Thursday, April 2, 2015

More Grace - introducing Jerry Bridges

I met Jerry Bridges through his books when I joined the IVP book club quite awhile ago and have always been impressed with his skills as a Biblical scholar.  Let me warn you, however, he will challenge you if you care to read any of his most authoritative efforts.  For example - from his book, The Discipline of Grace. which I quote as follows:

"Grace seems to mean freedom from any rules, spontaneous ad unstructured living, and most of all, a God who loves us unconditionally, regardless of our sinful behavior.

Such thinking reflects a misunderstanding of both Grace and discipline.  In fact, if we can see from the epigraph of this chapter.... 'For the Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, it teaches us to say, 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.'  (Titus 2:11-12)... the same Grace that brings salvation to us also disciplines us as believers.  The verse actually reads...'the Grace of God... teaches us'.  The word translated as 'teach', however, means much more than the usual idea we assign to it as imparting knowledge.  Originally, it was used as a term for raising children and included not only instruction, but also admonition, reproof, and punishment, all administered in love and for the benefit of the child.  The Apostle Paul used the same word in Ephesians 6:4 when he charged fathers in the training (that is, the discipline) and instruction of the Lord.

Used as a spiritual sense, discipline includes all instruction, all reproof and correction, and all providentially directed hardships in our lives that are aimed at cultivating spiritual growth ad godly character.  And though in the physical realm, children eventually reach adulthood and are no longer in the discipline of their parents, in the spiritual realm we all remain under God's parental discipline as long as we live.

So we see that the very same Grace that brings salvation also trains us to to live lives that are pleasing to God.  All of God's disciplinary processes are grounded in His Grace - His unmerited and unconditional favor toward us.  We tend to equate discipline with rules and performance standards; God equates it with firm but loving care for our souls."

When I was first beginning to learn about Grace, I was really confused by many of the claims made by those who were in a position to train us.  I knew that I knew that I had been "crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live..." but I had questions about that life I was about to walk out, daily.  It was then that I came to a verse in Hebrews that would become my guide.  "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the Grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many are defiled."  (Hebrew 12:14-15)

To me, we live in a strange age.  For all of the 85+ years of the life I have been privileged to live, I have watched as our own nation, at one time, littered by the steeple of churches that taught "God is love" and our guide to eternal life, that is, life beyond the grave, and now it is not the heathens who are at the source of our myriad of problems.  It is being prompted by the self-styled righteous ones who seem to reject the Biblical admonition I have just quoted - ..",,,pursue peace with all men".

Is it not time for all of us to open the scriptures to the verse that changed my life, forever: Matthew 4:17, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

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