Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Respectable Sins: Chapter 8,9,10 "Anxiety and Frustration", "Discontentment" and "Unthankfulness"

Grouped together, as in the title, these respectable sins sound so ugly! What exactly is it that makes them sinful? Aren’t they just the sad reality of life for forgiven saints, this side of heaven?

Throughout these chapters Bridges repeatedly highlights that anxiety, worry, frustration, discontent and unthankfulness are unacceptable and intolerable sins for at least 2 reasons – they are a denial and of the character of God and an affront to what he’s achieved for us in the cross of Christ.

These are not benign sins. We might like to think that our unthankfulness is a minor sin because it doesn’t affect anyone else, but ingratitude, whether to God or other people, indicates an impoverished appreciation of God’s character of goodness, generosity, mercy and grace towards us, materially and spiritually.

We might think these behaviours need to be dealt with because they’re “not a nice way to live”, that life is so much more pleasant for everyone if we all work at being chilled out, patient, content and thankful. But that’s not the point is it! That sort of thinking is just humanistic pragmatism.

Each of these sins is unacceptable and intolerable to God because they are not consistent with his character of holiness, which we are commanded to imitate (1Peter1:15-16).

When we display these sinful behaviours we’re saying something about the character of God. We’re saying “God, my life isn’t as good as it could be, you don’t know what is good for me, you could do better for me, and you don’t have my interests at heart. “ When we’re anxious or worried and don’t (or won’t?) pray, when we’re not thankful or content, then we’re buying the lie that God will not, has not, or is not able to, care for me in ways that are good for me.

Bridges refers to a number Bible passages that command us not to fear or worry. Instead we’re to pray, be content, at peace with our lives, and thankful. How do we cultivate lives of thankfulness, contentment and aquiescence (love that word!) in God? The answer lies in the character of God. Bridges refers to a number Bible passages that command us not to fear or worry, to pray, to be content and thankful and underlying each of them are deep and wonderful truths concerning the character of God.

God knows me perfectly and intimately, and always has, he is always with me (Ps 139), so I can trust him in the darkest and most worry-inducing moments of life. He is my perfect loving Heavenly Father, who knows my needs better than I do, I am his child, of infinite worth to him (Matt 6, Lk 12), so I need not be anxious but can be content with my lot, trusting him to always be caring for me, working for my good, but also for his glory.

In the Scriptures God is revealed as being always perfectly good, loving, wise, sovereign and providential (did you notice the helpful definition of this aspect of his character on p64?). When anxiety and worry do not drive me to pray, when thankfulness to God is absent in my prayer life, when grumbling and negativity creep in to my conversation, thoughts and prayers, then I need to shift my focus off the circumstances of life and onto the character of the God who gives, knows, directs and sustains my life. The letter of John Newton, quoted by Bridges (p66) is a wonderful example of how a firm belief in the goodness, sovereignty and wisdom of God will help us to respond to every event of life in ways that are pleasing and honouring to God.

God is also revealed in the Bible as Saviour, the God of rescue, mercy, grace and forgiveness, in Christ. Bridges speaks of the occasion where Jesus healed 10 lepers but only one was thankful for his healing. I’m reminded of the heart of Habakkuk who was able to rejoice in God, not because of his circumstances - he’d lost pretty much everything and there was worse to come! Habakkuk’s contentment was grounded in the knowledge that God was his Sovereign, Saviour and strength.

When we’re discontent and unthankful then we’re saying “God, you need to give me more, , you haven’t done enough for me!”. What does that reveal about the value I place on all that God has done for me on the cross. He sacrificed his Son to save me from his wrath, forgive my sin and restore me to himself – isn’t that reason enough for me to give him endless thanks, be content and trust in him with my lot in life.

It seems to me that our challenge is to deepen and grow our grasp on the character of God and all he has done, and is doing, for us, so we see more clearly, with God’s eyes, the awfulness of our discontent, unthankfulness and worry. Our task is to cultivate a strong trust, deep thankfulness and steady contentment in God that grows out of an intimate knowledge of his character, revealed in the Scriptures.

My prayer is that reading this book will move us to open our Bibles, to re-kindle our desire to know God well and seek his help to deal with those areas of our live sthat do not honour and please him.

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