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My friend had just learned that the artificial hip he had received eleven years earlier needed to be replaced. The previous month, he had had angioplasty to open a clogged artery to his heart. Along with all this, he suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Signs of old age? Not at all. My friend is only fifty-six years old.
A few years ago psychiatrist Scott Peck began one of his books with a three-word sentence: "Life is difficult." He was right. We live in a sin-cursed world ravaged not only by the forces of nature and disease, but even more so by people's sinful actions toward one another. No one is exempt. If you're not experiencing some form of heartache or difficulty at this time, cheer up-it will surely come sooner or later! Even as I have been trying to write this chapter, I've been going through a series of nettlesome and discouraging setbacks. And I've gotten down on myself because "Christians aren't supposed to get discouraged."
Sometimes it seems that circumstances are even worse for Christians. In addition to all the frustrations and heartaches of life common to everyone, we have an enemy-the Devil-who "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Even in our success we feel tension. A ministry colleague recently confessed that he felt overwhelmed and anxious even in the midst of a fruitful ministry.
Underlying all the other problems we face, however, is the greatest problem of all-our sin. Not the sins of other people against us, as painful as those may be, but our own sin against God. Sin brings with it a sense of guilt, condemnation, and alienation from God. As one dear Christian woman expressed it, "I know God loves me, but sometimes I wonder if He likes me."
What was she saying? How can God love her and not like her? She was saying, "I know God loves me and sent His Son to die for me, but because of my repeated sins and shortcomings, I feel His displeasure toward me." And yet this woman has spent her adult life in full-time Christian ministry and is an outstanding committed Christian. She is not alone in her feelings. Church historian Richard Lovelace has written that many Christians "below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure ... [and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience."
Why is this true? Why do so many believers, including those deeply serious about their Christian commitment, live lives of quiet desperation? One answer is that we have a truncated view of the gospel, tending to see it only as a door we walk through to become a Christian. In this view, the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once you become a Christian, you don't need it anymore except to share with people who are still outside the door. What you need to hear instead are the challenges and how-tos of discipleship.
Another reason for our quiet desperation is that many people have a utilitarian view of the gospel. What can the gospel do for me? Some want only the proverbial "fire insurance"-they want the good life now and the good life hereafter. Others are looking for a solution to their problems or a way to a more successful life. This view is aptly illustrated in a breezy church flyer that advertised:
At Valley Church, you
• meet new friends and neighbors
• hear positive, practical messages that uplift you each
• How to feel good about yourself
• How to overcome depression
• How to have a full and successful life
• Learning to handle your money without it handling
• The secrets of successful family living
• How to overcome stress
This utilitarian view of the gospel is not an isolated instance. A flyer with similar wording was put in my own front door recently.
So, between the challenges of discipleship on one hand and the utilitarian view of the gospel on the other, we fail to see the gospel as the solution to our greatest problem-our guilt, condemnation, and alienation from God. Beyond that, we fail to see it as the basis of our day-to-day acceptance with Him. As a result, many believers live in spiritual poverty.
Some years ago our pastor told an unusual story about a Southern plantation owner who left a $50,000 inheritance to a former slave who had served him faithfully all his life. That was quite a sum of money in those days-perhaps equivalent to half a million dollars today. The lawyer for the estate duly notified the old man of his inheritance and told him that the money had been deposited for him at the local bank. Weeks went by, and the former slave never called for any of his inheritance. Finally, the banker called him in and told him again that he had $50,000 available to draw on at any time. The old man replied, "Sir, do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?" Not having handled money most of his life, this former slave had no comprehension of his wealth. As a result, he was asking for fifty cents when he could easily have had much, much more.
That story illustrates the plight of many Christians today. The apostle Paul wrote of preaching "to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Paul was not referring to financial wealth but to the glorious truths of the gospel. To use the figures from the former slave's story, Paul was saying that each of us has $50,000 available to us in the gospel. Yet most of us are hoping we can squeeze out fifty cents' worth. Why is this true? The answer is that we don't understand the riches of the gospel any more than the former slave understood the riches of $50,000.
