Monday, June 21, 2010

The Fruitful Life by Dr. Jerry Bridges

The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God's Love Through You

I recently received a review copy of The Fruitful Life, authored by Dr. Jerry Bridges, through a review program for NavPress. The cover packages this text well. Jerry Bridges lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is a committed to the Biblical text. He has written such books as The Pursuit of Holiness: The Practice of Godliness, Trusting God, and The Gospel for Real Life. Click here to peruse or purchase all of his works. In this text you can appreciate his high-view of Scripture as he dives into the riches of The Fruit of the Spirit. There are also exercises at the end of each chapter for study, lessons, devotion, or for use in small groups.

Bridges begins with a Puritan premise that “the fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Spirit and not of human origin.” Noting this he also explains however that we have a crucial role to play but must recognize the source. We must be responsible to the Holy Spirit in our acts of obedience to its maturation process in our lives.

We must be devoted to God, fully. It is only in our genuinely devoted acts do we find “acceptable motives for actions that are pleasing to God.” (Bridges, 12) It is unfortunate that most of our motives are, indeed, self-centered or are centered around advancing our individualism. Our motives must be God-centered. Jesus is the centerpiece of Scripture and He, as God, must be the center of our lives.

The source of power for living a Godly life comes from “the risen Christ” (Bridges, 15. See Colossians 2:6-7). Bridges goes on to note that Christ is the “source” of power and that “our means of experiencing that power is through our relationship with Him.” (Bridges, 16) We must behold Christ in His Word and depend upon Him through it and in prayer.

The believer should be concerned with putting off falsehood and putting on truthfulness. This is the only way for us to cut away our own presuppositions and allow the Holy Spirit to create us into the image of Christ. This means that we are in the business of adding and subtracting during our journey. Adding things we should have and subtracting things that should not be apart. Since we are all growing in our journey it is imperative that we not only put off traits from sinful nature but also add traits such as love, joy, and compassion to help us deal with the restoration of others.

A maxim to remember is: “Growth in all areas is progressive and never finished.” (Bridges, 23). In Philippians 3:12, even Paul recognizes a sense of pressing towards a goal, an object. Even the mature and veteran believer must be in a state of developing and growing in the knowledge of our Lord.

Bridges also draws upon “the fear of God”; the “love of God” and the “desire for God” as “three essentials” in our devotion towards God. He uses a triangle to illustrate. At the bottom right is the “love of God”, the bottom left is the “fear of God” and at that apex is the “desire for God”. Our foundation of fear and love towards God will produce and protect our desire for more of God.
The very last chapter, in this work, is about seeking a deeper devotion to God. Typically, we teach and explore the Fruit of the Spirit but can say very little about how to help this fruit grow. Bridges takes aim at this here as he offers his explanation. Bridges notes that after the New Birth all Christians possess, even in “embryonic form, a basic devotion to God.” (Bridges, 169) He goes on to list two things that are crucial in our growth (Bridges, 70).

1. “a balanced approach to all three of the essential elements of devotion: fear, love, and desire”

2. “a vital dependence upon the Holy Spirit”

The dependence upon the Holy Spirit cannot be stressed enough in our present mileu of naturalism, materialism, and skeptics alike. Growth however is impossible without prayer, meditation, worship, and the quite time. These all help us grow in God. It is important to pray for growth, and meditate on the Word of God. In conclusion, Bridges reminds us that “from this joyful relationship flows the rich harvest of our transformed character.” (Bridges, 178)

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