Hark the Herald Angel Sing
Have you ever noticed that when you are standing in line at the grocery store they have all of these little items like, candy bars, cigarette lighters, and headphones hanging right in that aisle? Those things are put there on purpose and they are called impulse items. They are small cheep items that the store hopes you will see and just throw on the little conveyor belt without thinking. You see the snickers bar and you buy it on an impulse, Car air freshener for $1.00 sure why not. Well, I am an impulse buyer. I would even impulse buy a house if Trista would let me. Which means I have bought a lot of disappointing things.
For example, last week I was looking at Amazon and I saw this little gadget right here. It’s a Micro Wireless Sleep Sound Machine, and the advertisement said for $12.00 plus free amazon prime shipping this little device would allow you to drift off in peaceful sleep. It was the word peaceful that caught my attention so with one click this arrived at my door Friday night. And while would love to tell you that the last two nights I have had the most peaceful and restful sleep that I have ever had, the truth is that this was just one more attempt to find peace that ended in frustration.
This morning as we continue our look at Christmas Carols, we turn to a beautiful carol that describes the Angels singing Glory to the newborn king. But the real the thrust of the song is found in the second stanza: Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Everyone of us are looking for a little bit of peace, it’s a million dollar business. From noise makers, to pills, to weighted blankets, to essential oils we spend a considerable amount of time and money looking for peace. Yet it always seems just outside of our grasp. And especially at this time of the year with all of the fusing and fighting that happens at the toy aisle, it’s a little hard to feel at peace.
In the passage that was read for us this morning we heard about "the peace...which passes all understanding." When we talk about peace in a Biblical sense we are talking about real, lasting peace. Maybe we have failed to realize that the peace we are offered as God’s children won’t be found in a trinket but in a person. Christ was born, lived a life of obedience, and provided the sacrifice for our sins that reconciled us with God. Peace is being in a right relationship. Christ came so that we could be at peace with one another or in a right relationship with one another.
Look back at our text this morning and let’s see what Paul has to say about us being at peace. Starting in verses 2-3: Euodia and Syntyche, I urge you to put aside your differences, agree, and work together in the Lord. My true loyal friend, I enlist you to please help these women. They, along with brother Clement and many others, have worked by my side to spread the good news of the gospel. They have their names recorded in the book of life.
First we have got to be at peace with one another
It seems that we feel like we have to gripe and complain and argue and fight for everything we want in life. Unfortunately at this time of the year, that me first attitude is prevalent in stores, parking lots, and even around the family dinner table. But I am so thankful that Christians don’t have that same struggle. We understand that we were raised under the covenant of grace and saved from our past. That’s why Christians are very humble and always put others needs and feeling before their own. Right????
Actually no… And it’s not a new struggle. In John chapters 14-16 we see that Jesus is constantly addressing the I want it my way! attitude of the apostles. Actually what the Bible says is that they were arguing over who was the greatest in the kingdom.
Here are twelve men who were in the presence of Jesus. They heard Him teach about love, forgiveness, and being a servant and they still constantly argued about who was the most important, who should be the one to get their way. And 2,000 years later we still act very apostolic. We have all these wonderful things in common, we were saved by the same Messiah at the same baptism and we have the same Bibles, that teach the same truths and yet we still find reasons to disagree from time to time.
I read this week about a congregation that was going through a social shift in their neighborhood and their church was experiencing some growing pains. So their leadership decided that they needed to send out a questionnaire to see how their members felt and what they dreamed about. What they learned was that they had a lot of disagreements about what they should do.
For instance, some thought they ought to go to the bank and borrow all the money they could borrow, buy more land and build all the buildings they needed immediately. But others felt that they shouldn’t borrow at all. Instead, they ought to wait and not build anything until they could pay cash for it.
Some felt they were giving way too much to missions, and said that they were having a light house effect where they were sending the light off in the distance but it was dark at home. They wanted to use their money at home to meet needs in their community. But others said, We’re not giving enough to missions. We need to give more!
One person responded that the preacher didn’t preach enough on stewardship, and he ought to be encouraging the people to give more. Then two surveys later someone wrote, It doesn’t make any difference what the subject is, the preacher always talks about money.
It shouldn’t surprise you that a church would have a lot of different ideas on what they should do. Everyone of us in this room has an opinion or a preference. The struggle comes in when our actions and attitudes about our opinions turn ugly as we strive to be the greatest in the Kingdom. We want our way, with no thought about you or your preference. I want to sing the songs I like, I want the temperature to be comfortable for me, I want to be fed the way I like to be fed. Eventually we get to the point that we draw lines in the sand, or choose sides and pretty soon we are in a full fledged church fuss.
In our text today Paul mentions two women; both of them really committed Christian workers who have had a disagreement. Now remember that this is a letter to the whole church at Philippi. Paul has dealt with some very important matters, so why on earth, in the midst of such an important letter, does Paul mention as personal as the argument these two ladies are having? Shouldn’t he have tried to solve this problem much more discreetly and privately? Why was it ok to talk about it publicly in a letter that millions have read now for nearly 2,000 years?
Well, maybe it is because it is important that the church communicate to the world that we don’t handle disagreements the same way that the world handles them, we’re able to find common ground and agree to work in harmony with one another. I love what Paul does and what he doesn’t do.
First of all, he doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t say, Syntyche is right and Euodia is wrong. So Euodia you better get in line or you have to get out of here.
