It was with mingled sadness and joy that I learned of Jerry Bridges’ passing at age 86. One of the great legacies he leaves behind that I have personally benefited from was his emphasis on the biblical call to a Gospel-centered, grace-fueled pursuit of holiness in the Christian life. Toward that end, his writings repeatedly direct our attention to a rich, deep, grand vision of God—a vision too often minimized in contemporary children’s and youth ministry. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his book The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things:
It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God. (page 20)
In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe. (page 21)
In our day we seem to have magnified the love of God almost to the exclusion of the fear of God. Because of this preoccupation we are not honoring God and reverencing Him as we should. We should magnify the love of God; but although we revel in His love and mercy, we must never lose sight of His majesty and His holiness.
Not only will a right concept of the fear of God cause us to worship God aright, it will also regulate our conduct. (page 22)
The love of God has no meaning apart from Calvary. And Calvary has no meaning apart from the holy and just wrath of God. Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin—the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him. (page 24)
Now, think for a moment of our children’s and youth ministries—the Sunday morning classroom, the Wednesday night teaching and activities, and the various other programs. Do all these serve, in some measure, to encourage our children to be in reverent awe of God? Is a proper “fear of God” part of their classroom experience? Do we present the death of Jesus—the Gospel—within the context of both the love and wrath of God?
Parents and teachers: one of the great gifts we can pass on to our children and students is a life that magnifies and honors God by pursuing holiness and practicing godliness with increasing measure and joy. In this regard, Jerry Bridges was a gift from God to the church. May we raise up a generation of future men and women who follow his example.