The Transforming Power of the Gospel (Chapter 3)
At the end of the chapter, Bridges summarizes his thoughts in this way:
“It may seem as if I am overly belaboring the sinfulness of our sin, but I am convinced that I have not painted the picture nearly as dark as it is to our infinitely holy God. Furthermore, we will not see our continual need of the gospel if we do not see our continual sinfulness. I believe that we do not truly appreciate the gospel until we become desperate for it.” (p.39)
Here are some of his thoughts leading up to this summation.
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah pronounced woe upon himself: “Woe is me, for I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” The word “unclean” he used is the same word lepers were required to use as they would cry out “unclean, unclean” (Lev 13:45)
Isaiah was essentially calling himself a moral leper. This from a man who was presumably righteous before God. He had seen a vision of the infinite holiness of God and by comparison, saw himself as a man of unclean lips. Isaiah would later write “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Is 64:6)
Bridges says, “For us today, this is where spiritual transformation really begins – when we begin to see that even our best deeds on our best days are like a polluted garment before an infinitely holy God.” (p.31)
On page 35 he quotes Augustine who says this same thing in a different way: “Our best works are but ‘splendid vices’ in the sense they are less than the perfection God requires.”
Later in the chapter Bridges gives two great reasons why he is putting such an emphasis on the seriousness of sin.
1) Most Christians, he says, do not take their own sin seriously. “The self-esteem, ‘feel good about yourself’ movement has so infected the church that it is unfashionable to consider ourselves sinners.” Rather, he says, we are people who “make mistakes.” We just don’t take sin seriously.
2) We need to realize our need for the gospel and our need to embrace it everyday. “It is against the backdrop of our sinfulness”, he says, “that the beauty of the gospel shines so brilliantly.” (p.36)
But what does the gospel have to do with spiritual transformation? Isn’t it just what we need to get us into the kingdom? No. Bridges points out that the gospel keeps us from discouragement as we see how continually and how far short we come in obedience. And the gospel keeps us from self-righteousness because the gospel is only for sinners. It keeps us from lapsing into a performance based relationship with God because we know that our performance is NEVER good enough. And the gospel is the great motivator for pursuing spiritual motivation – especially when we begin to understand what grace is all about. (p. 37)
Next Week: Chapter 4: The Great Exchange