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.