The Fruitful Life

The Fruitful Life

by Jerry Bridges

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781600060274
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Series: Living the Questions Series
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 297,404
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Dr. Jerry Bridges is the best-selling author of such books as The Pursuit of Holiness, Transforming Grace, and The Practice of Godliness, from which this book is derived. Jerry is on staff with The Navigators' collegiate ministry. A popular speaker known around the world, Jerry lives with his wife, Jane, in Colorado Springs.

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CHAPTER 1

TAKING ON GOD'S CHARACTER

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

EPHESIANS 4:22-24

Fruitful character comes from a great devotion, and the greatest devotion of all is the love of God. A life that grows in loving God becomes like God. John Owen writes, "[Love] begets a likeness between the mind loving and the object beloved. ... A mind filled with the love of Christ as crucified ... will be changed into his image and likeness." The apostle Paul writes,

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 CORINTHIANS 3:18, ESV

Christian character flows out of devotion to God, and it confirms the reality of that devotion in practical ways. We may express a reverence for God, we may lift our hearts in worship to Him, but we demonstrate the genuineness of our devotion to God by our earnest desire and sincere effort to be like Him. Paul not only wanted to know Christ, he wanted to be like Him, and he pressed forward with utmost intensity toward that goal.

In the Scripture text that opened this chapter, Paul says we must "put on the new self" and "be made new in the attitude of your minds." What is this new attitude of mind, and where does it come from? Again, John Owen helps us here. He writes that this is the "image of God" and "the divine nature" that is wrought in us by God and that we partake of by the Spirit of God. It is a "supernatural habit" or a "habit of grace" that is "nothing but the word changed into grace in our hearts."

What are the character traits that distinguish the person who is increasing in this habit of grace — the person who is becoming godlike? A good place to start is the list of nine gracious qualities, which Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit, in Galatians 5:22-23. In chapters to come, we will concentrate on these qualities. It seems obvious, however, that Paul did not intend to limit the traits of the Spirit's fruit just to this well-known list. Any other trait commended in Scripture as befitting a believer is also a fruit of the Spirit, since its evidence is a result only of the Spirit's ministry in our hearts. To the qualities listed in Galatians 5 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — we can also add such traits as holiness, humility, compassion, forbearance, contentment, thankfulness, considerateness, sincerity, and perseverance. We devote a whole chapter of this book (chapter 3) to humility because it is so foundational to the other traits.

This is an awesome list of character traits to pursue, and our first reaction, if we are realistic at all, is probably to say, "I can't work on all of these." That is indeed true, if we were left to our own devices. But these traits are 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. It is this divine dimension that makes Christian character possible, and it is only this divine dimension that can keep us from becoming frustrated and defeated in our desire to exemplify godly character traits in our lives.

Chapters 4 to 11 focus on the nine individual traits Paul calls "the fruit of the Spirit." There are some basic principles, however, that apply to all aspects of godly character.

THE RIGHT MOTIVE

The first principle of the "habit of grace" (or what I will often call "godliness," "godlikeness," or "Christlikeness" in this book) is that devotion to God is the only acceptable motive for actions that are pleasing to God. This devotion may express itself in one of several different ways. We may have a sincere desire to please God or to glorify Him; we may do or not do a particular action because we love God or because we sense that He is worthy of our obedience. However our motivation expresses itself, if it is God-centered, it arises out of our devotion to God and is acceptable to Him.

Unfortunately, too often our motives are self-centered rather than God-centered. We want to maintain our reputation before others, or we want to feel good about ourselves. Or we may even seek to live a decent and moral life or to do good deeds because such an ethic has been instilled in us from childhood. But that motivation is never related to God and thus is not acceptable to Him.

When Joseph was enticed by Potiphar's wife, he did not refuse her on the basis, "If I did that and my master found out, he would have my head." No, he said, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). His motivation for morality was centered in God, and because of that it was acceptable to God.

I recall once being tempted with the opportunity to engage in a questionable business transaction, one of those gray-area situations in which we tend to rationalize our actions. As I pondered the matter, I thought, I better not; I might incur the discipline of God. Now, when all proper motives fail, it is certainly better to be checked by the fear of God's discipline than to go ahead with our sin. But that is not the right motive. In this situation, the Holy Spirit came to my aid, and I thought to myself, I realize that the fear of God's discipline is certainly an unworthy motive, but the real reason I should not do that is because God is worthy of my most honorable conduct. The Holy Spirit helped me recognize the self-centeredness of my initial motivation and correctly focus my motivation on God.

When God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, He tested his motive. As He stayed Abraham's knife from the fatal plunge, God said, "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12). It was Abraham's fear of God that motivated him to go forward with that supreme act of obedience. We usually associate Abraham's obedience with his faith. It was by faith that Abraham was enabled to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but it was the fear of God that motivated him. And it was this godward motivation that the Lord saw and accepted and commended.

As we look into the New Testament, we see this godward motivation emphasized again and again. Jesus taught that all the Law and the Prophets hang on the two commandments of love for God and love for our neighbor (see Matthew 22:37-40). He was teaching not merely that these two commandments of love sum up all the other more specific commandments but rather that all the other commandments depend upon the motivation of love for their fulfillment. The fear of consequences may keep us from committing the outward acts of murder or adultery, but only love will keep us from committing murder or adultery in our hearts.

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul tells us that even our eating and drinking is to be done for the glory of God. As someone has observed, there is nothing more ordinary and routine than our eating and drinking; yet even this is to be done with a godward motivation. Slaves were enjoined to obey their earthly masters out of "reverence for the Lord" (Colossians 3:22). All of us are to submit ourselves to human authority "for the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13). And our interpersonal relationships — our mutual submission to one another — is to be done "out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). All of our actions, to be acceptable to God, must be done out of a sense of devotion to God.

THE SOURCE OF POWER

The second principle of godly character is that the power or enablement for a godly life comes from the risen Christ. Paul says in relation to his ministry, "Our competence comes from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5), and "I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" (Colossians 1:29). He says of his ability to be content in any situation, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

It is very likely that God, in His sovereign calling and preparation of Paul for his tremendous task, had endowed him with more noble qualities and strength of character than any person since; yet Paul consistently attributes his spiritual strength and accomplishments to the Lord's power. I once heard someone say, "When I do something wrong, I have to take the blame, but when I do something right, God gets the credit." This person was complaining, but he was exactly correct. Certainly, God cannot be blamed for our sins, but only He can provide the spiritual power to enable us to live godly lives.

As the source of power for Christlike character is Christ, so the means of experiencing that power is through our relationship with Him. This truth is Jesus' essential teaching in His illustration in John 15 of the vine and the branches. It is only by abiding in Him that we can bring forth the fruit of godly character. The most helpful explanation I have found of what it means to abide in Christ comes from the nineteenth-century Swiss theologian Frédéric Louis Godet: "'To abide in me' expresses the continual act by which the Christian sets aside everything which he might derive from his own wisdom, strength, merit, to draw all from Christ."

Paul expresses this relationship as "living in Christ." He says in Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith." The context of this statement is that all the wisdom and power for living the Christian life are to be found in Christ rather than in man-made philosophies and moralisms (see verses 2-4, 8-10). This is what Godet is saying. We have to set aside any dependence upon our own wisdom and strength of character and draw all that we need from Christ through faith in Him. This faith, of course, is expressed concretely by prayer to Him. Psalm 119:33-37 is a good example of such a prayer of dependence.

This relationship is also maintained by beholding the glory of Christ in His Word. As we learned at the beginning of this chapter, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul tells us that as we behold the Lord's glory, we are transformed more and more into His image. Beholding the Lord's glory in His Word is more than observing His humanity in the Gospels; it is observing His character, His attributes, and His will in every page of Scripture. And as we observe Him, as we maintain this relationship with Him through His Word, we are transformed more and more into His likeness; we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to progressively manifest the graces of godly character.

So it is this relationship with Christ, expressed by beholding Him in His Word and depending upon Him in prayer, that enables us to draw from Him the power essential for a Christlike life. The Christian is not like an automobile with a self-contained power source; rather, he is like an electric motor that must be constantly connected to an outside current for its power. Our source of power is in the risen Christ, and we stay connected to Him by beholding Him in His Word and depending on Him in prayer.

RESPONSIBILITY AND DEPENDENCE

The third principle of godly character is that though the power for Christlike character comes from Christ, the responsibility for developing and displaying that character is ours. This principle seems to be one of the most difficult for us to understand and apply. One day we sense our personal responsibility and seek to live a godly life by the strength of our own willpower. The next day, realizing the futility of trusting in ourselves, we turn it all over to Christ and abdicate our responsibility, which is set forth in the Scriptures. We need to learn that the Bible teaches both total responsibility and total dependence in all aspects of the Christian life.

I once read a statement to the effect that there is nothing a Christian can do to develop the fruit of the Spirit in his life; it is all the work of the Holy Spirit. Sensing that at best such a statement failed to present a balance of scriptural truth, I took out my concordance and looked up various passages that referred to one or more of the nine character traits listed as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. For every one of those traits, I found one or more passages in which we are commanded to exhibit them. We are enjoined to love, to rejoice, to live in peace with each other, and so forth. These commands address our responsibility.

When Paul describes his own pursuit of a godlike life, he uses strong verbs such as "press on" and "straining toward" (Philippians 3:12-14). These words convey the idea of intense effort on his part and communicate forcefully his own sense of personal responsibility. He tells Timothy, "Train yourself to be godly" (1 Timothy 4:7). The Greek word rendered "train" here originally referred to the training of athletes.

The solution to the seemingly incompatible statements that we are both totally responsible and totally dependent is found in Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Commenting on this passage, Professor Jac J. Müller says, "The believer is called to self-activity, to the active pursuit of the will of God, to the promotion of the spiritual life in himself, to the realization of the virtues of the Christian life, and to a personal application of salvation." If we stopped at this point, it would appear that we are left to our own devices, to our own strength of character and our own willpower. But Paul does not stop with our responsibility. He says, "For it is God who works in you." The spiritual power that enables us to apply ourselves to the cultivation of Christian graces is of God, who works in us to will and to act.

Nineteenth-century Dutch Reformed pastor George W. Bethune puts it this way:

While, therefore, we grow in the Christian life by divine grace, it is our duty to grow in grace. Besides, the quality of grace is such that, though it is strength from God, we must use it. Grace gives no new faculty, but strengthens the faculties which we have. ... Hence the fruits of the Spirit are the qualities and actions of the renewed man, not produced without him, but wrought through him. ... Let us then be ever mindful of our entire dependence upon the Spirit of God ... [but] let us be ever mindful of our duty "to maintain good works."

PUT OFF AND PUT ON

The fourth principle of godly character is that the development of godly character entails both putting off and putting on character traits. As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, Paul says,

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

EPHESIANS 4:22-24, EMPHASIS ADDED

In the succeeding verses (4:25–5:4), Paul makes some very specific applications of this principle. We are to put off falsehood and put on truthfulness. We are to put off stealing and put on generosity. Unwholesome talk must be put off and replaced with speech that is helpful for building others up. Bitterness, rage, anger, and slander are to be replaced with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Obscene or suggestive speech is to be replaced with thanksgiving. Even Paul's list of gracious qualities in Galatians 5, called the fruit of the Spirit, is set in contrast to a lengthy catalog of vices of the sinful nature that the godly person must put off.

