As the sun sets over Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, CO next Monday, I will join with the other elders at Village Seven Presbyterian Church for our monthly elders’ meeting. As is our custom, we will read aloud the names of those in our congregation who recently passed away. Someone will read, “Jerry Bridges was promoted to glory on Sunday, March 6th,” and we will stop and thank God for this man’s life and ministry.
God used Jerry Bridges mightily to wave the banner of holiness in for the last forty years. His books taught us how to pursue holiness in a way that glorified God.
A faithful servant of the local church, he recently taught a weekend seminar on the transforming power of the Gospel in the Springs. He seemed frail and physically tired as he climbed the stairs to teach, but his words were vibrant, passionate and crystal clear. Teaching truth seemed to energize him. As I read back through my notes from that weekend, I realize how much of what he taught has found its way into my own teaching.
Village Seven Pastor Mark Bates said,
“Jerry Bridges was truly the godliest man I have ever known. The pursuit of holiness was not only the title of his first book, but the theme of his life. Yet, his pursuit of holiness was not some dour, duty-driven attempt to earn God’s favor, but a joyful response to Christ’s love for him flowing from His union with Christ. Jerry recently completed his final book (due out this summer). Like his first book, it also sums up his life well. The book is on humility.”
Here are four lessons I learned from Jerry Bridges.
Preach the Gospel to Yourself Every Day
Jerry taught that the good news of the Gospel is something we need to preach to ourselves every day.
I remember him sharing about how God used Isaiah 53:6 to help him through a time of doubt in his own life, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
That verse reminded him that the Christian life includes struggles with sin, but that the Gospel is for sinners. He taught, “The day you can no longer say with Paul ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst,’ you are in trouble.”
Jerry loved to quote the Puritan John Owen and once summarized a lengthy section of Owen’s writings, “Everyday you must acknowledge your sin. Then, you take your sin and give it to Christ on the cross. Then, you take Christ’s righteousness and take it to the Father. You must do this every day.”
Through Jerry’s teaching, I learned to come to God day-by-day, humbly confess my sin and remember Christ died to pay for my sins and give me His own righteousness.
Holiness Flows Out of our Unity with Christ
Jerry often taught from Jesus’ illustration of the vine and branches and drew sweet encouragement from Christ’s command that we abide in Him (John 15:1-7) as the primary power for the Christian life, which flows out our growing faith that Christ lives in us. One of the ways we fight against sin and live righteous lives is by abiding in the Christ and letting his power flow into us.
He said, “The representative union of Christ and the believer means that all that Christ did in both His perfect obedience and his death for our sins is credited to us.”
Jerry taught the power of the Christian life comes through faith that we are united to Christ. He called it the great exchange and saw it clearly taught in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Since I learned this truth, I’ve often paused and reminded myself, “I am in Christ. My sins have been forgiven and his righteous is mine.”
Our Motivation for the Christian Life
Jerry Bridges taught that the ultimate motivation for the Christian life is the love of Christ, demonstrated most clearly in his death. In the same way, people used to have to wind their watches, we have to wind out hearts on Christ’s great love for us every day.
If we aren’t compelled by Christ’s love for us, the Christian life will deteriorate to merely doing our duty. But when we meditate on the love of Christ, we begin to desire to live for him.
Jerry taught, “God wants us to want to do what we ought to do.” The goal of the Christian life is shifting our desires so we desire to do what we ought to do.
Jerry showed me that I need to regularly meditate on Christ’s love for me as the highest motivation for the Christian life. When holiness seems like a duty, am I forgetting how loved I am by Christ?
Our Daily Communion With God
Jerry changed the way I think about my daily time with God.
He gave this outline for his own time with God.
I. Embrace the Gospel
1. Acknowledge my need. Ask God for mercy.
2. Thank God for taking all our sin and charging it to Christ.
II. Bible Reading
1. What is God saying?
2. How do I apply this Word?
3. Always look for the principle.
1. Spend time praying for our own needs.
2. Spend time praying about God’s interests.
3. Delight to pray over the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
This outline has transformed my times with God. It changed the focus from what I need to who God is and what God wants to do in my life.
It’s hard to adequately express the ministry impact of a man like Jerry Bridges. He has taught a generation how to pursue holiness in a way that glorifies God. For now, we pause and thank God for raising up a man who through word and deed showed us how to live and minister faithfully.