Monday, August 16, 2010

The Fruitful Life, by Jerry Bridges

This book was a much anticipated read because I've long been a "fan" of Jerry Bridges. (Or, as much of a fan that you can be of someone who shakes you up and causes you to reexamine yourself in light of scripture!) So when an opportunity came along to read The Fruitful Life - you can bet I jumped on it!

The Fruitful Life focuses on exploring the "fruit of the Spirit" as described in Galatians 5:22-23:

* Love
* Joy
* Peace
* Patience
* Kindness and Goodness
* Faithfulness
* Gentleness
* Self-Control

In the introduction to the book, Bridges explains that much of the material in this book is presented in his previous work, The Practice of Godliness. The difference between these two titles is that The Fruitful Life narrows its focus specifically on the "fruits of the Spirit" instead of having them included in a broader discussion of spiritual discipline. Having read The Practice of Godliness years ago, I enjoyed following up with this newer title.

In this book Bridges talks about the importance of a Christian taking on the character of God. God possesses all of these character, or attributes, which we are to practice and model in our own lives and to one another. Now, if you just take a precursory glance at the list of the fruits of the Spirit, it can feel like a rather long and daunting task. I'd kind of like to take it in bite-sized chunks and focus on practicing a particular "fruit" that I feel more confident in. Studying and working out all of the fruits seems impossible. Here is what Bridges has to say to that, right at the beginning of the book:

"We tend to emphasize in our lives those traits that seem most natural to our particular temperaments. But the fruit of the Spirit is not a matter of temperament; it is the result of the individual Christian seeking toe grow, under the direction and aid of the Spirit, in every area of Christian character. Though in this book we will examine primarily the nine traits listed in Galatians 5, we should keep in mind a lifelong objective of growing in all of the traits of godliness." (page 21)

And why, as Christians, should we pursue a study of these fruits, seeking to grow in godliness? Bridges sets forth a triangle. The bottom tier represents the fear of God and the Love of God. Combined those grow our devotion to God, building a Desire for God. It is a combination of all of these things that would shape our hearts and our minds to want to be disciplined.

The more we concentrate on obedience, the more we will realize how sinful we are and how incapable we are of maintaining godly character/devotion to God without His help. We recognize our sinfulness. We begin to understand His perfection and consistency and our failures. We admire and desire Him more for His perfection and our weaknesses.

"This is the heartbeat of the godly person. As he contemplates God in the awesomeness of His infinite majesty, power, and holiness, and then as he dwells upon the riches of His mercy and grace poured out at Calvary, his heart is captivated by this One who could love him so. He is satisfied with God alone, but he is never satisfied with his present experience of God. He always years for more." (page 43)

When you desire God, you seek to follow after Him. You grow in love; you understand His ways. You take on, and exhibit the fruits. With each new nugget of truth you latch onto as you learn more of who God is, you long to know more. Always more. Never less. Never status quo.

Bridges goes on to explore each of the nine fruits individually. Admittedly, I took longer reading and working through this book than I normally do, "dragging out" my reading by a few weeks instead of a few days. I really wanted to soak it in. Plus (here's my pride!:) I discovered if I read only two chapters a day I didn't feel as bad. Generally I felt stronger in one of the fruits over the other. So it would frequently happen that I would kick myself in one chapter and then pat myself on the back in the other. It made for a more pleasant reading experience. (And yes, I acknowledged this as I read and had to deal with that attitude as I read along!) I also talked my way through his question/answer sections at the end of each chapter to help more accurately identify areas where I need some work. (Yikes!)

That admission made, I must say that this book was a good read for me. It challenged me and made me think more deeply about how much I truly desire and long to know God. It convicted me and also gave me hope and inspired me. Bridges has always been able to do that to me through his books, and reading The Fruitful Life was not any different. This is a positive book that I am happy to recommend, probably just to shake you up and deal with any apathetic feelings you might have towards your own sin. I say that only because it made me deal with my own apathetic feelings and that's a good thing.

Thanks, Navpress, for offering me the opportunity to take a deeper look inside so that, ultimately, I'd look up and find God to be bigger.


Stephanie Kay said...

I'm also a fan of Bridges. I was part of a women's Bible study years ago that used several of his books to guide our study and discussion. Definitely convicting. But in a good kind of way.

Anonymous said...

"Fruits of the Spirit" always makes me grumble. I wonder when I will be growing any. Think I need to check out this book :-)

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Oh, I probably need this one. I've enjoyed several of Jerry Bridges' books, and didn't realize this one had come out. Thanks for the review, Carrie!

Barbara H. said...

Somehow I have never read Bridges. This looks like maybe a good one to start with.

*carrie* said...


Would you believe that I went to the same church as Jerry Bridges when I was a kid?

My small group read his book Respectable Sins a year or two ago--very challenging and I recommend it!

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