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The Purifying Power of the Promises of God

Written by John PiperAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by John Piper



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On Sale: September 25, 2012
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-1-60142-435-8
Published by : Multnomah Books Religion/Business/Forum

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Explore this stunning quality of God’s grace:  It never ends!

In this revision of a foundational work, John Piper reveals how grace is not only God’s undeserved gift to us in the past, but also God’s power to make good happen for us today, tomorrow, and forever. 

True life for the follower of Jesus really is a moment-by-moment trust that God is dependable and fulfills his promises.  This is living by faith in future grace, which provides God's mercy, provision, and wisdom—everything we need—to accomplish his good plans for us.  

In Future Grace, chapter by chapter—one for each day of the month—Piper reveals how cherishing the promises of God helps break the power of persistent sin issues like anxiety, despondency, greed, lust, bitterness, impatience, pride, misplaced shame, and more.

Ultimate joy, peace, and hope in life and death are found in a confident, continual awareness of the reality of future grace.

Excerpt

What Is Gratitude?
     Like most precious things, gratitude is vulnerable. We easily forget that gratitude exists because sometimes things come to us “gratis”—without price or payment. When that happens, we should feel a pleasant sense of the worth of what we’ve received and the goodwill behind it. This pleasant sense is what we call gratitude. Then, spontaneously rising from this pleasant sense, come expressions of delight. We feel constrained with joy to acknowledge the gift and the goodwill behind it, and to express how good we feel about the gift and the heart of the giver.
     Gratitude corresponds to grace (“gratis”). This is true even when we feel thankful for something we have paid for. We sense that what we bought might have been disappointing in spite of our having enough money to buy it. It might not have been in such good condition; or it might not have been the exact one we wanted; or someone might have bought it before we did; or the transaction might have been harsh; or the timing might have been wrong for our intended use; or the price might have gone up just after we bought it. In other words, gratitude is not the feeling that we have been shrewd in the way we get things. It is the emotion that rises joyfully in response to something “gratis,” even in our purchases.

The Birthplace of the Debtor’s Ethic
     But right at this point there lurks a danger. There is an impulse in the fallen human heart—all our hearts—to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us “gratis.” This terrible moment is the birthplace of the “debtor’s ethic.”
     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 favors. If gratitude is twisted into a sense of debt, it gives birth to the debtor’s ethic—and the effect is to nullify grace.
Don’t misunderstand me. Gratitude itself does not nullify grace. It exults in grace. It was created by God to echo grace. Even the thought that it can be twisted to serve evil shocks some people and makes them shrink back. 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 our highest duties. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4). God says that gratitude glorifies him: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23). In spite of being vulnerable to misuse in the
debtor’s ethic, gratitude is not guilty.
     We all know what the debtor’s ethic is, even if we’ve never called it this. Suppose you invite me over for dinner. It is certainly right for me to feel gratitude. But O, how easily we distort this spontaneous response of joy into an impulse to pay back. You gave me an invitation and now I owe you one. When our virtue—toward other people, or toward God—is born out of this sense of “paying back,” we are in the grip of the debtor’s ethic. What’s gone wrong? It’s not wrong to feel gratitude when someone gives us a gift. The trouble starts with the impulse that now we owe a “gift.” What this feeling does is turn gifts into legal currency. Subtly the gift is no longer a gift but a business transaction. And what was offered as free grace is nullified by distorted gratitude.

Should We Pay God Back?
     It is remarkable how widespread and durable the debtor’s ethic is among Christians. Recently I heard a well-known evangelical leader deliver a powerful message about the need for Americans to recover the call of duty and devotion to Christ. He used a compelling illustration about self-sacrifice. But his explanation of the spiritual dynamics of the sacrifice focused entirely on gratitude for what Christ had done. I sat there longing to hear a strong word about the essential role of hope as the sustaining power of laying your life down. But it didn’t come.
     This way of motivating duty and devotion seems harmless, even noble. Its appeal is strong. It speaks in words that are almost above criticism. For example, it might say, “God has done so much for you; now what will you do for him?” Or: “He gave you his very life; now how much will you give to him?” The refrain of Frances Havergal’s old hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee” is hazardous language. In it Christ says, “I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?” And: “I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?” I don’t mean that sentences like these must express the debtor’s ethic. I only mean that they easily can, and often do.
     In the debtor’s ethic, the Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God. Usually the concession is made that we can never fully pay it off. But “gratitude” demands that we work at it. Good deeds and religious acts are the installment payments we make on the unending debt we owe God. This debtor’s ethic often lies, perhaps unintentionally, beneath the words, “We should obey Christ out of gratitude.”
     This appeal to gratitude as a way of motivating Christians is so common it may come as a shock when I question whether it has much biblical support. But consider this for a moment. How many places in the Bible can you think of where gratitude or thankfulness is explicitly made the motive of moral behavior? I mean behaviors like treating people with love, and doing your business with integrity, and taking risks in the obedience of missions. Does the Bible tell us that these things are to be done “out of gratitude,” or “in the power of thankfulness,” or “because we owe Jesus so much”?
      This is not nitpicking or incidental; it is amazing. If you ask Christians today, “What is the biblical motive for Christian obedience?” great numbers would say, “Gratitude to God.” And yet this way of thinking seems almost
totally lacking in the Bible. The Bible rarely, if ever, explicitly makes gratitude the impulse of moral behavior, or ingratitude the explanation of immorality. This is stunning when you let it sink in. This most common way of talking
about motivating Christian obedience is scarcely mentioned in the Bible. This fact comes like a punch in the belly; it takes your breath away. Is this really so? You will need to search for yourself to be completely sure.

