Womanly Dominion: Week 1

I’m reading Womanly Dominion along with the girltalk blog. They started posting last week. I didn’t do a very good job of mastering my domain last week, so I didn’t get to blog about the book when everyone else did. Pressing on, I’m caught up and looking forward to this week!


“Oh, how desperately our generation needs ‘a race that are men indeed.’ And how desperately we need such strong women to rear them!”

I had to stop reading in order to take stock of how I’m doing in the “strong women” and raising “a race that are men indeed” departments. Am I strong enough for this task? Have I been working in this direction from the birth of my sons? How purposeful am I when it comes to parenting my boys?

My mind wandered to the men I admire, men in my life today and those who made significant marks in history. They had mothers. Somewhere in their lives existed a strong woman who helped shape the men they became.

What an awesome task and calling it is to raise sons!

Then, I began to consider my daughters. What kind of daughters am I raising? And Chanski includes this verse: “Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace” (Psalm 144:12).

Yes, I want my daughters to become women of strength, women who inspire awe, women who fulfill their callings with great beauty! I want to be that kind of woman myself. However, I allow myself to be subdued rather than being the one doing the subduing and ruling.

Chanski writes, “It’s absolutely and wonderfully true that women are rightly designated in the Bible as the ‘weaker vessel‘ (1 Peter 3:7) who are to display a ‘gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God‘” (1 Peter 3:4).

Did you catch that?

It’s absolutely and wonderfully truerightly designated…I don’t read that often enough. I needed this reminder: There is no shame in being a woman, in being the “weaker vessel.” It is a wonderful truth. God has rightly designated women the way that He did for a purpose, a good purpose. I ought not fight it or question His wisdom or wonder if He made some mistake when He put this personality, these likes and dislikes, and these gifts into this body.

Chapter 1

I am resolved to “Play my position!” and “Win it!” for the glory of God.

I’m really interested in reading more about what Chanski has to say regarding how women can “attack” their challenges.

Of the women he profiles in this chapter, to which one could you most easily relate? I related most to “Leslie” and “Marcia.” I know it’s just a coincidence, but when I read Leslie’s struggle and how closely it resembles (one of) my own, I got goosebumps.

Ponder the eternal danger of lust

Future Grace Chapter 27

This is a mighty rich chapter. I wish I had the time to write and write and write all that it is making me think. This one is such a helpful chapter when it comes to the real life, practical, in-the-trenches, work-it-out day-to-day truth I can use in the fight against sin. The chapter deals specifically with lust, but I’ve found the teaching in this chapter to help me with other sins as well.

The bottom line for this chapter is that when a believer apprehends the all-surpassing glory and happiness in the promises of God the power of sin is broken. Jumping off from 2 Peter 1:3-4, which states, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust,” Piper writes, “The key is the power of promises. When we are entranced by the preciousness of them and the magnificence of them, the effect is the liberation from the lusts, which are, in fact, not precious and not magnificent.”

The final point Piper makes comes from Jesus’ teaching that we refer to as The Beatitudes. Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). “It is the ‘precious and magnificent’ promise that the pure see God that empowers our escape from lust.” Hebrews 12:14 tells us that there is a “holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Not fighting against sin has eternal consequences.

He goes on to say that the challenge is not merely to pursue righteousness, but to prefer it. So, fighting lust is not about plucking out eyes; it’s a purity of heart issue. Because of the foundational promises of Romans 8:29-30 I know that God will do it. It is my responsibility to take up the sword of the Spirit and fight in faith.

I am reminded once again of Owen’s words, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Or these Holy Spirit inspired words from Paul, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

In which I almost confuse myself discussing works, faith, and grace as they relate to the first and second Adams

I apologize for not posting something from Future Grace every day this month. I’ve gotten sidetracked by some questions raised while reading. One question regarding Future Grace is due to Piper’s words in Chapter 5: The Freest of All God’s Acts. In his explanation of God’s grace, Piper explains his belief that even Adam and Eve experienced God’s grace (the goodness of God to people who don’t deserve it) prior to the fall.

Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve experienced God’s goodness not as a response to their demerit (since they didn’t have any) but still without deserving God’s goodness. You can’t deserve to be created. You can’t deserve, as a non-being, to be put into a lavish garden where all your needs are met by a loving Father. So even before they sinned, Adam and Eve lived on grace. And God’s will for them was that they live by faith in future grace.

