Tuesday, March 06, 2007

SIN 2007: "Be Killing Sin or It Will Be Killing You"

These "smash-mouth" words were first penned (actually quilled) by the great 17th century English Puritan and theologian John Owen. I personally believe that John Owens was to theology what the '86 Bears were to football. His pursuit of holiness and his hostility toward sin was absolutely relentless. His words hit like the combined force of Butkus, Singletary and Urlacher.

I am currently reading a collection of three of Owens' classic works,
"Overcoming Sin & Temptation" edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. This is a faithfully updated compilation of Owens' "Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers",
"Of Temptation, The Nature and Power of It", and "The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin". These are actually abbreviations of the actual titles; in puritan writings the titles are often nearly as long as the books.

I was barely through the introduction when the editors floored me with what seemed to be an insight from Owen that was intended just for me. Let me first do a little self exposure. One of the ramp agents for my airline is a young lady I'll call, "Gertrude". "Gertrude" is probably in her early twenties and is as cute as she can be. Me, being the red-blooded American male that I am, could not help but notice this and have found myself looking forward to seeing "Gertrude". "Gertrude" using that fool-proof feminine radar that all women seem to have has apparently picked up on this and has been somewhat flirty. You know, the subtle tilting of the head when they greet you, the big smile and piercing glance, the sing-song voice . . . you get the picture. Naturally, for a 43 year old guy like myself it's quite intriguing and the ol' ego immediately chimes in with, "Hey boy, you've still got it". Being exceedingly, happily married I pinch and remind myself that my eyes are just for Lisa and begin to expel all of the thoughts that pop up when a red-blooded American male sees an attractive woman (see my January 22nd post for an effective way to do this). Please pray for me that my "flee reflex" remains sharp.

The insight that Owens revolutionized my thinking with is this: mortification and vivification. These are 17th century words for "to cause the death of" and "to give life to". Owens points out that most believers understand the need to cause the death of the sin in their lives; but are unaware of the need to give life to an opposing righteousness. Here's how the editors put it:

"These twin ideas of sanctification (mortification and vivification) require not only the shedding of sin but also renewal in grace . . . Consider a man who is struggling with inappropriate sexual thoughts about one of his female coworkers (Hello!). What does holiness look like in this case? Very often Christians have a truncated view of sanctification, which stops far too short of true righteousness. Although it would be a good thing for this man to get to the point that he no longer looks at this woman as an object of lust, that is not all that is hoped for in sanctification. Rather, in the power of the Spirit the goal is to move to a life-affirming position. Thus, the objective is not the absence of thoughts about this woman but the presence of a godly appreciation for her. Under normal circumstances this man should not simply try to deny her existence by avoiding her, but rather begin treating her with dignity, offering words that build her up instead of dehumanizing her with his thoughts. Ultimately lust will be replaced by genuine and appropriate respect and love."

I am definitely one of those believers who had only considered only one-half of this equation. I am truly humbled by my LORD's faithfulness in diagnosing my sin during this SIN 2007 quest.

The war continues . . .

(Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!)

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