A Book Notice from Books At a Glance
Okay, so you’ve never read Puritan John Owen. I get it. Despite his profound insights, he’s not the easiest read in the world. But there is no excuse for missing his famous work on sin and mortification. Kris Lundgaard has brought Owen within reach in his wonderful and very popular book, The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin. I can’t express how important this reading is or how valuable it will be for you – and for those who have to live with you.
“If God has redeemed me from sin, and given me his Holy Spirit to sanctify me and give me strength against sin, why do I go on sinning?” This question has plagued me throughout my life of faith. In my lowest moments it has brought despair; it has even darkened the edges of my brightest times.
In the late summer of 1996 I stumbled across something helpful, something that has given me hope. The name John Owen kept popping up over the years, especially when I read J. I. Packer’s books.1 I steered clear of Owen because I knew from a few forays into his books in seminary that the going would be slow and hard. But when the impotence of my sanctification became glaringly clear to me, every obstacle was overcome, and I picked up my dusty copy of The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers.
Over the next few weeks I wrestled my way through Owen’s cumbersome syntax and antiquated vocabulary, taking an hour to put eight or ten pages behind me. I was reading every sentence two, three, or four times, looking up every Bible reference, thumbing through my dictionary to find “aversation” and “inadvertency,” and underlining 80 percent of what I read. It was for my mind the back-breaking work of digging a mine with a pickaxe. But there was gold along the way—not just a handful of dust, but a motherlode-full of nuggets.
The gold I found was hope, renewed love for Christ, an approach to holiness by faith in him. Along the way I was sick to my stomach over my sin, yet somehow lifted up to the cross for deliverance. When I finished Indwelling Sin, I didn’t miss a beat, but drove my pick into The Mortification of Sin. By now the whole way I looked at holiness was changing, and I believed that by God’s grace, looking into the face of Christ to see his glory, I could resist sin to the point of shedding my blood (Hebrews 12:1–4).
My heart wants to share this hope. Over and over in small groups and discipling conversations I have heard my own anguished question (“Why do I still sin?”) from the lips of friends. I know John Owen’s unfolding of the Scriptures is just what we all need to hear. But I know also that few will ever trouble themselves to hack through his ponderous prose, no matter how passionately I recommend him. The trip back to the seventeenth century is too far. So I decided to bring Owen into the twenty-first century.
I kidnapped Owen. By force I took him as my co-author, and together we’ve written a new book. He brought to the table his precious exposition, outlines, arguments, and illustrations, and I returned to him stories of bone-marrow transplants and torx sockets, and tried to bring his profound understanding of the Bible into our world. I haven’t simply abridged him, as others have done.3 Yet anyone familiar with him would see his ghost haunting my work.
My aim may be expressed in one unretouched sentence from the end of Owen’s preface to The Mortification of Sin:
I hope I may own in sincerity, that my heart’s desire unto God, and the chief design of my life in the station wherein the good providence of God hath placed me, are that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God; that so the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things: for the compassing of which end, if this little discourse . . . may in any thing be useful to the least of the saints, it will be looked on as a return of the weak prayers wherewith it is attended by its unworthy author,
Table of Contents
Part One: The Power of Sin in What It Is
1 Evil at My Elbow
2 The Long Arm of the Law
3 The Haunted House
4 Irreconcilable Differences
Part Two: The Power of Sin in How It Works
5 The Tricks of the Trade
6 Getting Carried Away
7 No Idle Mind
Excursus: Loving God with All Your Mind
9 Maculate Conception
Part Three: The Power of Sin in What It Does
10 Slip-Sliding Away
Part Four: Nailing the Lid on Sin’s Coffin
11 A Bone-Marrow Transplant
12 No Easy Peace
13 Lethal Faith
What readers have said:
The great but cumbersome Puritan John Owen has long been helping Christians to detect indwelling sin, a.k.a. the flesh, in themselves and to overcome it by divine power. Kris Lundgaard presents Owen’s teaching on the battle with sin—no more, no less—unshelled and up-dated for today’s readers, with questions to help us take it to heart. This book will surely be a milestone for many in the present, just as the original Owen was for many in the past. I heartily commend what Lundgaard has done.
John Owen’s treatises on Indwelling Sin in Believers and The Mortification of Sin are, in my opinion, the most helpful writings on personal holiness ever written. Yet his ponderous, seventeenth-century style is too much for most of today’s readers. In The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin, Kris Lundgaard has done a notable job of making Owen’s teaching readable once again. This is not a twentieth-century revision of Owen, but a fresh, contemporary, highly readable book written in Lundgaard’s own style, yet remarkably true to Owen’s teaching. Every Christian who is serious about holiness should read this book.
Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
Kris Lundgaard has done the impossible. He has given us some of the best of Puritan theology in language all of us can understand. But watch out. His penetrating style as he exposes sin’s deceit will challenge you to radical spiritual transformation! What a wonderful experience to read such a fine author. We can only hope he will give us more.
Kris Lundgaard has given us a delightful book. Most books about sin don’t take God’s holiness very seriously or take my lack of it so seriously I can’t deal with the guilt. This book does neither. It is honest, real, and, best of all, hopeful. I’m going to get better and this book is going to help. Read it. You’ll be glad.
Steven J. Lawson
An able defender of the Reformed faith, Kris Lundgaard presents a thorough and well-articulated battle plan for taking up arms against the flesh. Confronting and overcoming sin is a constant struggle for every believer. Here is a must read for all who desire not to wave the white flag and surrender to sin, but to soundly defeat it.
A remarkable reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines, well describing the spiritual forces that both attack us and attract us by invading our own hearts. Lundgaard forearms us against these assaults by reminding us of how vulnerable we can be when we convince ourselves that we are too secure to fall. Here is a solid reminder that apart from the grace of God we are far weaker than we can imagine—but greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
This book has been around now for almost twenty years, and it well deserves this new heads up. Owen’s work is powerfully, movingly insightful, and Lundgaard’s popularized version is must reading for every Christian who will not read Owen himself. Study and discussion questions included, making the book a great fit for study groups and Sunday School classes. Don’t miss this.
Buy the books
The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin