Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
3 Bullet Book: 2020, book #40: “Because we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we are more responsible to obey it. And part of our obedience is giving thanks to God always and for everything.” — Jerry Bridges
Finished on June 8, 2020
A great book that my grandmother recommended to me was this one by Jerry Bridges. I thought it would be a great book that went deeper into society’s normalization of many sins and the book was just that and more. There were some very tactical takeaways
The 3 bullets
1. How would you describe sin? The author emphasizes that the description that some people use — that of cosmic treason — is quite accurate. It may feel like an overstatement but not when we truly consider the perspective of sin as a whole. We can look closely at the things that we do in this life and when we truly contemplate what it means to uphold God’s commandments, we can see the other side of it and recognize that while sin might hurt us, we can’t compare our hurt to the hurt God experiences when we sin.
2. The Bible is abundantly clear about submitting to authority and remaining joyful in the servitude towards our bosses or those in authority. This was a great reminder in a later section of the book. While we might not always understand or agree with our superiors, it’s essential that we can work with joy and remain respectful and loving towards those in positions of authority.
3. It’s essential that we have the right people around us. It’s one thing to read the Bible on our own but it’s much less important than having a strong support group and people that will help us stay aware and accountable of our more subtle sins. Letting the Holy Spirit guide us is the most important thing that we can do.
Pg. 16, We who are believers tend to evaluate our character and conduct relative to the moral culture in which we live. Since we usually live at a higher moral standard than society at large, it is easy for us to feel good about ourselves and to assume that God feels that way also. We fail to reckon with the reality of sin still dwelling within us.
Pg. 19, Someone has described sin as cosmic treason. If that seems like an overstatement, consider that the word transgression in the Bible, as seen for example in Leviticus 16:21, actually means rebellion against authority — in this case, God’s authority. So when I gossip, I am rebelling against God. When I harbor resentful thoughts toward someone instead of forgiving him or her in my heart, I am rebelling against God.
Pg. 29, At this point, you may be wondering, If preaching the gospel to myself is so important, how do I do it? There is no set way, so I will share my practice only as an illustration. I am by nature a methodical person, so my way will not suit everyone, but hopefully it will give any reader some idea of what preaching the gospel looks like in one person’s life. So here is my way.
Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.
I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf.
Pg. 39, So in summary we see that the Holy Spirit works in us to convict us and make us aware of our subtle sins. He then works in us to enable us to put to death those sins. Then He works in us in ways of which are not conscious. And then He uses the circumstances of our lives to exercise us in the activity of dealing with our sins.
We do have a vital part to play. We are responsible to put to death the acceptable sins in our lives. We cannot simply lay this responsibility on God and sit back and watch Him work. At the same time, we are dependent. We cannot make one inch of spiritual progress apart from His enabling power.
Pg. 41, Before addressing some of the specific areas of acceptable sins among Christians, however, I want to give some directions for dealing with them. While there may be particular help for certain ones, there are general directions that apply to all our subtle sins.
- The first direction is that we should always address our sin in the context of the gospel.
- The second direction is that we must learn to rely on the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, it is by the Spirit that we put to death the sins in our lives.
- The third direction is that, while depending on the Holy Spirit, we must at the same time recognize our responsibility to diligently pursue all practical steps for dealing with our sins. I know that keeping both these truths — that is, our dependence and our responsibility — equally in mind is difficult.
- The fourth direction is that we must identify specific areas of acceptable sins.
- The fifth direction is that we should bring to bear specific applicable Scriptures to each of our subtle sins. These Scriptures should be memorized, reflected on, and prayed over as we ask God to use them to enable us to deal with those sins.
- The sixth direction is that we should cultivate the practice of prayer over the sins we tolerate.
- The seventh direction is that we should involve one or more other believers with us in our struggles against our subtle sins. This, of course, should be a mutual relationship as we seek to exhort, encourage, and pray for one another. The Scripture tells us that “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.”
Do all these directions seem overwhelming? If so, perhaps this summary will help:
Apply the gospel.
Depend on the Holy Spirit.
Recognize your responsibility.
Identify specific respectable sins.
Memorize and apply appropriate Scriptures.
Cultivate the practice of prayer.
Involve one or a few other believers with you.
Pg. 53, Survey after survey continues to inform us that there is little difference between the values and behavior patterns of Christians and non-Christians. Why is this true/ Surely it reflects the fact that we live so much of our ordinary lives with little or no thought of God, or of how we might please and glorify Him. It’s not that we consciously or deliberately put God out of our minds. We just ignore Him. He is seldom in our thoughts.
