Ten Effects of Seeing God’s Sovereignty

Romans 9 in the Life and Ministry of John Piper

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Ten effects of Romans 9 on my life, and when I say Romans 9, I mean the God of Romans 9: the God of sovereignty, the God of unconditional election, the God who has mercy on whom he wills and hardens whom he wills, the God who does all thing to magnify his glory to the vessels of mercy.

Ten Effects of Romans 9

1. It makes me confident that God’s word will not fail and all the promises of Romans 8 will prove true for me in the worst suffering. That’s his main reason, so I put that first.

2. It makes me stand in awe of God, and leads me into the depth of true God-centered worship. I am burdened because the evangelical church in America is so lighthearted. That’s not the best word to use because it’s not wrong to be lighthearted if your heart is weighted down with great and glorious things.

I just mean there are so many church services where everything has to be funny, everything has to be jokes, everything has to be “Y’all come” kind of a living room atmosphere. There’s never any sense of wonder or weight or massive reverence. That’s just who America is. We’re viewed that way around the world. We are a chipper, funny, light-hearted people. Just turn on the television. It’s all silly.

You offend a lot of people when pick your favorite TV show. I mean, even if you find a show that looks halfway worthwhile, the ads destroy it because the ads are silly. There’s ten advertisements and they all appeal to the most stupid, idiotic ways of living.

Well, I think without the God of Romans 9, I’d be one of those. I was like, “Hey, hey, y’all come! Hey, there, let’s just all have a good time at church!” I mean, we’re going to hell. If the God of Romans 9 exists, it should have a certain effect.

3. It helps protect me from trifling with divine things. That’s almost the same, I suppose, trifling with divine things. I’m just constantly aware that when I read the Bible, I don’t want to joke about it. I don’t want to turn it into a funny little slogan. I’m on Twitter and as I read Twitter, I say, “Do people know that Twitter is their public persona?” That’s what hundreds of people know about you, and it’s just all so funny. “And the Piper is such a dud.”

4. It helps to keep me amazed at my own salvation.

This is needed in the church. John Newton, “Amazing Grace,” he was really amazed that he was saved. You get amazed about a lot of things, and just ask yourself periodically, every few days, “Am I amazed that I am saved? Am I blown away that I am included in the eternal family of the living God in view of all my remaining sin?”

5. It makes me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular God-belittling culture.

In Ezekiel, God says, “Go throughout the city and mark those who groan because of the sins of my people because I’m coming with a sword and I won’t kill those who are groaning” (Ezekiel 9:4). To God, clearly, if he finds you in a culture that has so completely lost its way as to call two homosexual men regularly having sex “marriage,” you need to groan with a lot of compassion and with a lot of conviction because not to groan in this culture means you are blind to the holiness of God. So that helped me.

6. It makes me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish — both globally and personally.

You think about ISIS — beheadings, the possible unification of a radical Muslim world around a caliphate in the Middle East that would get nuclear weapons. Do you ever think about those things? I mean, when you read the book of Revelation, if any of that stuff remotely comes true, it will be like that.

If you don’t have a theology and a God who is unshakeable when everywhere you look, it looks like Christianity is losing. You just look everywhere. If you don’t have a theology that says, “We’re not! He will triumph,” you’re going to be in big trouble.

7. It makes me see everything in the light of God’s sovereign purposes — that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.

So everywhere I look in life — “from him and to him and through him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Nothing is not related to God. Everywhere you look, something is coming from him, moving through him, going back to him. God has not lost control of this world. Everything relates to God, and there’s a way to talk about it from God.

8. It makes me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed, including me.

Sometimes people try to put prayer over against the sovereignty of God and say, “Why pray if God is sovereign?” And I respond by saying, “Why pray if he’s not?” Because you’re asking all the things that I care about God doing, he doesn’t have a right to do if you believe in absolute free will, and by absolute free will, I mean you have ultimate self-determination. If you have ultimate self-determination, and that’s what it means to have free will — ultimate self-determination — God has no right to intrude on you at all and change you. You call the last shot. So why pray?

But if you believe that God has the right to break into any one of your lives, overcome your will, make you his, take out the heart of stone, put in the heart of flesh, cause you to walk in his statutes, then you pray.

You’ve got people you’ve been praying for for decades who are not believers and you’re frightened that they may not be elected. You’re frightened that they might go to their grave unbelieving. I do, and there’s no hope if God is not sovereign for those people.

If there’s any hope for the most hard sinner you care about, if there is any hope that that person will be saved, it’s this, God can save them. God can just stop them in their tracks, take out the heart that’s been rebelling for fifty years, and put back in a new heart. He can do that, which is why we pray.

9. It reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.

This is one of the most liberating things in evangelism. On the one hand, you know, I can’t save anybody. I can’t make a person stop trusting himself or loving his sin. I can’t do it. God has to do it. Then you know they’re born again through the living and abiding Word, and you say, “My job is witness. My job is witness. I don’t save anybody.” God Almighty saves, and he can save, and He chooses to use witness.

So let’s go to the nations. Let’s go to the unreached peoples of the world.

All the first-generation, new, modern missionaries were people who loved the Reformed faith, who loved the sovereignty of God. They all believed God can take India anytime he wants for himself. That’s what William Carey believed. That’s what David Livingstone believes, what John Patton believes, what Hudson Taylor believed, even though he was a Keswick-type Christian. You don’t even know who that is. It doesn’t matter. One more. So I’m saying world missions will succeed, and we should be about it.

10. It makes me sure that God will triumph in the end. And that’s important for hope in these days.