Procuring Peace Between God and Man

“…his name shall be called . . . Prince of Peace” Isa. 9:6

As the “Prince of Peace,” our Lord Jesus procures peace between God and man. The problem of effecting reconciliation could only be solved by the Prince of Peace. It had baffled the ingenuity of a synod of angels, composed of every celestial being in heaven. The thought of reconciling God and man, in a way that would uphold the rectitude and honor of the Divine government, would never have crossed a finite being’s mind. It was the conception of one mind alone- the mind of the Eternal Lord God- and was lodged, eternally lodged, in that Mind myriads of ages before an angel was created. There are no second, no after-thoughts, of the Divine mind. If, then, God is eternal, never having had a beginning, then the thought of saving man by the Incarnation of Deity was as eternal as the Mind that conceived it. Thus, our Lord Jesus was the Peace-procurer of His Church. He was the true Levi of whom Jehovah said, “My covenant was with Him of life and peace.” None but He could have effected it. There was disruption and separation, dissension and discord, a terrible schism between the Creator and His creatures. The Prince of Peace alone had dignity, authority, and power to effect peace. As none but the express Image of God could restore the divine image to man’s destroyed soul; as none but Essential Life could breathe life into man’s dead soul; as none but perfect Holiness could restore the reign of holiness in man’s sinful soul; as none but the Son of God could make us sons of God, and none but the Beloved of God could make us beloved to God, so none but the “Prince of Peace” could bring us into a covenant of peace with Jehovah. Thus the Lord Jesus became our Peace-procurer.

In love and mercy He undertook what He alone could undertake. Oh, it was a great, a marvellous work, the work of restoring unity and friendship between God and man! Hence the twofold nature of our Lord. Mediating between the two extremes of being, the Infinite and the finite, the Divine and the human, He must partake of the nature of both. Effecting peace on the part of God, He must be God; effecting reconciliation on the part of man, He must be man. Hence the glorious fact, which at this season of Advent we celebrate- “God manifest in the flesh.” Let your faith, my readers, embrace this truth afresh. It will strengthen your confidence in the reality of the peace the Prince of Peace has secured for you. It was no mere resemblance of peace He procured, no unauthorized compact into which He entered; no reconciliation which either party in the agreement could not honorably accept- Oh, no! Because He was God, He was essentially fitted to mediate for God; and because He was Man, He was in all respects fitted to negotiate for man; and thus God has accepted His mediation, and so “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.”

Octavius Winslow, Emmanuel, or The TItles of Christ, as published in The Works of Octavius Winslow (Monergism Books, Kindle Edition)

 

All Your Real Power is in Christ

“…his name shall be called . . . Mighty God” Isa. 9:6

There is one truth connected with our subject fraught with the richest encouragement to God’s people. It is this- Christ is so Almighty that He knows how to stoop to, and to sympathize with, the weakest strength of His saints. Listen to His recognition of this- “You have a little strength.” Who speaks thus? The almighty God, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. What! does the Almighty One, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, take cognizance of my little strength? Yes, beloved, He despises not the day of small things, and overlooks not the little strength of His saints, yes, even those who have no might. How should this encourage you to use the little that you have in working out your own salvation, in making your calling and your election sure, and in laborings to bring souls to Christ! Jesus regards with ineffable delight your little faith and love, your little knowledge and experience, your feeble endeavors to serve and honor Him, since that little is the divine fruit of His Spirit, and the free gift of His grace. But do not be content to remain where you are. “Let the weak say I am strong.” “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

All your real power is in Christ. In His strength you can do great things for God, and suffer great things for Jesus. Bring your strong corruptions to His grace, and your little strength to His omnipotence, and your very weakness shall turn to your account by drawing you into a closer alliance with the Lord in whom you have righteousness and strength. Thus you will be taught to understand the apostle’s sacred paradox- “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

Octavius Winslow, Emmanuel, or The TItles of Christ, as published in The Works of Octavius Winslow (Monergism Books, Kindle Edition)

 

Christ is Surpassingly Wonderful!

