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“While others have their fellowship with Satan and their lusts, making provision for them, and recieving pershing refreshments from them (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” [Phil. 3:19]), they (the saints) have this sweet communion with the Father. … Further; this will discover a main difference between the saints and empty professors.As to the performance of duties, and so the enjoyment of outward privileges, fruitless professors often walk hand in hand with them; but now come to their secret retirements, and what a difference is there! There the saints hold communion with God: hypocrites, for the most part, with the world and their lusts – with them they converse and communicate; they hearken what they will say to them, and make provision for them, when the saints are sweetly wrapped up in the bosom of their Father’s love.” (Communion with the Triune God, 130-131)

This quote by Owen was a great reminder that a man is never more than he is in private. I appreciate his description of the person who is conversing with his lusts, giving consideration and discussing with them how he might make opportunity to enjoy them. It reminds me that sin is seldom stumbled into, but is often the result of having not guarded his heart and allowed himself to be put in a situation where temptation is likely to occur.

It is a great reminder also to see sin as sin, and the pleasure of sin as “perishing refreshment”. At to remember that true pleasure and lasting refreshment are found in God. “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11b, emphasis added) 

“By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man has any communion with God. He is light, we darkness; and what communion has light with darkness [2 Cor. 6:14]? He is life, we are dead – he is love, and we are enmity; and what agreement can there be between us? Men in such a condition have neither Christ, nor hope, nor God in the world (Eph. 2:12), “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18). Now two cannot walk together unless they be agreed (Amos 3:3). While there is this distance between God and man, there is no walking together for them in any fellowship or communion. Our first interest in God was so lost by sin, as that there was left unto us (in ourselves) no possibility of recovery. As we had deprived ourselves of all power for a return, so God had not revealed any way of access unto himself, or that he could, under any consideration, be approached unto by sinners in peace. Not any work that God had made, not any attribute that he had revealed, could give the least light into such a dispensation.” (Communion with the Triune God, 90)

Here Owen reflects on the condition of man apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that there was nothing good in man, and that it was on account of nothing that man did that the fellowship between God and man could be restored. Even more, Owen hints at the reality that the God’s work in creation and revelation of His attributes through it did not suffice to shed any light on the means of God’s restoring man to fellowship with Himself, but light of the gospel is shed through the gospel: God’s work of redemption in the person of Jesus Christ.

I was reading through The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace by John Owen earlier this afternoon and I was reminded about the great priviledge (and duty) we have to behold the glory of God in person of Jesus Christ. I cannot help but think that be struggles with the love of the flesh and the love of this world would soon evaporate if I more clearly beheld the glory of God and allowed my heart and affections to be captivated by the contemplation of such a worthy object as Christ Himself.

“In this [beholding his glory], then, our present edification is principally concerned; for in this present beholding the glory of Christ, the life and power of faith are most eminently acted. And from this exercise of faith, love to Christ principally, if not soley, arises and springs. If, therefore, we desire to have faith in its vigour or love in its power, giving rest, complacency and satisfaction to our own souls, we are to seek for them in diligent discharge of this duty; elsewhere they will not be found. In this would I live; in this would I die; upon this would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withering and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world, to the crucifying all things here below, until they become to me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.” (Owen, page 48)

We as Christians in the 21st century could learn much from men like Owen. When was the last time you stopped to consider that your growth [edification]  as a Christian is principally as a response to your beholding the glory of God in Christ. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) Therefore, it is chiefly to this duty that we should commit ourselves.

There is no greater way to have “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16) put to death in our hearts than to contemplate the glory of Christ until they appear “a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.” We should put as much effort into cultivating our affections (and others) for the glory of Christ as we have in cultivating our affections for the things of this world. It is a shame to think that we are willing put more effort into convincing ourselves and others of the value of worldly things, than we are to convince ourselves of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).