Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fighting for Joy like a Justified Sinner

One of the other books I have been reading recently is John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. I haven’t been reading it as deeply as I probably should in order to get the full profit from reading it, so I decided to do a blog on one of the recent chapters so I could allow it to sink in a little deeper. The chapter is called “Fighting for Joy like a Justified Sinner”

One of the main points of this chapter was to learn the fact that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves regularly, and especially during times when we are going through a wilderness time in our walk with God. What I mean by this is that we need to constantly go back to verses that talk about how God has transported us from the Kingdom of Darkness unto the Kingdom of Light. God made us, sinners who deserve judgment into justified sons and daughters.

One of the things that cause us as Christians to distress is confusing justification and sanctification. Justification is the immediate act when we become Christians that takes us out of God’s judgment. We are immediately in perfect standing legally before God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is the process we go through in this life of becoming holy. It is a process and will not be complete until with are with the Lord in heaven. Piper says this about the difference:

Both are gifts, and both are bought by the blood of Christ. They are inseparable
but different. Both are by faith alone. Justification is by faith alone because
only faith receives the declaration that the ungodly is counted righteous.
Sanctification is by faith alone because only faith receives the power to bear
the fruit of love. It is crucial in the fight for joy that we not confuse or
combine justification and sanctification. Confusing them will, in the end,
undermine the gospel and turn justification by faith into Justification by
performance. If that happens, the great gospel weapon in the fight for joy will
fall from our hands.

In the next section of the chapter he speaks about “becoming what you are”. As Christians we are justified. Now we need to see ourselves as justified:

One of the ways the Bible talks about our action in relation to our standing in
Christ is to command us to become what we are. For example, using Old Testament
ceremonial language Paul says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new
lump, as you really are unleavened” (1 Cor. 5:7). In other words, become what
you are. You are unleavened (sinless in Christ); therefore become unleavened
(sinless in practice).

I think this simple truth really ministered to me. I don’t have to do something on my own to earn anything. I am simply becoming what I already am in God’s eyes. And it is not like after being justified by faith alone we now need to become sinless on our own. We just need to be progressively becoming more and more obedient and less and less sinful in the power and strength that God provides through faith.

The chapter goes on to talk about how Micah fought for joy and various other things, but this is the part that really ministered to me. I am thankful to God for John Piper and is writings and how God has used him to help many Christians around the world take their joy in Christ.