The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace
A 6-month Bible Study Based on the Book by John Piper
By Coty Pinckney
Desiring God Community Church
How do we battle the alluring power of sin in our lives? In the introduction to Future Grace, John Piper writes:
The aim of this book is to emancipate human hearts from servitude to the fleeting pleasures of sin. Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness. That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself (Psalm 63:3). Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s. All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.
How are you doing in your battle to believe that the promise of happiness in God is far greater than the promise of happiness in sin? Immerse yourself in this study, and come away with a deeper understanding of how to fight the fight of faith daily, and to live out Romans 8:13.
Each week, we will prepare by studying a passage of Scripture that highlights one aspect of living by faith in God’s future grace. We then will read a chapter or two from the book, which will draw in additional Scripture and clarify the points made in the main passage. By the end of these six months, each of us should develop a deeper faith in the God whose love is better than life.
J.I. Packer says of this book:
Pastor Piper’s purpose in writing is to revitalize a decadent American Christianity that knows only cheap grace and cheap faith. Bible-soaked, God-intoxicated, deeply evangelical, and passionately humane, Piper fills the forgotten dimensions of faith - hope and contentment, stability and sanctity, prizing and praising God – with a master hand. This is a rich and wise book, one to treasure and reread.
Each week, try to spread the preparation out over several days. Plan to complete it in time to meditate and pray about these matters prior to the time together
Please take note of the copyright notice. All page numbers refer to the 1995 edition of the book.
Course Outlne: Click on the title of each week’s lesson to move to the study questions.
Week 1: Proverbs 3:5-6, Hebrews 12:14, Matthew 6:14, and James 4:6: Introduction
Week 2: Psalm 50:9-15, 116:7-14: Should We Try to Pay God Back? When Gratitude Malfunctions
Week 3: Matthew 6:25-34: Faith in Future Grace Vs Anxiety
Week 4: 1 Peter 5:6-10: The Life that’s Left is Future Grace
Week 5: Exodus 33:12-19: The Freest of All God’s Acts
Week 6: Jeremiah 9:23-24: Faith in Future Grace vs Pride
Week 7: 2 Corinthians 1:16-20: Looking Back for the Sake of the Future
Week 8: Romans 8:28-32: The Solid Logic of Heaven
Week 9: Romans 8:28-32, continued: Four Pillars of a Precious Promise
Week 10: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Romans 6:20-21, Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 1:7-12, 1 Peter 4:12-19: Faith in Future Grace vs Misplaced Shame
Week 11: Exodus 34:5-7, Psalm 103:8-14, Hebrews 11:1,2, 7-10, 17, 24-27: A Love Affair With God’s Law
Week 12: 1 John 5:1-5: “I Will Put My Law Within Them”
Week 13: James 5:7-11: Faith in Future Grace vs Impatience
Week 14: Romans 4:16-25: What Guards the Glory of God’s Sovereign Grace?
Week 15: 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, John 3:18-21: Satisfied With All that God is for Us in Jesus
Week 16: Colossians 3:5, 1 Timothy 6:5-6: Faith in Future Grace vs Covetousness
Week 17: Psalm 25:8-21: How to Trust Conditional Promises
Week 18: 1 John 3:10-23: What Faith Alone Can Perform
Week 19: Romans 12:16-21: Faith in Future Grace vs Bitterness
Week 20: 1 Corinthians 15:9-10: Creating Love in a Desire Factory
Week 21: Matthew 26:36-39, John 12:27: Faith in Future Grace vs Despondency
Week 22: Luke 22:31-32: Battling Against Unbelief in Future Grace
Week 23: Romans 8:1-13: Faith in Future Grace vs Lust
Week 24: Romans 5:2-4: The Future Grace of Suffering and Dying
Week 25: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58: The Rebirth of Creation
Week 26: 1 Corinthians 13:5: Longing for God and Living By Faith
1) Read Proverbs 3:5-6. Note there are three commands, and then a statement. What are the three commands? What is the statement? Why is the statement important? Do the commands make sense without the statement? Explain.
2) Consider Hebrews 12:14, Matthew 6:14, and James 4:6. In each case there is a promise, and a condition for receiving the promise. What happens if we don’t fulfill the condition? Do we receive the promise anyway? If so, why does the Scripture include the condition? If not, does God put conditions on our receipt of His blessings? That is, is God’s love conditional or unconditional?
3) Now read Future Grace pages 6-20. How would Piper answer questions 1 and 2?
4) What does Piper mean by “future”, “grace”, and “faith”? How does his usage differ from common ways those words are used? What does he mean when he says faith is the “key to holiness”?
5) What did Thomas Chalmers mean by “the expulsive power of a new affection,” and why does Piper pick up on that phrase for this book?
1) Read Psalm 116:7-14 (look at verse 9 in at least one version other than the NIV). What has God done for the Psalmist? How does the Psalmist react to what God has done (see verses 7, 13, and 14, and note the relationship among those verses)? Does he try to pay God back? What do you think the Psalmist means by “pay my vows to the Lord”? By “lift up my cup of salvation”?
