Mortification of Sin Chapter 1 – Part 1

John OwenDid I mention that Owen is hard to read?  Well, in all actuality, he is very easy to read, but to understand, that is a much different thing.  After reading, re-reading and then reading again, quite a few times, I feel like my head is about to explode.  I can remember back in the early 1990’s getting my hands on a copy of A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.  That was  my first experience reading something that literally made me feel like my mind had grown 3 sizes.  The thoughts, the concepts, the ideas that Hawking presented gave me new insight into time and space like I had never thought of before.  Likewise, Owen is a giant in the Theological world.  The only problem is that he is a giant from another planet.  I keep looking for the Rosetta Stone so I can better make sense of what Owen is saying.  So, it seemed best to me to take up reading chapter 1 multiple times, spending much time in prayer, as well as reading others views (here, here and here) on what he had written, then go through the process again and just meditate on what he is conveying.

Let me say that even though we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, mortification is not an option that we can decide to take or leave.  Paul makes it abundantly clear that it is a required thing in the Christian life in Romans 8:13.  Ahhhhh, the tension, can’t you just feel it?

“But sir,” I hear you say, “We live under grace and Christ said ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).  So hasn’t he done everything that needed to be done to secure the believers salvation?”

“Why yes, yes He has,” I would reply.

“Well then, sir, if we do something, isn’t that adding to the work of Christ?  Isn’t that adding our works to the work of Christ which would mean that what Christ did is incomplete?”

Again I would have to respond, “Yes it would.”

TENSION!  Don’t you just love it?

So how are we to deal with this?  Lets turn to the 5 issues that Owen brings up in chapter 1:

  1. A duty prescribed, “Mortify the deeds of the body.”
  2. The persons to whom the duty is prescribed, “If you mortify.”
  3. The promise or reward attached to the duty, “You shall live.”
  4. What is the cause or means of the performance of this duty, “If you through the Spirit.”
  5. The promise attached to those who endeavor to put to death the deeds of the body, “Life.”

Once Owen calls out these 5 points, he then turns to the the condition of, “But if…”  As Romans 8:13 declares, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This brings up two things, an uncertain condition and an absolutely certain condition.  As someone who cannot stand heights, I could climb a tall building and look out from the observation deck and say, “If I get down off of this building, I will never put myself in a position like that again.”  Now, that may or may not be true.  It could come to a point in the future were I do the same thing again, or not.  Owen, expounding on Romans 8:13, is not saying it could or could not happen.

What Owen says is something more along the lines of this, “Oh, you are allergic to bee stings, use this Epi-pen and the swelling you are experiencing will go away and you WILL be well.” It is an absolute certainty that if you “put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Now, lets deal with that tension.  Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1 also tells us that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So how do we square this “free gift” and “no condemnation” issue?  Owen states that God has appointed ‘means’ to attain this mortification.  The free gift of eternal life is absolutely freely given.  We begin to pursue the mortification of the deeds of the body, “by the Spirit.” The gift of eternal life is free, and the Holy Spirit,which is given to us when we are saved, is the means by which we obtain the mortification of the deeds of the body.

Owen the goes on to state:

“The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”

This is a life long battle.  One that will go on every day of our life.  This is something we do, something we fight, something we endure and struggle with every second we live as a Christian.  But the blessed hope, the good news, the confident joy we can look to and claim is that “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  This life is not an existence like we now have and comprehend.  This is life eternal, life free from the struggle we now fight against.  An existence, a freedom that we will never even remotely understand or imagine until “that” day, the day when we are glorified.  Sin has so clouded, shaped and warped our bodies, our minds, that even C. S. Lewis’ quote about the “…ignorant child making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea,” does not even scratch the surface of the gulf that the bondage of sin has created in us compared to the freedom that will be experienced by a Christians when we are transformed.

Oh, we don’t want to hear the word, “strive,” yet me must.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must strive every second of our Christian existence to mortify the deeds of the body and become more Christlike.  As Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he (God the Father) who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (by the Holy Spirit) at the day of Jesus Christ.” It will be done.

As always, please feel free to comment, critique, question, and voice cares or concerns.

Until next time:

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”



How Willingly Do People Go to Hell?

This is a very thought provoking article from 2009.  You can read the original here, but I have included the entire article (just want to give John Piper and Desiring God their proper acknowledgement).

C.S. Lewis is one of the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. But he is not a reliable guide on a number of important theological matters. Hell is one of them. His stress is relentlessly that people are not “sent” to hell but become their own hell. His emphasis is that we should think of “a bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is.” (For all the relevant quotes, see Martindale and Root, The Quotable Lewis, 288-295.)This inclines him to say, “All that are in hell choose it.” And this leads some who follow Lewis in this emphasis to say things like, “All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want.”

I come from the words of Jesus to this way of talking and find myself in a different world of discourse and sentiment. I think it is misleading to say that hell is giving people what they most want. I’m not saying you can’t find a meaning for that statement that’s true, perhaps in Romans 1:24-28. I’m saying that it’s not a meaning that most people would give to it in light of what hell really is. I’m saying that the way Lewis deals with hell and the way Jesus deals with it are very different. And we would do well to follow Jesus.

The misery of hell will be so great that no one will want to be there. They will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 8:12). Between their sobs, they will not speak the words, “I want this.” They will not be able to say amid the flames of the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), “I want this.” “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11). No one wants this.

