The Pursuit of Holiness — Jerry Bridges [Book Summary]
Chapter 1 — Holiness Is for You
Jerry Bridges starts the first chapter with a story of how a phone call with a fellow once got him angry at the morning of his day and the influence it had on him. He used this story to relate possible besetting sins in our lives, and makes us understand that the Bible has the solution to whatever sin is bothering us. He goes on to explain what holiness is; he states that “to live a holy life … is to live a life in conformity to the moral precepts of the Bible and in contrast to the sinful ways of the world”, and with various Scriptural references, he made us see what it implies. He then lists three causes for our struggle with sin, which are;
1. Our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered
2. We have misunderstood “living by faith”
3. We do not take sin seriously
He makes us understand that we would only understand sin when we know that it is something against God, and not just a personal battle; i.e., something that implies going against God’s precepts and kingdom, which grieves Him. He tells us of our responsibility combined with our faith in God in our staying away from sin. He makes us see that we sometimes fault by categorising sin, i.e., overlooking certain sins because we feel they don’t have much impact.
He ends this chapter urging us to take responsibility for our sins, to depend on God’s grace, to see sin as an offence to God, and to obey God in ALL aspects of our lives.
Chapter 2 — The Holiness of God
Jerry Bridges starts this chapter by bringing to our understanding that God has called all believers, and not some select few, to be holy — to be like Him. He goes on to explain the holiness of God; he says, “God’s holiness … is perfect freedom from all evil. … perfect conformity to His own divine character.” He relates the development of our Christian character as we mature in the faith and the possibility of failure in being consistent in the character of holiness. He tells us that by acknowledging the holiness of God, we give Him praise. Then he further buttresses the importance of God’s holiness as being an attribute that perfects His other attributes (omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience). He makes us know of God’s demand for our holiness and His hatred towards sin. He ends this chapter by urging us to take God’s holiness, and His demand for our holiness seriously as we grow in holiness.
Chapter 3 — Holiness Is Not an Option
In this chapter, Jerry Bridges brings to our understanding the necessities of holiness, which are;
1. Holiness is a part of our salvation
2. Holiness is required for fellowship with God
3. Holiness is required for our well-being
4. Holiness is necessary for effective service to God
5. Holiness is necessary for our assurance of salvation
Jerry Bridges brings to our understanding the need for the work of Christ in us, and our effort towards living a holy life. He tells us the importance of holiness in terms of having intimacy with God; the saving power of God from sin; the ability to trust Christ to grant us holiness; the discipline of God when we sin; the need to be holy for usage by God; and holiness in our lives as a proof of our salvation.
He tells us as believers to ask ourselves; “Is there evidence of practical holiness in my life? Do I desire and strive after holiness? Do I grieve over my lack of it and earnestly seek the help of God to be holy?”
Chapter 4 — The Holiness of Christ
Jerry Bridges considers the holiness of Christ while on earth for us to;
1. Be firmly grounded in our security in Christ
2. Have His life as an example of holiness
Jerry Bridges points to many instances in the Scriptures, both old and new testaments, where Christ was revealed to be holy. He makes us know that the holiness of Christ was beyond the absence of sin, but also His conformity to His Father’s will. He goes on to tell us the need for our actions, thoughts, and motives to be pure, which were standards Christ met.
He makes us realize that the Holy Spirit in us constantly makes us aware of our need for holiness, even as we grow in it; and also how the devil tries to use this work of awareness of the Holy Spirit to discourage us, but we can regularly confirm our salvation in Christ’s righteousness and be encouraged.
He makes us see Christ as our example towards pleasing and doing the will of God. He ends this chapter by telling us that holiness is not adhering to a list of dos and don’ts, but following Christ to do the will of God.
Chapter 5 — A Change of Kingdoms
In this chapter, Jerry Bridges speaks of the struggles with sin we face as believers. He uses this chapter to point out God works for us against the power of sin, and our responsibility against sin. He makes us understand that our union with Christ brings about our death to sin, and though we are dead to sin, we are not free from its attacks, thus we ought to keep guard against it reigning in our mortal bodies. He says, “Though God has delivered us from the reign of sin, our sinful natures still reside within us. … When we become Christians, we do not drop all [the habits of sin] overnight. In fact, we will spend the rest of our lives putting off these habits and putting on habits of holiness.”
He ends by explicitly stating the danger of not understanding the difference between the ability God has given to us to say NO to sin and the responsibility we have towards that end.
