The Power of Sentences

Bob RoaneBible Study, Church History, Counseling, Wise living

Adapted from John Piper and used at Belhaven University, Jester III Prison, other teaching, and pastoral counseling. I use this article to remind us to look for key sentences that impact us in the Bible, or in reading and listening to lectures or sermons. Use Piper’s ideas to help you with my articles and class lessons. I never pretend that all of my long documents will help anyone, but with God’s blessing, maybe some sentences will.

Wisdom from Piper

Piper says: “I’ve learned from years of serious reading that sentences change my life, not books. What changes me is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge, some answer to a long-standing dilemma, and these usually come concentrated in a sentence or two. I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book or article I remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%. That life-changing insight usually has value is all out of proportion to its little size. That’s why I call it an “immeasurable moment.” Here are some sentences that have gripped and changed Piper and me. Why not start making your own list?

Sentences that Impacted Piper

From C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory: If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering rewards Christ promised in the Gospels, it seems that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when God’s infinite joy in Christ is offered us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation by the sea. We are far too easily pleased with inferior things.

From Augustine’s Confessions: I have no hope at all but in your great mercy. Grant what you command and command what you will. Augustine means that we need Christ’s empowering to keep His commandments. Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Piper was gripped by this Scripture when he was twenty-two and it shaped his life: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13) This verse emphasizes the Lord’s sovereignty and our responsibility for Christ-like living.

Sentences that Impacted Me

I (Bob) add these sentences from Elisabeth Elliot that help me follow the Lord: “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances….There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for….Leave your cares all in Jesus’ hands that were wounded for you….You can never lose what you have offered to Christ….God’s will is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger….By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.”

I also add these sentences from 2 Thessalonians that I memorized over 40 years ago. I still use them for myself and for helping others: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word….May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance….Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thes 2:16-17, 3:5,16)

Don’t overlook the power of sentences. By God’s blessing, sentences can change hearts, minds, lives, and the whole world.