Book Review: Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

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The book “Transforming Grace” by Jerry Bridges, is rich in Biblical principles on the topic of God’s Grace, reading it has blessed my walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Before reading this book my concept of God’s super abounding Grace was immature to say the least. After reading this book, here are my selected thoughts on the subject to service as a reminder to me of the insight Jerry Bridges has shined into the darkness of my growing understanding of God’s Grace.

 

Gracious and Generous l Compelled by Love

Reverence for God l Justification, Sanctification and Progressive Sanctification

The Built-Up Road l The Smell of Death or Fragrance of Life

Strength Derived from AnotherGarments of Grace

 

Gracious and Generous

The illustration through the authors thoughts about Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20 calling it “The Gracious Landowner” tells us a lot about God gracious nature. Here is an excerpt from the book on the subject:

The eleventh-hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages. They had been standing all day waiting for someone to hire them so they could earn money to support their families. They needed to work more than the landowner needed their work. He hired them, not because of his need, but because of their need…God calls us to serve Him, not because of He needs us, but because we need Him.[1]

God does not keep score to our merits or demerits as believers. He never has and nor will he. We cannot earn more favor or grace from God by merits nor earn less by demerits. Christ paid a high price for us with his blood so we may be reconciled to God in our brokenness and daily spiritual bankruptcy. God is gracious and generous because it is his eternal nature to be so. Here is an example of this type of His nature from the book and Genesis:

But in the midst of Adam and Eve’s sin, God did one more thing “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” -Genesis 3:21 Right in the midst of fulfilling His role as Judge, God took note of Adam and Eve’s need for clothes, and for a little while, He assumed the role of a tailor. [2]

Compelled by Love

Our Love for Christ should be the driving force behind our commitment to serve Him. Charles Hodge wrote that the love of Christ “coerces, or presses, and therefore impels. It is the governing influence which controls the life.” It is not fear of consequences or expectations of reward that motivates Paul. Rather, the love of Christ manifested in dying for him is the driving force of his life. [3]

Reverence For God

I was inspired by the authors thoughts on “Reverence” for God. Here are a few lines about his writing on the topic:

Reverence is a sense of profound awe, respect, and devotion. It is a recognition of God’s intrinsic worthiness, the infinite majesty of his being, and the infinite perfection of His character. Because of who He is and what He is, God is infinitely worthy of my most delight and loving obedience, even if I never receive a single blessing from his hand.[4]

Justification, Sanctification and Progressive Sanctification

               Around a year ago, I was introduced through a Men’s Bible study of Romans to the concepts of justification and sanctification. With the aid of the men in the group and a Warren W. Wiersbe Romans commentary, I was able to wrap my head around the subject.  I was thankful for the authors mentorship on the additional subject of “Progressive Sanctification.” I appreciate they way he has broken it down for us here:

Hebrews 10:10,14 help us see this objective aspect of sanctification – the holiness we have in Christ alone. Verse 10 says, “And by that will [of God], we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Note that we have been made holy. This speaks of a completed work…Verse 14, on the other hand, says, “By one sacrifice he [Christ] had made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” This verse mentions being made holy – the work of the Holy Spirit in progressive sanctification. But this verse also refers to our completed, objective sanctification in Christ when it speaks of those He has made perfect forever. So, in one aspect of sanctification you are already holy because Christ’s holiness is imputed to you. You have been made prefect forever. In another aspect, you are being made holy day by day through the work of the Holy Spirit imparting Christ’s life to you…Holiness should be an objective for your daily life. But to live by grace, you must never, never look to the work of the Holy Spirit in you as the basis of your relationship with God. You must always look outside of yourself to Christ. You will never be holy enough through your own efforts to come before God. You are holy only through Christ.

The Built-Up Road

               On the subject of legalism and lawlessness, I am very thankful for the authors mentorship to provide a simple and practical walkthrough of the whole subject. Below is an illustration from the book I find extremely helpful when outlining his thoughts on the subject:

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When you focus on grace in the fullness of its meaning, you will keep law, liberty, and love in their proper relationship to one another. But if you focus on any one of them instead of grace, you will invariably end up in the swamp of legalism or license.[5]

The Smell of Death or Fragrance of Life

I add a brief concept of this from the author because my wife and I have discussed this idea from our experience sharing our faith with both believers and unbelievers. I believe it sums up our thoughts on the subject excellently:

You share the gospel informally with a neighbor, or perhaps in a more direct fashion when you are engaged in some evangelism program. In each case you are the smell of death or the fragrance of life to those with whom you share.[6]

The authors idea on this topic is to remind us no matter when or how we share, or the response, it is only through God’s grace he gives us any ability to share the Gospel with others. Paul knew this and reminded us of this in 2 Corinthians 3:5 – “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” Paul felt incompetent in God’s service, so if we also do, we are in good company. [7]

Strength Derived from Another

In Isaiah 41:13-16 God promises the nation of Israel the following to be made into a “new threshing instrument” and that the Lord is there to help the nation. I am appreciative how the author breaks it down how the Lord spoke to him through this verse as below:

I sensed God was allowing me to make a personal application, that He would indeed make me into a threshing sledge, a harvesting instrument in His hand. But I also sensed that God required, as a condition of the promise, that I accept the description of “worm Jacob, little Israel,” not in a denigrating sense, but as a realization of my own personal weakness and helplessness.[8]

Dr. Joseph Alexander also summed up his thought on this topic to remind of our “Strength Derived from Another”:

The image presented [of the threshing sledge] is the strange but strong one of a drawn-trodden work reducing hills to powder, the essential idea being that of a weak and helpless object overcoming the most disproportionate obstacles, by strength derived from another.[9]

Garments of Grace

In Col. 3:12-14, Paul tells us “We are to clothe ourselves in Christlike virtues, “Garments of Grace.”” These can only be put on by those who are consciously experiencing God’s grace in their own lives. Grace from God is indeed meant to be transforming (our lives should not look the same as they did before we were believers). This transforming grace of God brings salvation, not only from the guilt and condemnation of sin, but also from the reign of sin in our lives.[10] The author does a masterful job of unpacking five-character traits that are particularly related to grace: Gratitude (p. 241), Contentment (p.244), Humility (p.246), Forbearance (p.249), and Forgiveness (p.251).

Conclusion

I am so thankful God has graciously given me the opportunity and ability to have read through this book by Jerry Bridges. After reading the book, and writhing this review, I am honored to call him a mentor about God’s grace to me. The book is so rich and covers so many more in-depth topics about God’s grace for us, my hope is by reading this short review, you will read the book in its entirety


       

[1] p. 57-58 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[2] p. 59 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[3] p. 97 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[4] p. 101 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[5] p. 161 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[6] p. 195 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[7] p. 196 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[8] p. 201 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[9] p. 201 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges

[10] p. 239-241 – Transforming Grace – Jerry Bridges