Posts Tagged ‘sin’

Cancer & Sin

I Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls aroundlike a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I wish this weren’t true, but it is.  And I mistakenly thought that Satan might give me a break from temptation – at least for a little while.  After all, haven’t I suffered enough.  And aren’t I doing a good enough job on my own? (yes).  But that not the way things work.

Jesus’ Temptation is instructive at this point.  Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.  And no, at the end of it all, Jesus didn’t catch a break from Satan.  No, instead he waited to attack and tempt Jesus at the end of that time when we would he would be at his weakest and lowest point.  He waited until Jesus would be hungry and thirsty for a way out and an end to his trials, which were only just beginning.  But thankfully for us, Jesus prevailed.

And so, I find myself still struggling with sin in my life.  Temptation comes from all sides and often when I am at my lowest point.  Of course, like Jesus, my best defense is to arm myself with the Word of God and be prepared for the attack to come.

But that’s hard isn’t it.  We don’t see it coming.  And we don’t recognize temptation for what it is.  Let me give you an example of such sin struggles in my life at this point.  I love to use Faceboook.  We use for the church.  I use it to keep up with family and friends.  And they have used to send me reminders of their prayers or other such encouragement.  So, I enjoy Facebook.  But there has been a sin that I don’t I have wrestled with as much in the past (of course, I could be very wrong about that!):  Envy and Jealousy.  These are what Jerry Bridges would call “respectable sins” in his great book by the same title.  They are subtle.  What happens is I see all the happy people on Facebook taking their wonderful vacations to the beach or the mountains.  And they are eating such scrumptious meals and having all around good time.  On one hand, I can be happy for them and glad they can delight in such things.  On the other hand, I don’t understand why they deserve such goodness and I have received such hardship.  What did I do to deserve this?  Why did all my plans get wiped off the map with the mention of one little word: cancer.    Envy and jealousy then creep in and I find myself loathing my friends and myself.  No, there is no let up in the temptation.  Sorry, I wish I could tell you otherwise. 

What is happening in my heart when I begin to entertain the sin of envy and jealousy.

  • I have forgotten God’s goodness and His Sovereignty
  • I have neglected to use a powerful weapon to combat this sin, as Jesus did:  the Word of God.
  • I have failed to realize that everything God gives is a gift of His grace and none of us is worthy.
  • I have failed to love my friends and family well.
  • I have not believed that God is sufficient for all my needs.
  • And I have not believe that my Savior has completely vanquished my enemy and I am victorious in Him.
  • And I forgotten how good God has been to me and my family.

No, there is no let up in the temptation.  Sorry, I wish I could tell you otherwise.   Thankfully, I can also tell you that there is no let up in the mercy and forgiveness of God, that covers all our sins.  Especially the ones that we so often let pass and do not recognize.  Envy and Jealousy in Him.  What subtle and respectable sins do you find yourself struggling with?

I Peter 5:6-11:  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. Andafter you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Quotation: The Art of Pastoring

From David Hansen’s The Art of Pastoring:

The call to repent assaults the Old Adam in us:  the life of the flesh, our involvement in the sinful structures of this world, our stubborn refusal to yield to God’s will.  We cherish our sin, we clutch it, it kills us but we love it.  The gospel demands we choose life, rejecting sin and its ungodly demands.  So the love of God in the gospel works like a surgeon.  Cutting out sin’s cancer, with pain like death, the gospel heals.”   (pages 38-39)

Respectable Sins: Where do we go from here?

In the final chapter of Respectable Sins, Bridges asks the question that forms the chapter title:  where do we go from here? I’ll use this as an opportunity to reflect (as Bridges does) on the book overall:

  • Bridges is a spirtiual-masochist (I made that up, I think):  “At times, this may have been painful.  I hope it has, because that means you have been honest enough and humble enough to admit the presence of some of these sins in your own life” (177).  But this is so very important for our growth as Christians, especially as most of us make pain (of any kind) avoidance a hobby and a hallmark of American Christianity.
  • Bridges has done a great service to the Church in bring these “respectable sins” to light and helping us see the need to repent of these sins.   Repentance of such sins will help us both in our followship of Christ and in our attractive to non-followers.
  • I appreciate the emphasis in the book on the following:  the daily need of the Gospel in our lives, the power of the knowledge (of the kind that moves toward action) of the Sovereignty of God, the use of Scripture to promote repentance and holiness, and the emphasis on humility.
  • This is a book worth keeping handy as a resource and a help for specific areas of sin, personally or corporately.  We are also going to use it (along with the study guide) in a Sunday School class.
  • I do not have many criticisms of the book and any are minor.  I did feel like the chapter on worldliness was one of the weaker chapters and much of the material could have been dealt with otherwise.  That said, there were still some good thoughts therein.  My friend, Ken, post his thoughts on the book here and would recommend a reordering of chapters and I know others who found the first section of six chapters to be a bit laborious (my words).  I agree in a sense, but I also think those chapters are incredibly important and foundational and glad that Bridges included them.  I wonder do if the same material could have been compressed a little.  I like Ken’s suggestion to move some of those chapters (e.g. Directions for Dealing with Sins) to the end of the book.  Still, Ken and I would both say this criticism is minor and even editorial.
  • Finally, I would highly recommend this book for any individual or for group study desiring to grow in relationship with Christ.  I am glad I decided to “steal” (an unrespectable sin for sure) the idea of “blogging” this book from Ken & Joel!

Respectable Sins: Worldliness

Alas, we have come to chapter 20 and the last of the respectable sins from the aptly named book by Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins.  In this final chapter, Bridges addresses the sin of worldliness and a few of its manifestations.  First, however, it is important to define terms – especially one as broad and possibly misused at “worldliness”.  It’s a very easy term for Christians to label other Christians, but we should want better than a simple label.  So, Bridges provides this two part definition: “being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life [authors emphasis]worldliness means accepting the values, mores, and practices of the nice, but unbelieving, society around us without discerning whether or not those values, mores, and practices are biblical” (166).

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Respectable Sins: Sins of the Tongue

I just can’t read more than a chapter of Jerry Bridges’ book, Respectable Sins, at a time anymore.  Chapter 19 is by far the shortest chapter in this book, but once again it carries a powerful punch.  In this chapter, Bridges addresses the sins of the tongue and he is not just talking about gossip.  The sins of the tongue also include:

  • lying
  • slander
  • critical speech (even when true)
  • harsh words
  • insults
  • sarcasm
  • ridicule

While there are many verses in the Bible that address the sins of our tongue (e.g. James 3), Bridges has found Ephesians 4:29 to be the most helpful/convicting:  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  This leads to a question for us to ponder as we consider the words that we use, whether in the context of gossip (as Bridges introduces it) or modified otherwise:  “Will what I’m about to say tend to tear down or build up the person I’m about to talk about?” (authors emphasis).  This is a good question, if we will stop long enough to think and not just speak. We might also ask, along with Bridges, other questions about our words:  “Is it kind?” and “Is it needful?”.

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Respectable Sins: Envy, Jealousy, & Related Sins

Envy…yes, I know a little about envy.  And it is often subtle and hard to discern in our own hearts.  I struggled with envy during my first year in seminary.  In particular, I envied my classmates who had seemingly better circumstances than we did – especially my friends who did not have to work and seemed to have extra time to study or to read or play.  I did not expect to feel this way, but a resentment built up in my heart.  What was interesting during this first year, is that I worked for a wealthy family as their errand boy.  They had all the things you could want (including an elevator in their house – if you like that sort of thing), but I didn’t envy them.  I didn’t want their life, their house, or their stuff.  I wanted what my classmates had or what I thought they had.  In this way, I understand what Jerry Bridges says in chapter 18 of Respectable Sins:  “First, we tend to envy those with whom we most closely identify.  Second, we tend to envy in them the areas we value most” (149).

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Respectable Sins: Judgmentalism

“We equate our opinions with truth.” (Bridges, 141)

Well isn’t that why we blog? After all, I can’t help it if I’m right!

Actually, this very notion of judgmentalism, which Jerry Bridges writes about in chapter 17 of Respectable Sins, is one of the reasons that I was hesitant to start this blog – for fear of revealing my own heart judgments in a way that is dishonoring to God, not edifying to the church, nor attractive to non-Christians. Hopefully, I have not stumbled in this regard, but would I know?

