This sermon was preached on December 5, 2010.
It’s all about Jesus, amen? Thank you so much for your kindness to us. It is a joy to serve you. You are not a hard congregation to pastor. I’d don’t know if you are the easiest in the world [he and the congregation laugh], because I haven’t pastored all of them. I’ll tell you what, I have enough experience to know that you are one of the easier ones. There are some real hard ones out there. It is a joy and you have been so kind. Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Some of you sometimes send notes and emails, saying “I was just praying for you, and God dropped this in my heart.” And when you do that, I mean, that just energizes us so much. So we love you. Thank you to all the pastors, all the support staff and everybody who gives as unto the Lord. Amen? Amen.
Would you stand with me this morning, please, as we look together to God’s Word? Here’s what we are going to do, Lord willing. We have been in a series in Ephesians–you kind of remember that, right? [During November 2010, there were three Sundays with guest speakers focusing on missions and then last week Pastor spoke about his trip to Cuba.] Today we are going to be in chapter 2. The next three weeks are kind of going to be an expansion of this, of talking about Jesus coming as the Prince of Peace, and we are going to go back to the Old Testament for three Sundays and kind of do a Christmas parenthesis and look at the prophecies regarding His birth. Now there are other ones, and there are prophecies, of course, concerning His life, His ministry, His death. All of His ministry is prophesied in the Old Testament. We are going to look at some passages, two of them in Isaiah and one in Micah about His birth, but today, Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 14-19: For He—speaking of Jesus—He Himself is our—what?–peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.
[Prayer] Thank You, Lord, for Your Word. I thank You, Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace, and You came and preached peace to us. Lord, it’s that time of year that we tend to hold up that value, but we are so far from where we need to be personally, in our homes and in our world. Lord, we need You to speak to us. Holy Spirit, right now I pray You will anoint Your Word to our hearts and we would receive what You want to say to us. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, speak to my heart, change my life, in Jesus’ name. Amen, amen. You may be seated.
We’re going to have just a little bit of fun before we get into the serious stuff, is that okay? Is it okay to have fun in church? [Congregation responds affirmatively.] Is there any scripture against it? I don’t think so. Okay, so if you’re preaching a sermon on peace, what television game show should you start off with? It’s time to play the what—Family Feud [and he laughs]. We’re going to play Family Feud here in just a second. Pastor Wayne—I was kind of aware of this—but he came across an article that has the 25 most popular Christmas songs of the last decade, what they are and who performed them, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a list of the top 25. Now, we are not going to do 25; we are only going to do 10, but this is published in the what? The New York Times? [He laughs.] No, Bargain Sheet [and everyone laughs. Bargain Sheet is a central Pennsylvania publication filled with classified ads for all kinds of goods and services, and not a source of news at all, but it does include articles about trivia and fun things.] Anyhow, it’s the same source. [He holds up a Bargain Sheet.] Some of you will be reading Track and Trail’s ad on the back while I do this.
Okay, we are going to do Top Ten Christmas songs, okay, and we are going to divide. [The meeting room is set up in three sections so he indicates an imaginary line down the middle of the center section and points to the right.] This side here is Family A and this side is Family B, or Double A, or whatever. Okay, so you’ve got to be brave here. [He is speaking to the Family A side.] Name one of the top ten, we’re only doing the top ten. Name one of the top ten Christmas songs that are popular out there. Who wants to—okay, I heard a couple of you say “White Christmas”. So do we have “White Christmas”? Yeah, what number is it? [There is a list showing on the screen at the front of the church, just like in the Family Feud game.] Number 6. While we do this, can we add the numbers to those, alongside? Okay, we do have it. Number 6 is “White Christmas”.