Pg. 59, Will I succumb to the temptation to anxiety and fret and fume, or will I believe that God is in sovereign control of my travel and accept His agenda, whatever that may be? As I have struggled with anxiety in this area of life, I have come to the conclusion that my anxiety is triggered not so much by a distrust in God as by an unwillingness to submit to and cheerfully accept His agenda for me.
I tend to think, Lord, it’s important that I arrive in time to speak at that meeting. The people in charge are counting on me. What will they do if I don’t arrive in time? But I have learned to say to myself, But God, it’s Your meeting. If You don’t want me there, that’s Your business. And what the people who are counting on me to be there will do is also Your business. God, I accept Your agenda for this situation, whatever that may be.
Pg. 63, Closely akin to anxiety or worry is the sin of frustration. Whereas anxiety involves fear, frustration usually involves being upset or even angry at whatever or whoever is blocking our plans. I might have an important document to print from my computer, but the printer will only produce gobbledygook. Instead of believing that God is sovereignly in control over the actions of my computer and that He has a good reason for allowing it to act up, I get frustrated. Actually, this type of reaction has its roots in my ungodliness at the moment, for at that time I am living as though God is not involved in my life or my circumstances. I fail to recognize the invisible hand of God behind whatever is triggering my frustration. Instead, I focus entirely on the immediate cause of my frustration.
Pg. 69, I do want you to know that if you struggle with discontentment, I’m right there with you. Your circumstances may be much more difficult than any I’ve ever experienced, but the truth is, it is our response to our circumstances rather than the degree of difficulty that determines whether or not we are discontent.
Pg. 72, You may ask, “But shouldn’t I pray for physical healing or for relief from any other painful circumstance?” yes, we are invited to pray about these circumstances, but we should always pray in confidence that our infinitely wise and loving heavenly Father knows what is best for us, and we should be willing to accept His answer to us.
After the death of my first wife, a friend sent me a card with the following anonymous quote:
Lord I am willing to —
Receive what you give,
Lack what you withhold,
Relinquish what you take.
Pg. 73, You will recognize that there is a recurring theme running through this chapter as well as the previous one. That theme is the importance of a firm belief in the sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness of God in all the circumstances of our lives Whether those circumstances are short-term or long-term, our ability to respond to them in a God-honoring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths to bear on them. And we must do this by faith; that is, we must believe that the Bible’s teaching about these attributes really is true and that God has brought or allowed these difficult circumstances in our lives for His glory and our ultimate good.
Pg. 79, Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Because we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, we are more responsible to obey it. And part of our obedience is giving thanks to God always and for everything.
Pg. 94, The Bible, however, is quite clear on the issue of submitting to authority. Of several Scriptures we could look at, the one that speaks most clearly to the subject is Hebrews 13:17:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Pg. 102, The person whose attitude is “I just say what I think and let the chips fall where they may” is selfishly inconsiderate. This person is completely indifferent to the possible embarrassment, humiliation, and put-down feeling of others. He is concerned only with expressing his own opinion.
Pg. 116, Now, let me remind you, as I do in almost all the chapters, that this is a book about our “respectable” sins, the sins we tolerate in our lives while we condemn the more flagrant sins of society around us. May we be as severe with ourselves over our own subtle sins as we are with the vile sins we condemn in others. May we not be like the self-righteous Pharisee in the Temple who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” but may we continually have the humble attitude of the tax collector who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:11–13).
Pg. 138, There is nothing in the Bible that tells us what we ought to wear to church… Reverence for God, I finally included, is not a matter of dress; it’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said that true worshipers are those who worship the Father in spirit and truth (see John 4:23). Now, it’s true that casual dress may reflect a casual attitude toward God, but I cannot discern that. Therefore, I should avoid ascribing an attitude of irreverence based purely on a person’s dress.
Pg. 146, The reason we are tempted to envy in these situations is that there are enough things alike that the differences tend to strike us in the face.
Parents may envy other parents whose children are better students or athlete or, if adults, have better jobs. We may envy friends who have a nicer home or drive a more expensive car. The possibilities for envy are endless. Whenever we compare ourselves with anyone whose circumstances seem better than ours, we face the temptation to envy him or her. We may not even want the better circumstances of our neighbor or friend; we just resent their having them. But when we are tempted to envy, we should realize that envy, though it maybe a subtle and seemingly minor sin to us, is listed among the vile sins that Pual catalogues in Romans 1:29 and Galatians 5:21.
Pg. 153, Don’t be like that. Don’t go through life harboring envy or jealousy or always having to own or get your way. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Don’t place yourself in the position of being opposed by God.
Pg. 157, Closely related to the sin of gossip is the sin of slander. Slander is making a false statement or misrepresentation about another person that defames or damages the person’s reputation. Political campaigns, for example, are notorious for slandering opponents by falsely ascribing to the opponent a position based on statements taken out of context or based on some isolated act that occurred some years ago. It is such statements that are definitely aimed at creating a false, slanderous impression.
