SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#1: We Are Saints
#1: We Are Saints
Provoke [us] unto love and good works.
The book is Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. The author is an older man who has spent much of his adult with the Navigators working mostly with college students. As the title indicates, the book is about the sins we're all guilty of-and with which, we're way too comfortable. We fear some sins, and if we should ever fall into them, we'd loathe ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. But 'Respectable Sins'? They hardly bother us at all; and sometimes, they're taken for good things rather than what they are: hateful to God.
The format will be the same as before: twenty minutes or so of teaching followed by discussion, One last thing: I'm not going to quote from the book very often, and I may take liberties with it from time to time, but because it is such a good book, we're going to follow it pretty closely. Of course, I'll leave some things out, but if you find the teaching useful, I encourage you to buy the book yourself and read along as we go. It retails for $18.99 and I saw it online for about $12.00. Compared to a dull movie and popcorn smothered in fake butter, it seems like a pretty good use of your money!
Chapter One is titled, Ordinary Saints.
If you've read I Corinthians, you know the people had 'issues'. They were immature; they were divided; they put up with gross sin in the church; when they disagreed, they sued each other in court; some took part in pagan festivals; the well-off were greedy; the less well-off were resentful; they were show-offs; some were listening to heresy; one was living in incest, and-to top it all off-they thought they were the smartest people in the world!
If you were writing a letter to this church, how would you address them? I might say-
Mike, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, to the immoral and immodest idiots in Corinth-May the curse of God rest on you dirty hypocrites, and may we all learn what not to be from your bad example.
This is what I'd be tempted to say, but Paul wasn't. Knowing their sins far better than I do, and hating the sins worse than I, he called them-
The church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints.
Preachers who go to bad seminaries are taught to 'break the ice' with their hearers by telling a joke at the start of the sermon, or by flattering them with compliments and praise they don't deserve. Paul did not go to a bad seminary: As a Christian, his only teacher was Jesus Christ, and while He was the kindest of all men, He was no flatterer. And neither is Paul.
Everything he says about the Corinthians is true-both the bad and the good. Yes, they had 'issues'-lots of them and big ones too. But for all this, they were also what he said they were-
THE MEANING OF 'SAINTS' AND ITS APPLICATION
How in the world can he call these people 'saints'? He called them that because its what they were. What is a saint? The word itself means 'separated'. In the Greek Old Testament, it is often applied to pots and pans and altars and animals and clothes and tents and buildings and so on. There's no such thing as a moral hat, an honest door knob or a fire that fears the Lord.
These things are 'holy' or 'sanctified' or 'saintly' (if you will) because they are dedicated to God or put into His service.
What's true of fabrics and perfumes and precious metals is also true of ordinary believers. We are not what we ought to be, we're shot through with sins and weakness, and yet we have been chosen by God and set aside for His worship and work. What was said of the Apostles in particular applies to you and me as well. Our Lord said-
You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you that you should bring forth much fruit.
A saint, then, is a Christian, and not only the mature ones, but even the greenest beginner. And everyone in-between. If you're a believer in Christ-even a new one or a weak one or a bad one-you're a saint.
SEPARATED FOR WHOM?
When we say a believer is 'separated', we're likely to ask, Separated from what? This is the wrong question and betrays a kind of legalism. The right one is: Separated for Whom?
The answer is: for God. We are to live for Him, and that's true whether we're praying in church, working at the office, or sitting in front of the TV. Because He is our Maker and Savior, it follows-
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.
Living for God means we have to live lives better than non-criminal or half-way decent. In other words, it means steering clear of murder and rape and treason is not enough; we have to also repent of the sins that are more acceptable than these.
At this point, Jerry Bridges compares the Air Force Academy to most other colleges. The service academies are far more 'intrusive' and 'demanding' than other schools-even very good schools, like Cal and Stanford. If you keep up your grades at Cal, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Nobody's going to tell you to get a haircut, for example, or stay in shape physically, or impose a curfew on you, or say, 'Yes Sir' to you professor. Such things are not required of students, but they are required of cadets.
Christians are not students of God so much, as we are His cadets. We are held to a higher standard than the unsaved. This is both our privilege and our responsibility.
NOT THE END OF THE STORY
If we lived up to our privileges all the time, we'd be wasting our time on Respectable Sins because we'd know there is no such thing. But, of course, we seldom live up to our high calling. In reading the Bible and meditating on the Life of Christ, we see what we ought to be, but then, we have to admit, this is not what we are.
The Christian life is full of conflict. says-
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish.
You've heard the saying: It's easy to quit smoking: I've done it a hundred times. This is doubly true of sin. We've sworn it off time and time again, only to fall back into it. Whether it's lust or laziness, gluttony or bitterness, self-righteousness, self-pity, meanness, overspending-the list goes on and on.
We are saints, but not only saints: we are also sinners. The Christian life is full of conflict, but the conflict is not chiefly between people-husband and wives, parents and kids, labor and management, and so on-but inside each of us.
THE GOOD NEWS
As real and destructive and hateful as sin is, it does not separate us from the love of God, and this means: it does not unsaint us.
We are and remain what Chapter One calls us: Ordinary Saints.
This lays down a challenge. We have to become what we are. We cannot say, 'Since I'm a saint, I don't have to holy'. No, it's the other way around: 'I have to be holy because I am a saint'. This is exactly what the Bible teaches, -
For you were once darkness and now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#2: Sin and its Malignancy
#2: Sin and its Malignancy
Last week, we began a give-and-take study of Jerry Bridges' book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. Bridges is a well-known author, all of whose books I highly recommend. The chapters are short, clear, honest, and full of hope. In one sense, his book is very negative. Unlike most presidents, Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. One Sunday he went to church leaving his wife home sick. When he got back, she asked him,
'What was the sermon about?'
'So.what did the pastor say about it?'
He was against it.
In this way, any book about sin has got to be negative; God is against sin, and we should be too, whether it is sin in other people, and, especially when it's our own sin. But there's negative and there's negative.
Some books and sermons and conversations about sin are nothing more than scolding in God's name. They make us feel bad about ourselves, but they don't give hope and they don't effect change. But of course they don't; deep down, they're not meant to. They're more about the scolder feel good about himself than helping the sinner find forgiveness and freedom.
Bridges is not this way at all. Though some of the chapters touch raw nerves with me, the book left me feeling encouraged, and-if I do a good job presenting it-I'm sure it will do the same for you. Memorize this verse and live by it, -
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
We are Christians, and this means, we are sinners, but not only sinners, we're sinners who have been pardoned, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given-
Exceedingly great and precious promises.
Today, we'll look at chapters 2 and 3, which are-
The Disappearance of Sin, and
The Malignancy of Sin.
SIN IN CULTURE
The first thing to observe is how rarely the word, 'sin' is used outside of the church. When I was a boy, nearly everyone thought some things were 'sinful' and were not afraid to say so. Shoplifting was wrong; lying was wrong; going too far with a girl was wrong.
