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.

 

God’s Centerpiece

HardingKentI would like to share a sermon that I listened to on my way to work this morning.  This sermon comes from Pastor Kent Harding of Sovereign Grace Reformed Church, Doniphan, Missouri and it exalts our infinite God.  The text is taken from Psalm 8 as follows:

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Stop Teaching the Ethics of Jesus?

Seriously?  I ran across a blog post today that just boggled my brain.

According to Peter Rollins’ About page, he “is a widely sought after writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker. He is also the founder of ikon, a faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection to create what they call ‘transformance art’.”  Now, I’m not able to ascertain exactly what kind of “faith” is being talked about when it says he founded a faith group, but in a blog post he posted advocating that we stop teaching the ethics of Jesus, I’m not thinking that his definition of faith and mine are the same.

Continue reading

Condemnation

Romans 8:1-11(ESV)
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

‘Condemnation’ is a word of tremendous import; and it is well fairly to look at its meaning, that we may the better understand the wondrous grace that has delivered us from its power.  Echoing through the gloomy halls of a human court, it falls with a fearful knell upon the ear of the criminal, and thrills with sympathy and horror the bosom of each spectator of the scene.  But in the court of Divine Justice it is uttered with a meaning and solemnity infinitely significant and impressive.  To that court every individual is cited.  Before that bar each one must be arraigned.  “Conceived in sin, and shaped in iniquity,” man enters the world under arrest – an indicted criminal, a rebel manacled, and doomed to die…He lies down and he rises up – he repairs to the mart of business, and to the haunt of pleasure, a guilty, sentenced and condemned man.  And should the summons to eternity arrest him amid his dreams, his speculations, and his revels, the adversary would deliver him to the judge, the judge to the officer, and the officer would consign him over to all the pangs and horrors of the “second” and “eternal death.”  “He that believes not, is condemned already.”  My dear reader, without real conversion this is your present state, and must be your future doom.

But from this woe all believers in Christ are delivered.  The sentence of death under which, in common with others, they lay, is absolved; the curse is removed; the indictment is quashed; and “there is, therefore, now no condemnation.” – from No Condemnation in Christ Jesus by Octavius Winslow

I read this that I have quoted above yesterday and my heart was just filled with thanksgiving to my God who has saved me by His awesome power.  And what a wonderful time of the year to be thankful.  Also, since reading this, two hymns of the church have flooded my soul ever since.  “Amazing Grace” is one that just about everyone knows.  I am so thankful for His Amazing Grace.  Those of us who have called on Him and have been delivered from the condemnation we used to live under have so many reasons to thank the One who brought us new life; a life without condemnation.

The other hymn that came to me has the following lyrics:

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

-Isaac Watts – When I Survey the Wonderful Cross

This song was written 303 years ago and it still holds true today.  It is packed full of so much truth and I just stand in awe that the God of all creation loved me enough to reach down into my life and love me.

Has he touched your life?  Even if you don’t acknowledge Him, he has.  Every day that you live is a gift of His graciousness.  We so often think that to acknowledge God requires us to give up so much, and it does!  But what we gain is far greater.  Eternity is a long time and spending it in the presence of God is a much better reward than what we have to give up in these few short years of life here in this world.

Won’t you call on him?  Won’t you reach out and survey the wondrous cross?  I realize that it is foolishness.  It makes no sense.  Somehow we think that we just need one more thing in our lives to make it to heaven.  We are good people.  All we need to do is a little more and we will make it to heaven.  But that just isn’t the case.  What is that ‘one more thing,’ that little bit more?  No matter how much we ‘do,’ it will never measure up to perfection which is what God is.  That is why He came into this world and died upon the cross.  He became the sacrifice to bring us back to Him.

I’ll admit that for me the hardest part of coming to Christ was admitting that there was nothing I could do to reach God.  That is what makes Christianity so different from all the other religions of the world.  All the other religions make heaven, enlightenment, nirvana, etc, something that man can obtain by doing something.  Mankind will never reach that perfect state by anything he does and if we will take a deep look inside, the condemnation we feel when trying to do that thing makes it abundantly clear that that is the truth.  Elvina Hall wrote a hymn in the mid 1800’s that sums it up:

Jesus paid it all

All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain

He washed it white as snow.

When you survey the wondrous cross, you will begin to see that the sacrifice that God made that day thousands of years ago, paid our debt.  He is the one that came to us and made a way for us to come back to him.  He took all the guilt and shame and condemnation upon Himself to allow us to live free.  If you already have this freedom, thank Him for it!  If not, all you have to do is ask Him for it.  It is a free gift.

