Respectable Sins, Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges

Respectable Sins,

Confronting the Sins We Tolerate

By Jerry Bridges


In the Preface to Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges states that the target audience of this book are “the subtle sins” of Christian believers. He was motivated by “a growing conviction” that some “have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more ‘refined’ or subtle sins.”

He begins by reminding the reader that we are accepted by God by his grace, that in Christ all of our sins have been forgiven. But, we do have a responsibility: “There is a fundamental principle of the Christian life that I call the principle 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.”

I have found myself at various times in my life swinging between complacent drifting through my days or wallowing in shame and guilt when forced to come face to face with my own wrongdoing. Neither is a healthy place to be spiritually.

Respectable Sins is a book that confronts us with the sins we don’t think of as sins, sins that are more obvious to others than to ourselves. These sins can be so entwined in our thinking and habits that seeing them for the ugly stains they are can feel totally overwhelming. Yet, Jerry Bridges manages to present the hope of the gospel, while he gently rebukes us over our ignored sins. He does give an overall strategy for dealing with them in seven points within Chapter Six, “Directions for Dealing with Sins.” The following is an abbreviated version:

  1. Apply the gospel: God has forgiven all my sins and cancelled all my debts and credited to me the perfect righteousness of Christ.
  2. Depend on the Holy Spirit: Cultivate an attitude of continual dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is by the Spirit that we put to death our sins.
  3. Recognize my responsibility: Diligently pursue all practical steps for dealing with sins. Keep both dependence on the Holy Spirit and my responsibility to resist sin in mind.
  4. Identify specific respectable sins: Ask for help/conviction. Identify triggers.
  5. Memorize and apply appropriate scriptures: such as, Psalm 119:11 “store up” “lay aside for future use.”
  6. Cultivate the practice of prayer.
  7. Involve one or a few other believers with you.

Some of the sins the author covers in the book are ungodliness, anxiety, ingratitude, and pride (which he breaks down into four categories, pride of moral self-righteousness, of correct doctrine, of achievement, and an independent spirit).

Many of us can identify with the pride of correct doctrine. He defines it as “a pride in our particular belief system, whatever that may be, and an attitude that in our beliefs we are spiritually superior to those who hold other beliefs.” This type of pride often goes unrecognized by those of us who commit it. He goes on to qualify by saying, “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.”

As observant as Jerry Bridges is about our “subtle” sins, as he calls them, I didn’t agree with all of his suggestions. For instance, he suggests, “If we want to avoid the subtle sin of pride in the achievements of our children, we might say something like this: “Our son John graduated magna cum laude…We deeply acknowledge that John’s intellectual abilities come from God, and we are profoundly grateful to Him….” He goes on for several sentences in this vein. In my opinion, this generates a different kind of pride which the listener might find amusing rather than humble. But, overall, Jerry Bridges treatment of this topic is sound minded and biblical.

He concludes the book, “We have looked in detail at many of the subtle sins we tolerate in our lives. At times, this may have been painful. I hope it has, because that means you have been honest enough and humble enough to admit the presence of some of these sins in your own life.” He also reminds the reader that “if you are united to Christ, God sees you clothed in His perfect righteousness.”

Book Review
By Scarlett Stough
Title: Respectable Sins, Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
Author: Jerry Bridges copyright 2007
Publisher: NavPress
ISBN: 13:978-1-60006-140-0
ISBN: 10:1-60006-140-0

Editorial Note: This book review was first published September 2014


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