The answer to this question is important. It tells us how to experience the application of the first bookend to our daily lives. For Paul, justification was not only a past event; it was also a daily, present reality. So every day of his life, by faith in Christ, Paul realized he stood righteous in the sight of God—he was counted righteous and accepted by God as righteous—because of the perfectly obedient life and death Christ provided for him. He stood solely on the rock-solid righteousness of Christ alone, which is our first bookend.

We must learn to live like the apostle Paul, looking every day outside ourselves to Christ and seeing ourselves standing before God clothed in his perfect righteousness. Every day 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. It’s this reliance on Christ alone, apart from any consideration of our good or bad deeds, that enables us to experience the daily reality of the first bookend, in which the believer finds peace and joy and comfort and gratitude.

Before battery-powered watches were invented, wristwatches had to be wound every day. A watch’s stem was used not only to adjust the hands but also to wind up the mainspring. The gradual unwinding of the mainspring throughout the day drove the mechanism of the watch to keep time. The gospel of justification by faith in Christ is the mainspring of the Christian life. And like the mainspring in old watches, it must be wound every day. Because we have a natural tendency to look within ourselves for the basis of God’s approval or disapproval, we must make a conscious daily effort to look outside ourselves to the righteousness of Christ, then to stand in the present reality of our justification. Only then will we experience the stability that the first bookend is meant to provide.

But if it’s true God’s acceptance of me and his blessing on my life is based entirely on the righteousness of Christ, what difference does it make how I live? Why should I make any effort? Why should I put myself through the pain of dealing with sin and seeking to grow in Christlike character if it doesn’t affect my standing with God? We’ll answer these questions in the next chapter.

The Bookends of the Christian Life

Copyright © 2009 by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington
Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
1300 Crescent Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187

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