2) Read Psalm 50:9-15. This Psalm also talks about paying or performing vows (although in some English versions the translations differ, the same Hebrew verb is used in 50:14 and 116:13). How does this Psalm help to clarify the meaning of Psalm 116? What tells us in this case that “paying vows” cannot mean paying God back for what He has done? Given this additional evidence, what do you now believe the Psalmists mean by “paying vows”? Summarize what this Psalms tells us that God requires of those who hear Him.
3) Read Future Grace, p. 31-49. What purpose did God intend gratitude to play? How is this different from the debtor’s ethic? What is wrong with the debtor’s ethic?
4) How would Piper answer questions 1 and 2? Did you agree with him when first answering those questions? Do you agree with him now?
5) What is the link between legalism and the debtor’s ethic? (p. 47)
1) Read Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus here tells us why we should not be anxious about food, drink, clothing, and health. He gives seven reasons. Enumerate those seven reasons, and then change each reason into the equivalent promise of God to us. How are these reasons and promises related to faith in future grace?
2) According to this passage, what is the root cause of anxiety about these matters?
3) Consider other sources of anxiety in addition to those that Jesus addresses directly here. What are the primary reasons you personally become anxious? Do these same promises from this passage apply?
4) If you are anxious, does this imply that you are not saved?
5) Now read Future Grace, pages 50-61. How does Piper address question 4 in his windshield analogy (p. 55ff)? What does the mud on the windshield represent? The windshield wipers? The washer fluid?
6) What specific promises from Scripture can you use to fight the fight of faith and battle your own temptations to be anxious?
1) Look at the beginning of each of Paul’s letters (Romans through Philemon). After he says who the letter is from and to whom the letter is addressed, what does Paul say? There are minor variants, but what is common to all the letters?
2) Now look at the end of each of Paul’s letters. What is common to the final sentence in these letters?
3) How is your answer to question 1 similar and yet DIFFERENT from your answer to question 2? You may have to go back and look again, but there is an important difference. Consider why one statement may be more appropriate at the beginning of an inspired letter, and the other more appropriate at the end.
4) Are Paul’s references to grace here primarily to past grace or future grace?
5) Look at 1 Peter 5:6-10. How does Paul tell us to face anxieties and suffering in this world? What might be the reason for Paul referring to God as “the God of ALL grace” instead of simply as “the God of grace”?
6) Now read Future Grace, p. 64-72. How would Piper answer these questions?
7) Read the last paragraph on page 72 aloud. Meditate on it. How important is our faith in God’s future grace? How can you use these truths to fight against specific anxieties, temptations, and sufferings that have caused you to doubt God in the past?
1. Read Exodus 33:12-14. Given Moses’ statements and God's response, what two requests is Moses asking from God? How are the two requests related?
2. God grants one request in v14 and v17, and then Moses restates the second request in v18. Given this restatement, elaborate on what Moses asks of God in this second request.
3. In v19, God answers Moses' second request by a verbal proclamation of His Name. Look back at Exodus 3:13-14 for God's first revelation of this Name to Moses. Recall that anytime in an English translation that you see the word LORD in all caps, the Hebrew word is the name of God, Yahweh, or "I AM WHO I AM". How is this name, "I AM WHO I AM", related to the last half of 33:19: "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy"? How is the fact that every act of God's grace is completely free related to His character?
4. Now Future Grace, p. 74-83. List the four biblical arguments Piper makes to show that freedom is at the heart of grace (79-83).
5. How would Piper answer question 3? Do you agree with him?
6. Why is the freedom of God’s present and future grace an encouragement even to the worst of sinners?
7. Do you delight in God’s freedom to dispense or withhold grace? Or does such freedom anger or confuse you? Why?
1) Read Jeremiah 9:23-24.
a) What is the relationship between boasting and pride?
b) Is all boasting wrong?
c) What is the purpose of the wise man boasting in his wisdom, the mighty man in his strength, and the rich man in his riches? What do wisdom, strength, and riches seem to guarantee for the future? Consider Luke 12:15-20.
c) Is God saying here, “The wise man must not boast of his wisdom because he’s not wise”? Consider 1 Corinthians 4:7 in your answer.
d) Is there a type of boasting in one’s knowledge of the Lord that IS prideful? Why is the boasting in one’s knowledge of the Lord here NOT prideful? How does a proper boasting in the Lord kill pride, rather than feed it?
e) What does this have to do with future grace? Think particularly about your answer to part c and the last two clauses of verse 24.
2) Now read Future Grace p. 84-97. Why does Piper say faith and pride are opposites? (p. 86). In what sense is pride a specific form of unbelief (87)?
3) Piper says, “Pride lies at the root of every turning from God” (p. 87). Why does he say this? Apply this to a specific example: If a man turns from God and from his wife and begins to have an affair, in what sense is pride (and not lust) at the root of this turning?
4) In what sense are self-pity and anxiety other examples of turning from God that have pride at the root? (p. 94-96)
5) Consider Piper’s journal entry recorded on p. 97. How is Christian hedonism (that is, pursuing your greatest joy through all that God promises to be through Jesus Christ) the “final solution” to our desire for others to exalt us?
