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!


Would You Be Holy?

6 12 2008

Savor these wonderful words from the pen of J. C. Ryle, as he reminds us that Christ is our only hope!

Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ.  You will do nothing at all, and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him.  He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to him… Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it. They toil and labour, and turn over new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel “nothing bettered, but rather worse” (Mark 5:26).  They run in vain, labour in vain; and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end.  They are building up a wall of sand, their works run down as fast as they throw it up.  They are bailing water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them, not they on the leak… It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, ‘Wisdom [apart from] Christ is damning folly- righteousness [apart from] Christ is guilt and condemnation- sanctification [apart from] Christ is filth and sin- redemption [apart from] Christ is bondage and slavery.’

Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a  partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody.  Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn- “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look the Thee for grace.”  There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification til we go to Christ.

Living for God’s Glory…part 2

14 10 2008

As I wrote yesterday, my plan for this week is to share with you some rich quotes from Joel Beeke’s new book, Living for God’s Glory.  This work explores the history and impact of the system of theology commonly called “Calvinism” (or “Reformed Theology”). Beeke’s work is an attempt to explore more than the Five Points of Calvinism and he does a great job really addressing the fullness of the system.  However, my desire for this week is to focus our attention on the wonder of our salvation, so the quotes I’m citing will come primarily from the section of Beeke’s book that deals with the famous Five Points.

To get us started, today I’m posting some quotes that show how Calvinist’s have understood the Biblical description of our sinful state and the reality of our tragic condition. Some may argue that the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity goes too far, but the more I read of the Scriptures the more I believe their explanation of the results of Adam’s fall are very much in line with what the Word teaches.

As you read these quotes today, I hope they further encourage us in our battle against sin and remind us of how thankful we should be for God’s amazing and overwhelmingly gracious work of saving sinners like us!

“In essence, sin is all that is in opposition to God.  Sin defies God; it violates His character, His law, and His covenant.  It fails, as Martin Luther put it, to ‘let God be God.’ Sin aims to dethrone God and strives to place someone or something else upon His rightful throne.”  – Joel Beeke

“When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.” – Jonathan Edwards

“Every person in the world is by nature a slave to sin.  The world, by nature, is held in sin’s grip.  What a shock to our complacency- that everything of us by nature belongs to sin.  Our silences belong to sin, our omissions belong to sin, our talents belong to sin, our actions belong to sin.  Every facet of our personalities belong to sin; it own us and dominates us.  We are its servants.”
– Joel Beeke

“Original Sin is in us like our beard.  We are shaved today and look clean; tomorrow our beard has grown again, nor does it cease growing while we remain on earth. In like manner, original sin cannot be extirpated from us, it springs up in us as long as we live.”   – Martin Luther

Read the rest of this entry »

Stick with Your Work

22 09 2008

In both life and ministry, it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of whose work we’re really doing.  Years ago I came across this wonderful and anonymous quote.  I have returned to it again and again to remind me of where my focus is to be.  I hope it encourages you today and helps you keep your eye fixed on the prize and your hand to the plow!

Stick with your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work.  Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you.

He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed.  He has never bidden you defend your character.  He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation.  If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work.  Let your aim be as steady as a star.  You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men.  But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.’

Father and Son: A Glimpse of God’s Love

17 08 2008

One day, a son asked his father, “Dad, will you race with me in a 5-mile run?” Touched by his son’s heart-felt request, the father, despite having a heart condition, lovingly said “Yes”. So, together they raced. They didn’t win (they weren’t even close) but the joy of their togetherness was worth far more than finishing first. With smiles on both of their faces they finished together.

Soon after, the son asked his father once more. “Dad, can we run a marathon together?” Again, the father smiled and nodded his head. “Yes, of course we can” was the reply. So, once again the two of them raced for 26 miles and smiled all the way to the finish line – together.

This same Father and son went on to join other marathons (over 900 races to date) the father always saying ‘Yes’ to his son’s request of going through the race together.

One day, the son asked his father, “Dad, let’s join the Ironman together.” To which, his father said “Yes”.

For those who don’t know, the Ironman is the toughest triathlon ever. 
The race encompasses three endurance events:

  • 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometer) ocean swim followed by
  • a 112 mile (180.2 kilometer) bike ride and ending with
  • a 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) marathon along the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Father and son went on to complete the Ironman together.

With this in mind, please view the video clips below of the duo, but be prepared to cry. It is a beautiful example of God’s relationship with us. I only hope I can be as good a father as this man.

The Importance of the Mind in the Battle against Sin

15 08 2008

The following quote comes from the excellent book, The Enemy Within, by Kris Lundgaard. This explanation of the connection between the mind, the affections, and the will has really helped me to understand temptation better and to put a greater value on Gospel meditation (because of the crucial role of the mind and how what it dwells on guides the affections). It is a great book and I really encourage you to get a copy.

The mind is the watchman of the soul.  Its duty is to discern and judge what words, actions, desires, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions will please the Lord.  The affections, when they are working as they should, long for and cling to what the mind says is pleasing to God, and are repulsed by what angers Him.  When you “harbor wicked thoughts” (Jeremiah 4:14) the imagination becomes a pyromaniac dumping buckets of gasoline on the fire of your affections. They burn hotter and hotter, till the will melts like butter before them.

A New Cross?

30 07 2008

I recently have been asked to teach an evangelism class for our adult Sunday School.  In my research for this class, I came across the following quote from A. W. Tozer.  Sadly, Tozer’s description of this “new cross” reflects much of what I grew up hearing and still come across as the way to share the Gospel.

All unanouced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into poplular evangelical circles.  It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences are fundamental… This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its conent is not the same and its emphasis is not as before… The new cross does not slay the sinner; it redirects him.  It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect.  To the self assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of the abundant Christian life.”  The idea behind this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false.  It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.  The cross is a symbol of death.  It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a person.  God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him to newness of life.  The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.  God then bestows life, but not an improved old life.  Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod.  He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.  How can this theology be translated into life?  Simply, the non-Christian must repent and believe.  He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself.  Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing.  Let him not seek the make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.