But, starting in the late 60's, our words changed. Kids who shoplifted were not 'thieves', they were 'from bad homes' or 'disturbed'. People who did really wicked things-like serial murder-were 'sick'. When we saw toddlers throwing a fit in a restaurant, we used to say, 'they're brats'; now we say they're 'acting out' because of something missing at home, or because they've got too much of this in their brain, or too little. We used to think they needed a dose of 'belt', now it's Ritalin they need.
I cannot remember the last time I heard the word, 'sin' on television, on the radio, or at the movies (unless there's a buffoon preacher saying it). The word has all but disappeared, and when words like it are spoken, it is nearly always in a political setting, and almost never personal.
I'm not in love with the word, 'sin'; if a better one can be found, I've got no problem using it. But, is 'disease' or 'addiction' a better word? What is the salesman who cheats on his wife every time he goes out of town? Is he really a sex addict? Or is he an adulterer? If his problem is a disease, how come his wife feels betrayed? Why are his kids ashamed? Why don't they feel about him the way they would if he had diabetes or emphysema? The answer is: because adultery is not a disease; it is a sin.
Deep down our culture knows this, but it is hardly ever admitted. It is buried under a pile of words, medical words, psychiatric words, recovery words, and so on. I'm not saying there is no truth in these things (I'm sure there is), but the deeper and truer truth is sin is sin. But we've lost that, in part, because society has changed our words, and with that, the way we think.
SIN IN THE CHURCH
If the idea of 'sin' has all but disappeared in society at large, it can still be found in the church, but the sharp edges have been filed down to make us feel better about ourselves.
The most popular pastor in America preaches to 40,000 people every Sunday and writes books that stay at the top of the best-sellers' list for months at a time. He almost never says, 'sin' in the pulpit or writes the word in his books.
On the blue moons he does use the word, it's found in sentences like these-'May God forgive us for the sin of not loving ourselves as much as He does'. Or, 'We sin when we don't believe God wants us to be happy and healthy and rich and successful'.
Here is a man who commands a huge following, and while other preachers of his kind influence far fewer than he does, the people who go to their churches know all about complexes, and how God doesn't want you to have any, but nothing about sin and what God has done in Christ to get rid of it!
The idea of sin has been lost in the mushy churches of today.
SIN IN THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH
And, in the churches that are supposedly not mushy. Conservative, Evangelical churches believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Divinity of Christ, salvation by grace, Heaven, Hell, and many other true things.
But the idea of sin has lost its edge in Bible-believing churches too. How? In many ways, of course, but the one that seems most widespread to me is, focusing on the wrong sins. Bridges tells the story of a pastor who invited the men in his church to a retreat, where they could confess their sins and pray for God's mercy.
Every man there prayed against abortion and gay marriage. Nobody said a thing about neglecting his family, wasting time at work, laughing at dirty jokes, loving money, gossiping, or forgetting to pray, read the Bible, or care what the Lord wants him to do. If you asked the men if they believed in sin, they would say they do; but not their own. What good is hating sin in others if we don't hate it in ourselves?
While sin is hardly talked about anymore, it's still there, everywhere and in everybody-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
There is none righteous, no not one.
Sin is not only widespread, it is also deep. In 1987 Jerry Bridges' wife was diagnosed with cancer, and for the first time in his life, he felt the word, malignancy. It means dangerous and growing. What is true of cancer is also true of sin.
It's there. Everyone is sinful, including the saintliest Christian. If it's not treated by repentance and faith, it will keep growing until it kills you. says-
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief departing from the living God.while it is said, 'Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the rebellion.so we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Sin comes out in what we do, what we say, what we think and what we feel; also in what we don't do, say, think, or feel. These are the symptoms of sin, but sin itself is far worse than a loose word now and then or a bad attitude. What it is is loving something more than you love God.
For example, wanting people to think I'm funny, I tell an unwholesome joke; they all laugh and I'm feeling pretty good about myself. But is the Lord pleased with the joke? No, He isn't, and, truthfully, I don't care if He is or not because, well.at that moment, I love being funny more than I love God.
What sin is, then, is making the Lord your second priority.
This shows how bad, how malignant, sin is. I'm not only hurting myself when I tell the dirty joke and polluting the minds of the people who hear it, but I'm despising God, I'm saying in effect, 'I don't care what You think about my joke!'
Sin is more wicked than you think it is because it is always against the Lord. To Him, sin is always Personal. It forsakes the teaching and wishes of our Father in Heaven; it put our Savior on the cross; it grieves the Holy Spirit; it mars God's Image in us; it hurts people He wants to heal.
By thinking of sin this way, we find there is no such thing as a Respectable Sin. The things that make us chuckle make the angels weep.
If sin has been forgotten on earth, in heaven, it is carefully observed and remembered. This means nothing less than the Gospel can save us from our sins-and keep on saving us. Thank God He has provided what we need.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#3: The Remedy for Sin
#3: The Remedy for Sin
Today we come to part three in our study of Jerry Bridges' new book, Respectable Sins. Are some sins 'respectable'? Of course they're not-God hates every sin and all of them, both big and small, nailed our Lord to the cross, and grieves the Holy Spirit who lives within in.
If there's no such thing as a 'respectable' sin, then what is the book about? The subtitle tells us: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. Underline the word, 'we'; there are sins, hateful to God, that aren't so bad to us. Maybe we don't exactly justify them, but we excuse them, and secretly think if 'If they're no big deal to me, they're no big deal to God'.
This is not a wise way to think, a good way to live, or a safe way to die. No sin is 'respectable'. First, because we are saints, that is, chosen by God and put into His service, and the service we're put into is not a Sunday morning affair: it's 24-7. We're to be saints at church, but also at home, in the neighborhood, at work, at school even behind the steering wheel! This is what Bridges first chapter was about: holiness as a way of life.
Chapters 2-3 explained the character of sin. In two words, sin is real and it is malignant. Today's culture has pretty much denied the existence of sin, preferring medical and psychiatric words to describe the bad things we do. While the Church has not gone as far as the world, she is moving in the same direction, calling sin by new names and making it less serious than it really is. If sin is real, it is also malignant, and that means dangerous, and if unchecked, it will spread all over the soul and kill us. The first tumor of sin is seldom a 'big one'; more often than not, it is a Respectable Sin-
Behold how great a matter
A little fire kindelth.
Drop a cigarette in the woods, stamp it out with your foot, and what happens? Nothing. There may be a little black mark on the ground, but that's it. But what if you don't stamp it out with your foot? And what if it lands on a pile of dry leaves? And what if it's hot and windy? What happens then? A forest fire, thousands of acres can be burned; with the loss of trees, the soil becomes loose and when it rains, you have mudslides, and when it dries out, you've got a dustbowl. The man who tossed the cigarette had no idea all this would happen. But he's not entirely innocent, is he? He knew big fires are often caused by little sparks, but he just couldn't believe it could happen to him.
When it comes to small sins, we all feel this way. We know little lusts and little envies and little grudges and little prides can hurt other people, but we're not other people. The rules apply to everyone but me. But, of course, that's what everyone else thinks too.