1. Read 2 Corinthians 1:16-20. Paul says he planned to pass through Corinth twice, once on his way north to Macedonia and then again upon his return south. His plans changed – and his opponents in Corinth are arguing that Paul is vacillating, changing his mind and breaking promises whenever he thinks that to do so will be to his personal advantage. At least some of the Corinthians, therefore, think that Paul does not have their good at heart.
a) How does Paul answer this criticism personally, in verse 18? Why does Paul cite the faithfulness of God here? What does God’s faithfulness have to do with Paul’s reason for his decisions?
b) What is the importance of the phrase “in him” in verse 19? “Him” refers to whom? What is true for those who are “in him”?
c) Enumerate some of God’s promises. How many of these promises find their Yes in Christ?
d) What should be our response to seeing that all God’s promises are Yes in Christ (v20)? What does this response mean?
e) How do the truths of these verses impact how we live? What do these verses have to do with future grace?
2. Read Future Grace p. 100-108. When hiring a new employee, how do you try to figure out if he will be faithful? How does this apply to our relationship to God?
3. Why does God encourage the people of Israel to look back at God’s faithfulness? (102-3)
4. Why do we say “Amen” at the end of our prayers? What does this have to do with future grace?
5. Consider God’s past faithfulness in your life and the lives of believers you know well or have read much about. Now consider the fears that keep you from stepping out in faith. How can you apply 2 Corinthians 1:16-20 and this chapter to help you fight the fight of faith, so that believing in God’s future grace you can walk in obedience?
1. Read Romans 8:28-32, focusing on verse 31b and 32.
a) In verse 31, is the answer to the second question “no one”? Remember, if you say “no one” the answer must hold for Paul, as well as all those through the years who have suffered and died for their faith. Name those people and powers who opposed Paul. Name those who oppose you. Name those who don’t know you personally but who oppose the gospel today. Are these opponents insignificant? Given these thoughts, fashion a response to verse 31 by one of Paul’s readers who is suffering persecution.
b) What is the logic of verse 32? That is, what does the first half of the verse (God not sparing Jesus but delivering Him over to death for us) have to do with the second half of the verse (God freely giving us all things with Jesus)? Consider: Which is harder for God to do: to kill His son for us or to give us “all things”?
c) How then does verse 32 answer the question you fashioned in your answer to (a) above?
d) What does Paul mean by “all things” in verse 32? Answer in light of what you saw in (a) above, and keep verses 28 to 30 in mind. One of the “all things” that God gave Paul was persecution. How do these verses help us also to deal with hardships and suffering in our lives?
e) John Piper calls Romans 8:32 “the most precious verse in the most precious chapter in the Bible.” Before you read Future Grace, think: Why is it so precious?
2. Read Future Grace p. 110-118. Describe in your own words how an argument “from the greater to the lesser” works, and how Paul uses such an argument in Romans 8:32. (Then keep this category in your head – and you will see such arguments again and again in the Bible).
3. How would Piper answer question 1d above? Do you agree with him?
4. In your life over the last few months, what events, temptations, or trials have caused you to think that God is NOT giving you “all things” – at least not all the things you are certain you desire and need! How can you use these verses to fight the fight of faith in this area?
5. Is Romans 8:32 now precious for you? Memorize it and hold on to it!
1) Read Romans 8:28-32 again, but this time focus on 28-30.
a) How many things work together for good? List some specific “things.”
b) What does Paul mean by “called according to His purpose”? The Bible sometimes uses the word “called” to mean the general gospel invitation given to all (Matthew 22:14, Proverbs 9:1-5), and sometimes to mean only those who are effectually called, those who become God’s people (Romans 1:6-7, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Which meaning is used here? Think more about this: What is the difference between a “call” I give to my cat: “Here, Kitty-kitty! Madison, come inside!” and the call Jesus gave to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come forth!” Which type of call is in view in 28-30? How do you know?
c) What does Paul mean by “good”? In what sense are all things working together for good for the called? Look back at verses 18 to 27 and ahead to verses 29 to 39 in answering this. You may also want to look at Gen 50:20 and reflect on the story of Joseph and his brothers.
d) In verses 29 and 30 Paul makes five statements with God as the subject and His people as the object. List these five statements. Define each verb as well as you are able.
e) Verse 29 begins with the word, “For”. So these two verses are a logical ground or foundation for verse 28; they explain why that verse is true. You might suppose someone, hearing verse 28, asks, “How do we know that all things work together for good for those who are called by God?” How do verses 29 and 30 answer that question?
f) The Greek of verse 30 emphasizes that exactly the same ones whom God predestines to be conformed to the image of Christ are also called, justified, and glorified; not one is lost along the way. Why is this a comfort to those who experience suffering?
2) Now read Future Grace pages 120-129. This is simply an extended discussion of Romans 8:28-30. After reading Piper, go back to questions c), d), and e) above and revise your answers, if necessary.
3) What do these verses tell us about God’s past grace? How do they assure us of God’s future grace?
4) Pretend that a Christian friend of yours is suffering from both bereavement and illness, and has written you a letter showing that he/she is quite depressed. Using the truths that we have seen in Romans 8:28-30, reply to your friend’s letter.
1) Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 and Romans 6:20-21, focusing on the references to shame. What should lead the Corinthians to feel shame? The Romans were ashamed of what sorts of deeds? Try to generalize: When should Christians feel shame?
