John Owens Book – Mortification of Sin…Scary title or convicting title?

This blog post is long overdue. In a previous blog post when I first introduced the idea to blog about the book, Mortification of Sin, I told myself that I was going to post every Saturday as I reviewed each chapter of the book. That was weeks ago. This is my very first one. 

Blog fail #1.

I thought blogging would keep me accountable and motivate me to get down “on paper” what swirls around in my mind. 

I should know better. I have a love/hate relationship with structure. 

Once upon a time, I was addicted to working out. I had this brilliant idea to join the military because I reasoned I can get paid to work out since PT (physical training) is built into a typical “military life” day. Well, to make a long story short, once I was actually in the military, I began dreading the early morning wake up calls to go run.  When I was forced to workout, I wanted not to. When I could workout out on MY own terms….I flourished…or became addicted to the endorphins. 

Either way, living life on our own terms is typically what we all want and strive for. People start their own businesses so that they don’t have to take orders from others. Some will try to climp up the corporate ladder so that they can find themselves telling others what to do, instead of others telling them what to do. Living life according to someone else’s terms….we tend to push back, reject, and even many times just rebel…or we do it begrudgingly. 

Is the Christian life any different? 

God tells us what we ought do, how we ought to live, how we ought to think. He gives us wise counsel and instruction through His Word. 

Many times, we rationalize and try to contextualize God’s Word to the point that we feel we can stamp “not applicable” to any concepts or ideas that we think might cause us to have to change our lives, our thinking, our parenting, our social habits, our hobbies, etc. There are those that possibly even abuse God’s grace, subjecting it as a means to let ourselves off the hook from living on purpose holy lives.

Yes…God’s grace does cover us in our failures and our sins…..but I dare question “when”. When does God’s grace cover us? 

Does it cover us before we sin? Wouldn’t that suggest that God is giving us permission TO sin? If that’s the case, then why does He tell us, over and over and over again to not sin, to flee from sin, to turn away from sin.

Does God’s grace cover us in the middle of our sin? What if we find ourselves in the middle of sinning… does His grace give us permission to tell ourselves”oh well. I can’t lose my salvation so I’m good” and then we give ourselves permission to continue in our sin.

or does God’s grace cover us after we have sinned? Ahhhh….the after sin moment. The guilt. The sorrow. The remorse. Surely God’s grace meets us there….right?

What about those times when we just happen to get caught sinning, either in the act or afterward.  Oftentimes, our guilt and sorrow are simply mere consequences of getting caught….but surely, seeing the effect of our sin and what it does to others, how horrible it makes us feel for hurting those we love, surely this must be true repentance…or is it? 

In John Owens’ book, Mortification of Sin in Believers, first published in 1656, but edited in 2006 for clarity, Owen takes us and guides us to look at our sin a bit closer than we are used to. He used Romans 8:13 as the kick off for his first chapter.

However, before delving into Romans lets first look at the title because titles are pretty important. 

Every Monday I teach a few homeschool kids the art of writing using Institute for Excellence in Writing for our Classical Conversations community. Last week we touched on the topic of writing a good title. I expressed to the kids that titles are pretty important and help the reader get a better picture of what a writer is trying to express overall. The title needs to catch a potential readers attention and a good title might possibly even win readers to open the book in the first place. 

On the flip side, a title can also scare readers away. We all know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well the cover has the title on it, so we can apply that idea to the title as well. Don’t judge a book by its title. 

So lets look at the title: Mortification of Sin in Believers.

What the heck does that mean? Some might ask.

What does that have to do with me? Others might wonder.

Mortification?  That’s too fancy of a word for me, says my husband.

I am well aware of the fact that people do not like to think about fancy or big words, much less use words that are not part of our current contemporary vocabulary. 

The word mortification might be a fancy word, but the idea behind  Owen’s usage of it is far from fancy.

Mortification comes from the root word mortify, which simply means ” cause death, kill, put to death, literally – make dead,”

Using contemporary language, the title could be re-written this way – Killing Sin in a Believers Life

Or….since our culture loves “how to” books, we could re-write the title this way – How Christians can Put Sin to Death”…..doesn’t that sound more appealing? 

In order for us to want to pick up a book that helps us understand our sin, why we need to put sin to death, and if it applies to us at all, we first have to accept the fact that even though God saved us last week, last year, or 10 years ago, we have to accept the reality that we still sin. Our sin might not be severe outward sin like the sin that everyone can see with blatant actions or behavior. Our sin might be inward sin. The sin no one sees but we know its there.

If we cannot accept the reality that we all sin, yes even believers, then we will inevitably miss out on the depth and beauty of the Gospel. 

The fact of the matter is….only sinners need a Savior. 
If we cannot face our sin and grow to despise it, we will not see Christ clearly….for our own salvation sake. 

It is so easy for believers, especially the ones that grew up in church and have professed Christ throughout most, if not all, of their adult lives….it is easy to see sin as an “others” problem….as an “unbelievers” problem…and tell ourselves – “not applicable”. 

“I’m a Christian for heavens sake. I don’t sin”. 
“I go to church every Sunday and lead ____________ (insert ministry). Why do I need to worry about sin”. 

It is these Christians that probably would not even think twice about picking up a book titled “How Christians can Put Sin To Death”…much less one titled Mortification of Sin in Believers.  

Well…I don’t know about anybody else…I just know I hate MY sin. Others may look at my life and see a boring, quiet, uneventful, even dull existence, surrounded by kids, homeschool lessons and chickens and assume I don’t struggle with sin. And yes…I may not struggle with certain outward sins, but I surely struggle with inward sins. 

Since my desire is to look more like Christ, those inward sins torture my soul. 

Oh how easy it would be if I just flippantly told myself “Oh well, no one is perfect. God’s grace covers all my sins”…..(which i know He does) How in the world can I grow to look more Christ-like if I approach sin this way?

Another approach to dealing with my sin could be filling my head with empty but addictive….

let me say that again…

empty but addictive fluff advice or “feel good” quotes and stories from popular women bloggers or writers.

What good would that do? 

Reading about fluff does nothing for my soul. It really just depresses me that so many women want just that.

We don’t need more pictures of other women’s kids carving pumpkins, while giving us words of false hope and false promises that if we just look to the little things in life, we will be set free from burdens, but in reality we are simply ignoring the sin that sits deep in our hearts. 

We don’t need to ignore that sin. We need to meet it. Wrestle with it. Come to hate it.

We need to be shouting…..


We need hard truths that challenge our souls. 

When I give my extra time to read books or blogs other than the Bible,  I look for books and blogs that convict me, challenge my thinking about who God is when it comes to my soul…even if it sounds scary or daunting…or maybe even confusing.

When I first heard of the title of Owen’s book…..Mortification of Sin in Believers, immediately I raised my hand and said

“Yes…that’s for me! That’s what I need!”. 

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