Friday, February 13, 2009

Respectable Sins

One way we can best support the doctrine of depravity is to look at the sin that continues to remain within us as believers, even long after we are saved. One of the best resources on the subject is the book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges. The preface of this book makes a statement that I could not agree with more – a statement that serves as one of the pillars of this website:
This book, as the title announces, is about sin – not the obvious sins of our culture but the subtle sins of believers . . . The motivation for this book stems from a growing conviction that those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more “refined” or subtle sins. (Bridges, 2007, p. 9).
To Mr. Bridges I say a hearty hallelujah and amen! Bridges asserts that every believer is a saint – regardless of their level of maturity (just look at the Corinthian believer). This is essential to understand for several reasons. First and foremost, it supports the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. Secondly, and more importantly to our own sanctification process, it renders us guilty of judgmentalism without excuse when we claim to judge fellow believers as a “false convert” based upon some man-made standard of behavior.

The presence of sin is not indicative of one’s status with God. You and I, although chosen and sealed by God, continue to live in sin, as explained in the prior post. We love to deceive ourselves into thinking we are no longer “living in sin” because we’ve repented of the obvious ones. But Bridges lists a number of sins that many believers, myself included, continue to make a lifestyle of, despite our status as born again believers. Look over this list carefully. Where on the list do you see your heart represented?

Ungodliness
Anxiety and Frustration
Discontentment
Unthankfulness
Pride
Selfishness
Lack of Self Control
Impatience and Irritability
Anger
Judgmentalism
Envy, Jealousy, and Related Sins
Sins of the Tongue
Worldliness

We may not be fornicating, we may not be shooting up drugs, embezzling money, or worshipping Satan. But if any of the above sins are a way of life for us, then I think it would be fair to say we are living in sin. This is our lifestyle. And as a born-again believer, I too am forced to admit that my name belongs right beside every single one of these sins.

Does that make me a false convert? No. My salvation is not based upon my ability to overcome these sins on my own. My salvation is the result of Christ dying on the cross to pay for these sins that I continue to cherish in my wicked heart. I am a sinner saved by grace. But I am still a sinner, and for this reason I still need the gospel. Bridges claims that believers still need to preach the gospel not only to unbelievers, but to themselves as well.

Think about what Jesus said in Mark 16:15. Did He say, “Go and preach the gospel to every unbelieving creature?” No. He said “Go and preach the gospel to every creature.” Every creature needs the gospel. Those of us who are already saved are no exception.

Total depravity can be defined as the absence of purity. When we consider how much sin is still residing in our heart, even long after we’ve given up the “obvious” sin, can you see how hopeless our case is? For 13 years after I was saved, I was astonished to learn that I was still embracing these sins as a lifestyle. The realization helped me to understand how incredibly depraved I really am, and how much I truly need the Lord every day.

A friend once explained it to me like this: Have you ever tried to wash out a jar of peanut butter? After the jar is empty, and there is no peanut butter left, the scent of peanut butter still remains. You can scrub and soak that jar for hours, but somehow, that stubborn peanut butter smell lingers. You and I have been scrubbed clean by the blood of Christ. But the stench of sin still lingers in our hearts.

Bridges' book discusses each of the "respectable sins" which we tolerate chapter by chapter, and provides practical, sound advice for mortifying these sins. This is a great book that belongs in every Christian's library. You can purchase Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by clicking here.

2 comments:

Lori said...

Great article!! This is a subject that has needed to be dealt with for a long time!!
God forgive me and help me to do better.
Like the old saying goes; When we know better we do better.
Love,
Lori

Jennifer said...

Lori, believe it or not I never heard that old saying! Although sometimes I will admit I do know better and don't act better. :( All the more reason the Church needs this book!