"The Fruitful Life" by Jerry Bridges

I’m currently in one of those ruts where I don’t really have an appetite for the Bible. It’s a terrible rut to be in, and one that Christ’s grace has wrenched me out of too many times to count. Though there is no sufficient substitute for the power of the Word, I am immensely grateful for spiritual books in these times. They are a life ring of sorts, thrown around me, keeping me afloat and pulling me closer and closer towards my Savior. This book served me in such a way.

Jerry Bridges starts this book with a discussion on what it means to take on God’s character, the importance of devotion to God before beginning a pursuit of his fruit, and humility. These three chapters, quite frankly, are alone worth the read. So good.

What follows is a really, really brief foray into the fruits of the Spirit. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). I say “brief” because this topic alone could span at least 9 individual books. He also does not limit the working of the Spirit to these 9 traits alone; godliness and Christlikeness include an encompassing of every trait ascribed to God in the Bible. These should all be included in our pursuit.

What I Liked
The fruits of the Spirit can be kind of overwhelming. There are so many of them, there is so much room for growth in each, and growth in each seems to span an entire lifetime. Not to mention the battle of the savage flesh that rears its head and cries out “I got this! I can do better this time,” entirely neglecting the only thing that can actually produce any change in us (Jesus’ death and resurrection!). Nevertheless, I loved this book for the following reasons:

  • It’s saturated with the Bible. Every chapter is centered around Scripture and continuously points to it. Gold!
  • It teaches all fruit primarily as a reflection of God’s character. This keeps our focus on HIM and not us. This is also our motivation – to become more like him so as to bring him glory, not merely to become  “better” people.
  • It emphasizes our utter responsibility but total dependence. I’ll just leave you with this quote:

“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” (pp. 12-13).

What I Would Have Liked More Of
A deeper analysis into each of the fruits, as well as more of a discussion on the Spirit. Though Bridges is keen to stress that all fruit-bearing is strictly produced by the Spirit’s work, he fails to talk about the Spirit: who he is, how he works, what he does in us. But this is always something that can be supplemented with deeper study.

Would I Recommend It?
The aftermath of this book on me: I really want to be more like Jesus! I am more aware of my deficiencies in these facets of his character. I want to depend on him fully to grow me in his likeness, but I also want to fight for this growth. I want to know his Word.

Those are all really good by-products of a book. So – yes! I would recommend it.


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