Here’s a book I dare you to read! As the subtitle indicates, it’s about sins you and I tolerate in our lives. Donna and I read and discussed this book with our small group composed of fellow believers from our home church, South Suburban Evangelical Free Church. We all agreed that this was the most convicting work we had ever read, besides, of course, the Bible itself.
Jerry Bridges, long-time staff member of The Navigators, believes that we have become so preoccupied with the sins of our society that we fail to confront the more subtle sins in our own lives. His conviction is that God is as displeased with our more refined sins as He is with the sins we so proudly avoid. In a biblical, practical and honest way the author treats numerous sins that most of us Christians tolerate in our lives, such as pride, anxiety, unthankfulness, judgmentalism, critical spirit, frustration, selfishness, impatience, discontentment, envy, bitterness, and many others. (These are just some of the ones that convicted me the most.)
In case this 225-page book sounds heavy, negative, and legalistic, I assure you it is not! It is full of gospel truth. Here’s what the author wrote in his foreword:
“Through experience I have found that we often need more than to merely have our sins – even the ‘respectable’ ones that we tend to minimize – pointed out to us. We need encouragement and hope, and these come only through the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ encourages us in our personal struggles with sin because it assures us that in our standing with God, He has already forgiven our sins through the death of His Son on the cross. The gospel gives us hope because it also promises to us the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to deal with our sins. We need both assurances. We cannot effectively deal with the expressions of our subtle sins until we know that they are forgiven. And we cannot effectively deal with our sins apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.”
The author reminds us that our sanctification, our growth in Christ, is progressive. It is a matter of gradually putting off sin and putting on Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit with help from the Word, prayer, and others in the Body of Christ. Our progressive sanctification stands on two foundation stones: (1) the righteousness of Christ and (2) the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is a book you can read on your own with great profit. However, I believe from experience that you will get more from it by reading it at home and discussing it with others in a small group, then following up the discussion with a time of prayer.
There are personal questions at the end of each of the nine chapters that encourage you to dig into related Scripture passages. There are also discussion questions for each chapter that encourage small group discussion. Donna and I have been so blessed to be in a group of honest adult Christians who genuinely desire to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ but who also realize that they (we!) need to identify and act on our “respectable” sins.
Finally, let me call your attention to some of the guidelines Bridges gives in the instructions to the discussion leaders on how to make this study more effective. He stresses that there must be trustworthiness and respect, faithfulness in attendance of the meetings, active participation (it isn’t a lecture!), preparation before each group session, as well as openness and honesty. Bridges adds, “The goal of this study is to know God’s heart and character in a way that leads to transformation from the inside out.”