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The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (Ch. 4-6)

My reading of the classic Christian book continues. These are notes and thoughts as I read, not a formal review.


Chapter 4: The holiness of Christ

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become righteousness of God.

II Corinthians 5:21

We can't think about our own holiness without considering the holiness of Jesus.

The closer we look at our own sinfulness and shortage of holiness, the more we'll cling to the holiness of our Lord Jesus.

  • While on earth He committed no sin and in Him was no sin.
  • He is the righteous servant
  • He hated wickedness
  • He challenged the Pharisees to prove Him guilty of sin (He called them terrible names and accused them of serving the devil...and they couldn't prove anything.
  • Plus the disciples walked with Him for three years and called Him perfect. It's very difficult to hide our weaknesses with the people we spend all of our time with.
  • In addition to the absence of sin, He perfectly did the will of His Father.

Holiness is more than a list of actions. Motivations count. The Father cares about our heart. Including our thoughts. thought life needs a lot of work. can be so negative and critical in my thoughts...

Jesus succeeded in that

"He was born into this world subject to the law of God that He might fulfill it on our behalf." (Galatians 4:4-5)

The moral purity of Jesus leaves us, like Isaiah, ruined and clear eyed to our own unclean lips.

We need assurance of our forgiveness of sins by His work on the cross and victory over death, not just at salvation, but as we grow in our faith and understand sin we didn't even understand as a new believer.

The Holy Spirit will prompt us to deeper yearnings for more holiness while the enemy tries to use that as evidence of our failure. We have to be aware that the journey will last our entire lives and be prepared to stay dependent on the Holy Spirit, rooted in the work of Jesus.

Frequently flee to the Rock of your salvation.

It reminds me of a song I've been listening to a lot lately, I See Grace, by Micah Tyler.

When I left the 99
You saw the one
And just like that
All my past has been erased
When I look back
I see grace

I See Grace, Micah Tyler

Also, Jesus is meant to be an example for us to follow.

  • suffering without retaliation
  • follow Paul, as he followed Christ
  • do the things that please the Father, in obedience, for the glory of God. Not our own glory.
  • While on the cross, He was moved to compassion for those who put Him on the cross

Chapter 5 A Change of Kingdoms

People assume they cannot be fully holy; decide they won't be fully sinful; but moral mediocrity. This is from either trying to be holy thru willpower or 100% by faith. What's our to do and what do we rely on God for?

  • God's provision
  • Our responsibility

God's Provision (Romans 6)

  • Paul exhorted us not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies BECAUSE we are dead to the dominion of sin BECAUSE Christ died and we are in union with Him- overcome death.
  • Before salvation we were slaves/sons of sin and the evil one.
  • We were redeemed. The deed to our lives is now in the hands of our Savior because He paid for us to be set free.
  • How can we not be moved by that truth. Sit and ponder that for a decade and be changed by it, friend
  • The author frames it as if we were moved from one sphere to another. death and sin to life and freedom. but there are still sinful habits inside us that come with us; so we are told to work out what God has worked in us (Philippians) Like a man with a limp, freed thru surgery; but trained by habit, still walking with the limp.
  • Our limp is self.
  • Before we had no choice; now we have a choice.
  • This is where God's provision ends and He expects us to act.
  • To choose to resist sin. Because now we can.

Chapter 6: The Battle for Holiness

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Roman 7:21

PAUL, for goodness sake, PAUL tells us that when he wants to do good, evil in nearby ready to offer a "helping hand". Paul did a lot of really good things. But it was a struggle, not easy.

In the movie 28 says, in which Sandra Bullock goes to rehab for alcohol abuse, Steve Buscemi plays the role of the rehab administrator and counselor named Cornell. In the following excerpt he gives his AA speech:

Cornell : If that will make you happy, I will stop drinking. And then I would tell myself tonight I will not get wasted. And then something would happen. Or nothing would happen. And I'd get that feeling and you all know what that feeling is; when your skin is screaming and your hands are shaking and your stomach feels like it wants to jump through your throat. And you know that if anyone had a clue how wrong it felt to be sober, they wouldn't dream of asking you to stay that way. They would say oh geez, I didn't know. It's okay for you. Do that mound of cocaine. Have a drink. Have 20 drinks. Whatever you need to do to feel like a normal human being, you do it. And boy I did it. I drank and I snorted. I drank and snorted. I drank and snorted. And I did this day after day, day after day, night after night. I didn't care about the consequences because I knew they couldn't be half as bad as not using. And then one night something happened. I woke up. I woke up on a sidewalk and I had no idea where I was. I couldn't have told you what city I was in. And my head was pounding and I looked down and my shirt is covered in blood. And as I'm lying there wondering what happens next and I heard a voice. And it said man, this is not a way to live. This is a way to die.

