From the Margin of… Acts 2:39

13 12 2008

How are you at “speaking the truth”? How clear and plain do you make the truth when you are talking with an unbelieving coworker or a relative that has walked away from the faith?From the Margin of...

I think we have all experienced the temptation to soften up our message or water down the truth a bit, attempting to make it more palatable and the conversation more comfortable.  However, when we water down the content of the message, won’t we find that we’ve watered down the power of the message as well?

Because of that temptation, the following quote from Richard Sibbes really convicted me.  I appreciated Sibbes comments so much that I wrote them next to the text of Peter’s powerful sermon in Acts 2.

Sibbes explains:

Truth feareth nothing so much as concealment, and desireth nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all; when it is most naked, it is most lovely and powerful.”

I thought Acts 2 to be a good margin location as the two together remind me that, as I preach, I must proclaim the truth clearly, boldly, and in all its naked beauty, believing that God the Spirit will use the naked truth to bring souls to the Savior.  But the practice of “truth exposing” shouldn’t just be isolated to a sermon or a teaching time, it should be my habit whatever the conversation and whatever the context.  I don’t know about you, but my fallen lips (and the mind that fuels them) need this reminder!


From the Margin of… John 4:23

27 05 2008

Where does true worship come from? I don’t mean good singing or a really great Sunday service, but true humility before God; that place where I am viewing both myself and God correctly? 

I wrote down the following quote from John Piper in my Bible next to John 4:23.  See if these thoughts don’t help answer this question and explain some of what Jesus packed into that wonderful statement: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”

The fuel for worship is the truth of God, the furnace of worship is the spirit of man, and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, conviction, trust, gratitude, and joy.  But there is something missing from this picture… there must be ignition and fire.  This is the Holy Spirit.   

I find this quote challenges me to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things, specifically my worship.  As I fill my mind with the truth of God, this activity must be accompanied the Spirit’s ministry of illumination.  This quote reminds me to be seeking, through humble prayer, the Spirit’s ministry; that He would set the truth ablaze in my spirit so that my affections would long for the True and Living God and my will would manifest the Spirit’s work through my faithful obedience.  Then I will have a life of a true worshiper, who both glorifies and delights my God.

From the Margin of…2 Corinthians 5:17

4 04 2008

From the Margin of…What does the Cross of Jesus do in our lives?  What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20)?  What does it mean to be a “new creature”?  I wrote this powerful quote from the wise doctor, Martin Lloyd-Jones, in the margin of 2 Corinthians 5.  It serves to remind me of who I am and what it means to embrace the Gospel.

There is no point in our saying that we believe that Christ has died for us… unless we can also say… that our outlook towards the world and its method of living is entirely changed.  It is not that we are sinless or perfect, but that we have finished with that way of life.  We have seen it for what it is, and we are new creatures for whom everything has become new.

From the Margin of…Galatians 5:16

26 02 2008

From the Margin of…One of the things we men are especially good at is compartmentalizing.  Like the bowels of a ship or the chambers in a submarine, we can often close off one aspect of life from another and not allow “crisis spill over.”  We become good at separating our job “world” from our family “world” and often those “worlds” from other aspects of life.  This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. 

If we have a bad day at work, it is a nice skill to be able to set that day aside once we get into the car and not let our job stress “spill over” into our family time.  However, one of the ways we fool ourselves with this skill (one of the ways this becomes a “bad thing”) is when we think we can compartmentalize sin.  No matter how hard we might try, there is no way to close off sin and have it not affect the rest of our life.  We can’t simply quarantine sin, believing that we can entertain it in one area of our life without it contaminating the rest.  Why?

Listen to the following counsel from John Owen, one of the most profound writers on the doctrine of sin. 

The indulgence of sin [leads to] further sins.  The indulgence of one sin diverts the soul from the use of the means by which all other sins should be resisted.

Read that last line again. 

I wrote this quote in the margin of my Bible, next to Galatians 5:16.  I chose Galatians 5:16 because it is here that Paul reminds us of our power for resisting the flesh.  If we “walk by the Spirit” we “will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”  However, if we try to harbor sin in one area of our life (if we try to compartmentalize it) then we are not walking in the Spirit and we will find no strength in our daily battle against the flesh.  That harbored sin opens the door for more sin and invites it to run loose in our life.  That is why the author of Hebrews admonishes “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1).

Owen’s words remind me that if I half-heatedly pursue holiness, I will not find it.       

