Pursuing Purity Pt.4 DIY Deliverance

23 01 2007

So far in John Owen’s ‘Mortification of Sin’ we have been brought face to face with the seriousness of indwelling sin which everyone faces. Owen pulls no punches as he portrays the ferocity and persistence of sin, and its ability to ruin our walk with God, not to mention our public testimony.

The temptation for anyone reading his words is to hatch a plan. We hear the writer’s warnings about killing sin, about the utmost aim of our sinful impulses, and so we resolve on certain issues, we decide to break certain habits, and change our thinking. In essence we approach the issue of sin in the same way as our ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ (remember those from the start of the month?!). Perhaps we adopt the Boots the Chemist ‘Change One Thing’ approach and conscientiously avoid certain areas and issues in our minds.

All of this is commendable and vital but, Owen contends, in the absence of an essential ingredient, utterly futile. His concern is that we don’t embark on self-help courses in our Christian lives, which will ultimately be frustrated. DIY deliverance is simply not an option. Of those who seek to use purely physical cures to deal with their sin he writes,

‘They combat without victory, have war without peace, and are in slavery all their days’.

He also diagnoses the reason for this failure to beat failure:

‘There is no death of sin without the death of Christ’.

This is wonderfully rich teaching. Owen is proving that our only hope of deliverance from sin lies in the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work at Calvary. In other words mortification is spiritual work, not physical. We need a Saviour, and this is what all of our sinful actions point to – we are hopelessly lost without Christ. This might seem elementary, even patronising, but how easily we can gloss over the core and kernal of our Christianity. It begins and ends in Christ – He is all and everything, He is our only hope of redemption, He is all our righteousness. Without Him we are lost in sin, dead to God, without hope.

For the casual professor these words pose a challenge. It is easy to be moralistic, but much more difficult to be pure. It is easy to say we hate sin, and much more difficult to hate it in our own flesh. It could be that the behaviours we manifest are being used by God to show us our own depravity, our own sin, our own need of a Saviour. Perhaps God is allowing us to feel the weight of inquity in order that we might realise how badly broken God’s law is in our own lives. Perhaps we’ve never truly repented of personal sin, and turned with desperate faith to Christ as Saviour. Owen says ‘a man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit’.

For the true believer these words are both impetus and comfort. Our ultimate ground and source of deliverance is our Deliverer, Jesus Christ. To pursue purity with no reference to Him or His work, with no cry for help from the Holy Spirit, is nonsensical. WE have no power over sin, but HE does. Our lives must find as their true north the atonement at Calvary – only then can we know something of the liberating influence of the gospel, and the sweet balm of Christ’s work. This doesn’t mean that we ‘let go and let God’, in the hope that He will purify us while we do nothing. Rather it means that we will pursue purity for the glory of God’s Name, in the power of His Holy Spirit, on the basis of Christ’s finished work. ‘The use of means for the obtaining of peace is ours, the bestowing of it is God’s prerogative’. What a wonderful Saviour we have, let’s make him the centre of our pursuit of purity.

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