28 Days, Steve Buscemi as Cornell (2000)

If you have or ever have suffered from addiction, of any kind, you probably recognize these thoughts. Maybe not the extreme consequences of such hard drugs; but this feeling:

And you know that if anyone had a clue how wrong it felt to be sober, they wouldn't dream of asking you to stay that way. They would say oh geez, I didn't know. It's okay for you.

You know how I know, because humans have been telling ourselves these lies since this happened:

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate.

Genesis 3: 4-6

When the conversation with the serpent started, Eve wanted to do good. She had the rule memorized and she shared it with the serpent. But like with Paul, evil was right there with her. Giving her the message that she shouldn't have to go without anything she might want.

Some of you, right this second, think that this doesn't apply to you. You don't drink. You would never in a million years do drugs, and you wouldn't have let that serpent convince you to eat that fruit.

Woe to you if you cannot think of a single example in your life where you need more holiness. While there are specific verses about being sober, there are far, far more verses about being prideful, being arrogant, gossiping, having unforgiveness in your heart, and failing to help those in need. In James 4 He goes so far as to tell us that God resists the proud, using language that indicates a military confrontation.

But we like to categorize sins like crimes. Felony. Misdemeanor. White collar crime. Sin is sin, but a sin like pride or unforgiveness, that God pounds away at ion book after book...maybe don't think of yourself better than Steve Bescemi character struggling to stop drinking.

Back to Peter in Gethsemane. If asked directly, he would never image he would let the Lord down. that he would sleep when asked to pray. But in his wanting to do good, evil was by his side, luring him into a nice, restful nap. Three times!

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 NKJV

Too many of us fall into the trap of the enemy of having the goal of appearing holy to those around us. It's "easier" than the work of confronting the fact that we have severely broken relationships in our family, cannot get along with our spouse, or co-worker, or boss, or be alone with ourselves for an hour. We can't help ourselves from sharing critical gossip about people we don't like. We don't know why we're so angry, or sad, or desperate for control or comfort.

So why am I being such a bully? Why am I trying so hard to ask you to find an area of your life where you could use more holiness? Because in that recognition that this is a lifelong battle, and in the recognition that as long as you have breath in your lungs and want to do good, evil is right there with you, you will see that you cannot be holy without dependence on the Holy Spirit.

That's what we call good news.

Your need God.

God sent His Son to die in your place.

And left behind a helper to seal your hope of salvation by helping you.

That series of events requires your participation in recognizing your need and receiving Jesus' gift and leaning into the helper sent to get you home...the Holy Spirit.

7.20.23's been a few days since I worked on this and this verse sure did make an appearance in my personal life.

Work has been frustrating for me for awhile, months really, and it's gotten worse recently. And then yesterday, at 52 years old, I had a complete childish hissy fit and was rude to a co-worker who has only ever been lovely to me. I felt like I couldn't stop myself, even though I was completely embarrassed and knew I was making a fool of myself.

Self can come roaring back at any time. I've allowed myself to murmur and hide anger in my heart at work, only to finally have it spill over and be shown in the light of day.

This side of heaven, I cannot take for granted that I can do good or even have the appearance of doing good apart from my Savior and the Helper He left with me.

Now I have to humble myself and return to work with these people. I apologized yesterday; but I'm guessing it will be a long time before the memory of my hissy fit fades. This is why are sin is against God, even when it's against a person.


Ok, back to the book.

"...believers still have this indwelling propensity to sin, the Holy Spirit maintains within us a prevailing desire for holiness (I John 3:9). The believer struggles with the sin God enables him to see in himself."

I agree. This failure I feel today is awful. But it's awful because I know it was sin. I can justify why I sinned, but the sin still leaves a mark that reminds me that my justification is irrelevant.

I am craving holiness because I can so clearly see how I am like Cain, with my countenance low and my anger high...lashing good holiness looks to me from this humble, low place.


...indwelling sin remains in us even though it has been dethroned. And though it has been overthrown and weakened, its nature has not changed. Sin is still hostile to God and cannot submit to His law (Romans 8:7). Thus we have an implacable enemy of righteousness right in our own hearts. What diligence and watchfulness is required of us when this enemy in our souls is ready to oppose every effort to do good!

Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges (page 44)




It is essential to understand that evil comes from men's hearts (Mark 7:21-23, Genesis 6:5, Luke 6:45).

We don't even know our own hearts; and all of the secret intrigues and motivations. Although God does know our hearts. We all have friends who seem blind to their own issues. They can't figure out why they have problems in their marriage or they blame everyone else for a problem they seem to have- even though they seem to have the same problem everywhere they go. We want to ask them, "What do all of these conflicts have in common, honey...that's right, YOU!" But, usually we don't, because the stuff we're that blind to, we're probably not going to see with one snarky comment from a friend.