Was Ingratitude the Problem?
     In the Old Testament the people of God often sinned against him despite all the good things he had done for them. But the reason given for this sin is not their ingratitude but, for example, their lack of faith: “How long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11). The ethical problem troubling Moses is not ingratitude. What troubles him is that God’s past grace did not move the people to trust in
God’s future grace. Faith in future grace, not gratitude, is the missing ethical power to overcome rebellion and motivate obedience.
      Just when today’s Christian would probably say the problem is lack of gratitude, the biblical writers again and again say that the problem is a lack of faith in God’s future grace. Moses rebukes the people, “You have seen how
the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son.… Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 1:31–32). The psalmist gives the same reason for why God’s people sinned in spite of all his blessings: although God “split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly…yet they sinned still more against him…because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power” (Psalm 78:15, 17, 22).
     It’s true that the disobedient people must have lacked gratitude. But that’s not how the Bible explains their rebellion and disobedience. Repeatedly the explanation given is lack of faith in God’s future grace. The missing
channel of motivating power between past grace and today’s obedience was not gratitude but faith. You will read the Old Testament in vain for texts that make gratitude the explicit motive or power for obedience.

The Fear of the Lord and Faith in Future Grace
      There are other Old Testament motives for obedience, such as love to God and fear of the Lord. We will deal in coming chapters with the relationship between faith in future grace and love for God.1 But this is a good place to
say a word about the fear of the Lord and its relationship to obedience and to faith in future grace.
     Moses taught Israel that the fear of the Lord would give rise to obedience: “Fear the Lord your God…by keeping all his statutes and his commandments” (Deuteronomy 6:2). Solomon summed up his own teaching in Ecclesiastes, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Nehemiah told the nobles and rulers in Jerusalem to “walk in the fear of our God” (Nehemiah 5:9). And Proverbs 23:17 says, “Continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.” Right “walking” and right living flow from fearing God. But to my knowledge there are no expressions corresponding to these that link gratitude and obedience in the same way.
     And even these expressions about fearing the Lord are probably the flip side of trusting the Lord’s future grace.2 In other words, “fear the Lord” means “fear the terrible insult it would be to God if you do not trust his gracious promises of power and wisdom on your behalf.” That’s probably why Psalm 115:11 says, “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.” In other words, if fear is not mingled with trust, it will not be pleasing to the Lord. “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). The obedience that comes from fearing God without faith in his future grace will not be free, but servile.
     The interconnectedness of fear and faith is probably why people looked at the grace given to David in distress, and felt fear and trust rising side by side in their hearts. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3). The same thing had happened at the Red Sea. “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord” (Exodus 14:31). Fear and faith happen together in response to God’s mighty power and his promise of future grace.
     To fear the Lord is to tremble at the awareness of what a terrible insult it is to a holy God if we do not have faith in his future grace after all the signs and wonders he has performed to win our obedient trust. It’s this faith in
future grace that channels the power of God into obedience. We search the Old Testament in vain for the explicit teaching that gratitude is a channel of this power.
John Piper

About John Piper

John Piper - Future Grace
JOHN PIPER is founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For thirty-three years he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic, Desiring God. He and his wife, Noel, have five children and twelve grandchildren.
Praise

Praise

Praise for Future Grace (Revised Edition)

“Pastor Piper’s purpose in writing is to revitalize a decadent American Christianity that knows only cheap grace and cheap faith. Bible-soaked, God-intoxicated, deeply evangelical, and passionately humane, Piper fills the forgotten dimensions of faith—hope and contentment, stability and sanctity, prizing and praising God—with a master hand. This is a rich and wise book, one to treasure and reread.”
—J.I. Packer

Future Grace is a spiritually rich treasure designed for thirty-one days of meditation and reflection. It drives home the truth that sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God and that ongoing faith in future grace, grounded in the perfect finished work of Christ, is the remedy. What a wonderful prescription for finding eternal satisfaction in our God and King.”
—Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Few books have sharpened my theological thinking, opened my exegetical eyes, and so consistently fed my soul as this one. Of all of John Piper’s ‘big books,’ Future Grace has had the biggest impact on my life and ministry.”
—Kevin DeYoung, pastor and author

Future Grace is one of the fundamental building blocks for John Piper’s distinctive message. Here he emphasizes that saving faith, founded on the work of Christ in the past, is directed toward God’s promises for our future. That is a profoundly moving and motivating message, and I commend it to Christians today. The new edition clarifies some problems and presents the message more fully at various points.”
—John Frame, professor, Reformed Theological Seminary

