For a couple of months I have been a participant, along with about six other men, in a bible study joined by a book written by John Piper called “Future Grace“. I have written about this book in a previous posting and I would imagine I will be posting something else about the book before we are finished with the study. It is such a great book. The study is usually led by one of our church elders but this week he will be absent, so he asked me to put together some questions and lead the study. I am excited that he asked me to do this. I am praying for God to graciously provide His wisdom as I prepare. Like most folks who have prepared to teach something, I certainly learn the most from a subject by teaching or leading it.
As has been our task in previous weeks, we are covering a couple of chapters in the book. This week it is chapters 24 and 25. Chapter 24 is titled “Faith in Future Grace vs. Despondency”. There is a particular sub-section in this chapter called “The Struggle is As Easy As Dropping a Nut”. In this section Piper writes about the narrow gate that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7:14 as a description of the struggle or difficulty in following Christ. This same depiction is used by Luke in 13:24:
Strive to enter by the narrow door.
This word strive in the Greek text means to struggle or contend for victory like an athlete. The New Testament teaches the believer that keeping the faith is a rigorous undertaking and yet Jesus also teaches us in Matthew 11:28-30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Piper asks the reader if these two teachings are contradictions? He asserts that they are not, and he does this by using a simple but awesome illustration. Piper states:
It is like the monkey with his hand caught in the jar. It would be easy for him to slip his hand out of the opening except that he has his fist clenched around a nut. If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out will be hard, even impossible (as Jesus said to the young man who had his fist clenched around his wealth). But what could be easier than dropping a nut? The battle we have is the struggle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin.
Jesus teaches us in scripture that His yoke or burden is easy if we will trust in Him for future grace. If we do not, we will surely continue to struggle against our old self and sin. Are we holding onto something or trusting in something or someone to fulfill our needs? Has this something shackled us much like the monkey fist in the jar illustration? Do we continue to struggle with hanging on to it. When we let go of it, does the burden lighten and the struggle fall away? Trust in Christ for He alone is worthy of that trust.
Nath @ Reformed Geek
August 17, 2007 at 11:31 am
I look forward to eventually reading Future Grace. I originally had ordered it when DG had their huge sale, but as funds were limited, it dropped off the list…
What a simple concept, “drop the nut”. It’s true that a lot of the time we struggle with wanting to stop the sin and not with actually the stopping itself.
Also, I’m sure, by the grace of God, your study that you lead will go great.
August 17, 2007 at 6:25 pm
Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the “natural” order of things a METANOIA – the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present. So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is “I” it can do nothing to save itself; it’s sacrifices are of no avail, and it’s Law gives no life. After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis – I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!
PEACE BE WITH YOU
August 17, 2007 at 7:39 pm
Thanks for the encouragement. I will probably post something about the discussion later. I’m sure you will enjoy, and be challenged by the book as I have been.
Welcome to BarryDean4Christ and thanks for the comment. You have a unique way of describing conversion. Is this a personal or allegorical?
August 17, 2007 at 9:28 pm
I would be curious (since I haven’t read the book) if John uses Romans 6-7 in the discussion? The believer’s walk in the Lord is battling the sin that so easily entangles. (the nut in the jar)
I think Romans 7:1-6 is such a key passage in this talk about God’s grace in our sanctification. As verse 6 states, “but now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”
The approach to one’s walk with the Lord can never be a human empowered sanctification but solely on a new life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet, how often do believers attempt to concoct a faith formula to being spiritual? As a pastor, I think I see it happening all too often. The result is legalism and asceticism (Col. 2:20-23).
These two things, I would argue, are enemies to trusting in Christ for our transformation. Maybe this is discussed in these chapters, but I think it would benefit your time to explore these enemies to faith (legalism & asceticism).
August 18, 2007 at 9:38 pm
My wife and I read through this book as part of our devotions some years ago – very profitable!
August 18, 2007 at 10:41 pm
Thanks for the edification. Piper uses quite a few passages in Romans, especially those after chapter 3 that refer to sanctification beyond what the law can provide. I totally agree with you about the prominence of faith formulas. I was well trained for many years to continually look for the newest Christian fad or formula to ride along on. Through the understanding of the doctrines of grace my growth has been more steadily mature and foundational. Sure, my heart still tries to trap me sometimes but when I cling to the sovereignty of God it is indeed freeing.
I look forward to more study in this book. I have surely enjoyed it so far.