The Bible tells us that when Jesus was born, the angels were singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Jesus Himself said: “…In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” In another passage Jesus says: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”
What does this mean for those who have faith and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and for those who do not believe? It means simply that you cannot understand the Bible without faith in Jesus. The only way to have faith is to believe, and the only way to believe is to have faith. Is it really a “Catch 22?” No, certainly not. It’s a question of being “Called” most of us believe. Most who believe in an all powerful all knowing God would agree that He lives outside time and can therefore see the beginning and the end of all things in our universe.
Many have worried about that because the Bible says specifically that those He foreknew He called. This gives us the doctrine of election and predestination. Some think that all individuals who are called will “Hear His voice” and listen automatically (somehow). Then, obviously, there are other humans who will not ever believe because they are not called. Does this mean there’s no free will? Well, sort of. But, many of us argue that we have choice. Choice is a form of free will, but in a limited sense. Up until the time we become believers we basically only have two choices in this life: Believe in God and go to Heaven, or disbelieve in Him and no matter what happens here in our earthly existence, suffer eternal punishment in a place Jesus called “Hell.”
Why would God do that? If He’s all knowing and all powerful why doesn’t He simply reveal Himself to us and force us to believe? Well, He did reveal Himself, that’s what the Bible tells us. He did argue with us until we got so upset with Him that we nailed Him to a cross and killed Him! Yes, that was us, all of us who did that. He died for my sin (and yours). But if He came to bring “Peace on Earth” then why did He do it like He did? Why did He have to suffer like that? Why are there still wars? Why doesn’t everyone recognize who He is and follow Him?
Well, it’s as the Bible tells us that we are all still sinners, with that capacity to choose which side we will serve. We are either for Him, or against Him. As Sarah Palin pointed out in her Christmas message:
Many of us go around like Grinches, thinking that we should abolish Christmas because it’s a made up story about a person who doesn’t matter. Better think twice about that! God is only going to be patient so long. He has already told us this world will end, the only question remaining is when. In the absence of the answer to that, I think we all better act as if it could be today. Really.
So, we can read the “Peace on earth” part a bit differently if we are believers. We read that it is a “conditional” promise in that it says “on whom His favor rests.” Ah, that’s the key. Does it still really mean that those who He “Called” are the only ones on whom His favor rests? My thinking is a bit different on that too actually. I think it’s rather pointless to go around thinking “I’m saved, He chose me, why care about others since I’ve already got my ticket to Heaven?” Do you catch my drift? The point is that nobody really knows who is saved and who isn’t – only God knows.
So, in reality, we are called to be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to “Spread the Gospel to the whole world.” Those of us who believe do it because He told us to, not because we believe we can convert or “Save” anybody. Of course we can’t. Whether we believe that God predestined certain folks for Heaven and certain for Hell, or if we believe that what He really means is that salvation is like a ship heading towards Heaven and those are the ones who are “Predestined” and therefore we must “Choose” to get on board that ship (or not), our beliefs on that point actually make little difference. He still called us to share the good news, so we do.
The important thing is for each one who hears the good news to search, to ask God to “Open the doors of Heaven” for them. It’s kind of selfish to ask God to reveal Himself and speak to us, whether we are already a believer or not. He did speak, it’s already recorded for us. He didn’t speak to Muhammed, He didn’t speak to Buddha, He didn’t speak to Confucious, He spoke to Moses, and then He came to the Jewish nation – in the flesh. The reason the Bible exists is to tell us about Him! That’s so obvious to a Christian as to be one of those *DUH!* things. To non-believers, it makes no sense at all! That still blows me away. But, because the Bible confirms that to be the case, it gives me even more faith that Jesus is who He said He is.
So, do I have peace on earth? Do all believers? Do any? Well, some. We would definitely have to argue that is one of the things we have more of than those who do not have faith. We celebrate His birth regardless of when He was actually born, and we try to imagine what it was like for Him to leave Heaven and come here as a baby boy, born in a stable, with a feeding trough as His first cradle.
Jesus, what You did for me and for all mankind is simply too amazing to grasp. I ask that You use this message of mine to reach someone tonight. Someone who’s hurting, someone who may be wondering about You, whether You are real or not. I ask that You open their heart to understand and their mind to cast off doubts. I ask all this in Your mighty name Jesus!