God's Chemo for My Cancered Soul
They called it the Victorious Spirit-filled life. You got into it, they said, by total surrender to Jesus Christ (they assumed no one does this at conversion), and then looking to him whenever you felt sinful impulses stirring. He would then by his Spirit douse the desire, and quiet peace and joyful satisfaction would be your portion once again. As described by the gifted preachers under whom I sat, it sounded wonderful. But I could not make it work.
I was a new convert in my late teens. I had kept Christ at bay for too long and was trying to make up for lost time. Like any other introverted adolescent, I was a loner, my emotional life was all over the place, and I was essentially a mixed-up kid. I heard the formula as a way of transcending my less-than-satisfying inner state and labored to follow the instructions, but the mad, bad urges still raged and the quiet peace did not come.
What was wrong? I concluded that my surrender could not have been total and scoured my inside to find what more I could consecrate. Harry Ironside, sometime preacher at Moody Church in Chicago, drove himself into a nervous breakdown doing this, and I might well have gone the same way. But I chanced upon a mini&mdashtreatise, a set of sermons stitched together by the Puritan John Owen (1616-1663), pontifically titled Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. And here was God’s chemo for my cancered soul.
Reaching across three centuries, Owen showed me my inside ‘my heart’ as no one had ever done before. Sin, he told me, is a blind, anti-God, egocentric energy in the fallen human spiritual system, ever fomenting self-centered and self- deceiving desires, ambitions, purposes, plans, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that I was a regenerate ...