Future Grace delivers a wealth of life-changing truths. With his characteristic passion and devotion to the Scripture, John Piper strikes at the heart of short-lived obedience born from ‘the debtor’s ethic’ and lifts up a grace-driven obedience that flows from faith in God’s future promises. The result is a soul-satisfying book that beckons us to marvel at the beauty of King Jesus.”
—Trevin Wax, author and managing editor of The Gospel Project

“In Future Grace John Piper encourages believers to understand the present struggles of the Christian life in terms of the surpassing grace of God in Christ—a grace that calls us to exult in God’s future work in us, even as we experience God’s present grace and rest in the assurance of God’s grace to us in the past. In this new edition, Piper serves the church by showing us a mind at work as he wrestles with some of the most crucial issues of the Christian life. This book is deeply biblical, passionately practical, and Christ-centered.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Future Grace gave wonderful encouragement to my heart when it first came out in 1995, and now it has done so again in this new edition. I think John Piper is faithful to Scripture when he explains that the Bible does not motivate us to obedience by appealing to our gratitude for salvation, but by calling us to believe that God will empower us, help us, and draw us near to Himself in this present life, if we are obedient to the conditions found in His many promises in Scripture. This book provides a much-needed key that will help every Christian understand just how to live a joy-filled life that is pleasing to God.”
—Wayne Grudem, research professor, Phoenix Seminary

“God used this book to teach me a very important lesson: you can’t overcome temptation with ‘I’m not allowed to.’ Instead, sin is overthrown by believing that the promises of God are better than the fleeting pleasures of sin. This truth has helped me in my own personal struggles against lust and fear. I’m indebted to John Piper and hope many others will read this new edition of Future Grace and benefit from it.”
—Joshua Harris, pastor and author of Dug Down Deep

Future Grace is one of John Piper’s most theological works, looking in detail at the nature of saving faith; at the same time it is one of his most practical, serving as a wartime manual for fighting the fight of faith. This combination makes it among his most important books.… I hope readers notice that this is not merely a repackaging of an older book with a new look, but represents a careful recalibration at a few key places as Piper has become more Christocentric and more clear on the role of imputation and the function of bygone grace. Readers will find a sophisticated, nuanced, and hope-filled exploration of what it means to walk in the Spirit as we live by faith in all of God’s promises in Christ.”
—Justin Taylor, managing editor, ESV Study Bible and blogger, Between Two Worlds

“I am pleased to commend this newly revised edition of Future Grace for your thoughtful consideration. Read humbly, for the nourishing of your faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. And read hopefully. In the here and now, you walk through many dangers, toils, and snares. But in the mercies of Christ, your here and now is decisively altered by the certainty of grace already accomplished, and by the sure hope calling you into a future when you shall see his face. So read happily, for indeed all shall be well.”
—David Powlison, professor, author, and editor of The Journal of Biblical Counseling

Future Grace might be thought of as an extended elaboration on the glorious truth captured in the famous line of Wesley’s, ‘O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,’ where he declares of God’s work in Christ: ‘He breaks the power of canceled sin.’ The believer, indeed, should revel in ‘canceled sin’– of sin forgiven, of punishment met, of God’s just demands against us satisfied, of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us by faith as grounded solely in our sin—fully and once-for-all imputed to Christ. But since the faith that justifies is a living reality, wrought by the Spirit in the believer’s life, that very faith also sanctifies. To miss this is to miss the other half, as it were, of the completeness of Christ’s work for and in his people. The beauty and importance of Future Grace is precisely here: it explains and expounds a multitude of ways in which Spirit-wrought faith moves us forward in seeing sin’s power broken, Christlike character formed, and good deeds produced.”
—Bruce A. Ware, professor, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“There have been two or three books outside of the Bible that have profoundly shaped how I see and understand my relationship with God. When I first read Future Grace in the summer of 1999, it sent my head spinning and my heart soaring. I couldn’t be more excited about this revision.”
—Matt Chandler, lead pastor, The Village Church

“Over a decade ago, I gave each of my three teenage daughters their own copy of Future Grace. As a father I was committed to providing them with a solid theological foundation and a rich understanding of the grace of God, and Future Grace was a key addition to their fledgling libraries. Now, I am thrilled to give this revised edition with even further “Christ-centered clarification” to my teenage grandson, and I eagerly anticipate the future grace of Future Grace in his heart and life.” 
—C.J. Mahaney, president, Sovereign Grace Ministries

“In the long run, we’re all dead. In the even longer run, we’re raised from the dead. That’s the power of Future Grace. It will rocket attention away from the narrow horizon we see in front of us toward the incandescent glory of new creation, gospel power. This book evaporates all the false dichotomies weighing down contemporary Christianity. You don’t have to ping back and forth between the present and the future, the law of God or His grace, obedience or trust. Future Grace changed my life, and it can change yours.”
—Russell D. Moore, dean, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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