Jerry Bridges writes a piercing, challenging, and practical charge for Christians to give their lives to be holy as God commands. In The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), readers will find practical helps, biblical conviction, and realistically high expectations.
What I Liked
Bridges clearly points Christians toward a higher level of following Christ. Far too many believers fail to live a holy life because they have compromised their understanding of what it means to be holy. The command of God is not for us to be more holy than our neighbors, it is to be holy like God. As Bridges writes, “This is where holiness begins—not with ourselves, but with God. It is only as we see His holiness, His absolute purity and moral hatred of sin, that we will be gripped by the awfulness of sin against the Holy God” (20). One major help for any believer to grow in holiness will be to see God in his true, awesome, terrifying, holiness.
Bridges rightly calls believers to seek to be holy by submitting themselves to the word of God. He writes, “We express our dependence on the Holy Spirit for a holy life in two ways. The first is through a humble and consistent intake of the Scripture. If we truly desire to live in the realm of the Spirit we must continually feed our minds with His truth. It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God” (75). Bridges also claims, “Obedience is the pathway to holiness, but it is only as we have His commands that we can obey them. God’s Word must be so strongly fixed in our minds that it becomes the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions” (85). Again, Bridges says, “The Bible speaks to us primarily through our reason, and this is why it is so vitally important for our minds to be constantly brought under its influence. There is absolutely no shortcut to holiness that bypasses or gives little priority to a consistent intake of the Bible” (125). It is good, very good, for Christians to hear authors call them to sanctification through the Scriptures.
Though I could point out several other things, I’ll only list one more for right now. Bridges does an excellent job of calling Christians to accept the fact their sin is their responsibility. He argues, “We are to do something. We are not to “stop trying and start trusting”; we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body” (78). Bridges also writes, “So we see that God has made provision for our holiness. Through Christ He has delivered us from sin’s reign so that we now can resist sin. But the responsibility for resisting is ours. God does not do that for us” (57). Again, Bridges powerfully wraps up the book by asking, “Truly the choice is ours. What will we choose? Will we accept our responsibility and discipline ourselves to live in habitual obedience to the will of God? Will we persevere in
the face of frequent failure, resolving never to give up? Will we decide that personal holiness is worth the price of saying no to our body’s demands to indulge its appetites?” (152).
What I didn’t Like
There are a few shortcomings in this book, though not very many. Bridges would have made an even stronger case for personal holiness had he done more to truly identify what it means that God is holy. Bridges aimed at this goal, and brushed up against it on occasion, but he never truly gave the reader a deep sense of awe of God’s holiness. I write this fully aware that Bridges was not trying to write Sproul’s The Holiness of God, but was instead writing a book aimed at calling us to be holy. However, I would have liked another chapter or two on the importance of what it means that God is holy.
At the end of the book, Bridges points out the other shortcoming that I will mention. He (or his publisher) points out that this book focuses mainly on how to put off sin, but does not focus as much on putting on the godly alternatives that will help a believer to live in righteousness. In the final pages, readers find an encouragement to read The Practice of Godliness for this kind of advice. However, if more of how to put on righteousness had been in this book, it would have been stronger.
The Pursuit of Holiness is a book that any believer could benefit from reading. The chapters are short, easy-to-read, and power-packed. This book would be ideal for small group studies between friends or for personal devotional reading. I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to have more joy in his Christian life by living more of what God calls him to be.