The Practice of Godliness (by Jerry Bridges)

I haven't come across Jerry Bridges before, but this paperback was lurking on our shelves, and I thought it about time I read it. It was written in the 1980s - I have no idea where we picked it up from - and I thought it might be a bit dry.

I was pleasantly surprised by 'The Practice of Godliness'. Yes, it's a little old-fashioned in places, and more strongly 'evangelical' in style than I'm entirely comfortable with these days, but those were only minor problems. I read about a chapter a day for a little over two weeks, and found each one inspiring and thought-provoking.

The theme is that as Christians we are called to godliness. The book expounds on what that means. The author proposes that it has two broad parts: a deep devotion to God, and the development of godly character. The first few chapters talk about the vital importance of being devoted to God; of reading, meditating on and studying Scripture, of prayer, and fellowship both with God and with other believers.

The rest of the book looks at developing godly character. Bridges takes one trait per chapter, looking at the 'fruits of the spirit' one at a time, and a few other important Godlike characteristics. He emphasises the importance of striving for these things even though we so often fail, and also the necessity of relying on the Holy Spirit to develop them in us.

He acknowledges that this is something of a paradox - we are wholly reliant on God to change us, and yet we need to take action ourselves at times: for instance to develop patience, or to do acts of kindness. He points out that our motivation must always be our devotion to God, rather than anything self-seeking, and also that we will never actually achieve godliness in this lifetime.

There are plenty of Bible references to check throughout the book, and some quotations from other writers on similar topics. Not much that's personal; few stories - not the kind of book I would normally enjoy. But nonetheless encouraging and well worth reading.

Still in print in both the UK and USA, and widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 8th September 2008

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