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Monday, December 8, 2008

Receiving Grace and Giving Grace

This is a continuation of my blog posts on my journey through the book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” by John Piper. The last year or so of marriage has been the best year of marriage because I think it finally occurred to Kristian and me that we ought to treat each other with the same grace that God has shown us as individuals (duh). We are both imperfect, sinful and have habits that annoy one another, but we realized that the beauty of loving someone is reflecting the sacrificial love of the gospel—laying down our lives for each other, not returning each other’s reviling for reviling, working for each other’s good unconditionally, and being patient with one another as we each grow and are transformed into who we are supposed to be. This is what gives God glory in marriages, and there is such freedom and joy in this! We are enjoying each other more than we ever have. We are learning to rely on and be rooted in God’s grace for each of us in order to give grace to each other. That’s what the next two chapters of “This Momentary Marriage” are all about. Here are my favorite quotes from Chapters 2 & 3.

Great Quotes from Chapter 3

“I asked my wife Noël if there was anything she wanted me to say at this point when I was preaching on this subject. She said, ‘You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church.’ I think she is right, and there are at least three reasons: 1) This lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and it gives the magnificent meaning God meant it to have; 2) this gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ ordained and sustains his bride by grace alone; and 3) this shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both, defined by Christ’s self-denying work on the cross so that their pride and slavishness are canceled.” P. 42 and 43

“…the main point of this chapter is that since Christ’s new covenant with his church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. And the way husbands and wives showcase it is by resting in the experience of God’s grace and bending it out from a vertical experience with God into a horizontal experience with their spouse. In other words, in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God’s forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour—as an extension of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help.” P. 43

“I am aware that all Christians, not just married ones, are supposed to do this in all our relationships. All of us, married and single, are supposed to live hour by hour by the forgiving, justifying, all-supplying grace of God and then bend it out to all the others in our lives. Jesus says that all of life, not just marriage is a showcase of God’s glory…But marriage is designed to be a unique display of God’s covenant grace because, unlike all other human relationships, the husband and wife are bound by covenant into the closest possible relationships for a lifetime. There are unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way, they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help, and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse. That’s the focus in this chapter…the key to being naked and not ashamed (Gen 2:25)—when, in fact, a husband and a wife do many things they should be ashamed of—is the experience of God’s vertical forgiving, justifying grace bent out horizontally to each other and displayed to the world.” P. 44

“A profound understanding and fear of God’s wrath is exactly what many marriages need, because without it, the gospel is diluted down to mere human relations and loses its biblical glory. Without a biblical view of God’s wrath, you will be tempted to think that your wrath—your anger—against your spouse is simply too big to overcome, because you have never really tasted what it is like to see an infinitely greater wrath overcome by grace, namely, God’s wrath against you. So we begin with the wrath of God and its removal. In Colossians 2:13–14, Paul writes one of the most wonderful things imaginable: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Those last words are the most crucial. “This—this record of debt that stood against us—God set aside, nailing it to the cross.” When did that happen? Two thousand years ago. It did not happen inside of us, and it did not happen with any help from us. God did it for us and outside of us before we were ever born. This is the great objectivity of our salvation. Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath (sins are offenses against God that bring down his wrath), and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the war­rant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14). Whose sins were nailed to the cross? Answer: My sins. And Noël’s sins. My wife’s sins and my sins. The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and who trust in Christ alone. Whose hands were nailed to the cross? Jesus’ were. There is a beautiful name for this. It’s called a substitution. God condemned my sin in Christ’s flesh. “Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Husbands and wives cannot believe this too strongly. It is essential to our fulfilling the design of marriage.
” P. 44 & 45

Colossians 3:12–13: "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
"‘As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive’ your spouse. As the Lord ‘bears with’ you, so you should bear with your spouse. The Lord ‘bears with’ us every day as we fall short of his will. Indeed, the distance between what Christ expects of us and what we achieve is infinitely greater than the distance between what we expect of our spouse and what he or she achieves. Christ always forgives more and endures more than we do. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Bear with as he bears with you. This holds true whether you are married to a believer or an unbeliever. Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse.” P. 46

“Besides this biblical truth, we need the Holy Spirit. We need prayer. We need to meditate on the Bible for ourselves. We need to read the insights of others. We need the counsel of wise friends who are seasoned with suffering. We need the church to support us when everything falls apart. So I have no illusions that I could say here all that needs to be said to help you.” P. 47

“This is the ideal to aim at in marriage: two people humbling themselves and seeking to change in godly ways that please their spouses and meet their physical and emotional needs—to please them in every good way. Yes. The relationship of Christ and the church includes all that. But the reasons I stress living vertically from the grace of God and then bending out horizontally in forgiveness and justification toward your spouse are: 1) because there is going to be conflict based on sin and strangeness (and you won’t be able even to agree with each other about what is simply strange about each other and what is sin); and 2) because the hard, rugged work of enduring and forgiving is what makes it possible for affections to flourish when they seem to have died; and 3) because God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.” P. 47-48