I grew up in an era and a section of the United States where the realities of heaven and hell were regularly preached. There was no doubt in my mind that there was a hell to shun and a heaven to gain. When finally as a teenager I did trust Christ, my sole objective was just that-to escape hell and go to heaven when I died. Now that, in itself, is of inestimable value, and I wouldn't for a moment minimize the infinite contrast between eternity in heaven and in hell. But that is only part of the gospel. It does not address our relationship with God today.
In our present age, the issue of heaven and hell is irrelevant to most people. Among university students, for example, the open nerve is relationships. The student has had a rotten relationship with his dad and now doesn't get along too well with his roommate. Middle-class working people are concerned about the issues addressed in the church flyer mentioned earlier. The issue of relationships is certainly important, and even some of the subjects on the church flyer are worthy of our attention. But these topics do not begin to explore the "unsearchable riches" Paul was writing about. Paul would probably look at us today and say that we're asking for fifty cents or perhaps a couple of dollars when we have $50,000 in the bank. And he would say that this is because we really don't understand the gospel.
The reality of present-day Christendom is that most professing Christians actually know very little of the gospel, let alone understand its implications for their day-to-day lives. My perception is that most of them know just enough gospel to get inside the door of the kingdom. They know nothing of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
So what do we do and where do we begin to grasp a workable understanding of the gospel? That's what this book is intended to address. The word gospel means, essentially, "good news." And it is specifically good news about our relationship with God. We all like to receive good news, especially if it addresses some bad news we've just received. If you've just been told that you have cancer, for example, it's good news when the doctor tells you that it is a type that readily responds to treatment.
The gospel is like that. It is the good news that directly addresses the ultimate bad news of our lives. The Bible tells us that we were in deep trouble with God, that we were unrighteous and ungodly. And then it tells us that God's wrath is revealed from heaven "against all the godlessness and wickedness of men." In fact, it tells us that we were by nature objects of God's wrath (see Romans 1:18; 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:3).
Think of that! When you came into the world as a baby, before you had ever done anything bad, you were an object of God's wrath. We'll find out later why that is true. But for now, that is the bad news.
We are familiar with the well-worn good news/bad news jokes. The bad news comes last, and it's always worse than the good news. But the Bible reverses this sequence. It tells us the bad news that we are in trouble with God, and then it tells us the good news that God has provided a solution that far surpasses our problem. Three times in his letters the apostle Paul paints a grim picture of bad news about us, and then each time he says "but." In effect, he is saying, "Here is the bad news, but here is the Good News as well." And in Paul's message, the Good News always outweighs the bad news.
Take just one of these instances, in Ephesians 2:1-9. After telling us that we were, by nature, objects of wrath, Paul says, but now "God, who is rich in mercy," has actually "raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms." That is surely a dust-to-glory story. What could be a greater contrast than an object of God's wrath seated with His Son in a position of glory?
This good news doesn't begin when we die. It certainly does address that issue, but it also tells us that there is good news for us now. We don't have to feel guilt-ridden and insecure in our relationship with God. We don't have to wonder if He likes us. We can begin each day with the deeply encouraging realization that I am accepted by God, not on the basis of my personal performance, but on the basis of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. We will seek to uncover the depth of meaning in that statement as we work through the coming chapters.
Think again of the story of the former slave. Suppose at the time of coming into his inheritance that he was not only poverty-stricken but also deep in debt for back rent. With his inheritance, he could not only pay off his debt but he could also buy the house. His inheritance far surpasses his debt.
This is the truth of the gospel. We owe an enormous spiritual debt to God-a debt we can't begin to pay. There is no way we can make it good. The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ paid our debt, but it also tells us far more. It tells us that we are no longer enemies and objects of His wrath. We are now His sons and daughters, heirs with Jesus Christ of all His unsearchable riches. This is the good news of the gospel.
Why did the apostle Paul develop at such length the bad news of our situation? We can't begin to appreciate the good news of the gospel until we see our deep need. Most people, even people who have already become believers, have never given much thought to how desperate our condition is outside of Christ. Few people ever think about the dreadful implications of being under the wrath of God. And most of all, none of us even begins to realize how truly sinful we are.
