18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.”
What is the purpose of your life?
Let me put it another way by quoting the first question of the Westminster Catechism: What is the chief and highest end of man? The Westminster Catechism was written in the mid 17th century. It is a series of questions and answers designed to teach foundational principles of the Christian faith. The answer to the very first question is, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.” That’s the purpose of your life. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Most of us couldn’t even begin to count the number of times we’ve read or heard about the Great Announcement the angels made to the shepherds in Luke 2.
What happened that night was one of the most significant events in history, accompanied by one of the most important songs ever. Just consider the words of the angels in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.” Have you ever considered that what the angels were proclaiming that night is also the purpose of your life?
One of the problems with words that we’re so familiar with is that because we know them so well, they lose the impact they’re meant to have on our lives.
There is something about familiarity that puts our minds and our hearts into some kind of mental and spiritual monotone. We don’t stop often enough to consider the wonder of Scriptural gems like Luke 2:14 – and there are many other verses in the Bible we know very well.
The words of the angels – that great announcement – also hold greater significance for us than we might realise. Yes, they proclaim and celebrate the birth of the promised Messiah, but these words also define your need and mine. And in defining our need, they define the mission of that baby in the manger.
And if they define our need, and they define His mission, then the words of the angels not only announce a birth, but they predict a death too.
‘Glory’ and ‘peace’ are the two principal words of this little hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.”
Did you know that you are glory focused? You’re glory seeking. You’re obsessed with glory. Everything you do in your life, everything you say, every choice you make, every reaction in relationships is done in pursuit of some kind of glory.
As I wrote in the bulletin today, there is a recurring theme throughout this series, and I want to touch on it again today.
You were created to live for the glory of God. You were created so that the principal motivation in your life would be that God would be praised. The original blueprint of God’s design for humanity included a desire to live with and for God first and foremost in our minds. God was to be the reason for all that we do.
His creation itself was designed to remind us of and to point us to the glory of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.”
Everything that was created is meant to point us to the person, the nature, the character and the plan of God. Del Tackett says in the introduction to the Truth Project, “there is nowhere you can go, and nowhere you can turn where God has not spoken.” The point is that all of life and everything in it is meant to remind us over and over that God is to be the centre of our existence.
We were created to bring glory to Him.
That’s the way it was meant to be, but in a cataclysmic moment of disobedience and rebellion that would have eternal consequences, Adam and Eve chose rather to live for the glory of the creation than the glory of God. They wanted something in the creation more than they wanted God, and ever since then there has been, in all of our hearts, a confusion about what glory really is, and how we use glory in our lives.
Now we don’t always live for the glory of God. There are other glories that compete
against the glory of God, and sadly, these other glories often overshadow the glory of God.
Very often we forget God’s glory, and we live for other glories, and if you think about it, every sin has at its root, an exchange of God’s glory for some other glory. Materialism replaces the glory of God with the possession of physical things. Pride is about living for self-glorification rather than the glory of God. We’re all glory focused, but sadly we’re also glory confused.
None of us can say with absolute honesty that everything we’ve done during this past week has been for God’s glory alone.
Other things have distracted us from living solely for Him. In the words of Romans 1:25, we have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.”
You’ll remember from last Sunday that we are driven by hope. Even though we put our hope in the wrong things many times, we are still motivated by hope. And in exactly the same way we are glory focused, but because our own sin and the sin of others has hampered our walk with God, we are confused about who or what we’re to live for. This confusion brings its own complications with it, because if we’re not living for God, which conflicts with His original design for us, there will always be some kind of emptiness inside. That’s the nature of the human heart warped by sin. We try to satisfy the longings of our hearts with temporary things, but they remain temporary and ultimately empty.
We have a glory problem. We’re caught up in the middle of a glory war, because we all have moments of glory confusion. There are times where we want the creation more than we want the Creator.
“Glory to God in the highest!” How different would this world be if every person lived that way?
Or what about just the Christians? Wikipedia estimates that there are about 2,2 billion Christians in the world – just under one third of the population. How different would this world be if just 1 in 3 people lived for the glory of God alone? Try and picture the scene for a moment: How dramatically different would things be if just the Christians took seriously what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
As wonderful yet as unlikely as it may seem, this is what God intended for us. This is the way God designed all human beings to live. We were called, chosen and created to live for the glory of God. That was the creation plan. That’s the purpose of your life – the glory of God.
The second crucial word in Luke 2:14 is ‘peace.’ “Peace to men on whom His favour rests.”
Another “default setting” of our nature if you like, is that we were created for peace with God. We were created so that the most important thing in our lives would be our relationship with Him. We were created to have the honour and privilege of living at peace with the God who created us.
There is that heart-breaking moment in the Garden of Eden where God comes down in the cool of the day to commune with Adam and Eve. It’s a picture of how our lives are meant to be, yet there is a serious problem. Adam and Eve aren’t running to meet Him. They’re not excited to see Him. Instead, they’re hiding in guilt, fear and shame because they have been disobedient, and that peace with God has been shattered.
Shalom – the Hebrew word for peace describes something more fundamental than just the absence of conflict. It speaks about things being as they were meant to be. Everything is in its rightful place, working the way they were designed to work. Peace with God means I have peace inside, but because of sin, it no longer works that way. And because I don’t have real peace with God, everything else in my life is affected. I have to deal instead with anxiety, uncertainty, concern and a whole long list of ‘what ifs’?
Of course, one of the greatest casualties of not living at peace with God is that we no longer live at peace with one another. True peace with God would give us an inner peace which would dominate every other aspect and every other relationship in our lives. Why is there so much tension and so much turmoil in so many of our inter-personal relationships? The answer is very simple. It’s because we don’t live at peace with God first.
When I don’t have peace with God, I don’t have peace inside of myself, and this makes it very hard for me to live at peace with others. Even the people I love the most – even those relationships are marked by conflict. None of us here today can say that we’ve lived a conflict-free year. Not last month, not last week, and not even yesterday. Or even this morning. Every day brings its own moments of irritation, impatience and even anger.
All around us is unrest and conflict. And the reason is that we have a peace problem. Brokenness with God leads to brokenness within, and to brokenness in our own communities and families.
The proclamation of the angels in Luke 2:14 is one of the most glorious, yet most ironic cries in the whole Bible: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.” These words really do capture the great human dilemma. They speak about how things are supposed to be, and at the same time they stand in judgment against us because we fall so short of that standard. We have lost the glory we’re meant to live for, and our peace, our shalom, has been shattered.
But we can take heart, because as we saw last week, the message of Christmas brings us great hope. God, in His mercy has not left us in despair and without hope. Look at the words of the angel to the shepherds in Luke 2:10 again: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Jesus came to bring us and to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. He didn’t come on a political mission to establish an earthly kingdom. He didn’t come on an educational mission just to correct our worldview. Jesus didn’t come as some kind of super-psychologist just to make us feel better about ourselves. He didn’t even come on a religious mission to teach us how to follow external, religiously appropriate rituals.
Jesus’s mission is infinitely more radical than that. He came to do what you and I can’t do.
If I have a glory problem, and if I have a peace problem, then, what I have is a heart problem. My problem isn’t so much my relationships and my situations. Those are just symptoms of a deeper cause. My problem is that there is something broken deep down within me. We looked at this a couple of weeks ago. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
All of the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus make it very clear that He is coming to address that very problem. Ezekiel 36:26 is just one of them: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
That is why Jesus came – to exchange our rebellious hearts that seek self-glorification with new hearts that live for Him once more, the way it was always meant to be. We, who once lived for our own glory, can now, by His grace, live for His glory.
And not just in a worship service such as this, but in every aspect of our lives.
The words of 1 Corinthians 10:31 once more: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Remember, nothing is impossible for God.
The mission of Jesus is not only to bring us the gift of eternal life, but to take the lives we live here and now and transform back to what they were always meant to be – lives lived for the glory of God.
Look at the world around you. What do you see? Billions of people not bringing glory to God and not living at peace with Him and with each other. That’s not what God intended for us, and that is why Jesus came – to put right the things we cannot fix.
Do you really want to get to the end of your life having lived only for your own little glories that mean absolutely nothing in eternity? Do you really want to get to the end of your life not having spoken to someone you love for decades because of some silly argument that has destroyed the peace you once had?
That’s the emptiness of a life lived without Jesus, and even worse, a death died without Jesus.
What a tragedy that so many just don’t care about peace with God. Jesus came because our only hope is His grace. You can’t escape the devastating effects of your broken heart. You can change many things in your life. You can end relationships and go and live on the other side of the world if that’s what it takes. But the one thing you can’t escape is the condition of your heart. Only God can do that. And do you want to know something? He can and He does, and all because of Jesus.
My problem is me, and that’s why a Saviour needs to come. “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
Again, you’ll remember from last week that in the cradle we see the cross. The only hope of peace is grace, and the vehicle – the means of grace is death.
The glory and peace we once had has been stolen from us, and as a result we’re all guilty, because rather than living for God, we have tried to be God instead.
Rather than honouring the Creator, we have worshiped the creation, and the sentence of that guilt is death. At the heart of the wonder of Christmas is the horror and the glory of the Cross of Calvary.
Next week we wrap up this series as we look back over God’s Great Plan – a plan that has existed for all eternity. The plan is that a Saviour would come, and from day one, all of His thoughts and all of His desires, all His actions, reactions and responses would be fully and completely and perfectly lived to the glory of God. Jesus, on our behalf, would live for God’s glory. He would live the life that we could not live. And on the cross, He would bear our penalty, and He would face the rejection of the Father so that we could know His acceptance and peace with Him. Upward peace that would create inward peace that would give us the ability
to have outward peace. That’s why He came. That’s what Christmas reminds us of.
And God knew what the cost of His plan would be. The death of Jesus is not Plan B. It is the only plan, the only way, truth and life that we have.
Jesus was born and He died so that we could live, and be released from this obsession we have with self-glory. He came to set us free from not living at peace with Him and with each other.
That Great Announcement of the angels to the shepherds that night was not just to tell them that Jesus had been born.
In those words of their great announcement they also spoke of our great need, our great hope and the great plan of God.
You and I have a glory problem. We don’t always get glory right. We have a peace problem. We don’t always care about peace with God, peace within and peace with each other.
So we still need the grace of God to change and sustain us.
The angels announced your need, they announced your hope and they announced your redemption.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.”