The Mortification of Sin by John Owen PDF Print E-mail
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     the mortification of sin                                

     The Mortification of Sin by John Owen is a very simple book to read  yet contains extremely important lessons on how to overcome sin. It is particularly useful in helping sons overcome the lusts that accompany puberty.      

      The back of the book states: “In this abridgement of a classic work, the famous Puritan John Owen shows the need for Christians to engage in a life-long battle against the sinful tendencies that remain in them, despite their having been brought to faith and new life in Christ. Owen is very insistent that believers cannot hope to succeed in this battle in their own strength. He sees clearly that the fight can be won only through faith in Christ and in the power of the Spirit. Fighting sin with human strength will produce only self-righteousness, superstition and anxiety of conscience. But with faith in Christ, and with the power of the Spirit, victory is certain. This work will be particularly useful in a day not unlike Owen’s, when believers are frequently at peace in the world, but divided among themselves. The temptations of such a time are obvious on every side; the remedy to them is clearly pointed out in this practical and helpful book.”     

     Based on Romans 8:13: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live,” Owen emphasizes the importance of engaging in battle against our sinful natures and taking the necessary actions to put to death the deeds of the flesh, each and every day. However, he cautions against self-wrought means to overcome sins, which only leads to self-righteousness. Instead he shows that only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we please God and receive victory. Although we are freed from the condemning power of sin through the shedding of Christ’s blood, he reminds us of God’s warning not to turn His grace into licentiousness.      

     But what particularly struck our family while reading this book aloud was our negligence in being ever mindful of our enemy’s constant presence, constant watchfulness, and cunning strategy used to undermine us, necessitating daily watchfulness and wise strategy on our part. As we go about our Father’s business each day, we often forget everything except the task at hand, thus thwarting our ability to effectively repel surprise attacks. As the author reminds us, as a lion on a hunt, the enemy never rests from attentively scoping out each of our movements and strategically planning the best way to ensnare us. Thus, the most important point for us was the necessity of our watchfulness for temptation, avoidance of situations that could cause us to sin, and the destruction of our sins daily. For Owen wisely reminds us that the deceitfulness of sin, when left unabated, destructively darkens our minds, dethrones our senses, and hardens our hearts, consequently hindering our communion with Christ, our duty to honor him, His power in our lives, and the peace that only comes through Him.      

      Owen charges us with these words: “Consider what he has done for you already and be ashamed! Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive to universal holiness, and the preserving of our hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that we keep our hearts undefiled for the blessed Spirit Who dwells in us as the temple of God, and keeps us for the Lord.”      

      “Look on Him whom you have pierced, and let it trouble you. Say to your soul, ‘What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this how I pay back the Father for His love? Is this how I thank the Son for His blood?’” This book is a must for studying sin with your children!     

     For the past several weeks at church, Jon has been exhorting each of us to examine our hearts just as the Israelites were to diligently clean their homes from all leavening before partaking of the Passover meal. The following is reprinted from his sermon notes, which I thought might be helpful when going through The Mortification of Sin.      Psalm 139:23,24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Let us be diligent in searching our hearts for leaven.       Mathew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” To be a light to the nations, we must first take dominion of ourselves, which is self-government—for sin shall not rule over us. If we are not living in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are living for ourselves. We must encourage one another to observe all that God has commanded in governing of ourselves, our families, our churches, and then our government, working in a sphere with Christ in the center governing all areas of life by the truth of God’s Word.     

     The diligent preparation that was made prior to Passover also pointed to the preparation necessary in preparing our hearts before partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and of course, that which we should be making each and every day, so that we do not dishonor God or defile His Holy name or make light of His death and merciful offer of pardon. Therefore, let us carefully and thoroughly search our hearts.      

      Exodus 13:6-10: “For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.” Notice that God tells His people that “nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.” In all your borders! We must be careful to remove all sin from our homes, for it will not only destroy us but our children as well. When our wives make our bread, they let the yeast set to rise and expand. That is why sin is compared to leaven, for it continues to rise and expand, just as a bruise in an apple continues to grow if not removed.     

     1 Corinthians 5:7,8: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”     

     Let us not grow careless in our walk or idle in our examination of our hearts, nor rest overconfidently upon our position with God, or use grace as a means to sin defining God to fit our own comfort, thinking that the Lord will understand—for after all we are only human. For God is Holy and requires us to be holy. Therefore, let us not use His name in vain by calling ourselves Christians if we persist in disobedience. The foolish man denies God’s government, but the Word continues to reaffirm that God rules and will not be mocked—He searches all hearts and punishes all rebellion. So let us not delay in repenting of our sins. For just as the children of Israel ate unleavened bread because they left Egypt hurriedly, let us make haste towards our deliverance and towards our promised land as well, by fleeing all evil. We must walk in a righteousness that befits a Christian so that when we say that we are Christian, it is evident to others in the workplace that what offends God offends us. We are to be light and speak truth.     

      Deuteronomy 23:14: “Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.” What is your camp? It is your home and your family! We must be diligent in cleansing our hearts and our homes and our families from all that is indecent to God.      

     Romans 6:1,2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” In the KJV it reads, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” We live in grace, and grace is good, but can we continue to roll in sin? No, for God forbids it! “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” How can we do that to God? God forbid that we continue on in sin. All of us should continually pray, “God give me that strength that I do not continue in my sin.”      

     Romans 6:3-23: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”