The core of the book, to this point, has focused on more theoretical and intellectual aspects of pursuing holiness. Chapter 7 provides some more practical steps of obedience and encouragement to form fruitful spiritual discipline. (I highly recommend Spiritual Disciplines by Donald Whitney for more on this topic.)
Bridges had several great things to say in these chapters and a blog post covering everything would be far too long. I decided to focus on one important point and spend more time digging in to the practical side by sharing some examples. Sometimes real-life illustrations and personal stories make the most significant impact in my life, and I hope a glimpse at what God has been teaching us will be an encouragement to someone else.
We are to form the habit of thinking rightly about our sin and standing before God. We often fall into the trap of believing that we have no control over our thoughts, or we allow our thoughts to be driven by our feelings.
But we can consciously apply the gospel to our personal situations dozens of times a day and “take our thoughts captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) At first, it may require great effort to see how God’s word applies to our lives. But as we begin to replace our incorrect conclusions with God’s truth, His word begins to renew our minds and becomes easier. We learn to “preach the gospel to ourselves.”
I’ll share an example of how this might work…
I speak harshly to one of the children, and then feel convicted that it was wrong. My flesh wants to just excuse my sin and blame it on the disobedience of the children or the million things on my to-do list. It feels easier just to call it a “grumpy day” and try again tomorrow.
Applying the gospel to this situation means I need to stop, think, and maybe even retreat to a quiet area for a few minutes if possible. I need to accept that the sin is coming out of MY heart, no matter what is going on around me. I need to acknowledge that I have grieved God. I need to remember what God has done for me—remember his mercy in sending Jesus to receive the punishment that I deserved. And as I remember what Jesus sacrificed to pay the penalty for MY sin, I begin to feel humbled and amazed. My heart is slowly restored to the Lord as I submit myself to him, and he may bring to mind a passage or phrase of scripture or even a line of music filled with truth to encourage me as I move forward.
It’s the same gospel that the Holy Spirit used to draw you to the Lord for the first time, and it should never grow old! We don’t ever want to move away from the good news of Jesus’ atonement for sin. The more you hear this story—the story of God’s redeeming love and abundant grace toward his creation that rebelled against him— the more your heart should be overflowing with awe and amazement for the Lord!
In addition to preaching the gospel to yourself, I encourage you to make it a habit to preach the gospel to your family members. This requires grace and humility! We need to pray for gracious words as we speak God’s truth to others and humility to accept their words as they speak it back to us.
When your children are struggling with sin, walk them through the same process so that they develop a habit of thinking rightly at an early age. For a young child, you can simplify the words, but don’t water down the message! We might say, “When you hit your brother, that was wrong. God has called us to be kind and loving, and you have disobeyed God. It’s too hard to obey God by yourself, isn’t it? Mommy doesn’t always obey God either. Our disobedience to God deserves punishment, but God loves you and he sent Jesus to come and take the punishment for you. Jesus obeyed God perfectly and he can help us obey now. Let’s be thankful to God for his mercy and pray that he will help you to be kind!”
They may not get every detail every time, but the pieces will come together when they hear the gospel consistently. Then when the Spirit opens their hearts and they begin to pursue holiness for themselves, they will have a strong foundation of right thinking to build upon.
My husband has been the most significant influence in helping me to develop a habit of applying the gospel to all areas of my life. As I mentioned, it is humbling to have someone else remind you of your sin. But if the person is gracious and loving, it can be an amazing encouragement as well!
Let’s say I speak harshly to one of the kids and do the thing where I decide to stay grumpy and deal with it later. He hears me from the other room, gently pulls me aside and quietly says, “Hey girl…I know it’s been a stressful day for you, but it sounded like you responded to him out of frustration instead of with grace. Let’s not forget that we need God’s grace just as much as the children do! Let’s help him to see the grace and forgiveness of God by extending grace and forgiveness to him as well. Can I pray that God will give you patience and kindness even when the children are frustrating?” Then he may pray a scripture over me or just pray through the truth of the gospel once more.
It’s amazing how life-giving it is to have someone walk through that process with you. It’s as though you are sliding around on the ice, and someone extends a steady hand to help you walk across it. Praise God that we don’t have to slip and slide through this life alone!
Of course, this doesn’t happen every day and many times we still manage to offend each other even when we intend to speak with love (more sin…<sigh>). But overall, I consider it a great blessing that God has taught us to speak freely of sin and grace in our home. By pointing each other to the cross of Christ over and over, we are able to reinforce right thinking and encourage the pursuit of holiness in one another.
Please feel free to add any additional comments about other parts of the chapter or share what the Lord has been teaching you. We have new people just beginning to read the book, so watch for new comments on earlier posts as people catch up.