Transforming Grace (book review)

Not too long ago I read that the song “Amazing Grace” was the best-known song in the entire world. People who know Jesus as their Savior certainly can attest to how amazing grace is. But what about after someone becomes a Christian? What happens with grace then? Jerry Bridges dives into this topic with his eye-opening look at Transforming Grace.

In the opening lines of the preface, Bridges states, “The Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives.” This is a concept that many Christians miss, and as a result feel like they are living their lives on what Bridges calls “the performance treadmill.” In other words, far too many Christians mistakenly think that God’s grace saved them, but now it will be their own righteous works that will keep them saved.

In 13 chapters, Bridges dismantles the “performance” mindset and helps Christians see the freedom and joy that come from a proper understanding of how grace transforms and empowers our lives every day.

To help transfer Bridges’ lessons into everyday application, I also highly recommend getting a couple of friends together for this journey. Not only read Transforming Grace together, but then take some time to work through the discussion guides for each chapter. These guides will give you some Scriptures to ponder, and some discussion-starting questions to talk about with your friends. This time will help you go from learner-to-liver with the concepts of transforming grace.

I am a NavPress book reviewer.

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A Surprising Way To Relieve Stress

Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!

When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.

But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!

The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!

First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:

  1. The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
  2. The Lord is near to help us.
  3. The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.

Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:

  • moderation
  • considerate of others
  • patience toward our situation and toward others
  • or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.

THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS! 

When anxiety builds:

  1. Honk
  2. Bless
  3. Repeat

Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!

Saturday In The Psalms—Like No One Else

Praise is awaiting You, O God… (Psalm 65:1).

Why is praising awaiting God? Because no one else does what He does!

  1. He hears all our prayers
  2. He turns no one away
  3. He atones for our transgressions
  4. He helps us approach Him
  5. He fills our lives with good things
  6. He longs for us to dwell with Him
  7. He satisfies our deepest longing
  8. He is All-Righteous
  9. He does awesome things!
  10. He is Salvation
  11. He is Confidence
  12. He answers our prayers
  13. He is Creator
  14. He is Wonderful
  15. He is Beauty
  16. He is All-Powerful
  17. He is Provider
  18. He is Abundance
  19. He is Good
  20. He is Joy

There is no like You, O God!

So my praise will be lifted to You—to You my vows will be fulfilled!

A Leader’s Integrity

…for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One (Job 6:10).

Job is making a case for his integrity. One of the evidences he produces is this: He responds to God’s voice. He doesn’t ignore Him, or pretend he didn’t hear Him, or offer justifications for why he’s not obeying God. “I have not concealed anything God has said to me!”

Not only that, but he invites God to continue to speak to him—

Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; cause me to understand wherein I have erred. How forceful are right words! (v. 24)

What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment? (7:17-18)

It’s amazing to think that God cares enough about me that He would speak to me, test me, and correct me if I err or go astray!

A mark of a godly leader is one who lives in complete integrity in God’s sight.

Or as John Maxwell says, “Being God’s kind of leader means refusing even the smallest compromise in what you believe.”

My desire is this … May I, like Job, be able to say that I have not concealed nor ignored any of Your words, O God, but that I respond quickly and obediently to all Your loving words to me.

This is Part 15 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

The Power In Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:4, 6).

Paul isn’t playing around here—when he says to rejoice, it’s not a suggestion or a good idea. He says REJOICE with the force of a commandment!

Even the Greek word for rejoice isn’t a mild “yea!” It carries with is the idea of big joy! It’s the kind of rejoicing that is…

  • exceedingly great!
  • overflowing!
  • bubbling up!
  • never ending!
  • continuously gushing!

Why would Paul make this kind of rejoicing a command? Because God is serious about pointing us to the only path that will guard our hearts and minds. When we are rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving, then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Do you realize how much of our worrying is pointless? My friend Scott pointed out the following research:

  • 40% of the things we worry about will never even happen
  • 30% of the things we worry about happened in the past and cannot be changed
  • 12% of our worries are regarding health issues we don’t even have
  • 10% of our worries are about our friends and loved ones which are based on rumors

That means … only 8% of the things we worry about have any basis in reality!

Think about that—9 out of 10 things that consume our minds with worry aren’t even worth our time!

That’s why Paul commands rejoicing as a means to freedom and peace.

  • What should we worry about? Nothing! 
  • What should we pray about? Everything!
  • What should rejoice about? All things!  

This is the one and only path to transcendent peace! 

This is part two in our series The Antidote For Anxiety. Be sure to check out the video below, and also check out the first part of this series—Honk! Honk! Honk!

Saturday In The Psalms—Joy In The Desert

A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah (preface to Psalm 63).

Being in a desert place, you would expect David to say things like, “my soul thirsts,” “my flesh longs,” and “I am in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”

But what’s unexpected is what David found that satisfied. Not food and water, but “my soul thirsts for You,” “my flesh longs for You,” and “O God, You are my God.”

David knew that when outward conditions were at their worst, his focus needed to be at its best—and it needed to be on God. So David made the following commitments:

  • Early will I seek You
  • I have looked for You
  • I remember You on my bed
  • I meditate on You in the night watches
  • My lips shall praise You
  • My soul follows close behind You
  • I shall rejoice in God

Because of these commitments, David could reach the following conclusions:

  • Your lovingkindness is better than life
  • My soul is satisfied
  • I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings
  • Your right hand upholds me

David found joy in the desert by changing his focal point!

I can reach the same conclusions that David reached, IF I am willing to make the same commitments David made.

In the desert places, I must deliberately and continually turn my eyes and thoughts FROM the desert TO God’s goodness.

A Leader Must Be Consistent

There was a man…whose name was Job (Job 1:1).

Job is described by the author of this book like this: “that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. … This man was the greatest of all the people of the East” (vv. 1, 3).

God Himself described Job like this: “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). Even after Job’s calamities, God repeats this description and adds, “and still he holds fast to his integrity” (2:3).

satan acknowledged that Job feared God (1:9). But that slanderer accused Job of being a mercenary—that is, he said Job only feared and obeyed God because of what he got out of the bargain (1:10). But the liar missed something: Job’s obedience came before God’s blessing, and Job’s worship came after Job lost all his earthly possessions.

“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (1:22), and “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).

A mark of a godly leader is one who acts consistently in good times and bad times.

It’s a good question for godly leaders to ask: why do I obey God? why do I trust Him? why do I fear Him? is it so that I can get something out of it? is it because I’ve already received something? is it so that I can avoid punishment?

Or do I obey, trust, and fear God because He is worthy of all that—and more!—regardless of anything else? Godly leaders consistently ask both sets of questions and answer an assured “Yes” to the last question.

This is Part 14 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

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