Skip to content ↓

The Bookends of the Christian Life

Book Reviews Collection cover image

The Bookends of the Christian LifeI met Bob Bevington a couple of years ago. He and I both somehow ended up at a youth conference and we began to chat while walking from the venue to a nearby hotel; we were the only adults around so we must have naturally gravitated toward one another. We were surprised to learn that we were both under contract to write a book–I was writing The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment while he was working with Jerry Bridges on a book they were to co-author. Since that time he and Bridges have written two books together, the second of which is The Bookends of the Christian Life.

This book relies upon a metaphor that extends from cover-to-cover: the metaphor of bookends. I think we have all experienced the difficulty of putting books on a bookshelf without using any bookends. You know what happens. The books on the end inevitably tip over and once they fall, the ones beside them fall too. Soon the whole line of books has tipped over and several of them may have crashed to the floor. The solution, of course, is to install a couple of sturdy bookends on either side of the shelf. This will support the whole row, keeping them right where they are supposed to be.

“Think of your life right now as a long bookshelf,” say Bridges and Bevington. “The books on it represent all the things you do–both spiritual and temporal. There’s a spiritual book for each activity of your Christian growth and service, perhaps with titles such as Church Attendance, Bible Study, Daily Quiet Time, Sharing the Gospel or Serving Others. The temporal books might include Job Performance, Educational Pursuits, Recreation and Leisure, Grocery Shopping, Driving the Car, Doing the Laundry, Mowing the Grass and Paying the Bills, to name a few. Our temporal books are intermingled with spiritual books on our bookshelf, since all our activities are to be informed and directed by the spiritual dimension. … Without adequate bookends, even if we succeed in getting all our books to remain upright, their stability is precarious at best.”

Through the bookend metaphor, the authors use this book to teach about God’s solution. “When we become united to Christ by faith, God places a set of bookends on the bookshelf of our lives. One bookend is the righteousness of Christ; the other is the power of the Holy Spirit. Though they’re provided by God, it’s our responsibility to lean our books on them, relying on them to support, stabilize, and secure all our books–everything we do.”

The authors dedicate half of this book to each of the two bookends. In the first half they look at the righteousness of Christ as a means of assurance in our day-to-day relationship with God. It is only because of the righteousness of Christ that God can see us as righteous. As our sin was transferred to Christ on the cross, his righteousness was credited to us. And so we live now in the present reality of being justified before the Father. In the second half they turn to the power of the Holy Spirit to fight with us and for us as we battle against indwelling sin. Here we see both the Spirit’s monergistic work in giving us new life, in giving the gifts of repentance and faith, but we also see the necessity of synergistic work where we cooperate with the Spirit in putting sin to death (though obviously this is a qualified, uneven synergism much in the same way my six year-old daughter may help me shovel the driveway).

In each case Bridges and Bevington look to gospel enemies that can cause our books to begin to tip over and in both cases they offer a series of focal points that will help the reader keep his life and his faith focused on that particular bookend. As he progresses, the reader will find answers to such questions as: How can I overcome persistent guilt? How can I deal with the pressure to measure up? Where can I find the motivation it takes to grow? How can I live the Christian life with both my head and my heart? How can I be sure God loves me? How can I change in an authentic and lasting way?

In The Bookends of the Christian Life Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington look at the Christian life through a wide-angle lens, examining the framework that supports, stabilizes and secures the believer’s life in Christ. They teach elements of a distinctly biblical worldview, leaning upon the righteousness of Christ on one hand and upon the power of the Holy Spirit on the other. This is a deeply pastoral book that constantly encourages the reader to look to Christ and to depend on the Holy Spirit. I have read it twice and have benefited from it both times. A wise and powerful book, it is one I heartily recommend.

Buy it at Monergism BooksBuy it at Monergism Books


  • Free Stuff Fridays (TMAI)

    This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by The Master’s Academy International (TMAI). They are giving away the 42-volume Essential MacArthur Library set. The Master’s Academy International (TMAI) is a worldwide network of pastoral training centers that equip indigenous church leaders to preach the word and shepherd their people. They have 19 Training Centers around…

  • The Danger and Necessity of a Passion for Church Growth

    The Danger and Necessity of a Passion for Church Growth

    Quite a long time has passed since we witnessed the unexpected rise of a new kind of Calvinism. Few had anticipated that in the twenty-first century, so many millions of people spanning a host of nations and traditions would find themselves affirming such old and controversial doctrines. Yet many did so because they were wary…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 12)

    A La Carte: John Piper on repetitive worship songs / Jen Wilkin says not to fear the marks in Revelation / Carl Trueman’s hope beyond politics in Europe / Bruce Ware on angels and free will / Samuel Davies’ tragic children / Book deals / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 11)

    A La Carte: The Disney princess whose heart isn’t worth following / Words of mercy and grace when we disagree / Ten reasons why the Bible is the greatest of great books / Why balance is bad for pastors / The earliest record of Jesus’s childhood / and more.

  • Cognitive Decline and Common Faults

    Cognitive Decline and Common Faults

    When visiting a far-off church, I met a man who, with sadness, told me about his father’s final sermon. A lifelong pastor and preacher, his father had withdrawn from full-time ministry several years prior, but still preached from time to time. On this Sunday he took to the pulpit, read his text, and gave his…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (July 10)

    A La Carte: How the GOP became pro-choice / Forgive, and be forgiven / 10 non-cringy faith-based movies / The practice of arranged marriages / Do I share the gospel now? / How to show Mormon missionaries that the Bible contradicts their gospel / and more.