Holiness is NOT an option for the Christian

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Recently a good friend and I have begun reading through The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 1978) by Jerry Bridges. Today, we finished going through chapter three entitled Holiness Is Not an Option. I would like to share some quotes and thoughts from this challenging, yet encouraging chapter. If you have never heard of Jerry Bridges, this book is his most famous. It, and frankly all his others, are well worth reading. His writings are doctrinal, practical, engaging, and Gospel-centered. In the past I have turned to his book The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009) to find encouragement in times of anxiety over sin. I commend that title of his too.

As the title of the chapter indicates, Bridges argues that for the Christian, holiness is not an option. What does he mean? Simply, the man or woman who has been saved through faith in Christ is commanded by God to be holy, AND that man or woman will have a desire to be holy and will be striving after it. In fact, as Bridges says, “If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine” (38).

How does this sound to you? Is this a new thought for you? Throughout the chapter, Bridges quotes a number of Scriptural verses which illustrate this and related ideas. Consider a few:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:3-4)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12)

These and other verses lead Bridges to conclude that “The only safe evidence that we are in Christ is a holy life” (43). Mentioning Matthew 7:21-23, Bridges states, “It is not those who profess to know Christ who will enter heaven, but those whose lives are holy” (43).

To be clear, Bridges is not saying that Christians must be perfect in this life in order to be saved. That would be demanding a works-based salvation, an idea clearly opposed to the Gospel. Upon trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, a Christian is declared holy before God because of what Christ has done. This is what is meant by the term justification. What Bridges is getting at in this chapter (and in his book at large) is the concept of sanctification, or the process of becoming holy over one’s life. We must not confuse these two terms.

Hopefully, after reading the verses mentioned above (and Scripture as a whole), you and I will be convinced that we must take an active role in pursuing holiness. It is what God requires of us, and it is what we truly desire because we want to please Him.

One of the most encouraging verses from this chapter for me was 2 Timothy 2:21 because it assures us that in pursuing holiness God will bless us and we will be useful to Him:

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if I am doing anything of value to God. I wonder if I am doing anything useful for His Kingdom. This verse answers my doubts by assuring me that as I fight sin by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 8:13) and do what is good, I am very useful indeed to my Master. What relief and hope this is!

I could write so much more about what I have learned from this chapter, but I will end by repeating some challenging questions that Bridges says everyone who professes to be a Christian should ask himself:

  • 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?


Please feel free to comment on what was said here
. I would love to hear your thoughts and be encouraged to know that someone is reading and thinking about these words!

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Christians Should Preach the Gospel to Themselves Daily

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The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges

The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges

I am excited to introduce to my blog readers the first book which I am reading through:

The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross…Every Day by Jerry Bridges!

If you are interested in reading a description of the book and/or purchasing it, feel free to click the cover image to the left to go to its product page at Westminster Bookstore.

I have picked this book as the first to read through and interact with here on my blog for at least two reasons:

  1. I received this book free from its publisher NavPress in exchange for reading it and a review.
  2. I thank the Lord for how He has used previous books by Jerry Bridges in my own life. His more recent book The Bookends of the Christian Life has been extremely helpful to me in understanding the two “bookends” upon which I should lean all the elements of my life: the perfect righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life. I am hopeful  that reading through another Bridges book will be extremely edifying for me, and I hope the same for my readers.

The book at hand, The Gospel for Real Life, is mainly about the implications of the gospel (i.e., good news) for the Christian’s present life. While Christians are well aware of the future impact of the gospel (e.g., going to heaven), many of them have little or almost no idea of how the gospel relates to their everyday lives. Furthermore, while some (if not many) Christians have the mistaken idea that the gospel is primarily for unbelievers, Bridges contends that we as Christians must “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.” As Bridges summarizes in his preface, his book is intended to answer three questions:

  • What is the gospel we should preach to ourselves?
  • Why do we, who are already believers, need to preach it to ourselves?
  • How do we do it?

Personally, this book looks very exciting to me. For a while I have had the hunch that believers should never grow weary of or “get over” the simplicity and beauty of the gospel. I am not suggesting Christians should prolong their time with spiritual milk when they should be pressing on to solid food (cf. Hebrews 5:11-6:1). Rather, I am arguing that in pressing on Christians never truly leave behind a love for the gospel. On the contrary, that love ought to be deepening as the Christian understands more fully the rich implications of the gospel for his present life and eternal state, as well as the inestimable cost to Christ to accomplish all of what He did at the cross.

I am really hoping that Bridges supports his idea that believers should preach the gospel to themselves with a ton of Scripture verses. Let us see whether he does this, and if so, how he does it. It is important to consider what verses he uses as well as the methodological presuppositions he employs in the task of interpreting Scripture.

As I hope has been already conveyed, I am just thrilled to read through this book and blog on various parts of it with a review to follow.  Are you thrilled about it?

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