Holiness has fallen on hard times in some Christian circles. Some advocates of Easy Believism maintain that there is a disconnect between:
Turning to Christ for forgiveness of sins and all of the goodies of salvation
Acknowledging Christ as Lord who calls us to a path of discipleship and holiness.
Others maintain that only an elite group of believers actually qualify to be called “disciples” while other carnal “believers” can continue in their sins and yet still have some basis for assurance of salvation. They have even structured church meetings in such a way that one can participate in an unchallenged atmosphere that mirrors the music and entertainment focus of the world without the Holy Spirit bringing conviction concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
But the Scriptures maintain that the very purpose of our election and calling is that “we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephes. 1:4). The title for this book, according to Jerry Bridges, comes from the biblical command, “Pursue holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, author’s paraphrase).
Bridges explains his main emphasis:
The word pursue suggests two thoughts: first, that diligence and effort are required; and second, that it is a lifelong task. These two thought form a dual theme throughout this book. While seeking to set forth clearly and accurately God’s provision for our holiness, I have deliberately stressed our responsibility, feeling that this is an emphasis sorely needed among Christians today. At the same time I have sought to emphasize that holiness is a process, something we never completely attain in this life. (p.10)
Here are some of the main points in the book that I found especially helpful:
– We need to see sin as primarily directed against a holy God – not as some failure to achieve success or fulfillment in our lives (pp.16-17)
– We need to face up to our own responsibility in disciplining ourselves in the direction of holiness – while not overlooking God’s sovereign and gracious and merciful provision for holiness in our lives.
– God’s standard for our holiness is no less than His perfections – “Be holy, because I am holy” – a very high standard and yet one which we must take seriously and not excuse transgressions which otherwise we might be tempted to label as “minor.”
– Bridges destroys the empty shell of easy believism:
It is true that this desire for holiness may be only a spark at the beginning. But that spark should grow till it becomes a flame – a desire to live a life wholly pleasing to God. True salvation brings with it a desire to be made holy. When God saves us through Christ, He not only saves us from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion. Bishop Ryle said, “I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God. More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases, but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means.” (pp.33-34)
– Bridges emphasizes the positive nature of holiness – not just a list of prohibitions – but actions and attitudes and motives that mirror the heart of Christ
“the ruling principle that motivates and guides us should be the desire to follow Christ in doing the will of the Father.” (p.47)
“Our daily experience with regard to sin is determined – not by our reckoning, but by our will – by whether we allow sin to reign in our bodies. But our will must be influenced by the fact that we died to sin.” (p.53)
“To confuse the potential for resisting (which God provided) with the responsibility for resisting (which is ours) is to court disaster in our pursuit of holiness.” (p.57)
“We must never consider that our fight against sin is at an end. The heart is unsearchable, our evil desires are insatiable, and our reason is constantly in danger of being deceived.” (p.66)
“God’s provision for us consists in delivering us from the reign of sin, uniting us with Christ, and giving us the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal sin, to create a desire for holiness, and to strengthen us in our pursuit of holiness.“
Simple Formula for doubtful things:
1) Is it helpful – physically, spiritually, and mentally?
2) Does it bring me under its power?
3) Does it hurt others?
4) Does it glorify God? (p.88)
“The habit of always giving in to the desire for food or drink will extend to other areas. If we cannot say no to an indulgent appetite, we will be hard pressed to say no to lustful thoughts. There must be an attitude of diligent obedience in every area if we are to succeed in mortifying any one expression of sin.” (p.110)
“Our responsibility regarding our wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the Spirit of God do His part in making us more holy.” (p.129)