Monday, August 31, 2009

Respectable Sins - ch 1-5

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges - ch 1-5

Welcome to this new series!

These first 5 chapters of the book helpfully introduce the idea of 'respectable' sins - those we tend to worry less about as Christians because we ignore or tolerate them. Of course the whole point is that sin is sin, and we must be prepared to have the word of God move in us in every area of our lives.

Chapter 1: Ordinary Saints. Bridges looks at how Christians, all Christians, can be described as saints, meaning that we are set apart by God.
In the biblical sense of the term, sainthood is not a status of achievement and character but a state of being — an entirely new condition of life brought about by the Spirit of God. Paul describes it as “[turning] from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18) and again as having been “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13)... (p14)
He then goes on to speak about how even though we are set apart by God, we still struggle in the flesh with sin:
The Bible has a word for conduct unbecoming a saint. It is sin. And just as “conduct unbecoming an officer” covers a wide range of misconduct, so the word sin covers a wide range of misbehavior. It covers everything from gossip to adultery, from impatience to murder. Obviously, there are degrees of seriousness of sin. But in the final analysis, sin is sin. It is conduct unbecoming a saint. (p16)

In Chapter 2: The Disappearance of Sin, Bridges talks about how the idea of sin is almost completely absent from society and in most churches. Not only that, but even in evangelical churches, where the idea of sin remains,
it has, in many instances, been deflected to those outside our circles who commit flagrant sins... It's easy for us to condemn those obvious sins while virtually ignoring our own sins of gossip, pride, envy, bitterness, and lust, or even our lack of those gracious qualities that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (p19)...

The result, then, is that for many morally upright believers, the awareness of personal sin has effectively disappeared from their consciences. But it has not disappeared from the sight of God. (p 22)
This is quite a challenge. To see how quickly we can judge outsiders for their actions, but rarely turn the examination around to include ourselves.

In Chapter 3: The Malignancy of Sin, Bridges addresses how serious sin really is.
It does not matter whether our sin is scandalous or respectable, all our sin is sinful, only sinful and altogether sinful. Whether it is large or small in our eyes, it is heinous in the sight of God. God forgives our sin because of the shed blood of Christ, but He does not tolerate it. Instead, every sin that we commit, even the subtle sin that we don't even think about, was laid upon Christ as He bore the curse of God in our place. And herein lies chiefly the malignancy of sin. Christ suffered because of our sins. (p30)

In Chapter 4: The Remedy for Sin, Bridges now brings the gospel to bear on sin. In everything - facing sin, admitting to sin and being willing to address sin - we must always have the gospel as the focus.
  • we must remember the gospel is for sinners, and we are still sinners - we still need the gospel
  • the gospel also frees me to face my sin, for I have the assurance that my sin is forgiven
  • the gospel motivates and energizes me to deal with my sin, we must 'put it to death'
  • the assurance we receive in the gospel 1) assures me that God is for me, not against me and 2) gives me a great gratitude for what he had done and is doing for me through Christ. This gratitude helps us to desire to deal with sin. (from pp 34-6).
He recommends the practice of 'preaching the gospel to yourself every day', and gives a list of bible verses which one could use to encourage themselves with the promise of God's forgiveness for the repentant sinner.

I like this chapter - he encourages us to be honest and face our sins, but all in the light of the grace of God, by which we have been forgiven.

In Chapter 5: The Power of the Holy Spirit, Bridges now turns to the way the Holy Spirit can free us from the power of sin. He coins the term 'dependent responsibility':
that is, we are responsible before God, to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously not acceptable ones. At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility. We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are both responsible and dependent. (p41).
Bridges speaks of a number of ways in which the Holy Spirit may work in us:
  • to bring us conviction of sin, opening our eyes to see areas of sin in our lives
  • to enable us and empower us to deal with our sin
  • He even works without our conscious involvement - even on our darkest days, we can know that the Spirit is still working within us.
  • by bringing into our lives circumstance that are designed to cause us to grow spiritually: "if we are prone to sinful anger, there will be circumstances that trigger our anger" (pp 42-44)
He finishes the chapter with these encouraging words:
Remember, Christ has already paid the penalty for our sins and won for us the forgiveness of them. And then He has sent His Holy Spirit to live within us to enable us to deal with them. (p45).

I like how Bridges has done these chapters, he has pointed out that we are still sinful and that sin still reigns on this earth, and he has pointed out how serious it is. However, he has not left us without hope - the reminder that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and that the Spirit dwells within us.

Things to think about:
1. Do you agree that society has generally forgotten about or ignored the existence of sin?
2. Do you struggle to believe that sin is really so bad?
3. Which 'large' sins do you quickly find in others?
4. What 'respectable' sins do you ignore in yourself?

5. What bible verses could you choose to remind yourself of the gospel & that the Spirit dwells within you?

This post turned out to be quite long, so I will do chapter 6 separately on Friday!

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