Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change
Three excerpts at a time from the new book by Brian G. Hedges

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Excerpt 16 of 22

Fighting Sin with the Promises of God

So, the desire for happiness is the motivation for pursuing holiness. God’s promises of satisfaction in Christ appeal to this motive over and again. But this doesn’t imply that you can somehow become immune to temptation or completely freed from the battle against sin. No, understanding the motivation for holiness relocates the battle. It reminds us that the life-long battle for holiness is a battle for our affections fought on the terrain of our hearts. Holiness is not just the quest for joy; it is the fight for joy.

How, then, does this work on a practical level? How do God’s promises help us in the actual battle against specific sins? Let’s see how God’s promises – what John Piper calls “future grace” – empower us for battle against three common sins.[i]


How do God’s promises effectively combat the seductive power of greed? The Psalmist fought covetousness by praying that God would turn his heart toward the Word. “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psa. 119:36) Notice that this is a battle for right desires and inclinations, fought on the battle ground of the heart.     

Consider Jesus’ words and notice how he points us to the promise of God’s pleasure in giving us the kingdom.

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32-34)  

Similarly, the writer to the Hebrews countered covetousness with the wonderful promise of our Lord’s presence: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).  We can be free from love of money and content with what we have because the Lord promises his abiding presence. The presence and faithfulness of Christ is more satisfying than money!

In contrast, ponder the sad life of Guy De Maupassant, the 19th century French author and a father of the modern short story. De Maupassant was famous and affluent. His stories were widely read and he lived on an extravagant yacht. Having rejected religion as a young man, however (he purposely got himself expelled from seminary), he became increasingly fearful of death. He also suffered from syphilis – a sexually transmitted disease which left untreated can unravel the mind. By age 41 De Maupassant was considered insane. He died two years later. In spite of his wealth and success, his own words became his epitaph: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.”[ii]



[i] John Piper’s Future Grace contains nearly 450 pages of extensive meditation and application on how God’s promises sever the promises of sin. Most of what I have written in this chapter I first learned from Piper. The theological debt I owe to him is incalculable. I hope my readers will savor the rich feast of both Desiring God and Future Grace for themselves. For more on how to fight specific sins with the promises of God, see also Piper’s Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 2007), an abridgement of Future Grace which teaches how to battle the unbelief of anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust.  
[ii] For a short biographical sketch see:  Accessed March 25, 2008.