As we’ve been reading “Respectable Sins”, alongside the Scriptures, we’ve been challenged to consider the awfulness of our sin before our holy God. We’ve been reminded that Christ’s death, in our place, cleanses us from the penalty and guilt of our sin.
However, all sinful saints know, on a daily basis, the ongoing presence and power of sin in our lives. And as our appreciation of God’s holiness and the price paid for our salvation deepens, so does our awareness of the depth, horror and deceitfulnes of our sin.
Isn’t it wonderful knowing that at the moment of salvation you were intimately united with Christ, in his death, that the reigning power of sin was crucified with him! Bridges describes sin as having been de-throned in our lives. To help us remember this Romans 6:6 would be well worth memorising, as would verse 11 where Paul tells us to make sure we think straight about ourselves and who rules in our lives – in Christ, we are dead to sin’s rule and alive to the reign of Christ!
The ongoing challenge we face is of course the “guerilla warfare” waged by sin’s presence in our life. We can almost feel Paul’s frustration as he describes the struggle between the desires of the Spirit and the desires of the sinful nature in Romans 7:14-24. But then he moves on to rejoice that those who are in Christ live under the controlling influence of God’s Spirit (7:25 – 8:27).
What does it mean to live under the controlling influence of God’s Spirit? Isn’t it tricky getting our thinking straight on what Bridges calls “the principle of dependent responsibility’ expressed in 2:12-13? Another great verse to be very familiar with, because it reminds us that we are responsible before God to be actively putting sin to death and, at the same time, to be fully dependent on the Spirit to achieve this.
The truths shared and explained in this chapter are so important to grasp. I think for many of us walking by the Spirit is almost an overwhelming burden, and that may indicate that we haven’t grasped the reality of the power of the Spirit in the life of the forgiven sinner. I think there’s a real value in small groups of women getting together to fine-tune our understanding of the power and work of the Spirit. In the Scriptures we will come to grasp and appreciate that the reigning power in our lives is not sin, but the Spirit and that God is indeed working in us that which is pleasing in his sight. Then we’ll be better equipped to help each other “think straight” about the Spirit’s work, when we find ourselves discouraged, struggling to keep in step with the Spirit, despite our best efforts. In his book “You Can Change” Tim Chester suggests (Ch9) that the community of God’s people are the God-given setting for enabling change in the saints.
A starting point would be to openly acknowledge to each other the struggle to keep in step with the Spirit. We may not want to share specific examples of sin, but simply together acknowledge there is a struggle.
Then it would be wise to go to Scriptures such as Romans 6-7, and Galatians 5:16-26 to remind each other of the reality and power of God’s Spirit in us. Bridges shares some helpful passages that assure us that God’s Spirit is indeed transforming us into his likeness (2Cor 3:18, Phil 4:13, Heb 13:20-21)
Having this reassurance we might be in a better place to start acting on our obligation to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:12-17 and Colossians). The prayerful fellowship of a fellow struggler might make the obligation to live out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-13) less of an overwhelming burden. The work of getting rid of our behaviours that grieve the Spirit of God (Eph4:20-5:7) might become a joyful challenge.
There’s been much to challenge us in these first 5 chapters. With a pastor’s heart, Bridges recognises this, finishing with the following comforting, yet also challenging, words of Jesus. Perhaps pray that this would be your experience as you confront the sins we tolerate.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt 5:4,6.