2) Read Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 1:7-12, 1 Peter 4:12-19, again focusing on references to shame.
a) What does Jesus mean when He tells us not to be ashamed of His words? Give some examples of words of Jesus that we are often ashamed of.
b) The 2Timothy passage contains two references to shame. What is Paul warning Timothy against? How is Paul himself an example to Timothy of how not to feel shame? How can Paul’s example help us?
c) In light these three passages, try to generalize: When is it wrong for a Christian to feel shame?
3) Read Future Grace pages 130-140. How does Piper summarize his answer to question 2c above? See page 134. How does Piper summarize his answer to question 1 above? See page 136. Are your answers similar to his? If your answers are significantly different, don’t assume you are wrong! Discuss your answers with the group, and see if there are some additional biblical insights in your answer that are helpful to others.
4) On pages 137-140, Piper discusses three types of misplaced shame – that is, shame that we should not (or should no longer) feel. In your own words, list these three types of misplaced shame, and give an example of each. How can misplaced shame harm our lives? How can we fight against all three types?
5) Which of the three types of misplaced shame is the greatest problem for you personally? What can you take away from this study that will help in your daily battle to fight this temptation?
1) Many think of Exodus and Leviticus as books of Law. Indeed, there are many laws in these books. But read Exodus 34:5-7. Recall that these verses take place just after Israel sins blatantly by worshiping the golden calf. List the different ways that God describes Himself - the ways that God proclaimed His Name - in these verses. How many of these characteristics emphasize that He is a God of justice? How many emphasize that He is a God of grace?
2) Read Psalm 103:8-14. How does David here echo the words God says to Moses in Exodus 34?
3) Read Hebrews 11:1,2, 7-10, 17, 24-27. Did Noah, Abraham, and Moses live lives of perfect obedience? Did they please God?
4) Sometimes people say, "The Old Testament is a book of law - God tells people to be perfectly obedient so that they can enter His presence." Evaluate that statement in light of these passages.
5) Now read Future Grace p. 142-154. On p. 150-152 Piper argues against one common misinterpretation of Isaiah 64:6, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." What is the misinterpretation? Why is it wrong? How can we correctly understand this verse (don't miss footnote 6)?
6) What was wrong with the attempts of most of the people of Israel to be right with God? What does this have to do with future grace? Thus, what is the primary aim of the Old Testament? (p. 153-4)
7) How does this understanding of the Old Testament in general and the Law in particular differ from your previous understanding? How does this difference have an impact on the way that you read these books of the Bible?
1) Read 1 John 5:1-5:
a) What does John tell us about the relationship between loving God and keeping his commandments?
b) How does verse 4 explain why verse 3 is true? That is, what is the relationship between being born of God, overcoming the world, and God’s commandments not being a burden?
c) John describes the true believer here as “born of God”, having faith, loving God, and keeping God’s commandments. Consider how these four truths are interrelated for the one who is saved.
d) Look at verse 5 and compare it to Matthew 8:28-29. How does the belief of the demons differ from those who are saved? So in what sense is “faith” in 1 John 5:1-5 faith in future grace?
e) After studying this passage, how would you respond to a friend who says, “God loves me and I love Him. Our relationship is not based on commandments! Therefore, I need not keep any rules or follow any commands.”
2) Read Future Grace p. 156-168. On page 161 Piper says, “Faith in Christ is not just assenting to what God is for us, but also embracing all that he is for us in Christ.” Reassess your answers above in light of this statement.
3) Consider the four examples Piper gives on pages 164 to 168 showing that true Christian obedience is accomplished by faith in future grace. Briefly summarize each example.
4) Piper summarizes the chapter: “The commandments of God are not negligible because we are under grace. The are doable because we are under grace. . . . [this] yields a life of remarkable patience.” Reflect on this statement.
1) Read James 5:7-11.
a) In what situations are you tempted to be impatient? Think of some specific examples from the last month. In each case, consider: What was the root cause of your impatience?
b) In verses 7 and 8, James tells us to be patient “for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Look at James 1:2-4 for the context in which the author writes these words. In what sense is the coming of the Lord a reason for being patient? How is our confidence in the Lord’s coming similar to the farmer’s confidence in the harvest?
c) Verse 9 concerns the temptation to be impatient with other believers. When have you been impatient with other believers? How does our being reminded that the “Judge is standing right at the door” help us to combat this form of impatience?
d) Why do we consider the prophets who endured suffering to be blessed, or happy (v. 10-11a)? How is this an encouragement to you? Think again about James 1:2-4.
e) The rest of verse 11 reads in the ESV: “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Note that the word translated “how” is normally translated “that” and the word translated “purpose” can also be translated “goal”. What was God’s goal in all His dealings with Job? Could Job see that goal in the midst of his sufferings? In context, is James’ point here, “Wait long enough and your earthly sufferings will turn into earthly prosperity, like Job”?
f) How then does faith in future grace help us combat the temptation to impatience?
2) Now Read Future Grace p. 170-181. In this chapter Piper relates a series of wonderful examples of patience by faith in future grace, both from the Bible and from church history. Pick one of these stories that applies particularly to the recent struggles with patience you related in question 1a above. How can you use this story in the future to help you fight the fight to believe in God’s future grace?
3) Piper writes, “The key to patience is faith in the future grace of God’s ‘glorious might’ to transform all our interruptions into rewards.” (174). Consider some of your recent “interruptions.” Have some of those clearly been transformed into rewards? For those that have not – can you imagine how God could transform them into rewards? Think again about James 5:7-11 as you answer this question.
