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.”

 

 

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.

Round Up

Bound to Work: 3 Reasons You Should Not Try To Bind Satan – Spiritual warfare is real. It might not make the news; but it ought to.

The Problem’s Never At God’s End – “When people don’t get healed, the problem is never at God’s end.” Pithy, popular, memorable, intuitive – but also misleading, and sometimes very unhelpful.

Who Is Responsible For Your Spiritual Growth?Our spiritual growth clearly involves human exertion. But what, then, are we to make of God’s sovereignty over our growth?

The Perfect Hamburger? – It’s summer time, so, how to make a great hamburger is a question that has bedeviled the nation for generations, for as long as Americans have had griddles and broilers, for as long as summertime shorts-wearing cooks have gone into the yard to grill.

Quote:

The whole world is not a theater large enough to display the glory of Christ upon or unfold even half of the unsearchable riches that lie hidden in Him. And such is the deliciousness of this subject, Christ, that were there ten thousand volumes written upon it, they would never become tiring to the heart. We used to say that any one thing can finally tire us and this is true, except about this one eminent thing, Christ, and then one can never tire, for such is the variety of sweetness in Christ. – John Flaval

Round Up

Conditions of the Covenant – By faith alone a sinner is justified and the road that a justified sinner must travel in order to enter glory is paved with good works.

Presuppositionalism Made EasyToo often there is more dispute on how Presuppositional apologetics should be performed and less practical instruction on how to put it to use. This is a great post on putting it to use.

The New Birth:  Before Or After Repentence and Faith? – The doctrine of the new birth, also known as regeneration, is a central teaching in the broader doctrine of salvation.  Unfortunately, not all Christians see eye-to-eye in regards to the place of regeneration in the ordo salutis (order of salvation).

 

 

Assurance

Prayer  SlimJim from The Domain For Truth continues with part 8 of his Assurance of Salvation series.  While reading through his outline, I was reminded of Walter Marshalls’ The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (pdf version here).  In this day and age of easy believism where anyone who “walks the aisle” is a Christian, I can’t help but be confounded how a holy God, an almighty Deity, seems to have so little changing power in the lives of many of those who call upon His name.

Marshall states very early in this work:

The Lord is not at all loved with that love that is due to Him as Lord of all, if He is not loved with all our heart, spirit and might. We are to love everything in Him, His justice, holiness, sovereign authority, all-seeing eye, and all His decrees, commands, judgements, and all His doings. We are to love Him, not only better than other things, but singly, as only good, the fountain of all goodness; and to reject all fleshly and worldly enjoyments, even our own lives, as if we hated them, when they stand in competition with our enjoyment of Him, or our duty towards Him. We must love Him as to yield ourselves wholly up to His constant service in all things, and to His disposal of us as our absolute Lord, whether it is for prosperity or adversity, life or death. And, for His sake, we are to love our neighbor – even all men, whether they are friends or foes to us; and so do to them in all things, that concern their honor, life, chastity, worldly wealth, credit and content, whatever we would that men should do to us in the like condition (Matt. 7:12). This spiritual universal obedience is the great end to the attainment of which I am directing you. And, that you may not reject my enterprise as impossible, observe that the most I promise is no more than an acceptable performance of these duties of the law such as our gracious merciful God will certainly delight in and be pleased with during our state of imperfection in this world, and such as will end in perfection of holiness and all happiness in the world to come.

  This presupposes that we “do” something, which is out of step with current evangelicalism which emphasizes justification by faith alone, which I affirm, but nothing more, which I don’t agree with.  Sanctification is something that should be very real in the Christian’s life.  As I recently heard it said, sanctification should be the outworking of an incredible joy in our justification. Basically, if we are excited and understand our justification, we will be excited to grow and walk in our sanctification, which is something we do by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, click the link below and head on over to The Domain For Truth and ask yourself some of the questions that SlimJim poses.

Assurance of Salvation Part 8: Questions to examine ourselves Part 2

I have also included links the the first 7 parts in case you might have missed any of them.

Assurance of Salvation Part 7: Questions to examine ourselves Part 1

Assurance of Salvation Part 6: Do you understand the Gospel?

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

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

Assurance of Salvation Part 3: Perseverance means a Believer Endure

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

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

Assurance

I just love my Amazon wish list.  Because I love to read, my Amazon wish list has quite a few books on it that I would like to have.  The problem is that those books, at times, cost more than my budget allows.  But the real beauty of my list is that I do quite a lot of Information Technology work on a part time basis, and instead of charging people, I give them directions to my wish list and literally leave it up to them which book to purchase, and how many books they think my time is worth.  Needless to say, my library has grown a little faster than I can keep up with, not that I’m complaining.

Yesterday I received a couple of books for a job I did a week ago and one of the books I got was No Holiness, No Heaven! by Richard Alderson. In the first chapter, Alderson makes it abundantly clear that without a desire for holiness a person is not saved.  That is not to say that we will be perfectly holy or not have times where that desire wains, but if we are truly justified, we will have a pronounced desire to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God.  As 1 John 3:9 states, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (NASB).  Again, this is not to say that we will walk in sinless perfection, but our increasing desire will be to know Christ in a manner so that we are conformed, day by day, to be more like Him.  This desire WILL produce fruit in a true Christian’s life and this fruit will be evident.

