Book Report: The Discipline of Grace

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Oxymoron: a phrase comprised of a pair of words with conflicting meanings. Discipline? I’m your girl. Grace? One of my favorite concepts. But the two have always felt a bit like opposites; I never really understood that they regularly merge and dance together all along the road to glory. With the heart of a pastor and the mind of a teacher, Jerry unpacks the gospel’s impact on our increasing maturity in a clear and accessible way. If you’ve ever wondered about the technical side of Christian growth—how exactly do we change to become more like Jesus?—you will love The Discipline of Grace.

Especially memorable quotes:

Contrary to a common misconception, we do not earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives based on our performance.

There is a fine line between using grace as an excuse for sin and using grace as a remedy for our sin.

We are to base the “duty” of discipleship on the gospel, resulting in the practice of a Christ-based acceptance with God and a Spirit-energized approach to the pursuit of holiness. The so-called duty of discipleship then becomes a joy and a delight even though it requires vigorous effort.

We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spiritual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens. But spiritual transformation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Master Sculptor.

You may sing with reverent zest or great emotional fervor, but your worship is only as pleasing to God as the obedience that accompanies it.

Sin is like a defeated army in a civil war that, instead of surrendering and laying down its arms, simply fades into the countryside, from which it continues to wage a guerrilla war of harassment and sabotage against the government forces. Sin as a reigning power is defeated in the life of a believer, but it will never surrender. It will continue to harass us and seek to sabotage our Christian lives as long as we live.

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

One of the most helpful points in this book was how we are meant to view the sin we’ve committed. We fail, we repent, we know we’re forgiven… but feelings of guilt may still remain. What’s the solution?

There are two “courts” we must deal with: the court of God in heaven and the court of conscience in our souls. When we trust in Christ for salvation, God’s court is forever satisfied. Never again will a charge of guilt be brought against us in heaven. Our consciences, however, are continually pronouncing us guilty. That is the function of conscience. Therefore, we must by faith bring the verdict of conscience into line with the verdict of heaven. We do this by agreeing with our conscience about our guilt, but then reminding it that our guilt has already been borne by Christ.

The idea of two courts was new to me, but it makes sense biblically. Lingering guilt doesn’t mean I’m not completely forgiven; it just means I’m not completely finished. Jerry has provided a framework in which my conscience doesn’t have to be painted as the enemy—it’s simply doing its justice-loving job. But now I have a job to do in response: preach the gospel to it, applying the good news of Jesus’ total satisfaction of justice in my place and appropriating again the grace He purchased for me.

Some prompts for journaling:

  • Where do I sense smug self-satisfaction in my Christian life?
  • How am I doing in my day-to-day practice of love?
  • Am I willing to bask in God’s mercy and grace as my highest moment?
  • When have I been disciplined by grace? by legalism?
  • Where am I most often tempted? How can I invest in both defense and offense in those areas?
  • When have I counted the Lord’s discipline as of little value, only trying to endure it rather than to profit from it?
  • What am I functionally training myself to become an expert in?
  • In which current situation could I use some extra discipline? some extra dependence?
  • Do I sense God’s smile or frown depending on whether or not I’ve done my spiritual exercises?
  • What specifically do I need to preach to myself every day?

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