We have to nip our Respectable Sins in the bud. How do we do that? In the same way we fight off the big ones-with the Gospel.
Among Evangelical Christians no verse is less understood than -
The Gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes.
We get the words, 'Gospel' and 'power', and 'believes', but we don't get the word, 'salvation'. We think of it as conversion only. The Gospel saves people who are unsaved, we say, and we're right, but we fail to say it also saves people who are saved!
How does the Gospel save the saved? In several ways:
THE GOSPEL FORCES US TO FACE OUR SINS
In the first place, the Gospel forces us to face our sins. Since it is only for sinners, everyone who believes the Gospel also admits he is a sinner. This is easy enough to do, so long as your sins are way off in the past and weren't that bad anyway.
But the Gospel not only 'saved' us, it also 'saves' us--and this means sin is a present problem and not something we got over years ago.
Facing our sins is not a pleasant thing to do. The Prophets compared it to breaking up fallow ground and a picture that makes every man wince, to a circumcision of the heart.
The Gospel strips away the false names I have put on my sins: it says the true name for what I call 'easy going' is lazy; what I call 'being careful with my money' is hoarding; what I call 'being hurt' is bitterness; what I call 'disciplining my kids' is, really provoking them to wrath.
Do you remember the serial killer, Son of Sam? For months he terrorized New York with his random murders. The man's name is David Berkowitz, who is now in prison serving a life's sentence. Behind bars, he found freedom in Christ; he has been forgiven and renewed.
The Gospel is for him because he needs it and he needs it because he is a sinner. Is the Gospel for you too? If it is, it's for the same reason: you need it, because like the Son of Sam, you're also a sinner. You never killed anyone with a gun, but have you ever been angry? If you have, our Lord says, you, too, are a murderer. The Gospel is for sinners because it forces us to face our sins-to tell ourselves what we really are: sinners.
THE GOSPEL FREES US TO FACE OUR SINS
If the Gospel forces us to face our sins, it also frees us to face our sins. How? By telling us we're loved by God. If God loves us only when we're good, we'll try to be good, of course, but what happens when we're not? What do we do then?
If we forget the Gospel, we have to pretend to be good, and when our pretences fail, we have to blame others. What do you say to God the thousandth time you've done the same thing? 'I'll never do it again?' Instead, why not say, 'I've done it again, Lord, but for Christ's sake forgive me?' If I believe He won't, I'll have to find some excuse for what I did. But if I know He will, I'm free to quit lying, confess what I've really done, and receive the pardon He so freely gives me in the Gospel.
THE GOSPEL ENERGIZES US TO FACE OUR SINS
Nothing paralyzes a person like guilt. For one thing, it makes us afraid to move, and by just sitting there, we don't act in love. For another thing, guilt makes us resent the one piling it on us, even if we agree with him, and it makes us hate the good we're shamed into doing.
The Gospel says Jesus Christ has taken our guilt onto Himself and off us! This means we can act spontaneously without the nagging fear we might be messing up and if we do, we'll never hear the end of it! It means we love God and feel the good things He wants us to do are good, and not the burdensome things we thought they were when we were loaded down with guilt.
PREACH THE GOSPEL
The Gospel only 'works' when it is preached. Paul did not expect the Gospel to save the Gentiles as he sat there and admired it; it would only turn them from their idols to God if they heard it, and this means: if he preached it to them!
Nobody here is called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, as Paul was, but all of us are called to preach the Gospel to the people who need it-including ourselves!
How do we do this?
Near the end of the chapter, Jerry Bridges says how he does; he doesn't say everyone has to do it in the same way, but it has worked for him for more than fifty years.
First, he says, since the Gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that I sin in thought, word, deed, and motive. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not loved Him with all my heart or my neighbor as myself.
This means: Spend time every day confessing your sins-not wallowing in them as though you're not forgiven, but confessing them as though you are.
Secondly, he says, I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God's forgiveness. What Scriptures do I use to preach the Gospel to myself? Here are a few I choose from each day:
-'As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us'.
-'There is, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
This is going to take some work on your part. You'll have to find the verses and either memorize them, write them down, or be able to find them in the Bible and read them when you need them most.
Thirdly, he says, I remember my only hope of a right standing with God that day is Jesus' blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf.
Our power to resist sin, in other words, is not in our 'devotions', but in our Savior.
MY ILLUSTRATION AND CLOSE
Let me close with an illustration drawn from my own life and failures. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. This means: eat less, exercise more. Everyone in the world knows this is true, but because it's hard to do, millions of people every day turn to diet books that promise shortcuts, none of which ever work for long.
In the same way, Christians know very well the only way to resist sin and grow in grace is to live on and by the Gospel. But this, too, is hard, so we turn to accountability groups, we turn to Forty Days of Purpose, Promise Keepers, or some other man-made program (all of which have some good in them). These things always let us down. If even the Law of God won't make us holy, how in the world can a human idea do it?
We are totally dependent on the Gospel, and this is a good thing, for it is here that Jesus Christ meets us, and He is the Lord that sanctifies us.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#4: The Power of the Holy Spirit
#4: The Power of the Holy Spirit
This afternoon we come to part four in our study of Jerry Bridges' new book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. For some sins we have no tolerance at all; we'd rather die than do these things. Other sins are more attractive to us, but knowing how wicked and hurtful they are, we make every effort to avoid them, and if we should fall into them, we confess them with tears, pray for God's mercy, and resolve to 'Never do it again'.
These are not the sins we'll be talking about the next few months. The ones we have in mind are not scandalous; they don't make us feel very guilty, and if someone caught us doing them, we would more likely shrug than repent in sackcloth and ashes.
Can a sin be Respectable? In God's sight, it cannot be: He hates all sin and it was every sin-big and small-that sent His Son to the cross. If no sin is respectable to God, some are to us. We may not say they are, but our lives say otherwise.
When was the last time you really felt guilty about your.anxiety? When were you last choked up over your.impatience? People ask me to pray for them all the time, but I cannot remember when somebody said, 'Pray I won't be so.judgmental!
There's a reason you don't feel guilty about your anxiety, a reason you're not choked up over your impatience, and a reason you don't ask people to pray about your judgmentalism. It's because these are respectable sin which you and I and most others, tolerate. We may not feel good about them, we may not brag about them, but we also don't fight them tooth and nail.
Why not? There are many reasons we tolerate sin. One is we don't know our Bibles, and so we don't recognize them as sins. Another is, we haven't meditated on the character of Christ and seen how shabby selfishness and irritiblity look next to Him. Our prayer lives are shallow; we're too thin-skinned to take criticism; we're lacking in good examples; and, of course, the standards in the world are so low that anyone who lives a halfway decent life looks like a glorified saint by comparison!
All of these things are true, but there's a deeper reason as well, and it chiefly affects people who sincerely want to live holy lives, and are most frustrated because they cannot.
