Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Chapter 2)

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you…”

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This week we continue reading the classics together by turning to the second chapter of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. Last week we read the first chapter which was an exposition of Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Owen came to three conclusions: The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin; The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that is may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh, is the constant duty of believers; The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.

Summary

The thesis of the second chapter is this: “Believers ought to make the mortification of indwelling sin their daily work.” The question we must ask ourselves and the exhortation of the author is this:

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.

The rest of the chapter is given or to reasons that we must be at the business of killing sin. It follows this outline:

  1. Indwelling sin always abides; therefore it must always be mortified
  2. Indwelling sin not only abides, but is still acting
  3. Indwelling sin is not only active, but will produce soul-destroying sins if not mortified
  4. Indwelling sin is to be opposed by the Spirit and the new nature
  5. The results of neglecting the mortification of indwelling sin
  6. It is our duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God and grow in grace every day

Discussion

This week I focused in on individual phrases rather than the chapter as a whole. Owen is an eminently quotable author who can distill a chapter or a section to a sentence or to a phrase. The most notable example must be this: “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Who, having read that phrase, will ever forget it? The challenge is laid down in just those nine words. We are at war and there is going to be a victor. Will it be us or will it be sin? Owen says also, “When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone.” As much as I hate sin and long to be free from it, I know that I will be in constant conflict with it until the day I die. It is then, and only then, that sin will leave me alone. It is then, and only then, that I may leave it alone.

Here are a few of the other phrases that I highlighted not just to mark them, but so I could return to them and ponder them.

“He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, does but half his work.”

“Sin does not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.”

“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?”

“There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on.”

“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. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”

“[Sin] has no bounds but utter relinquishment of God and opposition to him.”

“It is our participation of the divine nature that gives us an escape from the pollutions that are in the world through lust.”

“Not to be daily mortifying sin is to sin against the goodness, kindness, wisdom, grace, and love of God, who has furnished us with a principle of doing it.”

“By the omission of this duty grace withers, lust flourishes, and the frame of the heart grows worse and worse.”

“Sin does so remain, so act and work in the best of believers, while they live in this world, that the constant daily mortification of it is all their days incumbent on them.”

I think the one that will stay with me the longest and that will continue to reverberate in my mind (and I hope this is especially true when I am lured and enticed by sin) is this: “Sin aims always at the utmost.” Though sin may compel me to do something that seems small and nearly harmless, sin’s ultimate aim is always greater. Its aim is always more dangerous. Sin aims at the greatest fulfillment of any sin and aims even further to cause me to utterly relinquish God and to be in opposition to Him. What seems small and harmless is really just the first rocks shifting in what aims to become a terrific landslide.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the third chapter of the book. We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

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. Last week’s comments were great and really aided my enjoyment of the chapter. I trust this week will prove the same.