True, none of us deserves to be created. Certainly all of us are living as a result of God’s sustaining grace. Like everything else, God created Adam and Eve because He wanted to. God was having a great time with His creation, declared everything as good, then decided to create man in his own image — a creature unlike all of the other creatures. Adam and Eve were alive because God was being God. Like us, they were created to glorify and enjoy God forever. Unlike us, they were uniquely created with the God-given (grace) capacity to do so. They were created in righteousness, goodness and holiness. They did not know evil. They were created spiritually alive, fully able to enjoy God, fellowship with Him and glorify Him. God breathed real life into Adam’s nostrils. Did they deserve this goodness of God? No, but it pleased the Lord to make them and enjoy them. Certainly it can be said that until Adam’s sin at the tree they were undeserving of death.

[Note: it is considered an act of grace (undeserved goodness) when God forced Adam and Eve out of the garden so that they could not eat of the tree of life in their fallen state.]

God gave them one command: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Then Piper quotes The Pentateuch as Narrative by John Sailhamer, to show that these verses mean

that God alone knows what is good for human beings and God alone knows what is not good for them. To enjoy the “good” we must trust God and obey him. If we disobey, we will have to decide for ourselves what is good and and what is not good. While to modern men and women such a prospect may seem desirable, to the author of Genesis it is the worst fate that could have befallen humanity.

Back to Piper:

In other words, not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was meant by God to be an act of trust in his gracious wisdom and his readiness to lead Adam and Eve in what is good and to meet all their needs…Their disobedience was a breach of trust in their Father’s love and a forsaking of faith in his future grace.

The question I am trying to answer is, Is this true? Yes, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a disobedient act, sinful, “a breach of trust.” But was it “a forsaking of faith in his [God’s] future grace?”

Could Adam have NOT sinned? Yes! Other than Jesus, Adam is the only man who has ever lived who was totally free of a sin nature. Unlike you and I, Adam could have refused to eat of the fruit of that tree, his will was free to obey. He had it within himself to maintain his righteousness and holiness and innocence. Furthermore, I think Adam had to be the most intelligent man to walk this earth (other than Jesus, of course). I think he had an understanding of the creation unlike any other person. He named everything in God’s animal parade and he was given dominion over it all. He walked and talked with God! No, Adam was no bafoon. So, when Satan attacked, Adam was fully capable, intellectually and spiritually, to refuse. But he willingly made the wrong choice. Was it because he did not have faith in God’s future grace?

Piper wants to say that God wanted Adam to exercise faith in His future grace. I don’t see how that is even possible. While grace was definitely in the mind of God, I find zero scriptural evidence to indicate that Adam understood it. Faith, yes. But I can’t think of evidence for future grace.

Adam’s disobedience demonstrated that Adam did not believe God, which is to say that Adam did not have faith in God or His promise that the punishment for eating of the tree would be death. Adam is not mentioned at all in Hebrews 11. The list of the faithful begins with Abel, his son. I think everything Adam and Eve did after the fall was based on faith in future grace: having children, teaching them to offer sacrifices to God, etc. All of that was founded on Genesis 3:15. I think Adam and Eve looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise to crush the head of the serpent with Eve’s offspring.

I’ve read that the biggest problem with the idea that Adam enjoyed a relationship with God based on his grace has to do with what it implies regarding Jesus as the second Adam. First, as far as grace is concerned, Jesus stands alone when it comes to not needing grace from God. He always merits God’s favor! This truth is part of the horror of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Rather than providing a magnificent display of favor, God poured out His wrath on Jesus. Second, I have been taught that prior to the fall God’s relationship with man
was based on merit. Piper says that is erroneous; that God wanted Adam
and Eve to relate to him in terms of childlike faith, not works. Does that mean that God wanted to relate to Jesus on the basis of childlikd faith, not works? The critical question is, if Adam’s relationship with God was not based on works, then what becomes of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law? Critics of Future Grace say that if you take away God’s covenant of works with Adam, then you take away the gospel in Christ. If so, this is a huge problem in Future Grace. And one I’m not sure I can answer. Continue reading at your own peril.