“…his name shall be called Wonderful…”—Isa. 9:6

Pause here one moment, and let us think—Christ is surpassingly wonderful. . . . All the wonders that you ever saw are nothing compared with this. As we have passed through various countries we have seen a wonder, and some older traveler than ourselves has said, “Yes this is wonderful to you. but I could show you something that utterly eclipses that.” Though we have seen some splendid landscapes, with glorious hills, and we have climbed up where the eagle seemed to knit the mountain and the sky together in his flight, and we have stood and looked down, and said, “How wonderful!” Saith he, “I have seen fairer lands than these, and wider and richer prospects far.” But when we speak of Christ, none can say they ever saw a greater wonder than he is. You have come now to the very summit of everything that may be wondered at. There are no mysteries equal to this mystery, there is no surprise equal to this surprise; there is no astonishment, no admiration that should equal the astonishment and admiration that we feel when we behold Christ in the glories of the past. He surpasses everything.

Wonder is a short-lived emotion . . . But Christ is and ever shall be wonderful. You may think of him through three-score years and ten, but you shall wonder at him more at the end than at the beginning. Abraham might wonder at him, when he saw his day in the distant future; but I do mat think that even Abraham himself could wonder at Christ so much as the very least in the kingdom of heaven of to-day wonders at him, seeing that we know more than Abraham, and therefore wonder more. Think again for one moment, and you will say of Christ that he deserves to be called Wonderful, not only because he is always wonderful, and because he is surpassingly wonderful, but also because he is altogether wonderful. There have been some great feats of skill in the arts and sciences; for instance, if we take a common wonder of the day, the telegraph—how much there is about that which is wonderful! But there are a great many things in the telegraph that we can understand. Though there are many mysteries in it, still there are parts of it that are like keys to the mysteries, so that if we cannot solve the riddle wholly, yet it is disrobed of some of the low garments of its mystery. But now if you look at Christ anyhow, anywhere, anyway, he is all mystery, he is altogether wonderful, always to be looked at and always to be admired.

Our Lockes and our Newtons have felt themselves to be as little children when they have come to the foot of the cross. . . . I am sure it is a difficult task to make some people wonder. Hard thinkers and close mathematicians are not easily brought to wonder: but such men have covered their faces with their hands and cast themselves in the dust, and confessed that they have been lost in wonder and amazement. Well then may Christ be called Wonderful.

Adapted from C.H. Spurgeon, “His Name—Wonderful!”, preached September 19, 1858, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens

A Few Ways Podcasts Can Encourage Your Spiritual Growth

Yesterday I wrote about unhealthy relationships between podcasts and people. The discussion surrounding the topic has been hugely helpful and I’ve noticed that one of the concerns seems to be that I’m suggesting that podcast vs. pastor is an either-or, which is definitely not the case. So, today I wanted to take an opportunity to discuss some of the benefits of listening to podcasts in addition to sitting under solid biblical instruction in your local church, because that is exactly what they’re intended for.

1. Podcasts can prevent you turning your pastor into an idol. Listening to other pastors offers you different perspectives as well as opportunities for discussion with your pastor and can help keep you from viewing him as your sole source of truth. In other words, it can help prevent you from turning him into an idol. Because our hearts are idol-factories, we naturally attempt to put anyone and anything in the place of God. But to put any person in that position is not only unfair, it is evil. Podcasts can help remind you that your pastor is a regular person, just like you. Every pastor, no matter how excellent a student of the Word, is imperfect. He can and will make mistakes. And a good pastor is never afraid of his congregation hearing the Word from other sources, provided those sources hold fast to the truth. Dan Darling is particularly helpful on this point when he writes:

Ideally, I’d like my people to be Bereans who faithfully search the Scriptures. Some areas are open to more than one interpretation. My interpretation of a particular passage may be flawed. So I like the accountability of the larger body of Christ, especially the theologically conservative mainstream. . . . At times there are pastors and teachers whose preaching may provoke life change in my people that I had no part in. I’m fine with that. I don’t have to be the sole change agent.

2. Podcasts can help you recognize false teachers and doctrine. This one is a bit touchy. On the one hand, there’s actually a greater possibility of exposure to false teachers and doctrine through podcasts. This is simply a reality as content aggregators like iTunes don’t have the ability or capacity to vet content for doctrinal fidelity (and nor should they, it’s not their responsibility). This is why you see Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll in the same categories, for example. On the other hand, if you’ve unknowingly joined a church where the pastor teaches blatantly false doctrine (or have grown up in one), listening to good, faithful teachers can help you counter the lies being promoted. (They’ll also give you a sense of what to look for as you run for the hills!)

