John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 12

20 10 2009

Summary of Chapter 12:

In Chapter 12, Owen shares his eighth particular direction for the mortification of sin in our lives: Use and exercise yourself to such meditations as may serve to fill you at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of your own vileness. First of all, we are to do so by being “much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and your infinite, inconceivable, distance from Him.” Whenever we do, it leads to a deep sense of humiliation. The second meditation flows from the first: “Think much of your unacquiantedness with him.” How little even the wisest of believers knows of His infinite greatness. And the reason is two-fold. First of all, God has not chosen to reveal all of Himself to mankind. God is by nature invisible and incomprehensible to the mortal mind. Second of all, we know so little because it is faith alone through which one is able to know Him, and faith by definition is the acknowledgement of “things not seen.” Meditating upon the “inconceivable greatness of God” and the “infinite distance” that separates Him from His creation should “fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of Him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatsoever…”

Possible Discussion Points:

1) I have spoken with some who use the fact that God is inconceivable to excuse their lack of seeking deep knowledge about Him. How do we counsel such people?

2) What are some of the specific things about the Lord that we know today in a much clearer way than those who lived in OT times? What should the results be of that advantage?

Format:

In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”





The good news… and the bad

12 10 2009

Dear Friends,

The good news is that we held our first services in our new building yesterday. The bad news is that there is still much to do this week. If it is fine with you all, I have pushed off the next chapter until next Monday. I thought that I would be able to get this chapter read and summarized yesterday, but I was very simply too worn out to do so. Thanks for understanding. Now that the building is done, I hope to be able to get much more involved in the discussion as well.

Grace and peace to you all.





John Owen, Mortification of Sin, Chapter 11

28 09 2009

Quick Note:

Due to the busyness of some in our group, we are going to take the next couple of weeks to discuss this chapter. Personally, our church has a building project that should be completed within the next 10 days or so, so I am absolutely swamped right now. Thank you all for your participation.

Summary of Chapter 11:

In chapters 9 and 10, John Owen gives two “Particular Directions for Mortification.” His first was to “consider whether your lust has these dangerous symptoms accompanying it.” His second: “Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.” Here in chapter 11, Owen lays out five more particular directions for the mortification of sin.

1) Load your conscience with the guilt of sin. In doing so, he recommends that one “begin with generals, and so descend to particulars.” He encourages all believers to “bring the holy law of God into your conscience, lay your corruption to it, and pray that you may be affected with it.” He also encourages us to bring our lust to the gospel, not for relief, but for further conviction and to be in bitterness of soul over our sin. He further exhorts his readers to consider not only the patience and forbearance of the Lord toward us but all of God’s gracious dealings with us. How could we continue in sin when we see the guilt of it in the law, the horror of it in the death of Christ, and the shamefulness of it in the gracious dealings of the Lord.

2) Consider long and breathe after deliverance from the power of sin. We should not for one moment allow ourselves to be satisfied in our current spiritual state. We should strongly desire righteousness and holiness.

3) Consider whether the distemper is rooted in your nature and increased by your constitution. This is not to excuse our sin in any way. Rather, it is so that we will know better how to, as Paul, “discipline our body and bring it under subjection.”

4) Consider the occasions and advantages your distemper has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all. We are to carefully “consider what way, what companies, what opportunities, what studies, what businesses, what conditions” that “have at any time given, or do usually give, advantages to our distempers and set ourselves heedfully against them all.”

5) Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your distemper. Owen powerfully encourages his readers to not allow lust and temptation to gain even a small foothold in their lives, for “if it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin.”

Possible Discussion Points:

1) While I am sure that he will deal with this in greater detail at a later time, what is the proper balance for looking at the law for guilt and the gospel for assurance when sin is present in our lives?

2) Interact with Owen’s statement: “Longing desires after any thing, in things natural and civil, are of no value or consideration, any farther but as they incite and stir up the person in whom they are to a diligent use of means for the bringing about the thing aimed at. In spiritual things it is otherwise. Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after.”

3) What is the benefit of fasting with regards to mortification? How often should it be done? What would your counsel be to another who was planning on fasting for the mortification of their sin?

4) Owen’s last point in this chapter was tremendous. I could have highlighted every word of the section. That is not really a discussion point, I know. I just felt like pointing that out.

Format:

In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”





Week Off

21 09 2009

Friends,

If it is okay with everyone, I would like to push chapter 11 off until next week. I have been absolutely swamped this past week. I have just not had the time to put into getting another chapter ready. Also, I would like to meditate on and discuss chapter 10 some more. It was such a powerful and important chapter and there was almost no discussion on it. I would like for us to spend a little more time considering it.

For those who were ready to start chapter 11, I apologize. Keep your thoughts ready for next Monday. Have a wonderful week.





John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 10

14 09 2009

Summary of Chapter 10:

In chapter 9, John Owen began a section on “Particular Directions for Mortification.” His first was to “consider whether your lust has these dangerous symptoms accompanying it.” He used chapter 9 to lay out those dangerous symptoms. In chapter 10, he turns his attention to another particular direction for mortification: get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.

Owen challenges every believer to consider the evil of their sin. What a temptation it is for us to defend or excuse our sin; to make it seem not quite so heinous as another sin or the sins in another’s life. There are so many ways that sin “diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt.” But the simple fact is that our sin, as redeemed children of God, is even more heinous in many respects because of our position in Christ and the indwelling power and presence of the Spirit of God.

