Thursday, January 23, 2014

Owen, the Spirit, and the Battle Against Sin

John Owen is more insightful than any other author that I have read on the subject of temptation and sin. He makes it clear that sin is a living power that seeks to exert its force in every corner of a man's life, and if the man isn't at work killing sin, he can be certain that sin is killing him. The only power the Christian has in this battle to gain victory over the power of the flesh is the Spirit of God, who enables him to escape the chains that have latched onto his soul and seek to destroy him. The Spirit, however, does not merely bring all this to pass without the effort of the individual. His growth in the killing of sin requires he exercise his own will in the fight.

"The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself. And, indeed, I might here bewail the endless, foolish labor of poor souls, who, being convinced of sin, and not able to stand against the power of their convictions, do set themselves, by innumerable perplexing ways and duties, to keep down sin, but, being strangers to the Spirit of God, all in vain. They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days. They spend their strength for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which profits not (Isa. 55:2).
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in. A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but hath no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back. Sometimes they think, indeed, that they have foiled sin, when they have only raised a dust that they see it not; that is, they distemper their natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, which makes them believe that sin is conquered when it is not touched. But that time they are cold, they must to the battle again; and the lust which they thought to be slain appears to have had no wound."

(John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Treasure and Fear

Our lives should be marked with a healthy fear of God, rather than an unhealthy fear of man. The one who fears man worries that his power, possessions, position, or esteem will be lost, so he succumbs to what he believes will preserve his treasure. The man or woman of God, however, should possess a fear of disobeying the Lord, who possesses all things, including one's very life (Matt. 10:28). Do you live in the light, as one who is under the watchful eye of the Most High God? Or are your actions performed with little thought of God, or little thoughts of Him? Is the God of your imagination lacking in knowledge of your deeds and thoughts, or does he lack power to judge rightly? If our minds were clear and shaped by the truth of who God is, we would possess a holy fear of Him, run to the cross daily, and praise God for His grace that a Savior has removed His righteous wrath from us. If we took seriously his awesomeness and holiness, we would grieve deeply over every sinful choice, impure thought, and careless word, and would be more intentional with our course in life. What you treasure will direct your path. Do you treasure the approval of God, or of man? Your choices will reflect both your treasure and your fear (See 1 Samuel 15:10-31, Acts 5:27-32).