Book review: “The Gospel for Real Life”

The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry BridgesWhen [as] a teenager I did trust Christ, my sole objective was...—to escape hell and go to heaven when I died.

Now that, in itself, is of inestimable value, and I wouldn’t for a moment minimize the infinite contrast between eternity in heaven and in hell.

But that is only part of the gospel. It does not address our relationship with God today.

So writes Jerry Bridges in The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the liberating power of the cross...every day. But I, too, could have written similar words about my own past.

If gospel really means good news, and it does, then why are we “asking for fifty cents or perhaps a couple of dollars when we have $50,000 in the bank?”  Because we don’t really understand the gospel?

Yes.

All my life I’ve known Christians (including myself) who still don’t really get it. We trust in Christ’s power to save us in the afterlife, but not so much in his power to save us in this one. Bridges spells out answers to that dilemma and other common ones as clearly as possible.

For example, what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul and mind? Here are some ways it might look:

  • Your love for God transcends all other desires (Ex 20:3).
  • Like David, you long to gaze upon his beauty and seek fellowship with him (Ps 27:4).
  • You rejoice in meditating on his word, and, like Jesus, you rise early to pray (Ps 119:97; Mark 1:35).
  • You always delight to do his will, regardless of how difficult it may be (Ps 40:8).
  • A regard for his glory governs and motivates everything you do—your eating and drinking, your working and playing, your buying and selling, your reading and speaking—and, dare I mention it, even your driving (1 Cor 10:31).
  • You are never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you are confident God is working all things together for your good (Rom 8:28).
  • You recognize his sovereignty in every event of your life and consequently receive both success and failure from his hand (1 Sam 2:7; Ps 75:6-7).
  • You are always content because you know he will never leave you or forsake you (Heb 13:5).
  • The first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be your name,” is the most important prayer you pray (Matt 6:9).

Many teachings in this book are elemental, but they’re still refreshing to hear. And other thoughts are expounded in a fuller way than I’d ever thought about. The mix provides for enjoyable and spiritually-uplifting reading.

The Study Guide at the back of the book (for individual or group study) further drives home the lessons. The primary two questions that push the discussion are these:

  1. Do I really understand this? Well enough that I could explain it to someone—including myself?
  2. Do I really believe this?

As Bridges phrases it, this book is about “preaching the gospel to yourself every day.” Know what it is. Know why you need it. Know how to do it.

No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, reminding yourself of the joys of the gospel is always worthwhile. This book does just that.

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