Jerry Bridges, Vice President of the Navigators, explained how Jack taught him what it means to “preach the gospel to yourself.”
After encountering Jack, Bridges’s teaching and writing began to change significantly from his classic The Pursuit of Holiness published in 1978 to The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness published in 1994. Bridges explained the change:
“I also owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Dr. Jack Miller, from whom I acquired the expression “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” I had been doing that, somewhat out of necessity for several years, but Dr. Miller helped bring that concept into sharper focus and more conscious application for me.”1
Jerry Bridges passed away on March 6, 2016. Bridges served on the board of World Harvest Mission in 1996. In an email exchange with the author a year before his death, Bridges explained further his use and adaptation of “preach the gospel to yourself.” He writes, “I had been practicing ‘preaching the gospel’ to myself before I heard of Jack Miller, but I had never put a name to it. A PCA pastor I met at a men’s retreat told me about Jack Miller, so I sent away for the Sonship cassettes and listened to them. That is where I heard him use the expression, ‘preach the gospel to yourself.’ I was impressed by his message and managed to meet him and spend a couple of hours…. I had more questions to ask him, but he died before I had an opportunity to see him again.” In a follow-up email, Bridges’s said, “Today I think that phrase has become a bit shop worn, so I have changed to ‘live by the gospel every day.’ I say in my messages on living by the gospel that the gospel is the mainspring of the Christian life, and like the mainspring of the old wind-up watches, it has to be wound every day. Another analogy I use is the manna in the wilderness. It had to be gathered every day. Another illustration I use is living by the gospel is like rowing upstream in the river of performance. The moment you take your oars out of the water by taking your eyes off of the gospel, you start drifting into a performance relationship with God.”2
Jack recorded his recollection of the hours spent with Bridges. He writes, “Jerry Bridges, well-known author and Navigator leader, recently summed up the issue in a message that he gave to a gathering of leaders in Dallas, Texas. He said that if one drew a time line marked at one end with birth and at the other end with one’s own death, the most important point on the line is the day of conversion. Then he said that before conversion “the gospel was what one needs most,” but after conversion “what one needs most is discipleship.” Therefore, the word he would write on the line before conversion was “gospel,” and after this event he would write “discipleship.” His hearers seemed to agree that this defined things well. But he explained that he now saw this as a deficient view of grace. Today, he believes that the gospel is as much needed after conversion as it is before. Bridges concluded, ‘Discipleship and the gospel belong together, because the gospel must provide a grace foundation for discipleship.’”3
1. Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016), Kindle edition, 8.
2. See Jerry Bridges, “Email Exchange with Jerry Bridges concerning the Influence of Jack Miller,” C. John Miller Oral History Interview Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, email dated 24–24 April 2015.
3. See C. John Miller, “Grace Meditation: The Constant Foundation for Christian Action.” The C. John Miller Manuscript Collection, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO (1995).
From Michael A. Graham, “Cheer Up! A Biographical Study of the Life and Ministry of C. John “Jack“: A Twentieth Century Pioneer of Grace.” Ph.D. diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2019.