Jesus once told a story about a king's servant who owed his master ten thousand talents (see Matthew 18:21-35). One talent was equal to about twenty years' wages for a working man. Ten thousand talents then would have been around two hundred thousand years' wages-an amount so huge it would have been impossible to pay.
Why would Jesus use such an unrealistically large amount when He knew that in real life it would have been impossible for a king's servant to accumulate such a debt? Jesus was fond of using hyperbole to make His point. In the context of the story, that immense sum represents a spiritual debt that every one of us owes to God. It is the debt of our sins. And, for each of us, it is a staggering amount. There is no way we can pay it.
This is what the gospel is all about. Jesus paid our debt to the full. But He did far more than relieve us of debt. He also purchased for us an eternal inheritance worth infinitely more than the $50,000 the ex-slave inherited. That's why Paul wrote of the "unsearchable riches of Christ." And God wants us to enjoy those unsearchable riches in the here and now, even in the midst of difficult and discouraging circumstances.
The purpose of this book is to explore those unsearchable riches. To appreciate them, however, we need to look briefly at our sinful condition. Though we live in a time when people don't like to talk about sin, only those who understand to some degree the enormity of their spiritual debt can begin to appreciate what Christ did for them at the cross. Without some heartfelt conviction of our sin, we can have no serious feeling of personal interest in the gospel. What's more, this conviction should actually grow throughout our Christian lives. In fact, one sign of spiritual growth is an increased awareness of our sinfulness.
One of the older writers on the subject of the gospel wrote,
"The best preparation for the study of this doctrine [that is, of the truth of the gospel] is-neither great intellectual ability nor much scholastic learning-but a conscience impressed with a sense of our actual condition as sinners in the sight of God."
In the next chapter we will look at our sinful condition so as to better prepare us to explore those unsearchable riches we have in Christ.
Excerpted from THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE by JERRY BRIDGES Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Bridges
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 27, 2011
Technically this is the third book I've read from Dr. Jerry Bridges. Based on the two previous books I read, I feel he is a very good author who is underappreciated within Christian circles. I really enjoyed reading The Discipline of Grace, especially and with the theme of that book I wondered what differences this book would have from his other books? Well after reading this book I have to say there are certainly some similarities of the two, but there are a few extra features. If you don't know what I mean, I guess the best way to describe Dr. Bridges' writing style is that with each book he tries to tie in previous books while introducing something new at the same time.
Like The Discipline of Grace, Dr. Bridges' The Gospel For Real Life has the gospel centered as a chunk of its theme, only this seemed to be a book less complicated in theological discussion as well as having the basic gospel message as being the primary theme for this rather than being complimentary like in The Discipline of Grace. Now this book specifically goes over most of what an outsider of the faith or someone who is new to Christianity, should or ought to know. I feel this is a very good book which at times has a bit of humor, but is quite theologically educational and isn't too long of a read. There is also a study guide included in this edition and I think this would be helpful for those who like to have Bible Study discussions; especially if you decide to lend this to an outsider of the faith. I highly recommend this book to anyone including someone who is not a Christian.
Disclaimer: Ben Umnus was given a free copy of this book by NavPress Publishers, but he was neither paid for his review nor was he commanded by NavPress Publishers to write a positive review. This review is the personal, written opinion of Ben Umnus.
Posted June 27, 2011
Since reading this book several months ago, I have been utilizing its information, chapter by chapter, in my church's basketball ministry which seeks to evangelize non-believers and edify believers. The Gospel, of course, is the only teaching necessary to bring lost sheep to the fold. But for a believer who has lost sight over time of what it means to find joy in his salvation, preaching the Gospel to himself is perhaps the healthiest of all spiritual activities, for it keeps the goodness of Christ's work at the forefront of the mind. Each week I meet with the men on the bleachers of our gymnasium, I share with them a new angle of the Gospel to consider (from Bridges' book), and each week I come away refreshed, having mulled over the same truths myself.
