Discipline of Grace – Part 1

It’s a double blog kinda day!  Perhaps it’s all the coffee (I just had to make more coffee for my precious wife, lest she soon awake and find that I have in fact drank the first pot…)

I love Jerry Bridges.  I have for quite some time.  (Pursuit of Holiness, Gospel for Real Life, Respectable Sins…).  My in-laws got me “The Discipline of Grace” for Christmas and I haven’t really been able to put it down since. I’m half way through, but this morning’s chapter was a major light bulb moment for me, that I wanted to write down for future use.

In Chapter 6 “Transformed Into His Likeness” Bridges focuses on Sanctification.  The key verse is 2 Cor 3:18 which reads:

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Bridges is focusing on SANCTIFICATION – straight up transformation of people.  God making new people, like only God can do!  I look back on who I was 15 years ago and it is usually a mix of shock, sadness, remorse, anger and eventual wonder of what God has done.  Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the negative – always bring your thoughts to the positive of what God has done and let that amaze you and let it cause you to praise him for Christ and the cross!

Bridges takes us through some great BBW’s (“Big Bible Words”) – first REGENERATION (The Spirit giving us new life  as new creations in Christ); JUSTIFICATION (saved from the penalty of sin) – then he gets to SANCTIFICATION.   As you know I’m a huge fan of BBW’s so I’m positively giddy by this point…

The goal of sanctification is to become like Jesus.  How do we do that? We study his character.  What will it look like if we are progressing in sanctification?

  • We will hate sin.  (In OUR life)
  • We will seek his will more than our own
  • We will seek to please him in our actions more than ourselves
  • We will be aware to test our motives in our hearts because we know God knows whats in there anyway

Always remembering that sanctification is a process, not an event.  Also always remembering that there will be conflict with our remaining sinful nature.  (Gal 5:17) Bridges gave a great illustration of sin being like a defeated army retreating into the hills to wage guerrilla warfare on us. This is the way it is and shouldn’t be a shock.  Also remember that while sanctification is a work of God – we have a responsibility – we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this process.

We will also be aware that as the light of the Holy Spirit shines more brightly in our lives, “smaller” sins we be more clear to us.  Bridges illustrated this as a room with a light on a dimmer, as the dimmer gets turned up, things in the room become more clear – as we grow in sanctification – sins in our hearts will become more clear.

It is vital that we pray daily for God to continue to sanctify us and for us to submit to the Spirit in that work.  (Heb 13:21)

How does God sanctify?

  • First, remember it is the role of the Holy Spirit (see key verse above)
  • Thru trials and adversities, challenges
  • Exhortation and encouragement of fellow believers
  • Scripture
  • Prayer
  • MOST of all – thru JESUS CHRIST

It is vital, critical, paramount (here is the “a-ha moment”) that we appropriate the truth of the gospel BEFORE we get into the mindset of trying to knuckle down and grow in sanctification.  It is the foundation.

Bridges writes “It is the glory of Christ revealed in the gospel, the good news that Jesus died in our place as our representative to free us not only from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion. A clear understanding and appropriation of the gospel, which gives freedom from sin’s guilt and sin’s grip is tin the hands of the Holy Spirit, a chief means of sanctification.”

“To the degree we feel that we are on a legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded. A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt. On the contrary nothing so motivates us to deal with in in our lives as does the understanding and application o the two truths that our sins are  forgiven and the dominion o sin is broken because of our union with Christ.”

“The cleansing of our consciences from the guilt of sin must preceded our efforts to deal with the presence of sin in our daily lives.”

“We cannot serve God or pursue holiness with any vigor at all if we are dealing with a guilty conscience. Therefore we need the gospel to remind us that our sins are forgiven in Christ and that the “blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

This is WHY we preach the gospel to ourselves EVERY DAY.

This is WHY we never move past the gospel.

This is WHY the gospel of Jesus is of first importance and must remain so.

Otherwise we take our eyes off of Him and put them on US – and we then do not grow in the likeness of Christ – we do not stand on the rock solid truth that HE is our righteousness, our forgiveness, our innocence before God and we work FROM that identity, not FOR that identity as he transforms us from one degree of glory to another.

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Respectable Sins

Santa brought me a lot of books. I mean, this is probably my biggest book year ever…my newly assembled bookshelf in my newly redone man cave is getting pretty FULL! This is great for many reasons, but one of them is that it motivates me to finish some of the other books that have been kicking around for a few months in the “half-read” pile.

