Funny how the exceeding riches of God's grace seem to run out the moment we're saved. From then on, we tend to base our relationship with Him on our performance rather than on His grace. Of course, God continues to deal with us on the basis of His grace, whether or not we understand it. It's just that when we don't, we forgo the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.
The product of more than ten years of Bible study, Transforming Grace is a fountainhead of inspiration and renewal that will show you just how inexhaustible and generous God's grace really is. You'll never be able to ask for too much, need too much, hope for too much, or even sin too much. Like a never-ending stream of ocean waves crashing on the shore, His grace "superabounds" toward you without measure.
About the Author:
Dr. Jerry Bridges is the best-selling author of such books as The Pursuit of Holiness, Trusting God, and The Practice of Godliness. Jerry is on staff with The Navigators' collegiate ministry
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About the Author
Jerry Bridges was a well-known Christian writer and speaker. His numerous books have sold over 3.5 million copies. He served on the staff of The Navigators for more than sixty years before his death in 2016. Jerry leaves behind his wife, Jane; two children; and seven grandchildren.
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THE PERFORMANCE TREADMILL
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Bankrupt! The word has a dreadful ring to it. In fact, it is more than a word, it's an expression. It means failure, insolvency, inability to pay one's debts, perhaps financial ruin. Even in our lax and permissive society, being bankrupt still conveys some degree of disgrace and shame. Can you imagine a boy bragging to his buddies that his father has just declared bankruptcy?
In the moral realm, the word bankrupt has an even more disparaging connotation. To say a person is morally bankrupt is to say he or she is completely devoid of any decent moral qualities. It is like comparing that person to Adolph Hitler. It is just about the worst thing you can say about a person.
Now, you may have never thought of it this way, but you are bankrupt. I'm not referring to your financial condition or your moral qualities. You may be financially as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar and the most upstanding person in your community, but you are still bankrupt. So am I.
You and I and every person in the world are spiritually bankrupt. In fact, every person who has ever lived, except for Jesus Christ — regardless of his or her moral or religious state — has been spiritually bankrupt. Listen to this declaration of our bankruptcy from the pen of the apostle Paul:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
No one righteous, no one who seeks God, no one who does good, not even one. This is spiritual bankruptcy in its most absolute state. Usually in a bankrupt business, the company still has a few assets that can be sold to partially pay its debts. But we had no assets, nothing we could hand over to God as partial payment of our debt. Even "our righteous acts are like filthy rags" in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). We were spiritually destitute. We owed a debt we could not pay.
Then we learned salvation is a gift from God; it is entirely by grace through faith — not by works, so that no one can boast (see Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). We renounced confidence in any supposed righteousness of our own and turned in faith to Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. In that act we essentially declared spiritual bankruptcy.
But what kind of bankruptcy did we declare? In the business world, financially troubled companies forced into bankruptcy have two options, popularly known as chapter 7 and chapter 11, after the respective chapters in the federal bankruptcy code. Chapter 11 deals with what we could call a temporary bankruptcy. This option is chosen by a basically healthy company that, given time, can work through its financial problems.
Chapter 7 is for a company that has reached the end of its financial rope. It is not only deeply in debt, it has no future as a viable business. It is forced to liquidate its assets and pay off its creditors, often by as little as ten cents on the dollar. The company is finished. It's all over. The owners or investors lose everything they've put into the business. No one likes chapter 7 bankruptcy.
TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT BANKRUPTCY?
So what kind of bankruptcy did we declare? To use the business analogy, did we file under chapter 7 or chapter 11? Was it permanent or temporary? I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. We believe He completely paid our debt of sin and secured for us the gift of eternal life. There is nothing more we can do to earn our salvation, so using the business analogy, we would say we filed permanent bankruptcy.
However, I think most of us actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to heaven, but we do think they earn God's blessings in our daily lives.
After we become Christians we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We also start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle, and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. We are now ready to emerge from bankruptcy and pay our own way in the Christian life.
Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin, or we fail to do what we should have done. Because we think we are now on our own, paying our own way, we assume we have forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God's blessing depends on how well we feel we are living the Christian life. We declared temporary bankruptcy to get into His Kingdom, so now we think we can and must pay our own way with God. We were saved by grace, but we are living by performance.
If you think I am overstating the case, try this test. Think of a time recently when you really fell on your face spiritually. Then imagine that immediately afterward you encountered a terrific opportunity to share Christ with a non-Christian friend. Could you have done it with complete confidence in God's help?
We are all legalistic by nature; that is, we innately think so much performance by us earns so much blessing from God. The apostle Peter thought this way. After listening to Jesus' conversation with the rich young man, he said to Jesus, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27). Peter had already added up his merit points, and he wanted to know how much reward they would buy.