Chapter 6 — The Battle for Holiness
Jerry Bridges relates to us the need to accept that there is a lifelong struggle against sin. He tells us of the Holy Spirit’s maintenance of a desire for holiness in us as believers though our tendency to give way to sin. He tells of the need to understand the nature of indwelling sin to war against it, and they are;
1. The seat of indwelling sin is the heart
2. Indwelling sin works largely through our desires
3. Indwelling sin tends to deceive our understanding or reasoning
Jerry Bridges brings to our understanding that we do not fully know our hearts, thus the need for searching our hearts with the help of the Holy Spirit, for if we search our hearts by ourselves, we may fall into morbid introspection which could give the devil a foothold in our lives, or we may miss the true issues of our heart.
He tells us that our sins stem majorly from our wrong desires, and he points out the need for our desires to be focused on pleasing God. He warns that the deceit of sin happens in stages. He tells us to deal swiftly with sin as soon as we notice it in our being, watching, praying, and guarding our hearts.
Chapter 7 — Help in the Daily Battle
Jerry Bridges starts off this chapter with a brief overview of chapters 5 and 6, reminding us of our death to sin through our union with Christ, but the warfare we still face against sin. In this chapter, he goes beyond explaining our death to sin to our being alive in God, which means;
1. We are united with Christ in all His power
2. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us
He makes us know that our being alive to God implies being strengthened by Him against the hold of sin. He says that our being alive to God is something we must do actively through faith in terms of resisting the advances of sin and temptations. He tells us that the Holy Spirit strengthens us by making us see our sinful areas and our need for holiness. Finally, he speaks of our dependence on the Spirit of God towards our attainment of holiness, showing us two ways to go about it, which are;
1. Humble and consistent intake of the Scripture
2. Praying for holiness
Chapter 8 — Obedience — Not Victory
In this chapter, Jerry Bridges focuses on our personal role in our pursuit of holiness as the Holy Spirit strengthens us. He runs through verses of the Scripture that attest to our role in being holy. He says that God “makes provision for our holiness, but He gives us the responsibility of using those provisions.” He says also that “If we sin, it is because we choose to sin, not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation.”
He goes on to say that in our war against sin and in our pursuit of holiness, it is best not to use the terms “victory” and “defeat”, but the terms “obedience” and “disobedience”, for when we say we have been defeated by a particular sin, it is as though we exclude ourselves from the responsibility of standing firm against that sin, but when we say that we sinned because we were disobedient to God’s command, we take responsibility for our wrongs. He ends this chapter by saying that it is our acceptance of responsibility and God’s provisions of strength that births progress in our pursuit of holiness.
Chapter 9 — Putting Sin to Death
Jerry Bridges starts this chapter by letting us know what mortification of fleshly desires implies, and he makes us understand that it can only be achieved with the help of the Holy Spirit. He then goes on to give us two qualities we need to achieve this mortification, which are;
2. Commitment (to a life of holiness without exceptions)
He tells us that we develop our conviction “through exposure to the Word of God” and its application in our daily lives. He also tells us that memorization of Scriptures is an effective way to influence our minds.
He goes on to talk about how we develop conviction on issues not mentioned in the Bible. He tells us to ask ourselves these four questions;
1. Is it helpful — physically, spiritually, and mentally? (1 Corinthians 6:12)
2. Does it bring me under its power? (1 Corinthians 6:12)
3. Does it hurt others? (1 Corinthians 8:13)
4. Does it glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
He makes us understand that though an activity may not be sinful, our response to that activity could cause us to sin (that is, by idolising it).
He says that as Christians, our convictions could differ with respect to diverse things, but we must not judge other persons because theirs differ from ours; our convictions must be to the Lord, and we must be true to them.
Chapter 10 — The Place of Personal Discipline
Jerry Bridges makes us see the possibility of failures in our pursuit of holiness, thus our need for discipline to attain godliness. He tells us discipline begins with the Scripture, thus the need for a structured time for hearing, reading, studying, memorising and meditating on the word of God.
He says, “Reading the Scripture gives us the overall perspective of divine truth, while study of a passage or topic enables us to dig more deeply into a particular truth. Memorization helps us retain important truths so we can apply them in our lives. … To meditate on the Scriptures is to think about them, turning them over in our minds, and applying them to our life’s situations.”
