Monday, March 7, 2016

Gratitude for the Life of Jerry Bridges and the Full Gospel

Jerry Bridges has passed away. His remarkable life deserves a great deal of praise to God. He was a lifelong servant of the Gospel who served for over 50 years with The Navigators and wrote books that have influenced several generations in understanding both grace and holiness. There is an endless amount of encouragement to be gained from listening to and reading Bridges.

John Piper's tribute to him is here. Justin Taylor has put together at The Gospel Coalition a thorough collection of highlights and links to books and articles from Bridges' ministry. You can see what a tremendous contribution Bridges made to the understanding of the Gospel. And Tim Challies has humbly offered "My Too-Weak Tribute to Jerry Bridges" which, as usual, is excellent. Challies wrote: "Very few authors have shaped me more than he did; very few books have played so important a role in my life and faith." Bridges modeled grace, gentleness, and tenderness.

There is little I can add to such wonderful summaries and tributes. I will simply say that his book The Discipline of Grace has helped me and encouraged me as much as any other book in learning to be free from shame and legalism. If you feel like your efforts as a Christian are never enough, or fear that your shortcomings make your prayers go unanswered, Bridges proves this isn't how God relates to Christians. This is one of the best books you could pick up for encouragement. And if you struggle with understanding what makes it so crucial for us to pursue righteous behavior and purity if God already accepts us because of Christ, this is your book. Once you find confidence in how completely and freely God loves and accepts you because of the Gospel, it will free you up for more effectiveness and productivity than you could imagine.

I summarized some of the main points of the book here last summer. In addition to his books on the free grace of God in the Gospel, Bridges also wrote the classic The Pursuit of Holiness. Some misunderstood that book to be preaching a form of legalism, implying we have to strive hard to keep God's rules in order to be accepted. So he wrote The Discipline of Grace to explain that there was no inconsistency between them, and to demonstrate that our acceptance by God is not based on how successful we are in keeping His rules. It is based instead on God's faithfulness to fully accept all those who trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. Keeping God's commands does not improve or increase our acceptance; it is something we do by faith out of love and respect for God, who already accepts us. You obey your parents because of respect and love for them, not because they become more your parents if you perform better in obedience. The same is true of our Father in Heaven.

Thank you, Lord, for your servant Jerry. May he enjoy the richness of your glory, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of fellow believers who have embraced the Gospel because of his work.

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