Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Book Review: Overcoming Sin and Temptation
Overcoming Sin & Temptation contains three of John Owen's books: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, and The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor edited this Crossway publication. They've added footnotes to help explain Owen's vocabulary, paragraph headings to help readers follow Owen's arguments, this is in addition to summaries at the beginning of each book and extensive outlines at the close of the book. For this reason, I think going with this edition of the book is your best option.
Overcoming Sin & Temptation is a weighty book. Owen tackles subjects that would make him unpopular in any generation--most likely. But the same thing that makes him an unpopular choice makes him a relevant one. I speak, of course, of SIN. The book tackles: sin, temptation, law, grace, and sanctification. It isn't just that the book speaks of sin in the lives of unbelievers. (Perhaps making it easier for a Christian to point a finger, and say, SEE, This is speaking about you, and you, and you.) It speaks of indwelling sin in the lives of believers. (It would be hard--if not impossible--to read this one without feeling he is talking about you.) He is urging readers to fight against the flesh, to battle against sin and temptation, to always, always, always, always choose Christ over the world. He wants readers to see sin as God sees sin, to be disgusted by it, to absolutely hate it and be intolerant of any sin--no matter how small--in their lives. We are to MORTIFY sin.
Sin usually takes up a small amount of space in our books. We talk about sin, perhaps, but then rush into the good news of what Christ has done, what Christ is doing, what Christ will do--on our behalf. If we talk about sanctification at all, we're always super careful to talk at least as much about justification. Owen's balance is a bit different from modern writers. And I don't think that's a bad thing. It is not that Christ is missing in this one--it's just that Owen doesn't go about seeking to reassure readers on every single page that all is well with their souls. (Not that Owens is saying that assurance is impossible or that one can "lose" one's salvation.) Rather he's saying, there is war all around you, there is war WITHIN YOU, you need to fight against it. He's also not saying that we can stand in our own power and strength. That we can just try harder and do better. Much is said about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Would it surprise anyone if I said that the idea of mortification--or the degree or intensity of it--was almost like a foreign concept to me? I think even in Christian circles, most don't take spiritual warfare "against the flesh" and against Satan THAT seriously. I think that's why Owen is a good choice. He makes you think, consider, reconsider.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible