Sin promises so much but delivers so little. Sin always amplifies its benefits and minimizes its cost. Sin always aims at the uttermost, always nudging toward utter death and destruction. And yet we love our sin, and secretly harbor it, and grieve to turn aside from it. John Owen has a challenge for you. Before that next big sin you are pondering, he wants you to simply consider three things.
CONSIDER THE GUILT OF IT
Before that next sin, consider the guilt of it. Your sin will always try to convince you that it isn’t very serious and not worth worrying about. “It is one of the deceits of a prevailing lust to extenuate its own guilt. ‘Is it not a little one? Though this be bad, yet it is not so bad as such and such an evil; others of the people of God have had such a frame; yea, what dreadful actual sins have some of them fallen into!’ Innumerable ways there are whereby sin diverts the mind from a right and due apprehension of its guilt.” I know you can identify with this! Sin always amplifies its benefits and minimizes its guilt. Says Owen, “This is the proper issue of lust in the heart—it darkens the mind that it shall not judge aright of its own guilt.”
The Christian who sins does so in spite of the grace of God in his life, and the presence of the Holy Spirit warning him against sin. Reflecting on Romans 6:1-2 Owen asks, “How shall we do it, who, have received grace from Christ to the contrary? We, doubtless, are more evil than any, if we do it.” Indeed, we are.
CONSIDER THE DANGER OF IT
Before that next sin, consider the danger of it—the future consequences to your life and soul.
The Danger of Being Hardened by Sin’s Deceitfulness. The ultimate aim of your sin is to fully harden you against God. Owen reflects on Hebrews 3:12-13 and says, “’Take heed,’ says he, ‘use all means, consider your temptations, watch diligently; there is a treachery, a deceit in sin, that tends to the hardening of your hearts from the fear of God.’ The hardening here mentioned is to the utmost—utter obduration; sin tends to it, and every distemper and lust will make at least some progress toward it.” Every sin nudges you toward a complete and utter hardness of heart.
Your sin is always several steps ahead of you. Remember what Owen said earlier in the book, that sin is always aiming at the uttermost, always aiming at your death and destruction. “Is it not enough to make any heart tremble, to think of being brought into that estate wherein he should have slight thoughts of sin? Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. Take heed, this is that [which] your lust is working toward—the hardening of the heart, searing of the conscience, blinding of the mind, stupifying of the affections, and deceiving of the whole soul.”