What's the reason? We believe we're alone. The work is big, the battle is hard, and we've got no one to help us. Or, if we have Someone to help us, He's way off in heaven somewhere-and not with us when we need Him most.
Have you felt this way? If you have, you're not alone: people as holy and hardy as King David felt the same. It was he who first despaired of man's help-and none too sure of the Lord's-
No man cared for my soul.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
When we're tempted to sin, we have to know-and act as though we know-that we are not in it alone. When sin fights against us, we fight back, and the Holy Spirit fights alongside us.
This is the title of Chapter 5-
The Power of the Holy Spirit.
When it comes to resisting sin, the Bible seems to speak with two voices: some verses make you think we're doing it, for example, and , -
Resist the devil.Flee fornication.Put to death, therefore, your members that are on the earth.
Other verses make it seem as though the Spirit Himself is doing the work, for example, , -
The Spirit lusts against the flesh.The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.He who has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ.
How do we square the two sets of Scripture? Some emphasize our responsibility as though obedience were nothing more than 'putting your mind to it'; others go to the opposite extreme as though there's nothing to holiness but 'relying on the Holy Spirit'. Still others split the difference: we do our part and the Holy Spirit does His.
The third option is totally wrong; the first two are each half-right. We are completely responsible for resisting temptation and our success completely depends on the work of the Holy Spirit. Jerry Bridges calls it-
We have a hymn to this effect-
Trust and Obey.
This is how we say no to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Not by relying on God and relaxing our efforts; not by trying real hard and forgetting God, but by trying real hard while relying on God. -
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
Next week, we'll look at what we must do to deal with our sins, but today, we'll see what the Spirit does to free us from this wicked power.
THE SPIRIT GIVES WISDOM TO SPOT TEMPTATION BEFORE IT COMES
First of all, the Spirit gives wisdom to spot temptations before they come. Some temptations are unavoidable. No matter how closely we guard our hearts, we have to face them. Others, however, might have been avoided had we been wiser.
issues a warning to young men: Don't fall into sexual sin! It promises life and pleasure, but the promise is a lie: it delivers nothing but misery and death. Solomon, of all people, knew the temptation was hard to resist, and so, instead of just telling his son, 'Don't do it', he tells him what immoral women look like, what they sound like, when and where they're most likely to be found.
They dress seductively, 7:10They flatter you, 7:21You're most likely to meet them at night, 7:9In places immoral women go, 7:12
The warning is plain, but it does the young man no good unless he has the wisdom to recognize the loose woman when he sees her. Where does that wisdom come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit who is also called, -
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and knowledge.
There's no telling how many temptations we would avoid if only we had the wisdom to see them coming! The Spirit will give us this wisdom if we want it and will live in close communion with Him. This is what Paul means in -
Keep in step with the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
THE SPIRIT CONVICTS US OF OUR SINS
Not only does the Spirit shoo us away from our sins, but when we fall into them anyway, He brings conviction; He makes us feel guilty and ill-at-ease till we repent of them. describes His work, or really, its effect on David-
When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord', and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Nobody enjoys the experience of conviction! David said it's like a heavy hand pressing down on him, keeping him awake at night and worried all day, and physically sick.
If the experience is as sour as a lemon, its fruit is as sweet as a sugarplum. The Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we'll get out of them and back into God's fellowship.
The Spirit convicts us in two ways: indirectly and directly. Sometimes, He uses people to call us on our sins. In David's case, the Spirit employed Nathan the prophet to show him how heartless and hateful he had been in stealing another man's wife. Now, people are not always as gentle as the Holy Spirit, but if He uses them, we ought to forgive their harshness and accept His loving rebuke with thankfulness. Balaam's ass was not the last donkey God used to turn a man from his evil ways! We ought to be thankful for donkeys of the four-legged variety, and two!
Respectable Sins are more often corrected by the Spirit Himself. Envy, selfishness, pride, discontentment are blurry to us, but crystal-clear to the Holy Spirit. To free us from them, He will bring verses of Scripture to mind or the example of Christ. Comparing ourselves to them, we feel the sting of conviction, and more than that, the power to repent.
THE SPIRIT EMPOWERS US TO DEAL WITH OUR SINS.
Speaking of which, the Holy Spirit empowers us to deal with our sins. In , Paul urges us-
By the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body.
He's not telling us to 'try harder', because he, of all men, knew that was not enough. As a young man, no one tried harder than he did, but having nothing but the law to guide him and willpower to push him, he found the harder he tried to repent of his covetousness, the more covetous he became.
The Apostle did what the Pharisee failed to do because the former had the Spirit and the latter didn't. I cannot explain how the Spirit enables us; I can only affirm that He does.
This means we have to pray for the Spirit's empowerment and trust Him to do for us what He wants of us but we cannot do ourselves.
THE SPIRIT STRENGTHENS US BY HARD TRAINING
A fourth way the Spirit helps us resist sin is by putting us through hard training. Why do the Marines put their recruits through boot camp? I'm sure every new man thinks they do it because they're sadistic! In fact, they do it to prepare the men for service on the front line!
The Spirit does the same thing for us. He puts us into temptation so that we can learn to say no, and to trust God, and to be patient instead of short-tempered.
In Mark's Gospel, chapter 2, we see our Lord baptized and hear Him affirmed from heaven. No sooner are the words spoken than-
Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil for forty days.
The servant is not above his master. If the Spirit trained our Lord Jesus Christ by making Him face the devil, He will do the same for us. Paul says-
Tribulation works character.
It allows us to build spiritual muscle. And, though God is wise enough to do it some other way, this is the way He has chosen to do it.
The good fight of faith is hard, long, and grueling. At times, it will seem you're in it alone. But it will only seem that way, for the Holy Spirit never leaves you, and, for all your weakness and folly, you will resist the devil, grow in grace, and honor the God who chose you for salvation-
Not by might, nor by power,
But by my Spirit,
Says the Lord of Hosts.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#5: Directions for Dealing with Sins
#5: Directions for Dealing with Sins
Today we come to part 5 in our study of Jerry Bridges' new book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. According to , if we want to see the Lord's smiling face on the Day of Judgment, we've got to be holy. The holiness we've got to have includes our position in Christ, but that's not all it is: it is also a practical, visible thing. No two Christians are at exactly the same place on the road to holiness, but every one of us has got to be on the road.
This is not self-improvement, for holiness is unthinkable apart from the death of Christ for us and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Salvation is of the Lord, from first to last.
Part of the work He does for us feels very much like our own. Believers are commanded to put on the clean garments of holiness and put off the dirty rags of sin. This means effort, personal effort, hard, painful, discouraging, and consistent effort. As we try hard to be holy, we discover the source of our effort is God and our success depends entirely on Him.
Whatever I say today, please do not take it for self-improvement. If we could improve ourselves, we wouldn't need the cross or the Spirit, but we need them both because we cannot improve ourselves-not in any way that matters to God. Decrying the popularity of 'How-to-Sermons', T. David Gordon hoped to someday to hear one entitled-
How the Leopard Can Change His Spots!
assumes he cannot, and neither-
May you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
We need more than a diet plan for the soul! We need a Savior, and this is what God has given us. In a way I cannot explain, the Savior uses our efforts to free us from the power and pollution of sin-both big and small.