Okay, let’s go over here [the Family B side]. Who wants to do it? I’m hearing a lot of “Jingle Bells”. Do we have “Jingle Bells”? No, behhhh. [He is making the sound of the wrong-answer buzzer. Someone reveals “Jingle Bell Rock” on the screen.] No, no, no. That gave it away. [It gets covered up again.] That’s a different song. See, now that side won’t even have to think. “Jingle Bells” isn’t there, so you get one of these. [He holds up a sign with a large X.] That’s a holy kiss, right? Okay, let’s go back over here. [Then he goes over to Family A.] What do you think might be another one in the top ten? [Many in the group begin to shout “Silent Night”.] “Silent Night”, okay. Is “Silent Night” up there? Behhhh. Okay, now we’re even.
Now let’s go back here [to Family B]. The one that’s the loudest is the one I’ll take. “Jingle Bell Rock”, shall we let them do “Jingle Bell Rock”? I mean, you guys are—[“Jingle Bell Rock” is uncovered again]–how did that happen? I didn’t say anything. Did I say it? Until I say it, it hasn’t been said. [Everyone laughs.] Okay, we‘re going to give you “Jingle Bell Rock”, okay? [Even though an answer has been revealed, someone shouts out, “Rudolph”.] You want Rudolph? If you are here for the first time, you can tell we haven’t done this very much. We’ve never done this before. Okay, how many of you want “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? You got it. [“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” appears on the screen.] Let’s get back to serious stuff here. So we got four so far, right, out of the ten.
[Family A is shouting “Frosty, the Snowman”.] I’m hearing “Frosty, the Snowman”. Is “Frosty, the Snowman” in the top ten? Behhhh. You get another holy kiss. [Family B is now shouting a variety of answers.] Do you worship this hard? Do you worship this energetically? I’m hearing “All I Want For Christmas”. No, [to some college students up front] you guys had the last one. What are you saying in the back? I’m hearing “White Christmas”. Is “White Christmas” up there? We already did that. Okay, sorry, little chaos here. “Twelve Days of Christmas”, is that there? Behhhh. There are a lot of Christmas songs.
Family A, back here. Okay, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. Is that up there, in the top ten? No, behhhh, sorry. Okay, here we go [to Family B], you can steal it, if you get one right, because we didn’t start right. I hear Chestnuts, The Christmas Song? Is “The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” up there? [Family B applauds as it is revealed.] Okay, there we go. The leftists have won. They always do, don’t they?
Number 1 is “Winter Wonderland”. Number 2, “The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”. Number 3, “Sleigh Ride”, the Ronettes? Number 4, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Number 5, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Number 6, “White Christmas”. Number 7, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. Number 8, “Jingle Bell Rock”. Number 9, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Number 10, “The Little Drummer Boy”.
Now, here’s the question? How many of those have much to do with Jesus? “The Little Drummer Boy”, a little bit. There is no drummer boy in the Bible, so it’s a made up thing. They probably had young shepherds, but in the “The Little Drummer Boy”, the name of Jesus is not mentioned, unless “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” is some African translation of the name of Jesus [and everyone laughs]. Do you know that most of the popular Christmas songs are written by Jewish composers? And just a whole lot of them. Pastor Wayne was messing around with the worship team, talking about this as they rehearsed–and who was it? Nick went to the Top 100–and you had to get down to number 30 till you found a song that specifically mentioned Jesus. Yeah.
Now that wasn’t necessarily true 30 years ago. The traditional carols—“Joy to the World”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Silent Night”—would be in the top ten, probably 30-40 years ago, with caroling and all that, but not now. And so here we have the One who came to bring peace being ignored. We still talk about peace on earth but how can you have peace on earth without the Peacegiver, amen? That’s what this passage is all about, verse 14: He Himself is our peace. [Continuing on] Destroyed the barrier—what barrier? Well, the barrier that we talked about here a month ago, before missions emphasis, was in verses 11 through 13, between Jew and Gentile. That was the sharpest divide that Jewish people were aware of in the human race. And yet Jesus brought down the dividing wall of hostility. For those of you who are old enough to remember 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down at the end of the year–it was during Christmas time, remember? It was the end of the year, and people were out having candlelight vigils. You know, a lot of those were Christians. They weren’t shouting, they weren’t yelling, they weren’t threatening, they weren’t shooting. They just went out and they held a candle, and they prayed and they sang. And the dividing wall between East and West came down. It was a wonderful, wonderful—I mean, I was glued to my TV set as I watched that historic wall where so many were killed, trying to get from East Germany to West Germany, or East Berlin, I should say, to West Berlin. So it was that wall [referring to the barrier in verse 14] Jesus brought down. And He made the two one, Jews and Gentiles, in Him.
