Bookends of the Christian Life

The introduction to The Bookends of the Christian Life argues that without properly understanding the reality and the role of 1. The righteousness of Christ and 2. The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we will always be in a constant struggle in our pursuit of holiness and the glorification of God. Chapter 1 begins to deal with their arguments involving the righteousness of Christ.
Most of the chapter is spent explaining that we are not righteous, that Jesus Christ was righteous, that God expects perfect righteousness from us and that without perfect righteousness we cannot enter heaven, and that through Jesus’ death on the cross, His righteousness was credited to believers.
So what does this mean practically? They begin to address this near the end of the chapter and this is where I would like most of the discussion to take place. This book is meant to be extremely practical in how it works out in our lives. The first point they make that I would like to discuss is found on page 27, “When…we depend on our own performance, whether good or bad in our estimate, as the basis of God’s approval, our assurance that we stand before God as justified sinners inevitably fades.”
If you are anything like me, you can think of a hundred ways that you act like God’s approval of you is based on your actions. Obviously God is pleased and displeased with us based on our actions, but always as a loving Father would be towards his children. Our salvation is never in jeopardy. Now, I realize that this notion can be taken too far. For the sake of profitable and edifying conversation, lets assume that none of us are going to adopt a ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ lifestyle because of this truth. Lets instead look for the ways that fully coming to grips with its implications frees us from our sin. What are some ways in your own lives that this truth has affected you? Do you see any areas in your life where you are still working to earn God’s approval? Have you ever experienced a time when remembering this truth gave you the courage and power to fight a particular sin in your life?
The second point is slightly different and found on page 28, “Second, we must place our reliance entirely on the perfect obedience and sin-bearing death of Christ as the sole basis of our standing before God – on our best days as well as our worst.” How does this truth work out on our good days? On the days where obedience is easy, God’s blessings our evident, we remembered to read our bible and pray, we didn’t yell at our kids once, and we were respectful and submissive to our husbands. How do we remind ourselves of this truth on these days? Do you remind yourself? Just as it is vitally important for us to remember our justification on the bad days, the days where every time you turn around you see more sin in your life, it is just as important for us to remember our justification on our good days. It is so easy to forget the massive price that Jesus paid for us in His death on the cross when we view ourselves as ‘having it together.’ We must always remind ourselves that we would have nothing without Jesus’ blood spilled on our behalf.

Okay then! Lets discuss…what part of the chapter did you find particularly helpful? Did you have any questions? concerns? disagreements? Please don’t feel like you have to answer every question I asked here; I know there were a lot. Pick the ones you liked. 🙂 Also, feel free to interact with what others have said. This should really feel more like a discussion rather than a bunch of people listing off their own opinions. I know its going to take some getting used to and be a little bit weird in the beginning but I’m very excited to see how this goes!

Don’t forget that Jasmine has chapter 2 next week on Tuesday!

Comments

  1. Nichole, thank you for taking this first chapter. You are setting the tone for the whole online discussion.

    What really stood out to me in this chapter was when he said, "Everyday we must re-acknowledge the fact that there's nothing we can do to make ourselves either more acceptable to God or less acceptable. Regardless of how much we grow in our christian lives, we're accepted for Christ's sake or not accepted at all." He goes on to say that reliance on Christ alone is the only way to experience the DAILY reality of Christ's imputed righteousness.

    The reality that it is an alien righteousness imputed to me, apart from anything I think, say, do, or desire and that should cause me to daily be broken and humble, yet joyful and flat out grateful everyday! The reality that it is
    Christ alone leaves no room for haughtiness as I see any godly traits worked out in my life.
    If I am remembering this then you are right, Nichole, how I speak to my husband, train my children and act toward brothers and sisters in Christ will be radically affected.

    As I "grow" as a Christ follower I am seeing more and more how I must make a conscious decision everyday to remember the gospel. I have been discouraged at how easily I can forget. I may not say, " hey I am not a child of grace today, I shall remove from my memory that I have been MADE righteous", but I see it in my words and actions!

  2. Kim Henry says:

    Nichole, I really enjoyed reading your blog and the 1st chapt. of the book. It is so important to remember that we have Christ's righteousness. We can never achieve righteousness but we constantly think that we can due to our sinful nature and our pride. Therefore, we are always in a state of being disappointed and feeling like failures.

    If only we could grasp that we have been given our Lord's righteousness. That the God of the universe chooses to look at us and see His beloved Son's righteousness! What a blessing. Then we would be completely free, without reservation to love, glorify, and serve Him. Instead we have guilt and Satan then is able to accuse us and we feel unworthy to read our bibles, to pray, to go to church, and to serve. God has given us this incredible gift and we act like He has given it to someone else and it will never be ours! My prayer for us is that we understand this fully and we live like it is true. Because it is! Also, that we rejoice in the promises offered to the righteous in Proverbs and in other places in scripture because they are ours in our precious Savior!

  3. Nichole Henry says:

    Exactly, ma! Its crazy to consider how drastically our lives would change if we truly grasped the work that Christ accomplished in our lives through His death on the cross! It always gives me hope to fight the sin in my life remembering that the battle is already won – God sees Jesus' righteousness whenever He looks at me! Who wouldn't be afraid to fight if they knew victory was absolutely guaranteed? And yet so often we cower in fear of getting hurt, of failure, of working too hard. Oh that we would realize the depth of our forgiveness and truly press on towards perfection, daily fighting the good fight!

  4. judylove says:

    Ladies,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and prayers with everyone. I am really enjoying this book. I went to the study guide that they mentioned at http://www.thebookendsbook.com and found that very helpful as well. In the study guide they talk about visualizing a bookshelf and they ask the question "What tends to happen when you have too many books off the shelf at the same time?" I can really relate to that picture right now since you all know how books have taken over our home! If I take too many books off of a shelf, they all come tumbling down. That thought has really caused me to do some serious contemplation. I have been so busy with our book business, thinking about the kids, thinking about Caleb going away to college, Tom’s health, my health… you get the picture, with all of these “books” off of the shelf so to speak, I haven’t been spending nearly enough time focusing on the important things. The things that give me hope and encouragement and remind me that these trials are all temporary and part of the process of making me more Christ-like. And then the Lord lets a wonderful book fall into my lap and He reminds me that it’s all about Him and I am reminded of that great and perfect sacrifice He made and how that is what truly matters and when I focus on Him, all the other trials seem so much more manageable – because they aren’t mine to manage. I can trust my Father, He has everything under control. Thanks for recommending a great book that really spoke to my heart!

  5. Every time God looks upon me which is continually , even when I kid myself no one is looking, He sees Jesus' righteousness….so why is it that I do not?
    I know I can only stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, yet I am constantly thinking if I just do this, say this, read this, be more faithful in this discipline God will be more pleased with me. And this pleasing will some how result in…I'm not wholly sure what I expect, more blessing, end of trials, easy breezy carefree days?
    Shelly screws up all the time yet Christ righteousness doesn't somehow slide off you know become a little less righteous a little tainted, it is still fully in tact still fully His and given to me through no effort of my own through no deserving of my own.
    This is easy to say but not so easy to live in.
    If I fully grasp the mercy and grace that has been given me I would be a woman of gentle and quiet spirit because nothing would be about me anymore.
    The gospel in light of daily walking would humble me to the point of valuing others more then me, hospitality, being devoted, giving preference and so on would be a what I would run to not things I would attach buts to.
    I would embrace obedience on to death because of the wonder and beauty and love that have been poured out for me.
    So here I sit, yes it is Christ righteousness not mine(I have none) and yet my life poorly reflects this.

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