just want to ask you tonight, are you covered by the Prince of Peace? Is your life marked by peace that covers your life in the midst of the fire, in the midst of the storm, in the midst of ever-changing circumstances that are so difficult, and so challenging, and so hard to navigate, are you covered in peace?

George Wright: 09:19 For a few moments here tonight, I want to turn your attention to this covering of peace, as it is described in the book of Ephesians 2. Turn your attention, if you would, to Ephesians chapter 2 in the New Testament. And let's look at this letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church, a church in Ephesus, as he talks about the peace that comes from God. Verse 13 of Ephesians 2, "But now Christ Jesus." The scripture says, "You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace." The verses actually speak to why we celebrate the Prince of Peace here at Christmas, for God has come to dwell among men, that's what we celebrate at Christmas. His name is called Emmanuel, which means God with us, God has come to dwell among men, this is the good news that we celebrate at Christmas.

George Wright: 10:45 But Ephesians 2 is also showing us some very difficult news to stomach, you can call this the bad news. And to truly understand the good news of what is being declared through the arrival of the Prince of Peace, we must first understand the bad news. So what is the bad news? Well, these verses here show us the bad news is apart from Christ, we are far off from God, we don't even come close. Apart from Christ, we are far from God. Apart from Christ, we are far from peace. Have you experienced this in your life? For the scripture here is saying, this is true of every single one of us. In fact, you could say the gospel is a message that truly levels the playing field, it puts us all in the same swimming pool, if you will, we're all on the same plane. According the gospel each and every one of us apart from Christ is far off from God. And the scripture is saying here, there is no such thing as living a life that is good enough to put you close to God, it's just not something we can do. Try as we might, you cannot perform your way, or become religious enough, to achieve drawing close to God apart from Christ. You are either far off in your own effort and attempt, or you have been brought near, as the scripture say, by the blood of Christ. For you see, the scripture is showing us, it is through the blood of Christ at the cross, and only through the blood of Christ at the cross, that our sin is covered, our sin is washed white as snow, our sin that puts us at war with God, has been defeated and dealt with so that there is peace. The peace that only God can bring, which is why the scripture says he himself, speaking of Jesus, he himself is our peace, the path to peace is found in him.

George Wright: 13:19 And then the scripture goes on to show us how this peace is provided. For it says, "He has made us both one." What is this talking about here? Who are the two that are being made into one? Well, here in the scripture, the Apostle Paul is talking about the divide, the hostility, that is created by self-righteousness. And he uses an example here, he's talking about the religious Jews of the time, and those who would be called the Gentiles, those who were not religious, like the Jews, those who were not paying attention to the law and the prophets. And the Apostle Paul is saying there is tension between the religious crowd and the non-religious crowd, and that tension, that hostility, don't miss this, is created by self-righteousness on both sides. For the religious Jews are on one side saying, hey, we have the law, we're doing the right thing, we're closer to God because of our behavior. And they would look down their noses at the Gentiles, they would judge the Gentiles for the way they're living, and the things that they were doing. And they would say, we're better than you, and we want nothing to do with you because of your behavior. Our behavior is the right behavior, your behavior is the wrong behavior. We're close to God, you're far from God, stay away from us. At the same time, the Gentiles are over here going, all your laws are crazy, you can't even follow them all. You try and you try, but all we see when we look at you is a bunch of hypocrisy. We don't want what you're preaching, we're going to do what we want to do, live the way that we want to live, and we're going to try to find happiness that way, we don't want what you're selling. And so you see the self-righteousness of both groups of people on display, and it has created this wall of hostility, it has created tension, it has created division.

George Wright: 15:38 Maybe that's something you've experienced. My guess is that some of you joining us here tonight have had some religious people at some point or another in your life, look at you, judge you, and say, hey, you're not doing good enough. You're not as good as me, look at how I'm living, compared to how you're living. And when that happens, it is painful, and it creates tension. My guess is many of you have also seen the other thing happen. Perhaps you are religious, perhaps you are seeking to live by faith, and you've had people look at your life and mock you and say, why are you wasting your time with all that religion stuff? Just live the way you want to live, you're foolish, why are you paying attention to those rules, and why are you doing that? Have you ever had someone judge you for trying to live according to what you believe is right, and good, and true. Both sides are living out of self-righteousness, looking at the other saying my way is better than your way.

