web analytics

Dead to Sin!! Amen!

This was such an encouragement to me. For Jerry Bridges to admit that he was wrong in the past. For him to say that conservative Evangelicalism has lost its proper focus. And for him to articulate the same thing that Grant and I have been saying over and over and over again to our students and friends and . . . . well, everyone! This is what we put our necks on the line for! To foreground the Gospel in every interaction and conflict and struggle!

It’s a must-read!! Read every word.

And it’s just nice to have some company. 🙂

I prayed that God would use the Bible to guide my conduct. Then I began diligently to seek to obey it. I had never heard the phrase “the pursuit of holiness,” but that became my primary goal in life. Unfortunately, I made two mistakes. First, I assumed the Bible was something of a rulebook and that all I needed to do was to learn what it says and go do it. I knew nothing of the necessity of depending on the Holy Spirit for his guidance and enablement.

Still worse, I assumed that God’s acceptance of me and his blessing in my life depended on how well I did. I knew I was saved by grace through faith in Christ apart from any works. I had assurance of my salvation and expected to go to heaven when I died. But in my daily life, I thought God’s blessing depended on the practice of certain spiritual disciplines, such as having a daily quiet time and not knowingly committing any sin. I did not think this out but just unconsciously assumed it, given the Christian culture in which I lived. Yet it determined my attitude toward the Christian life.

Performance-Based Discipleship

My story is not unusual. Evangelicals commonly think today that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Once we’re inside the kingdom’s door, we need the gospel only in order to share it with those who are still outside. Now, as believers, we need to hear the message of discipleship. We need to learn how to live the Christian life and be challenged to go do it. That’s what I believed and practiced in my life and ministry for some time. It is what most Christians seem to believe.

As I see it, the Christian community is largely a performance-based culture today. And the more deeply committed we are to following Jesus, the more deeply ingrained the performance mindset is. We think we earn God’s blessing or forfeit it by how well we live the Christian life.

Most Christians have a baseline of acceptable performance by which they gauge their acceptance by God. For many, this baseline is no more than regular church attendance and the avoidance of major sins. Such Christians are often characterized by some degree of self-righteousness. After all, they don’t indulge in the major sins we see happening around us. Such Christians would not think they need the gospel anymore. They would say the gospel is only for sinners.

For committed Christians, the baseline is much higher. It includes regular practice of spiritual disciplines, obedience to God’s Word, and involvement in some form of ministry. Here again, if we focus on outward behavior, many score fairly well. But these Christians are even more vulnerable to self-righteousness, for they can look down their spiritual noses not only at the sinful society around them but even at other believers who are not as committed as they are. These Christians don’t need the gospel either. For them, Christian growth means more discipline and more commitment.

Then there is a third group. The baseline of this group includes more than the outward performance of disciplines, obedience, and ministry. These Christians also recognize the need to deal with sins of the heart like a critical spirit, pride, selfishness, envy, resentment, and anxiety. They see their inconsistency in having their quiet times, their failure to witness at every opportunity, and their frequent failures in dealing with sins of the heart. This group of Christians is far more likely to be plagued by a sense of guilt because group members have not met their own expectations. And because they think God’s acceptance of them is based on their performance, they have little joy in their Christian lives. For them, life is like a treadmill on which they keep slipping farther and farther behind. This group needs the gospel, but they don’t realize it is for them. I know, because I was in this group.

Gospel-Driven Sanctification,” Jerry Bridges

5 thoughts on “Dead to Sin!! Amen!

  1. I grew up in that environment, and was usually in the first or third group. When I was in the third group I was constantly worried whether I had some unconfessed sin that was causing me to have problems. Was God not happy with me for some reason? The difference between that life of fear and bondage and the freedom of living in God’s grace is like night and day.

  2. Yep. This is exactly what our message last Sunday was about. Churches have adopted the concept that: Performance=acceptance, value, worth and just how wrong that is and how prevelant it has become.

  3. “To foreground the Gospel in every interaction and conflict and struggle!”

    Oh, I love this succinct way of conveying this idea!

    Rejoicing! The power of the Gospel to change lives!

  4. I am intrigued at the couple entries I read on your blog because my husband and I are very gratefully and rather recently “outside the camp” of fundamentalism. By God’s grace we are learning so much more about the Gospel, grace, etc. In fact, we recently found this article by Bridges that you posted and have been helped greatly by it. It’s still taking some time to “recover” from some teaching–and figuring out just what we need to recover from, if that makes sense. Somewhere on here I read something about how some fundamentalists (including a certain BJ professor) tend to call emotional problems sin. I have had this teaching pounded into me. Could you perhaps share more with me about this–how you think we should view problems and counsel other people (and ourselves!)?
    Thank you so much for your time. I am excited and thankful for how God is graciously working in all our lives.
    God bless.

Comments are closed.