Owen challenges every believer to consider the dangers of their sin. It hardens us through its deceitfulness. It opens us up to “some great temporal correction.” It causes a “loss of peace and strength all a man’s days.” It leaves us with no “clear prevailing evidence of” our “interest in the covenant.”

Owen challenges every believer to consider the evils of their sin. It grieves the indwelling Spirit of God. It wounds afresh the Lord Jesus Christ. It will greatly hinder our spiritual usefulness in our generation. This should be an especially dreadful section for every preacher of the Word.

Possible Discussion Points:

1) Interact with Owen’s statement that just “as God sees abundance of beauty and excellency in the desires of the heart of His servants, more than in any [of] the most glorious works of other men…so God sees a great deal of evil in the working of lust in their hearts, yea, and more than in the open, notorious acts of wicked men…

2) Converse about the horrifying effects of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. While the whole chapter was challenging, this section was especially troubling and fearful to me.

3) What are some important things to consider as we counsel Christians who have experienced tremendous loss? At what point are we to explore the possibility of sin in their lives that led to that loss? How do we not become like Job’s friends in the process?

4) Interact with the awful realities of the evils of sin. I am afraid that most believers rarely or never consider some of these realities.

Format:

In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”





John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 9

7 09 2009

By Jared Heatherly

Summary:

In chapter 5, Owen proposed the question, “Suppose a man to be a true believer, and yet finds in himself a powerful indwelling sin, leading him captive to the law of it, consuming his heart with trouble, perplexing his thoughts, weakening his soul as to duties of communion with God, disquieting him as to peace, and perhaps defiling his conscience, and exposing him to hardening through the deceitfulness of sin, what shall he do?”
In answer to that question, first, he showed what it is to mortify any sin (chapters 5-6). Next, he gave ways and means whereby a soul may proceed to the mortification of any particular lust and sin (chapters 7-8). In chapter 9, he begins to lay out more specific, practical considerations of guidance for a professing believer in such a state.
Chapter 9 is dedicated to exposing dangerous marks and symptoms that ought to put us on notice that our hearts are in big trouble, that extraordinary measures need to be taken that our hearts might be restored.
After listing 6 such dangerous marks and symptoms, he ends the chapter with a sobering caution that if we find these marks and symptoms in our hearts, we would do well to examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). “But that any man is so, he must look for other evidences if he will have peace.”

Possible discussion points:

D1- Under the first dangerous mark and symptom, Owen lists several things that “eat up” duties whereby we ought to hold constant communion with God. One of those listed is “greediness of study.” Reflect on the difference between study (especially bible study and theological study) and communion with God.
D2- At the end of the chapter, Owen says that if we find our hearts full of these dangerous marks and symptoms, we need to realize that true believers can be ensnared in these, but when these are persisting in the heart, that one should not conclude that he is a believer. Instead, Romans 7 contains the description of the regenerate man. He is clearly challenging us to examine our hearts. What is the difference between this examination and what he discusses under the second dangerous mark and symptom, trying to offset the conviction of sin with searching the heart “to see what evidences he can find of a good condition…”?
D3- Interact with Owen’s statement regarding applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin, “The flesh would fain be indulged unto upon the account of grace, and every word that is spoken of mercy, it stands ready to catch at and to pervert it, to its own corrupt aims and purposes.”
D4- Under the fourth dangerous mark and symptom, he speaks a lot of trying to oppose sin by legal accounts (shame and fear) instead of “gospel weapons.” Discuss the connection between a believer trying to oppose sin by legal accounts and Owen’s connection of a lack of assurance of salvation.
D5- How can we personally, as well as in dealing with others, exercise our duty to mortify sin, while at the same time, seek and rely on the sovereign grace of God (mentioned in the last dangerous mark and symptom) to deal with our prevailing lusts?

Format:

In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”





John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 8

31 08 2009

Summary of Chapter 8:

In this short but very powerful chapter, John Owen asserts, “There will be no mortification of any sin without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience.” In other words, one will never experience true mortification of sin in one area while neglecting their duties in another. “God’s work consists in universal obedience.” Nor will true mortification take place while one applies himself to “the cure of his sore, if he leave the general habit of his body under distempers…” It is in vain.

Therefore, Owen lays down this guiding principle: “Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting, a sense of love of Christ in the cross, lies at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification.” He contends that much attempt at mortification in our lives in fact “proceeds from self-love.” The reason that many want to be rid of sin is that “it disquiets you, it has taken away your peace, it fills your heart with sorrow and trouble and fear; you have no rest because of it.” It does not stem from a “hatred of sin as sin” or “a sense of love for Christ in the cross.”

Owen ends the chapter with a question and an answer. Is it possible that God permits lust to overpower for our own spiritual good; to “awaken” us and “admonish us” and “humble us” and “perhaps to chasten and correct us for our general loose and careless walking?” His answer: absolutely.

Possible Discussion Points:

• How can we as Biblical counselors help those whom we are called to help deal with the roots of their sin and not just the manifestation of it?

• Interact with Owen’s assertion that Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, was actually strong temptation to keep him from the sin of pride concerning his spiritual revelations.

• Interact with Owen’s gut-wrenching statement, “He, then, that would really, thoroughly, and acceptably mortify any disquieting lust, let him take care to be equally diligent in all parts of obedience, and know that every lust, every omission of duty, is burdensome to God, though but one is so to him.” Ouch.

Format:

In the discussion of each chapter I have included a short summary of its content and some possible discussion points. Feel free to discuss whatever you want within the chapter though. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on the third discussion point, begin your post with “d. 3.” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then begin with “d. general.”