This one word says so much to so many and yet nearly defies an adequate definition. Beyond the definition itself comes a diverse set of understandings of its meaning depending on whom you speak with and what informs their knowledge and experience with the word. Many authors have written books, dissertations, and articles about it. Sermons on the subject abound.
When Jerry Bridges writes about grace, there is no question that the reader will experience a depth of riches to be mined. In Transforming Grace the reader will not be disappointed and will be challenged to examine whether or not he or she has fully embraced the gift it is. The challenge occurs at the outset in the preface when Bridges writes:
“When we think of grace, we almost always think of being saved by grace….But the Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives. It is this important aspect of grace that seems to be so little understood or practiced by Christians.
My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of His grace.”
He continues the challenge and supports his premise through the next thirteen chapters of Transforming Grace. The book also includes a discussion guide at the end of the book that covers each chapter and works well for personal study, but preferably within the context of a small group.
At the foundation of the subject of grace, Bridges makes a point he will refer to throughout the book. The point is that most of us trust Jesus for the grace of salvation as though we declared temporary bankruptcy and now will unconsciously go back to a “works” or “performance” relationship with the Lord in our daily lives. We know we can’t get to heaven through our own efforts, but we can earn favor and blessings by our performance in our daily life thereafter. We can easily slip into living by performance and neglect the truth that we are and were permanently bankrupt.
We are nudged along in this fallacy by the Christian culture that reinforces this idea through what we are admonished to do. We all know the list. It includes regular church attendance, daily quiet times, Bible study, prayer, scripture memorization, witnessing to others, giving to missions, serving in ministry, etc. Bridges supports his premise with how often these very good things become a checklist of how well we are performing for the Lord and the follow-up belief that our “grade” suggests how much we will be blessed.
We lose track of the significant foundational truth about grace that our debt to God has been fully paid when we accept Him and “there is no possibility of going into debt again.” God doesn’t keep a chart to withhold or grant blessings based on our performance and yet many of us ease into living our lives as if we have a “works-plus-grace relationship with Him.”
That line of thinking (works + grace) can delude us into the false idea that we can somehow “obligate God by our obedience or our sacrificial service.”
If you have never read this book or if you have not read it for some time, this book can provide a great compass for the journey into 2018. There is much to digest that will nourish your relationship with the Lord and help you to rest in Him with greater assurance. I could share many quotes, but you will want to delve into this book and mine them for yourself so I will add only one more.
“You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you will ever do will cause Him to love you anymore or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.”
To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.