A Saint’s Eye View of Worldliness an
About the Guest
The sins of worldliness and lack of self-control keep Christians down. Dennis Rainey joins forces with author Jerry Bridges about Scripture’s command that we be in the world, but not of it.
Jerry BridgesJerry Bridges was a longtime staff member of the Navigators and served with their collegiate ministry. In addition to his international speaking ministry, he authored numerous books and devotionals; among them The Pursuit of Holiness, which has sold well over a million copies, and the award-winning The Discipline of Grace and I Will Follow You, O God. Jerry Bridges died on March 6, 2016. He was 86 years old.
The sins of worldliness and lack of self-control keep Christians down.
A Saint’s Eye View of Worldliness an
Bob: There are some things in life, things that aren't immoral or improper, that can still become a stumbling block for people—something like football. At least that was the case for Jerry Bridges.
Jerry: I realize I'm walking in where angels fear to tread when I talk about sports, especially football and basketball. I happen to come from a school that has a very successful football program. Over the years, they've won seven national championships. God first convicted me of this several years ago, and this can show you how insidious it is. It was toward the end of the season; and my responses were, "Lord, let's wait until the season is over to deal with it."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. How do you determine if something that's not immoral, something that isn't forbidden by the Scriptures, has become a spiritual stumbling block for you? We are going to talk about that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was just looking at the table of contents for our guest's book, Jerry Bridges' book, Respectable Sins, because one of the sins that comes up regularly when we talk about Christians is the sin of gluttony. You know, that doesn’t get preached on very much. We don't hear much about it.
Dennis: Right. Is it in there?
Bob: Well, I thought …
Dennis: Did it make Jerry's list?
Bob: I thought it was off the list. There it is—lack of self-control; yes,
Chapter 13. I'm just not going to read that chapter, skip over it, and go on to the rest. Is that okay?
Dennis: Is that what you want to do with it in the presence of Jerry?
Bob: I guess not. I guess not.
Dennis: Maybe we need to talk about that one off the top, Jerry. Jerry Bridges joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Jerry, welcome back.
Jerry: Thank you. It's good to be back with you.
Dennis: He is the author of a new book called Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. I guess I just kind of want to know because I don't know that we've really touched on it:
What motivated you to write this in the first place? I mean, did you finally get enough of the lack of authenticity among the evangelical community and what you're seeing among Christians today? Why write this?
Jerry: Well, over the last, I would say, half-dozen years, I've become increasingly concerned about the tendency of Christians to define sin in terms of the flagrant sins out in society—homosexuality, abortion, drug dealing, easy divorce—these kinds of things and, meanwhile, just to ignore our own sins. It's not that those sins in society are not serious—they certainly are—but in confronting those sins, it's easy to slip into a sort of a self-righteous frame of mind and be condemnatory toward those people out there and not see our own sins.
Dennis: Let's talk about this issue of self-control, then. I mean, obviously, this has to be at the core of all of them as part of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, self-control. It's one of the things God is at work in all of our lives creating. How does in manifest itself?
Jerry: Well, the lack of self-control can be in several areas. It can be in our use of food. I think of a friend of mine, and this is no longer true of him, but he used to drink 12 cans of pop a day. I wouldn't say he was addicted, but he just went after it. In my own case, years ago, it was ice cream. And I still …
Dennis: Now, wait a second.
Bob: I'm down to four or five cans of pop a day, but ice cream is where you stepped on Dennis' toes here.
Dennis: Well, I'm a whole lot better than I used to be. I used to think it was a human right, one of the basic rights of living in America, to end every day with a bowl of ice cream, sometimes littered with Oreos, other times with almonds, and chocolate cascading over the edge. Excuse me while I leave the studio for a few moments; but, seriously, ice cream was one of mine. That was one of yours, too?
Jerry: That was one of mine. The thing I began to notice was that God first of all, the Holy Spirit, began to speak to me, began to convict me in my conscience that I was not exercising self-control, that I was just letting it run wild, so to speak. Then I began to try to pull back; and I noticed that when I would indulge, then impure thoughts or something like that would follow very frequently.
I realized I cannot pick and choose the areas in which I am going to exercise self-control. “I want to exercise self-control in my thought life, but I will indulge ice cream.”
Dennis: Now, wait a second. How can impure thoughts be tied to a bowl of ice cream?
Jerry: It's because we've let a breach in the wall of our self-control. A man who lacks self-control is like a city whose walls have broken down. The food and drink, and ice cream, and so forth—that's just one area.
Another area can be temper, finances, people who just spend money without regard. I mention in the book that one of our national radio speakers mentioned one day that the average credit card debt in American households is $7,000. That's just the average. To me, that's unthinkable that people would just buy whatever they want; and they'll just pay a little bit every month and so forth. Their debt just mounts up.
Bob: You know, I have to brag on my wife here for a second because as we're talking about this, she is in the midst of a fast. She decided on Sunday that she was going to go a week without the Internet. Now, I said, "completely without the Internet for a week?" She said, "I am going to check my e-mail on the home computer from time to time just so that I am aware of communication"; but she said, "Other than that, I am not going to surf the Web. I'm not going to read the blogs that I normally read. I'm just going to stay away." I said, "Why?" She said, "Because I feel like I've been wasting time on the Internet."
So she's imposing this week-long fast in an attempt to exercise authority over her own appetites. That's really what we're talking about here, isn't it?
Jerry: Exactly. You've picked a very good one because I think that it's become a real issue with people. They can just spend hours at the computer surfing the 'Net.
Bob: I wish I hadn't picked it; I wish she hadn't picked it because now I’m starting to feel convicted. I'm thinking maybe the next day I might go a day and just see how I do.
Dennis: Just a day. Well, you know, usually, Bob, we take the month of August here on FamilyLife Today and we have what we call, Jerry, "Turn off the TV Fast."
Dennis: It is a fast from TV for the month of August, and this year we decided not to do it …
Bob: Because of the Olympics.
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: We decided, you know, we wanted folks to be able to see the Olympics.
Jerry: Sure, right.
Dennis: It's interesting—some of my adult children have come back and said, "Now, Dad, are you turning off” …
Bob: We had the same conversation.
Dennis: Did you really?
Bob: My son, David, said, "Are we doing the fast thing this month?" I said, "No, because of the Olympics." It is almost like he was a little disappointed that we weren't going to do it.
Dennis: Right. Jerry, to your point about this, and as well to Bob’s, I think there is something good about this, about getting out of a habit like watching television, getting on the Internet...
Bob: Eating ice cream.
Dennis: Eating ice cream. (laughter) By the way, I confess I had a bowl last night; but it was a sanctified bowl.
Bob: How is that?
Dennis: It had fresh peaches on it.
But it was the first bowl of ice cream I had had in some time. For me, Bob, it's not that I've moved from ice cream to some other kind of an addiction here; but I'd have to say television can be, for me, a temptation to just kind of check out …
Bob: “Veg out.”
Dennis: “Veg out,” and I really have to watch it. I have to be careful …
Bob: You have to watch it so that you don't watch it.
Dennis: Don't watch it, exactly. I was walking by our television the other night, and I've got a little saying above the top of it. It's from Psalm 101:3: "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. I hate the work of those who fall away. It shall not fasten its grip on me."
Jerry: That's very good.
Dennis: While we are talking about a grip, let's talk about a big one. I think this is huge within the Christian community. It is the general topic that you write about in your book, "worldliness."
Dennis: Do you think this is a huge sin? Am I the only one that thinks this is huge within the Christian community?
Jerry: I think it's a huge thing because, again, we have defined worldliness in terms of the biggies out there. I define worldliness in two ways. First of all, from 1 Corinthians 7:31: "Those who use the things of the world as if not engrossed in them." Worldliness is just simply being engrossed in the things in the world. Another practical meaning is just going along with the culture around us as long as that culture is not obviously sinful.
Bob: Jerry, some people think that anything that is in the world is worldly. They will say, "Well, if you play cards, you're being worldly," or if you dance, “You're being worldly”, whether it's a square dance or a ballroom dance or whatever. There are some who try to isolate themselves from the world in order not to be worldly. That's not what you're suggesting is it?