So far, we have discussed together the unsearchable riches that we believers have found in Christ (and have hopefully brought to the forefront of the unbelievers' minds), the purpose of the cross, the amazing joy Christ found in obedience, the justice of God, and the wrath of God. The issues Jerry has collected in this volume are worth every minute a Christian may spend reviewing them. Far too often, Christians get stuck in the following mindset, completely ignoring the work Christ did in their own lives: they view the Gospel as a door through which they entered in order to get into Christianity, and it is therefore something they need no bother with anymore. But, Friend, this is so not the case! Bridges makes the truth of Scripture clear that when I accepted Christ Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I did not enter Christianity, but He entered my own heart and life! Revelation 3:20 brings this truth light, and thankfully so. I can thus view the Gospel as something passed---one and done. I can view it as perpetually present, constantly cleansing me and keeping me in the right standing (I don't deserve) before an eternally holy Father.
I have enjoyed tremendously the opportunity to share the lessons of this book with others. While I certainly need to "water down" a bit the writing style of Bridges to fit my crowd---he tends to write more to long-time believers than to new or non-believers---I gladly do so for the opportunity to emphasize the eternal blessings the Gospel perpetually offers. I thank God for another excellent work by Jerry Bridges, and I encourage anyone craving a return to the joy of his salvation to pick up a copy for himself.
Posted May 23, 2011
This is the perfect book for getting a clear understanding of the Gospel. It explains in great detail the meaning of what Jesus did on the cross... why He died, what He accomplished, and why we need to accept what He did for us. The author states "We cannot begin to understand the true significance of the cross unless we understand something of the holiness of God and the depth of our sin." After reading this book, you will have a greater knowledge of God and His holiness along with the realization that "We bring nothing to our salvation except our sin that made it necessary." Only one chapter I had a trouble with... the chapter on Faith. And he even points out that you may disagree. He says faith is a GIFT from God and that God makes us spiritually 'alive'... so that we may then believe. Sounds like predestination to me... not free will. He explains his belief of this in great detail and yet I still don't agree. I'm sure I will look into it further. That being said, it is only one chapter that I take issue with and it by no means takes away from the mass of great information in this book. You may agree with his view on the subject. This book was very well written. I began to underline the parts that I wanted to remember or even quote in my review... but there were so many good points, I would have underlined or shared most of the book! Jesus said to go and preach the Gospel. But how many of us have a full understanding of the Gospel ourselves? I thought I knew until the question was put directly to me and I realized how difficult it was to share with someone else. I began to ask myself "What is the Gospel? What do I tell people when they ask?" Then I set out on a quest to find out. I'm so glad I had the chance to read this book for review. If you want to share more than "Jesus, loves you", then you need to read this book! Plain and simple. *I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ~Thanks NavPress! :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2011
Posted May 6, 2011
"The Gospel for Real Life" by 'Jerry Bridges' from NavPress is a fantastic book on the subject of Gospel. The clarity with which the subject has been handled makes this book special. Jerry Bridges is an experienced Bible teacher and a member of the Navigator Collegiate Ministry Group. Initially Jerry claims that this book is not meant to be theological treatise but intends to be 'Gospel 101'. However, I would say that "The Gospel for Real Life" is a theological treatise in its own flair. The greatest attraction in this book has been the lucid writing style of Jerry. I finished this book in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed reading the same. The message was absolutely unambiguous and easy to comprehend.
In a sense, this book is about the unsearchable riches of Christ. The significance of the cross, the pleasure of obedience, justice and reconciliation, the gift of God, sanctification and the right standing with God have been explained to the readers in a compelling way. More importantly, the book also contains eight weeks of bible study contents suitable for group study.
The content is uplifting and accurate to hit our senses; and they continue to evoke and flood out our hearts. Jerry has written this book in a non - jargony style without using any complex language. It makes even a young believer to absorb the incredible truths of the Gospel with ease. I believe that this book will be enjoyed by both new believers and mature and grown Christians alike.
I would give this one five out of five stars.
