As I was reading the Christmas Story from Luke 2 this week, the ending of verse 14 jumped out of the pages and into my mind and heart in a brand-new way. It reads like this.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
The very same week I had begun to open the many dear Christmas card greetings from friends and family…and most all the cards were wishing us “peace on earth” with a variety of lovely illustrated pictures from traditional Bethlehem scenery to contemporary graphics created to depict “peace on earth.” And although each of the cards bearing that phrase were meant to point us to Jesus, the Son of God, and each were trying to assure us that He brings the peace to this world and to our lives, there seems to be a “hardened heart syndrome” that prevails as the readers hear this much too familiar phrase. Peace on earth seems like the meaningless lie when we answer “fine” to the question, “How are you?” It can be compared to our adult-honest assessment that Santa is not real.
The scripture is saying we will have peace IF we please Him. Wait a minute! Is there a condition for peace? Now that’s an enlightened thought about why peace on earth and peace in our lives is like believing in Santa Clause. Is it just an unattainable phrase we throw around because of its feel-good possibilities? If there is a condition to peace in our lives, what is it? Is it something like the condition we put on our children to get their Christmas wishes from Santa?
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…
Santa Claus is coming to town…
The Christmas Hallmark movies with endless scenes of children of all ages sitting in Santa’s lap always use the similar script having Santa ask THE question…” Have you been a good little boy or girl this year?” Of course, the question insinuates that there is only one answer IF the little boy or girl were to have a chance to get the present on their “list.” I want to assure you I am way past that fantasy mindset of getting something from Santa. However, I know for certainty that I want the promised peace from God.
Doodling in the margin of my Bible that same day I asked the question of God, “Are you pleased with me, God?” If pleasing God guarantees my peace, I want to please Him. The preoccupation of this Bible verse found myself asking others what they thought pleasing God looked like. I got a variety of answers – some that sounded a lot like a child’s rationalization to Santa. Here’s a list of some of the typical answers:
Try to be good, give more to others, love others more than yourself, read God’s Word more, go to church more regularly, keep the ten commandments, and on and on and on.
The variety of answers I received proved to be just as impossible as being nice for Santa’s good list.
Allow me to share a few paragraphs from an article entitled How to Please a Holy God by Dieudonne Tamfu.
The Work of God That Pleases God
God equips us by working in us that which pleases him. The participial phrase “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21) defines how God equips the saints to do his will. God does not equip us by giving us equipment to go work for him; rather, he equips us by taking residence in us and himself working his will in us. Not only that, he takes pleasure in what he does in us. The work that pleases God is the work of God in us (Philippians 2:12–13).
What is the thing that God does in believers that pleases him? Hebrews 11:6 gives us insight into that work. It says,
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
If without faith it is impossible to please God, and there is something that God does in us in which he takes pleasure, it follows that the faith without which we cannot please God is what he works in us. Thus, the author is praying that God would work faith in the good things of the gospel in our hearts so that we may be able to do his will.
According to Hebrews 11:2, it is this faith that will commend us before God as it did the saints of old. When we come to the end of the age, it will be our faith, God’s work in us, that will commend us before God. God saved us, works in us, takes pleasure in that work, and commends us based on that work.
Why Did God Do It This Way?
Is it right for God to be pleased mainly by his work in us and to commend us because of that? Yes, because he is doing so “through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21). God is just to commend us, not based on our performances, but on his performance in us. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
God fulfilled his new covenant promises in Christ, which bring us all the good things found in the good news of salvation. God saved us through faith through “the good things” laid out for us in the gospel. God works faith in us constantly. God takes pleasure in that faith. And God commends us before God based on his own work in us.
Why design it this way? No other god works like this. African deities expect you to work for them after they “save” you, but not so with the Christian God. He works from beginning to end. Why do it that way? The last part of Hebrews 13:21 gives us the answer: so, that to him “be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
My conclusion and comforting revelation is this…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those who believe in Him and seek Him.”
Are you sincerely experiencing that Peace that the Christmas Card’s write about? We can all have it! Believe Him and Seek Him! Need help? Click Here