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Communion with God

Communion With God (Puritan Paperbacks: Treasures of John Owen for Today\'s Readers)If someone today wrote a book titled Communion with God, it would likely have the subtitle “How you too can in five easy steps feel as close to God as I do!!!” Fortunately, we get much, much more from John Owen in this brilliant book.

The word communion means a sharing through a relationship. Owen explains that “our communion with God lies in his giving himself to us and our giving ourselves and all that he requires to him…resting in him as the utmost fulfilment of all our desires.” Owen teaches the foundation and nature of our relationship with God, what God gives to us to receive and what we can in turn give to God, and how we can draw closer to God through understanding our communion with Him. This is an extended Scriptural exposition on the subject (sorry, no trite story illustrations), packed with hundreds of Scripture references on almost every page.

Owen has separate sections on the nature of communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He notes that the primary way we commune with the Father is through love: “It is God’s will that he should always be seen as gentle, kind, tender, loving and unchangeable. It is his will that we see him as the Father, and the great fountain and reservoir of all grace and love.”

The bulk of the book concerns itself with our communion with Christ in grace. There are separate chapters on the glories and excellencies of Christ, the wisdom and knowledge of Christ, the purchased nature of our grace in Christ, acceptance with God, holiness, and the privileges we have through Christ’s grace.

Owen next deals with the Holy Spirit, first explaining the foundation of our communion (the Spirit’s being sent as Comforter and Helper by Christ), and then going on to the work of the Spirit in our lives such as to bring us the remembrance of Christ’s words, to glorify Christ, to pour God’s love into our hearts, to bear witness in our heart, to seal us, to annoint us, and to be the deposit in our hearts of things to come. He ends the book with how to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, contrasting that rich relationship with the false comfort of people without Christ.

Communion with God is a book you will underline and mark and meditate on, and hopefully come back to again and again to refresh your heart and mind on the nature and glory of our blessed communion with the Trinity.

More information on the book from Amazon.com is here.

Also posted on soapadoo.

Meditation to the Holy Spirit

This is a short prayer based on a passage taken from John Owen’s book Communion With God:

Holy Spirit,
You are infinite love & kindness to me.
You have wonderfully chosen to be my Comforter.
You do this work willingly, freely, & powerfully.
What great things I have received from You!
How often you have comforted my soul.
Can I live one day without you?
I vow to focus on what You want to do within me.
I shall not grieve You by negligence, sin, or foolishness.
I will let Your love constrain me to walk before You
In such a way that will bring You the greatest pleasure,
For I love & treasure You and Your fellowship.

Overcoming Sin & Temptation by John Owen

Overcoming Sin and TemptationI recently spent five grueling hours (grueling for a hopelessly out of shape bookworm) climbing a steep, winding mountain trail.  Why?  That was the only way I could see the view from the top of Mount LeConte.  There were no shortcuts; I just had to put in a lot of hard work.  But once I completed my quest and saw the view, I would have spent double the effort if necessary: what I saw was THAT spectacular.

The same can be said of reading the great Puritan theologian John Owen. It is HARD work, and a lot of it.  So facing a 466 page anthology containing his 3 books on sin seemed more daunting than climbing LeConte, but I am pleased to report that the view is even more spectacular: it is life-changing.

This anthology, put together by Justin Taylor & Kelly Kapic, is not an abridgement: aside from some spelling updates and a few footnotes you’ve got the original manuscripts.  There is an excellent introduction to Owen and his thought, as well as overviews of each of the three books.  In the back are extremely detailed outlines of each book, as well as several indexes and a glossary of antiquated words (there are plenty of words Owen uses that will make you scratch your head so you will find yourself frequently consulting it!).

As stated before, this is an anthology of three different works by Owen.  The first is his famous Mortification of Sin.  I had read and reviewed an abridged version earlier this year, so I was interested in seeing how I would fare reading the original. Strangely, I actually like the original language better, it seemed more piercing and powerful.

