John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 7

24 08 2009

Summary of Chapter 7:

In chapter 7, Owen shares the first of several general rules and principles regarding the mortification of sin. His premise is that “there will be no mortification unless a man be a believer.” His first rule, then, is “Be sure to get an interest in Christ – if you intend to mortify any sin without it, it will never be done.” An unregenerate man can attempt to accomplish mortification, but it will always be in vain because they have none of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is “the Great Sovereign Cause of the mortification of indwelling sin (chapter 3).” Therefore there is absolutely nothing that they can do to “mortify any one sin.”

He anticipates an objection to this line of reasoning. He knows that there will be some who argue, “What, then, would you have unregenerate men that are convinced of the evil of sin to do? Shall they cease striving against sin, live dissolutely, give their lusts their swing, and be as bad as the worst of men?” His answer to that objection was, “No way. We should consider it a wonderful thing that God, in his wisdom, grace, love, and goodness, should be pleased to have His restraining hand upon their lives to keep them from sinning to the extent that all men could.”

From a pastoral perspective, it is hard not to have your heart broken for the masses about which Owens speaks who seek with all their might to mortify their own sin without Christ, attempt to manufacture a righteousness that can only come through Him, and are sadly depending on those efforts for eternal life. Tragic.

Possible Discussion Points:

1) How do the truths of this chapter affect our counseling ministries?

2) Interact with Owen’s statement “There is a peculiar convincing power in the word, which God is oftentimes pleased to put forth, to the wounding, amazing, and, in some sort, humbling of sinners, though they are never converted.”

3) Owens rails on the Catholic churches (and rightfully so) for trying to “pacify conscience without Christ,” but how are evangelical (or fundamentalist) churches doing the same thing?

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.”

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John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 6

17 08 2009

Summary of Chapter 6:

Whereas chapter 5 contained what the mortification of sin is not; chapter 6 contains what it is. Although he will expand further on some of these points later in the book, Owen states that mortification consists in these three things:

1) A habitual weakening of sin. Although some lusts for various reasons are stronger in some people, and although some lusts are more easily discerned, all lust does “equally, universally, incline and impel to sin.” Therefore, it must all be crucified “that the body of death may be destroyed.”

2) A constant fighting and contending against sin. We do this in three ways: a) by knowing that lust is an enemy and taking it seriously, b) by laboring to become acquainted with its counsels, designs, purposes, subtleties, occasions, excuses, etc. and c) by loading it daily with all of things necessary to defeat it.

3) Frequent success. This success is not merely the ruin of its desired result, “but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest.” And although lust will never completely be abolished until our glorification, success means that when lust begin to seduce, “it instantly apprehends sin and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.”

Possible Discussion Points:

1) Owen states that “the reason why a natural man is not always perpetually in the pursuit of some one lust” is “because he has many to serve, every one crying to be satisfied.” Does that phrase diminish the fact of God’s common grace?

2) In what ways do many “set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust, but, leaving the principle and root untouched…?”

3) What practical advice do you have to better understand the “wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions” of our individual lusts?

4) Interact with Owen’s closing paragraph in this chapter concerning the nature of success in this matter.

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 5

10 08 2009

Summary of Chapter 5:

We now begin a section of the book concerning the nature of mortification. While chapter 6 deals more with what the mortification of sin is, Chapter 5 is an invaluable treatise on what the mortification is not. Much of the misunderstanding that exists today concerning sanctification could be cleared up after a careful reading of this chapter. The mortification of sin is not 1) the utter destruction and death of sin in our hearts, 2) simply forsaking outwardly the practice of sin, 3) the improvement of a naturally quiet and sedate nature, 4) rerouting sin from one manifestation of it to another, and 5) occasional conquests over sin usually taking place when a man has either deeply fallen into a certain sin or when he is experiencing calamity in his life.

Possible Discussion Points:

1. Interact with Owen’s thoughts on the mortification of sin not being the utter destruction and death of sin.

2. What are some other examples of sin being diverted in one’s life?

3. Other than the two occasions shared by Owen, can you think of any other “occasions or seasons wherein a man who is contending with any sin may seem to himself to have mortified it?”

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 3

27 07 2009

Over the next two weeks, we will be discussing chapters 3 and 4 of “The Mortification of Sin.” Here is the discussion of chapter 3. You will find the discussion of chapter 4 directly below this post.

Summary of chapter 3:

In chapter 3, Owen reveals the Holy Spirit as “the great sovereign Cause of the mortification of indwelling sin” in the lives of all believers. He is the only One capable of such a work and that all other remedies for our indwelling sin are pure vanity. It is the work of the Holy Spirit because He is the promised One of God given to us to accomplish this work in our lives. He achieves this work of mortification in three ways, 1) “by causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh,” 2) by attacking the “root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away,” and 3) “He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of the sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in His death and fellowship in His sufferings.” But although it is clearly the work of the Spirit in our lives, we are still exhorted to mortify our sin, and should spend our days doing so.

Possible Discussion Points:

1. Discuss the tendency and consequences of those in some circles of fundamentalism who insist on “such outside endeavors, such bodily exercises, such self-performances, such merely legal duties, without the least mention of Christ or His Spirit…” (i.e., grace).

2. Discuss the tension in the statement by Owen, “He (the Holy Spirit) does not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience.”

3. When discussing the third way in which the Spirit mortifies sin, Owen states, “He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith.” Is this speaking of salvation or something subsequent to salvation?