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Respectable Sins: Weeds of Anger

When Bridges talks about the weeds of anger, he is referring to the long term results of anger. And though we often think of anger as something that may come and go and just a part of life, there is no mistaking the Biblical stance on anger (hint: it’s not very favorable to anger). Here are the “weeds of anger”:

  • Resentment: this anger that is held on to…”Resentment may be more difficult to deal with than outwardly expressed anger because the person often continues to nurse his wounds and dwell on his ill-treatment” (130).
  • Bitterness
  • Enmity and hostility
  • Grudge: this is more serious than merely holding a grudge against someone in some innocuous way as Bridges is using the Biblical definition. The word then is associated with taking revenge on the object of the grudge.
  • Strife: there certainly has been no shortage of strife in Christ’s Church through the years. Continue reading

Respectable Sins: Anger

I don’t get angry, I get even. Okay, not really.

In chapters, fifteen and sixteen of Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges addresses the topic of anger. He states at the end of chapter sixteen that his goal has been to “help us face the fact that much, if not most, of our anger is sinful, even though it may arise from the sinful actions of others” (139). He is not attempting an exhaustive treatment of this complex issue, but does want us to see how and where tolerate the sin of anger in our lives. Along these same lines, Bridges offers a very strong reminder (not unlike in the most recent chapters) that our anger is not the fault of others, even though we may have been seriously injured or sinned against, but is a result of our own fallen flesh. Finally, by way of introduction, Bridges doesn’t allow us to use the notion of “righteous anger” to hide behind. If we are honest, we are rarely righteously angry, especially when it involves our relationships with those we are most closely related to (family, friends, fellow church members, co-workers, etc…). Bridges says his focus is on “ordinary anger”.

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Respectable Sins: Impatience and Irritability

Okay admit it:  you were impatient with my late posting of my reflections on chapter 14 from Respectable Sins. Well, maybe not.

Impatience and Irritability are the topics of this chapter and this topic hit home for me again.  Impatience is defined “as a strong sense of annoyance at the (usually) unintentional faults and failures of others” (116).  And irritability “describes the frequency of impatience, or the ease which a person can becomes impatient over the slightest provocation” (118).  I must confess, even right after (I mean within minutes) reading this chapter I found myself expressing impatience with my son’s slowness to pick a book from the library and with a driver in front of me on the way home.  And these were two areas that Bridges used as illustrations!  This is one reason I don’t sport any kind of Christian symbolism on my car – I don’t my impatient driving identified with Christ.  And yet, Bridges reminds us through Scripture that patience is a virtue to be cultivated.

Also, he reminds us that other people (our children, our spouse, the poor or slow driver in front of us, etc…) is not our problem.  They are not the cause of our impatience.  “They merely provide an opportunity for the flesh to assert itself.  The actual cause of our impatience lies within our hearts, in our own attitude of insisting that others around us conform to our expectations” (117).  This to me may be more important for us to learn than anything else, except for the Scriptural teaching on patience/impatience.  I need to see myself as the problem, not someone else.  This is the challenge we face as we consider our own impatience and irritability – we are always focused on how we have been “wronged” by another.

If you really want to know then do as Bridges encourages:  ask a spouse, an older child, or a friend to help you identify areas of impatience in your life.  Just don’t get angry when they tell you the truth (that’s covered in the next chapter).

Respectable Sins: Lack of Self-Control

Introduction & Schedule for blogging on Respectable Sins

Reflections on Chapters 1 & 2

Reflections on Chapters 3 & 4

Reflections on Chapters 5 & 6

Reflections on Chapters 7 & 8

Reflections on Chapters 9 & 10

Reflections on Chapters 11 & 12

In chapter 13 of Jerry Bridges very good book, Respectable Sins, he addresses the topic of self-control. He defines self-control as “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions” (110). But Bridges is quick to point out a paradox of the Christian life: we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable our self-control rather than our own will power. We are also reminded that Biblical self-control covers every aspect of life. On one hand, I am encouraged by the reminder to rely upon the Holy Spirit, but it is discouraging to think about self-control applied to every aspect of life. I get tired just thinking about it, but then again maybe I have been relying on my own natural will-power. I suppose that makes for an unholy alliance: my flesh and my will-power.

Bridges addresses self-control in three areas and then suggest others to consider:

  • Eating and Drinking: for Bridges this a matter of self-control as applied to each individual versus simply referring to those who struggle with their weight. An example Bridges uses is the over-consumption of soda. Personally this is an area where I struggle. I did give up caffeine and soda for lent a couple of years ago, but I typically drink at least one soda a day and I am not sure that this is so good for me.
  • Temper
  • Personal Finances: again this might apply to someone who is in debt (“I’m up to debt to my eyeballs. Somebody help me – please” – name that pop culture reference) or someone with lots of resources used poorly or without restraint.
  • Use of computer or television, impulse buying, engaging in hobbies, or playing/watching sports.

