I’m joining in the “Reading Classics Together” at Challies‘ place for the first time. I’ve always liked the idea: a group of people reads a chapter of a book a week and discusses it. But this is the first time the title they are discussing appealed enough to me for me to jump in.
The Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges attracted me for a couple of reasons. I’ve heard Bridges favorably mentioned and recommended for years but just have never gotten to one of his books. And the title of this one seemed to explore what I was pondering in a post a while back, Of grace, law, commandments, rules, and effort (who knew someone had already written a book about it? 🙂 ) As I said there, people often seem to go too far one way or the other, either emphasizing grace to the point of having a laid-back attitude toward sin and obedience and even accusing those who emphasize obedience of legalism (I’ve seen this so many times in online discussions), or emphasizing obedience so much that they get caught up in their own performance and think they have to earn favor with God.
The first chapter, “How Good Is Good Enough?” deals with those two sides and illustrates them by contrasting two days, a good one where we’ve done pretty well by our standards, and a bad one where we failed at the starting block and can’t seem to get back on track all day. Bridges emphasizes that we can never earn God’s grace — by its very nature grace is undeserved, and though God wants us to obey (by His grace), even if we do, it’s only by His grace. He also emphasizes that depending on God’s grace every day doesn’t negate the need for vigorous personal effort in the pursuit of holiness.
Here are just a few quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
The pursuit of holiness requires sustained and vigorous effort. It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez faire attitude toward even the smallest sins. In short, it demands the highest priority in the life of a Christian, because to be holy is to be like Christ — God’s goal for every Christian (p. 12).
When we pray to God for His blessing, He does not examine our performance to see if we are worthy. Rather, He looks to see if we are trusting in the merit of His Son as our only hope for securing His blessing (p. 19).
It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship (p. 21).
And my favorite:
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace (p, 19).
More discussion on this chapter is here.