Not only are we legalistic by nature, our Christian culture reinforces this attitude in us. We are exhorted to attend church regularly, have a daily quiet time, study our Bibles, pray, memorize Scripture, witness to our neighbors, and give to missions — all of which are important Christian activities. Though no one ever comes right out and says so, somehow the vague impression is created in our minds that we'd better do those things or God will not bless us.
Then we turn to the Bible and read that we are to work out our salvation, to pursue holiness, and to be diligent to add to our faith such virtues as goodness, knowledge, self-control, and love. In fact, we find the Bible filled with exhortations to do good works and pursue the disciplines of spiritual growth. Again, because we are legalistic by nature, we assume our performance in these areas earns God's blessings in our lives.
I struggle with these legalistic tendencies even though I know better. Several years ago I was scheduled to speak at a large church on the West Coast. Arriving at the church about fifteen minutes before the Sunday morning service, I learned that one of the pastoral staff had died suddenly the day before. The staff and congregation were in a state of shock and grief.
Sizing up the situation, I realized the "challenge to discipleship" message I had prepared was totally inappropriate. The congregation needed comfort and encouragement, not challenge, that day. I knew I needed a totally new message, so I silently began to pray, asking God to bring to my mind a message suitable for the occasion. Then I began to add up my merits and demerits for the day: Had I had a quiet time that morning? Had I entertained any lustful thoughts or told any half-truths? I had fallen into the performance trap.
I quickly recognized what I was doing, so I said, "Lord, I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but none of them matters. I come to You today in the name of Jesus and, by His merit alone, ask for Your help." A single verse of Scripture came to my mind and with it a brief outline for a message I knew would be appropriate. I went to the pulpit and literally prepared the message as I spoke. God did answer prayer.
Why did God answer my prayer? Was it because I had a quiet time that morning or fulfilled other spiritual disciplines? Was it because I hadn't entertained any sinful thoughts that day? No, God answered my prayer for only one reason: Jesus Christ had already purchased that answer to prayer two thousand years ago on a Roman cross. God answered on the basis of His grace alone, not because of my merits or demerits.
One of the best-kept secrets among Christians today is this: Jesus paid it all. I mean all. He not only purchased your forgiveness of sins and your ticket to heaven, He purchased every blessing and every answer to prayer you will ever receive. Every one of them — no exceptions.
Why is this such a well-kept secret? For one thing, we are afraid of this truth. We are afraid to tell even ourselves that we don't have to work anymore, the work is all done. We are afraid that if we really believe this, we will slack off in our Christian duties. But the deeper core issue is that we don't really believe we are still bankrupt. Having come into God's Kingdom by grace alone solely on the merit of Another, we're now trying to pay our own way by our performance. We declared only temporary bankruptcy; we are now trying to live by good works rather than by grace.
The total Christian experience is often described in three distinct phases: justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Justification — being declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus Christ — is a point-in-time event. It is the time in our lives when we are saved. It is the Ephesians 2:8 experience: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith."
Sanctification is our growth in Christlikeness. It is a progressive experience covering our entire Christian lives from salvation to glorification.
Glorification occurs at the time we depart from this life to be with Christ. (Glorification actually achieves its complete fulfillment at the resurrection, of course, but even now those who are with Christ are described as "the spirits of righteous men made perfect" [Hebrews 12:23].)
All true Christians readily agree that justification is by grace through faith in Christ. And if we stop to think about it, we agree that glorification is also solely by God's grace. Jesus purchased for us not only forgiveness of sins (justification) but also eternal life (glorification). But sanctification — the entire Christian experience between justification and glorification — is another story. At best, the Christian life is viewed as a mixture of personal performance and God's grace. It is not that we have consciously sorted it all out in our minds and have concluded that our relationship with God, for example, is based on 50 percent performance and 50 percent grace. Rather it is a subconscious assumption arising from our own innate legalism — reinforced and fueled by the Christian culture we live in.
Accordingly, our view of the Christian life could be illustrated by the following timeline:
Justification Christian Life Glorification Based on Grace Based on Works Based on Grace
According to that illustration, our concept of the Christian life is a grace-works-grace sequence. The principal thesis of this book, however, and the truth I hope to demonstrate is that the illustration should look like this:
Justification Christian Life Glorification Based on Grace Based on Grace Based on Grace
That is, the entire Christian life from start to completion is lived on the basis of God's grace to us through Christ.
Now let's return to the bankruptcy analogy. As devastating as permanent bankruptcy is, there is a bright side. The beleaguered businessman is finally free. He doesn't owe anyone anything anymore. His debts were not fully paid, but at least they were canceled. They no longer hang over his head; he is free from the phone calls and the demands and threats of his creditors. They can't harass him anymore. This businessman may be humiliated, but at least he is free.