Piper writes that Adam’s sin was a breach of trust, not a violation of a covenant. True, the word “covenant” is not used in relation to Adam in Genesis; however, all of the elements of a covenant exist: two parties (God and Adam), conditions (eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and you will die/do not eat of the knowledge of good and evil and you will live), stipulations for blessings for obedience (stay in the garden, eat from the tree of life) and the punishment for disobedience (death), and a sign of the covenant (the tree of life). By eating of the tree of life, Adam and Eve would be affirming their belief that eating of its fruit would internally produce eternal life. By eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve would be affirming the opposite: that they could decide, based on their own knowledge, what was good for life. It’s also important to note that Hosea mentions a covenant between God and Adam, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me” (6:7). To be fair, this verse refers to the covenant in terms of faith, rather than works — “they dealt faithlessly with me.” This seems to support Piper’s idea.

On the other hand, Paul teaches in the New Testament that a life of adherance to the law precludes the life of faith. Paul speaks as though we could achieve eternal life by obedience to God’s law. In Galatians 3 he says, “but the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them” (v. 12). And in Romans he writes, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them” (10:5). He is saying that we will live forever if we perfectly obey God’s commandments; that we will have earned eternal life. This is completely opposite of a life of faith (which is what pleases God). If we do not live by God’s commands, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). If we disobey, then we earn our just punishment. This is what happened to Adam. He disobeyed God and died. So, this leads me to conclude that a covenant of works (which is the best way to understand it) was indeed in effect in the garden.

Like I said, this is problematic for some because Paul calls Jesus the second Adam. Paul teaches in Romans 5 that just as in Adam we all died, so in Christ we will live. “For as by the one man’s disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [Jesus] the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). The point is not that Adam’s sin and Jesus’ obedience are on a level plane. Paul says, “The free gift is not like the trespass” (Romans 5:15). The point is to demonstrate how we were made sinners in Adam and how we are made righteous in Christ. Our representation in them still stands regardless of what it is called — covenant of works or a relationship of childlike faith. Jesus’ life fulfilled all of the law and he demonstrated perfect faith.

Distinguishing faith, works and grace matters when it comes to you and me. God is not pleased when we attempt to satisfy him with works divorced from the gift of faith in His Son.

Just for fun, what does it mean for Jesus and our salvation if we refer to the covenant between God and Adam as a covenant of faith? Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sure that it does any harm. I’m not certain that in Adam’s case his works preclude faith, like it does with us prior to regeneration. Had perfect Adam obeyed, it would have been a demonstration of his faith in God, right? And his righteousness would have been preserved? Besides this, God’s word tells us over and over again that it is faith that pleases him. Does this pleasure in faith only exist after Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden? Had Adam sought God, called out to Him there in the garden, and demonstrated that he believed God over the serpent, it would have pleased God. Adam would have been rewarded for it.

But then you and I would never have an understanding of the grace and mercy of God in His Son. And that’s the whole point of creation, isn’t it?

Perhaps this — understanding the nature of Adam and Eve, their relationship with God, the fall, etc. — is something that cannot be taken apart or disconnected from the foundational truth that God had sovereignly ordained everything regarding life and our salvation before Adam ever took his first breath. As Paul says in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

It’s still fun to think about.

Saving Faith

Future Grace: Chapter 16

Piper begins by explaining that not all “belief” is created equal. John’s Gospel tells us that “many believed in His name” (2:23) because of the signs Jesus performed. John indicates that their belief was deficient in that it was based on seeing Jesus’ miracles. John Piper writes that “one of the reasons that the miracles of Jesus might or might not lead to genuine faith was they they could so easily bolster the love of power and prestige that permeates the sinful heart and makes true faith impossible.” He defends that position with John 5:41-44.

So, what is saving faith?

John Piper uses several verses in John’s Gospel to help define a faith that saves.
1. John 3:19-21 — Saving faith loves the light; it embraces Jesus as precious because the light of Christ is loved and not hated.

2. John 6:35 and John 4:14 and John 7:37-38— Saving faith feeds and drinks from all that Jesus is. “He is the end of our quest for satisfaction.”

Our pastor is preaching through John right now and just recently finished teaching through the feasts Jesus attended, as recorded in John 7. John’s Gospel is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to study it or ask your pastor to preach through it.

