In a step away from my summer reading list (fear not, I am making my way through some of the books from my previous post), our staff at Lighthouse Community Church had the option of reading John Owen’s classic work, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers”. Boy, was I glad I participated in lieu of some less than compelling books I could have spent my time on. So here’s my quick rundown of my experience with this book (which was 1/3 of the book pictured; “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor):
John Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683 (by J.I. Packer).
Owen’s classic works on overcoming sin and temptation are profoundly edifying for any believer, but “Mortification of Sin” was especially helpful for me as a Christian striving to change my perspective of sin. I was taken aback by how thorough Owen was in his analysis of sin and its effects, namely, that he examined both the negation of mortification of sin and the positive aspects. Using Romans 8:13 (“If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body you shall live”) as the main crux, he defines “mortification” and methodically takes the reader through his own thought process when considering sin. He welcomes the reader to consider the dangers of sin, to examine the heart of one’s sins, and most notably, to acknowledge the work of the Spirit in mortifying that sin. It was a convicting work, yet I found myself looking forward to reading more everyday. Though this book is more dense and thoughtful than what most contemporary readers are used to, I guarantee that working through this book is well worth the effort and the end result will be a refreshed demeanor in combatting sin.
Honestly, I wish someone had handed me this book when I was younger that I might learn and implement a Christ-centered outlook earlier in my life. Instead, I wallowed in my sin aimlessly while not attacking the root problem. Being a habitual sinner, I was disillusioned about how my life was supposed to look after coming to faith: Though I’m now saved by Christ’s atoning work on the cross, why do I still struggle with sin? How do I defeat this sin that has been plaguing my life? Why doesn’t God help me overcome my sin in order that I might be obedient to his commands? All of these questions (and more) were answered in full in Owen’s book. Therefore, I would highly recommend this book to all who acknowledge that they’re a sinner that they struggle with trying to overcome sin, which encompasses all believers—so all believers should read this book.
(Side note: I found reading Justin Taylor’s version of the book, pictured above, very helpful. Not only does he include two other classic works of Owen regarding sin and temptation, but the editors added helpful subtitles and chapter markers within the actual book to clarify certain points and emphasize others. This was extremely helpful for me and should be for those who are reading to glean the main points and aren’t literary critics. You can find this version on Amazon (here), Monergism Books (here), and Christian Books (here). I haven’t read other versions, but it seems like this is the most helpful. Enjoy!)