4) Make a list of specific verses and truths from this chapter that you will memorize so that you might become more patient in the future.
1. Read Romans 4:16-25. This is a rich and deep passage - we'll just focus on a few points that relate to our understanding of faith and future grace.
a) What is the relationship between faith and grace in verse 16? Paul says "the promise depends on faith so that the promise may rest on grace."
b) According to this passage, what did Abraham believe about God (there are several answers to this question; list at least three)? In what sense was this belief faith in God's future grace?
c) Considering verses 24 and 25, in what sense is our faith today similar to the faith of Abraham? In answering this question, compare: i) What Abraham knew of God from His past actions and revelations from what we know of God; ii) What Abraham had to believe about God in the future and what we have to believe about God in the future.
d) How does the faith of Abraham give all glory to God for whatever He will do through Him? How does our faith do the same?
2. Now read Future Grace pages 184-195. Why does Piper say that "faith, by its very nature, nullifies boasting"? (186)
3. Consider Piper's discussion of Galatians 2:20-21 and what follows (187-88). He concludes this discussion by saying, "join me in forming spiritual habits of hourly looking to Jesus for the fulfillment of promises." How are these well-known verses related to that exhortation?
4. How would Piper answer question 1 above, given his discussion of Abraham on 189-91?
5. Why does Piper say, "the faith that justifies and the faith that sanctifies are not two different kinds of faith" (193)? We are used to thinking of our justification as by faith. Can we say the same of sanctification? How do you think Piper would respond to someone who said, "Surely we are justified by faith, but we are sanctified, we are made holy, by keeping the Law. God saves us, and then we have to live out the Christian life. To say that we are sanctified by faith is to make it sound as if there is no effort on our part. There is a tremendous effort involved in living a life worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1)." How would YOU respond?
1. Read 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
a) According to this passage, what is the fundamental difference between unbelievers and believers? What must happen for someone to become a believer? Can someone know the facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection and still be an unbeliever? See also James 2:19 and John 3:18-19.
b) We don’t normally use the word “glory” when referring to people, but nevertheless consider someone you love deeply. I use my wife Beth: What is the difference between “the knowledge of Beth” and “the knowledge of the glory of Beth”? So then consider: How would the meaning of verse 6 differ if the words “of the glory” were left out? “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God”. Is there a difference between “the knowledge of God” and “the knowledge of the glory of God”?
c) So how might you paraphrase what God has shone in the hearts of believers?
2. Read John 3:18-21. Note that in the passage the Greek words translated “judgment”, “condemnation”, and “verdict”, and their verb equivalents, are all from the same root.
a) According to verse 18, what leads to condemnation? What does NOT lead to condemnation?
b) Consider verse 19. This verse tells us more about those who are condemned. What do they love? What do they NOT love? Implicitly, then, what do those who are NOT condemned love? Thus, in the language of this passage, what is necessary in addition to knowledge of facts for someone to be saved?
c) According to verse 21, true saving faith will also manifest itself in what way? Who is behind every true act of obedience? How, then, should a true believer respond to the praise of men? See 2 Corinthians 12:9.
3. Read Future Grace, p. 196-216. Piper here investigates the difference between true, saving faith and the “faith” of those who are self-deceived, headed to destruction. Consider his discussion on 201-202. Would Piper agree with your answers to questions 1 and 2? Does his discussion change the way you would like to answer those questions?
4. 1 John 1:6 calls on us to test our faith by asking the question: “Is the pattern of my life one of obedience or is it one of sin?” How is this related to the point Piper makes on p. 204? How then does Piper define the essence of saving faith (206-207)?
5. Reflect on your own journey of faith. Was there a time when your primary desire, the primary element of your faith, was for God to give you “a happy future”? How and when did that change? How does that change have an impact on your obedience today?
6. On page 212 Piper refers to our “bondage to applause.” What does he mean by this expression? What breaks the chains of such bondage? Do we break them ourselves?
7. In his discussion of John 6:35 on p. 213, Piper says, “believing in Jesus is a feeding and drinking from all that Jesus is. . . . He is the end of our quest for satisfaction.” What other sources of satisfaction continue to allure you? How can the others in your church help you to find satisfaction in Jesus, and in Him alone?
1. Consider Colossians 3:5. Define covetousness. Define idolatry. Why does Paul say that covetousness is idolatry? What is at stake in our battle against covetousness?
2. Read 1 Timothy 6:5-6.
a) What type of gain do the false teachers expect to get from godliness? What is the fundamental problem with thinking of godliness in this way? Consider the last two weeks’ studies in your answer.
b) Many Bible versions translate the same Greek word as “means of gain” in verse 5 and “gain” in verse 6. The New American Standard gets this right, I believe, by translating verse 6, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” What do we gain by godliness? Why is that gain “great”?
c) How can you use this verse to fight covetousness?
3. Read Future Grace p. 218-228. How does Piper define “covetousness” (221)? How does this definition differ from the one you wrote in answer to question 1 above?
4. Consider and repeat in your own words Piper’s compilation of biblical warnings against covetousness listed on pages 225-226. Think of examples in your own life or in the lives of others that show the truth of each warning.
5. How does Piper suggest that we fight against covetousness? What Scripture verses will you memorize to help in this fight? How can those in your church help you in this fight?
