Book Review: The Pursuit of Holiness

“The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges

I waited far too long to read this book… but better late than never!

Jerry Bridges’ now-classic book on holiness has instantly vaulted up my list of must-read recommendations. It is the perfect blend of biblical exposition and practical application, which treads the delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Drawing on a metaphor from the world of farming (a tactic borrowed from Christ’s earthly ministry), Bridges teaches that holiness is a joint ventureĀ  between God and the Christian. Only God can make a seed grow, but the farmer must still plant, water, and harvest the crop. In the same way, only God can produce sanctification in the life of a believer, but each Christian has a responsibility to work at his own holiness. Man cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what man must do.

It is a constant temptation to pick one of two extremes, or to vacillate between them: Believing that salvation is up to me and that my works can merit salvation (legalism), or believing that because God is sovereign, it makes no difference what I do or how I live (antinomianism). A genuine pursuit of holiness avoids both of these opposite errors.

This was one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read, but also one of the most encouraging. It forced me to focus inward on my own sinfulness as I realized that, for all my progress since I became a Christian, I still fail every day to live up to God’s standard of holiness. I am complacent in many of ways, treating casually the very sins for which Christ died. Yet I was also reminded of the power that is mine through union with Christ in the Holy Spirit. So often I make excuses for why I continue to give in to my desires, but the truth is that I am without excuse. I have the ability to resist sin, yet still I choose to sin.

For me, the greatest distinction made in the book was between “victory” and “obedience”. It is common for Christians to speak of sin in terms of “victory” and “defeat”. What we usually mean by this is that there are some sins over which God has not yet granted us victory. The implication is that God has not done enough to achieve our sanctification.

Instead, Bridges says, we must realize that Christ has already won the victory over every sin, and has already given this victory to his people (1 Corinthians 15:57). When I sin, it is not because sin has defeated me. It is because I am disobedient. It sounds so simple, but it rocked my world as I read it. This is a perfect example of why we need the Word preached to us, and to be taught by wise and Godly men. I already “knew” that Christ had died so that I could put my sins to death (Colossians 3:5), but through the words of Jerry Bridges this lesson has begun to sink in as never before.

This is a book I know I will come back to again and again, and I hope you will, too. Buy it here.

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