Jerry Bridges.1996. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra, Author of Simple Faith and other books available online.
As an author, I sometimes find reading good books difficult because I catch myself comparing my own writing to that of the author. Some authors recall details of every book they ever read; others write with such flair that every sentence reads like poetry; still others peer into the soul and catch points so profound that nothing appears unexplored. In a world of such genius, I think to myself, why do I even continue to write? The answer is that the call of the Christian writer is specific to our own talents and audiences, much like our call as Christians more generally is to glorify God with the gifts and calling that he has given us.
In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges writes about a similar dilemma when it comes to holiness:
“We Christian greatly enjoy talking about the provision of God, how Christ defeated sin on the cross and gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to victory over sin. But we do not as readily talk about our own our own responsibility to walk in holiness.”(10)
Pursuing holiness is a lifelong task for which diligence and effort are required (Heb 12:14), much like the effort required to a develop a talent like writing. Bridges writes: “…the holiness of Jesus was more than simply the absence of actual sin. It was also a perfect conformity to the will of the father.”(43) He refers to holiness as the throwing off of sin, while the putting on of Christ he calls godliness.
Background and Organization
Jerry Bridges (1929 – 2016) studied at the University of Oklahoma, served in the U.S. Navy, and worked on the staff of The Navigators, an evangelistic Christian group headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He authored numerous books on the Christian life.
Bridges writes in eighteen chapters, each centered on a particular passage of scripture. These chapters are preceded by a foreword and preface, and followed by a postscript.
Why Worry About Sin?
Bridges poses an important question:
“If holiness, then, is so basic to the Christian life, why do we not experience it more in daily living? Why do so many Christians feel constantly defeated in their struggle with sin?”(16)
He cites three reasons.
First, “our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered.”(16) Obedience, not victory, is God’s will (17).
“Our second problem is that we have misunderstood ‘living by faith’ (Gal 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part.”(17)
“Our third problem is that we do not take some sin seriously.”(18)
All sin is rebellion against God’s will for lives, which is why it is somethings compared to yeast that acts like an infection that spreads fast with devastating consequences.
Bridges makes an important point: “God does not require a perfect, sinless life to have fellowship with Him, but He does require that we be serious about holiness, that we grieve over sin in our lives instead of justifying it, and that we earnestly pursue holiness as a way of life.”(36) We need to cling to Christ’s mantle, like the woman who suffered from bleeding (Matt 9:20-22)
This is a book that I read in 2002, almost a decade before I attended seminary. As I reviewed my notes for this review, I was struck by how many insights that I have found myself repeating since then. One that my wife and kids even remember is this: “How do we view those who do not show love for us? Do we see them as persons for whom Christ died for or as persons who make our lives difficult?”(46) I cited this idea in a sermon only two weeks ago (link), not remembering where I got it.
Jerry Bridges’s book, The Pursuit of Holiness, is destined to be a Christian classic. The wisdom found in this book has informed my walk with the Lord for almost twenty years. It is easy to read and well worth the effort.
Bridges Breathes Life into Holiness
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