Sin promises so much but delivers so little. Sin always amplifies its benefits and minimizes its cost. Sin always aims at the uttermost, always nudging toward utter death and destruction. And yet we love our sin, and secretly harbor it, and grieve to turn aside from it.
John Owen has a challenge for you. Before that next big sin you are pondering, he wants you to simply consider three things.
Consider the Guilt of It
Before that next sin, consider the guilt of it. Your sin will always try to convince you that it isn’t very serious and not worth worrying about. “It is one of the deceits of a prevailing lust to extenuate its own guilt. ‘Is it not a little one? Though this be bad, yet it is not so bad as such and such an evil; others of the people of God have had such a frame; yea, what dreadful actual sins have some of them fallen into!’ Innumerable ways there are whereby sin diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt.” I know you can identify with this! Sin always amplifies its benefits and minimizes its guilt. Says Owen, “This is the proper issue of lust in the heart—it darkens the mind that it shall not judge aright of its own guilt.”
The Christian who sins does so in spite of the grace of God in his life, and the presence of the Holy Spirit warning him against sin. Reflecting on Romans 6:1-2 Owen asks, “How shall we do it, who, have received grace from Christ to the contrary? We, doubtless, are more evil than any, if we do it.” Indeed, we are.
Consider the Danger of It
Before that next sin, consider the danger of it—the future consequences to your life and soul.
The Danger of Being Hardened by Sin’s Deceitfulness. The ultimate aim of your sin is to fully harden you against God. Owen reflects on Hebrews 3:12-13 and says, “’Take heed,’ says he, ‘use all means, consider your temptations, watch diligently; there is a treachery, a deceit in sin, that tends to the hardening of your hearts from the fear of God.’ The hardening here mentioned is to the utmost—utter obduration; sin tends to it, and every distemper and lust will make at least some progress toward it.” Every sin nudges you toward a complete and utter hardness of heart.
Your sin is always several steps ahead of you. Remember what Owen said earlier in the book, that sin is always aiming at the uttermost, always aiming at your death and destruction. “Is it not enough to make any heart tremble, to think of being brought into that estate wherein he should have slight thoughts of sin? Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. Take heed, this is that [which] your lust is working toward—the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupifying of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul.”
The Danger of Some Great Temporal Correction. Think about the fact that your sin may lead God to discipline you, even while he still forgives you. “Though God should not utterly cast you off for this abomination that lies in your heart, yet he will visit you with the rod; though he pardon and forgive, he will take vengeance of your inventions” (Ps. 89:30-33). God, as a loving Father, sometimes disciplines us for our own good.
The Danger of Loss of Peace and Strength All a Man’s Days. Your sin may even bring about long-term consequences that will extend through all of life. “It is perhaps but a little while and you shall see the face of God in peace no more. Perhaps by tomorrow you shall not be able to pray, read, hear or perform any duties with the least cheerfulness, life, or vigor; and possibly you may never see a quiet hour while you live…”
The Danger of Eternal Destruction. The greatest danger of all is that those who continue in sin may prove that they are not saved. “There is such a connection between a continuance in sin and eternal destruction that though God does resolve to deliver some from a continuance in sin that they may not be destroyed, yet he will deliver none from destruction that continue in sin; so that while anyone lies under an abiding power of sin, the threats of destruction and everlasting separation from God are to be held out to him.” While sin–even serious sin–does not necessarily prove that we are unsaved, continuing in sin without any progress against it, should stand as a serious warning.
Consider the Evils of It
Before that next sin, consider the evils of it—the present consequences to your life and soul.
It Grieves the Holy and Blessed Spirit. There should be no greater incentive to the Christian than pleasing God by avoiding sin. “He is grieved by it. As a tender and loving friend is grieved at the unkindness of his friend, of whom he has well deserved, so is it with this tender and loving Spirit, who has chosen our hearts for a habitation to dwell in, and there to do for us all that our souls desire. … Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, and the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all unity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who has undertaken to dwell in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment into their hearts unto, and rejoices when his temple is kept undefiled.”
The Lord Jesus Christ Is Wounded Afresh By It. Every sin also grieves Christ. “His new creature in the heart is wounded; his love is foiled; his adversary gratified. As a total relinquishment of him, by the deceitfulness of sin, is the ‘crucifying him afresh, and the putting of him to open shame’ (Heb. 6:6), so every harboring of sin that he came to destroy wounds and grieves him.”
It Will Take Away a Man’s Usefulness in His Generation. Your sin reduces your usefulness to God. “His works, his endeavors, his labors seldom receive blessing from God. If he be a preacher, God commonly blows upon his ministry, that he shall labor in the fire, and not be honored with any success or doing any work for God; and the like may be spoken of other conditions. The world is at this day full of poor withering professors. How few are there that walk in any beauty or glory!”
Keep alive upon your heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil;
be much in the meditation of these things;
cause your heart to dwell and abide upon them;
engage your thoughts into these considerations;
let them not go off nor wander from them
until they begin to have a powerful influence upon your soul—
until they make it to tremble.
Next Thursday we will continue with the eleventh chapter of the book—we are nearing the end! You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.
I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.
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