Posted in theology

The only way to deal with sin is to mortify it

By Elizabeth Prata

Reading through 1 and 2 Kings is tough. The same patterns are shown, the sinful kings who did right, only … It’s like saying you’re sorry, but. Over and over we read the same refrain,

Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became king…He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father; he did according to all that Joash his father had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 14:1b, 2-4)

Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah became king. … He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 15:1b, 3-4)

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah became king. He did what was right in the sight of the LORD; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 15:32, 34-35).

We cannot let any part of sin remain. Remember when God told Saul to slay all the Amalekites, down to the last man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey? But Saul disobeyed and let king Agag live, plus the better animals. (1 Samuel 15).*

Remember when God told Solomon to stay true to worship and not intermarry with foreign women, because they will lead him astray? Solomon didn’t listen. He didn’t stop at one foreign wife, either. He took 1000.

So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:6).

We can’t play with sin. We can’t pet sin. We can’t tolerate sin. We have to put sin to death. Completely.  Remember when God told Cain that sin was crouching at the door, wanting to have you? “But you must master it.” (Genesis 4:11).

John Owen is helpful here. His book “The Mortification of Sin in Believers” is all about the rules for and the activity of killing sin in our selves and through that process, not to have peace with the world, a great concern of Owen’s.

Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. ~John Owen

Here is a Cliff’s Notes on Owen’s work, from an essay at Meet The PuritansThe entire article is good, I encourage you to read it.

Principles of Mortification
Mortification is the duty of all believers (Col. 3:5; 2)
Mortification Is by the Spirit
Mortification Is of Great Benefit

Explanation of Mortification
What Mortification Is Not
What Mortification Is

Rules of Mortification
Only Believers Can Mortify Sin
The Only Goal Must be Universal Mortification:

“He who truly and thoroughly seeks to mortify any disquieting lust, must be equally diligent in all parts of obedience” (53). We make a mistake if we think we can only fight against the few sins that trouble our conscience. ~John Owen

Owen is careful to note that we can never eradicate sin from our heart, mind, and soul completely in this life. Yet it is the wholehearted pursuit of its mortification (putting to death) that is the goal. David pursued sin when he pursued Bathsheba. Solomon pursued sin when he married 1000 foreign wives. Saul pursued sin when he failed to obey to the letter. The Kings of Judah and Israel pursued sin when they did right in the eyes of the LORD, and here’s that dreaded word…”only they did not…” They did right, only… They did right, but… There can be no buts about it.

We cannot let a little sin remain, or pursue righteousness and ignore the dark corner in our heart over there. We can’t deceive ourselves into thinking that just because we’ve done good over here, that the little disobedience over there will go unremarked.

Sin wants you. No matter how small it is, it will grow and master you. We see that endlessly through the books of the Kings (And Judges. And the whole Bible). Sin’s tentacles will creep and grow and strangle. Then those tentacles will drag you and encircle you and lead you where you do not want to go but you will go. So we must master it. Don’t let there be an ‘only’ in your life.

Prata Corner Graceful Garlands 1 Slay sin

On the Agag issue:

*It’s hard to reconcile the loving God with the wrathful God when we read passages like the one where God told Saul to kill all the men, women, and children. Here is an explanation.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

Now go and smite Amalek,…. This was one of the three things the Israelites were obliged to do when they came into the land of Canaan, as Kimchi observes; one was, to appoint a king over them, another, to build the house of the sanctuary, and the third, to blot out the name and memory of Amalek, see Deuteronomy 25:19 and this work was reserved for Saul, their first king:
and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; all were to be devoted to destruction, and nothing remain to be made use of in any way, to any profit and advantage; living creatures were to be put to death, and everything else burnt and destroyed:

but slay both men and women, infant and suckling; neither sex nor age were to be regarded, no mercy and pity shown to any; they had shown none to Israel when weak and feeble, and by the law of retaliation none was to be exercised on them:

ox and sheep, camel and ass; though useful creatures, yet not to be spared; as not men, women, and children, through commiseration, so neither these through covetousness, and neither of them on any pretence whatsoever. Children suffered for their parents, and cattle because of their owners, and both were a punishment to their proprietors; an ox, or any other creature, might not be spared, lest it should be said, as Kimchi observes, this was the spoil of Amalek, and so the name and memory of Amalek would not be blotted out.

Posted in poetry, theology

Kay Cude Poetry: Be Killing Sin or it Be Killing You

I recommend John Owen’s works. Admittedly, his writing is dense and difficult, being 350 years old. However, there are many helps available to aid understanding of his writing, many notes and modern language updates. Here is one from Meet the Puritans. It is very much worth it to pursue a study of Owen’s monumental books.

Here is Texas Poet Kay Cude with her thoughts sprung from Owen’s work Mortification of Sin. Used with permission.

kay cude mortification.jpg



Posted in theology

Indwelling sin and beaver dams

By Elizabeth Prata

John Owen’s treatise on indwelling sin is a devastating look at our internal selves, both regenerate and unregenerate. It’s devastating because he draws out the reality of our sin, something, to be honest, most of us would rather just glance at then away, than study for any length of time.

It’s worth it though.

Owen uses the picture of ‘streams’ in several ways when describing sin or grace. Either way, when he uses the word-picture, it’s potent. In his last three chapters, which I believe to be his best, Owen remarks about the situation for the Christian why he at first was fervent but then as time goes on loses his oomph so to speak. Here are a few excerpts.

