Transforming Grace ***** {A Book Review}

 

“Let the reader… remember, that grace is either absolutely free, or not at all.”

I finished reading, “When Sinners say I do”, and the chapter on grace whet my appetite to dive into the subject at greater depth. In fact, the subject of grace has perplexed me for years.

Also, it is within our nature to feel like we must earn favour. Some of us more than others, I think. My heart has a propensity toward legalism. I also like to see a system that I can understand, and that works. Give me a to-do-list, and assurance of my earnings, and I will gladly fill that list. I like to see a clear line drawn between my “accomplishments”, and the fruit it produces. It is certainly a danger toward self-dependency and pride.

We often forget how our acceptance in the beloved was accomplished. It has zero to do with our personal accomplishments, and certainly nothing to do with our ability and self worth. Quite the contrary is true- Our acceptance and worth has everything to do with Christ’s accomplishment on the cross. It is such a puzzle! I think that is one of the reasons the bible talks about the foolish things of the world  confounding the wise. Our intellect cannot wrap around grace, it’s a difficult concept.

I’ve had so many questions, for so many years on this topic. I have found myself saying things that aren’t exactly theologically accurate due to my misunderstanding of this very important word- grace.

Well, I have to say, this book did not leave me disappointed. Every time I put down the book, that is, after each chapter, I would contemplate the grace of God at a new level. I would praise God for this gift of grace through new eyes. Honestly, it was such a spiritually exciting book to read, I wanted to write a blog post for each chapter. To your relief, I am writing this review instead. I cannot attempt to re-write such a book, I can just direct you to it in hope you will reap the same blessing and benefit I did.

In the chapter entitled, “The Generous Landowner”, Jerry Bridges uses the parable from Matt 20 to illustrate and personalize some truths about grace. It’s a parable most readers will be very familiar with, but he unpacks it in such a way that will impact your perspective of the parable.

I love his correlation between us and the 11th hour workers. He challenges our response to the parable, which is most likely a cry of injustice. Then, he reminds us, that instead of identifying with the first hour workers, and feeling the pangs of injustice, we ought to be identifying with the 11th hour workers, and rejoicing in God’s grace. It is a powerful illustration of God’s grace, and our misinterpretation of something so wonderful and good.

In our entitled mindset, we think we deserve good things. We forget that our wage is hell, and anything that is given to us which is good is a gift of grace. It is God’s prerogative to choose to what degree he blesses us, but the only injustice that occurs in this life is actually in our favour.

In the same chapter, he reminds us, and illustrates God’s delight in doing good to us. This section impacted me greatly. God lavishes his grace upon us because he delights to do so. It is in God’s nature to be gracious.

He uses a few biblical accounts to illustrate this truth. The one that stood out to me was his illustration through the book of Joel. Joel prophesies judgment through an invasion of locusts that devour the the goodness of the land. Then, Joel looks forward to the day of restoration of the goodness of the land. Yet, in Joel 2:25 God says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… my great army that I sent among you.”

Not only does God graciously restore all the goodness of the land, but he repays the people for the years of famine and loss that they experienced as a result of pronounced judgment for their own sin.

Jerry Bridges puts it this way, “Consider the amazing generosity of God. He does not limit His promise merely to restoring the land to it’s former productivity. He says He will repay them for the years the locusts have eaten, years that they themselves forfeited to the judgment of God. God could well have said, “I will restore your land to it’s former productivity, but it’s too bad about those years you lost. They are gone forever. That is the price you pay for your sin” He would have been generous just to have restored them, but he went beyond that. He would cause their harvests to be so abundant they would recoup the losses from the years of famine. He says He will repay them, though He obviously owes them nothing.”

I love this illustration of God’s beautiful, yet incomprehensible grace. What hope that gives us as we look toward our own future, regardless of the past we come from.

I have just touched on one of the chapters that had an impact on me, I cannot recount each chapter in the same way. I just want to give you a taste of what you will glean from this book. It is rightly called, “Transforming Grace”. It is God’s grace that transforms us initially into His child through salvation, and then continues to transform us through sanctification. Something that glorious and valuable is definitely worth understanding a little bit better. If you pick up this book, you will not look back, you will not be disappointed. I urge you, read it!

Following I will share some of my favourite quotes from the book. -enjoy.

“If you sometimes feel you deserve an answer to prayer or a particular blessing from God because of your hard work or sacrifice, you are living by works, not by grace.”

“I’d much rather stake my hope of His blessing on His infinite goodness than on my good works.”

“God’s grace… does not supplement our good works. Instead, His grace overcomes our bad works, which are our sins.”

“He does not deal with us as our sins deserve, which would be punishment, but as His grace provides, which is for our good.”

“God calls us to serve Him, not because He needs us, but because we need Him. Then, His reward His reward for our service is always out of proportion to our efforts.”  (In the context of the parable in Matt 20 of “The Rich Landowner”)

“Contentment with what we have-whether it is possessions, or station in life, or mental or physical abilities-is worth far, far more than all the things we don’t have.”

“His worthiness is intrinsic within Himself; it is not conditioned on the number of blessings you or I receive from Him.”

“We are responsible to clothe ourselves with Christlike character, but we are dependent on God’s Spirit to produce within us His “fruit.””

“God doesn’t just call us to freedom, He actually exhorts us to stand firm in our freedom-to resist all efforts to abridge or destroy it.”

“Legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the christian life by focusing on external and sometimes trivial rules.”

“We must not seek to bind the consciences of other believers with the private convictions that arise out of our personal walk with God.”

“This is the amazing story of God’s grace. God saves us by His Grace and transforms us more and more into the likeness of His son by His Grace. In all our trials and afflictions, He sustains and strengthens us by His Grace. He calls us by grace to perform our own unique function within the Body of Christ. Then, again by grace, He gives to each of us the spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill our calling. As we serve Him, He makes that service acceptable to Himself by grace, and then rewards us a hundredfold by grace.”

“Dying is a prerequisite to fruitfulness.”

“Endurance and encouragement are provisions of God’s grace “to help us in our time of need.” As we go to the throne of grace asking for it, God does provide. But He usually provides through scripture.”

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