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    John Piper’s Future Grace: Introduction

    December 10, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    Last night was our first small group meeting to discuss John Piper’s Future Grace. Can I just say it? I am totally in love with this book. I remember reading Desiring God when I was in college; it was assigned reading for one of my classes. And it was life-changing. That year I bought a couple copies and gave them to people I loved because I wanted to share all of Piper’s beautiful thoughts with them.

    I find myself wondering if Future Grace is going to be like that for my thirties. I remember that I borrowed it from a pastor at our church back when E. was an only child. I read the preface, and I thought the story about his mother was endearing, and the poem for his wife was amazing.

    But then I read the introduction, and it just felt like I was reading gibberish.

    To put it simply, I just wasn’t ready for it.

    Fast-forward to last night, and I’d say not only are we all ready to try and tackle this tome, but doing it together helps a lot, too.

    We’ll probably be reading this for over a year. There are 31 chapters, and we only meet every-other-week. This means 64 weeks, if I include last night’s meeting to discuss the two introductions (which I do).

    Today, I thought I’d share some of my notes. I might as well start, because I know I won’t be able to resist writing about a great book for long.

    The Purpose of the Book
    Piper tells of the primary purpose: His secondary purpose is:

    to emancipate human hearts from servitude to the fleeting pleasures of sin.

    Well, now, who doesn’t need that?

    The second introduction (written for theologians) couches it all in these terms:

    to explore how the faith that justifies also sanctifies.

    Initial Assertions
    The main idea introduced in the first introduction is that

    behind most wrong living is wrong thinking.

    Here, he is talking about believers. Obviously, when we were children of wrath, no amount of education would sanctify us. But, to the Christian, the Bible says:

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Romans 12:2

    And also:

    in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    Ephesians 4:22-24

    To the disciple of Christ–the one who has been born again, granted new life, and made a new creation in Christ–the renewing of the mind is very important. Right thinking becomes our very powerful ally.

    Examples of Wrong Thinking
    In the first introduction, Piper gives four examples of wrong thinking, and four corrections for said wrong thinking. We spent some time debating these, and in the end we decided to rest in the fact that the book is determined to help us flesh out these ideas.

    • Wrong Thinking 1: gratitude is a driving force for obedience.
      • Correction: faith in future grace was designed to be the driving force for obedience.
    • Wrong Thinking 2: all grace is unconditional.
      • Correction: there is such a thing as unmerited, conditional grace, which accounts for all of the if/then statements found in the New Testament.

    Some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to many contemporary Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.

    To be sure, there is unconditional grace. And it is the glorious foundation of all else in the Christian life. But there is also conditional grace. For most people who breathe the popular air of compassion today, conditional grace sounds like an oxymoron…So, for example, when people hear the promise of James 4:6, that God “gives grace to the humble,” many have a hard time thinking about a grace that is conditional upon humility.

    [snip]

    Some popular conceptions of grace cannot comprehend any role for conditionality other than legalism. But if God meant these teachings to help us live radical lives of Christian love, is it any wonder that we often fall short? As a culture and as a church we are often molded by popular notions, rather than permeated by biblical ones. And the church looks very much like the world.

    • Wrong Thinking 3: faith is belief in the past actions of Jesus Christ
      • Correction: the life of faith is primarily a future-oriented “assurance of things hoped for”
    • Wrong Thinking 4: saving faith is “believing in Jesus”
      • Correction: saving faith is “prizing the superior worth of all that God is for us in Jesus”

    Three Theological Assumptions
    In the second introduction, the one for theologians, Piper shares three assumptions.

    1. Justifying faith is persevering faith
    2. Justifying faith is not only trusting in the past grace of God, but trusting in the future grace of God, which was secured by the past grace of Christ’s death and resurrection
    3. The essence of justifying faith is being satisfied with all God is and promises to be for us in Jesus.

    Awesome?
    I think so, and so I’ll be sharing my notes as we go steadily along.

    that God be prized above all things…and the praise of the glory of God’s grace.

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    4 Comments

  • Reply Kristine December 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Brandy! I also read Desiring God in college, and it was a life changer for me too. Looks like I’m going to have to read Future Grace. Thanks for sharing your notes on the intro. Look forward to future posts.

  • Reply Mystie December 11, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Fascinating. Our church definitely teaches that obedience is a function of gratitude, and the Heidelberg Catechism’s structure is founded on that premise, as well. Q2: What do you need to know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? A: Three things: First, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sin and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance. “Guilt, Grace, Gratitude” and “Sin, Salvation, Service” are the handy-dandy gospel outlines my pastor often reminds us of.

    So…..I clicked, and Amazon had a used copy for $4 and I have a free Prime trial right now. So I got it. 🙂 I haven’t read any Piper yet, though. I got Desiring God and Pleasures of God off PBS this year and they are on my 2011 to-read list. Should I read those first?

  • Reply Julia December 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you for such an excellent post, Brandy.
    It is very true that people do not realize/choose to ignore the fact that most of the promises in the Bible are conditional, like you said if/then, not “regardless”.
    I am looking forward to the future posts about this book!

  • Reply Julia December 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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