The Work of the Spirit in Mortification

“‘But how does the Spirit give us victory?’ By our living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit. As we abound in the graces of the Spirit and walk according to them, the fruits of the Spirit restrict the fruits of the flesh, because the works of the flesh are contrary to the works of the Spirit. This renewing of us by the Holy Spirit, as it is called (Titus 3:5), is one great way of mortification. He causes us to grow, thrive, flourish, and abound in the graces which are contrary, opposite, and destructive to all the works of the flesh, and contrary to the thriving of indwelling sin itself.

By the effective destruction of the root and habit of sin, to weaken, destroy, and take it away. He is called a ‘Spirit of judgment and of burning’ (Isa. 4:4), in really consuming and destroying our lusts. He takes away the stony heart by an almighty work. He begins this work, as to its kind, and then carries it on by degrees. He is the fire that burns up the very root of lust.

He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives communion with Christ in His death, and fellowship in His sufferings.”

– John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, p.18

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God’s Greatest Adversaries are His Gifts

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife. The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies, but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of the earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

– John Piper, A Hunger For God, p.14

The Human Nature of Christ Recoiled

“Oh consider, how will [God’s] almighty power rack and torment you! Think on this when sin comes with a smiling face towards you in the temptation. Oh think! If the human nature of Christ recoiled, when his cup of wrath was given him to drink; if he was sore amazed at it, how shall you, a poor worm, bear and grapple with it for ever?”

– John Flavel, Impure Flavel, p. 31

It Defiles the Tongue That Mentions It

“How then are you able to look these Scriptures in the face, and not blush? O what a sin is this! Are you willing to be ranked with fools, dogs, sinners, heathens, and take your lot with them? God has planted that affection of shame in your nature to be as a guard against such filthy lust; it is a sin that has filthiness enough in it to defile the tongue that mentions it, Ephesians 5:3.

– John Flavel, Impure Lust, p. 11-12

A Puritan’s View of Lust

9780851519814mImpure Lust is a small book from Banner of Truth‘s Pocket Puritans series. The author, John Flavel, addresses the sin of lust for the first half of the book (46 pages) and the second half was a concise introduction to Flavel’s life and his writings (34 pages).  The book breaks down into ten arguments to show the sinfulness of the sin of lust and warnings why you should avoid it, and then gives seven directions to follow if ensnared by lust.

Reflecting back on the book, I thought it was heavier on sin than on grace. (A big surprise coming from a Puritan.) Using scriptural arguments, he clearly communicated the evil of the sin of lust, but with that conviction I felt that the reader isn’t lead to the cross where that sin is atoned for (for the believer). I don’t know if I would recommend it to a believer who isn’t rooted in grace. But maybe I am the one who is imbalanced in my theology. Perhaps I need to take lust more seriously and not presume on the grace of God in this area. In our sex-saturated culture, I am certain that I am desensitized to the filthiness of lust. I probably needed to read this book (and need to return to it later).I don’t doubt that these warnings to avoid sexually immorality isn’t done in love, but I wanted to hear more of the Gospel that is available to adulterers,fornicators and impure sinners who repent of their lust and trust in the perfectly pure righteousness of Christ.  To be fair, it was a very short book, so it’s easy to say there could a have been more written. Also, I imagine that this was not intended to be an exhaustive book, but just a small selection of his writings on the topic of lust. Regardless, there are several nuggets worth chewing on that I have been posting recently (and will continue to post in the near future). Here is one quote that impacted me the most:

“Oh consider, how will [God’s] almighty power rack and torment you! Think on this when sin comes with a smiling face towards you in the temptation. Oh think! If the human nature of Christ recoiled, when his cup of wrath was given him to drink; if he was sore amazed at it, how shall you, a poor worm, bear and grapple with it for ever?” (p. 31)

I read through this book slowly and I believer that is the way it was intended to be read. If battle lust in any way (and if you have a pulse, chances are you likely do), then you should read this book. I would especially recommend to it if you regularly practice this sin and you aren’t convinced of it’s impurity in light of a Holy God. If you do consider reading it, read and meditate on one argument/direction at a time for at least day or a two.

Overall, I give it 4 stars out of 5. Both the section on lust and the brief biography made me somewhat curious to read more of Flavel’s work. His writing is typically classed with other popular Puritan divines such as John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, and John Owen.