Often times I look back over my life and see this fruit.  How you might ask?  By realizing that sins that once were dominating in my life, aren’t so strong; still there, but not ruling over me.  Another way that I see it is that I don’t desire things like I once did.  At one point in my life music was everything to me.  I would listen to what is now known as “Classic Rock” for hours.  I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I spent on music.  But now, I find myself no longer wanting to do that.  Of course, when I happen to be somewhere and hear a song from my past, many times I’ll sing along, but I don’t go out of my way to seek those situations out.

isaiah-seraphim-coalI say all of this because it gives me assurance that God is working in my heart and mind.  It is a slow progression that has not happened in a day, a week, or even a year.  But it has been something that has taken place over the last 5 years and it hasn’t been noticed just by me.  The biggest confirmation is when those who I have known for years have told me that I am not the same as I used to be.  So, you have both an internal and external witness of sanctification and that assures me of my salvation.

Having said that, I’ll be so bold to say that if you are not able to internally look back over the past 5-10 years and see that your life has changed dramatically and if people come up to you and tell you that you haven’t seemed to change, which is an external indication, then, if you call yourself a Christian, you most likely have very little assurance in your salvation.  Alderson, in his book states:

It is totally foreign to Scripture to suggest that one can receive Christ as Saviour from hell, but not as the Lord who saves from sin.  The Bible knows nothing of those who are ‘Christians’ but not ‘disciples’; of ‘believers’ who are ‘carnal’ but not yet ‘spiritual’; of those who are ‘justified’ but not yet ‘sanctified’.

On the contrary, Scripture is full of warnings about those who make extravagant claims to fellowship with God but whose moral nature remains unchanged.  They many have great charismatic gifts and engage in remarkable acts of philanthropy, yet still remain spiritually dead and strangers to grace (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  Those with true saving faith live as Christ lived.  Those who persevere in a sinful life merely proclaim thereby that they are not Christians at all.

J. C. Ryle, in a comment upon the words of Christ, ‘Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing’ (luke 12:43), shows the importance of the distinctions we have given above.  He writes:

It is not the servant who is found wishing and professing, but the servant who is found “doing,” whom Jesus calls “blessed.”  The lesson is one which many, unhappily, shrink from giving, and many more shrink from receiving.  We are gravely told that to talk of “working,” and “doing,” is legal, and brings Christians into bondage!  Remarks of this kind should never move us.  They savour of ignorance or perverseness.  The lesson before us is not about justification, but about sanctification, – not about faith, but about holiness; the point is not what a man should do to be saved, – but what ought a saved man to do.  The teaching of Scripture is clear and express upon this subject.  A saved man ought to be “careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).  The desire of a true Christian ought to be, to be found “doing.” (pgs 7-8, emphasis mine).

If you find your desire to be doing as Christ did, if you find that you want to be more like Christ, you should find that you have an assurance IN Christ.  Which leads me to Assurance of Salvation Part 7: Questions to examine ourselves Part 1 by SlimJim at The Domain For Truth.  There are some good questions and points that you should ask yourself and ponder.

In case you missed any of the other 6 posts on Assurance, I have posted the links below.

Assurance of Salvation Part 6: Do you understand the Gospel?

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

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

Assurance of Salvation Part 3: Perseverance means a Believer Endure

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

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

Round Up

Intellect, Worship, and the Irreducible Complexity of the Christian Life – When you mention worship to most American Christians, their thoughts will immediately focus on weekly church services, usually on Sunday.  Now worship does (or can) indeed happen at these gatherings, but worship is a much broader and more comprehensive concept in Scripture.

The Oldest Trick in the Book – I love that new GEICO commercial where the guy in the movie theater says, “Did you know there really is an ‘oldest trick in the book’?” Then the scene flashes back to ancient times where a man looks into an old book, and says, “Trick number one.  Lookest over there.”  The man then points across the room. His apprentice looks and of course sees nothing. Then the man says, “Madest thou look.”

Good Works and Sanctificaiton – The following 5 questions are answered – What are good works? Why do good works? Who brings forth our good works? How good are these good works? Then how are our good works acceptable to God?

Three Reasons to Get Some Sleep – Life is short. Stay awake for it.  Christian, life is short. You should get some sleep.

Quote:

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission.

The providential government of God over everything in this world is a truth of which the Greek and Roman philosophers had no conception. It is a truth which is specially revealed to us in the word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of God’s hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect, so does the Bible teach us that there is wisdom, order, and design in all the events of our daily life. There is no such thing as ‘chance,’ ‘luck,’ or ‘ accident’ in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are ‘working together’ for the believer’s good. (Rom. viii. 28.)

Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God’s hand in all that befalls us, if we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ. Let us strive to realize that a Father’s hand is measuring out our daily portion, and that our steps are ordered by Him. A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness, and a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent. We should try to feel in the day of trial and disappointment, that all is right and all is well done. We should try to feel on the bed of sickness that there must be a ‘needs be.’ We should say to ourselves, ‘God could keep away from me these things if He thought fit. But He does not do so, and therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently. I have ‘an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.’ (2 Sam. xxiii. 5.) What pleases God shall please me.’” – J C Ryle