Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Double Function of Grace

In "Marriage: Pursuing Conformity to Christ in the Covenant," John Piper builds on his previous message of "Forgiving and Forbearing" (which I referred to in a previous post):
...we have emphasized that this grace empowers husbands and wives to keep their covenant by means of forgiveness and forbearance. That emphasis is at the heart of what grace is: treating people better than they deserve. ...

... But now I want to emphasize another truth about grace. It not only gives power to endure being sinned against, it also gives power to stop sinning.

In all our emphasis on forgiving and forbearing, you might get the impression that none of our sinful traits or our annoying idiosyncrasies ever changes—or ever should change. So all we can do is forgive and forbear. But what I want to try to show from Scripture today is that God gives grace not only to forgive and to forbear, but also to change, so that less forgiving and forbearing is needed. That too is a gift of grace. Grace is not just power to return good for evil; it is also the power to do less evil. Even power to be less bothersome. Grace makes you want to change for the glory of Christ and for the joy of your spouse. And grace is the power to do it.
Piper explains that the forgiving and forbearing serves as a "rock-solid foundation" on which requests for change can be made without coming across as a threat. I think this ordering of forgiving and forbearing before making changes also reflects the order of our salvation. God forgives us, as Romans 3 tells us: "God presented [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished..." And then God works sanctifying change in us, as Philippians 2 says: "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

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