“Disciplined by Grace” is the fifth chapter in the book The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, which we’re discussing every Thursday in the “Reading Classics Together” challenge at Challies‘ place.
“Disciplined by Grace” seems an oxymoron to many who don’t associate the two together, but Bridges asserts that that’s because of a misunderstanding of both concepts.
The epigraph for this chapter is Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”The word for “teach” there “means much more than…imparting knowledge. Originally it was used as a term for the rearing of children and included not only instruction, but also admonition, reproof, and punishment, all administered in love and for the benefit of the child” (p. 80).
Spiritually, “discipline includes all instruction, all reproof and correction, and all providentially directed hardships in our lives that are aimed at cultivating spiritual growth” (p. 80). But, “all of God’s disciplinary processes are grounded in His grace – His unmerited and unconditional favor toward us (p. 80).
It’s so important to keep these two concepts in balance. With a heavier leaning towards discipline, even good spiritual practices designed to grow us can become performance-based (thinking we earn God’s favor by doing them), while a heavier leaning toward grace can lead to laxity.
Bridges points out from the verse above that grace teaches us to say “No” to some things — ungodliness and worldly passions (and he points out that ungodliness is basically “disregarding God, ignoring Him, or not taking Him into account in one’s life. It is a lack of fear and reverence for Him”[(p. 85]) — and “Yes” to others — self control, uprightness, and godliness. This is the basic “put off/put on” scenario of Ephesians 4:20-32.
But we need to always remember “With all this emphasis on practical Christian living…we must lose sight of the fact that it is grace — not law — that teaches us” (p. 92). The law “commanded but gave no ability to obey” and then “condemned me for my failure to obey” (p. 92). But “where the law condemns, grace forgives through the Lord Jesus Christ. Where the law commands but gives no power, grace commands but does give power through the Holy Spirit who lives and works in us” (p. 93).
I appreciated, too, what Bridges pointed out about the fact that while our acceptance before God is on the basis of grace rather than our “performance,” on the other hand, there are many admonitions about the importance of our testimony before unbelievers and the harm that can be done to the cause of Christ by a poor example in ourselves (pp. 89-90).
More discussion on this chapter is here.
Previous chapters discussed from The Discipline of Grace are: