If you haven’t read Jerry Bridges’ book study Respectable Sins yet, I urge you to do so. While it is not a new release, this book still has much to say about common problems that plague the Christian. You will find jealousy, anger, selfishness, pride, and judging others among the topics covered. By the time you are midway through the book, you will see those so-called respectable sins like lying, swearing, gossiping, coveting, impure thoughts, cheating, anger, greed, laziness, slandering, immorality, and idolatry begin as thoughts and desires of the heart.
Reading Respectable Sins has caused me to really think about the sins in my own heart and life that have become acceptable. Living free in Christ while in a decadent society gives me all the latitude I need to reveal the areas of my heart that continue to need work. I shouldn’t be, but I continue to be surprised at what is exposed through my speech and actions. I ask myself, what makes certain things permissible to me in my thought life? Is it because I think no one ever really sees these things? How can I so callously forget that the sovereign God of the universe is always aware of what is in my heart before I am? (Psalm 139:4)
I often meditate on Romans 6:1-2, which says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” These verses speak directly to this issue of respectable sins. We must stop making excuses for why we do what we do and stop calling sin nullifying and minimizing words like “mistakes” and “whoopsies,” and “goofs.” Looking at sin that way dulls the conscience and desensitizes it to the seriousness of sin. If we are to honor and glorify God by how we live, then we must stop rationalizing and justifying our sin. Scripture clearly tells us that we can overcome our respectable sins because we have been granted everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, we already have what we need to be victorious!
If you struggle with respectable sins like I do, commit to the following action steps to gain the victory that is yours in Christ.
Recognize the Reality
First, come to grips with the reality that you sin because you are still an idolater. The proof of our idolatry is the sin we commit in our lives. Even after 35 years of this Christian walk of mine, I still worship myself in my heart and life areas. Somewhere in my heart (actually right on the altar of my heart) is a mini-me that I adore constantly.
Return to Repentance
Second, repent of your idolatry in each area as God reveals it to you. It is not realistic to tackle everything at once; you’ll be overwhelmed and discouraged. Trust God that as you pray for repentance the Holy Spirit will faithfully bring things to your attention when you sin. Take that moment to confess your sin to God and ask His help to begin to see it as He sees it. Ask Him to help you hate your sin. If you are disgusted by your sins, hang on to that disgust. The contempt is a blessing; use it to remind yourself of the price Jesus paid for that sin. Another aspect of repentance is to turn away from that particular thing and turn towards God (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-2).
Third, develop new habits of thinking and desiring that will lead to new actions that will glorify God. It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but with fighting against the flesh and consistency, you will begin to see good fruit develop in your life (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus will be faithful to lead you in the path of righteousness as you call on Him.
With this in mind, go forward and begin to address those respectable sins. Determine not to remain where you are, stuck in the mire of trespasses and sins. For today, make Paul’s battle cry yours! “… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)