From the Margin of…Romans 6

18 02 2008

From the Margin of…Romans 6 has to be one of my favorite chapters in all of the Scripture.  Early in my seminary education, one of my professors required us to memorize verses 1-14.  Because of that exercise, this text became a launching pad for wonderful advances in my spiritual growth.  I love the victory that this chapter proclaims; what a glorious truth to cling to, that the Gospel has set us free from the domination of the flesh.  I love the way “May it never be!” thunders over the entire chapter.  Each time I read through Paul’s rich explanation of the transforming power of our union with Christ, I am filled with hope and God refreshes my zeal for the battle against sin.

As you can probably then imagine, the margins of Romans 6 in my Bible are seriously marked up and filled.  Today, as I continue my “From the Margin of…” series, I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Romans 6 margin dwellers.

This first quote I have written next to the beginning of the chapter:
“[sin] may get into the throne of the heart and play the tyrant in this or that particular act of sin, but it shall never more be as king there.” –Samuel Bolton

This description of God’s work of liberating our sin-enslaved will fills the margin alongside verses 17 & 18:
The will, therefore, is truly free when it is not the slave of vices and sins.  Such was it given to us by God; and this being lost by its own fault, can only be restored by Him who was able at first to give it.” –Augustine

I’ve underlined the phrase from verse 4 “so that we too might walk in newness of life” and beside it I put this important reminder:
The exceeding evil of sin is not the harm it does to us or to others (though that is great!).  The wickedness of sin is owing to the implicit disdain for God.” –John Piper

I also have heavily underlined verse 12 and beside it is probably my favorite quote on the page:
To say to the slave who has not been emancipated ‘do not behave as a slave’ is to mock his enslavement.  But to say to the same slave who has been set free is the necessary appeal to put into effect the privileges and rights of his liberation.” –John Murray

What a glorious truth: we are free!  However, it is so easy to fall into those old habits of slavery, isn’t it?  I hope these quotes encourage you today, and if you’ve written other wonderful gems in your Romans 6 margins, I’d love to read them.  By the way, if you’ve never committed this chapter to memory, I’d greatly encourage you to do so and allow your mind to be filled daily with the truth of who you now are in Jesus Christ- set free from the dominance of sin and now slaves of righteousness!

From the Margin of… John 21

29 01 2008

From the Margin of…When I was in seminary, a local pastor (Dr. Robert Rayburn) came and shared with us the discipline of annotating our Bibles.  He brought his old Bible which for years he had been filling with notes.  He’d had it re-covered at least once and it looked like a Bible that was used and cherished.  As he flipped through its pages, he’d stop and share with us a great quote.  Then he’d turn a few more pages and read to us some wonderful exegetical insight that really opened up a passage.  Some of richest moments were those in which he took us through a few choice psalms beside which he had written dates of prayer, dates he’d prayed that psalm for some brother or sister or family member.  As I listened, I was captivated by the discipline of connecting my Bible so closely with my life and what I was studying.  I admired this mature brother who was carrying around this treasure- a Bible study library and personal history in the palm of his hand.  From that day, I decided I too would make annotating my Bible a personal discipline I’d pursue.

I now have my own re-covered Bible filled with notes I’ve gleaned from my reading and study over the years.  It has psalms marked with dates and names in the margin next to them.  The processes of finding a text to correspond with a quote (of thinking as I read “how does this connect with my Bible?”) has been a wonderful discipline.

Now I’ve decided to connect my Bible with my blog.  Today I’m beginning a series of posts (with no specific point of termination) in which I’ll share some of the notes from the margin of my Bible.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading the quotes and insights that have moved me over the years and seeing where I ended up connecting them with the Scriptures.  If you have the same practice of annotating your Bible, I’d love for this to become a two-way conversation with us being able to show each other the nuggets in our margins.

So, for my first “From the Margin of…” post, I thought I’d share one of my favorite John Piper quotes.  I put this quote in the margin of the last page of John’s Gospel (at the end of John 21). There were so many places in the Gospel itself that I thought about writing the quote, but I just couldn’t choose one. Piper’s words are a wonderful reminder I stop to ponder each time I finish reading through the great Apostle’s rich work. This description of regeneration reminds me of God’s overwhelming grace in my life and fuels my love for the unsaved I meet- may they too experience the glorious dawn of salvation!

Piper describing regeneration:It was like the opening of the eyes of the blind during the golden dawn.  First, the stunned silence before the unspeakable beauty of holiness.  Then a shock and terror that we had actually loved the darkness.  Then the settling stillness of joy that this is the soul’s end.  The quest is over.  We would give anything if we might be granted to live in the presence of this glory forever.”