3. Podcasts can help you redeem your commute. Rather than listening to smutty and/or irrelevant morning-drive shows, a podcast can help you prepare for your day on a positive note, using the time that has been given to you to hear the truth expounded. This is a wonderful and necessary thing. Prior to selling our house and moving, I had a roughly 30 minute commute (round trip) each day (my commute is approximately three minutes now, in case you’re curious). Typically I would use that time to listen to portions of a sermon podcast or a shorter teaching such as what you’d find in Ligonier Ministries’ Renewing Your Mind broadcast. Listening to solid teaching during this time was hugely beneficial not only to my ability to do my job well, but to prepare myself for the second half of my day—being “dad,” helping my wife and writing.

4. Podcasts can help you become a better preacher. Don Carson has often said that if you listen to one person, you’re going to be a bad copy, if you listen to 10, you’ll be boring, and if you listen to 50, you’ll start to develop your own voice. Podcasts allow preachers to hear how others communicate, learn helpful techniques and grow in the role to which God has called them.

The important thing for us to note (again) is that podcasts can be very valuable to our spiritual health and growth provided they maintain their proper position in our lives—that is serving as a supplement and complement to the instruction we receive within our local churches and in our personal study. So give thanks for their existence, encourage others when you find worthwhile ones to listening to and enjoy.

 

 

Podcasts, Pastors and People

Recently my friend Trevin Wax shared his concerns about people treating their podcasts as their pastors. There is great reason to be concerned about this. He explains:

But just because we cannot and should not point fingers at each other regarding the problem of celebrity does not mean that we shouldn’t carefully consider the ramifications of pastoral influence being mediated through technology instead of the local church. I offer these thoughts not as a point of criticism but as one of concern. And I’m open to suggestions as to how to lift up local church pastors and celebrate their influence and mentoring.

John Piper was right to remind us that we are not pastored by “professionals.” Perhaps it’s time we remembered that we are not pastored by podcasts either.

In reading his concerns, I kept coming back to the question of why? Why are people turning to podcasts and perhaps too frequently looking to them as their source of biblical nourishment. Where Trevin suggests that this might be, in part, because of a “drought caused by the fatherlessness of our society” along with “the heavy rain of pastoral resources available through technological advance,” I have to wonder if, perhaps, there are at least two other reasons:

1. An inability of church members to submit to the leaders placed over them. The reasons for this are twofold: First, we lack a proper understanding of that there is even such a thing as objective truth. This is fundamentally a worldview issue—if truth is relative, then I am the arbiter of truth, so I’m ultimately my own authority. At best, everyone else has an opinion, but it’s not something I need to listen to. The current generation’s attitudes toward leadership is fruit of decades of mistrust and skepticism. We expect politicians to lie to us. We assume our bosses are going to throw us under the bus in order to save their own skin. And we have wrongly projected that onto our church leaders. The drought Trevin refers to is inextricably connected to this unhealthy attitude, and it is something that must be countered and corrected.

2. Pastors are failing to preach. This is a subject I’ve written on before, but it bears repeating—if pastors are not preaching the Word, they are failing their congregations. And as Jared Wilson said so well recently, “Putting some Bible verses in your message is not the same thing as preaching the Scriptures.” Christians who are starving for the nourishment that only comes from the preached Word will inevitably begin seeking it out, and if they aren’t getting it from their own pastors, they’ll find it somewhere else. It’s not terribly kind to say, but here’s the thing all of us who have been given the privilege to serve the Church through preaching need to remember—Christians need to hear what God says, not what any of us have to say. My message might be cute, maybe even helpful sometimes, but it has no power. The Holy Spirit doesn’t transform lives through a clever turn of phrase; He does so whenever and wherever the Word is faithfully proclaimed.

This is something I’ve had far too much personal experience with. Once upon a time, I was an incredible consumer of podcasts—I was famished, desperate to hear the Word proclaimed and I wasn’t getting that in my local church. Eventually, for various reasons that I’ve shared previously, my family and I left and joined another congregation here in London. And a funny thing happened. As I sat under biblical instruction, I found my “need” to listen to podcasts diminish to the point that I rarely listen to them on a consistent basis today. And within a very short period of time, my pastor actually became my pastor. Because he cares enough to share the full counsel of God—to preach the Scriptures and proclaim the gospel—I want to submit to his leadership. I want to submit to his authority.