1. Does God give conditions that we must fulfill before he gives us gracious gifts? Answer this question briefly before considering the next question.
2. Read Psalm 25:8-21. David here asks God to show him grace in a number of different ways. David grounds his request on his fulfillment of certain conditions. For example, in verse 20 he asks that God guard his soul and deliver him – that’s a request for God to show him grace. Then David says, “for I take refuge in You.” That is the condition. We can make this clearer by turning the sentence around: “Because I take refuge in you, guard my soul and deliver me.”
a) List at least five additional conditions for receiving God’s gracious gifts mentioned in these verses.
b) List at least four additional gracious gifts David hopes to receive from God.
c) Consider verse 10. What is the condition here? What does this condition mean? How would David fulfill it? How can you tell from the immediate context of this verse that David does NOT have to live a perfect life to fulfill this condition?
d) Now reflect again on question 1. Change your answer if you wish.
3. Read Future Grace p. 230-249 (These two chapters fit together, and much of the second chapter consists of quotations of Scripture to illustrate Piper’s point). List the three works of God’s grace that are NOT conditional (232-234). For each, pick a Scripture from those that Piper cites that shows clearly the unconditional aspect of this work of grace.
4. What three parts of our salvation ARE conditional (234)? What conditions does Piper mention here?
5. What other conditions does he mention on pages 240-248? For each condition, pick out a key verse that shows the condition. How might you summarize all these conditions?
6. If we fulfill the conditions, are we earning God’s grace (234-35, 246)? Why, or why not?
7. Piper says, “There is a profound difference between sinners who keep God’s covenant and sinners who don’t.” (249) Reflect on how this statement summarizes this study. Consider how you can help each other to see the conditional aspect of God’s grace not as an onerous burden, but as a way to help forgiven sinners learn how to fight the fight of faith.
1. Read 1 John 3:10-23.
a) What warnings does this passage give to those who do not love?
b) What promises are given to the one who does love?
c) What does John mean in verse 20 by saying, “when our hearts condemn us”? Under what circumstances will our heart condemn us? What commandment must we fulfill to have confidence despite the condemnation of our hearts?
d) Is this a commandment that we have to fulfill prior to being a child of God? Justify your answer.
2. Read Future Grace p. 250-259. On page 252 Piper summarizes the conditions discussed in the previous chapter for receiving future grace. Why are these conditions not meritorious – that is, why do they not create an obligation on God’s part? How are these conditions related to the nature of saving faith?
3. On page 253 Piper talks about other biblical conditions for receiving future grace. How do these conditions differ from those discussed in question 2 above?
4. On page 254, how does Piper summarize the behavioral conditions for receiving future grace?
5. Considering the electricity analogy (257-8), describe how the condition of love is related to faith. Why should our sense of assurance depend on our acting in love towards one another?
6. Suppose a friend asks you, “How can salvation through faith in Jesus Christ be good news when I don’t know if I’m saved unless I love others? Others are so hard to love! I can’t do that, so I’ll never know if I’m saved!” How would you respond?
1. Read Romans 12:16-21
a) If someone wrongs us, what is our natural response? Consider some specific examples in your own life.
b) Consider verse 21: How does evil overcome us? How do you know that this does not refer to martyrdom or suffering? How do we overcome evil with good?
c) What explanation does verse 19 give for the command not to avenge ourselves? How does this support the command?
d) How does God avenge wrongs done by unbelievers?
e) How does God avenge wrongs done by believers?
f) Explain how our looking forward to God’s justice is consistent with Matthew 5:43-45. Consider also Revelation 19:1-3.
g) Think again about the specific examples in your own life. How can you apply verse 19 in those cases to help you live out verses 17, 20, and 21?
2. Read Future Grace, pages 260-271. What does Piper mean on page 265 by the “judicial predicament”? When we are terribly wronged, is it right for us to think that the perpetrator does not deserve forgiveness? What, then, is the problem with our seeking revenge?
3. On page 268, Piper says, “we have no need or right to harbor bitterness toward believers or unbelievers” (emphasis mine). Explain why we have no need in either case. Explain why we have no right.
4. On 269, Piper quotes Ephesians 4:32-5:2. Explain how these verses show that our forgiveness of others does not depend only on our confidence in God’s future and past judgment on sin.
5. Suppose a friend who is a believer relates to you a horrible experience from his past. He tells you, “I just can’t forgive this person. Every day I think how he ruined my life. I don’t love him and I don’t pray for him. I just can’t.” How would you counsel such a person, given the truths we have considered today? Consider, then, how to help each other deal with the issues you listed in your answers to questions 1a and 1g.
1. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:9-10.
a) Paul had much to be proud of. He could look back at his ministry and see many individual converts as well as numerous churches planted. List several statements from this text that show that Paul did not see these accomplishments as gaining him any standing before God.
b) What, then, is the source of all Paul’s accomplishments?
c) Did Paul himself work? If so, why can he not claim credit for the accomplishments? Consider Philippians 2:12-13.
d) Imagine Paul looking at the task ahead of him, and being overwhelmed by it – just as you may be overwhelmed when looking at the task ahead of you. Should he feel inadequate for the task? Given these verses, how would Paul move forward in his ministry despite that sense of inadequacy?