Meanwhile the businessman who filed for temporary bankruptcy is still scrambling to make a go of it. He has a reprieve from his creditors for a period of time, but he has to work extra hard to try to turn his business around. Eventually his creditors must be paid. This businessman isn't free. Instead, he's on a performance treadmill.
All human analogies of spiritual truth, however, ultimately fall short of the truth. They can never tell the whole story, as we see in the bankruptcy analogy. The businessman who declared permanent bankruptcy is not totally free. He is free of his past debts, but not any he incurs in the future. His slate is wiped clean for the past, but starting all over again, he has to try to keep it clean in the future. In the business world, then, there really isn't a permanent bankruptcy in the sense of freedom from future performance.
But the good news of the Bible is that, in the spiritual realm, there really is total, permanent bankruptcy. It doesn't work like commercial bankruptcy; it is much better in two significant ways.
First of all, in the business world the debts of the permanently bankrupt business are never paid in full. The creditors accept the meager amount they receive from the sale of the company's assets. Neither the bankrupt businessman nor his creditors are satisfied. The businessman, if he is conscientious at all, feels guilty about the debts he did not pay; and the creditors are unhappy about the payments they did not receive.
Conversely, the Christian's total debt has been paid by the death of Christ. The law of God and the justice of God have been fully satisfied. The debt of our sins has been marked "Paid in Full!" God is satisfied and so are we. We have peace with God, and we are delivered from a guilty conscience (see Romans 5:1; Hebrews 10:22).
Second, not only has the debt been fully paid, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future. As Paul said in Colossians 2:13, "[God] forgave us all our sins." We don't have to start all over again and try to keep the slate clean. There is no more slate. As Stephen Brown wrote, "God took our slate and He broke it in pieces and threw it away." This is true not only for our justification, but for our Christian lives as well. God is not keeping score, granting or withholding blessings on the basis of our performance. The score has already been permanently settled by Christ. We so often miss this dimension of the gospel.
We are brought into God's Kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God's grace.
WHAT IS GRACE?
What, then, is the grace by which we are saved and under which we live? Grace is God's free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.
Grace stands in direct opposition to any supposed worthiness on our part. To say it another way: Grace and works are mutually exclusive. As Paul said in Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." Our relationship with God is based on either works or grace. There is never a works-plus-grace relationship with Him.
Furthermore, grace does not first rescue us from the penalty of our sins, furnish us with some new spiritual abilities, and then leave us on our own to grow in spiritual maturity. Rather, as Paul said, "He who began a good work in you [by His grace] will [also by His grace] carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). John Newton captured this idea of the continuing work of grace in our lives when he wrote in the hymn "Amazing Grace," "'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."
Excerpted from "Transforming Grace"
Copyright © 2008 Jerry Bridges.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Performance Treadmill 1
Chapter 2 Grace-Who Needs It? 13
Chapter 3 Grace-It Really Is Amazing 27
Chapter 4 The Generous Landowner 41
Chapter 5 Does God Have a Right? 59
Chapter 6 Compelled by Love 75
Chapter 7 The Proof of Love 91
Chapter 8 Holiness: A Gift of God's Grace 109
Chapter 9 Called to Be Free 131
Chapter 10 The Sufficiency of Grace 151
Chapter 11 The Least of All God's People 173
Chapter 12 Appropriating Gods Grace 195
Chapter 13 Garments of Grace 225
Lesson 1 The Performance Treadmill 245
Lesson 2 Grace-It Really Is Amazing 255
Lesson 3 Does God Have a Right? 267
Lesson 4 Compelled by Love 277
Lesson 5 The Proof of Love 289
Lesson 6 Called to Be Free 301
Lesson 7 The Sufficiency of Grace 311
Lesson 8 Appropriating God's Grace 325
Help for Leaders 339
What People are Saying About This
Indeed, another inspired and powerful work by Jerry Bridges. Jerry brings us face-to-face with a reality we tend to forget: our own constant need for God’s grace.
In typical Bridges style, this book is a warm, encouraging, and insightful guide to godly living. It gets to the core of the biblical meaning of grace.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So many books start AFTER this point--they assume you've realized God's Love for you is real and beautiful. For people who've never experienced that kind of love before, or doubt God can love them when He knows all about them, this is the book to start with. I found myself reading and rereading sections, unable to believe God could love ME!
