Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

October 15, 2003

Speaking of John Piper (see yesterday's quote), I just this morning read an article by him called, "What God Requires, Christ Provides." You can find it here. Now, it is of course an interesting and stimulating piece (as is everything by Piper) about the all-sufficiency of Christ, but what really caught my attention was the way in which Piper tried to demonstrate the relevance of this doctrine to the present moment. I mean, the question that dogs me as I think about these things is, okay, but how do I live this today? How do I walk this out? In answer to that question, Piper takes the example of marriage and says:

Marriage seems almost impossible at times because both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead end in the words, "But it's just plain wrong for you to act that way," followed by "That's your perfectionistic perspective" or "Do you think you do everything right?" or by hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger can seem unbreakable.

But what if one or both partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone -- and especially with the truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ's sake, as fulfilling all of his expectations? What happens if this doctrine so masters our souls that we begin to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal and apply it to our marriages? In our own imperfect efforts in this regard, there have been breakthroughs that seemed at times impossible. It is possible, for Christ's sake, simply to say, "I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ's sake, regard you the way God regards me -- complete and accepted in Christ -- and thus to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if, in practice, you fail." I know my wife treats me this way. And surely this is part of what Paul calls for when he says that we should forgive "one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32). There is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness than many of us have begun to discover.

This is powerful stuff, and it gets to the heart of the Gospel doesn't it? If when we look at others we see a broken and sinful soul who nevertheless has not only been forgiven by God, but who has even been accounted righteous by Him, then who are we to account them otherwise? In an atmosphere of this kind, an atmosphere of forgiveness in which we really do take on the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16), trust can grow. I will not always be preparing my defense each time I realize I have done something displeasing to my spouse. I will not need to work out a justification, shift the focus, lie, or (if none of this has worked) lash out angrily. I won't do these things because I will have come to know that my spouse is not judging me or condemning, but that she is seeing me as God see me.

This is grace. This is "the grace in which we stand." (Rom 5:2) This is grace reigning in my life through the righteousness of Christ. This is Christ's all-sufficiency. And I can't gin it up through positive-thinking or something. I only get it (know it, receive it, walk in it) through faith--through trusting God and not myself. That is the only way that I can possibly lay aside my fearful self-justification, my shame-faced posturing, and simply say in complete trust, "I'm sorry, forgive me!" And there it is--the grace in which (and by which) I stand, flowing down like rain! Thank you, Jesus!

Well, enough preaching. Maybe next time I'll take up the natural next question. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" (Rom 6:15) In the meantime, I just want to say, Grace is delicious. Give it a try sometime!


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