So perhaps that’s the place we need to start as we look at our concerns over unhealthy relationships with podcasts and “celebrity” pastors. If you’re pastor isn’t your pastor, then you need to look at why. Examine your own heart and attitudes first and repent of any genuine sinful mistrust of authority, appealing to Christ for his empowerment in putting that sin to death. Don’t automatically assume that your problem is your pastor, because the problem could likely be you. But if the problem truly is that your pastor is failing to preach, humbly approach him in love. Voice your concerns. Pray for him. And as a last resort, part company.

4 Things That Irritate Me About My Kindle

Yesterday I shared three things I really like about my Kindle. Overall, I’ve been super-happy with the purchase, but as I mentioned, there are a few things that I’ve found less than stellar about reading on it so far. None of these are what I would consider deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination, they really come down to preference issues and personal habits. Here’s what I mean:

1. It’s very tempting to skim, rather than read. I’ve always been a very fast reader, but I’m finding myself going way too fast. I’ve noticed a tendency to scan the text more often than dig into it. This is something that I hope will improve with time as I get acclimated, but it’s really frustrating for me. In the meantime, I am frequently reminding myself to slow down when I’m reading and will often flip back to a previous screen in order to make sure I actually absorbed the words being presented.

2. No touch screen. I’m in Canada and don’t have a valid U.S. address (or P.O. box), therefore the models available to me are extremely limited. I purchased the Kindle 4 (with the directional buttons). It works fine, but I would have much preferred a touch screen—in fact, I frequently find myself poking at the screen to get it to do something. My iPhone has trained me well… This has been happening far less frequently, but the first week was brutal.

3. Highlighting is easy enough, but typing is a pain. At this point, unless I really need to make a note, I don’t when I’m reading on the actual device. If I’m making notes, I’ll do it on my laptop. The onscreen keyboard works okay, but its not set up in the traditional QWERTY layout (again, evidence that I’ve been too well trained by my technology), so it makes for much searching around for letters using the directional pad. (This is one advantage of the Kindle Keyboard, which was out of my price range.)

4. Is there a point in marking up personal documents, though? At this point I’ve not figured out how to actually access highlights and notes from books that I didn’t purchase directly from Amazon, as well as PDFs that have been provided for me. If someone’s got some tips on how to do this, I’d really appreciate them. Thanks!

So that pretty much covers everything to this point. Like I said, nothing earth shattering, just a few things that are kind of irritating—and most of them are things I’ll learn to live with until it’s time to upgrade. :)

Question: If you have a Kindle, what’s been the one feature that you’ve most been bothered by?

Paper vs Pixels 2: 3 Things I Like About My Kindle

Some time ago, I wrote about my experiences reading using the Kindle app on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro in an effort to sort out whether or not to go electronic with a lot of my reading. At the end of November, I finally purchased a Kindle and have been using it steadily since then for the majority of my reading (although certainly not all). Here are a few things that I’ve really enjoyed about my experience so far:

1. The Kindle is a dedicated product. It does one thing—displays books—and does it really well. Yeah, it’s got the web browser as well, but really, unless I’m connecting to wifi at Starbucks, I don’t use the thing for any web surfing (that’s what my laptop is for). The biggest advantage to this is that it prevents distraction. I can focus on reading my book without being tempted to go and fart around on Facebook or Twitter. This is very nice.

2. The e-Ink display is really easy on the eyes. My longest sitting with the Kindle has been about an hour and I’ve been really pleased that I haven’t had any issues with headaches or eye strain. I rarely go more than 30 minutes on my laptop before I have to take a break (which I hear is good for you to do anyway, but…). The text is nice and crisp and the occasional screen flashes when “turning” pages is barely noticeable. I was also surprised to find that the default font is surprisingly attractive (I kind of expected it to be really lame. Not comic sans lame, but lame nonetheless).

3. Everything is so convenient. Whether it’s accessing and sharing notes and highlights, purchasing books or digging through my existing library, this part of the Kindle experience has been excellent. The most important of these—my one “must”—has been accessing my highlights. Given that a huge amount of my reading is for review purposes, book research and professional development, I need to be able to access them easily. The Kindle allows me to do exactly that and so far no other device that I’ve seen (outside of the iBooks app, of course) makes it easy for me.

Those are the three big positive things that come to mind as I’ve been looking back on my Kindle experience over the few weeks—although the switch hasn’t been all smiles and sunshine. While none are enough the make me hesitate in recommending you purchase one if you’re considering it, there are a couple of things I struggle with when it comes to the Kindle. I’ll share those tomorrow.

Question: If you’ve got a Kindle or another eReader, what do you like best about it?