I was a young, impressionable college student when I first fell in love with The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.  Young, zealous, passionate – so convinced that my burning love for God alone was enough to make everything else in life click.  I entered a study and discussion group of this book with several of my girlfriends, some of the godliest women I knew.  Together we dove into this book and waded our way through the deep theological truths.  As we began to understand God’s truth about holiness, our lives were transformed.  And yet, even now, so many years later, this book still pushes my thinking every time I pick it up.

If you have been around our church long enough, you know that we love Bridges and his book The Gospel for Real Life.  This book is no different and should be a must-read for every believer.  As is his custom, Bridges skillfully blends theology with practicality, doctrine with deeds.  The book is heavy-laden with truths from Scripture, for Bridges truly understands that there is no other power by which we change.  While the book does contain many real-life examples and applications, Bridges cautiously avoids checklists and do’s and don’ts as a means of holiness.  Instead, he begins his book by immediately drawing the reader’s attention to the real problem – me and you.

As any believer can attest, Bridges recognizes that there is indeed a struggle in the quest for holiness.  However, he states that much of a believer’s struggle with holiness lies in the fact that “our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered” (16).  We quickly focus on our own defeat or disappointment when we sin rather than focusing on the holy God whom we have sinned against.  In order to combat this problem, Bridges argues that we must have the very holiness of God as the foundation of our pursuit of holiness.  In this section, the author highlights theological concepts and truths such as God’s attribute of holiness, the holiness of Christ, and the benefits of our union with Christ.  Here is where the book truly shines, for there can be no change without truth.  There are no self-help formulas; instead, God’s eternal plan of redemption shines.

Although the author recognizes the importance of knowing doctrine in a believer’s walk, he also recognizes the daily battle that all face.  But, instead of focusing on our own means, Bridges compels us to look to the Scriptures to combat our struggles.  There is no room for complacency here – one’s own personal discipline and knowledge of the Scriptures takes the cake.  Instead of patting you on the back and giving you warm fuzzies about being a child of God, Bridges calls the Christian to battle – a battle for holiness.  In this battle, we must face the truth of who we are.  We must be reminded of the deceitfulness of our hearts.  Bridges reminds us that “the seat of indwelling sin, then, is our deceitful, unsearchable heart…that indwelling sin works largely through our desires” (63).   While his thoughts on this topic could sound lofty and unpractical, he also spends time explaining how we are to rely on the Holy Spirit, pray for holiness, and work to build holy habits in our life.

Bridges also excels in explaining that holiness not only means that we must control our outwardly, bodily desires, but we also must control our thinking.  “Quiet” sins such as envy, jealousy, impure thoughts, a critical spirit, and bitterness will work against a pursuit of holiness.  The author rightly calls Christians out on such sins – they are just as evil and profane as adultery, drunkenness, and outward immorality.  We would do well to start addressing them as such in our lives – and treating them as such.  How quickly we dismiss a critical spirit towards a brother or sister, failing to recognize that such a spirit will never promote holiness in our life.  The call to Christians is clear:

“We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us.  Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.” (81)

The Pursuit of Holiness is a must-read for any believer.  In his book, Bridges so carefully explains the doctrine behind the holiness of God and His call for His children to be holy.  God greatly used this book in my life to help me see that loving God is not all I need to do in order to please Him.  I must – we all must – pursue holiness.  Jerry Bridges makes the truth accessible and desirable … may our hearts burn to emulate the very holiness of God.

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