Mortification of Sin – A Beginning

Image result for john owenJeremiah 6, verse 14, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” This verse, in its context deals with the nation of Israel and their turning away from the commands of the Lord.  But a closer reading finds that this is chiefly directed at the leaders of the nation, those charged with teaching the nation the commands of the Lord.  Looking back at verse 13, we see that the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, condemns them all, “from the least to the greatest.”  All of them dealt falsely, there was no justice in them.  Micah 6:8 reveals that the Lord “required justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.”  These were not suggestions that the nation of Israel could take or leave, they were commands that were to be obeyed.  Because the leaders in Jeremiahs time were soft on sin, the entire nation slowly fell into corruption.  Much can be said of a comparison to the times we live in.

Now, I know that some will say that we live in the age of grace and the nation of Israel was under the law and hasn’t Christ freed us from the bondage of the law? Yes He has. But if you think that the law was abolished and done away with, then I suggest that you do not know much about the holiness, righteousness and justice of the sovereign God of heaven, not to mention the fact that He doesn’t change.  Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God, through the mystery of our union with Christ, has ordained that we walk in good works.  Works that He ordained before the foundation of the world.

What are these good works?  Justice, love, mercy, humbleness, compassion, gentleness……and the list could go on and on and on.  Jesus did not come to abolish the Law of God, he came to fulfill it, something we in our sinful nature could never do.  If we have been saved, truly saved, we will realize that not only do we abhor sin, but we want to fulfill the Law.  That is God writing His law on our heart!  Will you or I succeed in fulfilling God’s law?  Not in this life.  Oh, and on a side note, I have met people who have told me that they do find a way to fulfill God’s law on a regular and consistent basis.  I even had one gentleman tell me, without even batting an eye or showing any shame whatsoever, that he could go days without sinning.  Pffffff…….  That is a man who has no idea the depth of his sin, nor the holiness of God.

So, if we do know God, we will get a sense of His holiness and the depth of our sin and realize that there is a great gulf that no human could ever cross in his own works.  It is only in Christ’s absolute obedience to the entire Law of God, and his death on the cross, where Gods just wrath was poured out, to the last drop, on his Son, that the gulf that separated us from God was bridged.  Because of that perfect sacrifice, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When this “peace with God” floods our soul, it isn’t long before we realize that while we have peace with God, a battle still rages.  That battle is sin.  Unfortunately it has been my observation that many pastors, and laity as well, do nothing to look into the battle with sin.  Instead, pithy little slogans are preached, “Let go and let God,” or “it’s ok, no one is perfect,” or “just be controlled by the Spirit.” But in the end, if we truly understand the scriptures, we will understand that as a new creature, a new creation, we WILL bring forth fruit.  Using the analogy in John 15, Christ is the vine who will supply the life giving nutrients for the fruit that we will bear. Fruit will be born of us, but it will not be “our” fruit, but we will be the conduit through which Christ displays that fruit.  And at this point, it’s easy to say, “well then, sir, all I have to do is let God do the work.” Yes, you do, but Christ also said that we are to strive to enter the narrow gate in Luke 12:24.  We are to strive to overcome all sinful tendencies, which will show the world who we belong to.

Having dwelt on this for quite some time, I have come to the conclusion that sin, in my own life, is a putrid, horrific thing.  And yes, I use words that put sin in a very bad light, but, since I am surrounded by nothing but sin, I cannot even begin to grasp the utter sinfulness of sin as seen from God’s perspective. Paul himself could find no worse word for sin, than sin, see Romans 7:13.  Yet, when was the last time you heard a sermon or a preacher talk about sin, and it’s sinfulness?  When did you last read the Bible and fall under conviction of the horrendous nature of the sin in your own heart when held up to the righteousness of God through His Word?  We take sin so lightly.  We “heal the wounds of the people lightly,” which was the exact same case in Jeremiahs day.

This is why I consider Owen to be so important and I have embarked on this journey. My hope is that I will better understand the holiness of God, His righteousness, His perfections, as well as see the depths of the sin my flesh wallows in and desires.  Am I saved?  Most assuredly yes!  Am I perfect?  Yes, and no…….  Perfect in that I am Justified and because of Christs active and passive obedience, I am one with Him.  But on the other hand, imperfect in this life because I am captive to this fleshly, sin craving body and have not yet been glorified, Romans 8:28-30.  Sanctification has happened, is happening, and will ultimately happen, which is another way of saying, I was saved at a point in time, I am being saved daily, and I will ultimately be saved either when Christ returns, or when I die.  So, I need the Gospel every day, every minute, every second, and I need to strive by the power of the Holy Spirit to “be killing sin, or sin will be killing me,” to paraphrase one of Owen’s most famous quotes.

