Friday, March 27, 2009

Finding "Future Grace"

"The aim of this book is to emancipate human hearts from servitude to the fleeting pleasures of sin...We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness. That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself (Psalm 63:3). Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s." (p. 10)

These words are from the first few sentences in Pastor John Piper's book "Future Grace". For the past three weeks I have been walking through this book a chapter a day (conveniently it is set up to read a chapter a day and finish in a month). This book has not been just one more Piper book that I can soon claim to have read. It has offered a whole new perspective on how I wage war on the sin that remains in my flesh (1 Peter 2:11).

Sadly, it has taken me over three years after being born again before getting a book like this in my hands. I have spent a number of hours in Romans, 1 Peter, and other books that clarify the gospel or in wonderful, compelling apoligetics that defend the faith. All the while I have put up puny efforts to spearhead the fact that I have some serious sin remaining in my daily life. And not "good Christian" sins like not reading my Bible or praying or fasting or tithing enough. There is still some juicy stuff left: sexual immorality, lust, anger, malice, and I am just going general terms here. Something has got to be done.

That said, Pastor John's book is getting me off to a good start on grasping what it might look like to follow Jesus while I am in a mortal body and a fallen world in which Satan is referred to as the "prince of the power of the air."

One of the ways Future Grace is having an effect on me is the way in which I read Scripture. Specifically how I read commands that come from Scripture. In the quote above notice how Pastor John argues for what sin is and how its power is broken. Sin is believing a promise. A promise that porn, food, football, marijuana, alcohol, an attaractive man or woman, good grades, good pay, or anything is more satisfying than God. The power that these things hold on us comes from our faith in them to bring us joy, pleasure, peace, satisfaction. We defeat this power through hearing the promises of God's word and saying "Yes!" to them. Our faith shifts from one source of love to another. The key is faith, not moral might. The key is beholding God and embracing Him over and above whatever other pitiful pleasure I had before. Sin's promise is undone and God's promises propel us to joyful obedience.

How is this effecting my time reading from the Scriptures? Simply, I now see the connection between the action God is calling me to and the promise that is to be believed in order to fulfill the action.

This morning I am in my eigth day examining Psalm 130. Seriously, it is a keeper. I encourage you to take this one up soon. This writer is dealing with adversity and pain and the pit in a marvelously godly way. Anyway, here are the last couple of verses.

[7]O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with him there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
[8]And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquites.
The command is for Israel, and he says, "Hope in the LORD!" A very simple command. Trust God.

Why though? Why trust God? Why not any number of other things or people or gods? "For with [the LORD] there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquites."

One thing I know is I need to be loved. I love to be loved. To be listened to, to be prayed for, to have someone take interest in me, to be sacrificed for, to be honest with someone is something I long for. And here the psalmist declares "with [God] there is steadfast love."

Another thing I know is I need to be redeemed. I know something is wrong. My mind, my mouth, my body, my will are all corrupted beyond description. My own capacity to love is plagued by selfishness. My ability to do something as honorable as preaching the gospel is infected with pride. I need something outside of me to happen, and the psalmist declares "with him there is plentiful redemption."

There are the promises: love and redemption. Better yet, steadfast love and plentiful redemption. Do I believe this? Will I trust these promises? Will I bank on God's promises of the future grace of love and redemption. This question is what will make or break my ability to "hope in the LORD" as the psalmist calls for.

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