John Owen’s Four Characteristics of a Christian Man – JI Packer

John Owen has written some of the most significant and weighty works on the nature of man and sin.  They should be tackled by every Christian who wants to know God’s grace and forgiveness more deeply.  As a sample of his thinking, JI Packer does a great job of distilling Owen’s thoughts about man into four characteristics – man himself, fallen man, redeemed man and regenerate man.

  • The Christian is a man with three faculties:
    • Understanding: The mind guides, directs, chooses and leads.  It is the power to apprehend.  Through the mind, we know good (God, His truth and His law).  God addresses through our mind with His Word, so to serve God correctly, we must understand the guide He has provided for us
    • Affection: The drives (positive and negative) which lead to choices based on whether one is drawn or repelled from an object.  The drives have the emotional content of love, hope, hate etc.  Through our affections, we desire good
    • Will: The will provides the power of action and to do what is good
  • The Christian is a fallen man:
    • Sin has alienated us from God and ourselves by pervasively polluting us
    • The fruit of sin is disorder in the soul and dis-integration of character
    • We are ‘without strength’ to obey God (Romans 5:6) because our sin, at its root, makes us dodge, defy and disobey Him
    • The only healthy Christian is a humble, broken-hearted one where living must be founded on self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance
  • The Christian is a redeemed man
    • Redemption by Christ is the heart of doctrine, and faith and love to Christ must be the heart of Christian devotion
    • Jesus paid our debts, earned life for us, and to free us from sin’s guilt, now lives to deliver us from sin’s power
  • The Christian is a regenerate man
    • We are a new creature in Christ with a circumcised heart
    • Our heart becomes a lifelong battlefield between ‘the flesh’ and ‘the spirit’ (Galatians 5:17, Romans 7:23)

Source: A Quest for Godliness (The Spirituality of John Owen)

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