It was said of the Lord Jesus that He both loved righteousness and hated wickedness (see Hebrews 1:9). And we are to follow His example, for Paul instructs us to "hate what is evil; cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9). Surely we must put to death, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, the misdeeds of the body. But we must also, again with His enablement, clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Fruitful Life"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Jerry Bridges.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface, v,
Chapter 1: Taking On God's Character, 1,
Chapter 2: Devotion to God, 17,
Chapter 3: Humility, 33,
Chapter 4: Love, 47,
Chapter 5: Joy, 61,
Chapter 6: Peace, 73,
Chapter 7: Patience, 85,
Chapter 8: Kindness and Goodness, 99,
Chapter 9: Faithfulness, 111,
Chapter 10: Gentleness, 121,
Chapter 11: Self-Control, 131,
Chapter 12: Seeking a Deeper Devotion, 145,
DISCUSSION GUIDE,
Lesson 1: Taking On God's Character, 157,
Lesson 2: Devotion to God, 161,
Lesson 3: Humility, 165,
Lesson 4: Love, 169,
Lesson 5: Joy, 173,
Lesson 6: Peace, 177,
Lesson 7: Patience, 181,
Lesson 8: Kindness and Goodness, 185,
Lesson 9: Faithfulness, 189,
Lesson 10: Gentleness, 191,
Lesson 11: Self-Control, 195,
Lesson 12: Seeking a Deeper Devotion, 199,
Notes, 203,
Author, 207,

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Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God's Love Through You 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anne-B More than 1 year ago
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.
Noelle_The_Dreamer More than 1 year ago
"Healthy human life is a fruitful life." So begins the preface of this book. Each chapter takes us through the fruits of the Spirit beginning with taking on God's character and pursuing our devotion to God. In this book, Jerry Bridges describes each fruit of the Spirit - Humility, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness and Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and finally Self control. Guiding us with references to the books of the Bible, the author identifies each fruit as well as the many ways we can use these to strengthen our daily spiritual life. Well written and easy to use "The Fruitful Life" including its exercises for practice and discussion will help the reader or group to develop his/hers daily devotions. Either read chapter by chapter or read in its entirety, this book will help you to cultivate the beautiful fruit given by the Holy Spirit. This is indeed a Spirit filled book and I give it 4 1/2 stars. You will too! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
vernie24VE More than 1 year ago
To feel the overflow of God's Love, it must start within you first and to learn it by heart the principles that makes a fruitful life. In order to be a believable Christian---you must walk the talk! Now if you want to disciple someone, you need the fruit of the spirit to be more effective and that is the secret of Christian influence. Start within yourself is from what I understand from reading Jerry Bridges book. Concentrate on developing character traits such as joy, peace, kindness, goodness, devotion among others to have a solid spiritual formation. If you are a church worker, laymen, Pastor or Worship Leader, you must know these things if you want more followers to lead to Jesus. Although there is nothing new even if each chapter is concentrated in how to have humility, self-control,having gentleness etc. Still this is worth reading if you think you need more "radical" approach to influence the lives of others . Learning and getting back to basics is one way of admitting with humility--- that you can't do it alone without the help of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Immerse yourself with these insightful book and you will benefit more if you practice it and learn from wisdom of the Author by also doing the exercises. There is practice discussion found at the end of each chapter and suggested bible verses to make your bible reading or "alone" time more meaningful. I received this book from Navpress as part of their books for bloggers program and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the U.S Federal Trade Commission
KC2010 More than 1 year ago
This Fruitful Life takes you on a journey through each of the fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5. This book dedicates a chapter to each and offers insight into how we can cultivate each one in our life. I liked this book because the author addresses the important fact that while the Holy Spirit does the work in us, we have work to do also. He offers insight and wisdom into what each fruit 'looks like' in our lives and how and why it is important in our walk with God. There is a brief study section at the end of each chapter. I would recommend this for small groups and for individual study. *Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*