Also, as I blog through my study of The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, I want to mention that I am using the work that Owen originally wrote, as well as supplementing that with another book, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.  As my pastor has said about his preaching, you preach from the overflow of the sources you study, I will be using other sources to clarify and better grasp this important work of Owen.  I will try and make sure I provide citations and references to them when I use them.

 

As I Take Up John Owens

John OwenI have read bits and pieces of John Owen over the years, but I’ve decided to systematically read through his Mortification of Sin in Believers and while I was grabbing an online version, I ran across something that really piqued my interest about marking up books.  Now, lest you think I don’t do this already, please be assured that I do mark up not only my Bible, but many of the books I read.  I just thought it was rather odd that I did this, only to find out I may not be all that “odd,” well, in that sense anyway.  But I want to share with you an excellent article by Demian Farnworth called How to Absorb a Book into Your Bloodstream.  It is certainly worth your time to read this little article, and then put it into practice if you do not already have a system in place.

I also hope to systematically share some of my thoughts on Owen’s work over the next few months here on the blog, so, if you want to follow along, please consider it.  Mortification of sin is an often overlooked area of preaching and teaching in churches today and I must admit, I have heard very few sermons on this subject.  So I hope to become more familiar not only with Owen, but also better acquainted with the sinfulness of my heart and mortifying the sin that dwells within.

 

 

The Double Cure

Augustus Toplady wrote:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

This “double cure” is both justification and sanctification.  Each is a separate work, yet they are inseparable because both flow from union with Christ.  From this union flows justification, which takes care of the guilt of our sin, and sanctification which takes care of the power of sin over our lives.

Brian Borgman, who I highly recommend, preaches a wonderful sermon regarding this topic which can be either watched or listened to here.

1st Thessalonians – The Current Series at LSBC

Pastor Jeremiah Blasi has started preaching through the book of 1st Thessalonians at Lawrence Street Baptist Church and here are the first two sermons:

Albert Mohler on How Religious Liberty Dies

Original posted here.

Albert Mohler writes:

The vast high-velocity moral revolution that is reshaping modern cultures at warp speed is leaving almost no aspect of the culture untouched and untransformed. The advocates of same-sex marriage and the more comprehensive goals of the LGBT movement assured the nation that nothing would be fundamentally changed if people of the same gender were iStock_000006371658_Largeallowed to marry one another. We knew that could not be true, and now the entire nation knows.

The latest Ground Zero for the moral revolution is the state of Indiana, where legislators passed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Gov. Mike Pence then signed into law. The controversy that followed was a free-for-all of misrepresentation and political posturing. Within days, the governor capitulated to the controversy by calling for a revision of the law — a revision that may well make the RFRA a force for weakening religious liberty in Indiana, rather than for strengthening it.

Business, political, and civic leaders piled on in a mass act of political posturing. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law in 1993 in a mass act of bipartisan cooperation. The Act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with 97 affirmative votes in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, celebrating the Act as a much needed protection of religious liberty. Clinton called religious liberty the nation’s “first freedom” and went on to state: “We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.”

But, that was then. Indiana is now.

Hillary Clinton, ready to launch her campaign for President, condemned the law as dangerous and discriminatory — even though the law in its federal form has not led to any such discrimination. Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the pages of The Washington Post to declare that the Indiana law “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.” For its part, The Washington Post published an editorial in which the paper’s editorial board condemned a proposed RFRA in the state of Georgia because the law would prevent the state government “from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”

So, The Washington Post believes that a state should be able to infringe on a citizen’s religious liberty without a compelling interest? That is the only conclusion a reader can draw from the editorial.

The piling on continued when the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Mulloy announced that he would even forbid travel to Indiana by state officials, conveniently forgetting to mention that his own state has a similar law, as does the federal government. The NCAA piled on, as did a host of sports figures from across the country. More than one pundit pointed to the irony of the NCAA trying to posture on a question of sexual morality, but the pile-on continued.

