If you want lasting victory in the fight against sin, then here are three pivotal things you must know and do. These come from chapter 6 of John Owen’s wonderful book The Mortification of Sin.
1. Really know and believe that sin is your enemy
To know that a man hath such an enemy to deal with, to take notice of it, to consider it as an enemy indeed, and one that is to be destroyed by all means possible, is required hereunto.
We can’t expect victory over sin if we don’t take the fight seriously. Sin is our enemy. We must know it as such. We cannot act indifferent to sin. We must not shrug off sin when it happens, as if it is no big deal. This is important, with eternal consequences!
If you were at war with a physical enemy, and he was plotting against you, and shooting at you, you’d take him seriously. Well, sin is plotting against you and shooting at you. Continue reading
“A man may beat down the bitter fruit from an evil tree, until he is weary; whilst the root abides in strength and vigour, the beating down of the present fruit will not hinder it from bringing forth more. This is the folly of some men. They set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust; but leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification.” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.65]
“When a man first sets on a lust or distemper to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose, it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved…” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.64]
“Introductions, conclusions, and transitions cannot be avoided. Regardless of our intentions or abilities our sermons will have introductions, conclusions, and transitions. The first words you say introduce your message, the last words you say conclude it, and the material that ties these two events together inevitably contains transitions.” [Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, p.228]
“It [mortification] is not the dissimulation of a sin. When a man, on some outward respects, forsakes the practice of any sin, men perhaps may look on him as a changed man; God knows that to his former iniquity he hath added cursed hypocrisy, and is got into a safer path to hell than he was in before. He hath got another heart than he had, that is more cunning: not a new heart, that is more holy.” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.55]
“Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things; first, it will weaken the soul, and deprive it of its vigor; secondly, it will darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace.” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.49]
“Men are galled with the guilt of a sin that hath prevailed over them; they instantly promise to themselves and God that they will do so no more; they watch over themselves and pray for a season, until this heat waxes cold and the sense of sin is worn off; and so mortification goes also, and sin returns to its former dominion.” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.42]
Then several pages later,
“And indeed, I might here bewail the endless foolish labour 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 labour for that which profiteth not.
This is the saddest warfare that any poor creature can be engaged in…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 so that they see it not…” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.45]
What a sad state of affairs! I for one, have definitely been there and done that! He’s right, it doesn’t work. You only raise a cloud of dust by your efforts to defeat sin, and that dust-up serves only to obscure the sin, which you have left untouched.
By the Spirit
There is a better way, Continue reading
“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” [John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.27]