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Archive for the ‘mortification’ Category

“It is better to mortify one sin than to understand all mysteries.”

source: Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance

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Suppose you are in a car race and your enemy, who doesn’t want you to finish the race, throws mud on your windshield. The fact that you temporarily lose sight of your goal and start to swerve, does not mean that you are going to quit the race. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong race track. Otherwise the enemy wouldn’t bother you at all. What it means is that you should turn on your windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow, our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether, by grace, we set in motion a process of resistance—whether we  fight back against the unbelief of anxiety. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer?

… The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief, and the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit. The battle to be freed from sin, as we have seen, is “by the Spirit and by faith in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13). The work of the Spirit and the Word of the truth. These are the great faith builders.

Without the softening work of the Holy Spirit, the wipers of the Word just scrape over the blinding clumps of unbelief. Both are necessary—the Spirit and the Word. We read the promises of God and we pray for the help of his Spirit. And as the windshield clears so that we can see the welfare that God plans for us (Jer 29:11), our faith grows stronger and the swerving anxiety smooths out.

Source: John Piper, Future Grace

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Let thy soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these:

"I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption if too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, that hath all fullness of grace in his heart, all fullness of power in his hand, he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, drying soul and make me more than a conqueror. ‘Why sayest thou, O my soul, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgement is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint" He can make the ‘dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water;’ yea, he can make this ‘habitation of dragons,’ this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for ‘grass’ and fruit to himself".

AMEN

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 14.

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John Owen says that everything he has written is prepatory to the work of mortification especially with regard to heart preparation. As to the actual work of mortification he grounds in Christ and the Spirit. This is so much better than ‘try hard’.

Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.

By faith fill thy soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all thy lusts, this very lust wherewith thou art entangled, may be mortified. By faith ponder on this, that though thou art no way able in or by thyself to get the conquest over thy distemper, though thou art even weary of contending, and art utterly ready to faint, yet that there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield thee relief … In thy greatest distress and anguish, consider that fullness of grace, those riches, those treasures of strength, might, and help, that are laid up in him for our support … Let them come into and abide in thy mind. … Christ tells us that we obtain purging grace by abiding in him … To act faith upon the fullness that is in Christ for our supply is an eminent way of abiding in Christ, for both our insition and abode is by faith …

Raise up thy heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ. … "as the eyes of a servant to the hand of his master" … thy soul shall be satisfied, he will assuredly deliver thee; he will slay the lust, and thy latter end shall be peace. Only look for it at his hand …

But wilt thou say, "What ground have I to build such an expectation upon, so that I may expect not to be deceived?" … For the necessity of it, I have in part discovered it before, when I manifested that this is the work of faith and of believers only. "Without me," says Christ, "ye can do nothing" …

Consider his mercifulness, tenderness, and kindness, as he is our great High Priest at the right hand of God. …. Yea, let me add, that never any soul did or shall perish by the power of any lust, sin, or corruption, who could raise his soul by faith to an expectation of relief from Jesus Christ. …

Consider His faithfulness … He hath promised to relieve in such cases, and he will fulfill his word to the utmost.

Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ, which shall assuredly be accomplished by it. He died to destroy the works of the devil. Whatever came upon our natures by his first temptation, whatever receives strength in our persons by his daily suggestions, Christ died to destroy it all. … This was his aim and intendment (wherein he will not fail) in his giving himself for us. That we might be freed from the power of our sins, and purified from all our defiling lusts, was his design.

In one word: This whole work, which I have described as our duty, is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it; as, —

(1) He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified.

(2) The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fullness of Christ for our relief; which is the consideration that stays the heart from false ways and from despairing despondency.

(3) The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ; which is the great sovereign means of mortification.

(4) The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit are we baptized into the death of Christ.

(5) The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification; gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification, when the contrary principle is weakened and abated.

(6) In all the soul’s addresses to God in this condition, it hath supportment from the Spirit. Whence is the power, life, and vigour of prayer? whence its efficacy to prevail with God? Is it not from the Spirit?

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 14.

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NINETH DIRECTION

In case God disquiet the heart about the guilt of its distempers, either in respect of its root and indwelling, or in respect of any eruptions of it, take heed thou speakest not peace to thyself before God speaks it; but hearken what he says to thy soul.

