Memory verses: killing sin

I memorized these verses a month or so ago – they are great ones to learn to help with killing sin:

1 Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle–
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.
3 Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Ps 144:1-4 (NKJV)

Killing sin is a war! A war against the “old man”, a pitched battle for the heart and mind. But God, my Rock (I don’t know if this is supposed to be a foreshadowing of Jesus, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to think so!) trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle! Of course, David was talking about real, physical warfare, but this is a beautiful verse to apply to spiritual warfare. He follows the first verse with the comfort of the second – and then a reminder of who we are compared to God. Nothing like some good perspective when thinking about how much He can help in our time of need!

Awesome verses.

The value of legalism

I’ve been reading through Colossians lately, and I was reminded of the precise value of legalism when I read this:

Colossians 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21″Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (NAS)

In chapter 2, it appears that Paul is covering both the Mosaic law as well as the addition of rules and regulations by men – but even if he’s only addressing one or the other, we know that it is true of both since legalism of any kind is… so valuable that it can make us stand righteous before a Holy God? Nope… it can’t do that (Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 3:2, etc., etc.) But if it can’t save us, surely legalism can help us to live better, more Christ-like lives, right? Nope – legalism is “of no value against fleshly indulgence” – no value! So why have I tried so many times over the years to kill sin by my own efforts and not by applying “gospel tools” (as Owen says)? Partly, I think, because I’m such a task-oriented person, who easily sees any problem as a task to be solved. To go along with this natural disposition, I seem to easily forget that this task is not one I can solve! This I have to acknowledge to be due to a lack of appreciation for God’s grace, which is required for both my being declared righteous before God initially, and for my daily sanctification. There is no other way for me to become or live righteously other than by God’s grace, made visible in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

May God grant me the wisdom to discern when I fall into trying to sanctify myself.

A reconciliation hopping on one leg

I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion here on Christ’s choices and choices in general. This post is in reply to Perry’s assertion that “…Christ’s death is a propitiation, a reconciliation, but not as a deferment of wrath. God can freely forgive for mercy triumphs over justice.” I responded to that assertion already – but I just came across this quote from Owen which I just had to post somewhere:

As, then, the folly of Socinus and his sectaries is remarkable, who would have the reconciliation mentioned in the Scripture to be nothing but our conversion to God, without the appeasing of his anger and turning away his wrath from us, — which is a reconciliation hopping on one leg, — so that distinction of some between the reconciliation of God to man, making that to be universal towards all, and the reconciliation of man to God, making that to be only of a small number of those to whom God is reconciled, is a no less monstrous figment. Mutual alienation must have mutual reconciliation, seeing they are correlata. The state between God and man, before the reconciliation made by Christ, was a state of enmity. Man was at enmity with God; we were his “enemies,” Col. i. 21; Rom. v. 10; hating him and opposing ourselves to him, in the highest rebellion, to the utmost of our power. God also was thus far an enemy to us, that his “wrath” was on us, Eph. ii. 3; which remaineth on us until we do believe, John iii. 36. To make perfect reconciliation (which Christ is said in many places to do), it is required, first, That the wrath of God be turned away, his anger removed, and all the effects of enmity on his part towards us; secondly, That we be turned away from our opposition to him, and brought into voluntary obedience. Until both these be effected, reconciliation is not perfected. Now, both these are in the Scripture assigned to our Saviour, as the effects of his death and sacrifice.

John Owen, Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Book 3, Chapter 6.

Usually I’m taken by the force and eloquence of Owen’s writing – I don’t remember him being funny before!

Repentance

There’s one thought I came across in Owen’s Mortification which has kept coming up to me lately, but which I resist — though I understand and acknowledge its truth: that God even grants us repentance — that without His work in our hearts, we would not repent. It’s very obvious in justification – from Romans 8:30 “…whom He called, these He also justified…”; Acts 11:18 “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'”; Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”; Titus 2:25-26 “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”; Is 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” and many other texts – salvation is all God’s work. What can a heart of stone do to reach out to to a holy God?

But in terms of sanctification, I have a harder time with the concept. Owen cites: Acts 5:31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” and appears to apply this verse to believers. Well, I can’t argue with that in concept, though perhaps that is stretching the original intention of the verse. But, really, when I look at all of the verses above, how can they not also apply to believers? After all, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin, John 16:8 – and He certainly does that for believers as well. Where would we be without the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Where would we be without His work of sanctification in our lives? Can I do anything in and of myself to kill the least of my sins? No.

