The Backstory to “The Pursuit of Holiness”

In his autobiography, God Took Me by the Hand, Jerry Bridges tells how his first—and most popular—book came about.

[As a young man] I had heard the statement that the Bible was given to guide our conduct and I prayed, “God, starting tonight, would You use the Bible to guide my conduct?” That was the actual seed of the book on holiness.

Because of the mistakes I had made, and particularly having gotten so deeply involved in the “just let Jesus live His life through you” theology, I was eager to help other people avoid the pitfalls I had experienced and for others who were involved in that theology to see the fallacy, so I was publicly teaching on the principle of dependent responsibility every opportunity I had.

In 1975, The Navigators started a publishing division called NavPress. Prior to that we had simply a materials department, which was responsible for shipping our Bible study and Scripture memory resources. But The Navigators decided that we should get into the book publishing ministry. At that time it was thought that this would give staff an opportunity to publish. As it turned out, very few members of our staff were oriented to writing books, so this goal was never fully realized. However, it was God’s open door for me.

When NavPress started, they had only one or two books to publish, so they went to the Glen Eyrie Conference Center message archives, which contained hundreds of messages given over a 20-year period. They selected about a dozen messages and had them transcribed into printed form and distributed them as pocket-size booklets. They selected two of my messages.

However, LeRoy Eims, one of our senior staff, who had written two or three books, read one of my booklets. One day we just happened to meet in the parking lot, and he said to me, “Your message has got a real bite to it. You ought to try your hand at writing.” This challenge stuck in my mind. I had the message “The Pursuit of Holiness,” which I had given from time to time for almost ten years, and now I had the challenge to put it into print.
I went to the editor of NavPress, who was a casual friend, and told him about my idea for a book. He replied, “It sounds good. Write a couple of chapters and let me take a look at it.” That was all.

So I started writing in September 1976. Since our children were young and I had a full-time job at The Navigators office, I could only spend a few hours a week working on this project. I took the entire summer of 1977 off from writing in order to spend more time with the children. I picked up the writing again in September 1977 and finished in early 1978. The book was finally published and released in October of that year.

As a treasurer of The Navigators I was concerned that NavPress not lose any money on my book, so I was hoping they would sell at least five thousand copies. Much to everyone’s surprise, they sold over five thousand copies in the first six weeks. From that point on, the sales continued to increase until in the early 1980s it made the best-seller list for paperbacks three years in a row, and it continues to sell well now 35 years after its original publication.

I assumed The Pursuit of Holiness would be the only book I would write. After all, I did not consider myself a writer and felt that I had said all I wanted to say in The Pursuit of Holiness. But God had other plans.

Some content taken from God Took Me by the Hand, by Jerry Bridges. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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