Matt Perman says this is his favorite John Piper sermon. I would agree with him. And, in light of what I posted yesterday, I say this not because it is John Piper preaching it, but rather because it gets me thinking about God’s grace — his sovereign grace, as Piper puts it – and how wonderful it is. I love the examples Piper uses in this sermon, but we could all come up with other great examples of God’s grace in our lives. Here are four good points to take away from it:
Now therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning this city of which you say, “It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence,” “Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.” For thus says the Lord, “Just as I brought all this great disaster on this people, so I am going to bring on them all the good that I am promising them.”
Four Promises of Sovereign, Sustaining Grace
Notice four promises of sovereign, sustaining grace.
1. God Will Be Our God
God promises to be our God. Verse 38: “They will be my people and I will be their God.” All the promises to his people are summed up in this: “I will be your God.” That is, I will use all that I am as God—all my wisdom, all my power, and all my love—to see to it that you remain my people. All that I am as God, I exert for your good.
2. God Promises to Change Our Hearts
God promises to change our hearts and cause us to love and fear him. Verse 39: “I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me always . . . (v. 40b) I will put the fear of me in their hearts.” In other words, God will not simply stand by to see if we, by our own powers, will fear him; he will sovereignly, supremely, mercifully give us the heart that we need to have, and give us the faith and the fear of God that will lead us home to heaven. This is sovereign, sustaining grace. (See Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:27.)
3. God Promises We Will Not Turn Away from Him
God promises that he will not turn away from us and we will not turn away from him. Verse 40: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” In other words, his heart work is so powerful that he guarantees we will not turn from him. This is what’s new about the new covenant: God promises to fulfill by his power the conditions that we have to meet. We must fear him and love him and trust him. And he says, I will see to that. I will “put the fear of me in their hearts”—not to see what they will do with it, but in such a way that “they will not turn from me.” This is sovereign, sustaining grace.
4. God Promises to Do This with Infinite Intensity
Finally, God promises to do this with the greatest intensity imaginable. He expresses this in two ways, one at the beginning and one at the end of verse 41: “And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.” First he says that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace with joy: “I will rejoice over them to do them good.” Then he says (at the end of verse 41) that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace “with all [his] heart and withall [his] soul.”