Mortification of Sin – Some Observations

Image result for john owenBefore I get into my reading of John Owen and his classic book, Mortification of Sin, I would like to make a few observations.

First, depending on the version or edition of this book that you either purchase, or download off the internet, it is approximately 70 to 90 pages long.  So, in book form it would be a rather small book to take up and read.  But, I would like to bring to your attention two factors about this.  First, Owen, at least to me, is incredibly hard to read.  His style of writing and his use of logic seems to be far removed from what is commonly available to those of us today.  Which leads me to my second observation.  This work is around 40,000 words, BUT……those words are a careful, logical, exacting exegesis of ONE sentence of scripture, Romans 8:13 – “If you mortify the deeds of the body, you will live.”

I am absolutely blown away when I consider the time and effort that Owen put into a carefully exposition of just a few words of Scripture.  Can you just imagine what it must have been like to sit through one of his sermons?  How could a man devote so much time to one small sentence of scripture when we think we are doing good to read a chapter or two a day, and make it to church on Sunday?  Oh, it’s easy for us to think that they had less distractions and more time than we do today.  I submit that the probably didn’t.  Want dinner?  You can pick it up on your way home from a fast food place if you are really in a hurry. Or, you can stop off at a grocery store and get some food.  In those days, you either worked daily to get your food, or you grew it and then went out and gathered it to make a meal.  Our modern conveniences make just that one aspect of life so much easier today than it was for the people in the time of John Owen.

No, I am convinced that Owen purposed to set aside time to not only write, but to study the Word  and to meditate on the mysteries of God.  That is something I know I am most definitely lacking in.  So, right from the beginning, I am already seeing some of the inadequacies in my own spiritual life compared to John Owen.  Areas where I let my mind and body dictate what I will do with my time.  So, as you can see, mortification is something that is surely needed by me.

But, I also want to point out that Paul, in writing the book of Romans, was writing to Christians.  He was writing to people who were saved. This brings up an issue that I feel is totally missed by many today.  How do we deal with those passages of Scripture that seem to deal with what I call “conditionality?”  You know, those “if/then” statements, kind of like “If you mortify the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Almost sounds like something YOU need to do.  And after much study, I do believe that it is something we need to do but I want to qualify that statement.  It is something we do, but only because we “…. are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.  Because of our union with Christ as Christians, we have a desire to want to live Godly, holy lives.  We have a desire to mortify the deeds of the body.  But I also want to make it perfectly clear that I do not believe it is something we do in and of ourselves.  Nor is it something that I believe that we fully attain in this life.  Ephesians 2:10 makes this clear when we are told, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  It is the Holy Spirit who has sealed us “in Christ” that gives us the power to do those good works that God prepared for us to do.  And it is because we understand that we are “in Christ” that we want to do them.  If we understand who we are, who God is, and the fact that once we become a Christian, we are “in Christ,” we should want and desire more than anything to mortify the deeds of the body.

So, these are my introductory thoughts up to this point after reading, rereading, and then reading again, just the first chapter of Owen’s Mortification of Sin.  As always, any thoughts, comments, cares, concerns, letters to the editor, etc. are welcome, just keep it civil.

Assurance

PrayerAfter the article I read yesterday and posted about here, I find these articles on assurance from The Domain For Truth to be timely, informative, encouraging, and worth thinking about.  This is the 5th article on assurance and may the following scripture bless you:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

Assurance of Salvation Part 5: Christians can Know that they are saved

Here are the links to the first 4 articles on assurance:

Assurance of Salvation Part 1: Why study on the topic of Christian assurance?

Assurance of Salvation Part 2: Foundation for Perseverance of the Saints.

Assurance of Salvation Part 3: Perseverance means a Believer Endure

Assurance of Salvation Part 4: Objections to Perseverance of the Saints

 

An Introduction to the Reformed Faith

Five years ago I could not have told you anything about the Reformed Faith.  Oh, I knew who John Calvin and Martin Luther were, but nothing about their beliefs.  It was a simple conversation about what it meant for God to be sovereign that started a process that brought me out of a state where I thought I was saved, into a new understanding of the Doctrines of Grace and what it means when God saves you.  Over the past few years I have read, studied and listened to as much as I could get my hands on to learn more about the sovereignty of God in not only salvation, but in all things.  With that, I have come across a gentleman by the name of Brian Borgman multiple times and he is an outstanding expositor and teacher of the Word.  I highly recommend his 13 part series on an Introduction to Reformed Faith.  I’ve included the links below.

Tale of Two Gospels (MP3)

Soli Deo Gloria: The Supremacy of God in All Things (MP3)

Grace Needed: Total Depravity (MP3)

Sola Scriptura: The Supremacy of Scripture (MP3)

Grace Conceived: Unconditional Election (MP3)

Sola Gratia: The Supremacy of Grace in Salvation (MP3)

Sola Fide: The Supremacy of God in Salvation (MP3)

Solus Christus: The Supremacy of Christ in Salvation (MP3)

Grace Secured: Limited Atonement (MP3)

Grace Applied: Irresistible Grace (MP3)

Grace Triumphant: Perseverance of the Saints (MP3)

The Assurance of Grace: Assurance in the Life of the Saints (MP3)

The Grace of Law: God’s Law in the Life of the Saints (MP3)

Will You Be a Believer Tomorrow Morning

Christian, how do you know you will still be a believer when you wake up in the morning? And every morning till you meet Jesus?

The biblical answer is: God will see to it.

