Why Every Christian Should Read Mortification of Sin: 6 Reasons

Last week I published a monster cheat sheet to John Owen’s Mortification of Sin in Believers.

As promised here is a list of reasons why every Christian should read the original book.

1. Understand it is your duty to kill sin

Ask most Christians and they don’t have a clue what you mean when you say “mortification of sin.” When you explain that that means “to kill sin,” most Christians still won’t know what to do with that.

Aren’t we saved by grace? Don’t we ask forgiveness when we do sin? Isn’t that killing sin?

No. Owen will tell you that killing sin is the pre-emptive act of dealing with our sin–not coping with its fruit. It is laying the axe to the root of sin, before it blossoms.

This is mortification of sin, and, as Owen’s main text says, the duty of every believer: “If ye through the Holy Spirit mortify the flesh ye shall live” (Romans 8:13).

2. Escalate your sense of the danger of sin

In response to the USA Today article “,” Albert Mohler said, “We are reminded yet again that an understanding of sin is preliminary to understanding the Gospel. The magnitude of our sin explains the necessary magnitude of Christ’s atonement.”

If we have a low view of sin, then we will have a low view of God’s holiness and Christ’s work on the cross.

And that is a dangerous place to be in.

Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you,” for “it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins.”

3. Diminish your sense of self-worth

Jesus said, “For apart from me you can do nothing.”

Yet, do we not think that we are capable of doing everything? That something peculiar to us as an individual allows us to conquer anything we put our minds to? And are we not taught this precept in our schools, advertisements and even our churches?

Of course this not peculiar to Americans. We are all in love with ourselves and think we are special and superior–even to God. We may even go as far as to say that we are personally worth the sacrifice Jesus made.

Owen will break you of this. Again and again. Which is good because an elevated sense of self is a deception that can harden the heart and destroy the soul.

4. Expose your light attitude to the cost of the cross of Christ

We are put to death in Christ–a death that paid the penalty for our sins. Yet when we ignore sin, neglect its mortification or diminish its threat we not only damage His saint and wound Christ afresh, but we also gratify His enemy.

Owen wants us to shiver in shame at this thought.

The blood of Christ is used to cleanse us, the exaltation of Christ is meant for repentance and the doctrine of grace teaches us to deny ungodliness. The false believer, however, uses these principles to approve of sin.

5. Bone up on the ways of sin

Mortification of sin is warfare. And it is constant. So it makes sense that we would study sin and know our enemy. That enemy never rests. He never wearies. And wants nothing more than our death.

And we must know the policies and depth of our sins. To be ignorant of the ways of sin and Satan is to be vulnerable to sin and Satan. We must know where the strength of our sin lies–and then .

Owen knows sin, the enemy and the world. His psychological insights on the human condition are just as penetrating as are his theological ones.

6. Elevate our respect for the Holy Spirit

Sin cannot be mortified apart from the Holy Spirit. This is a relentless theme in Mortification. In fact, Owen demonstrates to do so will only lead to chronic misery and failure or elevation of self and hardening of heart to God and others.

Both conditions are deadly.

Instead, the Holy Spirit is “that excellent succour which God hath given us against our greatest enemy,” and he alone is our strength, shield and shelter in our combat with sin.

Your Turn

Throughout the coming months I will continue to write posts on particular points in Mortification. It is that rich and deserves expansion.

In the meantime, read Mortification (there are links at the top of the page to different formats of the book) if you haven’t already. It would be great to discuss this book with you.

And if you already have read it, what are some other reasons every Christian should read it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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