Monday, September 26, 2011

Book: "Respectable Sins"

TITLE: RESPECTABLE SINS - confronting the sins we tolerate
AUTHOR: Jerry Bridges
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2007.

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
A sin is a sin. Unfortunately, the world tends to separate sins in terms of unacceptable and acceptable ones. The latter is what is called the 'subtle sins of behaviour.' Author Jerry Bridges first shot to fame with his bestselling book: "The Pursuit of Holiness." In this latest book, his concerns center around what is called 'respectable sins.' Here is his rationale:

"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." (9)

Beginning with his chapter on 'ordinary saints,' Bridges defines sinful behaviour as the opposite of holiness. Anyone living in sin is not living a saintly life. Sin is the antithesis of holiness. Bridges main point is that what is 'respectable' to man, is 'reprehensible in the sight of God and deserving of judgment.' (22) We cannot downplay some sins from the perspective of man, and undermine the God's perspective.  Sin is like cancer. It is 'malignant.'

"Sin is a spiritual and moral malignancy. Left unchecked, it can spread through our entire inner being and contaminate every area of our lives. Even worse, it often will 'metastasize' from us into the lives of other believers around us." (23)

Proposing that the gospel is the remedy for sin, the author asserts that the gospel will motivate as well as energize one to deal with one's sins. One not only recognizes the sin, one will 'desire' to deal with it head on. Chapter Five talks about how the path to holiness is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. He proposes the seven directions in how to deal with sin. They are:

  1. Letting the gospel be applied in our lives;
  2. Letting us be dependent on the Holy Spirit;
  3. Recognizing our responsibility to obey;
  4. Identifying specific sins that are 'respectable'
  5. Letting Scripture into our hearts, and applying them;
  6. Cultivating prayer;
  7. Accountability to one another in Christ.
The Respectable Sins
Bridges gives a list of 14 'respectable sins.' They are:
  1. Ungodliness
  2. Anxiety and Frustration
  3. Discontentment
  4. Unthankfulness
  5. Pride
  6. Selfishness
  7. Lack of Self-Control
  8. Impatience and Irritability
  9. Anger
  10. The Weeds of Anger
  11. Judgmentalism
  12. Envy, Jealousy and related sins
  13. Sins of the Tongue
  14. Worldliness
The author begins his treatment by calling ungodliness as even more 'basic than pride.' In other words, 'ungodliness' is the root of all sins that are deemed 'respectable.' Anxiety is seen as the opposite of trust in God. The discontentment that Bridges is most concerned about is that pertaining  otheir 'relationship with God.' (71) It is reflected in how one responds to their lack. Unthankfulness is a condition of the heart that fails to recognize that everything is given and everything belongs to God. Pride's biggest problem is the ease of seeing other's fault but difficulty in seeing one's real fault.

When addressing selfishness, Bridges use 4 stages to measure: self-interests, how one uses time, how one uses money, and one's inconsiderateness. A lack of self-control makes one vulnerable to all kinds of temptations. Impatience and irritability are one's responses to 'unintended actions of others.' (116) One needs to use the biblical method of lovingly confronting the other person to correct in truth and in love. For anger, while it is an acceptable emotion, it can be sinful. Bridges, recognizing the complexity of anger, uses two chapters to talk about anger. Judgmentalism is one of the most 'subtle' of sins, and is a result of one trying 'equate our opinions with truth.' (141)

Envy, jealousy and other related sins come about because of one's tendency to compare themselves unfavourably with others. In sins of the tongue, the author uses Ephesians 4:29 as his key verse in tackling sins of the tongue. Finally, in worldliness, the author writes about money, immorality, and idolatry that is infecting the Church.

He sums up all the 'respectable sins' in his final chapter, and urges readers to adopt the following approach:

"Remember that our progressive sanctification - that is, our putting off sin and putting on Christlikeness - rests on two foundation stones: the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit." (181)

My Comments

I think Bridges has done a commendable job in writing this book. The sins that he has tackled reminds me of John Owen's classic work: "Overcoming sin and temptation." Though the book by Bridges is not of the same classic status as Owen's book, it gives modern readers a fresh start to tackle the real problem of sin. In fact, Bridges book is a good basic preparation to help the serious disciple of Christ to move toward a deeper encounter with God, toward the approach taught by John Owen.

Respectable Sins Discussion Guide: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
Discussion Guide
As a critique, I think Bridges has trouble trying to categorize each 'respectable' sin. The way he does it in the book, is quite different when one looks at the accompanying discussion guide here. In the book, Bridges devote 14 chapters to deal with each respectable sin. In the study, he condenses them into 6 study chapters. Even within the book's structure, there is some confusion with regards to how different some sins are from others.

Perhaps, sin in itself is related to the rest. While Bridges does a good job in explaining the individual sins, he has probably chewed off too large a chunk for himself to swallow, and for readers to follow. The main use of this book is to use it as a preliminary guide to stir one toward a more serious mortification of sin. It is important to use this book with an accountable group. That way, sin is not allowed to remain hidden from others.

"Respectable Sins" has a catchy title, and will appeal to the casual reader. It is only a start. One needs to move to advanced territory after reading this book. The path of holiness is long. It is treacherous. That is why one needs the help of God to become a saint of God.


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