A Sanctification Primer
In the midst of various opinions on how a believer grows in Christ, Jerry Bridges offers a very clear, concise, and biblical presentation that is sure to encourage any reader in their walk with the Lord. The Transforming Power of the Gospel is a theological, yet very practical, guide in understanding the gospel and then applying it to all of life.
Bridges begins with God and His holiness, humanity and our sinfulness, and Christ and His sacrifice in the first half of the book. Then in the second half of his book, he gives an outworking of these gospel truths to the life of a believer as shown through the process of sanctification. He clearly shows that the gospel is not about a onetime salvation experience, but it is a truth that should continuously change our lives. Bridges says that his purpose for writing this book is to display the “importance of the gospel in our transformation and the vital necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in the process” (10). To flesh out this process, Bridges takes his reader through the process he calls, “guilt, grace, gratitude.”
Guilt is necessarily first because without understanding our desperate condition, we will see no need for the gospel. We must understand that “…when measured against the standard of God’s infinite holiness, our own holiness on our very best day is no more than a drop in a bucket compared to His” (24). Bridges says that “…this is where spiritual transformation really begins—when we begin to see that even our best deeds on our best days are like a polluted garment before an infinitely holy God” (31).
Guilt then proceeds into grace. When faced with the hopelessness of a sinful condition, we see that we can only rely on the sinlessness of another. Bridges says, “As our substitute, He was made to be the embodiment of all our rebellion, all our lawlessness, all of our despising of God and His law. . . Yes Jesus was made to be all of that. For our sake, He was made to be sin” (46). This is God’s grace and it only becomes clear to us when we see the offensive nature of our sin against God.
Grace will necessarily lead us to gratitude. It is here out of gratitude that we grow in gospel service not out of a desire to earn favor, but out of a response to our love for God. Bridges says, “Obedience that flows out of gratitude is the only obedience acceptable to God and is the only obedience that will bring joy to our own hearts” (84). It is through this paradigm of guilt, grace, and gratitude that believers can grow rightly in the Lord and serve him without fear.
Bridges is very humble in his approach to the Christian life. He does not pretend to be an expert in every category that he writes (although he is), nor does he intend to convey an aroma of superiority in his conveyance of information. He appears to be a man offering wisdom to others with whom he is walking this Christian life.
Speaking of his own spiritual journey he says, “After several years of this self-effort approach, I grew discouraged over the prospects of seeing significant change in my life” (13). This is no doubt where many Christians find themselves: discouraged. To have an author who has been there and can relate brings an aspect of relatablity to his writing.
The Transforming Power of the Gospel is very readable. On the topic of sanctification, that by its nature is very doctrinal, Bridges does an excellent job of writing at a level that the average reader can understand.
He doesn’t use large unnecessary terms and there are plenty illustrations, many of them personal. He exposits scripture in a very understanding way and the flow of his writing prevents the reader from getting lost. I found this to be not only an easy read but an enjoyable one.
This book is filled with gospel truths inside and out. Bridges is spot on when he summarizes the primary benefit of Christ’s death on the cross for us. He says, “Just as God made Christ to be sin and charged the guilt of our sin to Him, so he credits the righteousness of Christ to those who have faith in Him” (48). Every page of The Transforming Power of the Gospel is filled with Scripture or Scripture references. None of the concepts are from Bridges ponderings or musing, but they are straight from the Word of God.
The Transforming Power of the Gospel will serve any reader looking to grow in the grace of God and any counselor looking to lead another in a proper view of obedience before the Lord. For those who are struggling in finding the will to obey, to those longing to grow in understanding the relationship between God’s work and our work in sanctification, this book will serve them well. I am thankful for this work as it is encouraging, convicting, and beneficial for any stage of the Christian life.