Great Quotes from Chapter 4

This chapter is based on

Colossians 3:12-19 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

“Let me say at the outset that I am aware—painfully aware—that there are sins that spouses commit against each other that can push forbearance and forgiveness across the line into the assisting of sin and may even warrant a redemptive separation—I choose the words carefully: a redemptive separation. I am thinking of things like assault, adultery, child abuse, drunken rage, addictive gambling or theft or lying that brings the family to ruin.” P. 53

“When Paul gets to Colossians 3:12, he has laid a massive foundation in the person and work of Christ on the cross. This is the foundation of marriage and all of life. The main battles in life and in marriage are battles to believe this person and this work. I mean really believe it—trust it, embrace it, cherish it, treasure it, bank on it, breathe it, shape your life by it. So when Paul gets to Colossians 3:12, he exhorts us with words that are explosive with emotion-awakening reality built on Christ and his saving work.” P.54

First, Piper goes into three descriptions of every believer:

Chosen—“We are God’s elect. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ. You can hear how precious this is to Paul with his words from Romans 8:33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The answer is that absolutely nobody can make a charge stick against God’s elect. Paul wants us to feel the wonder of being elect as being invincibly loved. If you resist the truth of election, you resist being loved in the fullness and the sweetness of God’s love.” P. 54

Holy—“This is first a position and a destiny before it is a pattern of behavior. That is why he is telling us the kind of behavior to “put on.” He knows we are not there yet, practically. He is calling us to become holy in life because we are holy in Christ. Dress to fit who you are. Wear holiness.” P. 54

Loved—“If you are a believer in Christ, God, the maker of the universe, chose you, set you apart for himself, and loves you. He is for you and not against you. “ P. 55

“This is the beginning of how husbands and wives forbear and forgive. They are blown away by being chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Husbands, devote yourselves to seeing and savoring this. Wives, do the same. Get your life from this. Get your joy from this. Get your hope from this—that you are chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Plead with the Lord that this would be the heartbeat of your life and your marriage. On this basis now—on the basis of this profound, new, God-centered identity as chosen, holy, and loved—we are told what to “put on.” That is, we are told what kind of attitude and behavior fits with, and flows from, being chosen, set apart, and loved by God through Christ.” P. 55

He then goes on to say that out of this identity, the attitudes from Colossians 3:12-19 flow: “compassionate hearts and kindness, humility and meekness, patience and forbearance (and forgiveness).” P. 55

“Be merci­ful in your inmost being, and then out of that good ground grows the fruit of kindness. So husbands, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gos­pel until you become a more merciful person. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become a more merciful person. And then treat each other out of this tender mercy with kind­ness. The battle is with our own unmerciful inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and merciful because you are chosen, holy, loved.” P. 56-57

“So, husbands, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. The gospel of Christ’s painful death on our behalf has a way of breaking our pride and our sense of rightful demands and our frustration at not getting our way. It works lowliness into our souls. Then we treat each other with meekness flowing out of that lowliness. The battle is with our own proud, self-centered inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and humble because you are chosen, holy, loved.” P. 57

“Forbear or bear with: The word is literally endure—enduring each other. Jesus uses it in Luke 9:41: “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to bear with you?” Paul uses it again in 1 Corinthians 4:12: “When persecuted, we endure.” That’s the meaning here: Become long-suffering persons and endure each other. Forbear. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:7–8).” P. 57-58

\“There are at least two words for forgive in the New Testament. This one used here (charizomenoi) means “freely or graciously give.” The idea is that when we forgive, we do not exact a payment. We treat people better than they deserve. So in this sense, you forgive when someone has wronged you, and therefore they are in debt to you, and sheer justice says you have the right to exact some suffering from them in payment for the suffering they caused you. You not only don’t demand the payment, but you “freely give” good for evil. That is the meaning of this word forgive (charizomai). Your ordinary disposition is forgiving—you do not return evil for evil, but you bless (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:15).” P. 58

“Now what I find so helpful here is that Paul recognizes that both forgiv­ing and forbearing are crucial for life together—whether in church or marriage. Forgiveness says: I will not treat you badly because of your sins against me or your annoying habits. And forbearance acknowledges (usually to itself): Those sins against me and those annoying habits really bother me or hurt me! If there were nothing in the other person that really bothered us or hurt us, there would be no need for saying “endure one another.” P. 58

“We believe in the pursuit of personal change and holiness. We believe in small-group efforts to work on each other’s marriages. We believe in professional biblical counseling. But we are forty years into this glorious and maddening thing called marriage, and we are not naive. These two redeemed sinners will go to our graves imperfect and annoying. We are very comforted that Paul does not say, “Endure one another for the first ten years of your marriage till you have all the problems solved and all the sins overcome, then enjoy the green pastures of the last forty years of your marriage without the need for enduring each other.” Sorry to pop any bubbles out there. Well, actually, we’re not sorry. We would rather pop the bubble of naiveté and give you a possible way to endure and enjoy.” P. 60

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