But do Christians slander? Yes, we do. We slander when we ascribe wrong motives to people, even though we can’t see their hearts or know their particular circumstances. We slander when we say another believer is “not committed” when he or she does not practice the same spiritual disciplines we do or engage in the same Christian activities we engage in. We slander when we misrepresent another person’s position is.we slander when we blow out of proportion another person’s sin and make that person appear to be more sinful than he or she really is.
The motive behind slander is often to gain an advantage in some way over another person. In the business world, it is called “backstabbing” or “climbing the corporate ladder over other people’s backs.” But sometimes we Christians can do this kind of thing. In a Christian organization or a church, we can seek to gain an advantage over someone else by slandering that person.
Slander is actually lying. But there are, of course, other forms of lying. We usually think of it as making a false statement, and probably most of us tend to guard against such speech.
However, we are apt to lie by exaggeration, by a failure to tell the whole truth, or by indulging in what we call a “little white lie” — a lie that we think is of no consequence. Whatever form it takes, a lie expresses an intent to deceive. A good test we might use of our speech is the question, “Is it true?”
Critical speech is negative comments about someone that may be actually true but that don’t need to be said. For example, “He spends too much time watching television” or “She’s not a good student.” The questions we should ask ourselves about these kinds of comments are Is it kind? and Is it needful? By the latter, I mean does it really need to be said?
We not only sin in our speech about one another but we also sin when talking to one another. This sinful speech includes harsh words, sarcasm, insults, and ridicule. The common denominator of all these forms of negative speech is that they tend to put down, humiliate or hurt the other person. This type of speech most often comes from an attitude of impatience or anger. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). This means that although we speak of sins of the tongue, our real problem is our heart. Behind all of our gossip, slander, critical speech, insults, and sarcasm is our sinful heart. The tongue is only the instrument that reveals what’s in our hearts.
Pg. 159, Remember, we’re talking about real sin. The kind of speech we’ve discussed in this chapter may seem acceptable to us, but it is not acceptable to God. It truly is sin.
Pg. 166, We need to remember that everything we have and the ability to earn more comes from God (I suggest you go back and reread Deuteronomy 8:17–18). Giving back to God at least 10 percent of what He has given us is a tangible expression of our recognition of that and our thanksgiving to Him for it. Finally, we need to remember the infinite generosity of our Lord in giving Himself for our salvation. When Paul wanted to encourage generosity among the Corinthians, he wrote, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our giving should reflect the value we place on His gift to us.
Pg. 166, So in what sense do we tolerate immorality? We do it by what a friend calls vicarious immorality. Do we secretly enjoy reading about the immorality of other people whose sexual misconduct is reported in our newspapers and weekly news magazines? If so, we are engaging in vicarious immorality.
If we go to movies or watch television programs knowing that sexually explicit sins will be shown or read novels knowing that such scenes will be described, we are engaging in vicarious immorality.
Pg. 167, Then there is the area of immodest dress.
There are two areas under this subject in which we can become worldly. First, many Christian women, especially younger women, are going along with the styles of the unbelieving world around them. When my wife travels with me to visit university campuses, she is shocked and appalled by what some women students wear even to Christian meetings.
According to 1 Timothy 2:9, Christian women are to dress in respectable apparel with modesty and self-control. And so I say to the female readers of this book, if you simply go along with the immodest fashions of the day, you are worldly in this area of your life. And it’s sad to say that this form of worldliness seems to be growing, especially among younger women.
For the men, our problem is responding to the immodest dress with lustful looks. It’s not necessary for us to project that look into actual images of immorality.
A younger man recently asked me how I handle this temptation. I told him my first line of defense is Proverbs 27:20, which I learned in the King James Version many years ago: “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
Pg. 170, There is no question that there are cultural issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, that are clearly antithetical to God’s moral standards.
Above all, people need to be rescued from the power of Satan and brought into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. If we lose sight of the church’s primary calling, then we are in danger of making an idol of our cultural and political initiatives.
Pg. 171, Now let me review my twofold definition of worldliness. First of all, it’s a preoccupation with the things of this temporal life. Second, it’s accepting and going along with the values and practices of society around us without discerning if they are biblical.
Pg. 177, Set aside time with your spouse, your brother or sister, or a good friend. Ask for their honest feedback. Assure them you will not become defensive or question their evaluation. Just listen but don’t respond. You might ask them to rate you in each area according to a scale something like this:
- Not a problem
- Occasionally a problem
- Frequently a problem
- Characteristic of your life
Even if you don’t agree with their assessments, take them to heart in humility. God may be using the other person to open up areas you have been in denial about.