I say, then, we must by faith consider the supply and fullness that we have in Christ Jesus, and how HE can at any time give strength and deliverance. If you do not immediately find success in your battle, you will at least be secure in your chariot, and you will not flee from the field while the conflict continues.
Once again, I have the privilege of filling in for Troy this week. This week, it truly is a privilege to write the blog on "The Mortification of Sin", as the last chapter in Owen's book is perhaps the most encouraging and sweetest of all his chapters. (Troy said this was his favorite chapter in the book.)
Chapter 14: The Work of Christ and the Power of the Spirit
It's easy, I think, to read through Owen's work and feel utterly discouraged. It's easy to feel crushed, inadequate in our battle against indwelling sin, even in danger of eternal damnation. This stems from the fact that all of us fail daily in our battle against remaining lusts. But here, Owen recognizes that this, in fact, is the regular experience of all of God's children.
This chapter reads as great encouragement in our battles against indwelling sin. Are we weary in this battle? Do we feel beaten down? Do we feel crushed? Take heart, because the grace of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit will preserve us in this fight! Owen reminds us that as we abide in Jesus Christ, Christ gives us "purging grace", and to trust in the fullness we have in Christ "for our supply is an important part of our abiding in Christ". In other words, as we are united to Christ in faith, not only can we be assured that we are eternally safe in his arms, but we can also be assured that Jesus Christ himself will carry us, arm and equip us, give us the strength and grace we need to mortify our sin. Owen encourages us all to dwell on this great truth!
Let your soul, by faith, dwell on such thoughts as these: I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, and I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is the doorway to the ruin of my soul. I do not know what to do. My soul has become parched ground, and a habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them. I have made vows, but did not keep them. Many times I have been persuaded that I have gained the victory, and that I should be delivered, but I was deceived. Now I plainly see that without some great help and assistance, I will perish and be forced to abandon God.
BUT YET, though this is my state and condition, I will lift up my hands that hang down, and strengthen my feeble knees, for, behold, the Lord Jesus Christ has all the fullness of grace in His heart, and all the fulness of power in His hand. He is able to slay all of these enemies. There is sufficient provision in Him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conquerer!
What a beautiful and encouraging promise! It is as I quoted above, though we may feel weak, tired, worn down by this fight, we can be assured that our chariot, Jesus Christ himself, keeps us secure and we will not flee the fight against sin. He will sustain us!
Owen also encourages us in this chapter to make use of EVERY means available to us by which Christ reveals Himself. Here is a great reminder to participate as often as we can in what we would call the "ordinary means of grace".
The ways and means by which Christ usually communicates Himself are His ordinances. He that is seeking help from Christ should seek Him in these! As our faith looks to Christ for help, it sets our hearts to work. It is not an idle, groundless hope. If there is any vigor, efficacy, and power in prayer or sacrament to help in mortifying sin, a man will assuredly be interested in it all, because of his expectation of help...All these are of great use when they are based on the expectation of help from Christ and spring from this root...
I wonder how many of us participate in these "ordinary means of grace" (prayer, the reading and preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the gathered worship of God's people) expecting to receive the help and grace we need in our battle against indwelling sin. Do we come to the Word with the expectation that through it, Christ will work in and through us? Do we come to the Lord's Supper fully expecting that, as Calvin said, just as our bodies are nourished by the bread and wine so too is our soul nourished by the blood and body of Jesus Christ?
Two final points Owen touches on are this. First, mortification is tied to our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Owen points to the blood of Christ as the source of our "washing, purging, and cleansing". We can be assured that the old man was crucified with Christ, and therefore because we participate with Christ, because we are united to him, how can we go on living in sin? We are dead to sin, and just as Christ was raised up to glory, we too are and will be raised up to grace and newness of life. Secondly, and finally, Owen encourages us to remember the role of the Holy Spirit in mortification. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, he reveals the fullness of Christ for our assurance of victory and salvation, he "brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power", and he IS the Author and Finisher of our sanctification.