Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: Sins We Accept

Sins We Accept. Jerry Bridges. 2013. NavPress. 59 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A pastor invited the men in his church to join him in a prayer meeting. Rather than praying about the spiritual needs of the church as he expected, all of the men, without exception, prayed about the sins of the culture, primarily abortion and homosexuality. Finally, the pastor, dismayed over the apparent self-righteousness of the men, closed the prayer meeting with the well-known prayer of the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). The attitude toward sin reflected in the prayers of those men seems all too prevalent within our conservative, evangelical circles. Of course, this is a broad-brush observation, and there are many happy exceptions. But on the whole, we appear to be more concerned about the sins of society than we are the sins of the saints. In fact, we often indulge in what I call the “respectable” or “acceptable” sins without any sense of sin.

Jerry Bridges challenges readers to re-examine their lives for so-called "respectable" or "acceptable" sins. He urges his readers to get serious about sin. Serious about sin in their own lives. He's not calling for readers to get more serious about the sins in others' lives. No, it's personal. And Bridges wants YOU to take a long look at your own life. What sins in your own life do you not see "as sin"?!

He writes,
"Why do we not also mourn over our selfishness, our critical spirit, our impatience, and our anger? It’s easy to let ourselves off the hook by saying that these sins are not as bad as the flagrant ones of society. But God has not given us the authority to establish values for different sins."
He points out,
"The truth is, all sin is serious because all sin is a breaking of God’s Law. All sin, even sin that seems so minor in our eyes, is lawlessness. It is not just the breaking of a single command; it is a complete disregard for the Law of God, a deliberate rejection of His moral will in favor of fulfilling one’s own desires. Sin is sin. Even those sins that I call “the acceptable sins of the saints”—those sins that we tolerate in our lives—are serious in God’s eyes. Our religious pride, our critical attitudes, our unkind speech about others, our impatience and anger, even our anxiety (see Philippians 4:6)—all of these are serious in the sight of God."
His book has a timely, relevant message for us all--both as individuals and as a community.

Sin is not a popular subject. Our culture dismisses sin all the time. In fact, rare is it for a culture these days to have a concept of sin and the guilt that accompanies that concept. Anything and everything is okay but holding to the doctrine of sin.

Some churches hold onto the doctrine of sin. But some have a tendency to look at sins without the church more than sins within the church. That is, they are experts in identifying their neighbors' sins, their coworkers' sins, the general sins of society. But they are weak in the area of confessing their own sins, repenting of their own sins, recognizing their sins as an offense against God. My sin is not that bad. Your sin will see you burn in hell.

The truth is any sin--every sin--no matter how "big" or "small"--makes us guilty and fit only for hell. The truth is if we got what we deserved, the justice our actions called for, we'd all be destined for hell.

We tend to segregate sins into categories, types, levels. That sin, well, God doesn't care about that sin. It's not a big enough deal for me to have to deal with. This sin of mine isn't keeping me and God apart. Don't be ridiculous? Me need to repent?! I already prayed a prayer once to take care of all that sin business.

Bridges writes,
"All sins—both the so-called respectable sins of the saints, which we too often tolerate, and the flagrant sins of society, which we are quick to condemn—are a disregard for the Law of God and are reprehensible in His sight. Both deserve the curse of God."

He continues,
"Ralph Venning, the author of The Sinfulness of Sin, uses especially colorful (in the negative sense) words to describe sin. Over the space of only a few pages, he says that sin is vile, ugly, odious, malignant, pestilent, pernicious, hideous, spiteful, poisonous, virulent, villainous, abominable, and deadly. Take a few moments to ponder those words so as to get the full impact of them. Those words describe not just the scandalous sins of society but also the respectable sins we tolerate in our own lives. Think of such tolerated sins as impatience, pride, resentment, frustration, and self-pity. To tolerate those sins in our spiritual lives is as dangerous as to tolerate cancer in our bodies. Seemingly small sins can lead to more serious ones."
The good news is only GOOD because we recognize the bad news as being BAD. We will never be thankful, never rejoice in God's grace, never have compassion for others, never have zeal for sharing the good news, IF we never recognize that we deserved hell but that another bore our sins in our place. Jesus SAVES us from something that we deserved. Jesus paid the price for our rebellion against God. He took my sin so I could take his righteousness. Sin was as foreign to Jesus as righteousness is foreign to me. But God made a way to reconcile himself with sinners, and that way was--is--Jesus.

One of the sins that Bridges talks about a good deal is the sin of ungodliness.
"Ungodliness may be defined as living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on Him. You can readily see, then, that someone can lead a respectable life and still be ungodly in the sense that God is essentially irrelevant in his or her life. The sad fact is that many of us who are believers tend to live our daily lives with little or no thought of God. We may even read our Bibles and pray for a few minutes at the beginning of each day, but then we go out into the day’s activities and basically live as though God doesn’t exist. We seldom think of our dependence on God or our responsibility to Him. We might go for hours with no thought of God at all. In that sense, we are hardly different from our nice, decent, but unbelieving neighbor. God is not at all in his thoughts and is seldom in ours. One cannot carefully read the New Testament without recognizing how far short we come in living out a biblical standard of godliness."
He argues that ungodliness is at the center of all our other sins.
"For the godly person, God is the center and focal point of his or her life. Every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realm, is viewed through the lens of this God-centeredness; however, such a God-centeredness can be developed only in the context of an ever-growing intimate relationship with God. No one can genuinely desire to please God or glorify Him apart from such a relationship. Sins of the tongue—such as gossip, sarcasm, and other unkind words to or about another person—cannot thrive in awareness that God hears every word we speak. The reason we sin with our tongues is due to the fact that we are to some degree ungodly. We don’t think of living every moment of our lives in the presence of an all-seeing, all-hearing God."
Bridges, as you might have gathered by now, gives us PLENTY to think about. He asks hard questions. He challenges his readers to really examine their hearts, minds, and souls. He asks you to go beyond what you profess, and examine if how you are living your life day-to-day matched what you profess to believe.

Bridges advocates preaching the gospel to yourself daily. The cure for sin is the gospel. Since Christians are still sinners, since temptation is still very much a part of Christian warfare, the gospel is the way to go about it.
"Make no mistake: Dealing with our sin is not an option. We are commanded to put sin to death. It is our duty to do so. But duty without desire soon produces drudgery. And it is the truth of the gospel, reaffirmed in our hearts daily, that puts desire into our duty. It is the gospel that stokes the fire of our motivation to deal with our respectable and subtle sins. It is the gospel that motivates us to seek to be in our daily experience what we are in our standing before God."
"As we struggle to put to death our subtle sins, we must always keep in mind this twofold truth: Our sins are forgiven and we are accepted as righteous by God because of the sinless life and sin-bearing death of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater motivation for dealing with sin in our lives than the realization of these two glorious truths of the gospel."
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.
I would recommend this short little book because it is rich in truth, very relevant to how we live our lives, speaks to anyone and everyone no matter their age or vocation, and is practical not abstract. The book isn't about sin in the abstract, the doctrine of sin; no, it is about the effect of your sin on your life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Susanne said...

I've heard good things about this book. I'll have to look into it.