Monday, November 07, 2005

The Pursuit of Holiness

One of our Wednesday night classes at my church is studying Jerry Bridges’ classic little book, The Pursuit of Holiness. As a part of the class I am re-reading this book which I first read almost 15 years ago in college. As I have re-read especially the first half of the book I have been reminded of how great this little, simply written book is. I cannot recommend it too strongly. If people in our churches grasped the ideas in the early chapters about the necessity of holiness, we would be ready to understand the necessity of oversight. It is not by accident that the book of Scripture which tells us without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14), also speaks so strongly of the need for oversight (Heb 13:17). Bridges clearly and simply explains the biblical teaching of the necessity of perseverance, undercutting the sadly common, but false perversion of the doctrine of perseverance- i.e., the idea that one can profess faith, then live a life with no real concern for the things of God and be considered right with God and fit for heaven. The bible teaches no such thing, regardless of how common the idea may be. I do believe the bible teaches that those who are truly converted will persevere in the faith; but the point is that they will persevere. Those who profess faith but do not go on to progress in holiness and Christ-likeness (progress, not obtain perfection) show that they have never truly been converted (see Titus 1:16).

If you are trying to communicate these ideas with your church (or class or small group), a good way to start could be introducing this little book. Its size and short chapters make it a book that is not intimidating. And you can find inexpensive copies fairly easily.

P.S. While searching for an image of the book to include, the search engine suggested that perhaps I meant "pursuit of happiness" rather than "pursuit of holiness." Interesting!


Jeff Lash said...

I should re-read this book as well. Maybe an anniversary edition of this book will have the new title of "Pursuit of Happiness." I mean, that's the premise of Christianity right? God's greatest desire for us is to prosper and to be happy right? Man, I guess I missed that ship when it set sail. Note: Recognition of the use of sarcasm required.

the Marshall's said...

On Sunday in our Sunday School class we were discussing John's thoughts about children of God and children of the Devil in 1 John 3. I was trying to stress in our discussion that the tests that John provides in his letter distinguish between Christians (children of God) and Non-Christians (children of the Devil). Yet, I realized how hard it is for people to be as frank as John is in his letter. The test of not continuing in sin, or practicing holiness to say it positively, is indeed a difficult test for people to submit themselves and those they love to. Yet, the text remains clear. Thanks for the comments on 'Pursuit of Holiness,' I may recommend it to our class.


Barry Wallace said...

I first read this book about 25 years ago and found it to be both helpful and challenging.

However, I would really like to see you blog at length on your secondary point, Ray; the "false perversion of the doctrine of perseverance- i.e., the idea that one can profess faith, then live a life with no real concern for the things of God and be considered right with God and fit for heaven."

I've encountered tremendous resistance when I've tried to teach on that subject, and was even accused in my Sunday School class of twisting the Scriptures!

J.C. Ryle has an excellent little tract on the subject - "Suppose an Unholy Man Went to Heaven." (free from And Piper and Edwards and the English Puritans and many others address it. I've also read some good reviews of Tom Schreiner's book, "The Race Set Before Us", which sounds (from the reviews) like an excellent treatment of the issue.

But it still desperately needs to be emphasized in our local churches by our pastors. I'm thankful I have a pastor who's faithful to do that, but so many churches do not. I look forward to seeing you address the problem in more detail, and perhaps recommend some additional resources for pastors.

Ray Van Neste said...

Sarcasm noted and always appreciated! :)

William and Barry,
It is hard to teach this isn't it- inspite of the clarity of Scripture! I do hope in days to come to write more on this, both here and elsewhere.

Tom Schreiner's book is good on this. I will look forward to reading the J C Ryle tract!

Ray Van Neste said...

One point of clarification- some of the specific applications Bridges makes, particularly in the latter half of the book might not be best. They can appear legalistic, though I do not think that is his intent.
My point here is the value of his articulation in the first half (roughly) of the book of the necessity if holiness.