A Saint’s Eye View of Worldliness and Self Control
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. Dennis Rainey joins forces with author Jerry Bridges about Scripture’s command that we be in the world, but not of it.
A Saint’s Eye View of Worldliness and Self Control
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 20th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, how do you determine if something that’s not immoral—
—something that isn’t forbidden in the Scriptures—has become a spiritual stumbling block for you? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I was looking at the Table of Contents for our guest’s, Jerry Bridges’, book, Respectable Sins—because one of the sins that comes up regularly, when we talk about Christians, is the sin of gluttony. It doesn’t get preached on very much—
Dennis: Did it make Jerry’s list?
Bob: I thought it was off the list—
Jerry: It is self-control.
Bob: There it is—“Lack of Self-control”—yes, Chapter 13. So, I’m just not going to read that chapter and 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. And 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—the homosexuality, the abortion, the drug dealing, the easy divorce—these kinds of things—and, meanwhile, just 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’s at work, in all of our lives, creating. How does it 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 mean, he was just—I wouldn’t say he was addicted, but he just went after it. And so, in my own case, years ago, it was ice cream. And I still—
Dennis: Now, wait a second.
Bob: And I’m down to four or five cans of pop a day, but ice cream is where you stepped on Dennis’s toes here.
Dennis: Well, I actually—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. But the thing I began to notice was that—well, God—first of all, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me—began to convict me and my conscience that I was not exercising self-control—that I was just letting it run wild, so to speak. And so, then, I began to try to pull back. 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 it breach in the wall of our self-control. A man who lacks self-control is like a city whose walls are broken down—the food, and drink, and ice cream—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—and their debt just mounts up.
Bob: 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?” And she said, “I am going to check my email 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.” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Because I feel like I’ve been wasting time on the internet.”
So, she’s imposing this weeklong 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. And 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: And it’s a fast from TV for the month of August. This year, we decided not to do it. And 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?” And I said, “No.” And it’s almost like he was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to do it.
And 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. And for me, Bob, it’s not that I’ve moved from ice cream to some other kind of 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: —and veg out. 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. I’ve got a little saying above the top of it—it’s from Psalm 101, verse 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: And I think what we’re talking about here is giving up something so that the grip is loosened—
Dennis: —and we can reflect on how much of a grip it had on our lives. While we’re talking about a grip, let’s talk about a big one—and I think this is huge, within the Christian community—it’s 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 in the world as if not engrossed in them”—and 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. So, 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 here?
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 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. 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 do a little cheerleading for your alma mater there. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’re feeding his idolatry here.
Jerry: But, you know, it’s—and 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 responses were, “Well, Lord, let's way until the season is over.” [Laughter]
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: “There you go!”
Dennis: —go, “Speak, Jerry, speak!”
Jerry: And the same way with the men when we were talking about the way women dress.
Dennis: Yes, there you go.
Jerry: Okay. So, basically, I’ve had to just back off. The way I have attacked this is to say: “It’s just a game. 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: And 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 [Laughter]—I don’t care.
Bob: But you’re going to root for somebody.
Jerry: I’m going to root for one of those teams.
Bob: 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. And you brought out that our affection, which ought to be for God—back in the 19th century, the 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.
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—and that’s 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 Joneses-thing you’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’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’re 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’d think that Christians would be better, but we give about 4 percent.
I realize that the issue of whether tithing is a New Testament thing or not—
—there’s disagreement on both sides of that issue—and 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 were to give 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 in His righteousness; see? And Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
So, in spite of all that we have, we’re into this. We are—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: And 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, you know—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, Chapter 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.
And to this very subject here, you go to James, Chapter 1, verse 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—
Dennis: —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? [Laughter]
Bob: You’re tempting him to sin there; aren’t you?
Jerry: You know, Dennis, I haven’t even given it a thought! [Laughter]
Dennis: I think they could be in the contention for the—“You better turn your TV on,” is what I think.
Jerry: Well, you know, the last two years they have just stumbled badly. [Laughter] And, I don’t know—but I think God is causing them to do that just to help me get weaned off of it. [Laughter]
Dennis: Thanks for being on our broadcast, Jerry. You’re a good sport.
Bob: And could I just ask, before we invite him back, can I get some steel-toed boots to wear?
Dennis: Wow! Yes.
Bob: I mean, your toes do get stepped on; but the reality is—if you want to be like Jesus, we’re going to have to address some of this stuff.
We’ve got to wake up to it. We’ve got to be willing to respond to what the Scriptures say about what it means to live a righteous and godly life—to pursue righteousness and godliness in our lives.
And I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of the book that Jerry has written. It’s called Respectable Sins. This would be a good book for families to go through in family devotions, or for you to do with your small group, or just for you to read as a part of your own quiet time with the Lord.
We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to get a copy of Jerry Bridges’ book, Respectable Sins. Once again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link in the upper left-hand corner of that where it says, “GO DEEPER.” The information you need is available, right there, on how you can order a copy of Jerry’s book. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy—1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about you. Bill Hendricks is going to join us, and he knows something about you. So, we’re going to talk about you.
We’re going to talk about your gifts, about your abilities, about your strengths, and about how you can be used more effectively for Kingdom work. Okay, we’re not talking about you, specifically; but we are talking about how you assess the person God’s made you to be and how you can serve Him more effectively. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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