Owen on the danger of Sin

November 18, 2009

Owen states that in order to mortify your sin it is best to “Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.” Too often our culture (even our Christian culture) tells us that if we compare our sins to those of others ours aren’t really that bad. So our sin becomes something much less than that of murders, adulterers, thieves, etc. Owen proposes that we ought to take the time to really evaluate our sin and its consequences in our mind so that we really understand the gravity of it.

I think this is a good practice to really understand what a danger every bit of sin in our lives is. When I really sit down and write out all of the dangers and consequences of my sin it makes it so much more real to me, and increases my desire to mortify every sin. Owen makes a short list of some of the dangers and consequences of sin:

– It brings the danger of being hardened to sin by deceitfulness (Heb 3:12-13)
– It brings the danger of God bringing temporal correction (Ps 89:30-33)
– It brings the danger of losing peace and communion with God right now (Is. 57:17, Hos. 5:15)
– It grieves the Holy Spirit who is our comforted (Eph 4:25-30)
– It wounds afresh the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior (Heb 6:6)
– It can destroy a man’s usefulness in this life.

These are some of the things Owen suggest we consider, but I have found it helpful (in order to get a true sense of my sin) to write out specifically how this sin will (or might) affect my life and those around me. It is a lie to think that sin only affects me, and so it is helpful to think through everyone it might affect. Some of the things I consider, and try to answer specifically, are:

How might this affect my intimacy with God (through guilt, shame, wasted time, etc.)?
(Here is a good place to refer back to Owen’s points and really consider the effect of sin)

How might this affect my ministry to others? Will it destroy my witness if continued?
(Sometimes it is helpful, although saddening, to look at how sin has destroyed many great ministries I know of)

How might this sin hurt my brothers and sisters in Christ?
(The truth is that sin never simply hurts us, it always affects others. Really consider this)

How might this sin affect my future wife and our relationship?
(The thought of being totally honest with my wife is both exciting and scary, because it brings the thought of unconditional love. But I’ve also realized how much my choices now will affect my wife in the future. I will bring baggage into my marriage that will no longer be simply mine — I will have to share my sin with my wife, and she will bear that burden with me, as well as the consequences. And that works vice versa as well. My sin might also hinder our fellowship and intimacy, which will in turn hinder my fellowship with God, as well as creating problems for our children.)

How might this sin affect my children?
(This is good for me to think about because I have come to realize that I struggle with many of the same sins my father struggled with. Our families tend to pass down sins to us, and we often are blind to them because it is so ingrained in us. I don’t want my children to wrestle with what I’ve wrestled with. And I also don’t want to give them an excuse, reason, or opportunity to run to my sin for comfort, pleasure, or solace, just because they know that I still deal with it.)

– How might this sin affect the Church as a whole?
Will my sin tarnish the Church and Christ to the rest of the world? Will it hinder lost from knowing their Savior?)

There are many more questions I think we can ask ourselves to really get a sense of our sin. For myself, it is helpful to remind myself when I am tempted of the danger of my sin. And having already thought out the consequences beforehand I can clearly see the danger and what is riding on my sin. Then I can ask myself, is this temporary pleasure really worth all of those consequences? It never really is.

I’d love to hear feedback on this and perhaps some questions that you ask yourself, or specific dangers that you make yourself mindful of that I (or Owen) have not considered.

“Keep alive upon your heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil;
…engage your thoughts into these considerations;
…until they begin to have a powerful influence upon your soul —
until they make it to tremble.”

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