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The Transforming Power of the Gospel (Growing in Christ) Hardcover – December 22, 2011
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From the Back Cover
In The Transforming Power of the Gospel, you'll be guided through an examination of:
• What the biblical meaning of grace is and how it applies to your life
• How Jesus’ work in His life and death applies to the believer in justification and adoption
• Why basic spiritual disciplines are necessary for spiritual growth
• What role the Holy Spirit plays in both definitive and progressive sanctification
This is Jerry Bridges at his best: honest, biblically grounded, and wanting to help you become more Christlike.
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Jerry goes into detail about the gospel and our need to daily embrace it. We all struggle daily with sin, and it is the daily embrace of the gospel that helps us and motivates us to continue to fight the good fight. We all have to daily wrestle against the flesh. The sin nature doesn't disappear after we commit our lives to Christ. As God's light shines more and more in our heart, we grow in him, but not without struggle. It is in the light of God that we see our sin more clearly.
This book gives us a fuller treatment of the process of sanctification. It helps us understand on a practical level what that really looks like. I especially liked his treatment of the role of the Holy Spirit: balancing our responsibility and maintaining a constant reliance on God for the ability to do good works. He also covers God's providence and how circumstances can help refine us. He ends with a chapter on "the already and the not yet"; meaning that God is continuing his work in us throughout our lives. It reminds me of Phil. 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
The purpose of the book is show the importance of the Gospel in a believer’s sanctification. There will be no true sanctification without the Gospel. The Gospel is both foundational and what motivates Christians to live a holy life. Bridges shares what he has learned in fourteen chapters. The book as a whole can be divided into two parts. The first looks explicitly at the Gospel’s role in transformation while the second part looks at the work of the Spirit and our responsibility relying on the Spirit. In the preface Bridges tells us that what he’s sharing in the book was the result of what he has learned from the last twenty-five years; I’m sure that’s true given the book’s practical wisdom and truths that is mined from the Scripture. In what follows I want to discuss the insights of some of the chapters.
The first chapter got me hooked to the book when Bridges described the process of how he came to discover the power of Gospel-driven holiness. He tells us of how at first he made the mistake of assuming he could live the Christian life by his own moral willpower. But that of course ended in frustration. Then he made the next mistake by taking on a passive approach of spiritual sanctification. In terms more people could understand, Bridges went from the mentality of “Do-It-Yourself” to one of “Let-Go-And-Let-God.” Bridges then discover that the “balance” of both extreme requires the Gospel and he confesses that before his understanding of the Gospel’s role in transformation he thought the Gospel was only for nonbelievers!
After the opening chapter the next chapter covers the subject of holiness which I appreciate a lot. I really benefited from Bridges’ discussion of the two-fold aspect of holiness with one aspect being God’s Transcendent Majesty that describes how set apart God is and the second aspect of God’s holiness being His infinite moral purity. He has a wonderful exposition of Isaiah 6 and how Bridges brings the background context of Isiah 6 is a wonderful example of how historical setting enriches biblical exposition. Following this chapter, chapter three is on the sinfulness of sin and the next chapter is on the great exchange. Here we see classic Biblical Gospel presentation and Bridges presented in a way that is practical and made me love God and the Gospel a little more than before I read it. In keeping with the theme of the book chapter five and six discusses our need for daily embracing of the Gospel and how the Gospel motivates obedience since it stirs within the believer a heart of gratitude. I also appreciated the chapter on dependent responsibility (chapter 9) and the instruments of grace (chapters 10 and 11). I really like the term Bridges coined, “dependent responsibility” and I have started to use that term in my own vocabulary. I was also convicted with Bridges’ discussion about memorizing Scripture and his personal testimony of how this practice of spiritual discipline has helped him in his own fight with sin. I was convicted since this is probably the one discipline I struggle with the most and his own life’s testimony of how memorization of Scripture helps in real life experience made me realize what I was missing out on.
I highly recommend this book. When I was going through this book with a small group one of the brothers pointed out that at times Bridges could be repetitive. I didn’t necessarily think much of that but felt there was some truth to this towards the end of the book. For instance I felt chapter thirteen on “Transformed into His Image” was already discussed elsewhere earlier in the book already and was surprised to see this as a chapter towards the end. But I suppose a little bit of repetition of biblical truths can never hurt. But don’t let that withhold you from reading the book as I highly recommend it.
I want to conclude with two of the closing paragraphs from his book. Bridges writes, "If you commit yourself to the pursuit of Christlikeness, you will discover an increasing tension between your desire to know and do the will of God and your perceived progress in doing it. This increased tension can become discouraging and demotivating. The solution to this dilemma is to keep in mind that, in our standing before God, He sees us clothed in the perfect obedience of Christ. This standing never changes, regardless of whether we are having a good day or a bad day. In Him, we are always holy and blameless. In Him, we are always perfectly righteous as He was in His sinless Humanity.
"This is the way we should resolve the tension between what we desire to be and what we see of ourselves in our daily experience. We should look more at our standing before God in Christ than we do at our actual experience, and that continual looking to who we are in Him will motivate us to become more like Him in our experience. To do this, of course, means we must daily embrace the gospel."