3. John 8:45-47 — Saving faith is a free gift of God. Piper writes, “You cannot even hear the Word of God (in a compliant way) if you are not “of God,” that is, not born anew by the free-blowing Spirit of God (John 3:8; 1:12-13). Therefore faith is not a self-wrought work, but a fruit of God’s work in the soul.”

Many years ago, I sincerely struggled with John 1:12-13, particularly the part about our inability to become a child of God due to our own will. I read it over and over again trying to make sense of my experience. I had been taught that my salvation was based on my decision. Well, if that were true, then John 1:12-13 isn’t true. But I know that John 1:12-13 is true. So, what does that mean about my experience and what I’d been taught?

It took hours of studying and reading (nearly a year), but I finally came to the realization that if I have a heart that loves the light, that desires intimacy with Jesus, that hates sin, then, at some point, God gave me His gift of saving faith. I quit worrying about whether or not I was “chosen,” and “when” it happened, and started looking instead at the evidence for it.

I don’t agree with decisional regeneration. We can’t generate faith in ourselves. We can’t just decide that we’re going to believe. Dead men are dead — they can’t do anything for themselves. The spiritually dead can’t make themselves spiritually alive. I think Piper explains it better than I can:

This being drawn to Christ by God also corresponds to being Jesus’ sheep in John 10:27. In John 10:25-28, Jesus says,

I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to Me; but you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.

The most amazing statement here is that we do not become sheep by believing; rather we believe because we are sheep. This is the same as saying “The reason you do not hear [my words] is that you are not of God.” Being “of God” and being a “sheep” are the same, and they are not the result of what we do in believing, but rather the result of what God does to us so that we can believe.

I love this doctrine for two reasons. First, because it places all of the responsibility on God when it comes to salvation. I have a responsibility to share the gospel, but it’s not my responsibility to “close the deal.” Second, this doctrine directs all of the glory to God. It is not at all about anything that I have done nor nothing in or about me, but only what He has done on my behalf. From His foreknowledge to predestination to the gospel call to justification to sanctification and glorification — He performs and guarantees everything. Therefore He alone is worthy of my praise.

Future Grace: Chapter 13

Faith in Future Grace vs. Impatience

This chapter may be my favorite so far. If you’re reading it with me, didn’t you find that God brought to mind many of your prayers? Desires of your heart that only God knows exist? Me, too.

I’m taking a couple of pointers from this chapter. First, no more complaining. I excuse most of my complaining because I do it to (not at) Karl. He’s my sounding board. He’s my burden-bearer. I share with him nearly every thought that passes between these ears.

I also complain to myself a lot. What is the word for that? Dwelling on the negative? Pouting? Self-pity! I think that’s it. Then again, maybe it’s more like mourning. I find myself thinking that the things I’d hoped for should be realized by now. They’re not, so I feel a sense of loss more than one of hope or faith in future grace. As a result, I’ve grown cynical and pessimistic. The fact that I don’t see what I want to see ought to drive me to pray more, to exercise my faith. Rather than complain, I will pray.

Second, I will pray for strength to endure. I don’t want to give in just as the path gets rocky. Piper references several people who were patient in affliction and persecution. I want to be like those men and women. I want to live a life of exemplary faith. That kind of living will require that I meditate on God’s word, I let the Holy Spirit encourage me with His words, and I obey Him when He says, “Be patient,” and “Wait a little longer.”

I see immediate application for this in my parenting. I don’t always see the fruit I want to see and I am tempted to give up. It’s so discouraging sometimes to have to address the same issues over and over again. If I don’t mother my children, who will? God has given this responsibility to me, so there must be some extravagant grace for the task! I need to tap into it. I also remember how God has been so patient with me. With his help, I can persevere and be patient with my children, keep teaching those same life lessons over and over again. God hasn’t left me alone.

In one of my journals, 2 Corinthians 9:8 is written on almost every single page. I was a desperate woman when my babies were all babies at the same time. I was also a happier woman. Maybe one of the reasons I’m more frustrated these days than full of faith is because I’ve forgotten how desperate I am for grace to do what I have to do every day. I’ve put more faith in my schedule or in our curricula or in ____________. Hmm, I have several things to think through.

Well, I’ve rambled long enough. Did a particular area of application come to mind during your reading of this chapter?