John Piper Interviews Jerry Bridges

Jonathan Parnell posts a conversation between two of my heroes:

Few people work faithfully for the same organization for almost 60 years. Yet it was 1955 when Jerry Bridges, a Korean War veteran, joined the team at The Navigators where he continues to this day. An author of several books, Mr. Bridges is a leading voice in explaining the significance of the gospel in everyday life, including The Discipline of Grace,The Gospel for Real Life, and The Pursuit of Holiness, to name a few.

John Piper recently sat down with Mr. Bridges in Minneapolis to talk about life and ministry. In this 25-minute video, they discuss key issues regarding God’s providence, spiritual disciplines, and the Christian life.

 

Are You a Saint?

Jerry Bridges:

“Saint is one of the most widely misunderstood words in our Christian vocabulary. At some point in church history, people began to call the original apostles saints, contrary to the plain meaning of the word as used in the New Testament. So now we hear of Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Andrew, and the like. In the Roman Catholic tradition, people of unusual achievement are sometimes designated as saints. Among evangelicals we often think of saints as exceptionally godly and holy people.

The truth is, though, every believer is a saint. That’s why Paul’s greetings in his epistles often include something such as, “To the saints who are in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1, see also Philippians 1:1,Colossians 1:2). Even when addressing Corinth, a church that was all messed up both theologically and morally, Paul wrote, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. . . . (1 Corinthians 1:2). In fact, sainthood is not a spiritual attainment, or even a recognition of such attainment. It is rather a state or status into which God brings every believer. All Christians are saints.

It is a very unfortunate and unhelpful thing that we so often misunderstand this short, simple word. To use a word that applies to all Christians in a way that suggests there is a special, elite class of Christians is doubly wrong: it steals from the church important truths that God intended to communicate through the idea of sainthood, and it promotes jealousy and division within the body of Christ by suggesting a hierarchy that does not exist.”

—Jerry Bridges, Who Am I? Identity in Christ (Cruciform Press, 2012), 66.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Nothing in my hands I bring

Preaching the gospel to ourselves every day addresses both the self-righteous Pharisee and the guilt-laden sinner that dwell in our hearts. Since the gospel is only for sinners, preaching it to ourselves every day reminds us that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace. It causes us to say to God, in the words of an old hymn, ‘Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.’

— Jerry Bridges The Disciple of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, Co.: NavPress, 1994), 26

(HT: Of First Importance)

Transforming Grace

Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace:

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace.  If we’ve performed well—whatever ‘well’ is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly.  In this sense, we live by works, rather than by grace.  We are saved by grace, but we are living by the ‘sweat’ of our own performance.  Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to ‘try harder’.  We seem to believe success in the Christian life is basically up to us; our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is very freeing and joyous experience.  But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.

Judgmentalism

My thanks to Andy Naselli for posting this excellent excerpt:

Judgmentalism

That’s the title of chapter 17 in Jerry Bridges. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2007. 185 pp.

Introduction

The sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our “respectable” sins because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right. It’s obvious that within our conservative evangelical circles there are myriads of opinions on everything from theology to conduct to lifestyle and politics. Not only are there multiple opinions but we usually assume our opinion is correct. That’s where our trouble with judgmentalism begins. We equate our opinions with truth. (p. 141)

Example 1: Dress

I grew up in the mid-twentieth century, when people dressed up to go to church. Men wore jackets and ties (usually suits and ties) and women wore dresses. Sometime in the 1970s, men began to show up at church wearing casual pants and open-collar shirts. Many women began to wear pants. For several years, I was judgmental toward them.Didn’t they have any reverence for God? Would they dress so casually if they were going to an audience with the president? That sounded pretty convincing to me.

Only I was wrong. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us what we ought to wear to church. And as for dressing up to meet the president, that’s a cultural thing centered in Washington, DC. If you were invited to meet the president while he is vacationing at his ranch, you would probably show up in blue jeans. Reverence for God, I finally concluded, is not a matter of dress; it’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said that true worshipers are those who worship the Father in spirit and truth (see John 4:23). Now, it’s true that casual dress may reflect a casual attitude toward God, but I cannot discern that. Therefore, I should avoid ascribing an attitude of irreverence based purely on a person’s dress. (pp. 141–42)

Example 2: Music

I also grew up in the era of the grand old hymns sung to the accompaniment of piano and organ. It was majestic. To me, it was reverent worship of God. Today, in many churches, the grand old hymns have been replaced by contemporary music, and the piano and organ with guitars and drums. Again, I was judgmental. How could people worship God with those instruments? But the New Testament churches had neither pianos nor organs, yet they managed to worship God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Colossians 3:16). I still have a preference for church music sung as we did when I was younger, but it’s just that—a preference—not a Bible-based conviction. It’s true that a lot of contemporary music is shallow and human-centered. But there is much that is as God-honoring and worshipful as our traditional hymns. So let’s avoid being judgmental. (p. 142)

