Last week, when I posted a brief tribute to an unseen mentor, I mentioned that I would be posting more thoughts about how the writings of Jerry Bridges have impacted my thinking about the Christian life and practical theology. One major theme of Jerry’s ministry was holiness, hence the title of his first book The Pursuit of Holiness. But within the theme of holiness was also clear teaching concerning the cooperative relationship of the believer and the Spirit in this pursuit. This quote from the Pursuit of Holiness makes that clear:
A farmer plows his field, sows his 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 the 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 partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his 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.
We can say just as accurately that 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. God has made it possible for us to walk in holiness. But He has given to us the responsibility of doing the walking; He does not do that for us.
Pursuing holiness is like farming; it is a joint venture, a cooperative effort, of the believer and the Holy Spirit. The focus on Jerry’s first book was mainly on our pursuit, while he developed the latter emphasis, divine empowerment, in two of his later books: Transforming Grace and Discipline of Grace.