When there are only two choices, and you choose against one, it does not mean that you want the other, if you are ignorant of the outcome of both. Unbelieving people know neither God nor hell. This ignorance is not innocent. Apart from regenerating grace, all people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The person who rejects God does not know the real horrors of hell. This may be because he does not believe hell exists, or it may be because he convinces himself that it would be tolerably preferable to heaven.

But whatever he believes or does not believe, when he chooses against God, he is wrong about God and about hell. He is not, at that point, preferring the real hell over the real God. He is blind to both. He does not perceive the true glories of God, and he does not perceive the true horrors of hell.

So when a person chooses against God and, therefore, de facto chooses hell—or when he jokes about preferring hell with his friends over heaven Continue reading

Daily Roundup

Barack Obama an Apostle Like Jesus Christ? – As much as it boggles my mind, there are just some things in this life that you can’t make up.  This article is something I just can’t wrap my mind around.

Reflections on X – You can’t look in a mirror and at a mirror at the same time.  Thought provoking article that caused me to look at my own quilt.

John Owen’s Final Words – I can only hope that my final words in this life would be such as Owen’s.

Did Jesus Turn Water into Wine or Grape Juice – Something to read and think about.


History is not a matter of indifference in a single religion, but Christianity itself is and creates a history. Precisely because it is the perfect, absolute, and definitive religion, it is and has to be a historical religion. The reason is that Christianity regards sin not as ignorance, which can easily be overcome by some enlightenment, but as an appalling power, which produces its effects throughout the cosmos; and over against this power it brings reconciliation and redemption in the deepest and broadest sense of those terms. It brings redemption from the guilt and the stain, from all the consequences of sin, from the errors of the intellect and the impurity of the heart, from the death of soul and body. It brings that redemption not only to the individual but also, organically, to the family and generations of families, to people and society, to humanity and the world. For that reason Christianity has to be a history, rooted in facts, producing facts. The facts are the skeletal system of Christianity; specifically, the cross and the resurrection of Christ are the two mainstays on which the Christian faith rests. When that gospel is preached purely, it always includes those facts; and when the preaching of that gospel is blessed and effects faith and conversion, then, in the religious experience of sin and grace, the divinity of this history is sealed. For if Christ did not die and was not raised from the dead, our faith is vain. Those facts, accordingly, are not events that took place at some time in the past and have now lost their significance. They do not stand between us and God, keeping us separate from him. “To the New Testament writers this concentration of faith upon the historic realities of redemption does not in the least interfere with its personal character as a direct act of trust in God and in Christ. The Person is immanent in the facts, and the facts are the revelation of the Person.” – Herman Bavinck

Mere Christianity

About 25 years ago I read The Screwtape Letters and thought it was a fantastic way of looking at spiritual warfare. In the years since I have often thought of reading more by C. S. Lewis, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it. About a month ago I purchased The Great Divorce and read it in 2 days. Again, I was struck by the ability of Mr. Lewis to weave a fictional tale in such a manner that I was left thinking about some really deep spiritual issues.

Now, before you get bent out of shape, understand that Mr. Lewis had a view of Theology that is quite different than mine. From what I have gathered, Lewis’ background was Anglican, yet he seems to have held to some interesting views. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones questioned his salvation and Dr. Bob Jones affirmed it. So, since I respect both men immensely, I’ll just have to leave the sorting of the issue up to God.

So, about two weeks ago, I started reading Mere Christianity. I will admit that it was a fascinating read. Lewis had a wonderful way of looking at things and then being able to put those thoughts into words. It was one of those books you read where you feel your thoughts expanding into areas you didn’t know were possible. It’s almost as if I can hear the voice of John Piper when he is preaching and talking about how your thoughts just soar when you think about the richness of the God that Lewis described in Mere Christianity.

Hopefully over the next few days I’ll be able to post on some of the things I read and how they lifted my thoughts of God to a higher level.

Bottom line, I would not call this book a “must read,” but as long as you are firmly grounded in proper Calvinistic Doctrine, I would say that it is a book you should read. You will definitely look at a few things differently after you read it.

Good’er and Bad’er

A realization has humbled me this morning. So many times we look at life, at people, at this world around us and expect the “right” thing to happen. What happened this morning is I was reading C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. In Book 3, he ends chapter 4 thus:

When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really, you understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

Why is it that this is so simple, yet so hard for Christians to understand? One who does not have the Spirit of God touching their life has no concept of the total depravity that is upon them. I use the illustration that you cannot blame a pig for running back to the mud puddle after you wash it since that is what pigs do. Yet, somehow, we expect a person to not go back to their sinfulness just because we have invited them to come to church, or when we have shared time with them and told them the Gospel. Unless the Spirit of God touches them, there is no hope of them not going back to what they ultimately are.

Our job, as I see it, is to continue being a witness to them for the glory of God and to pray that the Spirit of God open their eyes to who, and what they really are; lost sinners who need a Savior. Like Lewis wrote above, they do not even realize their lost state while He has opened our eyes to our need. That should lead us to Doxology for His mercy to us and renewed prayer that His Spirit touch our lives as well the lives of the lost around us. This should also not make us feel or act in any way superior, it should humble us to the fact that God had mercy on us and touched our lives for His glory so that the fame of His name would be manifest in this world.