Celebrate the festive day!

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Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for his mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

Augustine (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, p. 72)

Celebrate with all the good cheer you can afford

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We have nearly arrived at the great merry-making season of the year. On Christmas-day we shall find all the world in England enjoying themselves with all the good cheer which they can afford. Servants of God, you who have the largest share in the person of him who was born at Bethlehem, I invite you to the best of all Christmas faire—to nobler food than makes the table groan—bread from heaven, food for your spirit. Behold, how rich and how abundant are the provisions which God has made for the high festival which he would have his servants keep, not now and then, but all the days of their lives!

Charles Spurgeon (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, p. 92)

Living in her Old Testament faith

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Mary was not chosen because of any human merit, not even for being, as she undoubtedly was, deeply devout, nor even for her humility or any other virtue, but entirely and uniquely because it is God’s gracious will to love, to choose, to make great what is lowly, unremarkable, considered to be of little value. Mary the tough, devout, ordinary working man’s wife, living in her Old Testament faith and hoping in her Redeemer, becomes the mother of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, pp. 28-29)

A lovely sound penetrating the soul

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Behold here what the Gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon concerning Christ, our Savior. Whoever preaches him rightly, preaches the Gospel of pure joy. How is it possible for man to hear of greater joy than that Christ has given to him as his own? He does not only say Christ is born, but he makes his birth our own by saying, to you a Savior.

Therefore the Gospel does not only teach the history concerning Christ; but it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own … Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? If the voice gives forth this pleasant sound, even if it be in homely phrase, my heart listens with joy for it is a lovely sound which penetrates the soul.

Martin Luther (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, pp. 79)

He must stoop in order to lift

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In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must also disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.

C.S. Lewis (as published in Peace by Stephen J. Nichols, pp. 18-19)

The ears of many are stopped up with earth!

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The ears of many of our hearers are stopped up with earth! I mean the cares of the world, that the Word preached will not enter, according to that in the parable, ‘Hearing, they hear not’ (Matthew 13:13). We read of Saul, his eyes were open—yet ‘he saw no man’ (Acts 9:8). A strange paradox! And is it not as strange that men’s ears should be open—yet ‘in hearing hear not?’ They mind not what is said: ‘They sit before you as my people—but their heart goes after their covetousness’ (Ezekiel 33:31). Many sit and stare the minister in the face—yet scarcely understand a word he says. They are thinking of their wares and are often casting up accounts in the church. If a man is in a grinding-mill, though you speak ever so loud to him—he does not hear you for the noise of the mill. We preach to men about matters of salvation—but the grinding-mill of worldly business makes such a noise that they cannot hear! ‘In hearing, they hear not.’ It being thus, ministers who are called ‘sons of thunder’ had need often ascend the mount and ‘lift up their voice like a trumpet’ (Isaiah 58:1) that the deaf ear may be cleaned and unstopped, and may hear ‘what the Spirit says unto the churches’ (Revelation 2:7).

As some have earth in their ears—so others have a stone in their hearts! They make ‘their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear’ (Zechariah 7:12). The ministers of Christ therefore must be frequently brandishing the sword of the Spirit and striking at men’s sins, that, if possible, they may at last pierce the heart of stone! When the earth is scorched with the sun, it is so hard and crusted, that one shower of rain will not soften it. There must be shower after shower before it will be either moist or fertile. Such a hardened piece, is the heart of man naturally. It is so stiffened with the scorchings of lust, that there must be ‘precept upon precept’ (Isaiah 28:10). Our doctrine must ‘distill as the dew, as the small rain on the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass’ (Deuteronomy 32:2).

Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes

What a defence is God to his Church!

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Broad rivers and streams produce fertility, and abundance in the land. Places near broad rivers are remarkable for the variety of their plants and their plentiful harvests. God is all this to his Church. Having God she has abundance. What can she ask for that he will not give her? What want can she mention which he will not supply? “In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things.” Want ye the bread of life? It drops like manna from the sky. Want ye refreshing streams? The rock follows you, and that Rock is Christ. If you suffer any want it is your own fault; if you are straitened you are not straitened in him, but in your own bowels. Broad rivers and streams also point to commerce. Our glorious Lord is to us a place of heavenly merchandise. Through our Redeemer we have commerce with the past; the wealth of Calvary, the treasures of the covenant, the riches of the ancient days of election, the stores of eternity, all come to us down the broad stream of our gracious Lord. We have commerce, too, with the future. What galleys, laden to the water’s edge, come to us from the millennium! What visions we have of the days of heaven upon earth! Through our glorious Lord we have commerce with angels; communion with the bright spirits washed in blood, who sing before the throne; nay, better still, we have fellowship with the Infinite One. Broad rivers and streams are specially intended to set forth the idea of security. Rivers were of old a defence. Oh! beloved, what a defence is God to his Church! The devil cannot cross this broad river of God. How he wishes he could turn the current, but fear not, for God abideth immutably the same. Satan may worry, but he cannot destroy us; no galley with oars shall invade our river, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

Advice for seekers

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The Gospel is preached to you, and God has not sent it with the intention that after you have heard it you should seek mercy and not find it. God does not tantalize, He does not mock the sons of men. He asks you to come to Him. Repent and believe, and you shall be saved. If you come with a broken heart, trusting in Christ, there is no possibility that He will reject you; otherwise He would not have sent the Gospel to you. There is nothing that so delights Jesus Christ as to save sinners. We never find that Jesus was in a huff because the people pressed about Him to touch Him. No, it gave Him divine pleasure to give out His healing power.