Look at verse 15: by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. You know, it’s next to impossible to live out the Jewish law. It is virtually impossible. And that’s what we see, as the New Testament writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, talk about that, but you know what? It’s even more impossible to live the Christian life without the Spirit of God. You know, you read through the Sermon on the Mount—just the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 through 7—and you look at the expectations that Jesus put on His followers. They were not lower than the Law; they were higher than the Law. And you can’t do it without Him. His purpose, His purpose, it says in verse 15, was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.
Now, centuries ago, when there were kingdoms that had any kind of tension between them, and they wanted to bring some degree of peace between them, typically what they would do is try to bring peace through intermarriage. And we see in the Old Testament that Solomon, against what God specifically said, brings Pharoah’s daughter to Jerusalem, right [I Kings 7:8; II Chronicles 8:11]? And marries her and builds a palace for her. Well, that was traditional for kingdoms forever.
In more modern times, European royalty was always intermarrying with each other, and sending a son or daughter to marry another, and they would have a child, and that child would represent—maybe they were half British and half French, and so forth. And they began to intermix–the royal family, this is a whole interesting subject all by itself–but the royal families of Europe became almost interchangeable; they were from the same line. So much so that do you know in World War I, the royal crown of England was of what nationality? Not British. They were German. Mountbatten was their name. So the first couple years of the war, you have England fighting Germany, but the problem is you’ve got the royal family of England, they’re Germans! So the British, a lot of the people and the troops are wondering about the degree of loyalty that there is of their own royal family to their own cause, as they are fighting Germany. So there was a decision to change the name of the royal family. One historian that says one of them proposed, rather than Mountbatten, Battenhill. Hill is kind of English– right, Phil? [to a member of our congregation who is British] Very common—you have Benny Hill and all the Hills, [shakes his head at himself as the congregation laughs]. Oh wow! [back to Phil] I know, you don’t want to own him, I understand. But Hill is a very common British name, and he proposed Battenhill, and that was turned down. So in July 1917 they changed the last name of the family, and they went from Mountbatten to the Windsor family. And they’ve been Windsors ever since. Didn’t change their blood, but it changed their name, so everyone was okay now [delivered a bit sarcastically], because now they have a more British-sounding name.
That’s how kingdoms have done it. And think of Jesus. He comes to Earth, and He is fully divine and fully human, and in Himself, [delivered emphatically] He represents Heaven meeting Earth. You want to know what Heaven meeting Earth is, look to Jesus. Full of the Spirit, He comes and with the Holy Spirit moving on Mary, fully human mother, He makes one new man out of the two, thus making peace. In verse 16: and in this one body—this body that we remember this morning as we have communion–in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross,–through the cross [emphasizing this phrase]–by which He put to death their hostility, their hostility.