Jerry: No, no, not that at all. I'm talking about just going along with the things in society. Paul says, "Don't become engrossed in the things of this world." Now, a big one, and this is one I had to struggle with, and it still can creep back in is sports. Now, I realize I'm walking in where angels fear to tread when I talk about sports, especially football, basketball, maybe even baseball for some; but the two biggies are the football and the basketball.
I happen to come from a school that has a very successful football program. Over the years, they've won seven national championships. They won the first one when I was a junior there.
Bob: What school is this?
Jerry: University of Oklahoma.
Bob: I want you to be able to, you know, do a little cheerleading for your alma mater there.
Dennis: You are feeding his idolatry here.
Jerry: I remember when God first convicted me of this several years ago, and this can show you how insidious it is. It was toward the end of the season; and my response was, "Well, Lord, let's way until season is over."
Dennis: There are a lot of women listening to us right now saying, "You know, when he started talking about modesty, I just didn't care for that; but now that you're talking about sports"…
Bob: Yes, “You go!”
Dennis: “Go, speak; Jerry, speak!”
Jerry: The same way with the men when we were talking about the way women dress …
Dennis: Yes, there you go.
Jerry: Basically, I've had to just back off. The way I have attacked this is to say, “It's just a game; and at the end of the day, I don't think God is glorified regardless of who wins the Super Bowl or the Bowl Championship Game or the Orange Bowl or whatever it happens to be.”
Bob: So if the Sooners are on TV, you'll still watch?
Jerry: Probably not. No, because it just feeds that thing. I'll read about it in the paper the next day.
Bob: You would say to someone who does watch, that doesn't mean that you're worldly for watching?
Jerry: Exactly. Some people can watch the game, and it's just a game. Actually, the way I'm cut out, I cannot watch any game for five minutes without taking sides. It can be South Carolina versus VMI, you know, I don't care.
Bob: But you're going to root for somebody.
Jerry: Five minutes into it, I'm going to root for one of those teams.
Bob: You know, as we've been talking about this, I keep coming back to 1 John, chapter 2, where John says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world." That's really the issue: “Do we love the world? Is our affection, which ought to be exclusively for God, being given to temporal things?” We're really talking about idolatry here, aren't we?
Jerry: We are, yes. You brought out that our affection, which ought to be for God. Back in the 19th century, Scotsman, Thomas Chalmers, preached a famous sermon called "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." What he brings out is you cannot just say, "I'm not going to do that," or you can't say, "Bob, you shouldn't do that." You've got to replace it with another affection and, of course, to me that's where the Gospel comes in. I get so excited about the Gospel that I say, "Lord, I don't want to do these things. I want to concentrate over here with You."
Bob: You just talk about the Gospel all the time, don't you?
Jerry: That's the only message. I mean, everything has got to flow out of the Gospel.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: There is one other area of worldliness that we haven't touched on here that I think is a creeping cancer within the Christian community. That is how we handle our finances and our love of things and our comparison of what we have with what other people have, what we drive with what they drive, the schools our kids go to and where our friends send their kids.
Bob: The whole Jones’ thing we're talking about?
Dennis: I think it's huge; I think within there. I think there is what you refer to in your book as idolatry. Is that right?
Jerry: Yes, it is idolatry, yes. Our materialism is idolatry because it's taking the place of God. Anything that's more important than our relationship with God is idolatry. Again, because materialism seems so respectable—I mean, everybody is into the game. You know, you've got to have this new car with all the bells and whistles that your old car didn't have and these kinds of things. We are into that and, as a result, it shows up in our giving patterns.
I quote statistics that the overall population of America gives less than 2 percent of their income to any charitable cause, whether it's United Way, the Red Cross, or their local church, or whatever. You would think that Christians would be better, but we give about 4 percent.
I realize that the issue whether tithing is a New Testament thing or not; there's disagreement on both sides of that issue. I respect that; but I come back to the fact if God required the Jews, who didn't have the Gospel revelation that we have, and they were still offering burnt offerings and this kind of thing, and yet they really gave 10 percent.
