Book Report: The Gospel for Real Life

The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross… Every Day by Jerry Bridges

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

-Ephesians 3:8

Our culture loves a good rags to riches story—but what about those who refuse to live out of their newfound status? Many Christians today operate more like slaves than beloved heirs, despite mountains of gold secured by Jesus. Captivated by Paul’s idea of unsearchable riches, Jerry embarked on a treasure hunt through the gospel. The result is a book brimming with truth that we can apply to our impoverished and weary souls. He unpacks hefty concepts (federal headship, propitiation, expiation, etc.) in an understandable way so that readers can more profoundly celebrate Christ. Fair warning, Jerry’s not one to skirt around tough issues: real sin and real wrath call for a real Savior. Facing the bad news makes the good news so much better. We have incredible wealth available to us because of the cross, and The Gospel for Real Life reveals the depth of Jesus’ work on our behalf.

A few especially memorable quotes:

God is not a reluctant forgiver; He is a joyous one … We are not nearly as vigorous in appropriating God’s forgiveness as He is in extending it. Consequently, instead of living in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness through Christ, we tend to live under an overcast sky of guilt most of the time.

It is only against the dark backdrop of our sinfulness that we can see the glory of the cross shining forth in all its brilliance and splendor.

Has it yet gripped you that when God looks at you today He sees you clothed in the perfect, sinless obedience of His Son? And that when He says, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased,” He includes you in that warm embrace?

Only God’s infinite wisdom and superabundant love could devise such a plan that both satisfies His justice and meets our desperate need for mercy.

We should never be afraid to examine ourselves. But when doubts do arise, the solution is not to try harder to prove to ourselves that we are believers. The solution is to flee to the cross.

This is what God has done for us. He has blotted out our sins, removing them from His record. He has done more than wipe the slate clean. He has thrown away the slate!

The gospel is not about God and me. The gospel is about God and the world.

A key thought I’m taking away from this book is that the burden of heaven’s approval doesn’t rest upon my shoulders. This is especially hopeful when considering death. I’ve grown up believing there is a divine welcome wagon for the Christian elite, and a shady service entrance around back for the rest of us. Like Jerry, sometimes when I reflect on my many failings, “I think that I would like to somehow ‘just slip in the side door’ of heaven, unnoticed and consequently unwelcomed. But that is because I do focus too much on myself and try to anticipate my welcome on the basis of my performance.” He goes on to say:

There will be no slipping in the side door of heaven with our head hanging down and, to use a popular idiom, our tail between our legs. No, no, a thousand times no! Everyone who has been the object of God’s calling and election will receive a rich welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom, not because we deserve it, but because we have been clothed with the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. It will be because we are united to Him who is the object of the Father’s everlasting love and delight that we also will be received as objects of His love and delight.

I have a big problem with depictions of heaven that are basically self-centered. It’s really not about us—it’s about something, Someone, so much greater. But this book made me pause and think about how I’ve swung too far opposite on the pendulum, believing that my sin is more real and lasting than Christ’s provision for it. So I can expect the biggest welcome through those pearly gates because of Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Hallelujah!

Ten journaling questions inspired by the text:

  • What attainments do I need to throw overboard for the sake of looking solely to the Lord?
  • Where has a utilitarian view of the gospel (its plain usefulness) led me to quiet desperation?
  • What pictures or feelings come to mind when I think of God’s wrath?
  • Do I believe the testimony of Scripture, or do I believe my guilty feelings?
  • Because of Christ’s work, what is my glorious present? What is my even more glorious future?
  • Have I been clinging to the idea that I must now earn God’s favor by my own performance after trusting in Christ alone for salvation?
  • What has been the dominant direction of my life?
  • Which scriptural promise of forgiveness speaks most deeply to me?
  • To what extent have I been taking advantage of the full rights of an adopted child of God? How could I do that more?
  • What implications does my future bodily resurrection have for my current life with a body?

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