Returning to the Wall Metaphor- John Owen and the Cause of Backsliding

Just to let you know, there is nothing that intrigues me more in this world than humanity’s struggle with depravity, both among believers and non-believers. That said, this week I am reading Indwelling Sin by John Owen, a treatise concerning the continuing presence of the law of sin in the flesh of believers, centered around the text of Romans 7.21 (“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand“). As with the other books in the collection Overcoming Sin & Temptation (which are On the Mortification of Sin in Believers and Of Temptation), Indwelling Sin really hits home when I begin to think of what is being said and how I see that in my own daily actions.

Now, as you may recall, earlier this week I discussed Proverbs 25.28 and how this illustrates for us a view of self-control which we can think of using the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Well, as I was reading through Indwelling Sin I found a quote which I think is most appropriate to go along with this. John Owen says:

I am persuaded there are few that apostatize from a profession of any continuance, such as our days abound with, but their door of entrance into the folly of backsliding was either some great and notorious sin that bloodied their consciences, tainted their affections, and intercepted all delight of having anything more to do with God; or else it was a course of neglect in private duties, arising from a weariness of contending against that powerful aversation [i.e. aversion of sin to righteousness] which they found in themselves unto them.

Okay, so this quote may not seem so clearly what I mean for it to be at first glance, but taking a moment to dissect it we can see what Owen is saying.  Basically, what is he is getting at is that believers who have backslid didn’t just up and choose to do so one day, but instead they got that way either by committing some horrendous sin which weighs down their conscience with guilt or they grew tired of living the Christian life and gradually slipped back into their old self.

Now, if you look closely, you can see the wall metaphor appear again.  The ones who committed the terrific sin are the ones who hastily built up their wall without defensing it, and one day the armies of sin and deceit came in and tore everything down; while the ones who wearied are the ones who tried to fight and fight against the enemy without ever building for their self a place of refuge and rest, eventually wearing down and being overcome.

However you choose to look at it, I do not believe that Owen’s point is one we can afford to miss: Everything may appear to be going well in your Christian walk, but unless you exercise diligence in fighting off the enemy and persistence in growing to be like Christ you are always at risk of finding yourself one day wholly lost and outside the fellowship of our Lord.

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