Saturday, October 10, 2009

Living by Faith In Future Grace – John Piper

As part of our initiative to encourage a reading habit and developing a Christian mind in the church, we are looking for volunteers to do book reviews. Here is a start

By Davin Wong

The full title of the book is “The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace”. The reason becomes clearer in the introduction: “the aim of this book is to emancipate human hearts from servitude to the fleeting pleasures of sin. Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. No one sins out of duty. 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)”

His ultimate purpose: That God be prized above all things and the praise of the glory of God’s grace. According to him, prizing is the authenticating essence of praising. You can’t praise what you don’t prize. Therefore, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!

The author believes that behind most wrong living is wrong thinking. We nullify the words of Jesus because our conceptual framework is disfigured. Some of the inherited ways of “Christian” thinking are so out of sync with the Bible that they work against the very obedience they are designed to promote. One of such ‘wrong thinking’ is what he calls the Debtor’s ethic (Chapter 1). This is arguably most relevant for us Asians. The debtor’s ethic says, “Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.” This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favours. If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic – and the effect is to nullify grace!

Here Piper is quick to qualify his statement. Make no mistake, I exalt gratitude as a central biblical response of the heart to the grace of God. The Bible commands gratitude to God as one of out highest duties…(Psalm 100:4). God says that gratitude honours him…(Psalm 50:23). In spite of being misused in the debtor’s ethic, gratitude is not guilty. He goes on by relating debtor’s ethic to our relationship with God and how we should repent of this mindset by embracing a different approach in our relationship with God.

The book is spread over 31 chapters with the intent that the reader would spend some time each day reading a chapter for a month (hopefully, in unrushed reflection!) It also shows how living by faith in future grace is the way to prevail over the deceptive promises of sin in 8 areas of human struggle with evil – anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency and lust.

Finally, I echo John Piper’s words that it is where we end that matters. His prayer is that for every reader of his book will hear and follow the call to find their joy in all that God promises to be for them in Jesus. That the expulsive power of this new affection will go on freeing them from the fleeting pleasures of sin and empower them for a life of sacrificial love. This too is my prayer both for my self and for those of you who will read this book.

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