One of those books is “Respectable Sins”, by Jerry Bridges. I started this book quite a while ago, thought it was great…but somehow never powered thru to the end. Perhaps I was worried I’d be convicted? 🙂

Bridges plows right down the middle of our protected Christian village with a Gospel bulldozer. It’s amazing how we (I) can warp our thoughts and behavior patterns into non-Biblical understandings and yes, that nasty 3 letter word — S-I-N. He calls it for what it really is, and quickly identifies that we have gotten quite good at not doing that ourselves.

The whole idea of sin has virtually disappeared from our culture…and has been softened even within many of our churches, to accommodate modern sensibilities. Indeed, strong biblical words for sin have been excised from our vocabulary. People no longer commit adultery; instead they have an affair. Corporate executives do not steal; they commit fraud.

As we have softened our identification and naming of sin, we have especially softened our view of our sins as Christians, we are experts at pointing out sin in others and especially the world —

but on the whole, we appear to be more concerned with the sins of society than we are with the sins of the saints.

I applauded Bridges later comments that remind us that the

“first priority of the church as a whole is the proclamation of the gospel. Unborn babies do need to be protected, and the biblical standard of marriage does need to be preserved. But above all, people need to be rescued from the power of Satan and brought into the kingdom of God thru Jesus Christ. If we lose sight of the church’s primary calling, then we are in danger of making an idol of our cultural and political initiatives.”

AMEN and AMEN.  Thank you for saying that.

This sets up a fantastic opportunity for a steaming hot bowl of the gospel. God’s plan of salvation thru Christ’s perfect work on the cross is where we need to focus.

First and foremost, the gospel is for sinners. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Most Christians tend to think of the gospel as applicable only to unbelievers who need to be saved.

AMEN! We all need the gospel EVERYDAY. We need to constantly be inspecting our lives, finding sin, identifying it for what it really is, and applying the gospel truths of Christ’s payment for it and the forgiveness we have, and living a life that is constantly striving to kill sin in our lives. Bridges gives a great summary:

  1. Apply the gospel
  2. Depend on the Holy Spirit
  3. Recognize your responsiblity
  4. Identify specific respectable sins
  5. Memorize and apply appropriate scriptures
  6. Cultivate the practice of prayer
  7. Involve one or a few other believers with you

…and as for the list of “respectable” sins that I know you are all waiting for…here is a top level list…

  1. Ungodliness
  2. Anxiety and Frustration
  3. Discontentment
  4. Unthankfulness
  5. Pride
    1. Moral self-righteousness
    2. Pride of correct doctrine (ow, stop.)
    3. Pride of achievement
    4. An independent spirit
  6. Selfishness
    1. Our interests (ow, that hurts, I said stop)
    2. Our time (seriously, Bridges…quit it)
    3. Our money
    4. Inconsiderateness
  7. Lack of self control
    1. Eating and drinking
    2. Temper
    3. Personal finances
    4. TV, hobbies, etc.
  8. Impatience, irritability (again, ow)
  9. Anger
  10. Weeds of anger (resentment, bitterness, etc.)
  11. Judgementalism (giant “ow” here)
    1. Over differing convictions
    2. Over doctrinal disagreement
    3. A critical spirit
  12. Envy, jealousy, and related sins
  13. Sins of the tongue (gossip, slander, etc.)
  14. worldliness (…mostly blending in to the world – do we?)

This book was deeply convicting, as you can see by the “ows” above.  It was a funny coincidence that I read the chapter on “Impatience and Irritability” the morning I took my family into NYC with about a million other tourists, gawkers and people who have lost all ability to walk without stopping in front of me.

Most of all, I loved that Bridges doesn’t give us a list of “22 Steps to Overcome Respectable Sins and Live Your Best Life Now.”  (Dang…does that count under #11 or #13?)

Instead, he applies the GOSPEL to expose these patterns of sinning and warped, unbiblical thinking that we have developed.

Let us fill ourselves up so much with the cross and the gospel that there is no room for sin!  (Thank you, Owen…)

As Bridges says in his closing comments:

We need an increased affection for God that will expel from our hearts our affections for the things of this world

May we all seek that today…especially as we get ready to start a new year!