Book Review: The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington


Review of The Bookends of the Christian Life
by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington
A recommended resource for "You Are... a series in Christian Basics"
Review by Kyle Schwahn

Yesterday, during one of our morning services, I mentioned that the first 77 pages of Jerry Bridges' book Bookends on the Christian Life was some of the best reading that you could do on the concept of justification. The reason that I made reference only to those pages is because the book is really about two "Bookends". . . Justification by faith in Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit. The first half of the book deals with justification, which is our focus this week. So my comments will be limited to that section; although the second half of the book is also wonderful, and would be a blessing to you.

So, why was I so excited to recommend this book with regard to the doctrine of Justification? First, because Bridges and Bevington do an amazing job at conveying the fullness of what it means to be declared righteous in Christ. He focuses on how it is that the cross offers us a righteous status before God, and how Christ's very righteousness is given to us. Often times Christian teaching and preaching falls short of communicating what theologians call "double imputation." That is, that our sins were imputed (accounted) to Christ on the cross (therefore He bore our sins on the tree), and that Christ's righteousness was legally imputed (accounted) to us (therefore, in Him we are viewed and treated as righteous before God). In a simple, illustrative way Bridges unpacks these critical truths of our salvation.

Second, this book takes justification by faith alone to the street level. Bridges and Bevington show how this doctrine is not a distant theological affirmation. Rather, it is a means by which we fight for spiritual joy and vitality every day. Bridges was one of the original authors to begin using the phrase "preach the gospel to yourself." And as he writes on the implications of Justification in this book, you'll see that playing out very clearly. My favorite illustration in this section is an old watch that needs to be wound each day. Bridges says that just like the main spring in those old watches our souls need to be wound up daily with the truths of the gospel. We need to understand that our hearts will begin to default back to a works-righteousness mindset in which we attempt in subtle ways to place our trust in our own goodness, rather than the accomplishments of Christ. This is a needed exhortation. And the way that Bridges teaches and models this in these pages is enormously helpful.

Third, he deals with what he believes to be two major enemies to the gospel in our lives. The first is self-righteousness. The second is persistent guilt. While most Christians would never admit to a self-righteousness (for we affirm that Christ died to justify us), all too often our daily experience begins to rely more on our own holiness rather than Christ's work on the cross. This happens when we begin looking to our own spiritual performance to assess God's love and acceptance of us. On the flip side, we feel an overwhelming guilt when we are not living up to a standard of holiness and spiritual self-discipline. But Bridges and Bevington want their readers to see that the answer to both of these enemies is a right understanding and application of the gospel to all of life.

I hope you can pick this book up. It is a quick read that may have life-long impact in your walk with Christ.

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