What Kind of Bankruptcy Did You Declare?
Jerry Bridges comments on how little the grace of God tends to shape our daily relationship with God:
In the business world, financially troubled companies forced into bankruptcy have two options, popularly known as chapter 7 and chapter ii, after the respective chapters in the federal bankruptcy code. Chapter ii deals with what we could call a temporary bankruptcy. This option is chosen by a basically healthy company that, given time, can work through its financial problems.
Chapter 7 is for a company that has reached the end of its financial rope. It is not only deeply in debt, it has no future as a viable business. It is forced to liquidate its assets and pay off its creditors, often by as little as ten cents on the dollar. The company is finished. It’s all over. The owners or investors lose everything they’ve put into the business. No one likes chapter 7 bankruptcy.
So what kind of bankruptcy did we declare? To use the business analogy, did we file under chapter 7 or chapter ii? Was it permanent or temporary? I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. We believe He completely paid our debt of sin and secured for us the gift of eternal life. There is nothing more we can do to earn our salvation, so using the business analogy, we would say we filed permanent bankruptcy.
However, I think most of us actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to heaven, but we do think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.
After we become Christians we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We also start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle, and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. We are now ready to emerge from bankruptcy and pay our own way in the Christian life.
Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin, or we fail to do what we should have done. Because we think we are now on our own, paying our own way, we assume we have forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God’s blessing depends on how well we feel we are living the Christian life. We declared temporary bankruptcy to get into His kingdom, so now we think we can and must pay our own way with God. We were saved by grace, but we are living by performance. . . .
But here is the reality of the gospel:
. . . not only has the debt been fully paid, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future. As Paul said in Colossians 2:13, “[God] forgave us all our sins.” We don’t have to start all over again and try to keep the slate clean. There is no more slate. . . . This is true not only for our justification, but for our Christian lives as well. God is not keeping score, granting or withholding blessings on the basis of our performance. The score has already been permanently settled by Christ. We so often miss this dimension of the gospel.
We are brought into God’s kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace. The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.
–Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991, 2008), 14-21. Kindle Edition.