The book offers seven pieces of advice for combating our sins. Please mark the word, 'advice'; this is not a magic spell or a miraculous formula. What it is is good counsel from a godly man who has walked with the Lord for many years.
REMEMBER THE GOSPEL
To turn away from your sins, the first thing you've got to do is, Remember the Gospel. It is surprising how few Christians do this. They say, 'The Gospel is the power of God for salvation', but they act as though the Law is what matters most.
This leads them to think their sins are forgiven on the basis of how many tears they shed, how sincere their confessions are, or how hard they try from now on. Are these the bases of our forgiveness? They are not! We are forgiven only because Christ died for us-and not because we're really sorry and we'll never do it again.
We are more than forgiven, of course, for Christ's sake, we are also declared righteous. Jesus never committed a respectable sin, or any other kind. As our Representative, everything He did or didn't do is taken for what we did or didn't do.
The fear of sin and its punishment will only get you so far. To withstand temptation and to change for the better you've got to be filled with love for God and thankfulness. These come by way of the Gospel. When you find sin in your life, therefore, your first thought should not be, 'What's God going to do to me?', but rather, 'What's God done for me?'
What He's done for us is spelled out in ,-
For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.But God demonstrates His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
If God hated us for our sins and weaknesses, why did Christ die for us when we were weakest and most sinful? The answer is, He didn't hate us then or despise us, and He hasn't changed. He doesn't love our sins, but He loves us, and He forgives us, even when we're struggling with our sins and not very well.
This is the most important thing I'll say today: Meditate on the Gospel. You'll never make any headway against your sins until you do.
RELY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
The second thing you've got to do is rely on the Holy Spirit. This was last week's topic, and I won't labor the point today. I'll only remind you that your holiness is absolutely dependent on the work of God's Spirit in you. The best plan, the strongest willpower and the strongest support group can make you a Pharisee, but who wants to be a Pharisee? It is only by the indwelling Spirit that you'll truly put away your sins and not replace them with other sins!
At the very least, relying on the Holy Spirit means humility, prayer, and obedience. You know you cannot live for God without Him, and when you become aware of your sins, you tell Him so, ask Him to help you, and take the help He provides.
RECOGNIZE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
The third thing you've got to do is to recognize your responsibility. We are not our own masters; we are servants of Christ, and this means we have got to make every effort to obey Him, even when we'd rather not.
Let's face fact: some obedience is easier than others. Staying sober is not hard for me because drinking is not my weakness. But, overeating? That's a hard one for me. It's easy to shrug it off, as if there was nothing in the Bible about self-control, but the Bible does say something about self-control, doesn't it?
I have to recognize that, that it is speaking to me, or rather, in the Word Christ is speaking to me-telling me what to do, telling me to skip the second helping, and so on.
The Early Church did not say, 'Appetite is Lord' or 'Emotion is Lord' or 'My Desire is Lord' or 'My Hurt is Lord' or 'What People Think is Lord'. It said-
Jesus is Lord.
To call Him 'Lord' means being responsible for doing what He says.
IDENTIFY RESPECTABLE SINS
The fourth thing you've got to do is to identify your own respectable sins. In the weeks to come, Lord willing, we'll name some of the sins most often tolerated. Unless you're a glorified saint, some of them apply to you. Maybe you're not angry, but have you got a loose tongue? Maybe you've got no problem with self-control, but do you judge people who do? Is anyone here free from all anxiety, frustration, selfishness, pride, discontentment?
When I go through the list, I wonder if I'm innocent of any of them. But to say, 'Ah, yes, I've got my respectable sins, but then again, who doesn't?', is not the same thing as naming them in particular, knowing they're truly sinful, and resolving to do something about them, starting now!
In reading the Bible and Church History makes me think there is a place for General Confession, telling the Lord we have done much evil and left much good undone.
But General Confession is not enough. To have any success against our sins we've got to get particular, and this is especially true with the Respectable ones which are so easily taken for something else.
FIND PARTICULAR SCRIPTURES THAT APPLY TO YOUR PARTICULAR SINS.
The fifth counsel is find particular Scriptures that apply to your particular sins, memorize them, and put them to use. is a well-known verse-
Thy Word have I hid in my heart,
That I might not sin against Thee.
Some verses are so rich they can help you at any moment of your life. , for example, or the 23rd Psalm. This is not quite what I'm getting at. I live a pretty good life and nobody knows it better than I do! I'm loyal to my wife, I never take home office supplies, I'm always fair, I never miss church, and I wonder why other people don't live up to my standards. Supposing I need any help, what verse might provide it? How about -
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
There is no verse in the Bible Pharisees hate more than this one, and also no verse they need more. Find the verses you need most. They're easy to identify; they're the ones that make you wince.
is a good place to start. Here's a sample.
If you're a cold, businesslike person, v.10 might help you-
Be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love.
If you're lazy, try v.11-
Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
If you're a tightwad with your money or time, take a look at v.13-
Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
If you're quick to bad mouth people who bad mouth you, try v.14-
Bless those who curse you; bless and do not curse.
If a grudge is your thing, v.19-
Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather, give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay' says the Lord.
Don't get me wrong. Memorizing verses is not the same thing as repenting of your sins, but the verses help us repent.
Counsel Number Six is the most obvious and also the most neglected: Pray over your respectable sins. James says--
You have not because you ask not.
Why do we pray so often about the big sins in our life and hardly ever about the little ones? If anything, we ought to turn things around, because our big sins are almost always the fruit of the smaller ones. Why do Christian men fall into adultery? There are many reasons, of course, and some of them are pretty respectable. Their devotion to Christ cools off is number one on the list, and drifting away from their wives is number two. So, instead of waiting till you have an affair to pray against your sins, why not start earlier? Why not confess your lukewarmness, why not confess the little things you're allowing to come between you and your wife?
The last thing is get help from your brethren. Find mature brothers and sisters, people who won't gossip, but will check up on you and pray for you. If the Lord had wanted us to live alone, He would have built Monastery Cells. He didn't; He built a church, so that we can help each other.
AA and other recovery groups are not Christian, for the most part, but they have hit on something we may have missed. Lives are not changed on their own; they're changed in community. This is what the church ought to be, the place where people can find the support they need to put off the old man and put on the new.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
Today we come to part 6 in our study of Jerry Bridges' new book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. A 'respectable' sin is a sin, but unlike others, it is a sin that doesn't make us feel guilty very often and one we will almost never be called on. This means 'respectable' sins are the hardest ones to correct.
But correct them we must, because 'respectable' sins dishonor God, distort His image in us, hurt other people, and lead to sins that are not respectable and to damage far greater than we would expect. It was James who warned-
Behold, how great a matter,
A little fire kindles.
