The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Introduction

Jerry Bridges wrote The Pursuit of Holiness in 1978. He updated the book in 1996. The current edition of the book was produced in 2006. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies across the globe. Nav Press, the publishing arm of The Navigators, a ministry that Jerry Bridges worked with for decades, published it. Popular evangelical authors like J I Packer, R C Sproul, and John Macarthur recommend the book.

Meet the Man

Jerry Bridges was born on December 4, 1929, in Tyler, Texas. He got his degree in engineering at the University of Oklahoma. Later on, he would go on to work with the US Navy during the Korean War. It was during his time in the Navy he met with the Navigators, a Christian ministry. He would later spend a major part of his life working in different positions for the Navigators in the United States and Europe.

Jerry Bridges was an accomplished writer, conference speaker, and administrator. He wrote more than a dozen books, and his books have won the ECPA Christian award on two occasions. The Pursuit of God has sold more than 1.5 million copies across the world. Jerry Bridges died on March 6, 2016. He had a massive influence on the evangelical church through his books and sermons. He is one of the most accomplished writers and speakers on the topic of the gospel and personal holiness.

Summary of the Book

The current edition of the book has seventeen chapters. The book starts by making a case that holiness should be the pursuit of every Christian. Jerry’s primary verse, which serves as the launching pad for the book, is 1 Timothy 4:7, 8. “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales: rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

He sought to strike a balance between two equal and opposite errors we tend to make when it comes to holiness. On the one hand, some emphasize the imputed righteousness of Christ and the fact that we are complete in him to the exclusion of a pursuit of holiness. Their mantra is, “let go and let God.” Holiness for them is not something we strive towards but something that God works in us as we just choose to trust him and let him do the work. On the other hand, some emphasize the believer’s pursuit of holiness that they lose sight of the gospel and the finished work of Christ, which is the basis of our justification.

Jerry emphasized that while it is through the work of Christ that we are saved now and forever, the bible calls us to pursue holiness. Likewise, holiness is not something God works in us passively. Rather, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling precisely because it is God who works in us to will and do of his good pleasure. Paul calls us like Timothy to train ourselves to be godly.

After establishing the basis for the book, he goes on to explain the Holiness of God (which is the basis of his call for us to be holy, 1 Peter 1:16) and the Holiness of Christ (the basis for our salvation). Jerry went on to establish that the pursuit of holiness is only for those who have experienced regeneration – those who have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light by the internal work of the Spirit through the word.

He went on to establish from Romans 7 that this pursuit of holiness is a battle. Though we are no longer under the rule and reign of sin by virtue of our regeneration, sin still lives in us waging guerrilla warfare. However, we must reckon the fact that we are dead to sin and alive to God if we are to experience victory over sin in our daily lives. We are now alive to God, and the power of God works in us (through the Spirit) to give us victory over indwelling sin so we can yield our members as instruments of righteousness. We are to depend (through the intake of Scriptures and prayer) on the strength that the Holy Spirit gives as we live a life of conformity to Christ.

Though God has made provision for our holiness, we are responsible for our holiness. We are to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13) and whatever belongs to our sinful nature (Colossians 3:5). We are to train ourselves to be holy through the disciplined use of the means of grace that God gives us.

The domain of holiness includes our body and Spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1). It takes place as our wills are yielded to God (as we guard our minds and emotions). We are to destroy sinful habits and form habits of holiness as we depend and trust in God. Though we live in an unholy world, God calls us to be holy. The holy life is not a life of drudgery but inexpressible joy. As we walk in obedience to Christ, we experience the fullness of joy that is at his right hand.

Why I Love the Book

  • The Balance

Jerry Bridges knew how to strike an amazing balance between the declarative and the imperatives of the Scriptures. He was a master at finding the biblical balance on issues surrounding the gospel and personal holiness. He brings a sharp focus to the finished work of Christ and our call to holiness, the need to depend on the Spirit and an invitation to personal responsibility, the necessity of faith and the call to discipline/striving, the reality of our deadness to sin and the presence of indwelling sin.

  • The Gospel

I have read three of Jerry Bridges’ books on the gospel. He had a fantastic grasp of the apostolic gospel. Whatever work of his you read (even his autobiography), you will see the gospel in its truth and glory. Jerry presented the gospel truths in simplicity, especially as it relates to the call to holiness.

  • Personal Responsibility

This is not a “let go and let God” book. The book challenges us to recognize our personal responsibility from Scriptures. We are to discipline our body, strive to be godly, and pursue the holiness without which no man will see God. While he emphasized the resources that are ours through the Spirit, he balanced it with a passionate reminder of our responsibility.

  • The Joy

The last chapter may be the most important chapter in the book, especially for those who already understand the call to holiness. We tend to see holiness as something that is opposed to joy. However, Jerry showed us that holiness is the only way to experience true joy. Holiness does not diminish joy; it is the very precondition for it. As we let go of sin and become conformed to Christ, we experience a deeper fellowship with Christ, which is the source of every true joy.

  • Practical Application

You cannot read any of Jerry’s book and ask the question, “what then?” at the end. As you go through the book from chapter to chapter, the applications are obvious. Jerry teaches the “what” and the “what then” with unquestionable brilliance. The book will not merely increase your knowledge; it will show you how you can begin to experience this holiness

  • Personal Experience

As you read the book, you will get the feeling that the writer is not an academician but someone who has experienced what he is communicating. He will draw you into his own experience of these truths of Scriptures through his years as a Christian and a minister.

  • The Christ-centeredness

Very early in the book, he emphasizes that Christ is the standard in our pursuit of holiness. We do not measure our progress by our self or the people around us. Holiness is nothing less or more than Christ-likeness.

Why You Should Read the Book

  • Simple to Understand

Jerry knew how to communicate with the average person on the pew. He communicated his ideas in simple and effective ways. You will get all the theology on this subject without feeling you are reading a theological treatise.

  • Concise and Thorough

These two things are not easy to combine. The book is only 182 pages (on Scribd), but the thoroughness with which he treats the subject will make it seem like you read a 500 pages book. He focused on explaining the text and making the applications with simplicity.

  • Gospel Focus

Like every one of his books, you will see the gospel shine through every page of The Pursuit of Holiness

  • Practical

The book focuses on how you can pursue holiness and take responsibility for God’s commands to us to be holy. It will challenge you, encourage you, and give you many practical insights that will help you in the journey.

  • Biblical

Every chapter has a bible text, which is the basis of the thoughts in the chapter. Jerry was an excellent expositor who knew how to exegete and explain passages of scriptures. He did not establish any of his points by speculation or personal opinion. He tried to be faithful to the text at every point.

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