You who are in a trade are never happier than when business is brisk; and my Lord Jesus, who follows the trade of soul-winning, is never happier than when His great business is moving on rapidly. What pleasure it gives a physician when at last he brings a person through a severe illness into health! I think the medical profession must be one of the happiest engagements in the world when a man is skilful in it. Our Lord Jesus feels a most divine pleasure as He bends over a broken heart and binds it up. It is the very heaven of Christ’s soul to be doing good to the sons of men. You misjudge Him if you think He wants to be argued with and persuaded to have mercy; He gives it as freely as the sun pours out light, as the heavens drop with dew and as clouds yield their rain. It is His honour to bless sinners; it makes Him a name, and an everlasting sign that shall never be removed.

Charles H. Spurgeon, Advice for Seekers

Stand in amazement at God’s patience

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Let none despise the strivings of the Spirit in the hearts of the young; let not boyish anxieties and juvenile repentances be lightly regarded. He incurs a fearful amount of guilt who in the least promotes the aim of the Evil One by trampling upon a tender conscience in a child. No one knows the age of the youngest child in hell; and therefore none can guess at what age children become capable of conversion. We at least can bear our testimony to the fact that grace operates on some minds at a period almost too early for recollection. Nor let it be imagined that the feelings of the young are slight and superficial—they are frequently of the deepest character. The early woundings of the Saviour are made upon hearts not yet rendered callous by worldliness and sensuality. The Christian whose lot it was to be smitten in his childhood, will well remember the deep searchings of heart and the keen convictions of soul which he endured.

O beloved, how much have we to bless our Jesus for, and how much for which to reprove ourselves! Did we not stifle our conscience, and silence the voice of reproof? Were we not deaf to the warning voice of our glorious Jesus? When he smote us sorely, we returned not to kiss his rod, but were as refractory as the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Our most solemn vows were only made to be broken; our earnest prayers ceased when the outward pressure was removed; and our partial reformations passed away like dreams of the night. Blessed be His name, he at last gave us the effectual blow of grace; but we must for ever stand in amazement at the patience which endured our obstinacy, and persevered in its design of love.

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour, pp 45-46

Jesus came to save even you!

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You sinners—I mean you real sinners, not you who call yourselves by that name simply because you are told that is what you are, but you who really feel yourselves to be guilty before God—here is good news for you! O you self-condemned sinners, who feel that if you are ever to get salvation, Jesus must bring it to you and be the beginning and the end of it, I pray you to rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed Name, for Jesus has come to save you—even you! Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and say to Him, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, save me, for I need your salvation!” Do not doubt that He will fulfill His own Name and exhibit His saving power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.

Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Galatians (Logos Bible Software)

Sorrow for sin is practical

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Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters, but penitence never shows itself in sinners except divine grace works it in them. If thou hast one particle of real hatred for sin, God must have given it thee, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

True repentance has a distinct reference to the Saviour. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally—as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it—shun it in everything—not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against him.

Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.

Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

What a precious thing is a soul!

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photo: iStock

Christ’s ministers must take all occasions of doing good to others, in regard of the work which they are about—which is saving of souls. What a precious thing is a soul! Christ takes, as it were, a pair of scales in his hands and he puts the world in one scale and the soul in the other—and the soul outweighs! (Matthew 16:26). The soul is of a noble origin. It is a flower of eternity; here, in the bud; in heaven, fully ripe. The soul is one of the richest pieces of embroidery which God ever made—the understanding bespangled with light, the will invested with liberty, the affections like musical instruments tuned with the finger of the Holy Spirit. Now if the souls of men are of so noble an extract and made capable of glory, oh how zealously industrious should Christ’s ministers be to save these souls! If Christ spent his blood for souls, well may we spend our sweat! It was Augustine’s prayer that Christ might find him at his coming—either praying or preaching. What a sad sight is it to see precious souls, as so many pearls and diamonds—cast into the dead sea of hell!

Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes

Christ’s forgiveness overcomes our weaknesses

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Let all the world know that the Lord Jesus will not cast away His believing people because of short-comings and infirmities. The husband does not put away his wife because he finds failings in her. The mother does not forsake her infant because it is weak, feeble, and ignorant. And the Lord Christ does not cast off poor sinners who have committed their souls into His hands because He sees in them blemishes and imperfections. Oh! No! It is His glory to pass over the faults of His people, and heal their backslidings,—to make much of their weak graces, and to pardon their many faults.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots

Breadth vs depth

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Much has been done of late to promote the production of dwarfish Christians. The endeavor has been to increase breadth at the expense of depth. What would you think of those who should break the dams of our reservoirs to let the water spread over the country?… If, in order to spread our sea, we make it very shallow, and it breathes miasma and death over the plain, it will be a sorry exchange for life eternal. Oh, to have a church built up with the deep godliness of men who know the Lord in their very hearts, and will seek to follow the Lamb wherever he goes!

Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons vol XXXV (as published in 1,500 Quotations for Preachers)