Are you okay with that? Does this make you uneasy, admitting it depends decisively on God?  I hope it is your joy and song. It really does have huge implications to believe this. Let God’s word shape your mind on it.

We must endure in faith to enter heaven.

By itself “must” is not a gospel word. By itself it feels threatening and burdensome. But it is not by itself in the Bible. “We must” occurs along with “he will” and “we will.” “We must” becomes “we will” because “God will.”

  • “The one who endures to the end, will be saved” (Mark 13:13). We must endure.
  • “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).
  • “I make known to you, brothers, the gospel . . . by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word . . . unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2).

God will see to it.

Enduring in faith is not owing to our first profession of faith the way health is owing to a one-time vaccination. Enduring faith happens because the great physician does his sustaining work every day. We keep believing in Christ not because of antibodies left over from conversion, but because God does his life-giving, faith-preserving work every day.

  • “He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory” (Jude 1:24).
  • “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
  • “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40).
  • “[Christ] will sustain you to the end. . . . God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with his Son” (1 Corinthians 1:8–9).
  • “The Lord will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).

We will endure in faith.

Because God will see to it, we will — not just must — endure to the end. If we have been justified by faith, we will be glorified. It is as good as done.

  • “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

Four “R’s” follow from this security.

Relinquish

We relinquish the burden of self-preservation. We stop thrashing and let the firefighter carry us out of the burning house. We can’t make it. He can. He will. “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

Rejoice

Does your heart not echo the joy of Charles Spurgeon when he said, “O dear friends, one’s heart rejoices to think of those potent shalls and wills — those immoveable pillars which death and hell cannot shake — the shalls and wills of a God who, ‘speaks and it is done’” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. IX (364). “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Rest

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The yoke is easy and the burden is light because God says: I will carry you and you will rest on me. “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).

Risk

If you know your future is secured by your omnipotent, ever-keeping God, the threats of earth and hell cannot stop you from spreading his fame. The inference Paul drew from, “Those whom he justified he also glorified,” was, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Therefore, we will risk “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword” (Romans 8:35). Because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39).

Original article found here.

Our Ambassadorship

How is it possible that thousands upon thousands of people are bored with the church and pass it by?  Why did it come about that the cinema really is often more interesting, more exciting, more human and gripping than the church?  Can that really be only the fault of others and not ours as well?  The church was different once.  It used to be that the questions of life and death were resolved and decided here.  Why is this no longer so?

It is because we ourselves have made the church, and keep on making it, into something which it is not.  It is because we talk too much about false, trivial human things and ideas in the church and too little about God.  It is because we make the church into a playground for all sorts of feelings of ours, instead of a place where God’s Word is obediently received and believed.  It is because we prefer quiet and edification to the holy restlessness of the powerful Lord God, because we keep thinking we have God in our power instead of allowing God to have power over us, instead of recognizing that God is truth and that over against God the whole world is in the wrong.  It is because we like too much to talk and think about a cozy, comfortable God instead of letting ourselves be disturbed and disquieted by the presence of God – because in the end we ourselves do not want to believe that God is really here among us, right now, demanding that we hand ourselves over, in life and death, in heart and soul and body.  And finally, it is because we pastors keep talking too much about passing things, perhaps about whatever we ourselves have thought out or experienced, instead of knowing that we are no more than messengers of the great truth of the eternal Christ.

Every empire in this world sends out its ambassadors.  Their job is to give visible expression throughout the world t0 the will and the might of their empire.  They are not meant to be anything other than representatives, in this way, of their home empire and their ruler.  The German ambassador or the French ambassador is supposed to be the quintessential German or French person.  This has nothing to do with him or her as a person, but concerns only the person’s mission.  And in order to carry out their mission, ambassadors are vested with all the authority of their empire.  They speak and act on behalf of their ruler.

And so the unseen Lord of the eternal kingdom and the church sends out ambassadors into this world, giving them a mission that is greater than that of any other, just as heaven is greater than earth, and eternity is greater than time.  And the authority that this Lord gives these ambassadors is that much greater than all the authorities in this world.  God’s eternal Word, God’s eternal judgment, God’s justice and God’s grace, God’s anger and God’s mercy, salvation and damnation, reconciliation through Christ – these words are placed in the hands of the ambassadors of Christ as the most sacred and precious of goods, which they are called to administer through the grace of God.  They will be required to give a full account to Christ the Lord, the Shepherd of shepherds, for every word they have spoken in his name in his church; as the shepherds of the flock, they will have to carry the blame and the responsibility.  This is the ultimate meaning of the pastoral ministry!

–          Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Summer 1933

Tired Pastors Produce Tired Sermons

David Murray was in Austin, Texas for the Spring Microconference that was put on by the Plantr Network and delivered an address on “Soul Care.”  In this address, he talked about issues that pastors have due to tiredness.  This is a good read and I highly recommend it.  Here are some excerpts:

 – Most pastoral problems, such as burnout, backsliding, depression, etc., begin with neglect of the body.

 – There are lots of people who call God “Lord” but don’t live as His servants. And there are lots of people – yes, even pastors – who call God Creator and preach God as Creator, but who live like evolutionists. Some pastors give the impression that the ministry is about the survival of the fittest! (OR THE FATTEST!)  If you can’t say amen you ought to say OUCH! Continue reading

The Fallacy of “Let Go and Let God”

This is an article I ran across today and from experience know how prevalent this statement is in the Church so I consider it a very relevant issue that needs to be addressed.  J. I. Packer, in his forward to John Owen’s book The Mortification of Sin talks about how this statement almost shipwrecked his faith.

Here is the Link.