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Clarification on Mortification

Last week I treated a short section of John Owen’s work The Mortification of Sin. Without seeking to go through the entire work, I wanted to follow it up with another post or two on other portions that I have especially found helpful.

I, as others, have found Owen’s treatment deeply insightful and purifying with respect to my own heart motivations. Here are two recommendations from influential authors.

John Owen’s treatises on Indwelling Sin in Believers and The Mortification of Sin are, in my opinion, the most helpful writings on personal holiness ever written.” —Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness

I owe more to John Owen than to any other theologian, ancient or modern; and I owe more to [The Mortification of Sin] than to anything else he wrote.” —J.I. Packer

In speaking of this subject, it is important to review the meaning of mortification.  Mortify means to put to death.  Our calling as believers is to put to death our sin.  In Romans 6:13, Paul  commands, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.”  So we must be crucifying the flesh or be engaged in the work of mortification as Christians. Yet, as Owen points out, […]

When Trouble Comes

So many resources to point you to!

Justin Taylor interviews Philip Ryken below regarding his new book When Trouble Comes. Though I have not yet read it, I respect these men greatly and enjoyed this interchange over lunch today. As Dr. Ryken speaks personally about his own struggles, it is helpful to hear him explain how he turned to the means the Lord has given us to persevere during troubling times. Many folks are going through such times, so perhaps you as I would be benefited by reading this work and making it available to others.

Screaming Life

I’m very happy to highly recommend the “for such a time as this” work and artistry of this sister in Christ.   Pastors and other Christian counselors take note:  If you want an experienced, empathetic, incisive, eye-opening and heart-enriching understanding of the broken, aimless hearts abounding in our culture, read Lacey Sturm’s The Reason   It’s quietly iconoclastic in tearing down the shallow cultural assessments and pseudo-spiritual advice offered up by pop-Christianity’s baptized agnosticism, which glorifies brokenness and uncertainty (so long as they’re experienced in community) as the marks of authentic, honest faith.  And its heartfelt substance fleshes out answers so often left as stillborn theological theory by writing efforts which rightly promote truth and our ability to know it with certainty, but which present it dry and cold to the reader, giving the unintended impression that God has nothing full of life to say to generations reared on the belief that he’s dead.      

Avoiding Hyper-Calvinism as We Preach

Could it be that, in heart and practice, many of us in Reformed churches are not preaching evangelistically because we allow our Calvinism to bind us rather than propel us as it should? Perhaps we can learn from a controversy in Spurgeon’s time.

When it comes to controversies and Charles Spurgeon, the conflict he is most known for was the “Down-Grade Controversy” toward the end of his ministry. The Down-Grade was a battle against late Puritan ministers who began sliding toward liberal doctrines, philosophical and moralistic preaching, and less than holy practices. This controversy received its name from Spurgeon who warned: “We are going down hill at breakneck speed.”

Yet, as Iain Murray makes known in his book Spurgeon v. the Hyper Calvinists, Spurgeon faced a lesser known but equally dangerous controversy. In his early ministry he was attacked by reformed ministers because they believed he was offering the gospel too freely.

These ministers taught that in preaching the gospel care should be taken that sermons spoke only to the elect. Thus, they preached (and taught others to do the same) that when people are called to respond to the gospel, they are not to be called to believe in Christ directly but rather they are to ask for faith […]

The Pursuit of Holiness: On the Passing into Glory of Jerry Bridges

When I was converted by Christ at the University of Michigan in the early 1980’s, the Lord used the ministry of The Navigators as his tool to open my mind and heart to Jesus. Within the early months of my new life, my mentor gave me a book that became the first one I read as a new believer. That book was The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.

What a treasure of a book! What a way to begin my Christian journey! I learned at the very beginning of my Christian life that I was responsible now, in the grace of Christ, to be holy before the Lord.  Yet what a battle that would be. As Bridges explained so clearly:

As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.”

The clear Bible teaching, sound doctrine that I later learned was based on Bridges’ love of the Puritans, and eye-opening illustrations such as “even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb” resounded in my newly regenerated heart. The Pursuit of Holiness helped set me properly upon the paths of righteousness on which the Good Shepherd leads all who follow […]

God’s Great Gift of Ice Cream

Vishal Mangalwadi’s work The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2011) is a treasure. Ice cream lovers like me will appreciate God’s grace in the gift of readily available ice cream in the West just a little more after reading the book.

