Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Matters of the Heart

"The Puritan writer John Owen vigorously insisted that the fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Spirit and not of human origin.  These godly qualities are not something we can manufacture, take pride in, or lay claim to as self-generated.  Rather, they are the work of God, and their source is God alone.  However, we have a crucial role to play.  I call these character traits "garments of grace" because we must actively put them on.  As Owen eplained, we are responsible for acts of obedience by which this fruit is "preserved, increased, strengthened, and improved." from p. 9 of the preface of The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges

I wrote last week that I have been hesitant in the past to read a book about the fruits of the spirit.  My hesitancy laid in some of what I see in the culture we live in.  In our culture, the church often gets caught up doing what Sarah did when God didn't work as she wished.  We don't wait on Him and seek to do things His way.  We find ourselves in the land of self-help.

Setting all that aside, I decided to embark upon reading The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges.  This year I have read several other books by Bridges and so I was hopeful that this book would not fit into the mold of the self-help culture that we live in.  Thankfully, it didn't.

Later Bridges writes it this way, ..."the fruit of the Spirit, the result of His work within us.  This means not that we bear no responsibility for the development of Christian character but rather that we fulfill our responsibility under His direction and by His enablement." p. 13

He began with a discussion of godliness from which all of these stem.  He identifies on p. 29 that godliness is "the idea of a personal attitude toward God that results in actions that are pleasing to God."  The quote from pg. 13 explains Bridges's understanding of how these fruits develop in our lives.  He examines each of the fruits of the spirit: humility, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  The chapters on each of these held deep challenges for my heart that God threaded through my days as I read this book.

I fear that I cannot even begin to adequately describe how each individual chapter challenged me, so I will pick one.  Patience.  In this chapter, Bridges talks about the different faces of patience--longsuffering, responding to provocation, perseverance vs. endurance, and waiting on God.  Throughout the chapter, Bridges reminds the reader of God's patience for us that we might see the need for patience in our own lives towards others.  It helps us take our eyes off our temporary circumstances and put them back on God, on the the things that are eternal.

Bridges has a way of taking deep spiritual truths and conveying them in very understandable ways without simplifying them.  He is honest about his own struggles and weaknesses in his books as he shares his own stories and examples.  He writes with great humility of spirit and love for the Lord.

I highly recommend this book.  I am thankful that God has brought his books into my life this year.  They have been deeply encouraging and challenging.  I can't shy away from the truth of God's love and grace for me.  I am confronted with it and reminded to keep it on my heart and mind all day long.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from NavPress.

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