Decays in degrees of grace caused by indwelling sin

Upon the first conversion and calling of sinners unto God and Christ, they have usually many fresh springs breaking forth in their souls and refreshing showers coming upon them, which bear them up to a high rate of faith, love, holiness, fruitfulness, and obedience; as upon a land-flood, when many lesser streams run into a river, it swells over its bounds, and rolls on with a more than ordinary fulness. Now, if these springs be not kept open, if they prevail not for the continuance of these showers, they must needs decay and go backwards.

What would cause the springs to decay and go backwards?

Some great sin lying long in the heart and conscience unrepented of, or not repented of as it ought,

Neglect your great sin at your peril.

If it be neglected, it certainly hardens the heart, weakens spiritual strength, enfeebles the soul, discouraging it unto all communion with God, and is a notable principle of a general decay. … His present distemper was not so much from his sin as his folly, — not so much from the wounds he had received as from his neglect to make a timely application for their cure.

Back to the streams-

But now, if the utmost diligence and carefulness be not used to improve and grow in this wisdom, to keep up this frame, indwelling sin, working by the vanity of the minds of men, will insensibly bring them to content themselves with slight and rare thoughts of these things, without a diligent, sedulous endeavour to give them their due improvement upon the soul.

As men decay herein, so will they assuredly decay and decline in the power of holiness and close walking with God. The springs being stopped or tainted, the streams will not run so swiftly, at least not so sweetly, as formerly.

Some, by this means, under an uninterrupted profession, insensibly wither almost into nothing. They talk of religion and spiritual things as much as ever they did in their lives, and perform duties with as much constancy as ever they did; but yet they have poor, lean, starving souls, as to any real and effectual communion with God. By the power and subtlety of indwelling sin they have grown formal, and learned to deal about spiritual things in an overly manner; whereby they have lost all their life, vigour, savour, and efficacy towards them. Be always serious in spiritual things if ever you intend to be bettered by them.

As I was reading this wonderful book, I thought of the Christian’s failure t repent and keep his streams flowing afresh, of a beaver building a dam.

The power of the Holy Spirit allows us to resist sin, but we fail to make as much use of Him and His power as we might. Add onto that, our choice to sin, we pile it on and pile it on,m as logs onto a fire. Or as a beaver onto a dam. Soon the streams of grace are hindered, diverted, tainted, and we wither and dry.

Watch this beaver for a couple of minutes and see the lengths we go to indulge our sin and the decays it causes the streams of grace.


Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Killing sin, Kay Cude poetry, and John Owen

Killing sin in ourselves is a tricky and delicate operation. How to slice marrow from bone without damaging the bone? The Holy Spirit is in us and He is the glory and purity we need, but surrounding Him inside us is all our depravity. We are so dark inside that often, we can’t even see our sin!

Puritan John Owen wrote a monumental book addressing this very issue. It’s called The Mortification of Sin. (1656). Mortification means, “The action of subduing one’s bodily desires.”

Owen wrote another monumental book called The Nature, Power, Deceit & Prevalency of Indwelling Sin In Believers. (1675). They are scriptural, convicting, towering books of the faith. They are also dense, difficult, and full of antiquated language. Sadly, for many people these books aren’t read, because they are just too difficult.

But they need to be read. To that end, Kris Lundgaard wrote a book called The Enemy Within. He said that reading Owen was difficult but he stuck with it. He said he benefited greatly from Owen’s treatment of sin in us, our sin nature and the Christian’s duty to slay it. He knew though, that the many Christians would likely not read Owen, of if s/he started, would probably give up. It’s a slog. (I can testify to that, I tried to read Mortification of Sin and stopped).

Fervently believing that the important treatment of killing sin in ourselves, principles Owen had outlined in his book, should be available to the widest audience, Lundgaard wrote a sort of Cliff’s Notes to the Owen book on Indwelling Sin. It’s an adaptation of Owen’s work, modernized and synopsized. Hence his title, The Enemy Within. This and other books by Lundgaard are –

adaptations of works by English Puritan John Owen [1616-1683]. Someone has suggested these books should be subtitled: “John Owen for Dummies” (not to be confused with John Owen’s original works that simply make most of us feel like dummies).

I had to read with a dictionary in one hand and Owen in the other, and until I got the hang of his style I had to read many sentences several times over. But the value of Owen had been undersold: I was underlining more than half of every page. In his works on Temptation, Indwelling Sin, and Mortification, my heart was being laid bare. How did he know me so well?

But he didn’t just cut me up and leave me to pick up the pieces. He offered help, strong medicine—lots of strong medicine. And by God’s grace things began to change for me. I’ll always be grateful to Owen for that—I hope to tell him so when I see him.

Owen’s ability to exegete my heart overwhelms me. He exposes my flesh’s defense strategies, which leaves me vulnerable—vulnerable to the gospel. He doesn’t just tear down; he builds up. And he helps me to see Christ more clearly, so that I may adore him more fully. Lundgaard in an interview with Tony Reinke

I have read half Lundgaard’s book. I’m 6 1/2 chapters into a 13 chapter book. It’s highly readable, and it’s helpful. It actually makes me want to read Owen! I’ve got both of Owen’s books queued up at Amazon for purchase. Killing sin in ourselves, an essential subject.

Meanwhile, my friend and poet Kay Cude had sent me her latest piece. She didn’t know I was reading The Enemy Within. The topic of her poem is about indwelling sin. How perfectly providential! She wrote,

A “take heed” to my fellow beloved redeemed in Christ from my personal experience of walking in the flesh and being caught in its snare. The immediate results were heart-wrenching and slammed me to my knees. And that is good place from where to repent and examine myself as I look up into the face of the forgiveness and mercy of God.

I was quite taken by her poem. This is a wonderful piece of poetry inspired by scripture reading and life application. Please take a moment to bask in this quality work. There are further resources at the bottom of the picture.


Kill your sin, or it be killing you.