Here we are at Christmastime, listening to herald angels sing glory to the newborn king. But listen to the angels more closely. In the center of one of the Bible’s most glorious promises of peace, we find an opposite of a promise, too:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)
So, wait. Those with whom God is not pleased have no promise of peace from Him? So how do we know with whom God is pleased? Who gets peace, and who doesn’t?
We modern Americans are tempted to think the above verse is about God keeping a list of who’s Naughty or Nice. Those who are “nice” earn gifts from Him. Those who are “naughty” … well, they get spiritual coal in their stockings. And then we water down our definition of “nice” to something bland and easy to perform.
But what does God consider pleasing? Is being “nice” all He wants? Not at all:
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. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Pleasing God requires faith. Specifically, it requires faith that we were in dreadful need for God the Father to send Jesus to earth and to do what He came to accomplish:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
If you believe yourself nice and good enough for God with your own efforts, and not in any real way a sinner, then the angels’ proclamation of peace is not for you. God does not grant you peace, because God says you are a sinner and need a savior, and you disagree.
But if you see yourself as you truly are, and know you are unworthy of anything from God except for His judgment, then and only then is this promise of peace for you. God is well-pleased with those who look on His Son and recognize that Jesus alone brings peace between God and man.
You cannot earn your way onto God’s Nice List. He freely offer admission to those who repent and believe in Jesus.
Jesus came to save sinners. He came to save the Naughty List.