Please note that I received this book from NavPress Publishers through its book review bloggers program in exchange for an honest review. Also be informed that the opinions I have expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
Posted May 5, 2011
The author sums up the entire book right at the beginning with this comment: "All of us, regardless of how long we have known Christ, need to bathe ourselves in the gospel every day. I pray this book will help us do that." And I think he definitely succeeds in his goal with this fantastic little book. The Gospel for Real Life is neither long, nor complicated, nor full of big words. It's a simple, straightforward preaching of the gospel. It covers every aspect of believing in Christ, from why we would want to be followers to what Jesus did on the cross for us, to reconciliation to God to the Great Commission. And everything in between.
This is the kind of book that I need to keep on my nightstand and constantly be reading through, so that I keep my mind on the importance of the gospel in my every day life. I think it's easy for us as believers to forget the depths of our need and the enormity of what Jesus did for us. Daily life gets busy and we get caught up in the little things. But this book helped me focus on the gospel and be thinking during my day about what it all means for my life. As I said earlier, the book isn't complicated and the chapters aren't long, so it's easy to read through one or two chapters at a time. Although brief, each chapter is full of simply presented truth, good examples, and lots of Bible verses.
In addition to the 16 short chapter in The Gospel for Real Life, there's also a nice guide at the back for individual or group study. If you're looking for an excellent book for your devotion or Bible study, I highly recommend considering this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted April 26, 2011
Do you ever find yourself feeling complacent when you hear the Gospel and wish you could restore the freshness of its meaning? Or maybe you are a new believer trying to grasp the significance of the cross? Whether you are a new believer or an experienced one, in The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross.Every Day, Jerry Bridges explains how the Gospel applies to your life every single day. The author first starts with the bad news. If you thought you weren't that bad of a sinner or that you don't sin every single day, the author is quick to prove you wrong. It is against the backdrop of understanding the depth of your sin and then the awareness of the vast contrast with the holiness of God that you can fully understand the meaning and significance of the cross. The author illuminated this point in such a way to cause me to question myself - I knew my good deeds would not save me, but am I now trusting in them somehow to make myself more acceptable? Then the author delivers the good news. The Gospel DOES result in forgiveness and eternal life, but it also includes the inheritance you can currently grasp right here on earth. God wants you to enjoy His "unsearchable riches," in the middle of life and all its difficulties. The benefits of the Gospel are available not just in your initial salvation but in your day-to-day acceptance of it throughout life. Intimidating theological terms (propitiation, expiation, progressive sanctification, etc.) are explained without feeling like a systematic theology primer. He uses common life illustrations to help the reader grasp the full meaning. He goes further to display the importance of the concepts of these terms and how they are about living out your faith, not just knowledge you hold in your head. The book concludes with how you become the person you are becoming and your calling to share the Gospel with others. The study guide at the back would be great for either personal Bible study or small groups with much opportunity for discussion and application. I loved this book immensely! It enriched the meaning of the cross for me and pushed me to think hard about my faith and the Holy Spirit's work in me. Even more, I learned how I have failed to grasp all that I am entitled to through Christ and am opening my eyes to what it means to become partakers and beneficiaries of all He did in both His life and death. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 23, 2011
Author Jerry Bridges does something very special in this book. He takes sometimes very complex thinking and distils it into very simple language. Illustrated by practical examples, he talks very ably about reconciliation, assurance, sanctification and mercy by way of teaching us real truths about the unsearchable riches of Christ.
I found this a challenging read in the sense that it asked hard questions of the reader, but an enjoyable read in the way that truths were illustrated with examples, the Bible was expounded and the Saviour commended. This is not a book either that is detached from current times. Examples are drawn from modern times, confronting modern thinking, current standards and the church's place in the world as a beacon of hope and uprightness.
I enjoyed a section that highlighted particularly God's provision, protection, encouragement, comfort and discipline. We often forget God's almighty hand and forget sincere praise and thanks in our regular petitions. This is a great book about the great challenge of the Gospel in confronting us with the realities of our lives and of the eternity to come. I would recommend the study guide published as part of this publication - it is excellent for bible study groups to look at the book and the source Scriptures in more detail. This is a book I will share with others.
Posted May 15, 2011
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Posted June 12, 2011
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