2. Read Future Grace, p. 274-284. What is the difference between a heart of works and a heart of faith? How do the two different types of hearts manifest themselves? (278-9)
3. How do guilt, fear, and greed hinder love (282-83)? How does faith in future grace push these sins out of the heart? How does this magnify the glory of Christ?
4. Now read Future Grace, p. 286-296. How many members of Desiring God Community Church have a God-ordained ministry (287)? Why is this ministry more important than life? How does the story of Evelyn Brand exemplify this truth?
5. Consider carefully the pages 291-2, especially the paragraph that begins, “I take this to mean”. How do we conduct our God-ordained ministry in such a way that God gets the glory? How is this related to your answer to question 2 above?
6. How are spiritual gifts and prayer related to future grace? (293-6)
7. Return to question 1d. Given what you have learned in this lesson, how can you respond to feelings of inadequacy, to feelings of being overwhelmed by the tasks of ministry?
1. Read Matthew 26:36-39 and John 12:27.
a) Describe Jesus’ mental state in the garden on the night He was betrayed. How is He feeling? Why?
b) How does Jesus deal with his troubled state in the Matthew passage? Consider the steps Jesus takes – there are at least five mentioned in verses 37-39. Hebrews 12:2 provides another.
c) Earlier on this very night, Jesus commands His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God.” (John 14:1) To disobey Jesus’ command surely is to sin. Is Jesus sinning by becoming “troubled” and “deeply grieved”? If not, identify the difference between the sin of being troubled and being troubled yet not sinning.
d) When are you tempted to despair? Given this study, how can you fight the temptation to despair in your own life? What steps can you take not to sin in this area?
2. Read Future Grace, p. 298-308. Identify some of the causes of despair in the lives of great Christians (299-302). What is the ultimate cause of such despair, according to Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones?
3. What are some verses we can use to fight the temptation to despair (302-304)? Memorize two that you think will be particularly helpful in your personal battle.
4. Explain the distinction Lloyd-Jones makes between “talking to ourselves” and “allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us.” Why must we do the first and not the second (304)?
5. How does Piper answer question 1b and 1c above (305-307)?
6. After reading Future Grace, revise your answer to 1d. Discuss with each other how you can help each other in this fight.
1. Which is your worse enemy, sin or Satan? Consider: What can Satan do to harm you eternally? At Judgment Day, what can condemn you?
2. With those questions in mind, read Luke 22:31-32.
a) When Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat, what was he trying to accomplish? Consider Jesus’ response to Satan’s demand in your answer.
b) Jesus says He prayed for Peter – but then Peter denied Jesus! Did God grant what Jesus asked, or not?
c) What can we learn about fighting temptation from these verses?
d) What can we learn about assurance and Jesus’ intercession for us from these verses? Consider Philippians 1:6 in your response.
3. Read Future Grace p. 310-318. Why does Piper say enduring in faith is necessary? Why does he say enduring in faith is hard? Why does he then say that faith is intrinsically easy? Make sure you understand the illustration with the monkey and the nut on the bottom of p. 313.
4. Why do we not despair when we understand the necessity of enduring in the fight of faith to the end?
5. Now read Future Grace p. 320-327. How does Piper answer questions 1 and 2 above?
6. Piper asserts that “All the sinful states of our hearts are owing to unbelief in God’s super-abounding future grace. All our sin comes from failing to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Misplaced shame, anxiety, despondency, covetousness, lust, bitterness, impatience, pride – these are all sprouts from the root of unbelief in the promises of God.” (323).
a) What promises does Satan make to lead us into sin? (see especially the first paragraph on 326)
b) How should you fight such promises? First, answer this question in general. Then consider particular sins with which you struggle. How can you use the biblical truths we have been studying to fight Satan’s lies in these particular areas? Share these with others in your church, and ask them to hold you accountable in this fight.
1. Read Romans 8:1-13.
a) Verse 1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Verse 13 says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die,” and verses 5-8 make clear that Paul speaks here of spiritual death, eternal condemnation. Explain how verses 1 and 13 are consistent with each other. How can God “justify the ungodly” (Romans 4:5) and also say, “If you live according to the flesh you will die”?
b) Paul contrasts “living according to the flesh” with “by the Spirit putting to death the misdeeds of the body.” What did he contrast with “walking according to the flesh” in verse 4? Does Paul here say that the opposite of “living according to the flesh” is living a perfect life? Explain.
c) How do we go about putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit? Who puts to death the deeds of the body? What instrument does this person use? What is he putting to death? Reflect on this in your own life and in the life of others.
d) Read 1 Peter 2:11. Given this verse and Romans 8:13, what is at stake in the battle against lust? How can you put lust to death by the Spirit?
2. Now read Future Grace p. 328-338. Why should we fight lust? What is at stake? Where are the stakes higher: in the present war in Iraq or in your battle against lust? Explain.
3. Read several times the paragraph that begins on p. 332 and ends on p. 333. What is the evidence of justifying faith?
4. Why does Piper quote the line, “He breaks the power of canceled sin” from the Charles Wesley hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues”? How would you distinguish between canceling sin, and breaking the power of canceled sin?
5. How does Piper apply Romans 8:13 to fighting lust?
6. Consider how you have successfully fought lust – and consider how you have failed in this fight. How will you use this lesson to help you fight in the future? How can you help each other in this fight?
