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!