Example 3: Alcohol

We have convictions that we elevate to biblical truth on a number of issues. I wrote somewhere that I had finally come to the conclusion that in most instances, the Bible teaches temperance not abstinence. I had to work through that issue also because again I found myself being judgmental when I would see Christians having a glass of wine at a restaurant. However, after I wrote what I did about temperance, I received a polite but firm letter from a dear lady who really took me to task. She was convinced I was selling out a foundation stone of Christian morals. I understand her concern, but she did not give me any evidence from Scripture. It was her personal conviction.

Please don’t get me wrong. I think because of the widespread abuse of alcohol in our society today there are some good reasons for practicing abstinence. And in another context I could make a strong argument for abstinence based on those concerns. But this chapter is about judgmentalism, and I’m just giving some first-person examples of how easy it is to become judgmental over issues the Bible does not address or address with the clarity we would like. (pp. 142—43)

Judgmentalism in Reverse

The apostle Paul faced this problem head-on in Romans 14. Apparently, there were two specific issues calculated to spawn judgmentalism in the church at Rome. One was vegetarianism versus an “eat whatever you want” mentality. The second issue was a matter of observing certain days as holy days. . . .

There are similar attitudes today. Contemporary music advocates may disdain those who prefer traditional music as simply old-fashioned and out of touch with the times. . . . They can be as judgmental in a reverse sort of way as those who hold out for the traditional hymns. The same is true with the issue of temperance versus abstinence. I have known of instances where those who regard the use of alcohol as a matter of Christian liberty, are contemptuous toward those who practice abstinence.

My point here is that it doesn’t matter which side of an issue we are on. It is easy to become judgmental toward anyone whose opinions are different from ours. And then we hide our judgmentalism under the cloak of Christian convictions.

Paul’s response to the situation in Rome was, “Stop judging one another regardless of which position you take.” . . .

What I’ve written to this point does not mean that we should never pass judgment on the practices and beliefs of others. When someone’s lifestyle or conduct is clearly out of line with the Scriptures, then we are right to say that the person is sinning. (pp. 144–46)

Holding Convictions with Humility

I suspect that some of my dearest friends may disagree with some things I’ve said in this chapter. Some do not see the manner of dress in church or the type of music we sing as matters of preference. For them, it is a conviction. I respect their thinking and wouldn’t want to change their convictions at all.

I’d like to be like Paul, who took a similar position regarding the divisive issues in Rome. He did not try to change anyone’s convictions regarding what they ate or the special days they observed. Instead, he said, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Such a statement makes many of us uncomfortable. We don’t like ambiguity in issues of Christian practice. It’s difficult for us to accept that one person’s opinion can be different from ours and both of us be accepted by God. But that is what Paul says in Romans 14. And if we will take Paul seriously and hold our convictions with humility, it will help us avoid the sins of judgmentalism. (pp. 147–48)

The Discomfort of the Justified Life

Jerry Bridges:

“God wants us to find our primary joy in our objectively declared justification, not in our subjectively perceived sanctification. Regardless of how much progress we make in our pursuit of holiness, it will never come close to the absolute perfect righteousness of Christ that is ours through our union with him in his life and death.

So we should learn to live with the discomfort of the justified life. We should accept the fact that as still-growing Christians we will always be dissatisfied with our sanctification. But at the same time, we should remember that in Christ we are justified. We are righteous in him.”

–Jerry Bridges, ‘The Discomfort of the Justified Life,’ in Justified: Modern Reformation Essays on the Doctrine of Justification (ed. Ryan Glomsrud and Michael Horton; Modern Reformation, 2010), 94

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

12 Steps to Identifying Your Functional Saviours

Whatever we direct our affections, energies, and hopes towards is our object of worship. Our heart needs Jesus; our flesh craves idols. This is why growing in love for Christ requires daily execution of idols. But how do we know what our idols are?

In The Bookends of the Christian Life Jerry Bridges offers twelve “questions” to help us identify our functional saviours:

1. I am preoccupied with ________.
2. If only ________, then I would be happy.
3. I get my sense of significance from ________.
4. I would protect and preserve ________ at any cost.
5. I fear losing ________.
6. The thing that gives me greatest pleasure is ________.
7. When I lose ________, I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.
8. For me, life depends on ________.
9. The thing I value more than anything in the world is ________.
10. When I daydream, my mind goes to________.
11. The best thing I can think of is ________.
12. The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is ________.

