In Chapters 10-12, John Owen makes recommendation on what to do with a distemper (or lust, or temptation, sin). One of these steps is to bring one’s lust to the gospel after one has brought the lust to the law in order to be convicted of its error.
Bring your own lust to the gospel, not for relief, but for additional conviction of its guilt. Look on Him whom you have pierced with bitterness. Say to your soul:
- What I have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on!
- Is this how I repay the Father for His love, the Son for His blood and the Spirit for His grace? Do I requite (return) the Lord’s love in this way?
- Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash and in which the Spirit has chosen to reside? And can I keeep myself out of the dust?
- What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before Him? Do I account relationship with Him of so little value that for the sake of this vile lust I have scarcely any room left for Him in my heart?
- How shall I escape if I neglect such a great salvation?
- I have despised love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, and consolation. I have not held them in any esteem whatsoever, simply so that I could give a space in my heart in which my lust could take up residence.
- Have I been elevated to the place where I can see the Father’s face only to provoke Him to it?
- Was my soul washed that room should be made for new defilements?
- Should I attempt to thwart the end result of the death of Christ in my life?
- Shall I daily grieve the Holy Spirit who is Himself the seal of my redemption until the last day?
Ask your conscience these questions daily. See if it can stand before the aggravation of its guilt when confronted with them. If these questions do not make your conscience melt and sink in some measure, I fear your case to be dangerous.
Perhaps I should have a poster made from this page in Owen’s book and hang it above my desk or at my bathroom mirror or somewhere else that is obvious. Introspection for the sake of probing one’s life with and in the light of the Gospel is not self-serving to my mind. If introspection is simply employed to rehash the events of the day with no mind to implement the gospel in repentance and reformation of one’s heart (and by extension, conduct), then it would most certainly be a candidate as a self-serving sin. But to examine oneself with the questions put forth by Owen must certainly lead to a Gospel-saturated, sober acknowledgement of one’s sin leading to repentance, of which everyone could use more.
Owen goes on later to offer this exhortation; with this I’ll close today:
How often have you been at the door of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the infinite rich grace of God has been recovered to communion with Him again? Have you not found grace decaying? inclinations to loose, careless walking, thriving? and they, who were before were entangled, almost beyond recovery? Have you not found yourself engaged in such ways, societies, companies (and that, with delight!) as God abhors? And will you venture any more to the brink of hardness?