I’ve had the opportunity now to read several Jerry Bridges books and I must say that he’s quickly become one of my favorite authors. Author of the classic, The Pursuit of Holiness, and a gifted communicator, he writes about practical theology…how doctrine applies to our daily lives…with a humble and gentle tone.
I recently finished Transforming Grace and found it very refreshing and thought-provoking. It tackles a complex concept in a clear,understandable fashion. The back cover describes the book this way:
Funny how the exceeding riches of God’s grace seem to run out the moment we’re saved. From then on, we tend to base our relationship with Him on our performance rather than on His grace. Of course, God continues to deal with us on the basis of His grace, whether or not we understand it. It’s just that when we don’t, we forgo the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.
The product of more than ten years of Bible study, Transforming Grace is a fountainhead of inspiration and renewal that will show you just how inexhaustible and generous God’s grace really is. You’ll never be able to ask for too much, need too much, hope for too much, or even sin too much. Like a never-ending stream of ocean waves crashing on the shore, His grace “superabounds” toward you without measure.
Dr. Bridges begins by using the analogy of bankruptcy to illustrate our spiritual condition. There are two types of bankruptcy: chapter 11, which is what we would call “temporary” bankruptcy…the type that is chosen by a company who can eventually get back on their feet…and chapter 7, which is for a company that has reached the end of it’s financial rope and has no future. He asserts that most of us have only “filed” chapter 11 when it comes to our spiritual condition. While we recognize that we’re spiritually bankrupt when it comes to salvation, we then subtly and unconsciously revert back to a works relationship with God in our everyday walk, rather than recognizing that even our daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ, not on our own performance. The entire Christian life from start to finish is lived on the basis of God’s grace to us through Christ. He goes on to develop this idea throughout the book, successfully navigating the tension between “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” and depending utterly and completely on God’s grace in everything.
What is grace? It’s “God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment….[it] does not first rescue us from the penalty of our sins, furnish us with some new spiritual abilities, and then leave us on our own to grow in spiritual maturity.” The explanation of our justification is excellent…it means much more than just to be declared “not guilty”.
Bridges writes graciously, with transparency and humility about his own struggles with falling back into a “works based” mentality. He delves into the reasons why we fail to experience grace in our lives as we should, using texts such as the parable of the generous landowner to illustrate our tendency to depend on our own works or merit.
After spending the majority of the book fully developing exactly what grace is and how it applies to us, Bridges addresses how we appropriate this grace. There are four principal means: prayer, His Word, submission to His providential workings in our lives, and the ministry of others. Each of these is explored in depth.
Finally, he discusses the character traits that should be evidenced in our lives, flowing out of experiencing God’s grace. There are five in particular that he focuses on : gratitude, contentment, humility, forbearance, and forgiveness.
The book concludes by reiterating that in order to experience the joy of living by God’s transforming grace, it’s essential to begin and end by recognizing our own spiritual bankruptcy. Bridges exhorts us to “…lay aside any remnant of self-goodness you may think you still have. Admit your total spiritual bankruptcy, and drink deeply from the infinite grace of God. And then in deep awareness of what you have received, extend that same spirit of grace to others.” (p. 254)
Transforming Grace is perfect for personal reading or a group study. The companion study guide provides great questions to use in a group setting.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a truly gracious, insightful, and clearly stated study on what exactly God’s grace is and how it applies to us. For anyone who finds themselves tempted to fall back into the “performance treadmill” (which we all do at times), Transforming Grace is essential reading.
Thanks so much to Navpress for providing review copies of the book and study guide to me.