23/01/2007

Overcoming sin and temptation

I've just come across this exciting publication through the Between Two Worlds blog.

{Edit 2013:   I've noticed that Justin's blog has not been updated for over a year.  I don't know why, but I do know that I have been thoroughly blessed by reading it and so the link remains, for now.}

Justin Taylor (who does this blog) has been involved in the editing of a new and clearer edition of John Owen's great classics in Vol VI of his works - On the Mortification of Sin, On Temptation, and On Indwelling Sin in Believers. This new edition is called Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

In the past I have been a little suspicious of "updates" of the great puritan works of the past. While the style of the originals can be difficult to read, it is achievable with work. The puritans teach so thoroughly and they teach so clearly on the experimental (or experiential - to use the more modern term). I am probably unfair, but the role of editor gives that person the opportunity to downplay the more experimental teaching, if it doesn't fit with his/her theology. Every one of us has a theological slant that effects the way we read things and thus the way we might "translate" them into modern language. Hence, ever since discovering the puritans thanks to JI Packer's glorious book Among God's Giants, I have sought to study them in the "original".

Having said that, this new edition of Owen's work appears a full and accurate update - with many additional helps including extra scripture references where Owen makes allusions, translation of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin statements, and some very clear overviews and outlines of Owen's structure. My only tiny gripe is that the language has been Americanised (or Americanized!) but that can be forgiven!!

The file is about 2MB to download - it is well worth it. Or you can buy a hard copy from Amazon. We do need to address the seriousness of indwelling sin in the lives of God's people. As John Piper puts it in his preface

"As I look across the Christian landscape, I think it is fair to say concerning sin, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11, ESV). I take this to refer to leaders who should be helping the church know and feel the seriousness of indwelling sin (Rom. 7:20), and how to fight it and kill it (Rom. 8:13). Instead the depth and complexity and ugliness and danger of sin in professing Christians is either minimized—since we are already justified—or psychologized as a symptom of woundedness rather than corruption...

"We proceed to heal the wound of the people lightly. We look first and mainly for circumstantial causes for the misery—present or past. If we’re good at it, we can find partial causes and give some relief. But the healing is light. We have not done the kind of soul surgery that is possible only when the soul doctor knows the kind of things Owen talks about in these books, and when the patient is willing to let the doctor’s scalpel go deep.

"What Owen offers is not quick relief, but long-term, deep growth in grace that can make strong, healthy trees where there was once a fragile sapling."

Overcoming sin isn't a quick fix, but the Lord, by His divine power "has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1v3). Too often in charismatic churches our people look for a quick fix. Many times people come forward for prayer and ask for "deliverance" from a certain sin and then go away and carry on sinning. I have no doubt that many who come for prayer and many who do the praying are sincerely wanting to be free from sin. We also know that God is merciful and such times can be great means of refreshing and encouragement from the Lord. A mighty touch of the Holy Spirit certainly stirs up love for the Lord and should make sin less attractive.

However, overcoming indwelling sin is not a matter of a quick prayer but a daily and growing application of the grace of God to our lives and a ruthless putting to death of sin in our lives through the power of the cross of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

We never stop fighting sin, we must never rely upon ourselves but continually seek the Lord for fresh grace, because His grace is always sufficient for us.

This book is a powerful tool. May the Lord use it mightily.

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