Shortly after I heard that Jerry Bridges had died, I sat down to write about the ways he had impacted me through his life and ministry. In a too-weak tribute, I outlined five big lessons I had learned from him. Recently I read his memoir God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence and came to a section where he outlines seven big lessons he learned over the course of his sixty-plus years of being a Christian. Not surprisingly, his lessons align nicely with mine, showing that he had, indeed, exerted significant influence on me. If you want a brief overview of Bridges’ books and speaking ministry, here it is in seven brief lessons:
Lesson One: The Bible is meant to be applied to specific life situations. This includes both God’s commands to be obeyed and His promises to be relied upon. Here, of course, is where Scripture memorization is so valuable. The Holy Spirit can bring to our minds specific Scriptures to apply to specific situations.
Lesson Two: All who trust in Christ as Savior are united to Him in a living way just as the branches are united to the vine (see John 15:1-5). This means that as we abide in Him—that is, depend on Him in faith—His very life will flow into and through us to enable us to be fruitful both in our own character and our ministry to others.
Lesson Three: The pursuit of holiness and godly character is neither by self-effort nor simply letting Christ “live His life through you.” Rather, it does involve our most diligent efforts but with a recognition that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable us and to bless those efforts. I call this “dependent responsibility.”
Lesson Four: The sudden understanding of the doctrine of election was a watershed event for me that significantly affected my entire Christian life. For example, it was the realization of God’s sovereignty in election that led me to study further the sovereignty of God in all of life. It also produced a deep sense of gratitude and, I trust, humility, of realizing salvation was entirely of Him.
Lesson Five: The representative union of Christ and the believer means that all that Christ did in both His perfect obedience and His death for our sins is credited to us. Or to say it another way, because Christ is our representative before the Father, it was just of God to charge our sins to Christ and to credit His righteousness to us. So we as believers stand before God perfectly cleansed from both the guilt and defilement of our sin, but also clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Lesson Six: The gospel is not just for unbelievers in their coming to Christ. Rather, all of us who are believers need the gospel every day because we are still practicing sinners. The gospel, embraced every day, helps keep us from self-righteousness because it frees us to see our sin for what it really is. Also, gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ should motivate us to want to pursue godly character and to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him.
Lesson Seven: We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to apply the life of Christ to our lives. Someone has said (and this is a paraphrase), God the Father purposes, Christ accomplishes what the Father has purposed, and the Holy Spirit applies to our lives what Christ accomplished. To do this, the Spirit works in us directly and He also enables us to work. All the spiritual strength that we need comes to us from Christ through the Holy Spirit.
These seven lessons are his ministry in a nutshell. And, that being true, he has left behind a legacy of great faithfulness.