Verse 17: He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Let me ask you, do you have peace in your home–Jesus came as the Prince of Peace–especially if you hold yourself to be a Christian family? You want peace in the world, you want peace in our nation. Do you have peace in your home? What do I even mean by peace? I don’t mean that you don’t ever have disagreements. I don’t mean that no one ever raises their voice a little bit, but I’ll tell you what. There shouldn’t hardly ever be shouting and screaming in your house, let alone throwing stuff and acting juvenile. There shouldn’t be shouting and screaming. We’ve got fathers who shout and mothers who scream. And you say, “Well, how do I stop that?” I don’t have time to show this morning—I was at a minister’s gathering not too long ago, and they showed an old Bob Newhart [comedian] video, an episode where he pretended he was a psychologist, and you’d come in, and he would give you five minutes of counsel for five dollars. That was it. So a person would come in and describe what the problem was that was in their life and he would say, “Just stop it!” [He laughs.] And they would say, “But, but, but. . .”, and he would say, “Just stop it!” And you say, “How do I stop it?” I’ll go further than say, “Just stop it.” And let me say, fathers who shout and mothers who scream, you are psychologically damaging your children. Can I say that again? You are psychologically damaging your children. And they are going to need help to recover from screaming mothers and shouting fathers. You say, “Well, I want to emphasize what I say.”
Let me give you two suggestions. The James Dobson suggestion has always been a good one, and that is for disobedience there are consequences. Just do the consequences. You don’t have to scream. Just let them know what the consequences are, and carry out the consequences, okay? You don’t have to turn up the volume to 150 decibels in your home to do that. You say, “Well, I come from a long line of screamers, and I do want to emphasize what I’m saying so they know that I’m serious.” Let me give you a tip. If you don’t remember anything else from today, if you want to emphasize what you are saying, [he screams at the top of his lungs] you don’t have to scream! [speaking slowly and deliberately now] All you have to do is slow down what you’re saying. And when you slow down, it’s like underlining every word. I’ve seen young people do this for emphasis. They put a period after each word, right Pastor Zac? They do that. Learn how to do that. You’re putting a period after every word, and you are emphasizing. You don’t have to raise your voice. You don’t have to scream. Just slow down what you say. And you can say, [very slowly] “Do you understand what I’m saying?” Okay? I think we ought to take another offering just for that. [congregation laughs and applauds] Don’t you think? That’s worth a mint. It really is. Don’t expect that good of advice every Sunday.
Verse 17, He came and preached peace to you. Notice in verse 17, He is no longer a child. He is not preaching peace as a child. He grows up, and He becomes our Lord and Master. Here’s a problem, even with some Christians, with Christmas. We picture Jesus as a baby and think that we can manage Him. We can care for Him and hold Him, and take Him where we want to go. I understand all that, and yes, we should love Him and all that, but the only idea of Him being a baby is that He grows up, and He is not a baby anymore, amen? He is not a baby. He is our Lord and Master. He is our King and we must obey Him as He comes to bring peace.
Verse 18: For through Him we both—Jew and Gentile–have access to the Father by one Spirit. Verse 19: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. If you are a Facebook person, you have already seen this, as I put it on about a week ago. R. C. Sproul, a very conservative Christian teacher, author, he’s on the radio—he’s on WTLR [local Christian radio station]. R. C. Sproul tells the story of years ago, he was in Eastern Europe, and he and his wife, and a few people in their small group, they’re about to cross over from Hungary into Romania. And as they were at the border, the guards came out. Fortunately, one of the guards spoke English, so these three burly guys come onto their van, and want to check their passports and their luggage—standard procedure. So first of all, they hand them their passports, and R. C. Sproul says he is about to reach for his first piece of luggage and he hears one of the three guards saying, in broken English, “You not American.” A chill goes through him. He’s thinking about, “Wow, are we going to be charged with false passports? Are we going to go to prison? I know I’m American. What in the world is the problem here?” And he [the guard] said again, “You not American.” And then the soldier looked down at a bag that one of the women in the group had, and in that bag was a Bible. He said, “What is that?” Now R.C. Sproul is really, really scared and the soldier reaches down, and he pulls out the Bible. And he takes out the Bible, and he is thumbing through it, and he comes right to Ephesians 2:19, and he reads in English: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. The guard then smiled and says, “You not American. Me not Romanian. We are Christians.” [Congregation applauds.] Amen.