Jerry Bridges Pursuit of Holiness, Transforming Grace and Practice of Godliness, are the best, most challenging, thought provoking books I read. It makes you think and evaluate your Christian walk: are we doers of the word or just hearers. Great to read all three books
Jerry Bridges is an author whose work I very much enjoy reading. He has a remarkable talent to choose a particular subject, delving in it and presenting in such a way anyone can relate to! The more I read on and the more I found it to be true: God's Grace is so simple! Jerry Bridges shows us the true side of God's Grace and reminds us our Saviour paid the price of our admission into eternal life. He skilfully tells us to stop trying to buy our way in, instead showing us how to give out of love, not as a way to earn merits. Each chapter gives us a remarkable insight into life as we see it and allows us to use God's Transforming Grace to live confidently in His wonderful love. Ten years in the making, this book comes with an amazing study guide of eight sessions that will bring even more understanding of God's love for His people, a perfect tool for personal reference or discussion in a small group. I give this book a 5 stars. It belongs on any Christian library! 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."
As a person raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord, the Lord, through this book, has done more to enlighten my eyes to His wonder. I know rest in the knowledge of Him who is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (Jude 1:24).
Grace is an unmerited gift from God. As Ephesians 2:8 says, "It is by grace that we have been saved through faith". However, it seems that we forget about this gift from time to time and set out to do things on our own. We try to measure up to God's standard, and forget about the grace that is needed to get us to that standard. This is the topic of the book Transforming Grace by author Jerry Bridges. Jerry is well known Christian writer and has written numerous book. He has also served on the staff of The Navigators before passing to his eternal reward in 2016. Grace is transformational. God shows us the mercy and love that only He can give, and the kicker is that it is a free gift. This does not mean that God doesn't have rules that he want us to live by. God isn't saying that as Christians we can live any way we please, but we do have a tendency to create rules that add more of a burden. On page 135 the author writes, "We still practice this today. We build fences to keep ourselves from committing certain sins. Soon these fences-instead of the sins they were designed to guard against-become the issue. We elevate our rules to the level of God's Commandments". The book itself contains thirteen chapters that discuss grace and discipleship. It also contains four discussion chapters to help the reader understand this great gift from God. This is a good entry level book on the topic as the language is simple, and the analogies are relatable. I learned a lot and so will you. [Note. This book was received free of Charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
Bridges begins the book by reminding us of Ephesians 2:8-9, and the idea that "we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives." I think before I started reading this book, I would have told you that I understood how to live by grace. But as I've been reading Transforming Grace, I've come to realize that I'm quick to forget the amazingness of grace and what it means for my life. This book is Bridges attempt to help us all understand grace and how it applies to our lives. I say attempt merely because it's such a large concept to grasp and understand. I'm not sure any book could be fully exhaustive on the topic. This book unpacks grace in a way that makes it accessible to the average person. And reminds us of the redeeming work of grace in our lives. Grace brings freedom from living by works for salvation. Grace keeps us from being overwhelmed and dragged under by our sins. Grace is our hope. This version of Transforming Grace also contains a discussion guide for personal or group study in the back. The discussion lessons take you into scripture to help you further your understanding of grace. The questions provided will help you explore grace further, study deeper, and apply the lesson personally. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, this review is my own, honest opinion.
Gives a great understanding to not feel the need to earn God's grace and mercy.
We are naturally evil. It has been passed onto us since adam ate of the forbidden fruit. No can avoid sinning. To say you have not sinned is a lie. You sin when you lie don't you? Or have i been raised wrong?
This has to be one of the best books I have read this year. I read Pursuit of Godliness and I loved that book, but this book was fantastic. I have been reading "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller and to read both of these books alongside each other has been both encouraging and convicting. I know this is about Transforming Grace, but I need to say one thing about "A Praying Life." Paul Miller shows how our prayer life parallels our walk with Christ. When we pray our prayers show our dependence on Christ and when we don't pray it's because we are taking matters into our own hands. In the same way when we pray we are showing our dependence on God's grace and when we don't pray we are showing our dependence on our works. In reading this book I have been convicted by how much I really am relying on my works for my sanctification (the process of becoming holy) and not Christ. This book has shown me how skewed my view of grace is and what true grace is all about. One of my favorite quotes from the book is "God answered my prayer for only one reason: Jesus Christ had already purchased that answer to prayer two thousand years ago on a Roman cross. God answered on the basis of His grace alone, not because of my merits or demerits."
Down to the nineth result sideswipe.
This book has a great message about the existence of grace that's really inspiring, but it's a smack in the face for any optimist. It continually asserts that humans are inherently 'evil.' We may all be in need of God's grace, but we are definitely not evil by nature. Also, the repeated reminder that grace is our only salvation and that all the 'good works' we do won't earn God's favor gives no encouragement for us to live an altruistic life-- because none of what we do matters. Go ahead and live out a fully selfish, hedonistic life, it doesn't matter because you're bad anyway!