Let us commit ourselves, therefore, to an honest inventory before God. I can call my impatience 'efficiency'; you can call your discontentment 'ambition'; they can call their judgmentalism 'high standards', but instead of lying to God, why don't we tell Him the truth? Why don't we call the things what they are, instead of what they're not?
Confessing our sins is hard, but it is not only hard. It is also encouraging; for the Lord forgives the sins we confess and cleanses us from all their unrighteousness. Wouldn't you like to be clean? Wouldn't it be wonderful if you didn't have to pretend any more? Put on a show for people and hope it fools them-and the Lord as well?
Maybe Lincoln was wrong. Maybe you can fool all of the people all of the time. But you sure can't fool God any of the time! As the 'respectable' sins are named this afternoon and for the next few months, ask yourself, 'Am I guilty of this one?' If you are-you're no worse than the rest of us-come clean with the Lord. You'll be a better person for it; we'll be a better church; God will be better glorified.
If you drew up a list of 'respectable' sins, what would be at the top? Jerry Bridges has asked this many times, and has almost always gotten the same answer: pride. He agrees that's right up there, but he thinks Number One on the list is something else.
What do you think it is? Go back to the verse I just read, the last part of -
God is in none of their thoughts.
What would we call this? If it is a theoretical thing, we would call it atheism, a set of beliefs that exclude God from everything. A Christian might be tempted to atheism, but he would be ashamed of himself; the sin would be anything but 'respectable'.
The sin is ungodliness. What is it? It is living as though God does not matter.
What makes ungodliness so 'respectable' is that, for many people, it is consistent with living a good life. They were brought up well, they have high morals and beautiful manners. A woman might be a thoughtful wife, a loving mother, a good friend, a quiet neighbor, and the kind of church member every pastor wishes he had more of.
And still be ungodly.
She doesn't blaspheme God or willfully defy Him, but she also doesn't care about Him or what He wants her to do. She's far more refined than the bloodthirsty man of , but God is in none of her thoughts either.
Can a truly saved person live this way? In an absolute sense, he cannot. But let's face it: we all live this way at times; at times, we all live as though God doesn't matter.
Sins of omission are harder to spot than sins of commission. Beating my children is easier to identify than ignoring them. Ignoring God is like ignoring your children. It is a real and serious problem, and one we're likely to not notice. How do you know that ignoring God?
The author gives five examples of ungodliness.
You don't feel dependent on God.
The word, 'feel' is important here, because every believer says he depends on God and most of us, most of the time, know we do. But 'knowing' it and 'feeling' it are two different things. When we lose this feeling of dependence, we make plans without consulting Him, asking His blessing, or remembering that our success depends on Him.
James warns us against this kind of planning-
Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'-yet you do not know what tomorrow may bring. For what is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'.
James is not rebuking them for having dreams or making plans or hoping for a profit, but for forgetting their tomorrows (and their todays for that matter) belong to God and they only have them by His leave. They weren't formally denying God's Providence, but they were living as though it-and He-did not matter.
You don't feel responsible to please God.
What does it mean, 'to please God'? Most of us think it means, 'Doing a few good things and nothing too bad'. In other words, living a decent life. We ought to live decent lives, of course, but is this all there is to it? If it is, why did Christ die and why was the Holy Spirit poured out, why was the Bible given and the Church formed? You can live a decent life apart from these things-many people do.
Paul has a very different take on pleasing the Lord. -
We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Paul's prayer is breathtaking. Writing to ordinary Christians, like you and me, he says he wants them brimming over with knowledge and wisdom, and to live fruitful lives at home, in school, on the job, in the neighborhood, at church, and when nobody's looking. In a word, they're to imitate Christ and show Him to the world by how they live.
Ungodliness dumbs down the Christian life; it settles for 'nice' instead of 'holy'. Do we pray as Paul did? Do we feel responsible for living the kind of lives he wants us to live? Or are we satisfied with something less? And pleased if we once in a while do more than the bare minimum?
We don't see God's glory as our top priority.
What does it mean to glorify God? It means two things: To please Him, and to make Him look good to other people. Glorifying God is the believer's highest calling, and-unlike some other duties-he can do it every minute of every day, and no matter what his circumstances. A man can glorify God at work, but he can also glorify God when he has no work; he can glorify God married to a princess or married to a witch; he can glorify God riding his bike, mowing his lawn, watching TV, and even playing X-Box!
But if glorifying God is possible 24/7, it isn't done if we rarely think of His will and seldom care what picture of Him we're sending to the world.
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
In this world, we will not keep His glory front and center at all times, but godliness makes us want to; it is ungodliness that makes us not care.
We don't crave His Presence.
An ungodly man may want to go to church, want to pray, want to read the Bible, want to give to the poor, and so on. But what he doesn't want is God. Oh, he may want Him the way he wouldn't mind running into an old neighbor at the hardware store. But hungering and thirsting after God are only words to him.
But since we are made for God and cannot be holy or happy away from Him, small desires for Him are proof positive of our ungodliness.
As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? ()
One thing I have desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His holy temple ().
Do we crave the Lord? Do we want Him the way a person newly in love wants his or her beloved? In a word, have we lost our first love? If we have, it's because we are growing in ungodliness, instead of its opposite.
We don't care about committing small sins.
When a believer is thriving his conscience is tender. Little things like gossip and sarcasm hurt him because they hurt God and sent His Son to the cross. When he's not doing so well, little sins are not felt at all, or if they are, he justifies them or excuses them. Soon his hard becomes hard and only gets harder with time.
There's a story in the Bible to this effect, two in fact, involving the same Christian man at different times in his life. The man is David.
As a young man, he was chosen by God to be Israel's king. The problem was, there was already a king in Israel, and he had no interest in turning the reins over to David. While David was the most loyal man Saul had, the king feared him and hunted him as if he were a criminal or a rapid dog. One day, while David and his men were hiding from Saul in a cave, who should come up, but Saul himself? Leaving his guard outside, the king went to the bathroom, and there, David cut off the hem of his garment. Later, the Bible says, David's heart smote him. Who was he to touch the king? He was a tender-hearted man.
Years later, the same heart got a bit harder. He took a man's wife, then murdered her husband to cover up his crime, and then, for months, pretended everything was fine.
It was the same man, and in both cases, he was a believing man. When he was at his godliest, little sins bothered him. When he wasn't, they didn't.
If this is what ungodliness is, what practical steps do we take to correct it?
It starts with recognizing our ungodliness. Is the Lord satisfied with 'going through the motions'? He isn't, how can He be? Let us, therefore, admit to when we're doing just this. And admit that, for all our church-going, Bible-reading, praying, and good works, we're often living as though God doesn't matter.
After recognizing our ungodliness in general, try to find your particular kind. Maybe you're passionate for God's glory at church or at work, but it never crosses your mind on your days off. Or when you're watching TV or when you're working on the car or shopping.
Above all, pray for God to reveal Himself to you, for no one in His Presence, is ungodly.
