Monday, August 14, 2006

Chapter Eighteen

Can i talk about grace for a bit? I think grace is actually my favourite thing in the world! Reading chapter eighteen of Future Grace by John Piper has opened my eyes to the wonders of grace a bit more, and i want to think that through.

God's grace to us comes in two different forms, conditional, and unconditional. Both of them speak totally of the mercy and glory of God, even though the phrase 'conditional grace' is a bit alien (well it was to me anyway!), but lets start with the unconditional graces of God.

Man, do i love the doctrine of election! It's just the most amazing, mindblowing-to-the-point-where-i-just-don't-understand it thing in the world. God, before the start of time as we know it chose for Himself a people to worship and enjoy and serve Him forever. I mean, that speaks enough of grace, gallons of grace flowing out of God to His people. But thats before you factor in the fall, and human rebellion against God. Which has given God every reason to go 'ok then, see you on judgement day', but oh we don't worship a God like that. Praise Him that He is merciful, and fully concerned with His glory and our benefit, and that those things are essentially the same thing. How great is that. And election gives us the key to evangelism. If it was up to us, no one would be saved, no one could be given a new heart by human efforts. Anyway, i've written about this before, so i won't again. Election, the most amazing, most unconditional grace there is.

'and those whom He predestined, He also called'. How is it that we are able to respond with a willing heart to God's election? Because of grace! Because of unconditional, unmerited grace, which means that when we hear the Gospel, we are saved. Because God's plans are impossible to frustrate, because God creates darkness out of light, something out of nothing. Just as with election, the grounds of our regeneration, our calling and response are not the result of works and faith, they are the cause of them! Grace again, at work in our hearts to respond to God's gracious election. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us before we are even saved! And that, is unconditional grace, that those whom God predestined, He also calls, and that that calling is always, always effective.

Common Grace.
What allows us to experience love and peace and happiness. What allows a parent to love a child. What keeps the sun going around the earth. What keeps the earth's tilt at exactly the right angle so it doesn't spin into the sun or fly off into outerspace? GRACE. Unconditional and unmerited grace. I love grace!

Conditional Grace.
So what is conditional grace conditional upon? The condition is justification is faith, the condition of sanctification is faith, and the condition of glorification is faith. Faith in God is the condition the of grace which justifies, sanctifies and glorifies (just as an aside how ridiculously loving that God would choose to have us holy and blameless!) So these responses are conditional on faith, whereas election and regeneration come before faith. If we want to persue justification, sanctification and glorification, we must have faith. Faith. We must love God and treasure the promise giver. We must embrace the truth of Jesus, not merely give assent to it. Anyone could believe that God was working all things together for his good, and be wrong. We must love God, ans have faith in Him.
These conditional graces are not merited. Here is my favourite part, the bit where my brain explodes. The condition of some conditional grace is faith. And what's faith? Faith, is a gift of grace! A work of the Holy Spirit. We can not stir up faith within ourselves, it must be given to us. This is what 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 is all about. God shines a light in our heart that we may say His light in the face of Jesus Christ. So, without doing down the important condition of justification, sanctification and glorification, remember the condition of it is a gift of grace. God gives us unconditional grace, and then gives us what fills the condition of conditional grace. This is actually amazing!

We must have faith, we must be called. Neither of these things is down to our merit. We must trust and believe in God's soveriegn and effective salvation work, and live for it.

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