The Mist of Life

James 4:13-16

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

For some reason, I seem to come around to a lot of math when I think about my faith.  Can’t say why that is because math wasn’t something I was really good at when I was in school.  Anyway, yesterday I got to thinking about eternity on my way home from work and how long that is.  I didn’t have to think very long before I heard an exchange between my granny and I from years gone by.  She would tell me to do something, and me, being the kid I was, would answer her back, “Granny, that will take forever for me to do.”  “Son,” she would patiently answer me, “forever is a long time.”  How true that is.  And somehow, I always got done what she asked me and it didn’t take “forever.”

So, my point in all this boiled down to a way of looking at life.  Let us say I was a man that was extremely rich.  Let us say that I made you an offer that went something like this:

I’ll give you 1 billion dollars, a house like nothing you could ever imagine and the ability to travel anywhere you want to with one catch.  The catch is that you have to live on a deserted island and you will start with nothing.  You have no shelter, no food, no water,  just the clothes on your back.  You have to survive on this island for 1 year.  If you do that, I’ll give you the reward.

Now, how many of you would take that challenge.  Talk about the ultimate “Survivor” show.  I bet you people would line up for days to take a shot at doing this.  A billion dollars is a mighty big motivator, don’t you think?  I personally hate coconuts, but I think I could learn to like them for a payout like that.

So, how does all this relate to eternity and the scripture I started with above?  Here is where the math comes in.  According to Answers.com, the average life span worldwide is a little over 66 years.  This statistic is from 1998 so it’s a bit old, but we can use it for my illustration.  One year consists of 365.2422 days.  So, if a person lived 66 years, they would encounter 24,106 days in their lifetime (I rounded up).

How does 24,106 days compare to eternity?  Lets set it up like this:  1 year of eternity equals 1 day of your life of 66 years here on earth.  At the end of 24,106 years in eternity, it would equal your entire lifetime of days here on earth.  But, eternity goes on.  At the end of 48,212 years in eternity, using the same formula, those years would equal 2 lifetimes of days here on earth.  I could carry the math out quite a bit, but I think this makes my point.  Compared to eternity, our span on this earth is pretty short.

The problem is, we don’t think that way.  We say that someone who has lived 100 years has lived to a ripe old age.  I submit that in the grand scheme of things, they are literally a baby.  Is it any wonder that the passage of scripture above says our life is just a mist.  Our physical life is kind of like when you exhale into cold air.  You see it for a moment and then it just disappears.

So, let us go back to my illustration about the contest to win 1 billion dollars.  People don’t want to give up their lives to God in this life because it costs too much.  Many would give up a year for a billion dollars, but not many will give up an earthly  lifetime for an eternity of the greatest joy, happiness and love that you can ever imagine; actually, if God is infinite, His love, joy, and happiness are infinite, so we really can’t imagine it.  But why is it that we won’t give up a small amount of time in this life to enjoy eternity?  Why are we so shortsighted and only look at today and what we can get out of it.  John says it in his gospel:

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe.   For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

(John 12:36-41ESV)

Here Jesus was doing things that nobody had ever seen before.  He was raising the dead, causing blind eyes to see, causing sickness to be healed, and nowhere in Scripture does anybody ever prove that Jesus didn’t do that.  Well, you might say, the Scripture was written by people who liked and followed Jesus.  Yes, that is true.  But look at the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  Both books were written by someone who did his homework and was not refuted in his day.  Now, in his day means when it actually happened.  Luke talked to eyewitnesses, people who had been there and seen with their own eyes what actually happened.  How in the world can we refute him today when we were not there and have no eyewitness testimony to go on?  Yet many of you believe the bible is untrue because someone just said it was.  Yet, Jesus is still doing miracles and signs and wonders today.  Yes, there is a lot of falseness about the Gospel, but if one will take the time to look a little deeper than just the surface, if one will take the time to find out for themselves, God will honor that and reveal Himself to you.  He is not a calloused God who wants nothing to do with you.  He desperately wants to touch and change your life because he knows what is in store, for eternity mind you, for those who reject Him.

Please, if you have questions, send me an email, post something here on my blog, get a bible out and begin reading it for yourself (start in the Gospel of John), but most importantly, just get down on your knees (figuratively) and with transparent sincerity, just ask God to open the shades that are on your eyes.  I believe that any open and honest inquiry of God will not go unanswered.  He longs to spend eternity with you.

God, in His son Jesus, died so that you don’t have to spend eternity apart from Him.  He stands at the door and knocks and how many times have you heard that knock in a moment of fear, or disaster in your life.  All you have to do is open the door.  It really is that simple, not easy, but simple.  Once you open that door up to Him, a whole new life begins; A life of the hardest joy (now there is an oxymoron for you) that you will ever know.  Just call on him soon because you don’t know when that breath on the cold winter morning will fade away and be gone forever.  Once this life is over, the choices you have made determine your eternity.

Eternity in Perspective

I ran across this quote from C.S. Lewis yesterday and I’ve had it on my mind ever since.  Read it and then think about it.  See if it doesn’t change your perspective on people.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

How true it is to think that every person we will see or cross paths with today is not “mortal.”