This chapter focusses on the “malignancy of sin” and it’s appropriate that we look closely at the awfulness of our sin. Of course as Christian believers we do know the remedy for spiritual and moral malignancy - the penalty for my sins, including those I might want to label as tolerable and excusable, has been fully paid, “our hearts have been renewed…we have been freed from the absolute dominion of sin…God’s Holy Spirit dwells within our bodies.” (p24). The penalty of sin has been paid in full, the power of sin is fully defeated. These wonderful realities are liberating and free me up to face the ugly reality that sin is still present in my life. In “The Pursuit of holiness” Bridges comments –
“Frequent contemplation on the holiness of God and His consequent hatred of sin is a strong deterrent against trifling with sin….Granted, the love of God to us through Jesus Christ should be our primary motivation to holiness. But a motivation prompted by God’s hatred of sin and his consequent judgement on it is no less Biblical.” (p31)
But just whilst we read this chapter, let’s focus on looking at our sin through God’s eyes, and not shy away from seeing our sin as God sees it.
How do you deal with ugly, scary, sickening scenes in movies? Do you realise the scene is coming, quickly covering your eyes and ears? Do cover your eyes the minute you catch a glimpse of the horror? I tend to just avoid movies that depict the awfulness of life. Is that a little like the way we deal with sin? We devise strategies to avoid naming our sin as “sin”. We latch on to what Bridges calls the “feel good about myself “ philosophy of our times. I’m guessing that’s the strategy of excusing, justifying and explaining away our sin. We can be slow to tremble before the splendour of his holiness (Ps96) and quick to deflect responsibilty for our sin onto other people, and powers beyond our control. I think I especially mobilise these strategies when it comes to “soft sins”.
As a Christian I tend to excuse my sin by comparing my character and conduct to the Christian community around me, what Bridges calls “cultural holiness” (The Pursuit of Holiness, p25). I adapt to the behaviours and character of the believers I move amongst. But when I do that I’m leaving God out of the picture totally! What God says about my sin is what really matters! Nathan pointed this out to David (2Sam12:9-10) and in time, David recognised that “against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps 51). All my sin, including what the world might be willing to excuse, is wicked in God’s eyes and we’ed eceived of we ythink otherwise (1Cor6:9-11). I need to see all my sin as ugly and serious, because all my sin is an offense against the holy God, who is too pure to look upon evil (Hab 1).
We need to grasp both the horizontal and the vertical dimension of our sin. Sin certainly damages my life and the lives of others. But more importantly it is “an assault on the majesty and sovereign rule of God. It is indeed cosmic treason.”(p27). God’s holiness is perfect freedom from all sin (1Jn1:5) and we’re to be holy as he is holy (1Peter1:15-16). God cannot tolerate or excuse sin. He hates sin (Zech8:17). And that should be our view of our sin, too (Ps119:104).
When I allow God in his majesty and holiness to define what is offensive to him, then I start to understand that the sins I tolerate are intolerable to Him.When I look at my sin through the lens of God’s perfect holiness, then, like the Puritans, it won’t sound extreme to confess my sins using language such as “scandalous, filthy and abhorrent”.
Instead, like David we’ll ask “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? “ (Ps24)
You might like to read and commit to memory some of these passages that speak of the holiness of God – Exodus 15:11, Isaiah 6:3, Hebrews12:14, Revelation 4:8.
Would it be helpful for you to make a habit, along with brushing your teeth, of privately confessing and repenting of your secret, respectable sins, to God, before you go to bed?
You might like to use one of the Bible passages above as the basis of your prayer.