But the Lord knows your heart; and the enemy can see our actions and our this is the war that is within us every day.

What does it mean to say that our heart is deceitful? We know that we have sin in our lives, and rather than grieving it and putting all of our efforts towards pursuing holiness in that area of our lives, instead we

  • make excuses,
  • we rationalize, and
  • justify our actions
  • it blinds us to the consequences
  • blinds us to sins
  • encourages us to accept lower standards for ourselves
  • encourages us to accept our head knowledge, rather than our actions

What's the cure?

Daily choice to submit and obey. Asking the Lord to search our hearts for sins that we cannot or will not see. (Psalm 139:23-24)

This happens through the reading of the Word in the power of the Spirit. "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

We have to be careful to avoid trying to search our own hearts. Bridges warns of two traps this can lead to...

Trap 1: Morbid Introspection. Satan can use this to discourage you, causing us to forget the power of the Spirit and the depths of God's grace.

Trap 2: Wrong focus: The enemy will draw your attention to something other than what God is working on, causing us to stay blind and distracted.

I love a good personality test. And I think woman do, in general. We love to understand how people work, what makes them tick. We're so relational. And many of us find psychology fascinating for the same reasons. But much of this was devised with one fatal flaw: they don't account for a Living God in Heaven. From Cosmo quizzes to the most sophisticated psychology inventories, they don't account for the wisdom in God's Word.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there is no place for these in the world. But if you continually find yourself drawn to these type of tests as a way to know yourself, you're leaving yourself open to the world defining you, instead of being defined by the One who Created you.

And while I'm on the subject, for the love of all that is holy, do not take these type of surveys on social media. What kind of horse are you? What kind of mountain cabin are you? Are you financially prepared for retirement... You are providing personal data to some company who is feeding on your insecurity. Go to the word. Get a mentor. Join a bible study. Immerse yourself in His Word. Let Him tell you who He created you to be. That's going to be the only satisfying answer to your yearning to know more about yourself.


Indwelling sin works largely through our desires.

Man listens to his desires more than reason. (Way back to the Garden)

And not our good desires, but the evil desires we have in our own heart.

Don't believe me? Bring to mind some area of life where you struggle, spiritually. Proverbs tells us that the ultimate goal of Folly is destruction. I'm guessing there are consequences for whatever area you =struggle with. Desire too much food= health problems; control= relationship problems; shopping = financial problems. You get the idea. Folly comes with consequences.

And yet.

Desire will drive us to ignore reason, who is trying to tell us that we can eliminate or ease our consequences by by saying no to desire...

We cannot win this battle without recognizing that there is desire in us, as well as temptation outside of us that is a problem.

I once heard a strange piece of advice that I wrestled with for weeks. It goes something like this- "There comes a time in your life when you have to accept that most of your problems were brought on by your own choices."

Boy I didn't like that.

I immediately started a mental list of all the things that had been done TO ME.

NOT MY FAULT! cried my brain!

And it's true. I have had things happen to me outside of my control. the rain falls on the just and the unjust.


The fact that I had such an angry and defensive reaction to this simple sentence made me wonder. Why was it so important for me to find other factors to blame other than myself?

You know why, don't you. It's so easy to see in others.

If I can't blame others for my consequences, I may have to acknowledge that I am making choices that bring me consequences. That's irrational. Why would I do that?


I want.

I need.

I deserve.

Why can't I eat what I want?

Why can't I buy what I want?

Why can't I...

In our hearts, until we go home to Jesus, we have desires that seem ok in our own eyes. You must be able to acknowledge that. Or the enemy has free rein to USE YOU AGAINST YOU.

Remember Cain? God tells him, "...sin crouches at the door and its desire is for you. But you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) What's Cain's response? To murder the person he blames for his failure.

We all have a few Cains in our lives, don't we? I have a few Cains as Facebook friends. They post endlessly about all of their terrible bosses, co-workers, the various judges that they face in court...without even a hint that maybe their own undisciplined desires have brought some of the folly.

What's the cure?

Just as Cain should have done. Aim your desires at glorifying the Lord. When we make choices for Him, ruling over our desires, rather than being ruled by them...we're fueling the right side in the battle. Eating a whole pizza, cheesecake, and bag of M&Ms isn't going to glorify the Lord. But if that's what is the desire of my heart, I need to be on my knees, in the word, in contact with an accountability partner, and dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Remember our friend Peter, and the one thing Jesus asked of him:

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Mt 26:40–41, NKJV

Watch and pray, my sisters, lest you enter into temptation.

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

James 1:14-15, NKJV

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