He tells us to ask ourselves three essential questions as we meditate daily, and they are;
1. What does this passage teach concerning God’s will for a holy life?
2. How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don’t generalize.)
3. What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?
He further tells us the essentiality of perseverance and follow-through in our discipline for holiness. He ends this chapter by saying, “If we would succeed in our pursuit of holiness we must persevere in spite of failure.”
Chapter 11 — Holiness in Body
Jerry Bridges tells us in this chapter that our pursuit of holiness includes being able to control our bodies. He speaks of the need to be firm against laziness and overindulgence in drinks and food. He says that as we give in to physical laziness, we make room for spiritual laziness. He says, “If we cannot say no to an indulgent appetite, we will be hard pressed to say no to lustful thoughts.” He goes on to speak about materialism (the love of money) and the effect it has on us. He makes us know that reduction to the exposure to temptation would help in controlling our wrong cravings. He says, “We are to flee temptation and take positive steps to avoid it, and we are to avoid thinking how to gratify our sinful desires.” He speaks of the need to study our sinful desires and how they come about, in order to effectively war and avoid exposure to temptations that trigger them. He ends by telling us that though we may fail many times to keep our desires in check, as we depend on the Holy Spirit and persevere, we can attain the point of being able to say NO to those desires.
Chapter 12 — Holiness in Spirit
Jerry Bridges brings to light in this chapter that holiness is not only in disciplining the body but also in having a good thought life and spirit. He makes us see the possibility of being able to physically restrain ourselves from evil but yet partake in such evil through the intents of our hearts. He says, “Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions.” He tells us to guide what we feed our minds through TV, music, movies, etc., for they affect our minds; he also tells us the need to use Philippians 4:8 as a standard for filtering what we feed our minds.
He tells us that as we avoid being tempted, we must ensure we are not a source of temptation to others. He then goes on to speak on some sins (envy, bitterness, being critical, retaliatory spirit) which defile the mind, and the need to do away with them. He ends by buttressing the need to call God in prayer for humility to truly see our sins, and the grace to replace them with pleasing thoughts.
Chapter 13 — Holiness and Our Wills
Jerry Bridges makes us see how our will affect our pursuit of holiness. He makes us see how the reason, will, and emotions of a man all work together or against each other in the pursuit of holiness. He tells us that “Reason [leads] the way in understanding the will of God, the will [consents] to God’s will, [then] the emotions [delights] in doing it.”
He says, “God most often appeals to our wills through our reason, sin and Satan usually appeal to us through our desires,” thus the need to guard what enters our minds and influences emotions.” He tells us that daily intake of Scriptures is what we require to guard our minds; setting our desires on spiritual things and delighting ourselves in the law and will of God. He ends this chapter by saying ,”Our responsibility regarding our wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the Spirit of God doing His part in making us more holy.”
Chapter 14 — Habits of Holiness
In this chapter, Jerry Bridges speaks of breaking habits of sin through the help and dependence of the Holy Spirit; and developing habits of godliness.
He gives us four principles towards developing godly habits, and they are;
1. Frequent repetitions (of godly habits)
2. Never let an exception occur
3. Diligence in all areas is required to ensure success in one area
4. Don’t be discouraged by failure
He tells us that we can gradually break the habits of sin by always saying no to them, and develop good ones by always doing them. He tells us to never give room for any sin regardless of how “isn’t too bad” we may consider them. Finally, he encourages us to not give in to discouragement when we encounter failure, but rather we should continue in our attempt towards progress in holiness.
Chapter 15 — Holiness and Faith
Jerry Bridges in this chapter shows us the linkage between holiness and faith, by relating obedience (a prerequisite for holiness) and faith. He uses the story of Noah and Abraham to explain how by faith they obeyed the revealed word of God. He tells us that “Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.” He relates to us the need for conviction in obedience to the will of God and confidence in God’s promises. He ends this chapter by saying, “If we would pursue holiness we must have faith to obey the will of God revealed in the Scripture and faith to believe that the promises of God will then be ours.”