Law professor Daniel O. Conkle of Indiana University stated the truth plainly when he said: “The reaction to this law is startling in terms of its breadth–and to my mind–the extent to which the reaction is uninformed by the actual content of the law.” Similarly, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, a proponent of gay marriage, stated: “The hysteria over this law is so unjustified.” He continued: “It’s not about discriminating against gays in general or across the board . . . it’s about not being involved in a ceremony that you believe is inherently religious.”

Nevertheless, the real issue here is not the RFRA in Indiana, or Arkansas, or another state. The real issue is the fact that the secular Left has decided that religious liberty must now be reduced, redefined or relegated to a back seat in the culture.

The evidence for this massive and dangerous shift is mounting.

One key indicator is found in the editorial pages of The New York Times. That influential paper has appointed itself the guardian of civil liberties, and it has championed LGBT causes for decades now. But the paper’s editorial board condemned the Indiana law as “cover for bigotry.” The most chilling statement in the editorial, however, was this:

“The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country. Religious people — including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans — may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.”

There you see religious liberty cut down to freedom of worship. The freedom to worship is most surely part of what religious liberty protects, but religious liberty is not limited to what happens in a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue.

That editorial represents religious liberty redefined before our eyes.

But the clearest evidence of the eagerness of the secular Left to reduce and redefine religious liberty comes in the form of two columns by opinion writer Frank Bruni. The first, published in January, included Bruni’s assurance that he affirmed “the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish — in their pews, homes, and hearts.” Religious liberty is now redefined so that it has no place outside pews, homes, and hearts. Religious liberty no longer has any public significance.

But Bruni does not really affirm religious liberty, even in churches and in the hiring of ministers. He wrote: “And churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a ‘ministerial exception’ laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish.”

The ability of churches to hire and fire ministers as they wish is “questionable.” Remember that line when you are told that your church is promised “freedom of worship.”

But Bruni’s January column was merely a prelude to what came in the aftermath of the Indiana controversy. Now, the openly-gay columnist demands that Christianity reform its doctrines as well.

He opened his column in the paper’s edition published Easter Sunday with this:

“The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision. They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.”

Bruni issued an open demand that evangelical Christians to get over believing that homosexuality is a sin, or suffer the consequences. His language could not be more chilling:

“So our debate about religious liberty should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”

There you have it — a demand that religious liberty be debated (much less respected) only if conservative believers will get with the program and, mark his language, bow to the demands of the modern age.

Christianity and homosexuality “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere,” Bruni declared.

He reduced religious conviction to a matter of choice:

“But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.”

So the only religion Bruni respects is one that capitulates to the modern age and is found “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”

That means giving up the inerrancy of Scripture, for one thing. The Bible, according to Bruni, reflects the biases and blind spots of the human authors and their times. When it comes to homosexuality, he insists, we now know better.

This is the anthem of liberal Protestantism, and the so-called mainline Protestant churches have been devoted to this project for the better part of a century now. Bruni applauds the liberal churches for getting with the program and for revising the faith in light of the demands of the modern age — demands that started with the denial of truths such as the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, miracles, the verbal inspiration of Scripture, and other vital doctrines. The liberal churches capitulated on the sexuality issues only after capitulating on a host of central Christian doctrines. Almost nothing is left for them to deny or reformulate.

It is interesting to see how quickly some can get with the program and earn the respect of the secular gatekeepers. Bruni cites David Gushee of Mercer University as an example of one who has seen the light. “Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,” Bruni quotes Gushee. Bruni then stated that Gushee “openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.”

But David Gushee agreed with the church’s historic condemnation of same-sex relationships, even in a major work on Christian ethics he co-authored, until he released a book stating otherwise just months ago. Once a public figure gets with the program, whether that person is David Gushee or Barack Obama, all is quickly forgiven.

Bruni also notes that “Christians have moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.” He is right to understand that some Christians have indeed done so, and in so doing they have made it very difficult to stop with redefining the Bible on gender roles. Once that is done, there is every reason to expect that a revisionist reading of sexuality is close behind. Bruni knows this, and celebrates it.

Taken together, Frank Bruni’s two columns represent a full-throttle demand for theological capitulation and a fully developed reduction of religious liberty. In his view, stated now in full public view in the pages of The New York Times, the only faiths that deserve religious liberty are those that bow their knees to the ever most costly demands of the modern age.

It is incredibly revealing that the verb he chose was “bowing.” One of the earliest lessons Christians had to learn was that we cannot simultaneously bow the knee to Caesar and to Christ. We must chose one or the other. Frank Bruni, whether he intended to do so or not, helps us to see that truth with new clarity.

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