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Book Review: The Discipline of Grace

I attended an interview and talk with Tim Challies when he visited Johannesburg, South Africa. In a Q and A session, he was asked what top 3 Christian books he would recommend reading.

#2 on his list of top reads was 'The Discipline of Grace' by Jerry Bridges. (I was relieved - I had read one of his commendations).

‘Preach the gospel to yourself every day,’ is a quote by Jerry Bridges in his book, The Discipline of Grace, which has stuck with me since reading it.

The premise of this book is the simple truth that, ‘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.’

Jerry Bridges clearly addresses the faulty view of the Gospel being only for unbelievers. He reminds us that the Gospel is the basis for both justification and sanctification - what we are declared to be and what we are striving to be.

‘I’ve asked people why they think God would probably not use them to share the gospel with someone on a “bad” day. A typical reply is, “I wouldn’t be worthy,” or “I wouldn’t be good enough.” Such a reply reveals an all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance.’ [Jerry Bridges]

The believer must preach the Gospel to himself every day.

‘To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.” He later says, “This is the gospel by which we were saved, and it is the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives…If you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.’ [Jerry Bridges]

Jerry Bridges has been referred to as a modern day Puritan – this is a good thing – in the sense of finding the right balance between the work of God in man and man’s working out his own salvation and the understanding that doing so leads to joy.

God has called His people to holiness and expects them to be holy and by grace God works in His people to make them holy. He has provided all we need to be holy.

Jerry Bridges shows how grace and discipline are compatible and through his book he creates a desire and motivation, at a heart level in the believer, to be holy.

‘This book is one of balances, which is fitting. After all, writing about sanctification can teeter between legalism on the one hand and unbiblical liberality on the other. But by remaining close to the counsel of Scripture, Bridges seems to have found the middle ground. A balance between God's role and our role in the pursuit of holiness. A balance between the grace of God and the effort of the believer. The balance between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Christian in sanctification.’ [Jared Totten]

Christians are never beyond the reach of grace, nor the need of it.

‘Bridges expertly counters the various arguments many have against grace (i.e. the supposed freedom-to-sin argument, etc.) and against works (i.e. legalism, Pharisaical idealism, works salvation, etc.), and identifies clear teachings from Scripture on the unity of divine grace and personal discipline.’

[Elliot at]

We need this message today. On one hand there is the bondage of legalism, and on the other the bondage of license in the name of grace. We must strive against both by the disciplines of grace that we might be true followers of Christ.

The one helpful illustration Jerry Bridges uses in the book is that of an aeroplane:

On one wing you have the disciplines; on the other is grace. The believer can never have one without the other. Grace enables Christians to work toward holiness, and to be obedient to the Scriptures. Any attempts to do this work in the flesh will meet with sure failure.

Bridges affirms that grace is at work to make us better disciples, thus there are disciplines.

We must apply ourselves to the Word of God, prayer, meditation upon the Word, and seeking to apply the Word. These are the disciplines of grace. We do not do these things in order to be accepted by God. We submit to the disciplines of grace because we have already been accepted by God, and He is active in conforming us to the image of His Son.

The five disciplines addressed in the book are commitment, convictions, choices, watchfulness and adversity.

‘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.’ [Jerry Bridges]

Tim Challies says: 'Few books have challenged me as deeply as The Discipline of Grace. Few have provided so much fodder for meditation and journaling. I would recommend this book to any Christian as I cannot conceive of a believer who will not be edified by Bridges’ clear, pastoral, biblical teaching.'

The Discipline of Grace is an easy, convicting and challenging read. It is a bookshelf or bedside staple and a practical and helpful resource if you desire to grow and be encouraged in your personal Christian walk. It is one of those Christian books that deserve being read more than once.


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