Respectable Sins

We who are believers tend to evaluate our character and conduct relative o the moral culture in which we live. Since we usually live at a higher moral standard than society at large, it is easy for us to feel good about ourselves and to assume that God feels that way also. We fail to recon with the reality of sin still dwelling within us.1

The assurance that God no longer counts my sin against me does two things. First, it assures me that God is for me, not against me (See Romans 8:31). I am not alone in thi sbattle with sin. God is not watching me from His heavenly throne saying, "When are you going to get your act together? When are you going to deal with that sin?" Rather, He is, as it were, coming alongside me saying, "We are going to work on that sin, but meanwhile I want you to know that I no longer count it against you." God is not longer my Judge; He is now my heavenly Father, who loves me with a self-generated, infinite love, even in the face of my sin. That assurance greatly encourages me and motivates me to deal with the sin.2

Now, that is a blessed truth, but sin, in its subtle deceitfulness, will suggest to us that our unkind words and resentful thoughts don't matter because God has forgiven them. Forgiveness, however, does not mean overlooking or tolerating our sin. God never does that. Instead, God always judges sin. But in our case (that is, the case of all who trust in Jesus as their Savior), God has judged our sin in the person of His Son. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). Shall we presume on God's grace by tolerating in ourselves the very sin that nailed Christ to the cross?3

There is a fundamental principle of the Christian life that I call the priniple of dependent responsibility; that is, we are responsible before God to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously not acceptable ones. At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility. We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are both responsible and dependent. As we seek to walk by the Spirit, we will, over time, see the Spirit working in us and through us to cleanse us from the remaining power of sin in our lives. We will never reach perfection in this life, but we will see progress.4

Now, 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 unbelieiving nehgbor. God is not at all in his thoughts and is seldom in ours.5

Acceptance means that you accept your circumstances from God, trusting that He unerringly knows what is best for you and that in love, He purposes only that which is best. Having then reached a state of acceptance, you can ask God to let you use your difficult circumstances to glorify Him. In this way you have moved from the attitude of a victim to an attitude of stewardship.6

If your Calvinism or Arminianism or dispensationalism, or your view concerning the end times, or your disdain for all doctrinal beliefs causes you to feel doctrinally superior to those who hold other views, then you are probably guilty of the sin of doctrinal pride. I'm not suggesting that we should not seek to know the truths of Scripture and develop doctrinal convictions about what the Scriptures teach; I am saying that we should hold our convictions in humility, realizing that many godly and theologically capable people hold other convictions.7

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul provides a list of really ugly sins that will be characteristic of the "last days" - that is, our present age. Included in this list is "lovers of self." Lover of self is a good description of a selfish person. This person is the first of all self-centered. At its extreme, the self-centered person cares little for the interest, needs, or desires of others. He is interested in only himself, and his self-centered conversation reflects that.8

What I am addressing is the tendency to continually give in to our desires for certain foods or drinks. I think of an acquaintance, a committed Christian, who used to consume twelve cans of soda every day. I think of my own craving for ice cream years ago when I would have a dish of it at dinner and another at bed-time. In that situation, God convicted me of my lack of self-control by causing me to see that a seemingly beign practice greatly weakened my self-control in other more critical areas. I learned that we cannot pick and choose the areas of life in which we will exercise self-control.9

Parents can become impatient over the slow response to the training of children and teenagers. "How many times have I told you not to leave your shoes in the family room?" Or, "When are you going to learn to chew your food with your mouth closed?" These kinds of slow response to our training can often lead us to be impatient. Obviously the type of impatient expressions I've used as illustrations do not further our training efforts. They serve only to vent our impatience and humiliate the child.10

Now, let me remind you, as I do in almost all the chapters, that this is a book about or "respectable" sins, the sins we tolerate in our lives while we condemn the more flagrant sins of society around us. May we be as severe with ourselves over our own subtle sins as we are with the vile sinse we condemn in others. May we not be like the self-righteous Pharisee in the temple who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men" but may we continually have the humble attitude of the tax collector who said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."11

The sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our "respectable" sins because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right. It's obvious that within our conservative evangelical circles there are myriads of opinions on everything from theology to conduct to lifestyle and politics. Not only are there multiple opinions but we usually assume our opinion is correct. That's where our trouble with judgmentalism begins. We equate our opinions with truth.12

I'd like to be like Paul, who took a similar position regarding the divisive issues in Rome. He did not try to change anyone's convictions regarding what they ate or the special days they observed. Instead, he said, "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" Rom 14:5). Such a statement makes many of us uncomfortable. We don't like ambiguity in issues of Christian practice. It's difficult for us to accept that one person's opinion can be different from ours and both of us be accepted by God. But that is what Paul says in Romans 14. And if we will take Paul seriously and hold our convictions with humility, it will help us avoid the sin of judgmentalism.

Closely allied with envy and jealousy is the spirit of competitiveness - the urge to always win or be the top person in whatever our field of endeavor is. The competitive urge begins at an early age. Young children can become quite upset or angry when they don't win a simple children's game. But it isn't just children who have a problem. I've seen grown men who were in other respects exemplary Christians lose their temper when they lost or their son's team lost a ball game. Competitiveness is basically an expression of selfishness. It's the urge to win at someone else's expense. It is certainly not loving our neighbor as ourselves.13

But do Christians slander? Yes, we do. We slander when we ascribe wrong motives to people, even though we can't see their hearts or know their particular circumstances. We slander when we say another believer is "not committed" when he or she does not practice the same spiritual disciples we do or engage in the same Christian activities we engage in. We slander when we misrepresent another person's position on a subject without first determining what that person's position is. We slander when we blow out of proportion another person's sin and make that person appear to be more sinful thatn he or she really is.14

Based on Paul's warning in I Cor 7:31, I define wordliness as being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life. The things of this temporal life may or may not be sinful in themselves.15

… We are spending [money] on the things of this life - houses, cars, clothes, vacations, and expensive electronic products, just to name a few. With our money we have set our minds not on the things above, but on things that are on earth. We have become worldly in our use of money.16

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