1. Read Romans 5:2-4.
a) In verse 2, why does Paul include the word “hope”? How does the verse change by saying, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” instead of “we rejoice in the glory of God”.
b) Why do we rejoice in our sufferings? Can we see the impact of our sufferings immediately?
c) Is God behind our sufferings? See 1 Peter 4:19.
d) In what way do tribulations lead to perseverance? Under what circumstances might they not lead to perseverance?
e) The Greek word translated “character” or “proven character” in most English translations could be rendered “provenness” – that is, the quality of being genuine, of being tested and having passed. With this in mind, how does perseverance produce provenness?
f) How does provenness produce hope?
g) How is this conclusion of verse 4 related to verse 2?
h) If the suffering leads to death, does Romans 5:2-4 still hold?
2. Now read Future Grace p. 340-350 and 352-367, the chapters on suffering and death. Why does Piper think that those who live by faith in future grace will suffer more than those who don’t?
3. What purposes in suffering does Piper draw out of 2 Corinthians 4:7 & 17? (350, 359)
4. When will suffering drive us away from God? What can we do to become the type of people who draw closer to God through suffering? (347-50) Consider here how Piper would respond to question 1. Consider also these sentences: “The people who are most unwavering in their hope are those who have been tested most deeply” (349) “The suffering that seems to threaten future grace is, in reality, grace upon grace.” (350)
5. How do most people deal with the certainty of death? What impact does this have on how they live? (354-56) In your answer, use the analogy of two skydivers experiencing freefall (356).
6. What effects should the truths of Philippians 1:21 have on the way we live? (357)
7. Is standing before the judgment seat of Christ to be feared? (362ff) What does Piper says is reason for this judgment?
8. Some people criticize Christians for pretending that all things work together for good when, in their opinion, suffering is pointless. Imagine a friend who has witnessed suffering in your own life, who expresses pity that things have worked out so poorly for you. How would you respond?
1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.
a) How does Paul answer the question he raises in v35? Why does he bring in the relationship of a seed to the plant that it produces? Is the plant different from the seed? Is it related to the seed?
b) What do verses 42 to 50 tells us about the differences between our present bodies and our eternal bodies?
c) Does v50 say that we will not have bodies in the eternal state? How does the second half of the verse help explain the first half?
d) What do verses 51 to 54 tell us about the continuity between our present bodies and our eternal bodies?
e) Why does Paul conclude this section with verse 58? What is the relationship between these truths and our being "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord"? What does this have to do with future grace?
2. Read Future Grace p. 368-82. How does Piper answer question 1e above in the first two pages? Do you agree?
3. How does 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 help us understand the reason for why God does not do away with the physical creation? (373)
4. Given 2 Peter 3:10-12, why does Piper argue that “the earth and its works will be burned up” does not mean that God will completely do away with the present creation? What does Piper believe the Bible teaches will happen to the physical creation? On what passages does he build this interpretation? (p. 375ff)
5. Consider the biblical vision of the eternal state, and the way Piper tries to capture that vision in the poem at the end of the chapter. Meditate on God’s plan for the physical creation, and your own body. Write down two specific actions you committed or thoughts you thought today that would have been different had you kept this vision of the eternal state always before you.
1. Read 1 Corinthians 13, focusing on verse 5. This verse says that love “does not seek its own” (New King James, New American Standard), “is not self-seeking” (NIV), or “does not insist on its own way” (ESV). The first translation is the most literal. How is this description of the greatest Christian virtue, the first fruit of the Spirit, consistent with our seeking our greatest joy? Aren’t we “seeking our own” if we pursue our greatest joy? Consider in your answer Psalm 16:11 and 37:4, Habakkuk 3:16-18, and Philippians 1:20-21 and 4:4.
2. Read Future Grace pages 384-99. On pages 386-87 Piper answers three questions. I will restate the questions; you answer each in your own words:
a) What is the relationship between “living by faith in future grace” and “Christian hedonism”? If living by faith in future grace costs us our life, how can we truly be pursuing our greatest joy?
b) What is the relationship between fighting sin by believing the promises of God and pursuing our greatest joy? Aren’t we missing out on joy when we say “No” to sin?
c) How can our pursuit of happiness lead to God’s greatest glory? If we pursue our greatest joy, aren’t we making a god out of pleasure, and thus acting against the glory of God?
3. How does Jonathan Edwards use the term “self love”? In what sense is “self love” good (391-92)? In what sense is “self love” inadequate (388-90)? How can “self love” and “love for God” come together in way that glorifies God and satisfies us (read carefully the first two paragraphs on 392)?
4. How does Jonathan Edwards use the term “disinterested” (392-94)? How can there be such a thing as “disinterested delight” in God? If we are delighting in God, in what are we disinterested? Thus, how would Piper and Edwards answer question 1 above?
5. What happens to our love for happiness when God makes us alive in Him (395-97)?
6. Read carefully the quote from Edwards that spans pages 397-98. Given these truths, how can you glorify God more in your life – today? How can God appear more to your understanding? How can you more fully delight in and enjoy “the manifestations which He makes of Himself”? From this chapter – and, indeed, from this entire study - write down several steps you can take today that will help you fulfill the chief end of man.
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