Sunday, October 24, 2010

Respectable Sins: Chapters 17-18 "Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins" and "Sins of the Tongue"

The respectable sins we’re thinking about in these chapters particularly resonate with women. I’m sure they’re an issue for men too, but they seem to be a particular struggle for women. God saves us into a family of brothers and sisters in Christ, but so often we envy our sisters rather than honour them. We have God-given skills with words and all things verbal, but our sinful nature means we struggle to glorify God with our tongues.

Throughout “Respectable Sins” Jerry Bridges has frequently taken the time to define the sins he’s addressing in our lives. He explains (p151) that definitions help us to see the subtle distinctions between sins. When we recognise the subtleties of different sins, then we may see more clearly the presence of these sins in our lives and hearts.

So there’s godly wisdom in taking the time to reflect on these definitions. Rather than just powering through the book, maybe we could slow down, pray, think and reflect on our lives with the humility to to consider whether any of these sins are evident in our lives and hearts.

Chapter 18 Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins
Envy, Bridges suggests, is the painful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by someone else, perhaps leading us to covet that advantage. I’ve noticed women struggle with envy in relationships, envying other women’s friendships, family and marriage relationships.

Jealousy is the sin of not tolerating rivals, as Saul was jealous of David and the the Jews in Antioch were jealous of Paul and Barnabas.

And competitiveness is the urge to win, or be the best, whatever the cost. Competitive spirit becomes sinful when the desire to win outstrips the desire to honour God. This can be a struggle for young or immature Christian leaders.

Are these sins evident in your life? Can you see them in your children? If we can see these sins in their lives, then there’s a good chance they’re also a part of our lives!

And the sin of being controlling, rather than submissive. This is a tricky one, especially for those in positions of leadership. But our example of how not to be controlling is Jesus, who led by serving, giving and submitting himself to God, seeking his honour and glory.

Did you notice that once again Bridges points us to the character of God as a starting point for dealing with these sins? When we grasp that God, who is perfectly, and always, wise and good, gives us our abilities, and in his wise sovereignty determines the results and outcomes of our use of those talents, then we’ll start to be content with our lot and more willing to honour the achievements of others and thank God for what he’s given them.

Chapter 19 Sins of the Tongue
Most Christian women are all too aware of the sins of the tongue, but maybe it’s helpful for us to be reminded of the many forms in which these sins can occur. And since these sins are so acceptable and commonplace among our unbelieving friends, family and work colleauges, maybe we need to encourage each other to “Just Do It!” when it comes to dealing seriously with the speech sins of the saints, recognising they are offensive to God and not tolerated by him.

Gossip, lying, slander, acritical speech, harsh words, insults, sarcasm, ridicule – any words that tear down rather than build up – are all sin, in God’s eyes, if not the world’s. If we’re struggling to identify these these sins in ourselves, Bridges suggests we try asking our family to help us pinpoint them in our life. That’s confronting, but an excellent suggestion, because our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9) and keener to recognise sin in others than in ourselves.

Our challenge is not only to be “putting off” the speech associated with our old sinful self, but to be “putting on” speech that build up, words that speak life and forgiveness (Eph 4:20-32).

Bridges has a couple of helpful suggestions –
* Rather than disguising our gossip as “sharing matters for prayer”, why not just pray privately about the matter? Prayer is answered bcause of God’s character, not the numbers of people praying.And gossip disguised as prayer is hardly the prayer of the upright that pleases God (Prov 15:8)!
* Try asking yourself, before speaking about others “Does this need to be said at all?” and “Will this build up or tear down lives?”
* If difficult words need to be spoken, then take the time to think ”How can I say this in a way that will build up and not tear down?”
* And finally, Bridges suggests we pray, as David did, for both our mouths and our hearts,

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditatiosn of myheart be acceptabel in your sight , O LORD my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19)

And it’s exactly because God, in Christ, is our redeemer, and through Christ we receive his powerful Spirit, that we have the resources to deal with these sins!(Romans 8:1-17)

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