The Disciple’s Pursuit: Holiness
In his classic work The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges beautifully illustrates the dual nature of the development of practical holiness in the life of a believer. By “dual nature,” I mean God’s part and a believer’s part.
The illustration Bridges uses is that of a farmer. The farmer has the responsibility to plant, water, cultivate, and harvest the crop but knows full well that only God can cause the seed to grow and yield fruit. Bridges concludes the illustration by saying, “The farmer cannot do what God must do and God will not do what the farmer should do.”
In a similar way, in order for a believer to grow in practical holiness, he must position himself to receive from God. God will not do it for us, but He will nudge, prompt, convict, and encourage us to maintain a posture where we abide in Christ (the True Vine) to grow, mature, and bear fruit that glorifies the Father.
As Jerry Bridges says, “The pursuit of holiness is a joint venture between God and the Christian. No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely, No one will attain it without effort on his own part.”
A New Perspective
As a new believer, I was reading in my quiet time the book of Hebrews and I stumbled upon Hebrews 12:14 which says, “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.” This verse stopped me in my tracks. You mean God expects me to be holy, and if I am not holy, I will not see him? To tell you the truth, although I was growing, I felt that holiness was reserved for only a few elite believers—pastors and preachers and such. I put it out of my mind by thinking something like, “Maybe one day I’ll be holy.”
I had almost put this concept out of my mind, when several days later I read 1 Peter 1:15-16 which says, “But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” I stopped reading and began to meditate on this section of Scripture. I knew God was speaking to me and calling me to a higher standard than I had set for myself.
As I thought about His command to “Be holy,” fear and frustration gripped my heart. Fear because if holiness is what God expected, I feared I could never please Him. Frustration because I know the truth of Romans 7:18 too well, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh.” I felt frustrated because the bar seemed to be set too high and I could never attain this standard. At the same time, I also knew that God had every right to expect wholehearted devotion from me because of who He was, not to mention for what He had done on my behalf.
As God helped me to understand this passage and many others, the fear and frustration began to subside. I began to see this call to holiness in a new light. Rather than seeing this command as a burden that I could never attain, I saw it as a command to strive for because of the Savior’s great love for me. In fact, I realized that because He loved me, He would never ask me to do what He would not give me strength to do, if I would depend on Him. So, rather than seeing the verse as, “Be holy because I said so,” I saw it as, “Be holy for I am holy,” and “If you love Me, you will want to be like Me.”
This new perspective became a game changer for me. His command to “Be holy” became something I desired and longed for. Why? I longed for it because I love Him and I wanted to be like Him!
Next month, we will consider positional holiness as well as practical holiness.