Interview with Jerry Bridges, on his autobiography, GOD TOOK ME BY THE HAND, Part 2

Published on July 31, 2014 by Fred Zaspel

2014 | 192 pages

Today we continue our interview with Jerry Bridges, talking with him about his new autobiography, God Took Me By the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence.

If you missed the first part of this interview, you can view it here.


Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel):
Your first book, The Pursuit of Holiness has been enormously successful. You have mentioned to me on occasion that there was some skepticism at the time about a book like this. What was that about, and what do you think made it such a success? And can you tell us something of its publishing record and how many copies of this book are in print?

Bridges:  When The Pursuit of Holiness was still in the production process a veteran in the Christian publishing industry told my publisher at Nav Press that any book with the word holiness in its title will not sell in today’s market (Today’s market was 1978.) I was treasurer of The Navigators at that time and was most concerned that Nav Press might lose money on my book. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was widely received and eventually became a best seller among paperback editions in the Christian publishing industry. Since its publication in 1978 about 1 ½ million copies have sold. I had no idea what made it such a success other than it was simply God’s time to remind the evangelical church of the importance of pursuing holiness.


Books At a Glance:
You have often mentioned an additional chapter that you wish had been included in the book. Can you explain this for us?

Bridges:
Shortly after The Pursuit of Holiness was published a large evangelical church in our city asked me to teach it as one of the electives in a 10-week Bible study program. Preparing for these lectures forced me to go back to the book. Toward the end of the 10-week series I thought to myself, “There is not enough gospel in this book.” I thought this because I knew that when people seriously begin to pursue holiness they would usually become aware of sin in their lives that they didn’t bother about before. They do need conviction of sin but they need to know how they can take that sin to the cross and experience God’s forgiveness. So, in the final lecture, in the 10th week, I told the class that the title of tonight’s lesson is the chapter that I wish I had written. You would think that Nav Press would soon come out with a revised edition of The Pursuit of Holiness including that chapter. They did not, but again that was in God’s timing. I spent the next 10 years thinking about the role of the gospel in the pursuit of holiness. Finally, in 1991, what began as the chapter I wish I had written became a full-fledged book entitled Transforming Grace. This was followed in subsequent years by two other books The Discipline of Grace and The Transforming Power of the Gospel.


Books At a Glance:
How are your first two books – The Pursuit of Holiness and then The Practice of Godliness – related? How does the second complement the first?

Bridges:
Shortly after The Pursuit of Holiness was published, I was studying through the book of Ephesians and was struck by chapter 4, verses 22-24. In those verses Paul said that we are to put off the old self and put on the new self which I take to mean, deal with sin in our lives and at the same time, seek to grow in those Christian character traits which Paul calls the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. That is what The Practice of Godliness is all about. So together the two books, The Pursuit of Holiness and The Practice of Godliness, are designed to help us “put off and put on.” Both of these are necessary for growth in Christ likeness. Unfortunately, it seems that most teaching and writing in the evangelical church today, if it addresses Christian growth at all, deals with the “put off.” Very little attention seems to be given to the importance of growing in positive Christian character traits.


Books At a Glance:
What, then, in brief, does practical godliness look like? What are some of the necessary leading traits by which it can be recognized?

Bridges:
The first part of The Practice of Godliness deals with what I believe is the importance of understanding what godliness is. Though it certainly includes Christian character, the foundation for godliness is an awe-filled reverence for God and a devotion to him. This attitude must underlie all our efforts in Christian growth.


Books At a Glance:
You have written many books, each with its own distinct value. Do you have a personal favorite? And is there one that stands out above the others in terms of ministry in your own Christian experience?

Bridges:
That is a hard question to answer because each one has personally ministered to me as I wrote them. I cannot pick just one but if you would give me two the answer is The Joy of Fearing God (published by Waterbrook, not Nav Press) and Trusting God Even When Life Hurts.


Books At a Glance:
To the “New Calvinists” of this generation, the “Young, Restless, & Reformed,” you have been a much-appreciated author. Do you have any words of caution, encouragement, or advice you would like to give them?

Bridges: 
I have two. First of all, in emphasizing the doctrine of election, do not forget the genuine, universal invitation of the gospel. Many of the great Calvinists of old were also great evangelists such as George Whitfield and Charles Spurgeon. We should have the same heart for the lost as they did. The second word of encouragement is to be a committed Calvinist but a friendly Calvinist to those who have different views. Many of my dearest friends are non Calvinists.


Books At a Glance:
These past couple years you have had significant health struggles, including heart surgery, but now more recently you have been back a bit “on the circuit” speaking. How is your health these days?

Bridges:
I may have been premature in saying that I am back on the circuit. The first half of this year, 2014, has been especially difficult and I’m definitely slowing down on the speaking circuit and trying to give more attention to writing.


Books At a Glance:
Finally, do you have a favorite verse of Scripture, a “life’s verse” perhaps?

Bridges: 
My son used to say that I had a new favorite verse every year but I finally concluded that my all-time favorite is II Corinthians 5:21 which I call “the great exchange,” God charging my sin to Christ and crediting His righteousness to me.


Books At a Glance:
Thanks so much for taking your time for us. We thank God for you and for the faithful and fruitful ministry God has given you.

Bridges:
This has been a helpful review for me of my own life story. I started out as a very unpromising young child growing up in poverty with several physical defects. I’m always astounded at what God has done by His grace.

 

Buy the books

God Took Me By The Hand: A Story Of God's Unusual Providence

2014 | 192 pages