(HT: The Thinklings)

The Motivating Power of the Gospel

For many of us, our initial encounter with the gospel when we first trusted Christ occurred many years ago and is now a distant memory. . . . The Christian life may now be more of a duty than a joyous response to the gospel. Consequently we may not experience the motivating power of the gospel.

That’s why we need to intentionally bathe our minds and hearts in the gospel every day. Remember, we need the gospel not only as a door into an initial saving relationship with Christ, but also . . . to keep our daily lives from becoming a performance treadmill. As we rely on Christ’s righteousness in this manner, far from leading to a license to sin, it actually motivates us to deal with the sin we see in our lives.

–Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington, The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway 2009), 39-40

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Jerry Bridges on Power in Prayer

“[W]e must keep in mind that the Spirit of God is sovereign over when and how he works through the instruments of prayer. He certainly hears our requests and responds to them. But it’s not for us to question the purposes and actions of his sovereign will. Instead we’re to submit to and accept whatever he has for us. And as we respond to his answers to our prayers, we must continue to acknowledge our dependence on him through more prayer. As we cycle through our prayers and his answer in this way, our dependency grows. No wonder those who regularly practice this spiritual discipline often speak of there being power in prayer. The more prayer, the more dependency; the more dependency, the more power. The source of power is not the prayer; it is the Holy Spirit, who uses prayer as a means of grace through which he provides the power.” – Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington,The Bookends of the Christian Life

(HT: Josh Harris)

Experiencing The Daily Reality Of Justification

If there was one book I would put in every Christian’s hand it would be this one. This book has the potential to equip us to slay the giants of self-righteousness and guilt in our lives, through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. I thoroughly recommend it. My thanks to Jimmy Davis for this quote:

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 ESV

bookends

For Paul, justification was not only a past event; it was also a daily, present reality. So every day of his life, by faith in Christ, Paul realized he stood righteous in the sight of God–he was counted righteous and accepted by God as righteous–because of the perfectly obedient life and death Christ provided for him.  He stood solely on the rock-solid righteousness of Christ alone…

We must learn to live like the apostle Paul, looking every day outside ourselves to Christ and seeing ourselves standing before God clothed in his perfect righteousness.  Every day we must re-acknowledge the fact that there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves either more acceptable to God or less acceptable.  Regardless of how much we grow in our Christian lives, we’re accepted for Christ’s sake or not at all.  It’s this reliance on Christ alone, apart from any consideration of our good or bad deeds, that enables us to experience the daily reality of [justification], in which the believer finds peace and joy and comfort and gratitude.

~ Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington in The Bookends of the Christian Life, page 29.

All of Grace

Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (p. 19):

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.

And from pp. 22-23:

Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God’s blessing through their behavior.

Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God’s blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience.

Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

We can not be more righteous

jerry-bridges“As we come to Christ…empty-handed, claiming no merit of our own, but clinging by faith to His blood and righteousness, we are justified. We pass immediately from a state of condemnation and spiritual death to a state of pardon, acceptance, and the sure hope of eternal life. Our sins are blotted out, and we are “clothed” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In our standing before God, we will never be more righteous, even in heaven, than we were the day we trusted Christ, or we are now. Obviously in our daily experience we fall far short of the perfect righteousness God requires. But because He has imputed to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, He now sees us as being just as righteous as Christ Himself.”

Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, p. 107.

(HT: John Fonville)

Justified – “Just As If I’d Always Obeyed”

I love this:

“For He has made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor 5:21

Picture a moral ledger sheet with every word, thought, deed and motive of yours entered on that sheet. Most hope the good will outweigh the bad. The problem is that all of our deeds are stained, all are unclean and impure. There is no such thing as a positive ledger sheet – except in the case of Christ. His ledger sheet was perfect. So at the cross, our ledger sheet was charged to Christ, all our sin; and so His ledger sheet is credited to us.

“Justified” is not “Just as if I’d never sinned.” That is a great truth. But it is actually better than that: “Just as if I’d always obeyed.” God has credited the very righteousness of Jesus Christ to every believer.

- Jerry Bridges (from a recent message at PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

(HT: Reformation Theology)

Regeneration is Resurrection Power

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5

“When Lazarus lay dead in the tomb he could not decide to come to life again. In fact, Lazarus could not even respond to Jesus’ call, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ unless with that call Jesus gave him life. Lazarus’s condition , as he lay dead in the tomb, is a picture of our spiritual predicament. We can hear the call of the gospel a hundred times, but unless that call is accompanied by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, we can no more respond to it than Lazarus could respond to a vocal call from Jesus.”
-Jerry Bridges from The Gospel For Real Life

(HT: Reformed Voices)