Secondly, he doesn’t pull rank and say, I’m the apostle here and you had better do what I say and agree or you both have to get out of here.
Instead, he encourages them to find common ground where they can agree. He says, I urge you to put aside your differences, agree, and work together in the Lord. Paul wrote to another church struggling with getting along: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
What I love is not what Paul doesn’t do, but what he does. He appoints a third party to intervene. In verse 3 he’s called, faithful friend. We don’t know who he was, but whoever he was, he was a peacemaker.
Now there is nothing Satan would love more than to divide this church. Because you know all too well that when he does that he can cripple us so we can’t get out the good news about Jesus. We must pledge to one another and to God that we’ll not allow ourselves to be used as pawns in the hand of Satan to divide His church.
We are going to be making some changes next year. These changes have been talked about, studied, and prayed over. We know as we make these changes it will be easy to argue about who is greatest in the kingdom and our personal preferences. But these changes are intended to draw us closer together and point us towards God. We can’t allow Satan to come among us and get a foothold. Instead we must focus on serving God together so we will be at peace with one another.
Next Paul talks about having peace within.
Let’s continue with verse 4 Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.
Now, I don’t know how you felt as you came to church this morning. Sometimes we feel like we’re on top of the world and everything is going our way. But probably, most of the time, we don’t come to church feeling that way.
Did you come this morning carrying a heavy burden? Maybe you’re worried about something. Maybe there is a problem in your life that just doesn’t seem to go away. Maybe you feel guilty because of some sins you have committed. Maybe you’re concerned about finances. Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re trying to get something accomplished and you can’t seem to get it done. Whatever the reason, here we are. And I think Paul’s words are directed at all of us who carry burdens.
And we need to realize that as Paul writes these words he is not sitting in some ivory tower. Not all the pieces of his life are in place either. He’s in prison and facing trial. He may soon be executed. But in these verses, Paul writes a formula for developing peace within. He says, Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. In other words, allow God to be in control.
Someone once said, worry is the Christian’s most popular sin because it is one that we don’t even try to disguise. Worry is so common in our lives that we’re not even ashamed of it. When we come to church we mouth all the right words: Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, or It is well with my soul. But then we leave church and forget that He’s with us. We forget He’s Lord and King. And we take all the burdens that we brought with us and put them right back on again. And we begin to worry more and more.
Worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended us to have. That’s what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7, Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. He will carry the burdens for us. God offers us peace within, but we must have the faith that God truly cares for us.
God has been faithful to us, and it seems that often His faithfulness goes unappreciated. His presence is so regular, so commonplace, that we tend to overlook the very quality that separates Him from all other gods. In fact, one of the few things God cannot do is be unfaithful. We can have peace within when we grasp one of the major points of scripture; that God will always provide for His children. Not only does God call us to love Him, He also calls us to trust Him. That is a completely different idea because, I trust you, carries a different weight than, I love you. If we trust God then we will live our lives depending on Him, instead of depending on ourselves. And that’s where we will find peace.
Finally, Paul mentions peace with God.
Let’s finish our passage today by continuing in verse 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. 9 Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do it, and the God of peace will walk with you.
It would probably be a good idea to read these verses once a day. Paul is giving us 8 filters for everything you hear and everything you see. Everything needs to pass through these filters and if they can’t make it through these filters then it shouldn’t be in your mind and in your heart.
There is so much garbage in this world as we miss how that garbage affects us. The things we listen to, read, and see shape who we are and how we act. When the boys were tiny we had been listening to a lot of Bob Marley, the boys especially loved his song Three Little Birds. Well one day we were out hiking in the woods and Trafton rounded a corner and grabbed hold of a limb as he went. When he let go of the limb it shot back and hit Rylan square in the face and Rylan went down in a heap. Trista scooped him up and we were checking for blood. But because he was crying, Trafton got upset and started crying. Then out of nowhere Rylan stopped crying and looked Trafton square in the eye and sang that line from the Bob Marley’s song: Don’t worry about a thing, every little things going to be all right. And that was it, the crying was done.
Paul is warning us that the things we see and hear make a big impact on our lives. Can the movies you see, the TV programs you watch, the music you listen to, and the books you read pass through these 8 filters? And if you are not sure if they will pass through these filters, then you are probably just trying to justify what your sinful nature wants to do.
Paul says, put everything through these 8 filters. If it’s not true, then don’t welcome it. If it’s not noble, if it’s not right, or pure, or lovely, or admirable, or excellent, or praiseworthy, don’t let it find a home in your heart. And if you’ll use these filters you’ll have peace with God.
Do you remember the words that Jesus first spoke to His disciples following His resurrection? The disciples were in the upper room, and they were fearful for their own lives. Their leader was dead, and their future uncertain. Just then Jesus appeared though locked doors and spoke to them. Do you remember what He said? His first words were just one simple phrase, Peace be with you. The very thing that they didn’t have was the very thing that He offered, peace. And He still offers it to us today.
I wonder this morning if you have it? Did you come into God’s house this morning with it? Or did you find yourself carrying burdens that were too heavy to carry? Even worse, are you planning on carrying those burdens with you as you leave here today? Or are you going to turn them over to Jesus?
I know One who died on a cross for your sins. And I know One who shed His precious blood so that you can have everlasting life. And I know that He is available to you this morning, and that you can have Him as your Lord and Savior simply by coming and confessing your faith in Him, and giving yourself to Him. We give you the opportunity to do that as we extend His invitation. We invite you to come as we stand and sing.