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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ruminations on Sin

That is some examination, about its mortification, and it contradicted with God’s holiness and our pursuit thereof.

I have spent a great deal of time and effort on engineering and administrative controls to prevent my sin, but have found that they do not deal specifically with the heart issues of my depravity or look seriously and biblically at the character of sin. I want to mortify sin and live for God, and that is an issue of heart motivation; sin must be addressed in the same way, because I can get around the filters and the obstacles I set for myself.

The root causes, the indulgent desires of my flesh, are not addressed by external controls, and so my self-made rules may thwart a particular behavior, but are not powerful enough to kill indwelling sin. The controls are good in and of themselves – they help keep me from sinning and help reduce the habit of a particular sin activity – but if it is simply a matter of external conduct and not a matter of heart desire, I am a moralist, a Pharisee, and still in sin. My sinful nature resides in all my flesh and will find outlet in another form if I simply limit or eliminate one form. John Owen would teach that we cannot simply mortify a sin but must mortify all sin.

It is only through the renewing of our minds that the Holy Spirit directs us. The biblical Christian has emotion, joy, peace, ecstasy and godliness that flow from the renewed mind, a mind renewed by the overgrowth of godliness resulting from spiritual discipline, a mind renewed through sound doctrine being brought to bear on sinful thoughts and emotional impulses, and a mind renewed by a conscious relationship with God.

This is an active, intelligent and purposeful relationship. It is about loving God, not being “in love” with God. The latter is a result of our circumstances and our emotions and our hormones and our diet, etc. It is a barometer of our fickle human affections. It says, “God, I am feeling sad, tired, bored, anxious, guilty, hungry or otherwise not particularly impressed with You right now and my affection for You is bland. Since I am not ‘in love’ with you right now, I will ignore You or perhaps feign some obedience to You for my own guilt’s sake.”

The former is a conscious decision, a willful choice that says, “God, I am feeling sad, tired, bored, anxious, guilty, hungry or otherwise not particularly impressed with You right now and my affection for You is bland, but that doesn’t matter. You are God and I will love You with all my heart. I will extol Your goodness and rejoice in the fact that You do not change.” This is agape love, the love that Christ has for us. It is not derived from our feelings, rather our feelings proceed from it. Our feelings say, “I can” or I can’t;” “I will” or “I won’t;” “I feel” or “I’m dry.” These are lures away from “God is.” And what is more essential than the great I Am?

This, then, is a means of renewing our minds. As The Valley of Vision states in the prayer titled, The Divine Will: “Help me to honour thee by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.” Or again, from Resting on God: “Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know.” It is a purposeful control of our behavior such that it is not proceeding from emotions, instincts or tendencies – unless they be forged of godly habits – but rather that it moves from an understanding of who and what God is, namely holy and sovereign, and what that means to our daily lives. How do I make that practical, you may ask. And so I offer up some suggestions.

1) Daily consider God’s holiness, what it means to be holy, how far away from that we are and how filthy our thoughts and desires tend to be compared to that standard, for that is our standard.

2) Daily preach the gospel to yourself. The gospel is not just for the lost as the means of their conversion. It is the primary instrument that we have to renew our minds. To recognize that our sin caused the death of sinless son of God and that the result of that is that my sins, all of them, are eternally forgiven. Because of the cross, and only because of the cross, grace is available for me to be transformed into the image of Christ.

3) Owen is helpful here again: replace the sin with a means or evidence of God’s grace that is directly opposite to the sin in question. If I am feeling prideful in my work, let me recall a time when God delivered me from my imminent failures by His obvious grace, or better yet, let me seek to humble myself by serving someone else, and especially by performing a task I would, in my pride, consider far beneath me. If I am moved to anger because of some slight or injustice I feel has been perpetrated upon me, let me recall the wrath that I deserve for my many offenses against God, or better yet become a reflection of his mercy by not only forgiving the one who has offended me, but seek to serve them and honor them and lavish them with love. We must not only clean our house, but fill it with the bright light of the stuff of godliness. (Matt 12. 43-45)

4) Regularly confess and repent and be held accountable to like-minded brothers or sisters. Name sin as sin and name it with the hatred that God has for sin. Then replace the sin with the things of God.

Godliness is and must be purposeful, for sin is likewise in its attacks against us.


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