No other book outside the Bible has taught me how to fight sin than John Owen’s On the Mortification of Sin In Believers (found in a recent compilation Overcoming Sin and Temption). As I trekked through the 17th century English I discovered theological vistas I had never seen before, and hardly seen in any contemporary books on fighting sin. (And anything worthwhile almost always ends up quoting Owen anyways!) Owen helped show me how deadly and decieving sin is…and how life-renewing and joy-giving God is! I highly recommend him.
But, no other writing outside of the Bible and Owen has showed me what fighting sin looks like in a theologically rich and uber-practical way than my friend Jonathan Dodson’s. Jonathan has done an amazing service for the church. He distills Owen’s On the Mortification of Sin (and yes…years of Pastor John Piper’s teaching, too!) and then delivers it in a strategy aimed to keep Christian accountability, biblical. Rather than drifting off into legalism or unhelpful “confessional booths”.
Here’s an excerpt…
Why Fight Clubs?
…The metaphor of a Fight Club came from Chuck Palahniuk’s book by the same name, popularized by the film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Palahniuk’s Fight Club depicts the struggle to recover identity in a postmodern, media-saturated world, charged with bogus images of what it means to be truly human. In the Fight Clubs, groups of men meet after hours in a basement to fight one another barefoot, bare-chested and bare-fisted. It’s a bloody ordeal.
In a speech just prior to a Fight Club, Tyler Durden charges the men:
We are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that one day we’ll all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars — but we won’t.
In this speech, Durden pinpoints something that should confront Christians every day — the great depression of a life lived in the flesh. Christians are tempted daily to believe the empty promises of the world. That if we had a little more money, power, notoriety, respect, success or whatever, we would be truly happy. Durden calls us out of our depressive, fleshly lives into the rewarding fight of faith, out of the great depression to a great war, a spiritual war. That spiritual war is a war against the flesh, that lingering vestige of our pre-Christian lives that must be beaten to death so that we might live in the fullness of life given to us in Jesus.
Durden isn’t the only one calling us to fight. The apostle Paul says: “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12). We fight in the power of the Spirit: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13′ Col 3:5). These texts call us to “fight” and “put to death” the deeds of the body, our sinful patterns of anxiety, self-pity, anger, fear of man, vanity, pride, lust, greed and so on.
Hebrews tells us that this is a community affair: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (3:12-14). Upon becoming Christians, we are all inducted into a Fight Club. The question is: “Are we fighting?”
Read the whole article, here.
Also be sure to check out Jonathan’s other related articles on biblical accountability.
“Accountablity Groups,” Journal of Biblical Counseling
“Mere Accountability” (concise version of article above )