From India, Mangalwadi offers unique insights on the Western world through the eyes of an Easterner who has studied the West. A disciple of Francis Schaeffer, he shows Westerners the benefits we have received but often fail to appreciate. In a time when many Christians see the weaknesses in American culture, Mangalwadi reflects on the great things the Lord has done here that we ought to cherish and cultivate.

The book is part philosophy and worldview, part history, part economic treatise, and part missionary biography. He paints a broad brush. One might wish his scholarship were a little tighter in places or might disagree with his analysis of history and conclusions. But he provides a refreshing perspective that is not mere theory from a man writing from a leather chair at a mahogany desk; he’s boldly tried to work out the implications on the ground in rural India in the face […]

Children at the Lord’s Table?

Frequently I am asked by seminary students or pastors about the question of children and the Lord’s Supper. Several years ago, after some members asked questions about the teaching dubbed “paedocommunion” (the practice of allowing baptized children to come to the Lord’s Table without a necessary profession of faith), I sought to find help from others on the subject.  I encountered an abundance of materials by those promoting paedocommunion, with titles such as Feed My Lambs or the even more emotively-labeled Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated?  Often those producing and promoting these books and messages were associated with the aberrant teachings of the Auburn Avenue Conferences and Federal Vision Theology.

At the time, all I found on the historic, Reformed practice of requiring profession of faith before admission to the Lord’s Table were a few passing references in the confessions and theological books, and a helpful though somewhat poorly recorded tape series by Kenneth Gentry.  Thankfully, Dr. Cornelius Venema’s scholarly yet accessible work Children at the Lord’s Table? Assessing the Case for Paedocommunion does much to stand in the gap, providing a Biblically-grounded and confession-honoring answer to those who espouse a hyper-covenantal theology that promotes this practice.

In this book Dr. Venema poses and answers this question: “Does […]

Openness, Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield

In these “trans-whatever” times, our world is so very confused about identity.  Following hot on the (high) heels of Bruce Jenner introducing himself as Caitlyn, we now have the spectacle of Rachel Dolezal.  She is the president of the local Spokane NAACP chapter who, turns out, is not the African-American-with-multiple-racial-hate-crimes-committed-against-her that she claimed to be.  As one writer asks in the title of his article, “If Rachel Dolezal Isn’t Black, How Is Caitlyn Jenner A Woman?“.   One can only imagine what further jumbling of identity the next news cycle will bring.

Oh, that a voice of clarity with charity might speak into this muddled mess!

One has.

Following the great interest created by her first book, The Secret Thought of an Unlikely Convert, the autobiographical story of her journey from being a leftist lesbian professor to a follower of Christ, Rosaria Butterfield has now written Openness, Unhindered.  In a work that could not be more timely, written in her engaging and compassionate prose, Rosaria offers a clear-minded treatise on what true identity is (including but not limited to sexual identity) and how it is to be discovered and nurtured.  With great depth of insight into the inner heart battles all men and women share; interaction with a […]

You Must Read

Do you ever find yourself squinting at a photograph of someone standing in front of a bookcase, trying to work out the titles of the books they own? Or, when you visit someone’s house, looking through the books on the shelves and trying to gain some profound insight into their personality based on what they read? Or is it just me?

Wouldn’t you love the chance to go into the studies of men and women who have been greatly used by God and see the kinds of books they enjoy and have been influenced by? To be able to ask Sinclair Ferguson or R.C. Sproul or John McArthur or Jerry Bridges what books have especially shaped them as Christians?

If you’re with me in answering those questions with a resounding ‘Absolutely!’ then let me recommend a new book that allows you to sit down with 32 proven servants of Christ and find out about the books that have shaped their lives and ministries.

‘You Must Read’ is a fascinating book that you must read if you have any interest in finding out what are some of the greatest treasures of Christian literature and why they are treasures. It was published by the Banner […]

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

You must read Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography. Nabeel vividly tells the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity which was published in 2014. Nabeel converted in 2005 after wrestling with the claims of Christ through his college years. Today, this brilliant young man serves as an apologist with Ravi Zachariah International Ministries. You may have seen him in debates online such as this one from last week, or perhaps you have seen clips of him answering questions from Muslims like this.

Nabeel grew up in the West, in a strongly Muslim family with Pakistani roots. Because Nabeel must begin the account by describing his Eastern family environment in the midst of a Western context, the book began a bit slowly for me and for others I know who have read Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Eastern history, names, words, and customs do not immediately resonate with most of us as Westerners. But, within a few chapters, I was hardly able to put the book down. Nabeel recounts the ministry of David Wood, a Christian classmate at Old Dominion University, who quickly became his best friend. The two were evenly matched […]