Friday, December 19, 2008

In Darkest Night (or just hanging with Dark Knights) Pt. 5

Yesterday morning Pastor Jeff Walser blew me away by showing a precious clip from Iron Man, where Stark thanks Yinsen for saving him - and he means his soul, not his physical life.

I think that when we are watching good films, God is speaking to our hearts about what is true - and the "life" we see rescued or saved is often a metaphor for the soul - the real place of life.

This season you and I are gonna hear ad naseum "Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men" and, like is so often done with scripture, it is a romanticized Christian-ized message of "let's all have peace with one another" or "let's all be nice to each other."

I hate to burst the pretty bubble, but that is not real peace, just a mere cessation of hostilities. Have you ever heard the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that says "Without justice, there can be no peace?" He goes on to say, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."

Mankind will not find peace inside nor outside without first satisfying God's justice.

The "peace on Earth" mentioned in scripture is where God establishes a payment for our sins, so He will no longer stand against us, but with us. He laid down the terms of peace, and we, in our fallen world and helpless estate, need to accept them to have true peace with God. By accepting Christ as our personal Lord, and as the One who Paid, we admit our utter lack of good standing before God. We surrender to His greater judgment.

Is that clear? The "peace" we want is predicated on understanding you and I are rebels at war with God. God should do a nuclear strike on us, much like the Flood in the Days of Noah or what happened to Sodom and Gommorah. He does not. Jesus secures peace for us by being born - to die - for us.

Here's the REAL quote from the book of Luke (note the limiting conditions,the specificity of who shall have peace):

Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men
on whom His favor rests."

This message, as the angel said, was "for all the people" - Gentiles included, not just God's people under Mosaic Law: all the people. We have no right to hide the Good News from anyone.

But it is Good News only to those who accept Christ - it is "peace to men on whom his favor rests." It is not universalism, the casual belief Jesus is just ONE way to heaven but every decent person will go there. God's favor - blessing - rests on those who confess Jesus as Lord. "He who receives you receives me," said Jesus. "And he who receives me receives the one who sent Me!"

Men do war with God, in various ways - from promoting proudly ungodly lifestyles to simply dismissing His Word. God exists only as an insurance agent to help them when things "don't go according to plannnn" as the Joker would say.

But on that dark night, we are told angels appeared to give this good news for humanity. Our sins are going to be atoned for - here's the one who will make peace between Holy God and sinful man.

We miss the power of this message concsistently. Don't get me wrong - I AM a romantic; I love the Christmas carols. But what happened that night was more like Independance Day than Valentines Day. Consider how we have emasculated this event:

1. How many times have you seen angels look like cute fat babies?

2. How many times do you use the word 'host' to mean a person who has you to their home for a party or nice dinner?

3. How many times have you heard the word 'heavenly' to describe something as carnally satisfying? "Oh, that dessert was heavenly!"

So between all these misconstrued concepts, when we hear "angels" appearing in a "great heavenly host", we have some idea of glowing sweet-faced cherubs smiling benignly over a newborn child. Isn't that how we view it? And encourage such viewing of it with our Christmas pageants?

I've got some bad news for you. That misses the mark by a MILE. Warriors - very powerful celestial knights - showed up on that dark night, dear reader.

First, from Revelations, we are told war broke out in heaven when the Woman (i.e Mary) gave birth to the Child (i.e. Jesus). Read John's vision here: Revelation 12:1-5.

Secondly, "host" in this context means "army." Not a host of a social gathering, but a group of warriors prepared for battle. Read the second definition here.

Thirdly, they have to tell the shepherds to not be afraid. In fact, the shepherds are TERRIFIED.

They are not looking at Victoria Secret Models or chubby childlike 'angels' making a birth announcement.

They are looking at Celestial SWAT Team proclaiming a cessation of hostilities. Beings who have been known to wipe out cities and offer rather lethal solutions to foolish prophets.

Small wonder they had to say "Do not be afraid!"

Well, I've gotta go.

Get peace with God.

Because your warfare will end in a very, very dark night without Him.


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