Pursuing Purity Pt.1

10 01 2007

Reading and writing about Jonathan Edwards Resolutions has really stimulated my thinking on the whole issue of pursuing God and godliness in a self-conscious or ‘intentional’ way. One area which I think we all struggle with as Christians is that of personal sin. Whether we consider our lapses and failures to be major or minor, there is no doubt that a lack of devotion to purity, and a lack of concern for holiness is characteristic of many of us on a daily basis. This may not be something which we talk about much when we chat to friends or gather for worship, but for many it can be their major spiritual preoccupation in the private sphere.

John Owen’s book The Mortification of Sin is the most powerful and practical treatment of sin in the believers’ life that I’ve read, and so over the next while for my own encouragement and that of anyone calling by the blog, I want to share some of his wisdom on this issue. Owen deals with the subject of purity head on, and in true Puritan style highlights the need for mortification, and then proceeds to show how it can be secured in our Christian lives. I trust that these posts will help us to get serious about the war on sin – and pursue purity with grit and determination.

Owen begins by stirring his readers to concern over purity. He leaves us with no room for complacency or a sense of self-righteousness in the area of sin, but shows we all need to assess our walk with the Lord. He states ‘the choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin’. In other words (and this is a point Owen highlights again and again) the work of mortification begins not in the aftermath and bitterness of obvious failure, but as a pro-active habit of living, as a pre-emptive approach to the influence of temptation. Self-examination precedes mortification; an honest and continual audit is vital if we are to identify the seeds of sin which are packed with potential to derail our discipleship.

As I read these words it moves me to consider my own life. Owen is not asking for a surface examination of our walk with God, but a deep reflection on our attitudes, motivations, commmitments, omissions and comissions. As we’ll see in the next few posts, it is only this ‘root and branch’ approach to sin which ultimately will help us to know greater purity and grace.




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