Chapter 16 — Holiness in an Unholy World
In this chapter, Jerry Bridges makes us understand the difficulty of living holy in an unholy environment, for we are not to totally separate ourselves “from contact with the world, but we must strive to resist its influence.” He gives us two things we must do to resist the world’s influence, which are;
1. Resolve to live by the convictions God has given us from His Word
2. Identify ourselves with Christ openly, wherever we find ourselves in the world
He tells us that we are to develop a conviction so strong “to withstand the ridicule of the ungodly and the pressures they put on us to conform to their unholy ways.” He tells us that we can openly identify ourselves with Christ by letting our Bible be seen by all, for “open identification with Christ helps to spare us from the temptation of adapting to our sinful environment.” He tells us that the Bible is our best defence against the world’s pollution, for “The Bible will cleanse our minds of the defilement of the world if we meditate on its teachings.” He also lets us know that as we seek to live holy lives, we should also serve as salt and light to the ungodly.
He speaks also of situations where our environment may be too intolerable to dwell in; in which he tells us to “prayerfully consider the need to leave that ungodly situation.” He ends admitting the difficulty of living holy in an unholy world, but reminds us of the promise we have in the Bible that we would not be tempted above what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Chapter 17 — The Joy of Holiness
Jerry Bridges makes us know the joy that comes from living a holy life. He states two ways holiness produces joy, which are;
1. Joy of fellowship with God
2. Joy of anticipated reward
He tells us that joy comes from God and we only get to share in this joy through obedience and fellowship with God. He tells us of Jesus’ endurance of suffering for mankind by anticipating the joy of His reward. He also tells us that as holiness produces joy, joy can also produce holy living, for the joy of assurance in Christ can strengthen a believer towards living a holy life. Jerry Bridges ends His book giving us a rundown of all God has made available to us for our holy living, and the choice and decision we are to make towards holiness.
Are we willing to call sin “sin” not because it is big or little, but because God’s law forbids it? We cannot categorize sin if we are to live a life of holiness.
We must cultivate the attitude of Joseph, who said when he was tempted, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
To continue to live in sin as a Christian is to go contrary to God’s very purpose for our salvation.
Holiness and usefulness are linked together. We cannot bring our service to God in an unclean vessel.
The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy life.
Our motives must be holy, that is, arising from a desire to do something simply because it is the will of God.
When we sin as Christians, we do not sin as slaves, but as individuals with the freedom of choice. We sin because we choose to sin.
We abuse grace when we think we can sin and then receive forgiveness by claiming 1 John 1:9. We abuse grace when, after sinning, we dwell on the compassion and mercy of God to the exclusion of His holiness and hatred of sin.
As we grow in the Christian life we face increasing danger of spiritual pride. We know the correct doctrines, the right methods and the proper do’s and don’ts. But we may not see the poverty of our own spiritual character. We may not see our critical and unforgiving spirit, our habit of backbiting, or our tendency to judge others. We may become like the Laodiceans of whom our Lord said, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Only one who has a strong desire to be holy will ever persevere in the painfully slow and difficult task of pursuing holiness. There are too many failures. The habits of our old nature and the attacks of Satan are too strong for us to persevere unless the Holy Spirit is at work in us to create a desire for holiness.
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.
One of the most effective ways of influencing our minds is through memorizing Scripture.
The goal of memorization is application of the Scripture to one’s daily life. It is through the application of Scripture to specific life situations that we develop the kind of conviction to see us through the temptations that trip us up so easily.
Every time we say yes to temptation, we make it harder to say no the next time.
There is no point in praying for victory over temptation if we are not willing to make a commitment to say no to it.
Our old desires and our sinful habits are not easily dislodged. To break them requires persistence, often in the face of little success. But this is the path we must tread, painful though it may be.
We are to flee temptation and take positive steps to avoid it, and we are to avoid thinking how to gratify our sinful desires.
Often we are not even aware our attitudes are sinful. We cloak these defiling thoughts under the guise of justice and righteous indignation.
Our wills … determine our moral destiny, whether we will be holy or unholy in our character and conduct.
There is absolutely no shortcut to holiness that bypasses or gives little priority to a consistent intake of the Bible.
The protective influence of the Word of God comes as a result of diligent, prayerful, and purposeful intake of Scripture. To guard our minds, we must give priority to the Bible in our lives — not just for the spiritual information it gives but also for the daily application of it in our workaday lives.
Every sin we commit reinforces the habit of sinning and makes it easier to sin.
The more we say no to sin, the more we are inclined to say no.
It [holiness] calls us to obey God even when that obedience is costly, when it requires deliberate sacrifice and even exposure to danger.
As we begin to conform to the will of God in one area of life, He reveals to us our need in another area.
One of the “talents” God has given to every Christian is the possibility of walking in holiness, being free from the dominion of sin.
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