“Pursue holiness…without which no one will see theLord (Hebrews 12:14).
“The pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God, otherwise it is doomed to failure.”
“There is no higher compliment that can be paid to a Christian than to call him a godly person. He might be a conscientious parent, a zealous church worker, a dynamic spokesman for Christ, or a talented Christian leader; but none of these things matters if, at the same time, he is not a godly person.”
Author, teacher, and speaker Jerry Bridges (1929 – 2016) served in ministry with the evangelistic organization The Navigators for over 50 years before he passed away in 2016. He authored about 20 books, the first and one of his best-known being The Pursuit of Holiness, published in 1978. I read this book many years ago, but my church has just started going through it in our men’s and ladies’ monthly breakfasts, so I am looking forward to reading it again. In The Pursuit of Holiness, Bridges talks about the importance of striving after holiness in obedience to God (“Be holy, for I am holy, says the Lord.”), that we are to be making the effort to not be in conformity to this world, and to be putting off the old self and putting on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). This is not something that is just done once when we are first saved; it is ongoing throughout our lives. Bridges suggest three main reasons that Christians struggle with what it means to be holy and why it is so important:
Our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered.
We have a misunderstanding of what it means to “live by faith.”
There is some sin that we don’t identify as sin and/or don’t take seriously. (For more on this, I highly recommend Bridges book Respectable Sins)
I recently reread The Practice of Godliness, the companion book that followed The Pursuit of Holiness about 5 years later, and found it very profitable, helpful, and convicting. Bridges explains at the beginning of the book that the process of sanctifying, which begins at regeneration, is initiated and carried out by God the Holy Spirit. He gives this helpful definition of sanctification:
“Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven…None but the godly can praise God aright.”
The Puritan preacher/writer Thomas Watson (1620-1686) is considered one of our church’s honorary elders (in absentia), since we enjoy reading and referencing his books and sermons so much. A few years ago, we went through his book The Godly Man’s Picture at our monthly ladies’ breakfasts at my church, because of course the term “godly man” in the book’s title doesn’t refer just to the male species but is relevant to women as well. The book was very profitable and stimulated good group discussion about what it means to be a godly person. Although written some 350 years ago, the topic and illustrations are still quite valid and applicable to the Christian life today. Watson is a master illustrator, and as the title of the book states, he uses the Word of God to draw in some detail a portrait of what a godly person looks like, as well as what he or she is not like. Continue reading “A Godly Person is a Thankful Person: The Godly Man’s Picture”→
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good repute, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
I’m not what I would call an avid poetry-lover, but with my education in literature, I do appreciate and enjoy it, and I have some favorite poets. This book was recommended by a friend, and I liked the idea of reading about the things of God written in verse form. This volume provides exactly what the sub-title states: a short poetry reading accompanied by some devotional commentary for each day of the year. The writers often include some background about the poet and some interpretive help (particularly for those older works which use more archaic language). They then draw a connection between the ideas and emotions expressed in the poem to the related ideas or doctrinal teachings found in Scripture, and end with a word of application to the reader and a relevant scripture passage.
“A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach, cannot help it – he must preach. As fire within his bones, so will that influence be, until it blazes forth…he must preach if he has the call of Heaven.” (Spurgeon’s Autobiography)
It is clear that some men and women are set apart by God to accomplish great things for His kingdom, and Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was such a man. What an amazing servant of God Spurgeon was! It’s mind-boggling to think how many people are in Heaven today as a result of being touched directly by his ministry during his lifetime, not to mention since he left this world. God providentially placed young Charles in a family that exposed him to the things of God and provided him opportunities for learning at an early age. God also gave him the mind and temperament to become a great leader and teacher of others. As a little boy, he was captured by Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. He was reading at a very young age, and his biographer, Arnold Dallimore, writes that,
by the time he was nine or ten he was reading and understanding something of such mighty men as John Owens, Richard Sibbes, John Flavel, and Matthew Henry. He was already grasping the meaning of much of their theological argument and was reasoning out the pros and cons within his own mind.
“There are two main parts to the instruction from Scripture on the Christian life that follow. The first is that a love of righteousness, to which we are not naturally prone, must be implanted and poured into our hearts. The second is that we need some model that will keep us from losing our way in our pursuit of righteousness.”
This short book is an extract of a single chapter of the second edition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, originally entitled “A Distinguished Little Book on the Life of a Christian Man.” It was first published in 1550 as a stand-alone work in booklet form, and was later published as different versions with the titles Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life and A Guide to Christian Living. With this 2017 new edition, translated from the official Latin edition of The Institutes, the editors state as their goal “to produce a translation that we believe Calvin himself would have been pleased with…aimed at faithfulness not just to Calvin’s meaning but, so much as possible, to his own words,” and to “make Calvin’s meaning as clear as possible to English readers.”
“The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. The condescension of the most high God to men is also a profound mystery. But when both these meet together, as they do in Psalm 57:2, they make up a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high God performing all things for a poor distressed creature.“
“O how ravishing and delectable a sight will it be to behold at one view the whole design of Providence, and the proper place and use of every single act, which we could not understand in this world!”
I’ve had The Mystery of Providence (1678) on my list of books to be read for quite a while, and with all the crazy stuff that has taken place in 2020, the time seemed right to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve thought a lot about the sovereignty and providence of God over the past year. Providence is defined in the Westminster Shorter Catechism as God’s “most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions.” This statement presupposes that God is the Creator of all things, and as such, has the prerogative to do whatever He wishes with it. A pastor friend of mine recently shared this definition of the word “providence” from the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms:
The vigilant care which God exercises in relation to all the works of his hand in their preservation and government. God has not merely created all things, but he continues to uphold them, and all his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, justice, goodness, faithfulness, etc. are continually illustrated in his providential control.