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
#7: Anxiety and Frustration
#7: Anxiety and Frustration
After a few weeks off, we will return to our Sunday afternoon study of Jerry Bridges' little book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.
The title speaks for itself. Some sins are not respectable: when we commit them, we're ashamed of ourselves and hope to God no one will find out about them. We may fall into these sins, but we do not tolerate them! Other sins, though, are tolerated. We may not exactly approve of them, of course, but we're not that against them, either.
This second group of sins is what the book is about. As disciples of Christ, we have to identify the things that displease our Master, and trusting in Him, turn away from them, or better yet-replace them with the contrary things that do please Him.
Today's topic is Anxiety and Frustration.
When I first read the pairing, I didn't care much for it. Anxiety is a branch of fear, while frustration grows from the tree of anger. There's nothing wrong with studying them both-I thought-but why put them together?
I found the answer in marriage, or rather, in marital problems. Here's a common scenario. An insecure man is always worried or anxious. Because of his fears, he doesn't do the things that need to be done. His failure frustrates his wife, after waiting for some time, finally gives it to him good! Years of frustration pour out in a torrent of angry and disappointed words.
This-she thinks-will spur him on to be the man he ought to be. Of course, it has the opposite effect: it drives him further into his fears, which result in more insecurity and paralysis of the will. His continued failures make her more and more frustrated.
If this dynamic is found in the family, it is also found in the soul. My anxiety frustrates me and my frustrations only increase my anxiety, which further frustrates me, leading to more anxiety, and so on.
The moral to my story is: Jerry Bridges knows more than I do! He certainly does, but my real point is something else: Anxiety and Frustration belong in the same chapter because-though they're not the same thing, they are often found in the same person. I present myself as Exhibit A, and maybe you're Exhibit B.
THE BASIC MEANING OF 'ANXIETY'
'Anxiety' first. Anxiety means 'worry'. For some people, it is an all-consuming monster. Every waking hour is spent fretting over what's going to happen to them, to the people they love, to their country, to their church, or even to the world. It is accompanied by a sense of powerlessness or indecision. Not only are their problems big or many or both-they think-but they cannot do anything about them, or, maybe they can-if only they knew what to do. But, of course, they don't, and, in their present state of mind, they never will.
Thank God, most people who suffer from anxiety have a milder case of it. It's not that we're terror-stricken all the time, but there's a fear of the future that gnaws away at us, especially when our minds are not otherwise occupied. This is how I feel most of the time, and I've got a lot of company.
THE REAL MEANING OF 'ANXIETY'
Up to this point, most everyone would agree with me; there's nothing distinctly 'Christian' in what I've said. We all know 'anxiety' is a fear of the future-mild in most people and severe in some.
This, however, is not the whole story. 'Anxiety' is more than a fear of the future, and this is what makes it more than a mental illness treatable by pills or psychotherapy, though there is some good in both.
In the passage we read a few minutes ago, our Lord tells us what anxiety is, what it really is. I won't re-read the whole paragraph, but only a few lines-
Do not worry about your life.
Look at the birds of the air.your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Consider the lilies of the field.God clothes them.
Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things.
This is an argument from the lesser to the greater: If God takes care of birds and flowers, He will also take care of us! This is the truth, our Lord says, and not wishful thinking. He knows our needs and He will meet them in a time and way worthy of His great love and wisdom.
We only feel 'anxious', our Lord says, when we fail to trust Him. This is what 'anxiety' is-a failure to trust God.
Does this mean a believer cannot be 'anxious'? No, it doesn't mean that, but it does mean a believer ought not be anxious! says-
Be anxious for nothing.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF ANXIETY
How many of us are anxious? Some of us are characterized by anxiety, and I wonder if anyone is completely free of it? Anxiety is one of the commonest sins, and common things are hardly ever noticed, or taken seriously.
But, if my anxiety is another way of saying, 'I don't trust God' I begin to see it for what it is, and then, 'anxiety' no longer feels like a 'respectable sin'.
This is the first step for resisting it. We've got to know-and feel-the seriousness of the sin.
THE CURE FOR ANXIETY
But that's not enough; if you go no further, feeling the sinfulness of anxiety will only give you another thing to worry about! Where do we go from here? Our Lord tells us, in .
Start with making an effort to obey Christ instead of your feelings and fears, vv.25, 31, 34 all say the same thing-
Do not worry.
There's more to obedience than 'trying hard'-'more' I said, not 'less'. Trying hard is not enough, but it is required. To be His disciples, our Lord said takes denying ourselves, that is, saying 'no' to the desires we have that cross His will for our lives.
I know some of you have worked hard-have agonized-to fight off lust and bitterness, but have you put the same effort into fighting off anxiety? Or have you raised the white flag without firing a shot?
Mea Culpa I have to say to this one; and I bet I'm not the only one. Here's a verse to memorize, -
Submit yourselves, therefore, to God;
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
The second thing to do is: Live in the present, v.34-
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
You are not responsible for 'what might happen tomorrow'. The future, like other secret things-
Belongs to the Lord our God.
The only responsibility you have is now: What are you doing about those 'what ifs'? Are you leaving them with God, believing He will give you the wisdom and will to handle them when they arrive, or are you worrying about them? It is not wrong to plan for tomorrow; in fact, that is part of today's trouble. But planning and fretting are not the same thing! Live in the present and leave the future to God.
The third thing to do about anxiety is: Remember it never accomplished anything, v.27-
Which of you by worrying, can add a cubit to his stature.
Take my word for it: if worrying about your height made you a cubit taller, I'd be 7'4"! I'm not because it doesn't! If anxiety cannot promote good, it sure can hinder it. Had the hours you spent worrying about good things been spent doing them, you'd have far less to regret.
The fourth-and most important thing-to do about anxiety is: Meditate on the proven character of God. The reason you don't have to worry about the necessary things of life (no less the unnecessary ones) is because your Father in Heaven loves you and will take care of you.
Our Lord doesn't say, 'Take my word for it, He will'. But rather, He says, 'Open your eyes, for His love is all around you-in the birds and flowers, and everything else'.
Though falling sparrows and bright flowers are strong indicators of His goodness, we don't depend on them alone. We have a proof far stronger than these. We have the Gift of His Son, -
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him, give us all things?
THE MEANING OF FRUSTRATION
So much for anxiety; now on to its cousin, Frustration. If the anxious man is worried the future won't turn out the way he wants it to, the frustrated man is angry when it doesn't.
Frustration can be taken out on inanimate things-like computers and printers that don't work when you most need them to! Or, on people, when they don't do what you want them to, or the way you want them to do it, or when. In some people, frustration erupts in angry words and actions, and even violence. Others are quieter by nature but, over time, their frustrations turn into bitterness and hate, or into a permanent state of disappointment.
THE REASON FOR FRUSTATION
Why do we become frustrated? Because things do not go the way we want them to. And there's the rub. Where does the Bible say things ought to go the way we want them to? Setting aside the Bible for a moment, does it even make sense? Is it possible? What if I want to get the last parking space and Tom does too, and Bill and Mary and Lisa and a million others? Should they all move aside for me-so I won't be frustrated? Or I for them so they won't be?
