I chose Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure by John Piper to be the devotion book that we reviewed at our annual women’s beach retreat in November. It is the eight application chapters out of a longer work called Future Grace . The concept is that we live by faith in Christ and our trust in what God promises to do for us in the future, the belief in future grace, is what empowers radical obedience to Jesus. “On the other side of the coin, the aim of this book is to emancipate human hearts from servitude to the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Arguing from the perspective that we sin because it promises happiness, he believes that only believing that God is to be desired more than life itself will break the hold that sin has on us. He then outlines eight sins and why we should fight them with belief in future grace.
The first chapter is on Anxiety. This is the sermon I heard on the internet that struck me and led me to choose this book for our beach trip. Before he even begins to describe why Anxiety is a sin and how to battle it, he points out how it is related to and the root of so many other sins. Examples are coveting, greed, hoarding, and stealing due to anxiety about finances. Or being irritable, abrupt, surly, withdrawn, indifferent, or even lying because we are anxious about something.
John Piper then points to Matthew 6:30 to demonstrate that the root of anxiety is lack of faith in our Father’s future grace. He continues to use Matthew 6:25-34 to show promises that we can meditate on and use to answer back when anxiety threatens us.
He goes on to discuss Pride (including Self-Pity), Misplaced Shame, Impatience, Covetousness, Bitterness, Despondency, and Lust. I want to review a point from the chapter on Misplaced Shame. John Piper points out that well-placed shame is what we should feel when we have done something that was dishonoring to God. Misplaced shame is when (1) what we have done is not dishonoring to God, or (2) we were not involved in the action that was dishonoring to God.
Often our shame is misplaced because it is really self-centered instead of of God-centered. We feel shame because we didn’t present an appearance hat other people admire. Examples given to battle misplaced shame include belief in God’s promise of forgiveness for sins, belief that God’s glory is paramount and embarassment in the world’s eyes is not to give us shame, and finally refusing to bear shame that is not ours because we did not take part in anything that dishonored God. This last kind of shame was an interesting concept.
John Piper points out how many times Jesus was “shamed” by others, he was called a glutton and a drunkard. The goal was to load Jesus with shame that was not his to bear, hoping it would discourage him and paralyze him. Paul had a similar experience. They refused to take on this shame and we should do the same.
The point he keeps driving home is that we must know the promises of God, medidate on them, remind ourselves of them, and pray to the Holy Spirit for strength and faith to believe them.
One of my favorite prayers that I turn to again and again is from Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”. Belief is something we have to keep working on and the best way to work on it is to realize our inability to do it for ourself and to lean on God’s strength and pray for Him to work in us.
I recommend either book, there is plenty to learn in the smaller book if that is less intimidating. John Piper says he was inspired to write Future Grace with 31 chapters after reading Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. One recommended way to use Murray’s book is a devotion where you read a chapter a day. I would argue that the difference is that Murray’s book is only 204 pages, while Future Grace is 399 pages long. It takes some devotion to get through a chapter of Future Grace every day.