Motivation for obedience to Christ: gratitude?

I hadn’t thought about this book for awhile, but it has recently been translated into Russian and was for sale at the recent women’s retreat in Kyiv: Future Grace by John Piper.

I remember being struck by something written in the introduction — 13 years ago — because it challenged what I thought had been a pretty clear concept in my mind: Is gratitude the proper motivation for obedience to Christ. I had been teaching our children that they just needed to remember what Christ had done for them, and to be thankful. And to behave as if they understood what price had been paid for them. Simple gratitude for what Christ had done for them. Isn’t that motivation enough?

Piper wrote in his introduction that wrong living was caused by wrong thinking. And he specifically addressed the the place of gratitude in motivation:

“For example, one of the main claims of this book is that the Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude. Yet this is almost universally presented in the church as the ‘driving force in authentic Christian living.’ I agree that gratitude is a beautiful and utterly indispensable Christian affection. No one is saved, who doesn’t have it. But you will search the Bible in vain for explicit connections between gratitude and obedience. If, as I will try to show in Chapters One and Two, gratitude was never designed as the primary motivation for radical Christian obedience, perhaps that is one reason so many efforts at holiness abort. Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform? That conviction is one of the main driving forces behind this book.”

That paragraph grabbed my attention, and the next ones kept me reading: Unmerited, conditional grace! He writes, “I have also found that some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to many contemporary Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.” He doesn’t deny unconditional grace, but points out several instances of conditional grace…something we don’t talk about too often these days.

I think I’ll be rereading this book.

And posting some food for thought from time to time.



  1. This book is definitely one of Piper’s most challenging. Looking forward to your insights.

    BTW, my theology study group is reading “The Peacemaker.” Your recent situation reminded me how much we all need to know how to graciously deal with conflict to the glory of God. It’s hard (and often painful) work!

  2. Lisa: Amen to your words about graciously dealing with conflict.

    I’m intrigued with the thought of a “theology study group.” Are you taking classes at a seminary?

    And, yeah, we read Piper’s book when it first came out — and are now rereading it. I’m not sure that I even knew what I was reading last time — or, at the very least, I am now reading it with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what is there.

  3. I am a seminary graduate, but this is something completely different. I’m a member of a church plant. From the very beginning our pastor challenged us to meet every Tuesday morning at 7:00 at Bojangles (Southern greasy joint) for a theology breakfast. Grab a biscuit with one hand and Calvin’s Institutes with the other! We’ve read Calvin, Piper, Bridges, Stott (others I can’t remember), and we’re about to jump into Wayne Grudem’s theology text. I have learned a ton through our great discussions.

  4. We’re reading “Future Grace” right now with the girls in our church and discussing a section each week. The intro passage that you posted really struck me also as I read it and all I can say is this book makes me joyful. The more I know how great and sovereign our Lord is the more I want to trust him and depend on him. I had a shot at that today as I went under an unplanned root canal and was pretty confused at everything that was going on. Anyways – Great book – can’t wait to get to the chapters on fighting despondency. BTW – I’m still figuring out what the fourth folder of my pictures are.
    We’ll see

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