Now we have the Gospel; we have Christ crucified, and risen again, and ascended, and sitting at the right hand of God. We have our sins forgiven. We are clothed with His righteousness. See? Paul says, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
In spite of all that we have, we're into this. I think I can safely say, “We are the wealthiest nation in all of history per capita. We are the wealthiest nation in all of history, and yet we are so stingy toward God.” To give 4 percent of our income to God, that's scandalous!
Bob: As you talk about that, I think about the Prophet Haggai who came to the nation of Israel as they were rebuilding Jerusalem following their exile into Babylon. He said, "God wants to know about your paneled houses that you're building while the temple is in ruins."
Bob: It's a picture of people who are more concerned about their own comfort than about the kingdom.
Bob: We might be guilty of that very same thing. Don't you think?
Jerry: Oh, yes, absolutely. Again, I think, for me, tithing is simply a benchmark. It's not a legalistic thing, but it's a benchmark. In fact, I would say that many, many Christians should be giving way beyond the 10 percent because they can afford to do that. If a person making, say, $40,000 a year can give $4,000, a person making $400,000 should be able to give more than $40,000; but they don't. Their lifestyle just increases, the cars get more expensive and these kinds of things.
The point I want to make is, if every Christian just gave 10 percent of their income, we wouldn't know what to do with all the money. I mean, there would not be any—I'm sure you men are like me—you get requests for funds all the time. You say, "Oh, I wish I could respond to that"-kind of thing. I really believe if all Christians gave 10 percent, all of these needs would be met.
Dennis: And there would be a lot of ministry taking place.
Dennis: As you've talked here, the real antidote for dealing with worldliness is found in Romans 12:1-2.
Dennis: Presenting our bodies to God, totally, sacrificially giving ourselves to His ownership, His authority, to be His bond slaves; and then not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind. To this very subject here, you go to James 1:27 where the Scriptures challenge us to renew our mind about visiting the widow and the orphan in their distress.
If you're struggling with materialism, find a way to go near an orphan, to get close to those who only have what they are wearing and what's in their pockets, and to somehow put your lifestyle back in perspective with the world scene because you're not going to find it watching cable TV in the evening or looking next door to your neighbor. That's not going to give you a right standard. That's the very point you're making about not being worldly.
In closing, I have one last question for you, “How do you think Oklahoma is going to do this year?”
Bob: You're tempting him to sin there, aren't you?
Jerry: You know, Dennis, I haven't even given it a thought.
Dennis: I think they could be in the contention for the—You better turn your TV on; that is what I think!
Jerry: Well, you know, the last two years they have just stumbled badly.
I don't know, but I think God is causing them to do that just to help me get weaned away from it.
Dennis: Thanks for being on our broadcast, Jerry. You're a good sport.
Bob: Could I just ask before we invite him back, “Can I get some steel-toed boots to wear?”
Dennis: Wow! Yes.
Bob: Because your toes do get stepped on; but, if we really do want to be like Jesus, we've got to wake up to some of this stuff. We've got to be willing to respond to what the Scriptures say about what it means to live a righteous and a godly life—to pursue righteousness in our lives. I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of the book that Jerry has written called Respectable Sins.
This would be a great book for families to go through together at the dinner table. You can read just a paragraph from one of the chapters; and it will start a good discussion around your dinner table about these particular sins and whether they are present in your family, in your life. You may have to do a little confessing, a little repenting that goes on as you lead that devotional time with your family; but it's a healthy practice, a healthy discipline for all of us.
Again, we have copies of the book, Respectable Sins in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Again, it is FamilyLifeToday.com. Order a copy of Jerry’s book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY (1-800-358-6329). That is 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY. Get a copy of Jerry Bridge’s book, Respectable Sins. When you contact us, we will make arrangements to get it sent to you.
Now, I know a lot of folks are looking forward to the upcoming holiday weekend, the long Memorial Day weekend. I want to ask you if you do have plans for the weekend coming up, can I ask you to do something for us today before you get all involved with the upcoming holiday?
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Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make your donation. I just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance for your support of the ministry. We appreciate your generosity and all that you do in support of FamilyLife Today.
Now, tomorrow we are going to talk about one of the areas where we can be prone to sin. That is in the area of the tongue. Christin Ditchfield is going to be here with us. We are going to talk about how our speech can be seasoned with salt. Hope you can be back with us for that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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