Friday, February 5, 2010

Piper on What to Do with Obedient Disobedience

Obedient Disobedience, Part 3

So after writing the two previous posts (Part 1, Part 2), I opened John Piper's Taste and See devotional, as I've been going through it semi-regularly. The chapter I was on was entitled, "When Your 'Want To' Doesn't Match Your 'Ought To'." This is Piper's take on what to do about obedient disobedience.

If your "want to" does not conform to God's "ought to," what can you do to have peace? I see at least five possible strategies.

1. You can avoid thinking about the "ought to." This is the most common strategy in the world. Most people simply do not devote energy to pondering what they should be doing that they are not doing. It's easier to just keep the radio on.
This is where the world is. This is the kind of thing that goes on (mostly) outside the church. Though this is a problem, this hasn't been my focus.
2. You can reinterpret the "ought to" so that it sounds just like your "want to." This is a little more sophisticated and so not as common. It usually takes a college education to do this with credibility, and a seminary degree to do it with finesse. (And I believe strongly in both college and seminary!)
This also is a common worldly strategy, and it's usually employed by those who do not have a high view of Scripture but want to pat themselves on the back for being 'obedient' to God. Again, though this issue is important, it hasn't been my biggest concern.
3. You can muster the willpower to do a form of the "ought to" even though you don't have the heart of the "want to." This generally looks pretty good, and is often mistaken as virtue, even by those who do it. In fact, there is a whole worldview that says doing "ought to's" without "want to" is the essence of virtue. The problem with this is that Paul said, "God loves a cheerful giver," which puts the merely "ought-to givers" in a precarious position.
This is where those who practice 'obedient disobedience' live most of the time. This strategy is employed by born again, orthodox, conservative evangelical brothers and sisters who love God's Word and have a real desire to see God glorified. But they've been taught, "You just obey your Lord. It doesn't matter how you feel." And Piper's right. That does sound virtuous. Self-denial, doing hard things. It certainly takes a person of... well... strong will... to do that. But this is not Biblical obedience. This is the focus of my previous two posts. A lot of believers -- sound in nearly every other area of doctrine -- find themselves in this category. Examine yourself. Are you in this category? (I was.)
4. You can feel proper remorse that the "want to" is very small and weak - like a mustard seed - and then, if it lies within you, do the "ought to" by the exertion of will, while repenting that the "want to" is weak, and praying that the "want to" will soon be restored. Perhaps it will even be restored in doing the "ought to." This is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy hides one of the two contradictory impulses. Virtue confesses them both in the hope of grace.
This is what I suggested in Part 2. Not having the "want to" doesn't change the "ought to." Yet even as we do the "ought to" we must repent of our sin: that is, that the "want to" isn't there for us.
5. You can seek, by the means of grace, to have God give the "want to" so that when the time comes to do the "ought to," you will "want to." Ultimately, the "want to" is a gift of God. "The mind of the flesh is hostile to God . . . it is not able to submit to the law of God" (Romans 8:7). "The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God . . . because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). "Perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25).

Amen. This is what we need to be doing. And we need to be seeking this gift of God as we practice strategy #4. We obey, confessing as sin our slowness of heart to believe that Jesus is as delightful as He says He is, while pleading with God to give us the gift of a clear vision of Him so that we will "want to."

Piper's conclusion is extremely helpful:

The Biblical doctrine of original sin boils down to this (to borrow from St. Augustine): We are free to do what we like, but we are not free to like what we ought to like. "Through the one man's disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). This is who we are. And yet we know from our own soul and from the Bible that we are accountable for the corruption of our bad "want to's." Indeed, the better you become, the more you feel ashamed of being bad and not just doing bad. As N.P. Williams said, "The ordinary man may feel ashamed of doing wrong: but the saint, endowed with a superior refinement of moral sensibility, and keener powers of introspection, is ashamed of being the kind of man who is liable to do wrong" (First Things, #87, Nov. 1998, p. 24).

God's free and sovereign heart-changing work is our only hope. Therefore we must pray for a new heart. We must pray for the "want to" - "Incline my heart to Your testimonies" (Psalm 119:36). "Make glad the soul of your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul" (Psalm 86:4). He has promised to do it: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). This is the new covenant bought by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 8:8-13; 9:15). "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help [us want to do what we ought to do] in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
May God incline our hearts to Him.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4


Anonymous said...

a shout out to you and your Yankees

Mike Riccardi said...

Thanks brother!


I enjoyed looking over you blog
God bless you

Mike Riccardi said...


Thank you for stopping by and commenting! I appreciate your encouragement very much.

Hope to hear from you again!