I finally finished reading Jerry Bridges’ classic book The Pursuit of Holiness. I started it some time ago, but got away from it. While on vacation I picked it back up and finished it. It was both convicting and encouraging, challenging and helpful. Long story short, it is a book every Christian should read – probably 2 or 3 times each year.
In many discussions of personal holiness, one of two extremes comes to light. One over-emphasizes personal effort, as if sanctification and growth in holiness is totally dependent on one’s efforts of trying harder to do better. The other over-emphasizes the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work – almost completely eliminating any personal responsibility – as if any amount of effort on the believer’s part denotes a works-based attempt at holiness. A balanced perspective is what is needed – a recognition of the necessity of the Spirit’s work, coupled with responsibility on the part of the believer to actively pursue holiness and turn away from ungodliness. This balance is exactly what Bridges offers.
This book neatly weds orthodoxy with orthopraxy – right theology with right practice. Bridges spends significant time laying the theological foundation for holiness, appropriately rooted in the holiness of God. Bridges writes, “This call to a holy life is based on the fact that God Himself is holy. Because God is holy, He requires that we be holy” (21). He then goes on to show how our only hope of holiness is found in Christ – through having Christ’s holiness imputed to us, and by having Christ’s life as an example of what it means to live a life of holiness. Bridges reminds the reader that, through Christ, he has been freed from the kingdom of darkness and now lives in a new kingdom under the reign of a new King. There is, therefore, hope for living the life of holiness that God demands.
As noted above, there is always the struggle of “how” we should pursue this lifestyle of holiness, particularly in terms of understanding who is doing the work of making us holy. Bridges takes this issue head-on. He acknowledges that our most perplexing question is often: “What should I look to God for and what am I responsible for myself?” (50) Bridges answers this question by saying, “…God has indeed made provision for us to live a holy life, but He also has given us definite responsibilities” (51). Much of the remainder of the book gives practical counsel on how to pursue holiness in light of this appropriate balance.
The book is very accessible to most readers. It has been divided into short chapters (about 8-10 pages each) which allows the reader to read short amounts at a time, providing the opportunity for meditating on the truths presented and considering areas where repentance and obedience may be called for. The format would be appropriate both for individual use (such as in one’s personal quiet time) or in a small group format with a few other believers (reading it and discussing the contents together).
If you have not read The Pursuit of Holiness, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Read it slowly. Read it thoughtfully. Ask God to use the biblical truths in the book to call you to repentance and obedience, where necessary, and to empower you, by His Spirit, to walk in greater faithfulness and obedience to Him. You may even want to ask another brother or sister in Christ to read it along with you. By doing this, you can obey Christ’s call to live as a disciple who is also seeking to make disciples of others, all for God’s glory.