- Even the very best Christians need to make it their duty, to their dying day, to mortify the deeds of the flesh. The fight will never be over until we get to glory:
- Great quote: Be killing sin or it will be killing you.
- Note: Owen strongly urges his readers on to do this duty. For those of us who are reformed (theologically) there can be a tendency towards “quietism” – let go and let God. But here we are called to action – we must see this as a duty for us to do.
Reasons why we need to always be mortifying:
1.1 Indwelling sin will always abide while we are in the world
There are some that would argue that we can reach perfection in this life but this is mere foolishness. There are texts which point to the reality of growth and renewal – these point to the reality that we are growing from corruption being renewed from corruption. Indwelling sin will always live in us to some degree in this world. There are also texts which explicitly lay it out: “the flesh wars against the spirit and spirit against the flesh”
1.2 Indwelling sin is always acting – it never calls for a truce, it is always at war.
“The spirit that lives in us lusts to envy”. Indwelling sin is relentless – it never stops. Therefore, if we stop mortifying – we are lost. Even our most sincere prayers and religious work is tainted by sin. George Whitfield said I cannot even pray without sinning.
1.3 If we do not take this duty seriously indwelling sin will go on to create great, scandalous and soul destroying sins.
David is, of course, a clear example of this. Paul lists in Galatians 5 what the works of the flesh are such as adultery, witchcraft, murder. We are fools to say ‘it will never come that’. Look how eminent David was in his Godliness and yet his complacency brought terrible catastrophic failure. Sin is so crafty in its progress – we can be sunk before we awake to the danger!
1.4 One primary reason for the giving of the Spirit is to fight the flesh
Paul points out that the flesh lusts against the Spirit – but (praise God) the Spirit lusts against the flesh.
Praise the Lord – fulfilling the flesh is not the only instinct that we feel. If we are saved then we will be also driven toward holiness. It is great foolishness to see two men fighting and bind one man up so he can’t fight. If we don’t use this instrument of the ‘new man’ that’s what we are doing. We are also sinning against the goodness of God in that we are not using what we have, God may withhold further strength because we are refusing to use the weapons he has already given.
1.5 To neglect mortifying puts us in a terrible state of misery
The Christians life is supposed to be marked by Exercise and success; there is supposed to be a growing strength, holiness & progress. When a Christian fails to mortify, the soul withers and becomes like a man who takes blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil. The soul becomes weak like a man with broken bones. How sad it is to see souls that were once humble, gentle and kind now carnal, cold and wrathful.
1.6 The duty of “perfecting holiness”, “growing in grace” cannot be done without mortification.
So then, this is the first principle; despite the final work and merit of the cross, despite the great blow the sinful nature received when we were regenerated, the fact remains that even the very best Christians have indwelling sin which we must be actively mortifying to our dying day.
Owen finally (before he leaves this first principle) shows his concern for those of his day who profess faith and talk much of religion but do not have a significantly changed life.
There are two areas where we can see what a mere Christian ‘professor’ is like:
- In himself
One sure sign is that they think little of the seriousness of sin. They are able to eat and digest sin without getting a sore stomach!
2. Toward others:
- They become arrogant in relation to others. “I’m as good as the next man” is their motto. They may even set themselves apart from the world but they set themselves apart to selfishness. They forget what it is to be tender and loving toward others. They boast of forgiveness from sin but won’t forgive others. In other words they display little love toward others.
- They give the impression to others that all these people have to do is measure up to them to be accepted by God. They make themselves the yardstick to be measured by