The Gospel of Justification and Our Productivity – M.Perman

Whats Best Next -PermanOver the past weekend I was able to finish chapter seven of Matt Perman’s book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Zondervan, 2014) – a chapter that in many ways was the most satisfying to me so far. And that because, of all things (that’s how striking it first is), the author takes us to the heart of the gospel to show us how to be productive. Yes, he points us workers to the gospel truth of justification by faith alone! The title of the chapter is “How the Gospel Makes Us Productive”, and it carries the powerful sub-title “The only way to be productive is to realize you don’t have to be productive.” How’s that for motivation for your work today?

As he explains this key thought for chapter seven, Perman gives us the example of William Wilberforce, the British Christian social reformer, who worked to abolish slavery in England, among other things. He informs us that Wilberforce wrote a book in which he sought to influence the moral perspective of the country. But that book was not about motivating people to behave properly by means of humanistic efforts and moral do-goodism. It was rather a book “essentially on doctrine. And, specifically, its focus was on the doctrine of justification by faith alone” (104).

Why would Wilberforce do such a thing? And why would Perman in his own book on being productive (doing good by loving God and the neighbor and serving them from the heart in our lives) motivate us by this gospel truth? Here is his explanation:

It’s because Wilberforce understood that massive practical action for good comes about not first as a result of moral exhortation or appeals to change but rather as a result of understanding and embracing doctrine – most centrally the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In other words, embracing the truth that God accepts us apart from good works is the precise thing that causes us to excel in good works. Or, to put this in the context of productivity (which, as we have seen, is really about living a life of good works – like Wilberforce), the only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be (104).

From there, Perman goes further into an explanation not only of justification by faith alone but also of how that truth properly lies at the foundation of a life of good works. Here is just another small section of text from this part:

The notion that we must obey God in order to be accepted by him results in less moral action, not more, because it results in less love for God. Conversely, realizing that we are wholly and completely accepted by God apart from our works through faith in Christ results in massive and radical action for good because it results in great love and joy for God (109).

And he points us to Jesus’ words in Luke 7:41-43, as well as Titus 3:4-8. We would do well to read and meditate on those passages before heading to work today. And as you head off to the office or the shop or the construction site or stay home to care for the children, ponder your justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Yes, God’s free and amazing grace is our best reason and motivation for serving Him and our neighbor in our labors this day! Go and be productive – because Christ paid your debt and gave you His perfect work as your righteousness before God!

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