Jerry Bridges, author of more than 20 books, passed away this past week at the age of 86. Although I never met him personally, I’ve been impacted by this man’s humble pursuit of Jesus through his writings.
His frequent reminders to “preach the gospel to our hearts daily” has helped me understand how to embrace the richness of God’s grace in the ordinary, “not-so-proud” moments of life I’d rather forget.
On those days marred by angry words to my child or husband, forgotten meetings that I’d scheduled, or a pervasive lack of love toward others, I’d remember God’s promise: He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
As hard as it is for me to believe, each time I make the choice to receive God’s grace, a fresh love for Jesus fills my heart with gratitude too deep for words. I “hear” God speak through His Word, “Kelly, I hold nothing against you. Every sin is removed as far as the east is from the west. I love you. I forgive you.”
After my husband met Jerry at a conference several years ago, he described how the radiance of Jesus seemed to shine from his eyes, softening the wrinkles that lined his face.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that intimate times spent in the presence of Jesus impact not only our lives, but our countenance as well?
I’d like to share with you one of my favorite stories from Jerry’s life. I included this passage in Courageous Faith and have told it countless times.
“Several years ago I was scheduled to speak at a large church on the West Coast. Arriving about fifteen minutes before the Sunday morning service, I learned that one of the pastoral staff had died suddenly the day before. The staff and congregation were in a state of shock and grief.
Sizing up the situation, I realized the “challenge to discipleship” message I’d prepared was inappropriate. The congregation that day needed comfort and encouragement, not challenge.
Knowing I needed a new message, I silently began to pray, asking God to bring to my mind something suitable for the occasion. Then I began to add up my merits and demerits for the day: Had I had a quiet time that morning? Had I entertained any lustful thoughts or told any half-truths? I’d fallen into the performance trap.
I quickly recognized what I was doing. “Lord,” I said, “I don’t know the answer to those questions, but it doesn’t matter. I come to You today in the name of Jesus and, by His merit alone, ask for Your help.” A verse of Scripture came to my mind and with it a brief outline for an appropriate message. I went to the pulpit and literally prepared the message as I spoke. God did answer prayer.
Why did God answer? Was it because I had a quiet time that morning or fulfilled other spiritual disciplines or hadn’t entertained any sinful thoughts that day? No, God answered my prayer for only one reason: Jesus Christ had already purchased that answer to prayer 2,000 years ago on a Roman cross. God answered on the basis of His grace alone, not because of my merits or demerits.” Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 17.
It’s God’s grace, but the choice to receive it is ours.