So why do I struggle with this? My problem lies in the fact that I don’t want to make use of the fact that God grants me repentance as an excuse to not repent of some future sin. Or as an excuse for not repenting in the past. So with this concept in hand – that it is God who must grant me repentance, it seems like I’m suddenly freed from the responsibility of repenting! But that cannot be; in some mysterious way, like the “moment” of salvation itself, I must agree with God that I’m a wretched sinner saved by grace, and that some sin has come between me and a holy and just God – a sin which nailed a flayed Christ on the cross – and that thought alone should cause me great sorrow and lead me into the repentance God has granted me.

And by His stripes, I am healed.

“Done” with Mortification

I finally finished Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen. A tough read, as I indicated before, and worth a very slow and considered reading – but it is very rewarding. (After it is first very convicting!)

The next book by Owen which I plan to read is Of Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is over 4 times the length of Mortification, so that will be quite a challenge! But I anticipate this will actually go somewhat faster since the latter 2/3 of Mortification went much faster than the first 1/3 after I got used to reading him somewhat. We’ll see!

Speaking peace to myself, part 2

Rule #2 (rule #1) is definitely something I need to be careful of:

When men measure out peace to themselves upon the conclusions that their convictions and rational principles will carry them out unto, this is a false peace, and will not abide.

To explain this rule, Owen basically says that if you are wounded by a sin and subsequently convicted concerning that sin – and if you have in the past dealt with that same sin and have been healed of its wound, it is possible to simply search out the relevant passages of scripture, the appropriate promise to apply, and make yourself a nice little bandage. But God was never in the process – you never allowed the Holy Spirit to work. He gives an example of someone backsliding in some sin, and then claiming Hosea 14:4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.” (NKJV) The person never considers whether or not the Spirit is applying this passage in his heart and subsequently… speaks peace to himself.

Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Search scripture for verses relevant to our situation and then apply them? Owen responds to the inevitable question “…how shall we know when we go alone ourselves, and when the Spirit also doth accompany us?” He gives the following answers:

  1. God will quickly let you know. Your “peace” will not last. Moreover, the first time you’re tempted again in this sin, all your logic, all your reasoning by which you’ve spoken peace to yourself, will vanish.
  2. Speaking peace to yourself in this way is usually done without waiting, a grace which God calls us to exercise when we are under conviction concerning sin (Psalm 130).
  3. Though you might ease your conscience and mind for a while, speaking peace to yourself in this way will not “sweeten your heart”: “When God speaks, there is not only truth in his words, that may answer the conviction of our understandings, but also they do good; they bring that which is sweet, and good, and desirable to the will and affections; by them the ‘soul returns unto its rest,'” Ps. 116:7.
  4. Worst of all, speaking peace to yourself in this way does you no good with respect to killing this sin in your life! Your heart has not been weaned from the sin, and, in reality, your false peace is just setting you up to fall again the next time you’re tempted.

It’s so obvious that I’ve done this many, many times… It’s good — and quite convicting — to read such a clear description of the process by which I’ve reasoned my way to some sort of “peace” in the past.

Lord, let me patiently wait for true peace which only comes from You!

Speaking peace to myself

Owen talks about the danger of speaking peace to yourself rather than receiving peace from God. The first rule he lays out in chapter 13 of “Mortification” for determining if God is speaking peace to you, or if you’re speaking peace to yourself, is if the “peace” you attain is accompanied by “the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin” (emphasis in the original). He goes on to say:

When men are wounded by sin, disquieted and perplexed, and knowing that there is no remedy for them but only in the mercies of God, through the blood of Christ, do therefore look to him, and to the promises of the covenant in him, and thereupon quiet their hearts that it shall be well with them, and that God will be exalted, that he may be gracious to them [LEN: sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it? Sounds like you should be OK with your heart in this state…], and yet their souls are not wrought to the greatest detestation of the sin or sins upon the account whereof they are disquieted, — this is to heal themselves, and not to be healed of God. This is but a great and strong wind, that the Lord is nigh unto, but the Lord is not in the wind. When men do truly “look upon Christ whom they have pierced,” without which there is no healing or peace, they will “mourn,” Zech. xii. 10; they will mourn for him, even upon this account, and detest the sin that pierced him.

I have certainly gone up to the point of detesting my sin — both for what it is and for the fact that it contributed to nailing Christ to the cross — many times only to fall short of detesting my sin… and then I spoke peace to myself. Of course, there have been many occasions where I wasn’t even disquieted or perplexed by my sin. I never even felt the wound. (There’s something that comes up a number of times in the book: the wounds that our sins impart upon us. But that’s a topic for another post.)

I have grown in this area recently, but I do have a long way to go. I pray that my heart will be ever softened to the impact of my sin on Jesus, who bore that sin on the cross in my place. I want to feel the wind of peace from the Lord that will lift me on eagle’s wings.

(Part 2.)