We are Christians. We are members of God’s household and when we get to Heaven, we don’t have to wear [name] tags. Somehow we will just kind of know who everybody is. We’re members of God’s household, part of His family. Earthly distinctions melt away. And you know all the distinctions which you use—distinctions of nations, distinctions of race, distinctions of education or whatever it may be—they are supposed to melt away at the cross, and the blood of Jesus covers over that. Azusa Street, when the Pentecostal revival started in 1906 in Los Angeles, Frank Bartleman, probably the [most] reliable historian from that time because he took very careful notes. When the board, as it [the Revival] continued and they needed some oversight and they chose some elders, they purposefully decided, which was unthinkable in 1906, they would be half white and half black. And Frank Bartleman wrote: “The color line was washed away in the blood of Jesus.” [See this web site: http://www.azusastreet.org] The distinction was washed away. We are one in Christ, one in Christ.
This morning as we celebrate Communion, this morning as we celebrate—not Christ’s birth but we celebrate—His death, His burial and His resurrection, we celebrate that He, in His flesh, made us one. You know, we’ve touched on this before, and I’ve thought about it more and more. What the Bible says is: the cup is the new testament in my blood, Jesus says [Luke 22:20 KJV]. He never says that about the bread. The bread is not the new testament, [using the NIV translation] the new covenant. The bread that we use is, to the best that we know of, closest to the bread that they used, unleavened bread, matzo. Have you ever looked at a piece of matzo? It is pierced and it is striped, just like Jesus on His body. He bore stripes and He was pierced. Think about that. And you have to break matzo, because it’s unleavened. You break it, and when you put it in your mouth, if you put in a decent-sized piece, you have to chew it, don’t you? You are working. He speaks of works of the Law, the old covenant. You are working, before you ingest it. Yes, Jesus was the manna from Heaven. He is the Bread of Life, He is the Bread of God. He is all that, but in His flesh, in His body, He transitioned us from the old covenant to the new.
And think about when you take the cup, you don’t have to chew it, do you? All you have to do is receive it. It’s different than the bread. The bread, you have to work at it. The cup, you just receive. Some of you tell me, “I have a hard time receiving. I want to do something, but I have a hard time receiving.” Some of us have a hard time receiving more of the Spirit that He has for us. Let me ask you, were you ever a child? Is there anybody here who was never a child? You were born at age 21. When you are a child, if you don’t receive, you die, right? You don’t have to work; it’s given to you. Of course, you have to grow up and be responsible and do all those things, but you know there are things from God that you can’t work for them. You only can receive them. Salvation is that way. You can only receive it. The fullness of the Spirit is that way. You can only receive it. So this morning as we take the bread and the cup, just receive. Those who are serving this morning, would you please come and prepare to serve?
Let’s pray right now. [Prayer] Father, I thank Your Son, Jesus. Jesus, You are our peace, and I pray that there would be peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in our community and beyond, Jesus, because You would rule in our hearts, You would rule in our homes. Lord, I pray for anyone right now who doesn’t know you as they reach out their heart to you right now. And they say, “Lord Jesus, I confess my sins. Come into my life. Be my Lord and Master.” I pray that they would receive you right now. Lord, I pray for believers, that this Christmastime, that we would have a Christmas of peace, because Lord Jesus, You came. You came, and in Your shed blood, You washed away the natural distinctions, and it’s all about You. We are either in You or we are not in You. Lord, as we prepare our hearts to receive this morning, I pray You would do a great work in everyone as we look to You. Please receive the bread and the cup. Hold it until we all receive together. You need to be right with God and right with your brother and sister in Christ. I forgot to bring it with me. [I think he is talking about a book which he left where he was seated, but I do not know to which document he is referring.] One of the early Christian documents talks specifically about that. And I encourage you to receive. Let’s prepare our hearts right now as we worship the Lord, to receive what He has for us.
[The service closed with the singing of “Majesty”, words and music by Jack Hayford, 1978.]