Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I'm stuck on an idea I came across in John Owen recently (not surprised at all are you?).  One of his arguments about the power of indwelling sin is that, as trees planted by streams of water, we as believers should be growing fat on the goodness and mercies of God.  We should be fruitful, joyful, and exuberantly filled with the richness of Christ.  That we are not so is the strongest evidence that indwelling sin is our most formidable enemy.  Instead of living lives characterized by this fatness, we live live out a hollow, emasculated, talking faith.  Rather than lives overflowing with the fruit of deep communion with God, we live in shallow platitudes that show up as rules about how to eat, vote, or school our children.
...but to see men living under and enjoying all the means of spiritual thriving, yet to decay, not to be fat and flourishing, but rather daily to pine and wither, this argues some secret, powerful distemper, whose poisonous and noxious qualities hinder the virtue and efficacy of the means they enjoy.  This is indwelling sin.  So wonderfully powerful, so effectually poisonous it is, that it can bring leanness on the souls of men in the midst of all the precious means of growth and flourishing.  It may well make us tremble, to see men live under and in the use of the means of the gospel, preaching, praying, administration of sacraments, and yet to grow colder every day than others in zeal for God, more selfish and worldly even habitually to decline as to the degree of holiness which they had attained unto. 
He wrote that nearly four hundred years ago, and it is the same story today.  Indwelling sin reduces the fulness of life in Christ to a weary trudging mess that leaves us even less holy than when we first sought our savior's love.

About a year ago I felt like I should start memorizing Psalm 119, but given how long it is and how slow I am and how powerful my sinful nature is, I finally just started a week ago.  Judging by past experience, I expect I will finish in about three years if I don't give up by the fourteenth verse.  I've been mystified by verse 7: "I will praise you with an upright heart, as I learn your righteous laws."  It reminds me of Hebrews 10:14: "because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

Upright but still learning, perfect but not yet made holy.  There is some crazy tension about living in the fatness of Christ while still a sinner.  How to drink deep of his abundant renewing mercy in such a way as to overflow with the fruit of the Spirit while living in a state of continual confession and repentance.  Trying to live in this tension makes me feel like I've been chasing my tail so long I'm about to pass out.  Or like when I tried to roll down this giant hill with Quinn a few years back, and ended up having to sit with my head between my legs for ten minutes trying not to throw up because I forgot I was too old to roll down giant hills, or really any hills for that matter.  In fact, I would say the past few weeks I have been passed out spiritually, dizzy from too much reeling.  I just read the opening of Psalm 119 over and over and let the Spirit cry out on my behalf as I lay mystified, unable to form two coherent sentences about God.

But this picture of fatness is what I've been praying for.  How's that for a totally un-chic prayer?  Obviously I'm not hipster enough, and yet I can't helping thinking that the sleek, sophisticated trappings we use to modernize our religion and convince ourselves we've somehow progressed merely cover a festering heap of sin and shame, just like they did four hundred years ago.  So I've been praying for fatness, for the belly laugh of a portly gentlemen who has just pushed himself back from a feast and finds himself so overcome with joy he has to hold that giant, quivering bulk to keep himself from falling right over with merriment.  Because maybe, just maybe our souls are a little too skinny for our own good these days.


  1. Mmmm, yes. Fatness. Reminds me of another blog I just read, except that one is the "how to talk to kids" version:

  2. Your ending reminds me of Chesterton's Man Alive, and how we can truly be alive in God and thrilled with what God is doing in the world. Thanks!