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It was 1976 and it was a rough year for me. I had become a Christian seven years before and was now married and laboring as a parachurch ministry leader doing evangelism and discipleship. I was overly tired,
sleep deprived and overworked. A good night sleep and a walk did not "fix" me. A dark depression settled over me and it was all I could do to get out of bed each morning and put one foot in front of another. I jettisoned everything I could of my ministry labors without losing my job. I was in the deep end of the pool just barely treading water. My friends were puzzled by what seemed to be unusual and "un-victorious" behavior. My dear wife was also wondering what in the world was happening to me. I did not know either.

The doctrine of the Christian life I had been taught began with the glowing words: "Every day can be an exciting day for the Christian who knows the reality of the Spirit-filled life and who lives moment by moment under His gracious control." This "exciting" life meant one was to turn over control of one's life to Jesus and let Him live the Christian life through you. Jesus would not sin, would He? Jesus, would not fail to believe and trust God, would He? The "secret" of the Christian life was Jesus living through the yielded, quieted believer.

If one failed to live this "abundant life", it was because there was either an unconfessed sin or an unyielded area of one's life. So a person scraped their inner psyche looking for that unyielded area, that unconfessed sin that was keeping Jesus from having full control. And true Christians would never have a bad day!

But I was not only have a bad day, I was having a bad month and a bad year! The highlight of each day was going to bed early--only to have deep, restful sleep elude me. I was barely functioning. And my learned doctrine of the Christian life was only making it worse!
Christians who knew the secret never had a bad day.
Christians should never struggle. Christians should never be depressed. As I met with the Lord each morning, I called out to Him to help me, teach me, mold me and change me. Not much seemed to be happening!

But as I daily walked with Christ and read my Bible, I began to see new things in the Scriptures I had not seen before. Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane cried out in desperation to His Father. He was not humming "Victory in Jesus". He was in agony! I could not imagine our Lord not knowing how to live the Christian life! There was a crack of light in my dark room--maybe struggle and depression and failure were God's instruments in His process of sanctifying me. Maybe they were not abnormal but the normal Christian life?!

Then in reading through Romans with the help of Donald Grey Barnhouse's EXPOSITION OF ROMANS,
I saw that my view of the Christian life was very small, cramped and man-centered. I also saw in Romans 6-8 that struggle was a part of the Christian life. I memorized Romans 6:1-14 and sought to meditate upon it each day. Slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly,
the dark clouds of depression began to clear, sometimes with two sunny days followed by a cloudiness, then 3-4 sunny days followed by an brief darkness and then finally most sunny days with cloudy days interspersed.

What's more, I saw the sovereignty of God in salvation, in election, atonement, keeping and eventual glory. I had come to understand Romans! The doctrines I managed to cobble together gave me stability and strength and persevering grace. Then in 1978, Navigator leader Jerry Bridges published his first book, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS. What a gem! In down to earth language he explained what I later learned was the Reformation understanding of salvation and sanctification. What was a patchwork quilt of doctrines in my little theology became a more full-orbed theology of the Christian life. My heart sung as I read this book, absorbed its teaching, noticed the men and books mentioned in the footnotes, and embarked on a life of study, worship, and the pursuit of holiness. It was through Jerry Bridges footnotes that I came to know Charles Hodge (the subject of my Master's thesis), John Owen (the subject of my seminary devotional reading),
Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield (also the subject of my seminary devotional reading).

As a pastor, I had Jerry preach and teach four times in my church. The churchmen loved him and deeply appreciated his teaching. It was truth for life and I shall always be in his debt!

Below is a listing of Jerry Bridges' major books and why you should read and study each twice, once for joy and the second time for mastering.

1978--THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS--the best short explanation of the Bible's and the Reformation's understanding of how Christians are to pursue holiness.

1983--THE PRACTICE OF GODLINESS--how Christians are to put on new habits of godliness even as they put to death old habits of sins. God has done many things to and for the Christian. This book explains what the Christian is to discipline himself to do. The bookend to THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS.

1985--TRUE FELLOWSHIP (lated published as THE CRISIS OF CARING, and then published as TRUE COMMUNITY in 2012). A great book to show believers how they are to live with one another in the family of God.

1988--TRUSTING GOD (Even When Life Hurts)--the 1st book in English in the 20th century on the biblical doctrine of God's sovereign, holy, infinitely wise and loving providence. A real sanity saver!--it should be mastered by all believers and preached on by all pastors!

1991--TRANSFORMING GRACE--Jerry stunned many of his readers by showing them that we are not only saved by grace but grow and are changed by grace too!

1994--THE DISCIPLINE OF GRACE--People were puzzled at how one should put together God's transforming grace and human responsibility in one coherent doctrine of sanctification. This book shows us how to put our effort and discipline together with God's in-working grace.

1999--THE JOY OF FEARING GOD--one of the most neglected doctrine of the Bible was brought front and center to help believers view and treat God as they should. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then many professing Christians are not very wise!

2002--THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE--masterfully captures what Christ did for His people in the atonement. If I could I would make this book's mastery a mandatory responsibility for each American Christian, and certainly each pastor!

2003--THE CHASE--a shortened version of THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS for students.

2006--IS GOD REALLY IN CONTROL?--a shorted version of TRUSTING GOD for students.

2007--RESPECTABLE SINS--a bombshell on the playground of respectable, nice Christians.

2007--THE GREAT EXCHANGE--a blockbuster of a help to Christian laymen and pastors who have not fully grasped both halves of justification--"my sins exchanged for His righteousness". Please read and master this master book!

2008--HOLINESS DAY BY DAY--a daily devotional drawn from his previous works on holiness.

2009--THE BOOKENDS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE--the two bookends which keep our Christian lives from going into the ditch of despair or the ditch of self righteousness are (1) the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer; (2) the power of the Holy Spirit to change and keep changing the believer. The book is short by packed with practical dynamite!

2012--WHO AM I ?--learning that your identify is in Christ!

2014--GOD TOOK ME BY THE HAND--Jerry's life story with twists and turns of providence that constantly called on Jerry to trust God. A sweet read.

FORTHCOMING IN 2016--THE BLESSING OF HUMILITY (Walk Within Your Calling)--this is my estimate of Jerry to a T. There is no reason to believe it won't be a gem like all the others!

I honor Jerry Bridges, his ministry and his memory, as I owe him a debt of gratitude that can only be repaid by pursuing holiness in the power of the Spirit and trusting God for all His providential dealing with my life.

Your Book Servant,

Pastor Steve Martin
WWW.THELOGCOLLEGE.WORDPRESS.COM for many more reviews, articles and downloads of interest to growing believers.

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