George Wright: 16:50 The Apostle Paul calls this, the dividing wall of hostility. And when he calls this the dividing wall of hostility, he is calling to mind an image for those who would have been reading this in the time of Jesus, shortly after Christ was on the earth. As this letter would be read by the churches, they would have an image when they hear of the dividing wall of hostility, what image would they see? Well, nowhere is this more clear and apparent than in the temple in Jerusalem, where the Jewish religious individuals would go and worship. The temple was a large structure, if you ever have the opportunity to go to Israel and see the Temple Mount, it's unbelievable how big the area is, it's magnificent to see what is left. And in Temple Mount, there are different courtyards, entrances into different areas on the temple grounds. And the outer courtyard was an area for the general population, you could say. Anyone was allowed in the outer courtyard, including Gentiles, you did not have to be a religious Jew to go into the outer courtyard. But to go into the next courtyard, the inner courtyard, you had to be a religious Jew.

George Wright: 18:18 Back in the late 1800s, during an archeological dig at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, archeologists uncovered a stone that had an engraving on it. This stone was part of the wall that separated the outer court from the inner court, this engraving was chiseled in Hebrew and in Greek, so the anyone who could read at the time would've been able to understand what was on this stone. Here's what the stone said when it's translated into English, remember this is on the wall between the outer court and the inner court. It said this, "No man of another race is to proceed within the partition and enclosing wall about the sanctuary. And one arrested there will have himself to blame for the penalty of death which will be imposed as a consequence." How's that for a welcoming invite to church, come in if you dare, and if you don't belong here, you will be killed and it will be your fault, for only our kind are invited to be here. Where this inscription was on this wall, became known as the wall of hostility. Separating, keeping out those who were not worthy enough to come inside according to the laws, the wall of hostility. And here in Ephesians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul is bringing up this image that all the readers of this letter would have been familiar with, and he is saying, Christ Jesus has come to tear down the wall of hostility. The gospel levels the playing field, the Gospel says, it's not about good versus bad people, it's not about worthy versus unworthy people, it's not about clean versus unclean people, religious people versus the rebel, that's not what it is at all. No, the Gospel says to all, this is about sinners in need of a Savior. We are all on the same playing field through the lens of the Gospel.

George Wright: 20:59 The Apostle Paul writes about this in another letter, a letter to the church in Rome Romans chapter 3, look at what it says in verse 9 and following, "What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all." He writes, "For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Merry Christmas, aren't you so glad you came tonight? This message of hope, and joy, and peace? In all seriousness, these verses are so incredibly important, and these verses are the pathway to true peace, because these verses show us no matter how hard you try, you can never earn your way to God. The only way that you can be right with God, is if God has come to you, if God has done for you what you cannot do for yourself, which is the very thing we celebrate at Christmas. His name is called Emmanuelle, God has come to dwell among men, the Prince of Peace is here for whoever will trust in his name. This is the beautiful good news of the gospel. It's hard to hear when the scripture says none is good enough for peace was God, none is worthy of peace with God if left on your own, but in Christ, in the Prince of Peace, in the arrival of Emmanuelle, good news of great joy for all people that the Prince of Peace has come. We see the good news of the gospel on display, as we see that God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves.

George Wright: 23:21 This is Romans chapter 5:8, the gospel in one verse, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It's not about our performance, trying to earn our way to him, it's all about his perfect performance revealing his love to us. That's what invites us to be made right with God, and that's what invites us to be covered with the peace of God. The wall of hostility has been torn down, and all are invited through faith to trust in what the Prince of Peace has come to provide. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, a life free from sin, not free from hardship, free from sin. He suffered as you or I, even greater, but he was free from sin. He gave his perfect life, as the only worthy sacrifice or substitute, at the cross for your sin and mine. He took what we deserve, to offer us new life, the gift of salvation. The only way to have peace with God, is to trust in what the Prince of Peace has done for you and for me. Do you know this peace?

