Worship is about gladly giving God the glory he alone deserves and is worthy of. God is the only being in the universe whose glory is intrinsic. All other glory is derived and second-hand. God is absolutely committed to his glory above all else, especially through those his Son has redeemed. I found that out the hard way in 1994.
I had helped start a church in Charlotte, NC in 1991, and was serving along with the senior pastor, Brent Detwiler, in various capacities. Things were going well in the church, but not in my soul.
In January of that year I experienced what is often called a “nervous breakdown.” It began at a friend’s house, where we were eating dinner. In the middle of the meal, I suddenly felt the urge to jump up from the table and scream. I instantly felt disconnected from my past, present, and future. Thus began a journey of darkness that lasted about three years, where God allowed me to experience the effects of seeking my own glory above all else.
The first six months were the worst. I experienced frequent panic attacks, itching on my arms, numbness in my face, tenseness in my chest, constant anxiety, and overwhelming feelings of emptiness. Each day I woke up with the thought, “Your life is completely hopeless.” I shared more about this time in my life in this post.
What I wanted to say here is that one of the primary means God used to open my eyes to the proud condition of my heart was James Houston’s edited edition of John Owen’s writings on sin, originally published in the mid-1600’s. You might be thinking that the last thing a hopeless person needs to hear about is their sin, especially from a guy who lived 350 years ago. I found the exact opposite to be the case. I was sick with sin and needed a skilled surgeon of the soul to help me understand how my cravings for praise were keeping me from living in the good of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice for my sins. I needed a “sin doctor” to help me with my “pride breakdown.” I found one in John Owen.
I’m happy to report that a new edition of John Owen’s writing has been made available, thanks to the editing work of Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. It’s called Overcoming Sin and Temptation. It contains three of Owen’s books. The first, “Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers” describes the battle of putting sin to death. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, but that it’s power is significantly weakened in our souls. The second book, “Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It,” is extremely helpful in understanding how we are lured into sin, as most sins affect us long before we’re aware of them. The third book, “Indwelling Sin,” provides life-changing (and I use that word intentionally) insights into the presence, power, and pervasiveness of indwelling sin, and directs us to the only effective remedies found in the Gospel.
While the language of this edition is left mostly untouched, Kelly and Justin provide helpful definitions, introductions, and outlines that make Owen’s words much more accessible to our generation. I’ll be honest. It’s not a light read. But if you care about fighting sin and want to experience hope in your battle, if you care about living in the good of the Gospel and glorifying your Savior, if you want to be an effective counselor for others, I couldn’t recommend this book to you highly enough.
Get it. Get it now. Read it. Apply it. Your life will never be the same.
Picture (c) 2006, Tony S. Reinke, The Shepherd’s Scrapbook