The Transforming Power of the Gospel
Bridges, Jerry, The Transforming Power of the Gospel. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012. $10.84.
Reviewed by Dave Jenkins
Very few Christian writers in the last fifty years can match the impact and legacy of Jerry Bridges. Writing in his conversational yet robust biblical-theological style, Jerry Bridges wrote The Transforming Power of the Gospel to “teach what I have learned more deeply in the last twenty-five years about the importance of the Gospel in our
transformation and the vital necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in the process” (4). This book does not include everything Jerry Bridges has taught on spiritual transformation. His other books, The Pursuit of Holiness and Transforming Grace, flesh out in more detail his thoughts on spiritual transformation.
While many books focus on steps to improve the Christian life, Bridges is quick to avoid this mistake by defining spiritual transformation as “the process through which we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ” (3). The Transforming Power of the Gospel covers topics such as the holiness of God, motivation, the Holy Spirit, our
responsibility to grow in grace, and prayer.
One of the more important trends in recent books such as Gospel-Centered Discipleship and The Transforming Power of the Gospel is the fact that the books include a section on the Holy Spirit in spiritual growth. In The Transformation Power of the Gospel, Bridges rightly emphasizes that “Christians are the object, not the agent of the transformation process; the agent is the Holy Spirit” (46). It is often thought (whether quietly or publically) that after one gets saved they do not have to do anything to grow in grace. The idea that we do not do anything is not a biblical concept as Bridges notes, “We have an active role to play in the process of growth in grace” (46). The lack of teaching on the role of the Holy Spirit in spiritual growth in evangelicalism is disconcerting since we are
naturally inclined to depend on our own performance for our day-to-day relationship with God, and therefore are also inclined to depend on our own willpower and our “try harder” mentality to effect change in our character.
Trying harder and doing more will not help us to grow in grace and to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Bridges explains that “the role of the Holy Spirit is to apply the life and power of Christ to God’s people” (47). “The Spirit not only gives us the new birth but also sets us apart to be Christ’s possession” (49). “Those whom God justifies, the Holy Spirit sanctifies” (49). The Holy Spirit is the agent of our transformation who both works in us and enables us to work. The Holy Spirit works change in us through conviction of sin and creates a desire for growth and change in Christ.
Many Christians view activities such as studying our Bible’s and praying as abiding in Christ. While these are important they do not constitute abiding in Christ, but rather communion with Christ. To abide in Christ is to rely on him for his life and power. By getting to the heart of what spiritual transformation is Bridges helps his readers understand that one’s salvation is by faith and our transformation is also by faith. He explains, “The object of our faith is Christ and His finished work for us”, and “the object of our faith in spiritual transformation is Christ and His ongoing work in us through the Holy Spirit” (53).
Regardless of whether one is a new or mature Christian, reading The Transforming Power of the Gospel will help one to be reminded of the truth that Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This book is essential reading for those who want to know how to pursue holiness and live by grace without resorting to self-effort. I recommend this book to learn and discover afresh the power of God that saves, sanctifies and glorifies.
Dave Jenkins (@DaveJJenkins) serves as a pastoral intern at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho where he and his wife Sarah are members. Dave works as a researcher for Docent Research Group. Dave has an MA in Religion with an emphasis in biblical studies and a MDiv from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. Dave blogs at Servants of Grace.