George Wright: 24:59 For the wall of hostility between God and man, the wall of hostility that separates us from a Holy God, the wall of hostility that is our sin, has been tore down and defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so we are no longer divided into the categories of religious or rebel, of worthy or unworthy, based on our deeds. No, we are now called a new man in Christ, the reconciled, the redeemed, covered by the peace of God. That's what we see in Ephesians 2 verse 16, "That he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." And Easter, on Good Friday, specifically, we celebrate and remember with gratitude that Christ went to the cross for our sin. And when we think of the cross, we think of the cross where Jesus died. But the scripture here is showing us that not only did Jesus die at the cross, but the hostility between us and God is put on the cross as well. The hostility is killed at the cross, because the cross is where forgiveness is found. And the only way to truly know peace, you know this in your relationships in your family, you know this, your relationships with other loved ones, you know this in your relationships with friends, the only way to have peace Is through forgiveness. And the cross shows us this beautiful gift of forgiveness that kills the hostility, as Jesus meets us in our brokenness, and kills the hostility that separates us God. There is new life that is offered through the Prince of Peace, this covering of peace that will protect your life in the midst of the storm. In the midst of the wildfire, in the midst of the chaos of this world, the Prince of Peace has come to offer you peace.

George Wright: 27:40 And that's where we close this message tonight, Ephesians 2 verse 17, "And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near." Jesus came preached peace to you were far off. Some of you I know tonight, you feel like you are far off from God. Some of you don't feel very comfortable even being here, it's the 23rd after all, I mean, what are we doing here? And some of you, the only reason you're here is because your mother-in-law said, if you don't come, you don't get dinner, I mean, I understand that. And you feel like you're far off, and this is not really your thing, Jesus is preaching peace to you. The Prince of Peace is pursuing you even now. But there's also some of you, according to this verse, who've spent a lot of time in church. In fact, you come most weeks, and if you can't be here in person, you join in online. And you're very familiar with church, but Monday through Saturday, your life does not line up with what you say you believe in here on Sunday. And some of you have been around church for a long time in your life, you've been near, but yet, there is very little evidence of the fruit of the spirit in your life in the way you interact with others people.

George Wright: 29:19 The Prince Peace is preaching peace to you tonight, and if you will trust him, truly trust him, and surrender to him, you will experience peace in your life unlike anything you've ever had before. For this is the message of the gospel, this is the message of Christmas, that the Prince of Peace has come. Jesus is our peace, and he is preaching peace to all who will listen. Will you trust him? Will you trust what he has come to do? As we celebrate Christmas together, will you truly celebrate why Jesus came? For the Prince of Peace has come to offer you peace. This good news of great joy that has been made available to all people, if you will trust Jesus, you will be covered with the peace of God.

George Wright: 30:31 With this in mind, we go before the Lord in prayer and enter into this sacred space of the candle lighting portion of our service as we celebrate Christmas. Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, it is such a gift to see through your Word exactly why you came, why you sent your son Jesus to be born in a barn in Bethlehem, in such an obscure place, in such a strange way, through a Virgin birth. Then to live a life among men, to dwell among men, a life free from sin, but a life that perfectly honors the standard of God. And through that perfect life sacrificed at the cross, the Prince of Peace has offered peace to all who will trust in him. So Lord, right now, I pray for anyone among us who is longing for peace, who does not have peace covering their life. I pray that today they would see that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is preaching peace to them right now. That through Christ, there is peace with God, a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace that is alive, even in the midst of painful, difficult circumstances, the covering of peace.

George Wright: 32:21 Lord, for those who do not know this covering of peace, I pray that today would be the day that they would turn to Jesus. And they would just in their heart, in their own way say, Jesus, I need peace with God. Jesus, I'm ready to trust you. Jesus, please cover me with peace that comes through the forgiveness of sin that is provided through the cross, and this gift of new life that comes through the power of the resurrection.

George Wright: 33:03 Oh, Lord God, we praise you for the message of peace at Christmas, especially in a year when there has been so much unrest, so much turmoil and difficulty, we praise you for this message of peace, this message of the covering of peace that comes through Jesus Christ. May we live in light of what you have revealed, as we celebrate Christmas. We ask all this in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206