Jerry Bridges laid out a believer’s responsibilities in The Pursuit of Holiness. His later book, Transforming Grace, emphasized God’s work within the believer. In The Discipline of Grace, Bridges brings the two together.
Although the table of contents doesn’t reflect it, there are two parts to the book. The first chapters are about God’s grace. A believer’s standing with God does not depend upon their performance. “Our own performance is never good enough to be acceptable to Him. The only way we can relate to God is through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.” So a Christian’s focus in the pursuit of holiness must be Christ. For that reason, believers need the gospel every day. They should hear it, they should read it, and they should preach it to themselves.
The second half of the book deals with a believer’s responsibility in the pursuit of holiness. Only God can cause a seed to grow, but a farmer still has to cultivate the soil, plant the seed, fertilize, and water. Bridges says the same principle applies to spiritual growth. Without God’s grace, it will never happen. But God has given certain means of grace that can’t be neglected. Believers cannot be unconcerned and passive about holiness yet expect to grow. Holiness must be a conviction and a lifetime commitment.
The desire to live a holy life should stem from a desire to honor God. Love for God should be the motivation. Obedience to God is the way to show that love. Reliance and dependence upon God should characterize a believer’s quest for obedience.
Though The Discipline of Grace is full of theology, new Christians should not fear. The author explains difficult concepts in an understandable way. The basics of the Gospel are present. But there is plenty for the seasoned student to ponder, too.
The book is also practical. I am convicted and challenged by it. But the author does not leave me convicted and challenged without reminding me of what I need to do. I say “remind” because The Discipline of Grace doesn’t say anything new. The concepts come directly from the New Testament.
The only criticism I have of the book is that there are too many quotes. In some places there is a quote in every paragraph. Bridges even quotes people quoting people. The quotes are good, but often unnecessary. I am interested in what Jerry Bridges has to say about the Bible. An occasional quote to show that the Puritans were in agreement with him is fine. Quoting an “obscure Scottish pastor” to say less clearly what the author has already said is too much.
Regardless of the criticism, this is an excellent book. It is biblical. It is balanced. It is challenging. And it is a joy to read. I would put it in the same class as Packer’s Knowing God. I suspect people will be reading it decades from now. I hope my children are.