In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges exhorts Christians to a life of complete holiness – moral blamelessness. Without compromising on the idea that our holiness before God depends entirely on Christ’s work on our behalf, he declares each Christian to be personally responsible for its pursuit. In the forward to the book, he uses the analogy of a farmer waiting for a harvest. He writes,
“A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates – all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.
Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his own responsibilities.
Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.”
Although this metaphor is certainly not perfect or exhaustive, it makes the point that in order for holiness (or anything for that matter) to grow, active participation is required. We will not grow by accident, we must be intentional about cultivating holiness.
However, anyone who has tried to cultivate holiness knows the challenge one faces when things start to get tough. Bridges comforts Christians who have experienced that the struggle is real. He writes that the same grace of God that saves us, gives us the desire to pursue holiness. That if gave the Holy Spirit in us, the spirit of Holiness, then He will be faithful to lead us in the pursuit. What God requires of us, he also provides for us. There is no pursuit that God calls us to, that he also hasn’t empowered us to. Even conviction of our sin serves as a means to stimulate our desire for holiness. It is only by seeing the dark backdrop of our sin that the gospel of grace (God’s completely unmerited favor) shines like a diamond.
I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’m sure there’s much more nuggets of wisdom and truth to mine from Bridges’s writing, but I’m thankful for what I have read so far. It has been a helpful reminder that following Christ does mean pursuing after holiness, striving after moral blamelessness with everything we have, by the grace of God alone.