The second book, Of Temptation, concerns itself on the nature and danger of temptation, and our duty against temptation and how to accomplish it.  Owen simply amazes me: whereas most of us would exhaust our intelligent explanation of “temptation” in a few sentences, he spends eighty pages poring over the Scriptures, mining deep to bring insight that is both wise and cutting.

The last book, Indwelling Sin, is the longest and most thorough.  Seventeen chapters that bring insight after insight on every page on the nature of the enemy within us, concerning its nature, power, and effect in our lives.

It has been said that once you finish reading what Owen says about a subject, you are convinced that he has covered it all.  You may wonder, is it really worth reading over 400 pages on sin?  And I will tell you, yes, it is hard work, but it is well worth the view.  And just as I am planning on climbing LeConte again next year, I am going to reread this book next year as well, for I am sure that God has much more to teach me from its pages.

More information about the book from the publisher’s site is here.

More information about the book from Amazon is here.

—>cross posted at soapadoo!

What it Takes to Walk with God

In John Owen’s wonderful work Communion With God, he has a list of what it takes to walk with God.  As you read the list, two truths jump out:  First, Owen doesn’t attempt to give a “1-2-3 how anyone can walk with God” list, but rather challenges the reader with what must be true about our lives before we can even start to walk with God.  Next, Owen shows that each point on the list can only be fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Only through Jesus can any man walk with God. 

So, without further introduction, here is Owen’s list:

  1. We must be reconciled to God.  The only way for man to be reconciled to God is through Christ (Rom 5:11, Eph 2:18, Heb 2:17, Gal 3:13, and many other verses).
  2. We must be friends of God.  Only in Christ can we become God’s friend (1John 5:20, John 1:18)
  3. We must walk in God’s way of holiness.  This way can only be learned from Christ (Heb 10:20, John 14:6, Is 35:8, 42:16)
  4. We must have strength.  In ourselves, we do not have the strength to walk with God, but our strength is in Christ (Phil 4:13, 2Cor 3:5, Eph 6:10)
  5. We must have confidence. God is a consuming fire, and no sinful creature can be in His presence, let alone walk with Him, without being in Christ (Eph 3:12, Heb 10:19, Rom 8:15).
  6. We must have the same purpose as God.  Here again, we cannot hope to be able to walk with our lives completely consummed with the glory of God except through Christ.

Ponder each of these points, and worship the Christ who makes it possible for us to walk with God.

The Mortification of Sin by John Owen

The Mortification of Sin (Puritan Paperbacks)Today’s Monday Media Meltdown is this month’s installment of the “great book by a dead guy of the month club”— by John Owen.  Owen was considered one of the greatest minds of the seventeeth century, serving as vice-chancellor at Oxford and publishing extensively.  He also was very politically active during much political turbulence in England at the time. Owen was a contemporary of John Bunyan’s and once was able through his political connections to arrange to have Bunyan released from prison. Owen is also widely considered to be the most difficult of all the major Puritan theologians to read, because of his highly intricate and frankly not very readable prose. 

Most people (including me!) find a modern re-written edition much more palatable than his originals, and many editions of (including the one I read this month) are a modern abridgement.Mortification is a word meaning to put to death, and this book explains how we both have a duty and a necessity to actively fight against every outbreak of sin in our lives daily.  His most quoted advice from the book sums up his position, “always be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  He urges us to “always be at it while you live; do not take a day off from this work.”

There are chapters on the importance of putting sin to death, the work of the Holy Spirit in mortification, how our spiritual health depends on it, what mortification is and is not, seeing sin for what it is, keeping a tender conscience and a watchful heart, waiting for God, and the work of Christ and the power of the Spirit. 

No cute word pictures, no self-affirmations—just a blunt and comprehensive examination of what every Christian must do to become more holy. As Owen says, “Live in the light of Christ’s great work, and you will die a conqueror.”  Read this book.

More information about this book from Amazon is available here.