Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

7.23.2010

The Book You Shouldn't Read

 We were listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show several days ago, and “Merle” came on the air with a voice straight from a black and white Western and an accent to match.

I was enchanted for all of ten seconds.

Merle revealed that he and his wife—a 77 and 72 year old couple—had recently become addicted to gambling. His wife would sneak out at night to gamble and had racked up $280,000 in debt, and yet somehow he still gambled because it was "just so good." I was flabbergasted and horribly depressed. Somehow, when you are nineteen, you imagine that when you are 77 you will have it all together. You will have defeated your besetting sins, you will no longer be tempted to get angry or to lie or to be selfish.  You will be that 58 years closer to Heaven, and just by virtue of proximity you should be well on your way to perfection.  I know this cannot be the case, as I misplaced my rose-tinted glasses years ago, but Merle drove that point home with a stronger and more bitter stroke than I would have liked.

But one question Dave Ramsey asked pointed my thoughts in a different direction. “Merle,” he said. “Do you go to church?” “Well, no,” Merle drawled. “Me and my wife—we haven’t been going.”

He was leaving God out. He was trying to solve his problems, conquer his addictions, and get back on track, but he was leaving God out.  He was 77 years old, with nothing figured out except that he was doing something wrong.

This devastating story instantly took my mind to the book I have been reading for the last several months—The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. I just finished it today, and I had to take to my keyboard right away to share its richness with you all. The foreword states: “In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson declared that one of the inherent and unalienable rights of men is ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Professing Christians must be brought to realize that the preeminent desire and demand of God for us is that of the continual pursuit of holiness of life, and the reflection of His own holiness. ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’i

Puritan writers richly influenced Jerry Bridges, and this book is filled with their quotes and steeped in their phraseology. He tackles confusing questions, and one of the most powerful sections of the book (which I had to read aloud to Mikaela and now must share with you!) says:

“In our search for answers to our sin problems, a troublesome question arises: “What should I look to God for and what am I responsible for myself?” Many are confused at this point. When we first start to live the Christian life, we confidently assume we will simply discover from the Bible what God wants us to do and start doing it. We fail to reckon with our tendency to cling to our old sinful ways. After experiencing a great deal of failure with our sinful nature, we are told that we have been trying to live the Christian life in the energy of the flesh. We need to ‘stop trying and start trusting,’ or to ‘let go and let God….’ Having experienced failure and frustration with our sin problem, we are delighted to be told that God has already done it all and that we only need to rest in Christ’s finished work….

“But after a while, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we discover we are still experiencing defeat at the hands of our sinful natures. The victory seemingly promised us still eludes us. We still struggle with pride, jealousy, materialism, impatience, and lust. We still eat too much, waste our time, criticize each other, shade the truth just a little, and indulge in a dozen other sins, all the time hating ourselves for doing them.

"Then we wonder what is wrong. ‘Why can’t I,’ we ask ourselves, ‘experience the victory described in all the books that others seem to have experienced?’ii

The Pursuit of Holiness is a relatively short book, one that I read while waiting for a music student to arrive, or while riding in the car to the grocery store, or in the early morning right after I woke up. But it’s one that I will read again, because in finishing it I realized that I am so far from holiness that I need another dose! Jerry Bridges somehow knows all the little tricks my own wicked heart comes up with to rationalize sin. “This will be the last time.” “God will forgive me.” “It’s in God’s hands to prevent me from this sin.” Or how about the trick of mentally agreeing with this article or that book, but then changing our habits not a whit? Jerry Bridges shattered my complacency with conviction. He convicted me when he wrote that “our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own ‘victory’ over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.iii” He convicted me when he pointed out how often we purpose not to sin very much rather than, “Lord I will make it my purpose not to sin.” He asked, “Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with the aim of ‘not getting hit very much’?iv”  As much as a book like this could tend to lean towards a works-based salvation, Jerry Bridges presents a Biblically sound, balanced view of sin, holiness, God's power, our responsibility, and faith. 

So here’s a book you shouldn’t read if you plan on holding onto that one sin your flesh cherishes. Don’t read it if you don’t want tears, and heart-wrenching truth, and difficult repentance. Don’t read it if you don’t want to live a life of holiness, and don't read it if you want to be like Merle at 77, dying in sin. And don’t read it if you don’t want to step into joyful victory that's as refreshing as a warm and dewy July morning.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.



 


 
 

 

 
 
 
 
  Note: If you happen to decide to purchase this book, and click through the above link to do so, you would help me out greatly!  I will receive a small percentage which will not go towards iphones or nail polish or new earrings, but will instead add to my textbook, sheet music, and new books-to-review fund.  (-:

 
i Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness. 2006, Nav Press, Colorado Springs, CO. Foreword, page 8, by Lockyer, Dr. Herbert.

ii Ibid. Pages 50-51.
iii Ibid.  Page 16. 
iv Ibid. Page 93.

8 comments:

  1. Yes, you just reminded me that I am responsible to God for my misuse of his money.

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  2. Wow, some powerful quotes. I love what he says about how our view of sin is self-centered...how WE can gain victory over it, not how God can. And how there's a perfect balance that should be had with our efforts and God's finished victory. Good stuff.

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  3. Oh, his words convicted me, too, Lauren. His thoughts sound like words ripped from my journal, over and over. Thanks for reviewing it. I think I need to read this book!

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  4. Thank you so much for posting this.
    I needed this reminder!

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  5. Wow...sometimes there are no words. It's amazing how much this hits hhome as I was just crying to the Lord last night and battling with all the things you write here. Thanks for the review and the warning!

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  6. Shepherd's Ewe--Dave Ramsey reminds me of that every time I listen to him! (-:
    Samantha--That particular quote was one that I read to myself over and over, just blown away by the convicting truth of it! Jerry Bridges wrote amazingly of the holiness of God as well, and that was just so good to read!
    Elyse--We must keep the same journal! (-; This book was passed on to me by a dear friend, so I'm happy to pass it on to all of you!
    Katie--You're welcome! It was good for me to finish the book and then go back over the highlights to try to condense it for you.
    Brandy--Thank you for your sweet comment. I am so glad that God perfectly masterminded the timing of this post. I know that I battle with this daily too, but as Jerry Bridges says, and as I had the privilege of hearing Voddie Baucham say yesterday, struggling against sin is one sign that you are on the right side of the fight, because you aren't complacently enjoying the sin, but you are battling against it!

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  7. GREAT post Lauren!!!!!
    Let Go and Let God!!!!! I identify with that the most... Put it in my heart for use, thanks

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  8. V--glad you enjoyed it and could put to use Mr. Bridges' wisdom! As a side note of clarification, though, I believe Mr. Bridges' point about the phrase "Let go and Let God" was that it overlooks our responsibility in holiness--something we need to be very careful not to do!
    Thanks for your great comment!

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