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 4

27 07 2009

Summary of chapter 4:

Owen argues in chapter 4 that the quality of a believer’s spiritual life depends much on the mortification of sin. He contends that the vigor and comfort of our spiritual lives does not primarily proceed from the mortification of sin, the immediate causes being adoption and justification. However, in our day-to-day relationship with the Lord, the mortification of sin plays an integral part, for sin weakens and darkens the soul, denying it its strength. Sin entangles our affections and fills our thoughts with its purposes. It impedes the duty of every believer. The mortification of sin, on the other hand, “prunes all the graces of God and makes room for them in our hearts to grow.” And as Owen so succinctly observes, “Mortification is the soul’s vigorous opposition to self.”

Possible discussion points:

1. Do you see any problems with Owen’s thoughts under the heading “Life, Vigor, and Comfort Are Not Necessarily Connected to Mortification?”

2. Owen makes a very important point when he writes that sin “takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption.” How so?

3. Interact with Owen’s garden illustration toward the end of the chapter. Any personal testimonies of this truth?

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, Preface and Chapter 1

13 07 2009

CHAPTER 2 IS IN A SEPARATE POST BELOW

Format Note

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. I did not include any possible discussion points under the preface, but feel free to discuss it as well. So that our discussion has some organization, please identify which chapter you are discussing and the discussion point. For instance, if you are planning on posting a thought on “What is the meaning of the phrase “you shall live?” Is it speaking of eternal life? Is it speaking of the quality of our current spiritual life? Or, is it a combination of the two, as Owen proposes? (SEEN BELOW),” begin your post with “ch. 1/d. 4 (chapter 1/discussion point 4).” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, then include the chapter and general discussion (e.g. ch. 1/gen.)

We will try this format for the foreseeable future. We will constantly be evaluating how it is working and what needs to be changed. As I mentioned before, it may take us a little while to perfect the system. If you have any suggestions, visit the “Format Recommendations” page. I would appreciate any input.

Preface of Book

Although the Preface of the book was not mentioned as a section to be discussed, I strongly urge you to read it. In it, Owen shares his motivations and purposes in writing the book. All of it is good. I was especially interested in what he had to say in the opening paragraph as he discussed the reasons behind the treatise. First of all, he was motivated to write “Mortification” because of the disability of the majority of professing believers to properly deal with temptation. Second of all, he was concerned with the inclination of many to frustrate the grace of the Lord in the gospel and impose upon themselves and others a yoke of bondage too often resulting in “superstition, self-righteousness, and anxiety of conscience in them who take up the burden which is so bound for them.” My conviction as I read those words is that I see the propensity for both of these errors in my own heart.

Chapter One

Summary:

In the first chapter, Owen lays out the Scriptural foundation for the idea of mortification of sin. He does so by providing an exposition of Romans 8:13 – “If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body you shall live.” He breaks this verse down into five categories: (1) the “condition and coherence” of mortification of sin and eternal life; (2) the persons to whom Paul was referring; (3) the Holy Spirit as the cause and means of mortification; (4) the duty of mortification; and (5) the promise associated with mortification.

Possible Discussion Points:

1. Any issues with Owen’s exposition of Roman 8:13? If this exposition is the basis for the entire work, it had better be sound.

2. Interact with Owen’s idea that “there is a certain infallible connection and coherence between true mortification and eternal life: if you use this means, you shall obtain that end; if you do mortify, you shall live.”

3. What will be the evidences that our mortification of sin is “through the Spirit” and not “from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention” leading to “self-righteousness?”

4. What is the meaning of the phrase “you shall live?” Is it speaking of eternal life? Is it speaking of the quality of our current spiritual life? Or, is it a combination of the two, as Owen proposes?





John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, Chapter 2

13 07 2009

Format Note

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 horrible effects that an “unmortified professor” can have on others (SEEN BELOW),” begin your post with “d. 4 (discussion point 4).” If you wanted to post on your own discussion point, indicate that it is general discussion (e.g. gen.)

We will try this format for the foreseeable future. We will constantly be evaluating how it is working and what needs to be changed. As I mentioned before, it may take us a little while to perfect the system. If you have any suggestions, visit the “Format Recommendations” page. I would appreciate any input.

Summary of Chapter 2:

After laying the foundation in chapter one, Owen begins to build upon that foundation in chapter two. In it, he confirms a deduction made in the opening chapter, namely, “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.” Believers must do so because indwelling sin is always present, always active, and will seek to produce “soul-destroying sins if not mortified.” As a result, indwelling sin is to be actively “opposed by the Spirit and the new nature.” The ramifications of the failure to do so are monstrous. Therefore, “it is our duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God and grow in grace every day.” This is an incredibly rich chapter. One would seemingly be hard-pressed to find one sentence not pregnant with truth.

Possible Discussion Points:

1. The truth of the thought that our indwelling “sin is always acting, always conceiving, always seducing and tempting. Who can say that he had ever anything to do with God or for God, that indwelling sin had not a hand in the corrupting of what he did?”

2. Interact with Owen’s proposition that “Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind.”

3. Interact with the idea that “not to be daily employing the Spirit and the new nature for the mortifying of sin is to neglect that excellent succor which God has given us against out greatest enemy. If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold His hand from giving us more.” What Scripture could be used to prove that point?

4. Converse about the horrible effects that an “unmortified professor” can have on others.