I was also struck by another thought towards the beginning of the chapter: “We have boundaries from our Christian culture that tend to restrain us from obvious sins, but within those boundaries we pretty much live as we please” (110). We can all be guilty of this in small or large ways. This also highlights another danger of legalism (this is my tangent, rather than Bridges thoughts). By subscribing to a man-made system of laws, which may protect us from some dangers or troubles, we may be tempted that we are free from other unrelated sins. That is, if I begin to think my righteousness is built up by my law keeping in one area, I may well be tempted to ignore sins in other areas. Why focus on our sin, which only declares our unfitness (gossip or haughty spirit), when I can focus on my spiritual health through arenas where I excel (e.g. not drinking alcohol or not swearing)?

Respectable Sins: Selfishness

Jerry Bridges addresses another difficult to spot sin (in ourselves, we have no problem seeing it in other people) in chapter twelve: selfishness. I know for myself, there have been two main times when my selfishness has been brought to the light in a major way: the first few months (or is it years?) of marriage and becoming a parent to two kiddos. In both cases, there was no place for my selfishness to hide and I became very aware of how selfish I am. I’m other couples and parents would share a similar sentiment. However, those events certainly don’t eradicate the sin of selfishness in our own lives.

Bridges again identifies four areas of selfishness for us to consider, confess, and pray about:

  • Selfishness with our interests: do you dominate conversations with talk about yourself, your family, your hobbies, etc…?
  • Selfishness with our time: are you selfish by inordinately guarding your own time or by imposing yourself on another person’s time? “Selfishness with one’s time will frequently be observed in the home” (104). Uh, no comment.
  • Selfishness with our money: do we recognize all of our money and resources as a gift form God?
  • Selfishness with our inconsiderateness: do you think about the impact of your actions on others? Are we considerate of others feelings? Within our society we are increasingly experiencing this with the epidemic of cell phones. What we communicate is that we are only thinking of ourselves – which is the heart of selfishness

When and where are you most likely to exhibit selfishness?

Respectable Sins: Pride

Introduction & Schedule for blogging on Respectable Sins

Reflections on Chapters 1 & 2

Reflections on Chapters 3 & 4

Reflections on Chapters 5 & 6

Reflections on Chapters 7 & 8

Reflections on Chapters 9 & 10

Are we having fun yet? I don’t know about you, but this is a challenging book to read. We rarely like to admit our own faults and sins, we get to be pretty good at justifying them, and don’t like other people pulling back the layers of our heart. Respectable Sins is a challenge to all of those things. So on we go to the next two acceptable sins: pride and selfishness. I actually thought about skipping these chapters since I’m doing just fine in these areas, but then I remembered the rest of you.

In chapter eleven, “Pride”, Bridges deals with this sin, but not in the typical manner. I say that, because we readily acknowledge that pride is a sin and often understand how it keeps us from our relationship with God. But in keeping with the theme of the book, Bridges wants us to see particular areas of pride that we may have difficulty recognizing as sinful or seeing them in ourselves. Here are the types of pride he addresses and a few of my thoughts:

  • Pride of moral self-righteousness: This sin, unfortunately, is what identifies a large segment of Christianity. While we should care about the things that God cares about, but not to the exclusion of recognizing our own sinfulness. I wonder how often we miss this sin in our own hearts and its expression often on our lips?
  • Pride of correct doctrine: In Reformed circles, this sin is also evident. If truth be told, though we are not alone, we often express a desire to see (our) correct doctrine spread throughout the world, instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to remember that correct doctrine or belief doesn’t save us, but belief & trust in a person that saves.
  • Pride of achievement: This sin raises its ugly head when we care more about our own recognition or success than we do the glory of God. This is one area where I have found Desiring God ministry to be so helpful.
  • Pride of an independent spirit: I knew just what Bridges was referring to with the other areas of pride, but I did not know what he meant at first. This sin is characterized by “a resistance to authority, especially spiritual authority, and an unteachable attitude” (97). While we often see this in young people, it can crop up any of our hearts when we become set our own ways and don’t care to hear or learn from anyone or especially from Scripture.

Since the Biblical antidote to pride is humility, we should pray specifically that the Lord would humble us and show us our sin of pride (especially in these hard to see areas) and remind ourselves of Scripture that addresses both. You also might consider reading a book on humility, such as Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney.

What are your thoughts on this chapter?