That as it is the great prerogative and sovereignty of God to give grace to whom he pleases … so among those so called and justified, and whom he will save, he yet reserves this privilege to himself, to speak peace to whom he pleaseth, and in what degree he pleaseth, even amongst them on whom he hath bestowed grace.

He bears testimony concerning our condition as it is indeed. We may possibly mistake, and trouble ourselves in vain, or flatter ourselves upon false grounds, but he is the "Amen, the faithful Witness;" and what he speaks of our state and condition, that it is indeed.

Take these two previous observations, and I shall give some rules whereby men may know whether God speaks peace to them, or whether they speak peace to themselves only:–

Men certainly speak peace to themselves when their so doing is not attended with the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin in reference whereunto they do speak peace to themselves …

Let a man make what application he will for healing and peace, let him do it to the true Physician, let him do it the right way, let him quiet his heart in the promises of the covenant; yet, when peace is spoken, if it be not attended with the detestation and abhorrency of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God’s creating, but of our own purchasing. It is but a skinning over the wound, whilst the core lies at the bottom, which will putrefy, and corrupt, and corrode, until it break out again with noisomeness, vexation, and danger. Let not poor souls that walk in such a path as this, who are more sensible of who address themselves for mercy, yea, to the Lord in Christ they address themselves for mercy, but yet will keep the sweet morsel of their sin under their tongue; — let them, I say, never think to have true and solid peace.

How shall we know that our speaking peace is of ourselves rather than from God?

When God speedily causes us to know otherwise.

When we do not wait to hear God’s voice.

When though our rationale conscience and minds feel quietened yet it doth not sweeten the heart with rest and gracious contentation.

When it amends not the life, it heals not the evil, it cures not the distemper. When God speaks peace, it guides and keeps the soul that it "turn not again to folly." When we speak it ourselves, the heart is not taken off the evil; nay, it is the readiest course in the world to bring a soul into a trade of backsliding. If, upon thy plastering thyself, thou findest thyself rather animated to the battle again than utterly weaned from it, it is too palpable that thou hast been at work with thine own soul … In God’s speaking peace there comes along so much sweetness, and such a discovery of his love, as is a strong obligation on the soul no more to deal perversely.

We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly.

When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls. God’s peace is humbling peace, melting peace, as it was in the case of David; never such deep humiliation as when Nathan brought him the tidings of his pardon.

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 13.

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FOURTH DIRECTION

Being thus affected with thy sin, in the next place get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it.

Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after.

FIFTH DIRECTION

Consider whether the distemper with which thou art perplexed be not rooted in thy nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from thy constitution. A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of men.

SIXTH DIRECTION

Consider what occasions, what advantages thy distemper hath taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.

SEVENTH DIRECTION

Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, "Thus far it shall go, and no farther." If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel, — if it once break out, it will have its course.

EIGHTH DIRECTION

Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him. Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin. When Job comes to a clear discovery of the greatness and the excellency of God, he is filled with self-abhorrence and is pressed to humiliation … Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God’s greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments.

Source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 12.

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THIRD DIRECTION

Load they conscience with the guilt of the perplexing distemper.

Owen urges that the Law of Moses be applied to your sin in all its holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness and absoluteness and then see how thou canst stand before it. He urges that one’s conscience be affected with the terror of the Lord in the Law and how righteous it would be that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward. Owen says that the Law should be applied to allow it to do its work of exposing sin, guilt and humbling the soul.

Next he urges to “bring thy lust to the gospel”. I was hoping that he meant so one would find grace. But he says, “not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt”.

… look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, "What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? …

Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God towards thee in particular. … Hast thou not often been ready to conclude thyself, that it was utterly impossible that he should bear any longer with thee; that he would cast thee off, and be gracious no more; that all his forbearance was exhausted, and hell and wrath was even ready prepared for thee and yet, above all thy expectation, he hath returned with visitations of love.

[Consider] how often hast thou been at the door of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the infinite rich grace of God hast been recovered to communion with him again.

[Consider] all God’s gracious dealings with thee, in providential dispensations, deliverances, afflictions, mercies, enjoyments …

By these, I say, and the like means, load thy conscience; and leave it not until it be thoroughly affected with the guilt of thy indwelling corruption, until it is sensible of its wound, and lie in the dust before the Lord. Unless this be done to the purpose, all other endeavours are to no purpose. Whilst the conscience hath any means to alleviate the guilt of sin, the soul will never vigorously attempt its mortification.

source: John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers, Chapter 11.

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