JRF's #40 - The Mortification of Sin by John Owen

I, along with the editors of this book, agree with J.I. Packer's assessment of John Owen's writings:

"I did not say that is was easy to read them! - that would not be true; yet I do venture to say that the labour involved in plodding through these ill-arranged and tediously-written treatises will find them abundantly worthwhile."

This book was hard to read, hard to understand, and even harder to apply.  But it is a gift to all who seek to take their sin as seriously as God does and to join Him in waging war against the enemy of our souls.  Owen has an uncanny ability to expose the darkness of the sinful heart and strip away all the masks we are so prone to try  cover our soul-disease with.  It is true that this book took me a long time to read due to it's old English style.  It is equally true however, that it took me many months to read due to the many times I had to step away from it to recover from the piercing convictions it brought about in my heart.  Many times I felt like Owen had been watching me the previous day and then wrote the chapter I was reading specifically for me.

This book will help you feel the seriousness of your sin.  And this is a good thing.  As Piper states in the Forward: "by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become great victims of it...What Owen offers is not quick relief, but long-term, deep growth in grace that can make strong, healthy trees where there was once a fragile sapling."

The version I read came out of the below collection, which I recommend as it has some helpful footnotes added by the editors to help you push through some of the difficult passages and wording.  I was hoping to read the entire anthology this year, but that ain't gonna happen:



"The saints, whose souls breathe after deliverance from sin's perplexing rebellion, know there is no safety against it but in a constant warfare."

"But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he has nothing but law to oppose it with, if he cannot fight against it with Gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgement, which are the proper arms of the law, it is most evident that sin has possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevelancy and conquest...What Gospel principles do not, legal motives cannot do."

JRF's #37 - After You've Blown It: Reconnecting with God and Others - by Erwin Lutzer

In this small, practical book, Erwin Luzter (pastor of Moody church in Chicago) speaks Gospel truth to a situation that we all have experience in - sin - or  "blowing it".

This book was an encouragement to me as I tend to be the kind of person that easily focuses on the weight of sin and when I "blow it" I am prone to let the cloud of my sin eclipse the sun of God's grace and forgiveness.  This book was great reminder that not only is that foolish, but compounds my problem by thinking that by wallowing in misery I am somehow able to earn God's favor.  Truly realizing the seriousness of sin should not push us away from God but push us to to the Cross.

While it does not even come close to plumbing the depths of the Gospel and its implications for our daily lives and relationships - and here and there where a few cheesy catch phrases that I found unhelpful and misleading -  I was routinely impressed with how concisely Lutzer was able to illustrate and explain powerful truths and their applications in this short book.

For that reason I would commend this book to any and all who have ever felt that their sin is beyond forgiveness and that they have "blown it" one time too many.


(speaking about the Prodigal Son) "...the father's love cuts both ways:  It beckons him to return, but also magnifies his own rebellion.  If the young man returns, he will have to face his own guilt and shame in the presence of undeserved love.  Grace is often more difficult to accept than the law wielded with a heavy club." - p.20

"In light of God's grace, it is sheer arrogance for us to hang on to our guilt." - p.45

"Grace should create within us a passion for Christ that is greater than our passion to sin." - p. 67




JRF's #21 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Though I had never read Robert Louis Stevenson's classic pschyo-horror, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I was fairly certain that I was not in for many surprises as the basic ideas of the story have become integrated into our cultural mythology.

However, reading this short book was quite more interesting and complex than I had expected.  Three significant surprises were:

1. Narrative - The story of Dr. Jekyll's progressive destruction is told not from his perspective, but from that of a Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll's lawyer and friend.  This makes the tale much more suspenseful as the reader has to, along with Utterson, piece together the clues, and not until the end is the full horror revealed.  Not describing in detail Mr. Hyde's every wicked episode makes the final full revelation of his true nature all the more horrific, similar to the way not that not seeing the shark throughout the movie made the final appearance of JAWS all the more terrifying.  In addition, by making the focus of the story Mr. Utterson it is easier to see the effects of Dr. Jekyll's misadventures on others, rather than only the consequences he faced.


2.Not a tale of good vs. evil but submerged evil vs. uninhibited evil - I had thought this was a story of a good scientist who becomes a victim of a failed experiment and is turned into an evil monster.   Not so.  This is the story of a respectable sinner who seeks a way to rid himself of his inhibitions and the consequences of his sin.  He seeks liberty from his conscience and finds only enslavement to his depravity.  Dr. Jekyll does not equal the antithesis of Mr. Hyde.  Dr Jekyll is the respectable mask of Mr. Hyde.  In his words:

"The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prison-house of my disposition...Hence, although I had now two characters as well as two appearances, one was wholly evil, and the other was still the old Henry Jekyll, that incongruous compound of whose reformation and improvement I had already learned to despair.  The movement was thus wholly toward the worse."  (p.88)


3. Portrayl of Mr. Hyde - one last major surprise for me was the actual physical makeup of Mr. Hyde.  Usually when Dr J/Mr. H is portrayed in recent movies he basically looks like a Dickensian Incredible Hulk.  The below pictures from two fairly recent (and stupid) films makes my point:


The book however presents Mr. Hyde as much smaller in stature than Dr. Jekyll.  He is shorter, thinner, uglier, shriveled and emits a "strong feeling of deformity".  Stevenson makes it clear that in becoming Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll had become less of a man, not more.  Perhaps I'm reading too much into this but it seems like our culture has the opposite idea that in giving oneself over to evil they become stronger, sexier, more powerful...etc.

This was an effective and thrilling horror story, not because of its gross detail, but because of the potential for unrestrained depravity in all of us.