I have a shelf for “must-read” books in my house. If I ever get an office again where people can find me (I work out of the home predominantly, and there’s not room for my stuff at Journey), it will be moved there. These are books that over the years have deeply impacted my thinking, character, philosophies, and ministry.
Let’s add one today. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
One of our small groups at church is currently going through it, and as I mentioned before, I just finished reading it with Ryan.
It’s a short read, but a powerful one. In fact, I would even say that in this day of reading, it’s a book that every believer needs to not just read, but digest.
It’s not about church trends, fads, emergent this or that. It’s about holiness. Holiness is a concept far removed from most of our experiences, yet the Lord says, “Be holy as I am holy.”
It is holiness that marks us from our corrupted world and society. Church attendance or membership does not ensure your holiness. Neither does naive hype or hand-raisin’. Bridges says that we fundamentally misunderstand holiness.
“Our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered,” he says. (p16) In other words, we are more concerned about conquering sin for our own benefits and self-worth than we are because our sin offends God. Because we see our struggle with sin as a success-failure game, we strive for “success” or “victory” over sin, which results in our attitude toward sin being mainly about us rather than about God. There are few tears of confession and repentance in our churches and lives these days over our sin because we see our sin mainly as personal failure rather than divine rebellion.
In addition, Bridges comments that “we have misunderstood ‘living by faith’ to mean that no effort is required on our part.” I agree wholeheartedly. After teaching for many years, first to youth then to collegians, and now to folks of all ages, I see that as 21st century believers, we appreciate good exposition and application of God’s Word, but we fail to go home and match what we’ve heard with personal, disciplined effort. There’s a disconnect between our ears and our hands. It requires much sweat, effort, decision-making, resolving, and scheduling to change our habits, attitudes, and lifestyles to be in accord with the teaching of Scripture. We will not be holy without change. Change requires effort.
He also adds that “we do not take sin seriously enough.” If every sin we committed incurred immediate, divine wrath, then perhaps we would begin to conceive how hateful God is toward sin. However, it is His grace and wisdom that stays His hand. His grace cost the life of His Son that we might not incur his immediate wrath, while His wisdom allows us to experience the consequences of our sins so that we will realize with distaste how unhealthy our selfishness is.
We pick and choose what sin we will consider unacceptable. Sexual immorality in the church is greatly frowned upon; however, pride is not. Yet it is pride that is preeminently hated by God. We whisper about embezzlers but laugh with gluttons. We fail to take sin seriously. We cannot choose what parts of God’s Word to obey and what parts to fudge on. “We cannot categorize sin if we are to live a life of holiness,” says Bridges.
I’ll be reading this little book regularly for the rest of my life. It has immense value because we live in continual spiritual compromise.
Order your copy today, or be the first to comment and commit to read the book, and I’ll order you a copy as a gift.
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