Why are we frustrated? For the same reason we're anxious: Because we don't trust God. says God is in charge of everything, and instead of giving us reason to punch walls and say dirty words, we should be thankful for His Lordship and praise Him for it.
THE CURE FOR FRUSTRATION
This is not easy. But, with God's help, it can be done, and it must be. To make things a little easier, I leave you with a few hints for shaking free of frustration.
First, remember God is in control of all things. Everything is included in His Providence, including the printer jamming when you're working on a deadline!
Second, God sends hard things into your life to build your character. He does not afflict willingly; the pains and disappointments in life are making us into the Image of Christ and fitting us for His service and fellowship.
Third, the frustrating things of this life will not last forever, but as long as they do last, we are responsible to accept them without becoming bitter or lashing out in anger.
What's the difference between 'anxiety' and 'concern'? What's the difference between 'frustration' and 'righteous indignation'? Have you ever known anyone who didn't worry? What was his secret? Is frustration, partly a physical thing (like blue eyes)? If it is, are we still responsible to control it?
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
SUBJECT: Respectable Sins
This afternoon, we come to part 8 in our study of Jerry Bridges book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. The author is no longer a young man, and he writes with the wisdom that comes from walking with the Lord a very long time.
A book about sin-you'd think-would be hard and judgmental, or soft and 'understanding'. This one is none of the above. It is honest, firm, and compassionate. As an honest book, it calls us on our sins and does not allow us to think of them as something other than what they are. A firm book, it tells us our sins are not harmless; they hurt us, they damage other people, and they dishonor God-and this is true, both of the scandalous sins we want no part of, and the respectable ones we see nothing wrong with. Compassionate, the book doesn't stop with telling us how rotten we are; it also points us to a Father who loves us, a Savior who died to take away our sins, and a Spirit who helps us when we're at our weakest. It also commends us to the nourishing Word of God and to the Church He has called and gifted to support us on the way to heaven.
The respectable sin we will look at today is discontentment.
What is it? A smart aleck might say, 'It's the opposite of contentment', and you know? He's on to something. When you think of a contented person, what comes to mind is one who accepts the life God has given him--with a good attitude. I always think of Job.
On losing his wealth and his children on the same day, the dear man did what any father and businessman would do-
He arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and fell to the ground.
We went into mourning and publicly grieved over what he had lost. But this is not all he did. He also-
'Naked I came from my mother's
and naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord
Has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Here is contentment! There's no pretense in Job; he's not letting on as though poverty and no children are as good as riches and ten children-of course they're not. Of course he'd rather have back what he has lost, but since God has chosen otherwise, he will accept the will of heaven with humility now, and later, with joy.
If this is what contentment is, discontentment is the opposite. It is resenting the life God has given you. Maybe you have to take it, but you don't have to like it!
Jerry Bridges says-
Discontentment arises from ongoing and unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about.
Some things we can do something about, and we ought to. Suppose a married man with children cannot make a living on his low-paying job. What should he do? Be content with what he has or look for a better job or a second job?
Well, since the Lord wants a man to support his family whenever he can, the man ought to look for more or higher-paying work.
Contentment, therefore, is perfectly consistent with ambition, with making plans, with setting goals, and moving up. What it's not consistent with is pouting because the life you have is not the one you hoped for.
People are discontented about a great many things. Jerry Bridges names six of them, and I'll add one of my own. His are:
An unfulfilling or low-paying jobSingleness well into midlife or beyondInability to bear childrenAn unhappy marriagePhysical disabilitiesContinual poor health
7. Physical appearance (age, shape, face, whatever).
Some of these things, in part, are amenable to effort. Some of us should lose a couple of pounds, and if we put our minds to it, we would. But what about the man who has lost his sight? Nothing he can do will get back.
He has to accept this is the life God has given him; if he does it with a good attitude, he is a contented man; if he sulks and whines he's discontented. What's true of him is true of us all. We all have things to resent if we want to. We're all subject to discontentment. But discontentment-whatever its cause-is a sin for which Christ died, and from which He wants to free us.
You're not in it alone! The Lord is for you! Whether your health is good or bad, your marriage happy or sad, your career taking off or going nowhere, you can become the contented person you were meant to be.
Because the God who hates discontentment loves you, and knows what to do about it.
Nobody wants to be discontented, and because of this, people do many foolish things. A wife divorces her husband because, 'he's not giving me what I need, and he never will'. Her grievance may well be a true one: no husband is the man he ought to be and some hardly try at all. She is disappointed and hurt and sad and hopeless. But this is not all she is: she's'also discontented!
Repentance starts here. It starts with recognizing your sin and calling it what it is to the Lord, and to yourself. This is anything but pleasant. It is so much easier to blame people or circumstances for my unhappiness than to blame myself.
The thing is, as long as I blame other people and things, the boil of discontentment keeps getting worse. It's got to be lanced, and that's going to hurt at first, and lead to healing.
This is what confession is: lancing the boil of sin. There is a promise attached to this painful work; it's found all over the Bible, the one I know best is -
He who covers his sin shall not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes it,
Will have mercy.
After calling your discontentment a sin, think of all the other sins to which it can lead-and will.
Worst of all, discontentment keeps you from loving God. How can you love Him if He has cheated you out of the life you deserve? He gave you no wife, or the wrong wife, or the wrong career, or maybe He gave you one leg shorter than the other or a weight problem you inherited from your parents. How can you love Him if He's so mean to you?
Do you want to resent God? To doubt His love or wonder about His wisdom? This is what discontentment is-in seed form-and often grows into.
Discontentment also keeps you from enjoying the gifts of God. Suppose you cannot have children; for many dear people, infertility is a crushing blow to their hopes and identities. But, you know, God makes the sun rise on the barren as well as the fertile, and people who cannot have kids receive the same rain as those who can.
Should you lose all the blessings of God because He withholds one from you? Do you want to be an ingrate? This is what discontentment makes you.
Discontentment hurts other people, especially the people closest to you. I don't think you mean to hurt them, but whether you mean to or not, you do. You make their lives unpleasant as they have to hear you go on and on about the good things you don't have or the bad ones you do. It also sets a bad example. Do you want your children to be as discontented as you are? There's no better way of training them in the sin than by living in it yourself.
Discontentment makes a mockery of what you have. says-
Do not let your conduct be covetous, but be content with what you have because He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'.
You'll never joyfully accept what you don't have until you know what you do have: you have God. The blind Christian has God; the unmarried Christian has God; the Christian whose wife has disappointed him from day one has God.
If the Lord does not satisfy you, I wonder what will?
WISDOM, POWER, AND LOVE
We can accept the life God has given us, not only because we have Him (whatever else we don't have), but because what we have come to us by way of His wisdom, power, and love.
He knows what we need better than we do; and because He loves us, He gives us what we need.
Let us, therefore, be content with what we have, because what we have is from God and, what we have is God!