This morning we come to the end of the second classic we’ve been reading together. Chapter 14 marks the end of John Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. If you are interested in knowing what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Reading Classics Together.
Today we are at the fourth and final part of the book: directions for the work of mortification.
- Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sin
- This whole work is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it
- The Spirit alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified
- The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief
- The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ
- The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power
- The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification
- In all the soul’s addresses to God in this condition, it has support from the Spirit
I know that the purpose of this initiative is not to critique the books we read, but I do have to say that I found this chapter a rather anti-climactic end to the book. The directions for the work itself were brief and several of them received only a sentence or two of explanation. I’m sure this is by the author’s design. Maybe I am just lazy and am looking for a too-simple ABC, 123 kind of format—the “ten easy steps” kind of format that is so popular in publishing today. Instead, these directions for the work of mortification did not seem so easily applicable.
The main point of this chapter is an important one and a good way of summarizing all that Owen has said. This work of mortification of sin is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. And maybe in this way the words in this final chapter really are the best way of ending. Even while we are responsible for joining the Spirit in the work of putting sin to death, and even while God will hold us to account, we depend on His Spirit. Without this reminder, maybe we would be prone to pride as we looked at the sin we had put behind us (such irony! Taking pride in putting sin to death…). Maybe we would forget that it is only with His power that we can do this. And so Owen ends with a final reminder that the Spirit convinces the heart of evil, that the Spirit reveals to us the fullness of Christ, that the Spirit establishes the hope for relief from the work of Christ, that the Spirit brings the cross into our hearts to destroy sin, that the Spirit authors and finishes our sanctification and that, whatever we do to truly and genuinely put sin to death, it is a work that begins and ends with the Spirit.
If I can just hold onto this, knowing that the Spirit is eager to mortify the sin I hold to, and that He is the active agent of change. If I can hold onto this, the book will have a lifelong impact on my faith.
Now that we’ve come to the end of this book, we’ll take a brief break and then decide which classic we’ll read together next. I’m open to any and all suggestions!
As always, I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Please post your 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 something exceedingly clever or profound. Simply share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause. You can also post any questions that came up. Let’s be certain that we are reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been very helpful and have aided my enjoyment of the book. I have every reason to believe that this week will prove the same.