“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:
“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 choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business, all their days, to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”
A new year often inspires people to start fresh by making resolutions and setting goals for themselves – things they want to experience or accomplish, and often changes they determine to make for the better, such as breaking bad habits. In the past, I have challenged readers to consider reading through the entire Bible in the coming year, and I encourage you to do so again. This year I’d like to encourage you to consider developing another habit, if you haven’t done so: killing sin in your life. With that in mind, let me commend to you John Owen’s masterful, convicting, and helpful work, The Mortification of Sin.
“It’s fine to be told sin no longer has dominion over me, but what about my daily experience of the remaining presence and activity of sin? Does the gospel cleanse me from that? Can I hope to see progress in putting to death the subtle sin of my life?”
Warning: If you have no desire to identify, expose and root out sin in your life, then this book is not for you.
Little white lies. Guilty pleasures. Errors in judgment. Recently on the Food Network, one of the chefs prided himself in his specialty: cooking with what he called “seven culinary sins.” These are just a few examples of how the language of modern-day society softens and trivializes the seriousness of sin. When was the last time you heard someone said they fornicated? No, instead they say they “slept with” someone; now doesn’t that sound nice and cozy? Saying that two people are “having an affair” sounds so much more pleasant that saying they’re committing adultery. We are told to be sensitive and tolerant of the faults of others. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, damage their self-esteem or cause them to feel guilty, let alone take responsibility, for their sinful behavior so we label the behavior a character flaw or even a disorder. But never mind the character flaws, weaknesses and sins of others; what we need to be concerned with is our own sin. Continue reading “Sin by Any Other Name (is Still Sin): Respectable Sins”→
“He is the devout man who considers and serves God in everything and who makes all of his life an act of devotion by doing everything in the name of God and under such rules as are conformable to His glory.”
(Note: I read the 1955 abridged edition, which was edited by a group of laymen to make it more accessible to the 20th century reader.)
William Law’s book, published in England in 1728, was written in a time and society in which just about everyone professed to be a Christian and attended church. This may seem like a good thing, but during this time, the Christian Church in England (and America) was in a state of spiritual decline. Law observed that there were many nominal Christians who appeared to value the teachings of the Bible and attended church on Sundays but were not serious about living out Christ’s teachings in their every day life. This book is not intended to tell the reader how to become a Christian, but rather, how to be a “good” Christian. Law is basically challenging those who profess the name of Christ to take it seriously and to live out what they claim to be. A Serious Call may feel a bit moralistic or legalistic at times, but it needs to be kept in mind that the author is not implying that by living a good life a person can earn his salvation or even earn more favor with God. It is a reminder that if I am truly a Christian, I am “dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ” and should “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called” (Rom. 6:4; Eph 4:1). Continue reading “Becoming Holy on Purpose: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life”→
“Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself…The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority…It is an insult to his holiness.”
If you are paying attention at all, it should be evident how little God is respected in today’s society. If He is acknowledged to exist at all, He’s viewed as “The Big Guy Upstairs,” or His name is merely used as an expletive. People say, “Thank God” and “God Bless You” without even really giving God a thought. And what about the term “OMG” that everyone uses? Even Christians! Really?? It seems to me that God is not taken very seriously at all, and that includes by many Christians. People expect certain things from God without considering (or caring about) what it is that He expects of them.